StatJunkie's Hoop Blog | thoughts on ncaa hoops from http://statjunkie.org

January and February are busy months in the world of sports. With the NFL season determining its champion and professional basketball and hockey in full swing, it is easy to wait until March to turn your full attention to NCAA Hoops. However, the second half of the college basketball season is under way and there are many match ups that will be not only entertaining to watch but also of crucial importance to seeding when the selection committee sits down to set the field. The early out of conference games go a long way to determining a team’s strength of schedule, but the committee loves teams that finish strong down the stretch. How a team performs at the end of the season more closely resembles what we all can expect to see in the tournament. Here are 5 of the best games to watch in the next month and a half, all of which can be seen on Direct TV no matter where you live. Learn more at http://www.directstartv.com/.

5. Duke @ UNC, Feb 8th

Whether you believe this rivalry is over hyped by the media or not, it’s compelling this year for a few reasons. This will be the first real challenge that North Carolina will have since getting taken behind the woodshed by Florida State and the first chance to show people it’s closer to the extremely talented group we thought they were rather than the soft team that got beat by 33 in Tallahassee. Harrison Barnes isn’t dominating as expected but the Tar Heels still lead the nation in points and rebounds per game. Once again Duke is built around a talented freshman point guard in Austin Rivers, a structure which didn’t take them to the Final Four last year. Never the less, they’ve beaten a lot of good teams and I hear they’re pretty well coached.

4. Wichita State @ Creighton, Feb 11th

A chance to tell your friends you saw it coming as both of these teams are candidates to make a surprise run in the tournament and bust a few brackets. Of course Creighton is the real story having perhaps the nation’s best all around player and a Naismith front runner in Doug McDermott. He can do a lot including rebound and shoot the 3 and the Blue Jays are a more complete team than people realize. They have the size to play with any team in the country. But don’t sleep on Wichita State, they played them tough in late December and will be very competitive for an At-Large bid. The UNLV team everyone loves for their wins over UNC and Illinois? The Shockers beat them by 19 points.

3. Michigan @ Michigan State, Feb 5th

You can’t say Tom Izzo and his staff shied away from a challenge when scheduling their out of conference games. After dropping the first two games of the season to UNC then Duke, (brutal) Michigan State rattled off 15 straight wins. After watching Michigan’s one point victory in a stellar game on January 17th, I can’t wait to watch the rematch. Big Blue appears to be back to relevance and the team’s leading scorer Tim Hardaway Jr. is even bringing out the black socks. This will be pivotal game in a Big Ten conference which is having a very strong year. In fact, the Big Ten is having a great run lately, winning its third consecutive Big Ten / ACC Challenge earlier in the season.

2. Syracuse vs. Georgetown, Feb 8th and Syracuse vs. UCONN, Feb 11th

Syracuse will most likely be undefeated when they face two tough games against ranked conference opponents within 3 days. It’ll be interesting to see if they can retain their focus and intensity over that span. Plus the Orange and the Huskies have a history of some fairly epic games late in the year (recall the longest game in Big 12 history back in 2009). Syracuse is the deepest and best team in the nation and one would think a place on the top line is all but assured. If any chinks in the armor exist they’ll be visible for the first time here.

1. Kansas @ Baylor, Feb 8th

The turnaround within the Baylor basketball program is a great story and one that should be getting a lot more attention. It has been 8 years since the program suffered one of the worst scandals in recent memory when Patrick Dennehy was murdered by a teammate. They won three games in the NCAA tournament in back in 2010 and this season has been perfect, until they lost for the first time to Kansas in Allen Field house. When Kansas comes to Waco in February the Bears will be looking to avenge that loss. Also watch one of the best individual matchups of the year when Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Kansas’s Thomas Robinson go head to head. Robinson is having a monster year averaging 12 rebounds and nearly 18 points a game.

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So we’ve been getting a lot of questions from people asking if we can predict the brackets statistically. Given the fact that this is the first Final 4 EVER that doesn’t contain a 1 or 2 seed, it’s obviously not possible to do with any sort of accuracy.

I’m thinking back to Jay Bilas’ tirade on Selection Sunday after it was announced that VCU made the tournament. I can’t think of another time on ESPN in recent weeks, months, (or maybe even years?) when I heard such biting remarks about a specific team or organization like the NCAA selection committee. VCU had to play their way into the tournament for Pete’s sake! Look at them now…I love it. I really hope that this harsh criticism from Bilas will follow him around for the rest of his career. I thought his words were in really poor taste, and felt bad for any VCU player on that special day for them. What good did those words do for anyone? ESPECIALLY given how it’s all played out in VCU’s favor. I love it.


Our goal has been to predict the NCAA tournament field, which for a certain amount of time each year is really fun! We’ve been pretty damn accurate over the past few years, and really look forward to next season already. Hopefully we can get back to 100% now that the format of the field has changed a bit. We’re also hoping to work in some new things for the site next season. We may not be able to statistically predict the entire brackets, but we’re hoping to pull out a new feature or two next season.

