Sunday, March 30, 2008
"I do not want to fill out a bracket this year. I just can't figure out who to pick. Every time I look at it, I keep coming to the conclusion that the four number 1 seeds are going to make it to the Final Four."
Finally, and reluctantly, I filled out a bracket. And I picked my one sleeper team Louisville, to upset UNC, but I didn't feel good about it. I figured UNC was the better team, but I had to pick an upset somewhere, right?
It turns out all the boring "chalk" people are going to win their office pools. And I couldn't be happier. While there are no underdogs left to cheer for, this could be the most exciting Final Four in recent memory. We have the talented and uptempo Kansas - UNC matchup with its obvious Roy Williams storyline. And we finally get to see whether the ultra-talented defenders that are the UCLA guards can really shut down CDR and Rose and the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. It doesn't get any better than this folks.
Davidson - Kansas
"And the gorilla has been lifted off Bill Self's shoulders" - Gus Johnson
Streaks rarely end without some drama. Clemson isn't going to just walk into UNC's stadium and blow out the Tar Heels by 20. Minnesota may have had a better overall season than Illinois this year, but they weren't about to snap a 20 game losing streak to the Illini without some special plays.
In November, the Jayhawks were the obvious Final Four team. I said in one of my first posts of the season that no one had more experienced talent, and Bill Self (and the Big 12 North) would ensure that the Jayhawks were in position to make the Final Four. But I still didn't want to pick them until they proved they could get past that mystical Final Four barrier.
And whether the numbers or the line, or logic said Kansas should blow out Davidson, you just knew that Bill Self's first Final Four wasn't going to come easy.
When Sherron Collins had the ball stripped in the final minutes, and Dell Curry lined up for a 3 pointer, how many of you thought it was going in? Did you watch the Gonzaga game when Curry hit a crushing three to give his team the lead in the final minute? Did you watch the Georgetown game when Curry hit a crushing three to give his team a 5 point lead in the final minute? Did you watch him hit numerous devastating jumpers against Wisconsin? Sometimes the unexpected happens. With a momentum swingining turnover giving Davidson the basketball and Curry lining up for the perfect shot, it was off the mark.
And even though Curry hit another three to bring his team closer later, it was too little too late. On the final possession, Jason Richards was left clanging a 25 footer off the glass.
Two final comments:
1) Not to overanalyze one sequence, but Davidson really gave up the game the moment they decided to play for the final shot at the end of regulation. They essentially said, "We're not good enough to go to OT against Kansas. We need to take a 3 at the buzzer and hope to win. And yes, Lovedale had fouled out, but was that really the right call? Davidson was playing as well as anyone in the country. They should have tried to take a shot as quickly as possible and extended the game. First, if they tried for an early shot, it might have been better than the one they took. Second, even if they missed, they could still foul Kansas, and possibly have another chance. Obviously, it is cruel to second guess a sequence like this, but when you change your mentality from "we are going to win" to "we hope to win", you usually don't win.
2) Who knew Sasha Kaun would be the post player for Kansas to play so huge in the biggest game of the season? After he lost his starting job, (and after I wrote the piece on how Kansas needs to run the offense through Darrell Arthur), I always envisioned Kaun on the floor when Kansas lost in the NCAA tournament. Instead Kaun went 6-6 from the floor and made some vital plays to seal the victory for his team.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Hansbrough’s 28 points and 13 rebounds may not have been the most points scored in the tournament this year, but it was the clearly the most complete performance on the biggest stage. (Can you up that tomorrow Stephen Curry?) The crazy thing is, the way the brackets are breaking, Hansbrough may need to do that two more times for UNC to win the national title.
Before my gushing about UNC makes you want to throw up, I have to say that Hansbrough’s rebounding energy also really seems to rub off on his teammates. When you watch UNC bludgeon average teams on the boards, you tend to think those teams are just mediocre. But when you see UNC out-hustle a team like Louisville, a team that has just been blowing people out of the water, well you see why they are the number one offensive rebounding team in the country.
1) Thing you thought you’d never hear an announcer say:
“Tyler Hansbrough just gets it across to beat the 10 seconds.”
I love watching a team like UNC face full court pressure. (This actually happens more in ACC games than people realize.)
2) You have to love the random match-ups the tournament generates.
“David Padgett was recruited to Kansas by Roy Williams.”
Then Roy Williams left for UNC, and David Padgett didn’t like the fit at Kansas and transferred to Louisville. (And now UNC might play Kansas in the Final Four.)
3) I thought it was a great call by Roy Williams to switch defenses at the 11 minute mark of the second half. Of course Louisville immediately hit a big three, but I did feel like their momentum slowed at this point.
4) Now that Herb Sendek has left for Arizona St., does anyone in the ACC use a cutting offense anymore? Having watched Georgetown beat UNC last year, Belmont kill Duke on backdoor cuts, and Louisville hit a few cuts on UNC, I’m wondering if the ACC isn’t getting enough practice against that type of offense.
5) If Hansbrough can knock down 18 footers, it just isn’t fair.
6) Despite all this, Louisville could have won the game if they didn’t turn it over 19 times.
UCLA - Xavier
Since the game wasn’t close, I only have two comments.
1) Drew Lavender was one of my favorite players last year, but I watched all his tournament games this year (two in person) and he really seemed like he lost a step.
2) James Keefe still isn’t very good. Why he was dribbling the ball 23 feet from the basket in the first half is beyond me. The ball was stolen and his intentional foul gave Xavier one of its brief moments of hope in the game.
As we head into Sunday, there are 3 possible outcomes, each amusing in its own way. Either
1) Bill Self’s personal Final Four drought will continue
2) Memphis will have failed to make the Final Four, losing in the Elite Eight in three straight years
3) All the one seeds will make the Final Four. Since the modern tournament era began in 1985, this has never happened. And we haven’t had three number one seeds in the Final Four since 1999.
It will make for a great Pardon-The-Interruption discussion spot no matter what happens.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
6-3 Pac 10 (3 left)
10-5 Big East (3 left)
5-2 Big 10 (2 left)
7-4 Big 12 (2 left)
2-0 CUSA (1 left)
2-0 Southern (1 left)
2-1 Sun Belt (1 left)
4-3 ACC (1 left)
2-2 A10 (1 left)
4-5 SEC (1 left)
Recall my post from Saturday about how many wins conferences are expected to get based on seeding.
The Big Ten was only expected to win 4.89 games in this tournament based on the seeding of the teams. With 5 wins already, the Big Ten has already exceeded expectations. Similarly, the Sun Belt was expected to win 1.11 games with its two teams and 2 wins for Western Kentucky do that. Add in the Southern Conference (Davidson 2 wins) and Horizon (Butler 1 win) and those conferences can also be somewhat happy.
Already disappointing? The MVC earned a 5 seed with Drake but lost. The WCC had 3 teams in the field (expectations of 1.74 wins), but only got one win.
As for the major conferences,
The Pac10 needs 3.15 wins to meet expecations.
The Big East needs 1.04 wins to meet expectations.
The Big 12 needs 1.64 wins to meet expectations.
CUSA (i.e. Memphis) needs 1.36 wins to meet expectations.
The A10 needs 0.77 wins to meet expectations.
The ACC needs 3.83 wins to meet expecations. (So unless UNC wins it all, this is clearly another disappointing tournament for the ACC.)
Finally, despite the worst overall record for a BCS conference, because the SEC had pretty poor seeds initially, the SEC only needs 1.89 wins to meet expectations.
