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

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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Last 4 In: Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, San Diego St., Marquette
Next 4 In: UAB, Florida St., Dayton, Texas Tech,
Bubble Out: Wichita St., Illiniois, Florida, South Florida, Mississippi, Memphis, Seton Hall, Mississippi St.

Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams) *Teams in Bold recieve automatic bids.
A10 (6; 6): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Xavier, Charlotte
ACC (3; 7): Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida St., Maryland, Virginia Tech
AmEast (25; 1): Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun (24; 1): Belmont
Big Ten (5; 4): Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan St., Ohio St.
Big 12 (1; 8): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Missouri
Big East (2; 8): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati
Big Sky (17; 1): Weber St.
Big South (27; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (20; 1): UC Santa Barbara
CAA (12; 1): Old Dominion
Conf USA (11; 2): UAB, UTEP
Great West (33; 0):
Horizon (13; 1): Butler
Independent (31: 0):
Ivy (22; 1): Cornell
MAAC (15; 1): Siena
MAC (16; 1): Akron
MEAC (30; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (9; 1): Northern Iowa
MWC (7; 4): New Mexico, UNLV, BYU, San Diego St.
NE (29; 1): Robert Morris
Ohio Valley (19; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (8; 1): California
Patriot (28; 1): Lehigh
SEC (4; 3): Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Southern (18; 1): College of Charleston
Southland (26; 1): Sam Houston St.
Summit (21; 1): Oakland
Sun Belt (23; 1): Middle Tenn. St.
SWAC (32; 1): Jackson St.
WAC (10; 1): New Mexico St.
West Coast (14; 1): Gonzaga

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Last 4 In: Wichita St., Clemson, Louisville, Mississippi
Next 4 In: Texas Tech, Florida, Dayton, Oklahoma St.
Bubble Out: San Diego St., South Florida, Old Dominion, Marquette, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Illinois, Cornell

Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams) *Teams in Bold recieve automatic bids.
A10 (7; 6): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Xavier, Charlotte
ACC (3; 6): Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida St., Maryland
AmEast (26; 1): Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun (24; 1): Belmont
Big Ten (5; 4): Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan St., Ohio St.
Big 12 (1; 8): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Missouri
Big East (2; 6): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Louisville
Big Sky (17; 1): Weber St.
Big South (27; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (20; 1): Pacific
CAA (12; 1): Northeastern
Conf USA (11; 2): UAB, UTEP
Great West (33; 0):
Horizon (13; 1): Butler
Independent (31: 0):
Ivy (21; 1): Princeton
MAAC (15; 1): Siena
MAC (16; 1): Kent St.
MEAC (29; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (9; 2): Northern Iowa, Wichita St.
MWC (6; 3): New Mexico, UNLV, BYU
NE (30; 1): Robert Morris
Ohio Valley (19; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (8; 1): California
Patriot (28; 1): Lehigh
SEC (4; 5): Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Florida
Southern (18; 1): College of Charleston
Southland (25; 1): Sam Houston St.
Summit (22; 1): Oakland
Sun Belt (23; 1): Arkansas St.
SWAC (32; 1): Jackson St.
WAC (10; 1): Utah St.
West Coast (14; 2): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

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**Getting to Know Your 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes is a regular feature on StatJunkie.  This feature will profile every player of the team unanimously predicted to finish 11th in the Big Ten:  the 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes.**

Anthony Tucker #1


tucker

Anthony Tucker's mouth drops while surveying a vast collection of liquor.

  • Height:  6′-4″
  • Weight:  200
  • Class:  Sophomore
  • Position:  Shooting Guard
  • Hometown:  Minnetonka, MN
  • Nicknames:  The Rainman, The Drunk, Tipsy McPassout

Tucker came to Iowa after being named Metro Player of the Year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, leading his team to a 28-3 record and a Minnesota state championship.  During his freshman year with the Hawks, Tucker appeared to be blossoming into a star as the team’s leading scorer averaging nearly 10 points, 3 boards, and  shooting 43% from beyond the arc through 14 games.  Yes, it appeared Iowa basketball had it’s next star-in-the-making.  Uh oh! Apparently Mr. Tucker had been taking as many shots in downtown Iowa City bars as he had been taking on the basketball court; A LOT.  In classic drunken hilarity, Tucker was found completely passed-out and unconscious in an alley behind a bar.  After being rushed to the nearest liquor store hospital, Tucker’s blood-alcohol level was determined to be more than twice the legal limit, or as physicians refer to it:  “Verne Troyer drunk“.  Oh yeah, he also had mono.

