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Archive for March 2010

So the evening games are underway and there are a couple of good ones going down.  Lets quick take a look back at some of the storylines from the first half of day 1 for all you suckers who had to work and couldn’t get the games on your computer loaded.

CBS has done a horrendous job of switching to games as they are winding down.  In the first slate of games the ODU-Notre Dame game was coming down to it as there were 9.1 seconds left and Old Dominion was up by 3.  Meanwhile, Florida and BYU were in the second OT with about 3 ½ minutes to go.  Instead of switching to the end of the Irish game, or even going split screen (isn’t it 2010), they kept it on the Gators-Cougars.  We didn’t get to see the end of the game (including Tory Jackson’s near tying three), instead they cut back to it after the play had already happened and the final score was posted.  What the SHIT CBS?  They again failed to go to the Murray St. upset until there was 25 seconds left, even though the lead had been going back and forth over the last minute and a half.  Someone needs to get up these directors’ asses and make them realize that people like to see the end of exciting games.

UTEP played probably the worst half of basketball since UNC back in the 2008 semifinal game to Kansas.  The Miners were up 6 at the half, dominating the paint, and controlling Butler’s shooting from the outside.  Then the second half started and all of that changed as the Bulldogs outscored UTEP 50-26.  One thing I failed to look at when I was deciding whom to pick in that game was my own advice.  Butler is an experienced mid-major NCAA Tourney team and they have a point guard who can score (Mack who went for 25 and 7-9 behind the arc).  That’s my bad and the Bulldogs could be a potential tough matchup for Syracuse looking down the road because of their ability to shoot from the outside.

Villanova was very lucky to escape with their win.  Jay Wright has to be loving the good fortune that he received from the basketball gods today.  First there were some questionable fouls called toward the end of the game that very much benefitted the Wildcats.  Then, he has to be pleased with the fact that Scottie Reynolds had his worst shooting game of the season (2-15 from the field) and his team was still able to win the game.  If you have ‘Nova, as I do, going to the Final Four you are sweating for the matchup against St. Mary’s, who looked really tough against Richmond.

The first four games really got this tournament started the way we remember it to be.  Last year there was only one really dramatic game (Villanova-Pitt regional final) and this year all of the first four had amazing drama.  ODU by one, BYU in double OT, Villanova in OT avoiding the biggest upset since George Mason over UCONN, and Murray St.’s buzzer beater made it possibly the most exciting first day ever and were just a half into the evening games!  BTW, somebody wake Georgetown up.

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And it begins!  March Madness!  The real thing finally!  Let me in on a few upsets that I decided to go with before the games actually take place.

#12 UTEP over #5 Butler:  Ok, for anyone who has read my blog at all this year knows how much I think Butler has been overrated.  I was surprised that they received a #5 seed considering that their non-conference schedule wasn’t exactly stacked with great wins.  But it’s not just my dislike for Butler (and yes, some of that is jealousy considering my alma mater is relatively the same size of school and has no where near the success of them), UTEP is a strong team.  Randy Culpepper is a scoring point, Derrick Caracter is a matchup nightmare inside for the Bulldogs, and the Miners are just way more athletic than Butler.  Don’t be surprised if, no matter whom UTEP gets in the second round, they will be playing next weekend.

#11 San Diego St. over #6 Tennessee:  Why?  I really don’t have a great answer for that except that Tennessee is inconsistent and I like teams from the Mountain West in this tourney.  This one could be a big embarrassment for me, the Vols do have the talent to make a run to the Sweet 16 and beyond.

#13 Murray St. over #4 Vanderbilt:  The Racers live up to their name as they are a team that likes to get out and run.  As long as they can force the tempo the Racers will be able to negate A.J. Ogilvy on the inside for Vandy.

These are the three big ones for day 1.  As I write this Villanova is down early to Robert Morris by 6.  Of course early is the under eight timeout in the first half.  They need to wake up or two of the three brackets I filled out will be completely moot.