Random Note: Since my team lost today, I'm suffering from the normal hatred towards all things basketball. (I still located last year's UNC-Georgetown tape in the cabinet though. Maybe that will cheer me up.) I'll be back with more posts whenever I regain my energy. This will probably be next weekend.
Certainly, I had no illusions of Georgetown winning a national title this year. But seeing your team get outscored 45-24 in the final 17:20, after winning 28 games hurts.
The odd thing was, I really felt Georgetown played terrific, despite the loss. Georgetown shot 64%, including 56% on 3's, but was outdone by 20 turnovers. (This was 16 more than Davidson.) Most of these were on offensive fouls and for whatever reason Georgetown could not figure out the way the game was being called. Playing in North Carolina against Davidson, you had to expect that Georgetown would not get the benefit of the doubt, but I wish the team could have adjusted to the way the game was being called.
I hope that the non-Georgetown fans were able to enjoy the upset and the great win by a Davidson team that proves that you don't need to play in a major conference to put together a good team.
But I'm still in shock, mostly driven by the fact that Georgetown seemed to play very well in the game. I've seen the team lose when they've thrown the ball away, when they've been out-rebounded, but never by simply fouling their way out of the game.
The truth is it is very hard to get to the Final Four. You need some plays to go your way. Last year Georgetown made all the plays and came back to defeat North Carolina. This year, Davidson made the plays and came back to end Georgetown's season. I'm not going to say these things even out. Sometimes they do, but often they don't. But I will say this. Anytime your team wins in the tournament, enjoy it. An opportunity can slip away in a few seconds.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
1) Why doesn’t anyone try to run any isolation plays to take advantage of Drew Lavender’s lack of size? Xavier consistently kept him hidden on the weak side of the defense and because Purdue was willing to take the first open shot, he rarely had to defend anyone.
2) Bob Huggins has a brother that looks exactly like him, except that the brother is 100 lbs heavier. Bob came out to watch the Xavier game and hugged his brother at halftime. His brother was also wearing a horrible white suit over his yellow West Virginia t-shirt and he had 3 wrapped victory cigars sticking out of his mouth. You just can’t make this stuff up.
3) The Purdue band sang “Living on a Prayer” again.
4) Duke must really hate the Verizon center. They lost to Georgetown a few years ago and this year they beat Belmont by one and lost to West Virginia. The Duke fan sitting behind us only screamed “Go Devils” eight times during this game. Another Duke fan near me was heard on his cell-phone asking whether the team had any centers coming in next year. West Virginia out-rebounded Duke 45-19. That’s hard to overcome.
7-1 Big East
5-1 Big 12
3-1 Big 10
3-3 Pac 10
1-1 Sun Belt
Of course, while the SEC got 6 bids, it is worth noting that they did not receive very many good seeds, so the SEC wasn’t expected to do very well in the tournament. Let’s jump back to PASE, or performance against seed expectations for a moment.
Given the seeds each conference received, how many wins is that conference expected to get in the tournament?
11.04 Big East
8.64 Big 12
1.11 Sun Belt
I’ll keep track of how each conference does relative to expectations over the next few weeks.
In case you’ve never been to an NCAA tournament event, let me remind you that it isn’t for everyone. If you have no attention span and need to be bombarded with advertisements every five minutes, or if you need to consume large quantities of alcohol, well go see a Wizards game. The NCAA bans alcohol at NCAA events and the NCAA forces the host stadiums to cover up all the normal banner ads. For some reason this always amuses me to see black curtains covering the ads for Coke and Sprint. I mean who else has this power? But I’m particularly thankful that the ads are suppressed during the commercial breaks. Honestly, a person can only take so many Chic-Fil-A Shake Cams in their lifetime.
So what happens without all the normal advertisements? Two things. First, the NCAA has a nice scroll of trivia that it plays on the video screen during the breaks. At first these seem amusing, until they repeat for the third time.
-“First they tell you nobody’s perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their mind.” - Wilt Chamberlain
-Syracuse Freshman Carmelo Anthony came from the Red Hook district of New York.
-Dennis Hastert played football for Wheaton College.
The great thing is that they must have made up these trivia questions a few years ago, and no one bothered to update them.
-Duke was the last team to win back-to-back NCAA basketball championships.
Oh really, I wonder what Florida thinks about that.
Speaking of Florida, the unintentional comedy moment of the day may have come during the Georgia-Xavier game. The screen at center court began playing the Florida fight song with the trivia question, “Whose fight song is this?” The entire Georgia section began booing immediately. Then the Georgia fans started up an NIT chant. I mean who chants NIT at a video screen? Ah, rivalries.
OK, so besides the trivia, the other nice thing about no advertisements is that the pep bands get plenty of time. Personally, my heart always gets pumping whenever I hear a pep band play The Final Countdown, Carry on My Wayward Son, and Eye of the Tiger. But these were not the only amusing band notes on this day. First, Purdue’s pep band put down their instruments and sang Living on a Prayer a cappella. I’m not sure if that is a normal thing, but it sure seemed silly. Second, I really enjoyed watching West Virginia’s band director flip his lid and yell at the NCAA staff because the Arizona pep band kept playing longer than they were supposed to. Good stuff.
Random Note #6: My wife encountered a Purdue fan discussing the proper positioning of her Purdue buttons and Purdue pins.
Random Note #7: Vince Gill was in the arena supporting Belmont. He joins Ashley Judd, Nick Lachey, and Condaleeza Rice among the list of quasi-famous people I have seen at games.
Random Note #8: Megaphones work. The Purdue and West Virginia cheerleaders had this figured out, but no one else did.
So what about the games?
Xavier – Georgia
I think a player had to leave due to an injury in every game on Thursday. It all started with an elbow to the eye of Xavier’s CJ Anderson who left the game temporarily before returning.
This was a fun game where Georgia built a lead, but Xavier came back to win. The funny thing about these NCAA tournament games is that the defense is often so good that you need some easy baskets to get a victory. In the first half, it was Georgia that got the steals and transition baskets, but in the second half Xavier used those same turnovers and transition baskets to seal the comeback.
Purdue - Baylor
Going into the tournament I knew Baylor had a suspect defense, but who would have thought that a Big Ten team could score 90 points? For a game that was never close, this was still a lot of fun to watch just to see the Purdue players knock down jumper after jumper. It was really an offensive clinic.
Also, I desperately hope that Baylor Junior Curtis Jerrells doesn’t jump to the NBA this off-season. He is flat out unstoppable in the final five minutes of any game and he scored 27 points in the loss. No one showed more emotion when it became apparent that Baylor was going to lose than Jerrells, but he clearly gave it his all. And if the team had been down by single digits in the final minutes, I think he could have single-handedly carried Baylor to victory.
The Big Ten desperately needs a coach like Scott Drew and a team like Baylor.
Duke – Belmont
Going into this game, I figured I would get nachos about five minutes into the game to keep from getting bored. Boy was I wrong.
I’m not sure what the announcers identified on TV, but the thing that shocked me was how many backdoor cuts the Belmont Bruins got against Duke. Duke was consistently overplaying to get the steal and deny the three and it seemed like Belmont was killing them all day with backdoor cuts. Obviously my Hoyas use backdoor cuts, but because the Big East knows this, Georgetown might only get one backdoor cut a game in Big East play. Belmont got at least 8 of these against Duke. It was insane. Add to that the fact that Belmont knocked down all their open threes, and DC clearly had the most exciting game of the day.