Thanks again for following our site throughout the season, and definitely check back next year. If you aren’t already following us on Facebook (NCAA StatJunkie) or Twitter (@statjunkie), definitely do so. We’re also open to feedback, so any thoughts on how we can improve things are much appreciated. I better wrap this up cause these Final 4 games are about to tip! I’m so excited that there isn’t a 1 seed in here taking on a team like Butler, VCU, UCONN, Kentucky. These lower seeds have all proved their worth, and are hungry for a win. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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Mar/11

16

SWEEET

I bet those who turned in their brackets Monday are regretting being the early worm after the information that came out the last couple of days.  But, for those of you who’ve waited patiently and want the winning formula I will now give you my Sweet 16 with a small explanation of why for every team.

 

East Region

Ohio St.:  George Mason or Villanova is very capable of beating the Bucks, but they have shown throughout the year that they can take on all comers.  The inside-outside game between Diebler and Sullinger is simple to run, very difficult to defend.  Neither the Patriots nor the Wildcats have anyone who can defend Sullinger 1 on 1 and the Buckeyes outside shooting should push them through.

 

Kentucky:  This young Wildcat squad is finding its own groove right when it is mattering most.  By blowing out Florida in the SEC title game I thought, along with quite a few others, that Kentucky would be at least a #3 seed but somehow they find themselves on the #4 line.  I think they cruise to the Sweet 16 and should give Ohio St. all they can handle.

 

Syracuse:  3 for 3 as far as chalk is concerned, but I like the way this Syracuse team has grown up throughout the year and that zone looks to be strong again.  Fab Melo played his best basketball of the year in the Big East Tournament and if he can continue to play at that level the Orange have 5 legitimate scorers who can go off on any given night.

 

Washington:  Finally, a little upheaval!  Yes, I hate the Pac 10, but if you look over my earlier blog posts you’ll see that this is the only team I had (and still have) respect for.  They have nine guys that play 15 minutes or more, they have an elite scorer at the point in Isaiah Thomas, and a shut down defender in Justin Holliday, all this will be key in their upset of UNC in the second round.


West

Duke:  So tempted to put Tennessee in this spot but alas, I can not go against the defending champs.  I think that even without Kyrie Irving the Blue Devils would have advanced to this point but, if he comes back and plays in the first two rounds and returns to near his early season form, there is no reason the Dukies can’t repeat.

 

Texas:  One thing about this team I will say that scares me is that for the first time in a while the Longhorns seemed to lose their hearts a little in that first half against Kansas.  Really the first time we’ve seen that since their early December loss to USC, but I think they regained a little confidence in the second half, Kansas is just too good to give that kind of a lead.  They play great defense when they want to and can get high double digits from three different guys, and I think this is another team who feels disrespected with their seed and that will provide some motivation.

 

Connecticut:  I’m a little nervous of Kemba’s Club because teams that make runs like the one they did in the Big East means they may have already peaked.  There just isn’t another team in this pod that I remotely like.  Missouri can’t play away from home.  I don’t think Cincinnati is that great, but that would be the 6th Big East game in a week and a half for the Huskies.  Nope, Yancy Gates, Marcus Denmon, and the Bucknell Bison have nothing on Kemba and his better than you think supporting cast.

 

San Diego St.:  This is about as perfect of a draw as SDSU could ask for.  Neither Temple or Penn St. will intimidate the Aztecs like some other 7 (UCLA and Texas A&M) or 10’s (Michigan St., Washington) would and they should cruise to the regional semi’s.

 

Southeast

Pittsburgh:  This wasn’t as tough as a call for me after seeing what Pitt will face in their first round game.  The game should be over at half.  ODU is tempting, but I think they may loose some wind in what should be a physical game with Butler.

 

Utah St.:  Haha, Mormons are silly. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ball.  Veteran team with tournament experience who dominated their conference play and won conference tournament, doesn’t that just sound like what a Cinderella should be made of come March?  Sold myself.

 

Gonzaga:  Hear me out, no really, hear me out.  Did the committee just decide lets see if we can make Gonzaga a darling again, remember how much fun that was.  So the Zags get St. John’s without DJ Kennedy and then potentially a game against BYU who still isn’t recovered from Nookie-gate?  Sold myself again.

 

Florida:  I debated about Michigan St.  It just feels like a place they could start another run, but I think Billy Donovan is hungry.  He has an experienced team with a leader who is a very intelligent player in Chandler Parsons. This is Billy’s best chance to make a run since the second National Championship team and I think he finds a way.


Southwest

Kansas: RRRRRROOOOOOCCCCKKKKK CCCCHHHHAAAALLLLKKKK, they should absolutely cruise to this round, although we thought that a year ago didn’t we?

 

Louisville:  Fun team to watch because they play so many guys and can have a breakout scoring night from any of five guys.  And of course they need to at least make it to the Sweet 16 for the Rick Pitino movie.