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Mar/10

16

A Gusto Wind: Dickie V

I just caught his tournament breakdown.  His bias is nothing if not consistent.
After not picking KU in ’08, then snubbing their victory to focus on the loser…and now picking Cal again in ’10, I can only conclude this is La Cosa Paisan.

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Mar/10

16

Need some help?

At risk of giving too much advice to competitors within my bracket pools, (which are of course just for fun since gambling is not legal) here are some tips to filling out a bracket to win your pool.

  1. Teams that have point guards that can score will advance.  This is a lesson that was taught to me years ago when Khalid El Amin led UCONN over Duke to win the national title back in ’99.   I picked Villanova to make it to the final four last year because of Scottie Reynolds.  Ty Lawson led UNC to the title last year averaging 21ppg.  When Kansas won it two years ago they had a younger Sharron Collins and Super Mario also playing some point for them.  UCLA advanced to the title game three seasons ago with Darren Collison in double figures in every game up until the title game in which they lost.  Point guards that can score lead teams.  This bodes well for Kansas (Collins), Kansas St. (Denis Clemente), Kentucky (John Wall), and Villanova who still has that Reynolds guy.
  2. Experience matters early in the tourney in the case of mid-major teams way more than for power conference teams.  The Freshman and Sophomores from power teams have dealt with pressure all year, are the key players of their teams, and simply are too talented to fall off just because it’s the NCAA tourney.  Mid-major teams with a lot of experience however, especially previous tourney experience, are the ones to watch out for when picking the upsets.  So before you decide Sam Houston St. could knock off Baylor, check their roster and previous year.
  3. Beware of the high seeded team from a mid-major.  This year it is specifically Butler who is a five seed in the Midwest Region.  Last year no team from a mid-major was seeded higher than a nine (Butler and Siena), so neither was a stretch to win or lose.  Go back two years and look at the fifth seeded Drake Bulldogs, who were also seeded fifth and fell to a fellow mid-major in Western Kentucky.  When a mid-major is a higher seed it will typically see another mid-major team, who is the same team as the higher seeded team they’re playing in their own league or just got done knocking them off.  They wont be afraid.
  4. Finally the past three years at least three teams from the prior year that went to the Sweet Sixteen have made it to the Elite Eight the following year.  Of the 11 in the past three years, only one team had a lower seed (Memphis in ’07 was a #2 after being a #1 in ’06) than in the year in which they made the Elite Eight.  So whom does that give an edge to heading into this years tourney?  Let’s start with the teams who aren’t there that made the Sweet 16 last year: Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arizona, UCONN, and Memphis.  We’ll leave out teams who may have made the Sweet 16 last year and who’s seed is significantly lower than it was a year ago: Louisville, Missouri, and Gonzaga.  Purdue is a #4 when last year they were a #5, but without Robbie Hummel they aren’t the same team, out.  Michigan St. went down three spots from a #2 to a #5, but that means they have to go through #1 Kansas so….out.  Pitt and Xavier made the Sweet 16 last year and both dropped just two spots in seeding from a year ago, Pitt from a #1 to #3 and Xavier from a #4 to a #6.  The fun part is that if both of them make it through the first round they will be matched up against each other to get to the second weekend.  The remaining four teams all have a higher seed than the year prior and are all expected to make the Elite 8: Kansas, Syracuse, Duke, and Villanova.  If things hold true to history than at least one of those teams probably wont make the final 8.  It’s your decision on whom that will be.

So that’s the advice, that and hold onto your brackets until the last possible moment, nobody needs to see your selections until they can’t change theirs.  More coming tomorrow so stay clicked.