Hats off to the Duke fan behind me. She shouted “Go Devils” at least 43 times during the game, but she never got down on her team. This was just a dream scenario for a neutral site atmosphere. Duke brought a large contingent of fans, and whenever Belmont scored, you had the West Virginia, Arizona, and Belmont fans going crazy. There’s nothing more amusing than seeing a group of West Virginia fans try to figure out how to chant along to the Belmont fight song.
Two other thoughts:
-Brian Zoubek of Duke really has hands of steal. I know Coach K was trying to get his confidence up, but at this point, I think you need to admit he’s not going to be dependable in a pressure situation this year. I’d much rather see Taylor King in there if I was a Duke fan.
-There seemed to be some criticism of the Belmont coaches in the post-game for the use of timeouts, but no one in the stadium seemed to be complaining about this.
West Virginia - Arizona
West Virginia was a nightmare match-up for Arizona who wanted to play faster and get away without playing much defense. I thought the Wildcats did a nice job staying competitive, but eventually West Virginia just wore the Wildcats down.
The West Virginia fans always make the commute to the Verizon Center and they clearly even scooped up some of the Belmont tickets. West Virginia was the only school at the tournament to get a dueling chant going from one end of the stadium to the other. As a Georgetown fan, I often dread the sound of the “Let’s go Mountain-eers” chant in the Verizon Center, but on this day I was happy to salute a fine effort.
Friday had some terrific upsets, but it also means we can already pencil in UCLA and Kansas for the Elite Eight. Who knew the upset pod would be in Tampa? I’m not sure what was more amazing, the plays San Diego made to go around, over, and under Hasheem Thabeet, the buzzer beater by Western Kentucky, or the Scottie Reynolds banked three pointer and the Corey Fisher three as the shot clock expired?
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
When I wrote my inside-outside column, who would have ever guessed I would have had this perfect match-up to test my theory? Oregon is terrible at defending the paint and decent at defending the perimeter. Mississippi St. is terrific scoring inside and horrible whenever they take a three (which is too often.) As long as Mississippi St. just does the right thing and takes it inside, they should win easily.
Every year the NCAA gets stuck with a mountain pod with no local teams. This is affectionately referred to as the “Upset Pod”. So who is willing to make the gutsy pick and choose Oral Roberts vs Temple in the second round? I still like Pittsburgh enough that I can’t do it, but I’m convinced Michigan St. is going to lose. And my inside-outside column agrees. You need to make shots from the perimeter to beat Temple, and Michigan St. doesn’t have any reliable three point shooters outside of Neitzel.
OK, I’m really taking this inside-outside thing to far, but when you are on a roll, why not keep it going. Marquette is great at defending the perimeter, and now that Kentucky is without Patrick Paterson, Marquette should have no problem advancing to the second round. But then Marquette is going to take on a Stanford team with two scary seven footers. Unless Marquette forces 25 turnovers, this game could get ugly.
So you like Texas to go to the Final Four do you? Because of that home cooking? Did you like Texas A&M last year? Think twice before you pick against Memphis.
I hate this whole region.
Part of my bracket picks are based on risk minimization. I always pick against Georgetown because if they win, I’ll be happy anyway. So of course this year, Georgetown ends up in the Kansas region. And I was so going to pick Kansas to bow out early. Now I feel compelled to pick them to reach the national title game. Where else can you get analysis like this?
Kansas only loses to teams that shoot a lot of threes. Vanderbilt shoots a lot of threes. But they aren’t going to get past Clemson unless Villanova beats the Tigers first.
I’ve been saying for weeks that Kansas St. is going to get a shockingly low seed and they delivered. But I still like their chances against a USC team that can’t exploit their weakness on the perimeter. On the other hand, I think USC could beat Wisconsin and Georgetown and make it to the Elite Eight too. Arggh. This is why I decided not to do any bracket analysis on Sunday night. Did I mention that I hate picking this region?
I am plenty scared of that Davidson / Gonzaga match-up. But if Georgetown wins that game, I think they are the ideal team to take down Wisconsin. While everyone else would get impatient in the half-court, Georgetown would be plenty comfortable.
Monday, March 17, 2008
“And the 8 seed in Raleigh, N.C., the Hoosiers of Indiana.” That sound of laughter you heard at 6:01 was most definitely coming from Champaign, Illinois. (Insert superfluous “Got Gordon” picture here.) Well, I still can’t believe that the Indiana season is going to end like this. But if Indiana can make it to the second round (big if), I bet North Carolina scores 100. Two other notes on the Hoosiers, who got perhaps the worst draw ever for a team that started the season in the top 10:
1) I emailed some Indiana fans after the Blake Hoffarber shot on Friday.
“Did any of you watch the Indiana / Minnesota game? Could you appreciate Hoffarber's shot for what it was? Or was it too disappointing?”
Answer, “Way too disappointing that the game even got to that point. Immediately grabbed the remote and hit ‘stop’ then ‘delete now’ on the DVR.”
2) Sunday I went down to run on the treadmill and I started watching the Bracketology recap show on ESPN. At some point Dick Vitale went on a 5 minute rant about how Bob Knight should be the next head coach at Indiana.
Knight sat quietly and stared at the camera while the rest of the panel sat in awkward silence.
Eventually Reece Davis spoke up. "I haven't known you a long time, but was that your way of indicating that we should turn Dick Vitale's mic off?"
Finally Bob Knight spoke, "If you turn it off, I think he has a spare."
You just can’t make that stuff up.
Washington St. Pod
Look, I’d love to see Notre Dame get a shot at UNC. North Carolina’s defense often looks suspect (particularly in the first 35 minutes of a game), and I could see Luke Harangody taking it to the basket relentlessly agains the Tar Heels. Throw in some hot shooting from the perimeter, and this could be the most fun game of the Sweet Sixteen. But I fear that it isn’t going to happen. Washington St. is too disciplined and George Mason can pull the upset in the first round. But I still believe that either Notre Dame or Vanderbilt are going to make an unanticipated run due to hot three point shooting and maybe the Irish will surprise me.
Ah, my sleeper Final Four pick from the start of the month. Of course I’m picking Louisville here. I’m looking forward to when Louisville plays Tennessee and some announcer foolishly proclaims that Louisville needs to play at a grind-it-out pace to win. “This action is much too fast for what Pitino wants here.” Yeah, right.
American has the best 3 point percentage of any NCAA tournament team. Ultimately, the turnovers will kill them against Tennessee, but I’m looking forward to the 3 minute stretch where they hit four 3 pointers and scare the living daylights out of the Tennessee fans.
I still can’t believe that James Keefe went 4 for 7 and played better than Lorenzo Mata-Real in the Pac10 title game. What is the world coming to?
As discussed previously, UConn’s biggest fear is a perimeter-oriented-team. And they get the perfect draw in the first round. San Diego shoots fewer 3’s than just about anyone in Division 1, and they don’t make very many of the one’s they shoot. Then UConn might get Drake (assuming Drake can get past WKU). Drake takes a lot of threes (outside of Adam Emmenecker), but doesn’t make enough to make UConn nervous. Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a better draw for UConn.
Dennis Felton took Western Kentucky to the tournament three straight years. There is no question he knows how to coach and he was willing to do things honestly at Georgia after the Jim Harrick mess. But if he was on the hot seat, I don’t see what he proved by winning the SEC title. Essentially, his players went out and played 3 games in 2 days without any practice time or instruction and they performed better! Why does this save his job?