 

Purdue:  This is tough because we have no idea what the suspension of Barlow will be like for this team and also no idea what Chris Wright will be like when he comes back.  I still like Purdue even without their best perimeter defender because of the speed of Tyson Jackson, the scoring ability of Moore, and the inside presence at both ends of the floor in Johnson.  This team stuck around to make a run and I think they will be focused.

 

Texas A&M:  This is a case of the Aggies beating Notre Dame at there own game in grinding the game out, only A&M will do it with better athletes.  This isn’t as much as liking the A&M as it is not liking Notre Dame, the Irish’s lack of athletic perimeter players and the ability of the Aggies in defending driving lanes is why they move on to San Antonio.

 

I really moved away from Austin a bit too soon.  Should’ve given it another year if only to be able to watch Texas all year long, road trip to San Antonio (it’s gorgeous this time of year there) for the SW regional finals, and then go to Houston for the final four.  Damn.  They also have this SXSW thing going on right now, don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it’s pretty big.

 

So there’s my Sweet 16, will give you my Final Four and National Champ late tonight.


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Mar/11

15

Upset Time!!

Actually am watching the play-in games tonight.  UNC-Ash versus UALR is on right now.  I picked UALR for the streak for the cash game on espn.com, so far so good.

News out of Duke is that Kyrie Irving has been cleared for full participation, which means we could see him this weekend.  Huge for the Devils, if they can get past the second round against either Michigan or Tennessee then Irving will get a full week of practice in and could be back in the form that made Duke look every bit the part of a repeat team earlier this year.

While Duke got some good news Purdue’s tourney run hopes took a bit of a blow, as they suspended Kelsey Barlow for the rest of the season.  The sophomore was the best perimeter defender for the Boilers and averaged about 20 minutes a game, so he will be missed.

Upsets are tough to predict (see my picks last year) and this year will be especially difficult.  I don’t consider it an upset when a 9 beats an 8 or when a 10 beats a 7, here we go.

Thursday

#12 Richmond over #5 Vandy:  This might be the easiest one of the entire tournament.  Vandy was knocked out in the first round a year ago at the buzzer to Murray St. and they have not been playing well down the stretch this year.  The Commodores have gone 3-7 in their last 7, while Richmond has won 7 straight and 11 of their last 12 overall.  This one isn’t as much about match-ups as it is momentum and Richmond obviously dominates in that department.

UALR has let UNC-Ashville back into the game to maybe make the first play-in game a memorable one.  Gus Leeper, an Austin, TX kid, just fouled out, 4 point game with a minute to play.  Wow. Big shot by the kid with the unfortunate name of Dickey.  UALR’s head coach looks scary.

#13 Belmont over #4 Wisconsin:  Now this is a numbers/match-ups thing.  Belmont averaged 80 PPG this season and if you watched Wisconsin’s thrilling Big Ten Tourney game against Penn St. you know that they have been struggling offensively.  The Bruins also have the size to defend Leuer inside and proved that in the two games against Tennessee a team much more athletic than the Badgers.

UALR was the better team, but they went down and the Bulldogs from UNC-Asheville now get the pleasure of getting smacked around by Pitt.  Starting this picks season out well, glad these don’t count or my perfect bracket would be toast.

#12 Utah St. over #5 Kansas St:  The Aggies are a veteran team, with tournament experience, that are under seeded.  They got blasted a year ago in the first round and I think that will motivate them to prove themselves.  For the Wildcats they’ve been playing really well lately against everyone not named Colorado, but they are a one-horse team and it’s hard to tell which Curtis Kelly will show up.  He’s been on fire lately, but I’m betting the lights of the dance will cool him off a bit, along with non-Big 12 refs calling him for his physical play.

Clemson just hammering UAB out of the gate. UAB sure looking like a team that does not belong in this tournament, lots of time left though.  Was thinking of taking the Tigers over West Virginia, we’ll see.

 

#11 Gonzaga over #6 St. John’s:  This is a border line upset pick at best, but it is tough to pick it still.  You can’t underestimate what the loss of DJ Kennedy does to the Red Storm and they haven’t played a game without him yet.  I like Sacre holding down the middle, eliminating some of the driving lanes for Dwight Hardy.  The Bulldogs are also incredibly deep and this seems like a bracket for them to go on a run.

Tru TV has got to stop running all these promos and just use this time to get what little ad revenue they’re used to.  People don’t watch your channel for a reason, just try to cash in on these next couple of weeks.

Okay, not going to pick Clemson.  I like how West Virginia plays defense and their strength is on the perimeter, which should limit Clemson’s best player Stitt.

In the 7-10 and 8-9 games I like Old Dominion, Michigan St., and Penn St.

Friday

#12 Memphis over #5 Arizona:  I hate the Pac 10.  I’m really hoping VCU beats USC tomorrow, but that’s neither here nor there.  This Memphis team has had a lot of ups and downs this year but played their best game of the year knocking of UTEP in El Paso (a place they had lost by 27 ten days earlier against the Miners) to win the Conference USA tourney.  The Tigers also have enough athletes and talent to not be intimidated and maybe even contain Derrick Williams.