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1) The bubble teams have plenty to cheer about this week, or should I say plenty to be nervous about. With 8 of the “mid-major” conference leaders also having a resume that warrants an at-large bid, the bubble could shrink drastically with upsets in the conference tournament. Combine the 5 that would be 1-bid conferences with Cal and the Pac-10 and we have a possibility of 6 bubble spots eliminated by conference tourney upsets. So fans of UAB, Memphis, Florida, and Notre Dame need to be pulling for Butler, Cal, Utah St., Old Dominion, Gonzaga, and Siena. The bubble has not shrunk, at least not yet.
2) Every year at this time, one philosophical question is debated more than any other – quality wins vs total wins. Last year the selection committee made it clear by including Arizona (19-13, statjunkieRPI=63) and not Creighton (26-7, sjRPI=42). The debate is back! Lets welcome our two players. Team A boasts a 17-14 record with a sjRPI of 56. Team B is 24-5, sjRPI=45. Easy decision right? What if I told you that Team A has 3 wins against teams ranked in the Top 10? And then told you that Team A was 0-2 verse teams ranked in the Top 25? Team A vs Team B…Quality wins vs total wins…Connecticut vs St Mary’s.
3) The “mid-major” conferences continue to get 8 at-large bids, 4 more than last year. However 3 of those 8 are sitting on the last 4 in line. Wichita St. can now only sit and watch as their at-large spot will most likely be taken away, while UAB and Memphis will meet in their conference semi-finals eliminating one of those two from the field. After all the games have been played and barring no upsets in the conference tournaments (see point 1), there will be 6 “mid-major” teams in the at-large field this year. Two from the A-10 (Xavier, Richmond), three from the Mountain West (BYU, San Diego St., and UNLV), and one from Conf USA (Memphis).

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Mar/10

3

A Game for a diary

A big  time game in the Big 12 features two top five teams going head to head in what is Sherron Collins swan song at Fog Allen Field House.

So it’s 7:30, I turned on the K St.-KU game about a half hour ago.  Everyone was talking about how the whole Senior Night distraction was going to play right into the Wildcats hands.  Um, not so much.  So here’s a run through of the evening as I’m switching through the games.

11:40 left in the 1st Kansas up 20-12 and headed to the line.  They look so much more composed and ready for this type of match-up.  K St. has taken some bad shots and just looks off.

Interesting that KU is playing a Triangle-2 defense.  This is a gimmick defense, but the fact that K St. is already in the bonus, Bill Self doesn’t want any more cheap fouls against the speed of the Wildcats.

Collins at the line, hits them both.  A little scared that the refs are going to try to take this game over and as I type this, another whistle.  Goo!  Swallow those damn things stripes!  No one is here to watch you blow.

Jacob Pullen just hit a long three and K St. with a great block but they quickly turn it over and now a foul on Clemente, which initially looked like an intentional foul, but that was waved off.  The announcers think this is a great idea.

Why is it that announcers always feel the need to support the refs?  Why can’t they take as much criticism as the coaches and players get?  Collins took a quick three on a recent possession and the announcers called it a stupid shot.  When was the last time they’ve said that a call was “stupid?”  The refs are grown men, they can take some heat, shit!

Under 8 timeout and a message from my “friends” at Phillips 66.  Really?  Friends?

Switch over to UConn- Notre Dame.  Oh my god, 45-38 with 3:05 left in the game.  I know that Notre Dame is in Indiana, but would someone tell these guys they don’t play in the Big Ten.  Time-out.

Big Ten Network.  Iowa at Wisconsin…..hmmm…… I wonder what my friends over at Phillips 66 have to say?

Quick 7-0 run by K St. to get it to 6.  Time-out KU.  They don’t look great offensively.  Aldrich only has one shot so far.  There is 5:46 left in the first half.

Xavier Henry has 15 pts. so far even though he sat for over 8 minutes with 2 fouls.

Alley-Oop to Aldrich, it must be fun to be that tall when you’re playing basketball.

Wow.  Wally Judge with a monster finish off a missed lay-up and it’s all of a sudden down to four.

K St. is playing a 1-2-2.  I really like that defense.  The best three point looks your going to get is usually from the corner and if your big man isn’t going to or able to shoot from the free throw line it’s tough to get good looks anywhere else.

Good thing Motel 6 has got wireless internet now, they just about missed it.

Quick flip to UConn-Notre Dame, the Irish up 6 with 25 ticks left.  Another bad loss for the Huskies.  Who thought they’d be good…shit.