I know Duke hasn’t been playing that well, and I know some quick smaller teams (see Wake Forest, Miami) have given them problems, but I really like them against Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. When I made that “shooting over a chair” joke about Drew Lavender, I couldn’t have thought of a worse match-up than Duke. Duke has so many great three point shooters that whomever Lavender tries to guard is just going to have a huge day from the outside.
I’ll try to preview the other pods in the next couple of days. In case I don’t, Temple over Michigan St. is my five star, lead pipe lock, upset pick of the first round. (And I also really like Kansas St. against USC.)
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I got two wrong again. I had Illinois St. and New Mexico in and I had Arizona and Villanova out. Hey, call me a sucker for the little guy. I always said to look at the numbers and draw your own conclusions. (By the way, this was a really easy year. I deserve serious ridicule for this.)
I also got it wrong about Kansas receiving a one seed. How disappointed is Tennessee to draw a two in North Carolina's region? Essentially they are the 8th overall seed when a lot of people thought they'd be the 4th overall seed. Yikes.
Back in a few days with more thoughts. I'll be attending the Xavier and Duke pods in Washington DC and I will hopefully file a live report after Thursday. Enjoy the games!
Oklahoma St. was 127, is now 73
Kentucky was 83, is now 57
Virginia Tech was 84, is now 53
Davidson was 54, is now 35
Kent St. was 49, is now 22
UCLA was 8, is now 4
Rhode Island was 26, is now 77
Houston was 44, is now 80
NC State was 52, is now 102
Maryland was 50, is now 84
Arizona was 13, is now 38
Arizona St was 60, is now 83
Kansas St. was 33, is now 50
Texas A&M was 24, is now 41
Ole Miss was 31, is now 46
Ohio St. was 36, is now 49
Duke was 2, is now 6
Over the last month, 12 teams fell out of the RPI top 100.
Over the last month, 5 teams fell out of the RPI top 50.
Certainly, things seem a lot different for those teams, but there are actually fewer changes than I might have thought. Here’s a long list comparing Before (Feb 16) with After (March 16).
Bef Aft Team
1 1 Tennessee
4 2 North Carolina
3 3 Memphis
8 4 UCLA
6 5 Texas
2 6 Duke
5 7 Kansas
7 8 Georgetown
10 9 Xavier
11 10 Drake
15 11 Wisconsin
12 12 Vanderbilt
16 13 Louisville
20 14 Stanford
18 15 Pittsburgh
14 16 Michigan St.
19 17 Butler
9 18 Connecticut
23 19 Clemson
17 20 Marquette
22 21 Washington St.
49 22 Kent St.
30 23 Indiana
32 24 Nevada Las Vegas
37 25 Brigham Young
28 26 Arkansas
25 27 Notre Dame
41 28 West Virginia
43 29 Oklahoma
35 30 Southern California
39 31 Gonzaga
27 32 Dayton
48 33 Illinois St.
42 34 Miami FL
54 35 Davidson
21 36 St. Mary's
38 37 South Alabama
13 38 Arizona
55 39 Western Kentucky
51 40 Mississippi St.
24 41 Texas A&M
34 42 Baylor
40 43 Massachusetts
29 44 Purdue
45 45 Saint Joseph's
31 46 Mississippi
65 47 Creighton
63 48 Temple
36 49 Ohio St.
33 50 Kansas St.
68 51 Villanova
46 52 Oral Roberts
84 53 Virginia Tech
57 54 Virginia Commonwealth
53 55 Syracuse
79 56 UAB
83 57 Kentucky
47 58 Oregon
89 59 Florida St.
58 60 New Mexico
59 61 George Mason
64 62 Southern Illinois
87 63 Cleveland St.
62 64 Stephen F. Austin
81 65 Cornell
76 66 Siena
71 67 Georgia Tech
56 68 Texas Tech
91 69 Charlotte
93 70 IUPUI
77 71 Utah St.
61 72 Florida
127 73 Oklahoma St.
82 74 Miami OH
70 75 Nevada
106 76 Akron
26 77 Rhode Island
99 78 Belmont
104 79 Cal St. Fullerton
44 80 Houston
73 81 San Diego St.
66 82 Ohio
60 83 Arizona St.
50 84 Maryland
115 85 Austin Peay
69 86 Wright St.
100 87 Boise St.
103 88 MD Baltimore County
97 89 UC Santa Barbara
135 90 Portland St.
126 91 American
85 92 California
145 93 Tulsa
117 94 San Diego
128 95 Nebraska
88 96 Utah
114 97 Valparaiso
94 98 Sam Houston St.
110 99 Minnesota
80 100 Wake Forest
86 101 Texas El Paso
52 102 NC State
98 103 Illinois
90 109 Providence
67 114 Seton Hall
72 131 Duquense
74 116 Missouri
75 118 Cincinnati
78 130 Boston College
92 132 Georgia Southern
95 112 Cal St. Northridge
96 143 NC Asheville
Did you see:
-20 loss Coppin St. win with a tip in at the buzzer?
-Boise St. win in triple OT against New Mexico St?
-Georgia win two SEC games in one day, (when they only won 4 in the regular season)?
-Clemson breaking a 22 game losing streak against Duke and reaching their first ACC final since 1962?
-Michael Flowers steal to give Wisconsin the lead in the final minute?
-Tyler Hansbrough’s buzzer beater to end Virginia Tech’s dream, while making a lot of other bubble team’s happy.
-Pittsburgh finally shedding its runner-up status, winning only their second Big East tournament title in 8 appearances?
Did you see Kevin Love’s miraculous comeback? After Mbah a Moute was injured yesterday, 20 million UCLA Bruin fans had a heart attack when they saw Love get injured. But all he did was hit a three pointer and have an amazing over his head lay-up at the end of the game.
Did you see Mississippi Valley St. defeat Jackson St. by getting the offensive rebound on a missed second free throw? Millions of people are now about to make superfluous Jerry Rice comments when sitting around on Thursday.
Did you see Tim Welsh was let go by Providence? I’m not actually thrilled about this one, but you could definitely see it coming after the lack of execution in the final minutes against West Virginia. Whoever takes over at Providence should have a chance to win next year with the players that are coming back.
I’m definitely going to need three days (Monday-Wednesday) to recover from all this. A few more comments on the tournament field before I call it a day:
The One Seeds
There seems to be quite a bit of consensus on North Carolina, Memphis, and UCLA as the top line. The only real question is whether Tennessee’s loss opened the door for the Kansas – Texas winner.
In the case of Kansas, I don’t think so. There is no question that if Kansas played Tennessee on a neutral floor today, that Kansas would be favored. But if the committee focuses on the numbers, I don’t see it happening. Let’s look at the numbers:
-Tennessee has two top 10 wins (at Memphis and at Xavier) and 11 top 50 wins. Kansas currently has zero top 10 wins, and only 7 wins against the top 50. These include USC, Texas A&M (twice), Kansas St., Oklahoma, Baylor, and Arizona (in OT). These are certainly solid, but none are spectacular.
-Kansas also has a loss at #72 Oklahoma St., while Tennessee has not lost to a single team outside the RPI top 50.
-Even if Kansas beats Texas, to earn their first top 10 win, both Kansas and Tennessee will be 10-2 in the final 12.