That’s all I like for upsets of Friday.  Really.  Marquette over Xavier was a thought and USC over Georgetown isn’t a stretch if USC does beat VCU tomorrow night plus you don’t know how effective Chris Wright will be, but we’ll wait to see how the Trojans look tomorrow.  I’ve also heard a lot of talk on Oakland over Texas, but I can’t do that to the Horns, just because I don’t think the Golden Grizzlies have anyone who can defend Jordan Hamilton.

In the Friday 7-10 and 8-9 games I like Tennessee, George Mason, Texas A&M, UNLV, and Washington.

Brackets will be filled out tomorrow, before you turn them in or the Thursday deadline check back here and I’ll let you know who will be my picks and why for the Sweet 16, Final Four, and the eventual champ.

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Ok, now we can start looking at some match-ups, finally. Watching the Fab Five on ESPN hopefully wont distract me too much and tell you that Vandy will go to the final four.

Things can be controversial

I’m more upset by the seeding more than I am about who got in and who didn’t (although Colorado took it in the tailpipe). Why is Florida a two seed? Why is Texas a #4? Georgia is not a better team than Marquette and didn’t they just lose twice in their last three to Alabama a team not in the tournament? USC finished fourth in the mediocre Pac 10, got swept by Oregon, and lost to the likes of Rider, by 20, at home, but they should be in over Virginia Tech. Ok maybe a little upset about who got in and who didn’t. The NIT should switch its name to the Seth Greenberg Invitational.


Favorite 1st round games for watching not picking

Thursday night is pretty loaded so I’ll try to keep it to a minimum

#8 Butler versus #9 Old Dominion: This is a good one, last years mid major darling going up against a sheik mid major pick this year. ODU is physical and remember they won a game last year over Notre Dame (a team similar in structure to this year’s Butler team) in the first round.

#5 Vanderbilt versus #12 Richmond: UPSET!

#3 BYU versus Wofford: Jimmer.

#4 Wisconsin versus #13 Belmont: Another sheik upset pick, the Belmont Bears have eleven guys who average more than 10 minutes per game and they also average 80 points per game as a team on offense. Obviously completely opposite tempo of play is the story of this game and the health of Badger’s forward Mike Bruesewitz’s knee will also be a key factor.

#6 St. John’s versus #11 Gonzaga: DJ Kennedy’s injury changes this game, I think the Zags would’ve been in it if he were playing now they might be favored. After a tough loss to Memphis, Gonzaga rattled off 9 straight in workman like fashion including two over conference rival and arguable snub St. Mary’s. We know about St. John’s. They’re in New York, they have a coach who used to be an analyst for ESPN, and they’ve really turned it around this year.

#7 UCLA versus #10 Michigan St: Can never doubt Tom Izzo. If he gets one against the over-rated Bruins it could be the start of something again because of the weakness on that side of the bracket. If he doesn’t it will put an end to a very painful season in East Lansing.

#5 Kansas St. versus #12 Utah St: The Wildcats seemed to have turned things around after the rough start and you know Pullen will want to and can show up in a big way. Utah St. could make a case as the best team from Utah in the tournament since the Davies nookie dismissal. The Aggies have got to feel pretty disrespected with the twelve seed the way they dominated the WAC (15-1, 5 games ahead of second place, won the conference tournament) and had only one loss that could even be close to considered bad (at Idaho). They are also a very veteran team that wont beat itself.

#6 Cincinnati versus #11 Missouri: Late night is stacked! Looking forward to seeing if Missouri will be able to turn it around with the press and Bowers presence in the middle against Gates. Both teams are coming off of embarrassing losses in their conference tournament so it’s time for some face saving for the fan bases. It will also be interesting to see if the Mike Anderson rumors to Arkansas will have any effect on the Tigers.

Friday doesn’t seem as stacked, but it’s March, anything can happen.

#8 Michigan versus #9 Tennessee: Which Vols team will show up? When they play well the Orange are capable of beating anyone in the country, but recently they haven’t shown that side of themselves. Michigan is a young team on the rise and have played really well down the stretch.

#8 George Mason versus #9 Villanova: Another example of a Dr Jekyll situation in the Wildcats. They have maybe been playing the worst basketball down the stretch as any team in the tournament, but have the talent to topple anyone. George Mason doesn’t turn the ball over and enters the tournament on the exact opposite slope as Nova going 16-1 in the final 17.

#6 Xavier versus #11 Marquette: Great guard play in this one plus the return of Curly to the NCAA tournament. Tu Holloway can absolutely fill up a score sheet averaging over 20 a game while getting 5 boards and 5 dimes a game. The Golden Eagles will stay in it as long Jimmy Butler is the one taking the majority of the shots, not Johnson-Odom.

#7 Washington versus #10 Georgia: I like the way the Huskies play, up-tempo and Isaiah Thomas is absolutely fearless. They are absolutely the only team from the PAC 10 that I think can make a run in this tournament. I’m not convinced that Georgia even deserves to be in the tournament and don’t think they have a chance in hell against the Huskies, which means it will go right down to the wire.