Ahh, don’t miss the Big 12 halftime report presented by Oberto beef jerky.  We are definitely in Big 12 country.

A three from the corner from some white guy named Tyrell Reid.  45-38 at the half, quite entertaining.

Bill Self just said that both teams were dealing with foul problems in the first half so they had to go into they’re bench.  If you read between the lines he’s saying that refs need to stick those whistles in their asses in the second half.

Oh yeah, Duke and Maryland playing tonight too.  Ick, Kyle Singler.  Has there been a more hyped player coming into college who has never really done anything.  I mean, he plays a lot, but he’s never been dominate.

Nice little 7-0 run by the Terps to start the game.

Meanwhile, Florida St. up by three on Wake with 4.2 left.  Another free throw and this one is in the books, done and done.  The Demon Deacons are doing everything they can to get on the bad side of the bubble as they’ve lost three straight.  They finish out at home against Clemson which wont be easy either, lose that one and Wake will be just .500 in a mediocre ACC.

Duke-Maryland in a delay because of a hole in the net.  Will this cancel out a media time-out since all they’re doing is playing commercials?  Doubtful.

Greivis Vasquez is an Argentine.  I don’t like him.  I haven’t watched him play a lot, but I don’t like Argentine basketball players.  Although, Manu slapping that bat out of mid air was pretty cool.

Singler apparently scored 30 this year against Georgia Tech.  I guess he is pretty good.

Maryland is up 10 and the crowd is really going nuts.  Ooh, Erin Andrews is at the game, nice.

Jay Bilas has got to be one of the best color guys in all of college hoops and I love the fact that he works with both CBS during the tourney and ESPN.  Why is he the only guy that gets to cross over like that?

Under 12 timeout.  21-8.  Maryland really is out hustling Duke up and down the floor.  It’s a nice start, but the Blue Devils have been in the Terps’ heads for years so we’ll see if this holds up.

Holy crap!  The K St.-KU game is back on and it’s tied.

Bad foul on the offensive end against K St.  Of course Sherron Collins is going to get that in his last game in the Fog.

Double foul as Marques Morris took down Jamar Samuels of K St.  I find it odd that this looks like a finishing move and a WWE commercial was just on.  Nice DDT by Morris.

KU finally works it in to Adrich and he promptly takes it to the hole for two.  All of sudden the Jayhawks are back up by 8.

After a K St. time out they quickly turn it over to a Henry dunk.  This is a point where things could get out of hand if the Wildcats aren’t careful.  Two quick fouls against KU, I guess the refs saw it the same way.

Another foul and the Wildcats are in the bonus with almost 13 minutes left.  The twins are on the bench as the Jayhawks go small.  This should be interesting against the 1-2-2.

Well, the small ball isn’t working too well, the lead is down to four after a three by Clemente.  Under 12 time out.

A Whataburger commercial.  Don’t be jealous if you don’t have these in your area, they are highly overrated.

I’m calling it now.  If it comes down to a final shot and Sherron Collins takes it, he’ll hit it.  He is 1 for 10 right now.

These refs better not be staying in Lawrence tonight, they are about to incite a riot.

Aldrich just completes a three point play with the ugliest free throw technique ever.

Collins just hit a three.  He will heat up quick, Jayhawks by 10 again.  A great game of runs and momentum shifts.

10-2 run for KU and it’s a 12 point lead another moment when the game could get out of hand and another whistle from the refs, shocker.

Two point game at the half between the Dukies and the Terps.  It’s hard to be this right so often.

Collins has scored the last 7 points for KU, this is getting out of hand as Taylor drops a three and it’s 16.

Good fight from K St., but the Jayhawks with just too many weapons.  Full court pressure from the Wildcats and they switch to man defense.

Ouch.  Pullen trying to go coast to coast just got put to the floor on a block by Aldrich.  Not a good idea to scoop through a seven footer.

18 point game as we reach the under four minute Sonic roller skating ad.  Is it 1958 again?  Ironically that was the last time the Wildcats and Jayhawks played as both top 5 teams.