Now, sometimes factors outside the normal criteria matter. Remember last year how Florida got moved to the top overall seed when they didn’t have the numbers to earn it? This is my way of saying that Kansas could earn a one seed tomorrow based on other factors (margin of victory influencing perception). But I suspect the committee has already made up their mind that Kansas is a two.
Texas on the other hand has a slightly better case. If they beat Kansas, they will have defeated Tennessee head-to-head on a neutral floor, swept Kansas, and won at UCLA.
Outside of the top line, I don’t project seeds. I just think it is a waste of energy.
But I do like to project who is “in” and “out”. If you scroll down to my post from Saturday, you can see my projections before Saturday’s action.
Since then Temple and UNLV have taken the auto-bids and are now in regardless. St. Joe’s is now seriously on the edge. (You can argue that they have the tie-breaker over Villanova by the head-to-head win, but they also lost to Syracuse.) St. Joe’s finished 6-6 in the final 12, but thanks to the tournament run, and two wins over Xavier in the last few weeks, I’ll let them stay in, but barely. And Virginia Tech came very close, but fell just short in my opinion. So essentially nothing changed on Saturday.
Two things can change on Sunday. If Georgia and Illinois win, they knock out Villanova first, and then New Mexico in my model.
The nice thing is that my formula (and my projections) are independent of what the Bracket Project numbers say. Let’s compare to some other experts:
Relative to Stewart Mandel (who I usually agree with the most):
I have New Mexico and Villanova in and Arizona and Virginia Tech out.
Relative to Joe Lunardi’s update on Saturday morning:
I have New Mexico and Villanova in and Arizona and Ohio St. out.
(Joe has another update scheduled for Sunday.)
Relative to Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline:
I have New Mexico, Oregon, and Temple in, and Arizona, Ohio St., and Arizona St. out.
(We can surmise from Gary’s exclusion of Temple that these are not his final projections.)
Everyone else has New Mexico out and Arizona in, and when I look closely, I can see why. New Mexico lost early in the conference tournament, and the NCSOS of 266 is disturbing. But the more I think about it, the more I really don’t like Arizona right now. Not only did they go 4-8 down the stretch, but two of those wins were over Oregon St.
The fact that no one else has New Mexico in probably tells me that I’m wrong, but I’d rather be wrong (on my own), than wrong (with the group), so that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
CW-L In Conf T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
12-2 St. Mary’s WCC 2-3 5-3 0 8-4 32 10-5
11-7 W. Virginia BE 3-8 2-1 1 8-4 140 11-8
12-4 Miss. St. SEC 3-7 1-2 0 LWWWLWWWLWW 124 10-6
12-4 Kentucky SEC 4-6 1-4 1 WWWLWWWWLWW 98 4-7
9-7 Baylor B12 3-8 4-1 1 5-7 131 9-6
10-6 Kansas St. B12 3-6 3-4 1 5-7 88 5-9
12-4 UNLV MWC 1-3 8-3 1 LWWLWWWLWWW 57 6-5
16-2 S. Alabama SB 3-2 1-1 3 9-3 68 9-5
13-5 Ill. St. MVC 2-5 3-0 4 9-3 118 9-8
9-7 St. Joe’s A10 4-4 4-3 4 LWLWLLWLWWW 117 13-6
11-5 Temple A10 3-4 4-4 4 WWLWLWWWWWW 30 10-8
9-9 Oregon P10 4-9 4-2 2 6-6 168 6-10
11-5 New Mexico MWC 1-4 5-2 2 8-4 266 8-6
9-9 Villanova BE 3-7 4-1 4 7-5 157 8-9
CW-L Out Conf T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
8-10 Arizona P10 5-8 5-4 2 4-8 6 8-8
9-9 Ariz. St. P10 5-7 2-3 2 5-7 304 6-8
10-6 UMass A10 1-4 5-3 3 8-4 93 10-7
9-7 V. Tech ACC 1-6 5-2 4 WWLLLWWWWLW 137 7-10
CW-L No Chance Conf T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
9-9 Syracuse BE 3-8 3-3 2 6-6 21 5-8
10-8 Ohio St. B10 2-10 5-1 2 5-7 14 5-10
8-8 Florida SEC 2-8 1-1 2 4-8 273 6-7
15-3 VCU CAA 0-2 3-1 4 9-3 89 12-6
CW-L If Only Conf T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
8-8 Dayton A10 3-4 6-2 4 6-6 31 7-7
7-9 Miss. SEC 5-4 2-0 6 5-7 130 7-8
Let’s start with the “in” teams. West Virginia really needed that win against UConn to feel comfortable, because the RPI top 100 wins just aren’t there. (To be fair, there are quite a few Big East teams just outside the Top 100.)
If the committee were truly conference color blind, you could see Mississippi St. or Kentucky getting left out. But the 12-4 conference record is too much to ignore.
Baylor and Kansas St. have not played well down the stretch. And Kansas St. hasn’t been good in road/neutral games. Yes, I have them in, but not as easily as most people.
UNLV just has a slew of top 100 wins, and they might win the MWC title anyhow. South Alabama and Illinois St. also have enough wins, but barely.
Then things get interesting. I think St. Joe’s and Temple would be in today, but if Temple loses, will they hold that slot?
The real question is how to treat the Pac10. There is no question that the Pac10 teams have more quality wins than anyone on the list. But there is also no question that the Pac10 bubble teams have not been winning many games lately.
I think most people I have spoken to feel like Arizona St. is the best team of the three, Oregon next, and Arizona at the bottom. (Some people also have Oregon at the bottom.) But does Arizona St., with a horrible NCSOS, get in over an Arizona team that goes out and plays tough teams every year? After all, the non-conference schedule has given Arizona more top 100 wins than Arizona St. This will be a critical decision for the committee. Given that Arizona finished 4-8 in the final 12, I think it could be very difficult to build a consensus to include them. So I’m projecting Arizona and Arizona St. out, but I don’t feel good about it.
I changed my mind on New Mexico. Utah finished in the top 100, giving them two more top 100 wins, and the win against UTEP also ended up looking better than I anticipated. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but I won’t be surprised if they get left out.
Similarly, Villanova could easily be out, but they didn’t collapse like Arizona and Arizona St., so I have them in for now.
It looks like UMass got squeezed out with Temple and St. Joe’s winning, but they played much better down the stretch than some of the other bubble teams.
Virginia Tech can still earn their way in, but I think they have to beat UNC.
I don’t see Syracuse getting in over Villanova at this point, so I think they are done. Ohio St. may have picked up two nice wins in the last week, but they also finished 5-7. I don’t see Florida or Ohio St. having a chance thanks to the finishing stretch. VCU just doesn’t have the RPI top 50 wins. And Dayton and Ole Miss had to show a little more in the conference tournaments to overcome their poor conference records.
Three Things to Fear
Besides Virginia Tech earning a slot, Villanova and New Mexico have two more things to fear. The Minnesota/Illinois winner could steal a bid by winning on Sunday. And Akron could steal a bid by upsetting Kent St.
With Indiana trailing by 2 and 10 seconds left, Minnesota picked Eric Gordon up full court to try to take some time off the clock. Gordon moved the ball up slowly before finally shaking his man and drawing a foul in the lane with 4 seconds left. Eric Gordon is an 85% free throw shooter. He missed the first free throw.
Eric Gordon now had to miss in order to give his team a chance. He took a shot and the ball hung on the rim. Because the ball hung on the rim, DJ White was able to tip it in, and the foul! DJ White now had a chance to complete the three point play and win the game for Indiana with 3 seconds left. (Regardless, Minnesota would still have time for a shot since there were 3 seconds left.)