I’ll be backed with some upset specials for your bracket soon.


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Mar/11

1

March 1st!

While watching the Pitt-Louisville game I realized I could not get over the miniature Italian Col. Sanders (the South Park guys absolutely should have had him as a character in the medical marijuana-KFC chicken episode).  What an unbelievable character Pitino is.  If there were going to be a movie made about a college coach it would have to be him, wouldn’t it?

Think about it, adultery, extortion, prison time, New York guy in Kentucky, all wrapped into a head coach at a major basketball school (not to mention that god awful white suit he was wearing yesterday, I mean he has to know how ridiculous he looks right?).  I’m writing a script for this movie if one doesn’t exist yet.  I’ll have to also invent that time machine I’ve discussed so I can have Al Pacino circa 1992 to play him.

 

Holy shit that poor fat Louisville cheerleader’s life.  Good luck, you bastard.  Here’s the link if you don’t know what I’m saying (and if you don’t where the hell have you been?):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqfNY3vfrmU

 

The shakedown conference by conference

 

Big East

They just keep beating the crap out of each other pretty much eliminating any chance for any team receiving a number one seed (unless Pitt wins out and the tourney).  But the depth should put eleven teams in and there will be lots of 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s.

Huge wins last week for Marquette and Cincinnati, as both got their elusive road victory that pretty much everyone knew they needed.  That should give the league 11 bids without blinking an eye (the record for a conference is 8).

The Louisville win actually benefits Notre Dame the most, as the Irish now find themselves a game behind the Panthers in the loss column after last night’s beat down of Villanova.  That is the kind of shooting that makes the Irish a tough one to figure come tourney time.

Think Keno would consider a return to Drake after Providence fires his ass?

 

Big Ten

So long Minnesota, hello Michigan.  The bubble may have burst for the Gophers but the Maze and Blue are now in the conversation and a win at home in the finale over rival Michigan St. coupled with a win in the Big Ten tournament should put them in.  Three teams are teetering the bubble and none are playing particularly inspiring basketball right now.  The league could add a fourth team to the mix if (a huge if) Penn St. wins its final two games (vs. Ohio St. and at Minn) and then would probably still need one more.

Purdue and Wisconsin are really playing well as we hit the final stretch and both should be tough outs come tourney time no matter what the draw.  I love that fact that both can beat you inside or out and can’t wait for a potential semi-final match-up between the two squads in the BTT.  What a statement win Sunday for Purdue, just destroyed the Izzos by 20 in their own house.  They’ll have an argument for a #1 seed if they win the Big Ten Tournament.


Big 12

The Horns are in a tailspin.  I heard many analysts saying it was good that they were playing again so soon, is that true if they lose?  Jordan Hamilton was given all sorts of credit during the earlier part of the season for being less selfish, but now you have to wonder.  The sophomore went 5-18 last night and in the three recent losses he has gone 15-58.  That’s a whopping .258 FG%.  They seemed to lack energy last night, weren’t creative offensively (relying on a lot of offensive rebounds and put backs), and didn’t lock down defensively like we’ve previously scene from them (lots of open looks for K St. last night).  The Horns close out with Baylor in Waco and then will probably draw either Colorado, Nebraska, or the Bears in the first round of the Big 12 tourney.  The games are going to be tough, but that may be a good thing for a team trying to turn it around and get tournament ready.

Horrible loss for the Huskers over the weekend, as they got beat at Iowa St and now are back among those on the bubble after being in a week ago.  They still have the chance to take out a ranked Missouri team at home and then they go to Boulder this weekend in a “Loser headed to the NIT” game.

Baylor’s season long impression of a yo-yo continues into this week.  After an embarrassing loss at home to Texas Tech last weekend they followed that up with a blowout loss at Missouri, only to then beat A&M at home to sweep the season series.  The Bears still have hope moving forward, they need to win at Okie St. Tuesday, get a big resume boosting win at home over Texas Saturday, and win at least one game in the Big 12 Tournament.  Do all that, I think they get in easily.

 

ACC

Oh, Seth Greenberg, the bubble just wouldn’t be the same without you.  The Hokies probably put themselves in for now with the home win over Duke this past weekend, but that could change with this weeks schedule against fellow bubble mates Clemson and Boston College.  Win both they’ll be a lock in team, lose both and they’ll have to win the ACC tourney, split and they’ll have to win at least two games in the tourney to get back in discussion.

Boston College is really the only other team in the ACC that could play their way in over the next two weeks without having to win the conference tournament.  The big one for them is Tuesday at Virginia Tech, which is a play-out game.  Florida St. is a team that is in for now, but could very well play themselves out by losing three straight (vs. UNC, at NCST, Quarters of tourney), although it would be hard to keep a 10-win ACC team out, FSU lacks a premium road or neutral court win (although, the Baylor win in Hawaii is getting close to being one).