K St. headed for a 2 seed and look out for them in the tournament.  They have a point guard that can penetrate and shoot in Denis Clemente, a dominate scorer in Jacob Pullen, and athletic players in the paint.

Like how the Wildcats are finishing up the game though, playing hard defense, diving for balls on the floor, and driving hard to the bucket.

Rock Chalk raining down from the rafters, there isn’t a cooler tradition in all of college basketball.  Should start earlier to last longer though.

Nice moment for Sherron Collins as he leaves the game, no wait, confusion as the foul was a DQ.  Now K St. takes a timeout as the parade of players comes off the bench to replace the starters.  Love it, Frank Martin looks like a goon from Goodfellas.

Now Collins leaves the floor, hugs and tears all around.  Final score KU 82 K St. 65

I’m going to watch the Duke-Maryland game, but with the big game over so ends this post.

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March 1st has arrived.  Finally.  However, someone forgot to let the top three teams know before this weekend.  Kansas falls to a now tournament bound Okie St.  Purdue losses to Michigan St. at home, but worse, lose Robbie Hummel for the year with a torn ACL earlier in the week.  Kentucky falls to giant killer Tennessee.

What does all of this mean as the regular season wraps up this week and the conference tournaments start at the end of the week?  Hmm…. Let’s go with the winners and losers from recent play.

Winners:

Syracuse.  They smashed Villanova over the weekend and are now in position for the number one seed overall in the tournament.  In my opinion they should have been that top team anyways given that they are going to win the toughest conference in the country and have the most impressive wins of any of the top teams vying for that spot.  The worst part of the whole thing for the ‘Cuse is that they wont be able to be the top seed in the East due to the regional final being in Syracuse.  The Orange are scary good.

Kansas.  Sure they lost on the road to a desperate team.  But how often have we seen this happen?  A top team, seemingly cruising through the season, losing one of their final games of the season and thus propels them into the tournament to be successful and wake them up in a sense.  Well let’s see:

2009 North Carolina lost to Florida St. in the semifinals of the ACC tournament and went on to win the National Championship.

2008 Kansas also lost at Oklahoma St. on February 23 of their national championship year, as they would then go on to win 13 straight.

2007 Florida lost 3 of 4 in late February, all on the road, before heading to their second straight title.

2006 Florida out did everyone on the list by losing three in a row in the span of eight days in the shortest month before rolling to title numero uno.

2005 North Carolina also lost in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, this time to Georgia Tech before giving ‘Ol Roy his first ring.

I could keep going but I don’t think I have to.  This loss could make every other team in the country a loser as it may just have waken the sleeping giant that is Rock Chalk.

Kentucky.  See above.

Tennessee.  Is there another team in the country that has played a schedule like the Vols.  They played last week’s top three teams in the country and went 2-1 against them.  A big win over the weekend may not propel them to a lot of tournament success, but will certainly help Bruce Pearl continue to build the program he has already taken to new heights.

Ohio St.  The Buck’s are on track for a number two seed.  They will walk with, at the very least, a share of the regular season title and should be the favorites heading into the Big Ten Tournament.  I said Evan Turner should walk with the Big Ten POY a few weeks ago and now I’m saying he should walk with National POY too.

Minnesota.  Being from this winter wonderland, it’s hard to believe that the Gophs are still alive.  It seems like they have played themselves out of contention so many times it still amazes me that they have bounced back.  There is no reason that should have lost the game earlier this week against Purdue and without that win I didn’t think they had a prayer.  Then they go into Illinois and hold on for a two-point victory against a team that usually owned them.  Now they head to Michigan (another team that has somehow owned them of late) before hosting Iowa to close it out.  Win those two and they are all of a sudden two games over .500 in the Big Ten and on their way to 20 wins.  That would be enough.  Shocking

New Mexico.  The Lobos did something they haven’t done since 2000 this weekend when they won in Provo and take the regular season title away from BYU.  I think the fighting Alfords should easily grab a number 3 seed out West come tourney time.  While the non-conference wins over Cal and Texas Tech have last their luster as the season has played out, they still have that neutral court (Houston) win over a Texas A&M pre-Derrick Rolland most horrific injury since Joe Thiesmann team.  If you missed the end of the game against BYU, Darrington Hobson’s block as the game closed out was possibly the best defensive play of the year.