DJ White missed the free throw, but there was a long rebound, and Minnesota once again fouled DJ White. (Not only did Minnesota foul White, but there was now just over 1 second left, making it very difficult for Minnesota to get a shot off.) White went to the free throw line and missed the first free throw again.
They panned to a confident Indiana bench. He only needs one. DJ White calmly received the ball, and knocked down the free throw to give Indiana the one point lead! Indiana, which once trailed by 16 points, has a chance to win the game!
Now you all remember Blake Hoffarber don’t you? He was the high school player who hit a shot from his back to win the state title for his team. Tubby Smith paused and stared at his clipboard. He drew up the play. Minnesota threw the ball the length of the court. Hoffarber caught it, and the shot is good! Minnesota wins! Minnesota wins!
I am so happy. This is the greatest day ever. I am about to turn 30 in a few days. This was the greatest birthday present.
Two other notes on the game:
1) Indiana started the game in a major funk, playing virtually no defense. One of my favorite plays was literally a statue-of-liberty play where Lawrence McKenzie acted like he had the ball and flipped it to Lawrence Westbrook who blew right by the unaware Indiana defender.
2) But the game turned around for Indiana when DeAndre Thomas came in and became the 400 pound express train. Dan Dakich recognized that Minnesota’s Spencer Tollackson was out with an ankle injury and Dan Coleman was sitting on the bench with 2 fouls, so Minnesota was severely short-handed in the post. Dakich brought in Thomas who was mostly guarded by 6’4” Travis Busch who did not play in 7 of the final 10 games. And Thomas went to work corralling rebounds and passing the ball to DJ White, including a ridiculous roll-the-ball-on-the-floor HI-LO feed. But most amazingly, Thomas even picked up a Minnesota point guard at half-court and stole the ball. Thomas eventually fouled out (in somewhat controversial fashion), but there was no doubt he was a huge part of Indiana’s comeback.
Why I am also Happy
Roy Hibbert responded to Thursday’s zero point performance with a career high for points and rebounds.
Demetri McCamey hit 6 three pointers, including one in the final seconds to send the Illinois vs Purdue game to overtime where Illinois eventually won. Illinois, formerly the unluckiest team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy has now won two days in a row with shots in the final seconds. (And the post-game locker celebration where the team hugged Bruce Webber truly warmed my heart.)
Well folks, I’m celebrating tonight. I’ll try to get back to crunch the bubble again tomorrow. St. Joe’s looks like they are in after beating Xavier. The committee is going to need an alternate scenario on Sunday because either Minnesota or Illinois is playing in the Big Ten final, late on Sunday. There is plenty to discuss. But I'm not crunching the numbers tonight. I'm celebrating.
Friday, March 14, 2008
John Saunders, “Digger Phelps, what should they do here?”
Digger, “I think South Carolina needs to foul here.”
Hubert Davis, “What?!!”
Digger, “You need to take your chances, put them on the foul line.”
Davis, “OK, if I’m Tennessee, I’d try to take it in the lane and get it to Tyler Smith”
Saunders, “You’d foul here?!”
Digger, “Absolutely, you have to extend the game.”
Saunders, “Let’s toss it back to Atlanta…”
Digger, “Oh, South Carolina has the lead.”
Back to the action, Chris Lofton calmly sinks a three pointer and Tennessee takes the lead by two.
Now, South Carolina attempts a three, misses, goes for the rebound, but the South Carolina post player is shoved to the ground by Tyler Smith. Rather than call a foul on Tyler Smith, the referees call the ball out of bounds on Tennessee, when it seemed to have touched a South Carolina player last. Hmm, do two bad calls make a good call? Now, South Carolina inbounds it under the basket, but Tennessee grabs the ball away. The game is over! The Volunteers escape! This is March!
Georgetown Should Thank Syracuse
This was one of those days where Georgetown could have beaten anyone in the country. The fact that Villanova didn’t lose by 40 should be commended. Georgetown made a Big East tournament record 17 three pointers. But thanks to some tremendous interior defense by Villanova which shut down Roy Hibbert, (0 points, 5 fouls, 4 turnovers), the Wildcats were in this game for most of the day.
Early in the first half, Georgetown built a 15 point lead thanks to that phenomenal three point shooting, and that’s when two things happened that made me exceptionally nervous. First, Georgetown made Scottie Reynolds wear the crimson mask. (He was busted open the hard way folks.) And when you have a big lead, you never want to make the other team mad. Second, Patrick Ewing Jr. made a silly move, throwing the basketball up in the air, over his shoulder, and hitting a Villanova player, earning a technical. Those were two game changing events and you could just feel the momentum start to swing after the technical.
And as Jay Wright said in the locker room, “There’s no way they can shoot this well from the perimeter for the full game.” He wasn’t the only one who thought this. My wife and I both had the same freakish thought. We’re shooting lights out and we only lead by 11! This is not a good sign. But how wrong we all were. The Hoyas followed up the 10 first half threes with 7 second half threes and eventually finished off the Wildcats in emphatic fashion.
I think the key was actually the fact that Georgetown put in time preparing for Syracuse this week. If you watched the first two Syracuse games, Georgetown was very tentative, making too many passes, which eventually led to too many turnovers in the two games. The only time the Hoyas looked good against Syracuse was in the second half of the second game when they just started taking the first available perimeter shot. (It wasn’t very Princeton like, but when you’ve been turning the ball over too much, sometimes you just need to shoot early in the shot clock.)
John Thompson the 3rd confirmed it in his post game press conference, “We told our guys to be ready to shoot.” Jonathon Wallace confirmed it in his post game interview saying, “The coaches said all week we had to be aggressive.”
I thought this perimeter aggression was a great thing to see. I’ve been saying all year that Georgetown has to embrace becoming a perimeter-oriented-team if they want to make a deep run. This is because, besides Hibbert, they just don’t have any legitimate post players who can create a shot.
At the beginning of the year, my hope was that McDonald’s All-American guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright could combine to replace Jeff Green in some capacity. But with Chris Wright injured since December, Austin Freeman could not single-handedly replace the Big East player-of-the-year. Wright finally returned to the lineup on Thursday, and he added a new dimension for the Hoyas. First, since teams constantly use full court pressure against the Hoyas, it was nice to have another point guard to use as a ball-handler. And second, Wright was surprisingly hot offensively, knocking down a pair of threes on his own.
Look, I doubt Wright is going to be this consistent the rest of the way out, and I doubt that Georgetown is going to get this hot from three point range again, but with the team so tentative to take open three pointers in other games, I was glad to see the perimeter aggression here. Eventually when you take open three pointers, you force the other team to stop double-teaming the post. And when that happens, maybe Hibbert can finally be the player everyone believes he can be.
Rhymes with Stubble
On a day where bubble teams everywhere were losing, let’s recap the good, the bad, and the ugly. (My comments are relative to the projections I made on Tuesday.)
Kent St. gave the bubble a momentary sigh of relief with an easy victory in the MAC quarterfinals.
In case there was any doubt, West Virginia and Pittsburgh made emphatic statements on Thursday.
Miami beat NC State, avoiding the costly upset, and staying comfortably in the field.
Texas A&M had lost 5 of its last 7, so they picked up a critical win against Iowa St.
UNLV won in controversial fashion over TCU to stay just inside the field.