Clemson, oh Clemson.  I think I hate you a little bit because you aren’t giving me much to grasp onto.  Where is your quality road win?  Wait, your best win on the season was at home over…Florida St!  No, you get no consideration from me unless you can go to Duke and win Wednesday night.

 

SEC

So Georgia is eeking their way in right now.  They have a decent non-conference win over fellow bubble sitter Colorado (is it because I know what looners are that the “sitting on a bubble” once in a while sounds a little dirty?), good wins in conference over Tennessee and Kentucky, and no terrible losses, they could get one, though.  A loss at home to LSU would give them a black eye that would force them to win some games in the conference tourney.

Tennessee’s early Big East tour, that saw them knock off Pitt (in Pittsburgh) and Villanova (in MSG), may be going for not.  After starting 7-0, they have gone 10-12, which includes some bad losses at home to Oakland, USC, Col of Charleston, and more recently Mississippi St.  The Vols seem to be getting worse since Bruce Pearl came back they’ve gone 2-4 since his return.  This team could play themselves out quickly (you think NCAA officials are hoping for this? I do.) with a loss at South Carolina and versus Kentucky this week, but if they sweep they can punch a ticket.

Big game tonight for the Tide.  If they can win in Florida they will put themselves in a position to be discussed.  Lose tonight, and they’ll have to win the SECT.

 

Mountain West

The fighting Jimmers are in line for a #1 seed, but I’m not sure how far I would have them advancing.  If they run into an athletic 8 seed (think Kansas St. or Villanova) or an uber talented 4 or 5 (think UConn or Kentucky) they will be done before the elite 8.  If they play more balanced team’s (think Temple or Texas A&M and Florida or Xavier) they will make their run.

San Diego St. also has not sold me as a serious threat to make a deep run.  Who have the Aztecs beaten that make them worthy of a top 3 seed?  St. Mary’s?  No, I’m sorry this team could be a big time bust in a second round defeat.

If Colorado St. gets an at-large bid I may become physically ill.

 

Pac 10

Arizona just got swept in L.A.  Washington got crushed at home by Washington St.  I bet UCLA gets swept when they travel to “Evergreen” state to take on the Cougars and Huskies.  I just don’t buy into the Pac 10 still.  I don’t see any of the teams making it past the second round and to get out of the first, any of the top 3 in the league better play a team on a down slide.

 

Ok, I can’t go any farther without commenting on something I saw lately in ESPN the magazine.  They did a player poll from multiple sports questioning athletes how worried they were about a terrorist attack at their sporting event.  WNBA guard Candice Wiggins answered a 3 out of 10.  Really? Do the terrorists want to kill 8 people?  Would they waste their time on an arena for the throngs of fans that attend a WNBA team?  Danilo Gallinari, who was playing in New York at the time, answered 1 out of 10.  Candice, Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group, is not trying to knock off a significant portion of the lesbian community.  Not even a 1 in 10.

 

Big Games Tonight

 

6:00:

Baylor @ Oklahoma St.

Alabama @ Florida

 

7:00:

Missouri @ Nebraska

 

8:00

Ohio St. @ Penn St.

Boston College @ Virginia Tech

 

With the great month of March upon us keep checking in as things will change daily.


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Feb/11

23

Mid-Major Bubbles

I don’t know about little brothers. According to my six-year-old niece, “they’re annoying,” and my older sister tends to concur. I think the NCAA’s “power six” conferences feel that way about the mid-major schools a lot too (especially after Butler’s run a year ago).

Wichita St. (23-6, 14-3): Nice team with some decent non-c wins over the likes of Virginia, LSU, Tulsa, and in conference at Northern Iowa, and at Indiana St. They lost at home to fellow bubble members Missouri St., and VCU, and have a bad home loss to Southern Illinois. The last week of the MVC regular season sees the teams (WSU-MSU) tied for first play on the final day of action before the tournament.

Having gone to school at Drake (6-10, 12-16) I have a nice connection to the Missouri Valley. My Bulldogs have had another rough year and watching Keno flounder at Providence has only slightly quelled the pain of another losing year. I would think Drake would be a good place to go if you were a basketball player. I’ll save my recruiting pitch for another time

Missouri St. (21-7, 13-3): The Bears’ biggest win unfortunately for them was that win in Wichita. They split with both UNI and Indiana St., lost both games against “Power 6” teams Oklahoma St. and Tennessee, and got blown out in the bracket buster at Valparaiso. It seems like they will need to win out to get in, yes that means the conference tournament too.

What a way to lose Michigan. Wow, I thought being a Minnesota fan was brutal. That was the most deflating way to go out since Roy Munson lost his hand.

Colorado St. (18-9, 8-5): Is this team riding the coattails of this conference’s inflated RPI and SOS because of the two top-ten teams at the top? Yes, yes they are. The best wins for this team have been a neutral site win over Ole Miss and a win at UNLV (a game they just nullified with their loss at home against the Rebels) and they lost at home to Sam Houston St. The loss tonight to BYU could be the second of potentially four down the stretch as they still go to Air Force and San Diego St.