Maryland.  Won a big one in Virginia Tech to keep their hopes of tying Duke for the ACC title.  The Terps have won 5 straight since they were dismantled by the Blue Devils in Durham and will host them Wednesday night.  Even though Greivis Vasquez went for 41 over the weekend, he went just 13 for 33, maybe it’s time to pass the ball a little bit more.

Notre Dame.  Heading into last week there were four teams from the Big East going for one or two at-large spots.  The Irish, without Luke Harangody, seemed the least likely to move into one of those spots.  But the Catholics got a huge boost by getting two signature wins last week, both in dominating fashion.  They destroyed Pitt at home by 15 then took they’re show on the road to knock of Georgetown by 14.  They still have two tough games remaining when they host UConn Wednesday and then travel to Marquette.  If they can, at the very least, get a split they can probably put on their dancing shoes.

The Pac 10.  Don’t look now but the worst “Power Conference” maybe ever has all of a sudden got 3 teams that are ten games or more over .500 in Cal, Arizona St., and Washington.  It’s hard to fathom three teams from this league getting in, but we know that the NCAA will give it more respect than it deserves.  Washington could be the team that has the best shot at getting an at-large bid if they don’t win the tournament with a win over Texas A&M on their resume.  If they sweep in Oregon this week they could easily finish with 22 or more wins and they were a top-25 team early in the year.  More intriguing is whether or not the selection committee would keep Cal out if they make the finals of the Pac 10 tournament and lost.  The Bears, assuming they take out arch rival Stanford later this week, would finish with the outright regular season title and be 23-10 heading into Selection Sunday.  Scary thought, but multiple bids could be likely.

The Losers:

Purdue.  Forget the fact that they just lost to Michigan St. at home, Robbie Hummel going down completely changes how this team plays.  They will struggle against teams that play an extended zone against them and focus on not giving E’Twaun Moore open looks.  Teams that played zone against them with Hummel in the line-up couldn’t focus on taking one of them out and now they can.  The Minnesota game, even though they won, exposed the Boilers lack of depth.  Purdue will likely win it’s final two games over poor teams (Indiana and Penn St.), but they could face the likelihood of losing in the quarterfinals (if they drop to the three seed) or semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and maybe slipping all the way down to a four seed come the big dance.

UConn.  This team has far too much talent to be sitting so precariously on the bubble, but they are definitely going to be sweating it out if they don’t win out in NYC.  They couldn’t hold the momentum they had developed when Louisville came to town yesterday and now will probably have to win their last two games on the road to seriously have a shot at getting in.  At Notre Dame, as mentioned earlier, doesn’t look as easy as a trek it did a week ago and more than one team has struggle against South Florida down in Tampa.

Texas.  The Horns just can’t seem to right the ship and the severe injuries to the backcourt aren’t helping either.  The former number one may drop out of the top-25 after their embarrassing performance at in-state rival A&M on Saturday.  The seed for the conference tournament is very much up in the air as well, as they could be anywhere from 3 to 7.  While they have been struggling, they will make the tournament and will a scary matchup for whomever they get in the first round considering the talent that is there.

Florida.  The Gators were seemingly off the bubble after they finally beat Tennessee last week, but jumped right back on with the two-point loss at Georgia on Saturday.  Billy Donavan, what the hell has happened in Gainesville?  You won back-to-back national titles just a couple years ago and now every year it seems as though the Gators are teetering on the edge.  It doesn’t help (or then again, maybe it does in that they could get another signature win) that they finish with Vandy and Kentucky this week and will likely need to win one of those to guarantee themselves a place.

Ahh…March.  It’s all happening.

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