St. Joe’s earns another shot at Xavier. St. Joe’s isn’t in the field yet, but at least they are still alive.
Temple stayed alive. They still need to beat Charlotte in the next round.
Florida St. is trying for their normal last minute surge. (Just for fun, ask an FSU fan what they think about the selection committee.)
Similarly, Oklahoma St. continues to play well in the second half of the season, earning another shot at Texas.
Villanova lost, but I still have them in.
Oregon and Arizona lost, but I still have them in. (I may re-evaluate before Sunday, but I truly believe the Pac10 deserves 7 teams. Oregon never gave up in the Washington St. game even after falling behind by 20 points in the first half. Arizona was without Nick Wise for part of the Pac10 season. The arguments for 7 are easy to make.)
Baylor was upset by last place Colorado, and they will have to seriously sweat now. With a 5-7 record in the final 12, they could easily get left out.
Arizona St. also lost and they should be sweating even more than Baylor. With a 5-7 record in the final 12 and a horrible NCSOS, they could easily get left out.
UMass lost to Charlotte and if anyone else was winning, I’d say they were out, but it still isn’t clear.
New Mexico lost to Utah in overtime. I had New Mexico just outside the field, but several experts had them in. I wonder if those experts will re-evaluate.
Maryland is officially done after losing 6 of their final 8.
Florida made it clear they want nothing to do with the NCAA tournament this year, falling behind Alabama by 28 at one point before losing.
It took overtime, but Ole Miss finally lost enough SEC games to eliminate themselves from the discussion.
Dayton is done, officially blowing one of the greatest non-conference seasons by an A10 team.
And UAB and Houston bowed out early in the CUSA tournament, rather than risk facing Memphis one more time. They weren’t really in the discussion before and they certainly aren’t now.
Three Big Ten games occurred. This impacted nothing. Two of them had dramatic endings. But as Brent Musburger and Steve Lavin pointed out, watching Northwestern’s offense can put anyone to sleep.
Also, Brent Musburger, please don’t compare the offense Northwestern runs with the one Georgetown runs. Thanks.
Twenty Eight Games
Here’s a preview of a fun Friday afternoon and a sensational Friday night.
12pm – North Carolina vs Florida St. – This is the part of the show where Florida St. fans get their hopes up only to have them crushed one more time.
12pm – Wisconsin vs Michigan – It is hard to say what seed Wisconsin will get since the anti-Big Ten sentiment is so high this year.
12:30pm – Oklahoma St. vs Texas – Texas wants a one seed in the NCAA tournament, and the run has to start here.
1pm – Tennessee vs South Carolina – A lot of people would like to say that Tennessee doesn’t deserve a number one seed. A loss here would give them that ammunition.
2:30pm – Miami vs Virginia Tech – Will Virginia Tech finally get a top 50 win or will Virginia Tech go quietly into the NIT?
2:30pm – Michigan St. vs Ohio St. – Even with the other bubble teams falling on Thursday, Ohio St. still needs this win.
3:00pm – Oklahoma vs Colorado – It isn’t that Oklahoma is out with a loss here, but what kind of seed do you get if you lose 6 of your final 12 games?
3:30pm – Vanderbilt vs Arkansas – After Thursday, I’m starting to think Arkansas might be safe, but a loss here would give them 6 losses in the final 12. The SEC bashers could have fun with this.
4:30pm – Memphis vs Southern Miss – Memphis needs a win here to hold onto a one seed in the NCAA tourn…, Oh, who am I kidding?
6:30pm – Xavier vs St. Joe’s – If St. Joe’s can beat Xavier for the second time in the final month, they are in the field.
6:30pm – Purdue vs Illinois – I think Purdue is the best team in the Big Ten, but they have slid a bit in the last few weeks. They don’t want an early tournament exit.
7pm – Georgetown vs West Virginia – The Hoya controversy tour continues. I just wish that for every time they showed Ewing’s block that they would also show Jesse Sapp’s 3 pointer to take a one point lead in the game at West Virginia. If West Virginia wins, we are guaranteed that the Big East tournament winner will have played 4 games in 4 days.
7pm – Duke vs Georgia Tech – Duke wants a one seed in the NCAA tournament and the run starts here.
7pm – Kansas vs Nebraska – Kansas wants a one seed in the NCAA tournament and the run starts here. Nebraska lost to Kansas by 21 and 35 in the regular season, so I don’t expect much of a game here, but I guess Nebraska has been playing better lately.
7pm – Western Michigan vs Akron – Bubble teams everywhere hope this game goes to triple OT and the winner is really tired on Saturday, because either of these teams could knock Kent St. out.
7pm – Tulsa vs UTEP – Who wants all the bubble teams to hate them on Saturday morning? Who wants to get crushed by Memphis on national TV?
7:30pm – Mississippi St. vs Alabama – What in the world kind of seed is Mississippi St. going to get? I have no idea what this game means.
9pm – UCLA vs USC – UCLA probably needs to keep winning to hold onto a one seed in the NCAA tournament.
9pm – Indiana vs Minnesota – Indiana has been disappointing since Dan Dakich took over. Minnesota barely got past Northwestern. Feel the excitement.
9pm – Temple vs Charlotte – If no one gives Temple credit for a second place finish in the A10, why not just ride that seed to a conference tournament title?
9:30pm – Marquette vs Pittsburgh – We were snickering Wednesday when Jay Bilas said Marquette could become the first ever team to win four games in four days. Who is snickering now?
9:30pm – Kansas St. vs Texas A&M – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The overall profile for Kansas St. is not as good as a lot of people think. If Kansas State loses this game, they’ll be 5-7 in the last 12, 5-9 in Road/Neutral games, and they did very little in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Public sentiment has them in, (and that matters a lot), but they could still use a win here.
9:30pm – Clemson vs Boston College – For once Clemson can’t blow its NCAA chances by losing its first game in the ACC tournament. Hooray!
9:30pm – BYU vs San Diego St. – The Aztecs fell apart down the stretch, but they played well enough early in the season to give BYU a scare.
9:30pm – Kent St. vs Miami (OH) – Miami (OH) has enough marquee wins to believe they could end Kent St.’s tournament run and shrink the bubble by one slot.
10pm – Kentucky vs Georgia – Kentucky catches a break as the Georgia game went to overtime Thursday. I think the 12 SEC wins are enough, but the overall numbers still say a Kentucky loss would be costly.
11:30pm – Stanford vs Washington St. – How good are the Pac10 quarterfinals?
12pm – UNLV vs Utah – With New Mexico out of the equation, UNLV’s road to the NCAA tournament looks a lot easier.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The Huskies fell 3 points short when Venoy Overton’s 3 pointer was partially blocked as time expired. The play of the game came at the hands of Ryan Anderson, (who else), just moments earlier. With 41 seconds left on the game clock and his team nursing a 1 point lead, Anderson caught the ball and drained a 3 as the shot clock expired. Anderson had 22 points and 16 rebounds and Cal gets UCLA tomorrow afternoon.
Looking back, the last two days have been very quiet. Syracuse officially punched a ticket for the NIT today, but I had them out already. I’m projecting Arizona as the winner against Oregon St., so they’ll live to fight another day. Amazingly, my projected NCAA field has stayed the same for two straight days.
But I doubt it will stay the same again on Thursday. Just look at these match-ups:
(You can take the first round of the NCAA tournament if you want, but I’ll take this Thursday and Friday of conference tournament action any day.)
