Archive for March 2011
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
#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.
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.
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?):
The shakedown conference by conference
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Baylor @ Oklahoma St.
Alabama @ Florida
Missouri @ Nebraska
Ohio St. @ Penn St.
Boston College @ Virginia Tech
With the great month of March upon us keep checking in as things will change daily.