Damn. Best game on is Kansas St. at Nebraska right now and there is a woman doing color.


Butler (20-9, 12-5): The runners-up from a year ago have struggled to live up to the ridiculous preseason hype that surrounded them. They’ve had a couple of bad losses versus Evansville in non-conference and at Youngstown St. in the Horizon. Good wins over some power 6 teams, the way they are finishing the season (6 straight wins, will be 7 when they beat Loyola on Saturday), and a little name recognition will help the Bulldogs get in.

Virginia Commonwealth (21-9, 12-5): Tough loss on the road to Drexel tonight and that now makes three straight within the conference. With losses to fellow bubble dwellers UAB and Richmond, and a really bad loss at Georgia St. the Rams will have to win the Colonial tournament to get in on Selection Sunday.

Alabama-Birmingham (19-7, 9-4): Speaking of the Blazers, for the co-leader in Conference USA (is that really something to brag about?) it will probably come down to a big game next week at Southern Miss. Win that you probably finish the regular season avenging an earlier home loss, winning four straight heading into the conference tourney as either a one or two seed, and they probably sneak in. Lose that game and they’ll need to go out and get the automatic bid.

Some shocking/bad losses tonight: Kentucky at Arkansas, Michigan vs Wisconsin, Georgetown vs Cincinnati, Boston College vs Miami, Florida St. at Maryland (blow out), Nebraska vs Kansas St. Watched the Husker loss, not the most exciting finish and the officials seemed like they wanted to take over the game once in a while, really annoying. Nebraska missed a ton of free throws down the stretch, just as they did when they let Texas back in on Saturday. I would hate to have Frank Martin as my head coach. What a dick.

Southern Mississippi (21-6, 9-4): I wonder how Larry Eustachy has adjusted to keeping his Natty Ice cooled down now that he is down in the sweltering Mississippi coast (just couldn’t help it). Anyway, the game against UAB is big (obviously) for the Golden Eagles as well, but they should fear the finale too, a road trip to tricky Tulsa. Think they also need a sweep to even have a hint of an at-large bid.

Tough OT win for UNLV tonight, liked how the MWC refs swallowed their whistles toward the end of the game, very un-Big 12 referee like.

Richmond (21-7, 10-3): Love the nickname, hate the loss to Iona. Love the colors, hate the loss to Georgia Tech. Love the win over Purdue, hate the loss to Bucknell. If they can close out the season with three straight wins to finish with 24 wins and ten games over .500 in the A-10, they should be in. If not, they’ll have to do some serious damage in the conference tourney.

Cleveland St. (23-6, 12-4): Norris Cole is averaging over 21 PPG and is leading this team to a number one seed in the Horizon League Tournament, however they have no quality wins and have struggled as of late (losing 3 in their last 5). They’ll need to take Butler down in the final to get in.

Gonzaga (19-9, 9-3): Yes they’re still a mid-major, they play in the WCC. They’ve been rolling along in the WCC too, winning six straight to go with their quality non-conference wins over Marquette and Baylor. They have a big game at St. Mary’s Thursday night and if they can get that W, they probably wont have to worry about how they do in the conference tournament.

That’s enough for now.


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Feb/11

23

Bubble watch

Quick look at some teams hovering on the brink of expulsion from the Big Dance.

Boston College (16-10, 6-6): Caught their game with UNC over the weekend and wow, offense was set back some 40 years in that game. This is a veteran squad (which is what BC’s team’s are every year) that has really had some trouble on the road as of late, losing 5 straight in the less than stellar ACC. To guarantee themselves a spot they can’t let that streak hit 7, which would mean devastating loses at Virginia and Virginia Tech. The one feather in the resume cap would be the win over Texas A&M in Orlando earlier this year, one turd would be the loss to Yale.

I’m watching the Champions League match between Marsielle and Man U. For everyone who jumped on the World Cup bandwagon last year and actually enjoyed the game, Champions League is the best soccer in the world being played. Man U left a lot of guys home so this is a pretty good game, Lyon vs Real Madrid yesterday was highly entertaining as well.

Nebraska (18-8, 6-6): Watched the majority of their second half win over Texas online on Saturday (loving espn3.com this year, hate a lot of the national televised games) and was as impressed with the Huskers composure from the 10 minute mark to the two minute mark, then was completely appalled. The way they let Texas back in the game was one of the strangest endings to a game that I’ve seen and they still got the win. Another team that lacks a decent road win in conference, Nebraska also has no quality non-conference wins either.

Just saw a Claritin commercial with the main character telling her story and was a Vet. I’m sorry, but don’t most people who have allergies around animals, so bad that they get blurred vision, stuffy nose, start sneezing, and have a terrible headache, not become veterinarians? I mean, if that happened to me, I would’ve grown up with fish or a turtle. I would’ve avoided and hated the furry animals all my life and probably would not have made caring for them a career choice.