Tucker would sit out the remainder of the 2008-2009 season after becoming academically ineligible, but would remain on scholarship.  Beginning the 2009-2010 season, Tucker said all the right things, had grown up, felt embarrassed, would take responsibility of his actions’ and wouldn’t do anything else to hurt the University of Iowa.  Ohhhh shit.  Tucker’s 2nd public intox charge poured gallons of gasoline on the Hawkeyes’ fiery-train-wreck of a season, putting thousands of Iowa fans on suicide watch.

Tucker remains suspended for the time being, and no one knows if or when he will return to the basketball team this season.  God knows the Hawks need him on the court; almost more than Tucker needs a stiff drink by noon on a  Monday.

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1) Big time programs on the outside. North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis, UCLA, Arizona, Oklahoma.
It became clear early in the season that UCLA and Memphis were far from the teams they were in the past. Oklahoma hasn’t been able to put things together, reinforcing the importance of Blake Griffin to last year’s team. Arizona – see point #3. UNC, UConn, and Louisville have become the recent talk of the Bubble Watch.
The ACC remains strong, but UNC looks like a mess. If selection was last Sunday, UNC would have a 0.03% chance of receiving an at-large bid. One road win (at NC State, the worst team in the ACC), a 2-4 conference mark, and a StatJunkie RPI of 76 make this UNC team very unattractive. The next three games won’t make tar-heel life any easier. At VT, at Maryland, and vs. Duke could seal Coach Williams NIT fate.
As of last Sunday, Louisville (21.1%) and UConn (14.4%) were both square on the bubble and out of the tourney. Louisville’s home win against UConn on Monday helps their case by putting them back over .500 in conference (5-4). But with no signature wins and only one road win (at Providence), Coach Pitino may have to beat one of the Big East top 5 to stake a tourney claim.
Apparently Coach Calhoun is the greatest coach of all time. UConn has lost 6 of its last 8 and now have a 3-6 conference record. The Big East may try to claim 10 teams this year, but for it to get more than 6, 6-10 have to start upsetting 1-5.

2) What happens when traditional powers fall off the map? Enter a flurry of mid-majors. Led by the A-10 (5) and the Mountain West (3), Mid-majors are claiming 11 at-large spots. A much higher total than the 4 that were selected last year. Mid-major locks include Butler, Northern Iowa, BYU, Xavier, New Mexico, Temple, and Rhode Island. Teams that should be in include UAB, Charlotte, and Gonzaga. Teams on the bubble with work left to do are UNLV, Richmond, San Diego St., Siena, Wichita St., Dayton, Cornell, St. Mary’s, Old Dominion, Utah St., Tulsa, and Northeastern.
The release of the Bracket Buster schedule feeds right into this conversation and here are the games that will impact the bubble. Friday 2/19, Old Dominion at Northern Iowa: This game means a lot more to ODU than it does to UNI as it pertains to selection Sunday. Saturday 2/20, Siena at Butler: repeat previous sentence with Siena in place of ODU. Saturday 2/20, Wichita St. at Utah St.: Both teams are fighting to make a case to the committee. A road win for Wichita St. would be huge for the RPI, and this will be the last and best chance for Utah St. to impress the committee.

3) Don’t look now, but Arizona is back in the mix. The team that killed my perfect prediction last year is sitting in a similar situation it was in 11 months ago. At 3.7%, the Wildcats are the ninth team out in this week’s prediction. However, at 3.1%, they were the eleventh team out last year. Is there something about the Arizona streak of tourney appearances that gets them an at-large nod? I claimed there was last year and I am nervous about it this year. To make things worse, the Pac-10 is awful and Arizona could easily finish second in the conference with a 12-6 record (18-12 overall). Will a second place Pac-10 team get a spot over a sixth place A-10 team? Yes. Do they deserve it? Not right now.

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Last 4 In: Texas Tech, Dayton, Cornell, Wichita St.
Next 4 In: San Diego St., Mississippi, Cincinnati, Maryland
Bubble Out: Florida, Old Dominion, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, South Carolina, Utah St., Arizona

Conference (Conference Rank, # of teams) *Teams in Bold recieve automatic bids.
A10 (6; 6): Rhode Island, Temple, Dayton, Richmond, Xavier, Charlotte
ACC (3; 6): Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Florida St., Maryland
AmEast (26; 1): Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun (24; 1): Jacksonville
Big Ten (5; 4): Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan St., Ohio St.
Big 12 (1; 8): Texas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma St., Baylor, Missouri
Big East (2; 6): West Virginia, Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati
Big Sky (17; 1): Weber St.
Big South (27; 1): Coastal Carolina
Big West (21; 1): Pacific
CAA (12; 1): George Mason
Conf USA (11; 1): UAB
Great West (33; 0):
Horizon (13; 1): Butler
Independent (31: 0):
Ivy (20; 2): Cornell, Princeton
MAAC (15; 1): Siena
MAC (16; 1): Akron
MEAC (29; 1): Morgan St.
MVC (9; 2): Northern Iowa, Wichita St.
MWC (7; 4): New Mexico, UNLV, BYU, San Diego St.
NE (30; 1): Robert Morris
Ohio Valley (19; 1): Murray St.
Pac-10 (8; 1): California
Patriot (28; 1): Lehigh
SEC (4; 4): Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi
Southern (18; 1): College of Charleston
Southland (25; 1): Sam Houston St.
Summit (22; 1): Oakland
Sun Belt (23; 1): Arkansas St.
SWAC (32; 1): Jackson St.
WAC (10; 1): Louisiana Tech
West Coast (14; 2): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s

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Conference Breakdown

So with January winding down, it’s time to look at who is emerging as the favorites and contenders for conference titles across the nation.

Big East

Favorite:  Syracuse

Contenders:  Villanova, Pittsburg, West Virginia, Georgetown

Currently the Wildcats are sitting atop the conference with a 7-0 mark, but they have yet to get to the meat in their schedule.  Nova still has to travel to every other team on the list and still play UConn and West Virginia at home.  Pittsburg has had the most impressive start of any of the conference leaders with big wins at UConn and Syracuse, but they’ve lost momentum in the last week losing to Georgetown at home and then at Seton Hall.

I included the Hoyas on the list, even though they have three losses in conference, mainly because they’ve played the toughest part of their conference slate.  Georgetown is the only three-loss team that I think will have a chance to run the table in conference to take the title.  They can avenge their two losses to Nova and Syracuse at home and their toughest remaining road games are W.V and Louisville.  Neither of the other two three-loss teams (Louisville and Notre Dame) deserves consideration because they simply lack consistency and talent.

By the time the Orange head to Cincinnati they should be on a nine-game win streak and should be 5-0 away from the Carrier Dome.  They still have to go to Georgetown, but after last nights thrashing of the Hoyas (out-scoring them 73-42 after the slow start) it’s hard to imagine them dropping that game.  The ‘Cuse are among a handful of teams that are serious contenders for the National Title.

I love watching the Big East.  There isn’t a more exciting league out there.  These teams all have unbelievable talent, but at the same they buy into their coaches system.  The league is so big that there are bound to be a few dogs, DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida, but the good outweighs the bad by leaps and bounds.

ACC

Favorite: Duke

Contenders:  Umm…..everyone?

The Blue Devils are favorites simply because of the abundance of options they look like the most complete team.  They do struggle with teams that have athletic powerful bigs even though they are bigger this year than in years past.  That being said, they took it to Clemson in the second half Saturday night to complete their sweep of the Tigers, who have one of the most talented players in the paint in Trevor Booker.  They still get three games with the two teams sitting a game in front of them, can avenge one of their losses when they get Georgia Tech at home in a couple weeks, and still get arch rival UNC twice (which this years seems like a good thing).