Marquette (16-11, 7-7): Wow, different team but a very familiar story. The Golden Eagles need to take Thursday nights game in Stores to get off the bubble (it would also avenge an earlier home loss) and would have to win out after that to stay off. Darius Johnson-Odom is absolutely a chucker in the truest Costanza sense in Marquette’s seven conference losses. The junior has averaged 17 shots in those games and with a shooting percentage hanging around 43% on the season it doesn’t take a mathematics savant to realize those are a lot of empty possessions.

Minnesota (17-10, 6-9): Could this be the end of the Tubby Smith era with the Gophers? But it isn’t like this is unfamiliar territory for the Maroon and Gold. Both of the last two years they’ve been in this uncomfortable position of having to play their way into the tournament with the Big Ten Tournament and a late season push. If they get to 21 total wins they will probably get in because unlike other teams above them they do have the non-conference wins.

Another point on Tubby leaving: The continuing speculation that he will leave for the inevitable opening at Georgia Tech after this year is brought up so often it has become comical. He hasn’t had a ton of success here so as a Gopher fan, I wouldn’t be too upset except for the fact that we’d have to watch Joel Maturi make another coaching hire.

Penn St. (14-12, 7-8): This team has losses to Maine, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech. Their best wins were both at home over Michigan St. (on the verge of collapse) and Illinois (on the verge of collapse), and then, the Lions were then blasted by both on the road. How is this team on the bubble? If they lose their last three and that will end any hope that shouldn’t be there anyways.

We’ll check some mid-major bubbles in a bit.


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Feb/11

9

Game time notes

-Nice work on the promo by John Saunders, called Minnesota Michigan for the game in Minny tomorrow night on ESPN. Time to check the insulin level Mr. Saunders.
-Georgetown vs. Syracuse isn’t one of the first rivalries I think of in College basketball, but it should be.
-Can’t understand why Notre Dame only plays the slow down game with Pitt, if it beats the best shouldn’t it at least beat a few others? Louisville has controlled the tempo this entire game, credit Notre Dame to be here at the end.
-Syracuse has lost it’s confidence shooting the game as the game has winded down, makes it easier to decide what game to watch live down the stretch.
-Game after Joseph’s miss on the three. Big win for the Hoyas, tough loss for the Orange as Boeheim will have to wait for another day to get to 850 wins.
-Certainly feels like it’s already over in South Bend after the Irish score the first five points after a minute of play.
-Curly’s Golden Eagles look as though they are going to stave off a potential crippling loss at South Florida. Then again…
-Oh yeah, it’s USF with their 18th and 19th turnovers on the night, seriously Marquette, make a god damn free throw, I want to watch UNC vs. Duke!
-Good thing ESPN is giving us the double box with Oklahoma and Texas, because there is a ton of doubt out there about how that game will end.
-The color guy just said USF’s last look for a three was a good one even though the Bull player had a guy in his shorts.
-Eight straight misses for Marquette at the end of this game at the free throw line. This team should be feared by no one, if it actually gets in come March. They barely hang on after the guy accidentally hits the back end of a 1 and 1 to not allow a chance at the tying put back.
-Also, someone tell Louisville you have to play that final five minutes with all the intensity as the rest of the game, if not more so. I can’t stand Notre Dame!
-Florida showing no signs of a letdown, which is very un-Florida like compared to the last couple of years.
-Great fast paced start to the Duke vs. UNC game, other than Dick Vitale. Another post coming later.


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Big East:
6:00 ESPNU Can Louisville (18-5, 7-3) overcome lingering injuries to knock off Notre Dame (19-4, 8-3) on the road and move ahead of the Fighting Irish into to 2nd behind Pitt?
6:00 ESPN Will Georgetown (18-5, 7-4) move their conference win streak to seven as they travel to the Carrier Dome to take on the newly resurgent Syracuse (20-4, 7-4)?

Big Ten:
7:30 BTN Can Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) avoid looking ahead to Saturday’s huge match-up with the Buckeyes when they visit (winners of two straight) Iowa (10-13, 3-8?

Big 12:
8:00 ESPN3 Will Baylor (15-7, 5-4) stay hot at home against a reverting to old self Nebraska (15-7, 3-5)?
9:00 ESPNU Can reeling Texas A&M (17-5, 4-4), losers in 4 of 5, or reeling Colorado (15-9, 4-5), losers in 5 of 6, change their paths in Boulder?

SEC:
7:00 ESPN3 Will Florida (18-5, 7-2) avoid a let down (after the nice win over the weekend over Kentucky) as they travel to South Carolina (13-8, 4-4) to try to avenge
a loss at home from earlier in the year?

ACC
8:00 ESPN Can North Carolina (17-5, 7-1) prove they are on a revival track or just not get blown out as they travel to Duke (21-2, 8-1) in the “whenever they play it’s the game of the night,” game?

Patriot League (yeah, that’s right.)
6:00 Can Bucknell (16-8, 7-1) win at home and pretty much wrap up the regular season conference against second place American U (16-7, 6-2)?

I’ll be blogging tonight during the games and yes I’ll keep you up on the Eagles and Bison score.


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