No other teams really jump off the page as a dominant team, but they all have a chance.  Everyone knows about UNC’s backcourt problems, but if they can patch that up, they are just a game back in the loss column of the Devils so could still turn it around to compete for the title.  The current leaders (Maryland and Virginia) still have six conference road games each and the aforementioned meetings with the Blue Devils.  Wake Forest is a dark horse because of their own talent in the backcourt, but they too have been inconsistent.  This conference is a mystery wrapped in an enigma place in a riddle.

I’m glad I’m not a fan of Clemson or Georgia Tech.  Those schools always seem to have so much talent and then are up and down for the majority of the year before being bounced from the NCAA’s earlier than their supposed to.  Wake could be placed into that class.  Florida St.  Maryland.  Hell even Duke.  The league is just a consistent disappointment.  UNC made their run last year and will probably do so again a couple years from now, but the rest of the league seems to be stuck in the just above mediocre stage.  They have the talent, but just can’t make the runs.

I also have to go back and wonder why Boston College and Miami left the Big East?  If they saw how it has affected their sports teams would they still have made that jump?  It probably still makes more sense that Miami did it, but Boston College eliminated some excellent rivalries by switching and have yet to develop any good ones now.  At this point, I would say the switch has been a failure.

Big Ten

Favorite:  Michigan State

Contenders:  Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio St.

The Spartans have bounced back from their slow non-conference start to dominate early play in the Big Ten.  They’ve only knocked off Wisconsin as far as contenders are concerned and still have trips to Madison, as well as two games with Purdue and one with Ohio St.  With those games remaining on the docket, it’s obvious that they are a tentative favorite.  They’ve gotten much better play from the backcourt though, particularly Kalin Lucas, have got a great balance in scoring and remain one of the deeper teams of the league.

Wisconsin’s title chance will be determined in the next week as they go to Purdue on Thursday and then get Sparty at home next Tuesday.  If they get swept they can pretty much write off any chance of the regular season title, but if they do the sweeping they would fast become the favorites.  If the most likely scenario occurs, the Badgers split, then they would have to run the table, which will be difficult with road games at Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota.

Purdue has fallen on some hard times losing three of their last five.  They did pull off a nice road win in Illinois and beat a Manny Harris-less Michigan team at home.  They get a week at home before heading on the road for 3 of 4 including Ohio St and Michigan St.  This has got to be an extremely frustrating season for the Boilers after the way the nonconference schedule went.

Ohio St. is the team that may be the biggest threat to Michigan St. for the top seed in the Big Ten Tourney.  Other than their road game at Michigan St. they will face their toughest remaining tests on their home floor.  Even if they can’t run the table, they have the talent to take the automatic bid from the league come the tournament.  Might as well etch Evan Turner in as Big Ten POY now.

How great is it that the Big Ten network has Gus Johnson doing games for them.  He makes games that aren’t that entertaining really exciting.  I watched Penn St. at Wisconsin last weekend and even though the Badgers made a huge run to come back and take the game in OT, the play in the Big Ten just isn’t as entertaining as other conferences.  With Gus doing the game however, it felt like a sweet sixteen matchup.  Sometimes I think human cloning would be a good thing.  I would’ve watched Iowa at Indiana had clone Gus been doing the game.

Big 12

Favorite:  Kansas

Contender:  Texas

Realistically Texas is the only team that may be able to snatch the title from KU.  K St. could’ve been on the list if not for that loss at home to Okie St.  They would have to run the table and hope that Texas not only beats KU in Austin, and loses another game along the way.  Way too many circumstances for the Wildcats to hold out much hope.  Texas will only get one crack at KU and is already a game back of them in the loss column.  They have the talent to run the table; it’s just a matter of whether or not they can rebound from the rough last week they had.

Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are cruising along at 5-0 with a huge game coming over the weekend.  They stomped Missouri as they should’ve and have only been tested in one game so far in the Big 12 (Baylor) in which Collins again showed why he is the unquestioned leader of a team of future NBAers.  Do not be shocked if the Jayhawks lose at K St. this weekend (I’m actually expecting it) making the February 8th matchup in Austin the game everyone expected it to be, a Big 12 regular season title game.

When talking about doing an unbelievable job when given a coaching job for the first time in a major conference who has done a better job than Scott Drew?  Murder, cover-up, disqualification, and suspension all preceded Drew’s entry into the Baylor program.  Drew took over a job where previous coaching careers went to die and that was before the worst scandal in college basketball history.  The Bears are a legitimate top-25 team and are very athletic.  I may head to the game on Saturday between the Longhorns and Bears and, as KU can attest, the Horns better not take the green and gold lightly.

SEC

Favorite:  Kentucky

Contenders:  None

Vandy may also be undefeated in the conference, but they still have to play the Wildcats twice and 3 of their next four will be on the road.  Kentucky has the talent to dominate every game they play, but they have gone cold shooting the ball sometimes this season.  The best thing about this team though, is even when they get into those funks, they find a way to win the game.  The toughest test they may have left will be in the Lane Kiffin-less Knoxville, where the Vols will try to have another inspired effort in knocking off the second number one team to come calling.

I’m not sure what it is about Kentucky, but I hate them.  I hate the fact that they believe themselves to be so high and mighty.  I hate that Ashley Judd shows up go their games now that Gillespie is no longer the coach and they’re good again.  Can you say bandwagon?  I hate that they stole Callipari from Memphis and he left that program under investigation just as he had done to UMass in the 90’s.  I hate the fact that those rednecks were incredibly racist in the past when their team lost to Texas Western and now pretend that they were never banning anyone and embrace their black athletes as long as it means they’ll win basketball games.  Am I jealous of their success?  Indeed I am.

MWC

Favorite:  BYU

Contenders:  New Mexico, UNLV

The Mormons are two games up in the loss column over both the Lobos and the Rebels.  The biggest game thus far in the conference is Wednesday night when BYU heads to Albuquerque and I can’t find it anywhere on the television schedule.  The Pack obviously need this game more than BYU if they are to stay in the race for the conference, but if BYU upends the Lobos in the Pit then they can probably be ready for the top seed come conference tourney time.  They have already beat UNLV at home and their trip to Vegas looks like the only game that may trip them up.  Of course the other Mormon school, Utah, is no gimmie given the rivalry that exists there.

UNLV has already won at the Pit but lost a tough one at home to the Utes over a week ago.  The Rebels will have to hold serve at home against New Mexico and avenge the losses to the Utah schools to have a chance to catch BYU.

A #10 ranking in the Coaches Poll is entirely too high for the Cougars.  A ranking that high would mean that the coaches think they are worth a #3 seed.  No offense, but no way.  They may be 20-1 but they haven’t beaten anyone and the loss was to Utah St.  This league does have three tournament teams, but none should be higher than a 5 come Selection Sunday.

Pac 10

Favorite: Uh…Cal…..or…Arizona St…….how about…….Arizona?

Contenders:  Everyone but the Oregons

Goo.  You knew we would get this one eventually and yes; I’m saving the worst for last.  Ok, we’ll try to figure this one out.  Well, the Golden Bears did just sweep the only two non-contenders so that’s something or maybe not, and of course they were both home games.  Now they have a four game road trip south first to the Arizona schools then to L.A.  Arizona St. had a four game win streak snapped at home to their hated in-state rival Wildcats where they were embarrassed.  They’ll be at home this weekend to take on the two Bay schools before heading north for a weekend in the Apple state.  Arizona is another bi-polar team who will beat-up a talented Washington team and then lose to the bottom feeding Beavers.  They also get the schools from the Bay and who knows what will be the fallout from the weekend.  If things hold to form than everyone will split over the weekend.

That brings us to the LA schools who are also 4-3 in the conference.  USC has, of course, banned itself from postseason play so I’ll be rooting for them to take the conference title and the committee can just keep the Pac 10 out of the tournament.  UCLA will take a trip up to Oregon to take on the bottom-feeders of the conference this weekend and a sweep there would make the Bruins over .500 overall for the first time since they were 2-1.  Ugh.

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