12pm – Villanova vs Georgetown – Villanova’s victory over Syracuse may have earned a bid, but this would eliminate any doubt.
12pm – Xavier vs Dayton – If Dayton is going to prove that they are a better team now that Chris Little is healthy (and Chris Wright is healthy enough to put on a uniform), they have to win this game.
12pm – Wake Forest vs Florida St. – The way things are breaking, these teams probably don’t have any at large chances. But Wake Forest beat Duke and Florida St. took North Carolina to overtime earlier in the year. So it will still be interesting to see which of these teams gets another shot at UNC.
12:30pm – Texas Tech vs Oklahoma St. – Texas Tech and Oklahoma St. have already proven they can beat Texas and Kansas. So who gets another shot at Texas?
1pm – UAB vs Tulsa – I don’t really think UAB can earn an auto-bid at this point, but because they probably have the best chance of beating Memphis, it is worth keeping an eye on them.
2:30pm – Connecticut vs West Virginia – I’m not buying that West Virginia is still a bubble team. This is just a game between two teams that want to earn better NCAA tournament seeds.
2:30pm – St. Joe’s vs Richmond – A loss officially eliminates St. Joe’s from the equation.
2:30pm – Miami vs NC State – Miami doesn’t want to lose the opening game after finishing 8-8 in conference. And NC State has beaten enough top 100 teams to make the Hurricanes nervous.
3pm – Baylor vs Colorado – Baylor rebounded after a poor start to February. But another loss in the final 12, especially to Colorado, could be costly.
3pm – USC vs Arizona St. –It isn’t that I don’t believe in Arizona St., but almost every year one team gets singled out and left out because of a weak NCSOS. Arizona St. needs this game a lot more than USC.
3pm – BYU vs Colorado St. – Colorado St. won zero games against MWC teams until they beat Wyoming on Wednesday. Do they have an encore? And what about the winless Colorado St. women’s team beating a Utah team that went undefeated in MWC play. Anything can happen.
3:30pm – Vanderbilt vs Auburn – Vanderbilt has the quality wins to get a high seed, but Pomeroy’s rankings says they have been very lucky. Does the luck end here?
5:30pm – UCLA vs California –After last year, no one is taking this game for granted. Heck, after Saturday, no one is taking this game for granted.
6:30pm – Temple vs La Salle – Temple has a win over Xavier and a second place finish, but they still need a deep tournament run to have any hope at an at-large bid.
7pm – Pittsburgh vs Louisville – A lot of people think Louisville is the best team in the Big East, but if they are going to win the Big East tournament, they’ll have to earn it.
7pm – Kent St. vs Toledo – Bubble teams can’t take any more stress. Kent St. better not lose.
7pm – Memphis vs Tulane – There is no chance Memphis goes down early. But I’ll still check the box score.
7:30pm – Florida vs Alabama – Can Richard Hendrix make it official and end Florida’s hopes?
9pm – Washington St. vs Oregon – Will the Pac10 really get seven teams? I think they should but Oregon wants to make sure they don’t get left out of the equation.
9pm – UNLV vs TCU – The Running Rebels need to keep winning, and the home crowd should help.
9pm – UMass vs Charlotte – Charlotte has been a very inconsistent team. They’ve lost some very questionable games but they also have a lot of wins against the RPI top 100. That’s dangerous for UMass.
9:30pm – Maryland vs Boston College – Maryland has fallen out of the field. Another loss here is the final nail in the coffin.
9:30pm – Notre Dame vs Marquette – Marquette has the perimeter players to shut down Notre Dame’s shooters, but do they have the inside play to contain Big East POY Luke Harangody?
9:30pm – Texas A&M vs Iowa St. – When you finish 8-8 in conference, you better win this game.
10:00pm – Ole Miss vs Georgia – Ole Miss has the quality wins to stay on the bubble. Now they just need the thing they were missing, wins against SEC teams.
11:30pm – Stanford vs Arizona –Arizona probably has enough quality wins to make it in, but with an 8-10 record, why leave anything to chance?
11:30pm – New Mexico vs Utah – Not only does New Mexico have to play in Vegas and try to steal a bid from UNLV, they open against Utah.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Providence’s Jamine Peterson missing two dunks in the final 11 minutes of the West Virginia game?
Or the way Providence, trailing by 2 points with 1 minute left, ran the clock down and couldn’t get a clean shot off? (Jeff Xavier was blocked at the 35-second mark.)
2) Are Connecticut fans bummed or pleased to see that West Virginia beat Providence? True, seeding suggests West Virginia is the tougher match-up. But UConn beat West Virginia in their only meeting, while the Huskies were swept by the Friars.
3) Was the A10 looking to minimize TV viewers when they signed their current television deal? I’m pleased that Dayton and St. Joe’s advanced to the second round, but I would have watched some of those games if I could have figured out how.
My preview pick Corey Stokes had 18 points, a career high, including 4 of 8 from long range. This surprised the announcers a bit, “He’s only 28% on the year from long range.” But as I said in my preview, he’s getting hot at the right time of the year.
ESPN debuted a Family Circus style red arrow to depict where a player had gone on instant replays. Bilas and Raftery thought it looked like a weather pattern.
The announcers also had the following exchange:
McDonough, “Shane Clark was sluggish earlier this year, suffering from some sort of illness.”
Raftery, “You were sluggish earlier this year too Jay.”
McDonough, “Yes we were concerned about your health earlier this year.”
Raftery, “I was concerned you were coming back.”
Raftery also used the “Reynold’s Unwrapped” phrase at least 3 times.
Mike Rutherford has an even more detailed live blog of the game on his website.
Elsewhere, Dayton escaped with a 1 point win over St. Louis in overtime. Were the Flyers looking past St. Louis and ahead to Xavier? Or were they just playing like the team that went 8-8 in A10 play? Most importantly, I saw no sign of Chris Wright. Apparently he dressed, but unless he makes a miracle comeback tommorrow, the Flyer's season is probably going to be over.
Up next, will Weyinmi Efejuku keep Providence in the game against West Virginia?
Not everyone steps on the floor as a freshman and is a superstar like Scottie Reynolds. But Villanova freshman Corey Stokes has been steadily improving.
Corey Stokes, 3 pt percentage, by month
November – 2 of 13, 15%
December – 5 of 21, 24%
January – 7 of 21, 33%
February – 13 of 34, 38%
March – 4 of 20, 20%
Comment I’m going to regret: Does anyone really fear a team where two of the top players are named Corey? (See also Corey Fisher.)
Consider the following fictional profiles:
Team A: 2-8 vs RPI Top 50, 6-2 vs RPI 51-100
Team B: 2-4 vs RPI Top 50, 6-6 vs RPI 51-100
Clearly Team A should be preferable to Team B. They have the same wins and better losses. But why do I get the feeling that a lot of basketball commentators think Team B has the better profile. After all, Team A has failed in just about every opportunity vs an elite team. I say this because I think that some people are underrating the Syracuse bubble profile. I still don’t have them in the field today, but I think they are a lot closer than some people think.
Remember also that Syracuse has an RPI rating of 46 and Villanova has an RPI rating of 56. (This is mainly because Syracuse avoided playing teams 200+ in the RPI.) But it has the unintended effect of giving Villanova more credit for beating Syracuse than Syracuse received for beating Villanova. (The teams split the season series.) The truth is if you put the two profiles next to each other and really compare game-by-game, they come out very equivalent. To actually put Villanova ahead has to give them extra credit for controversial losses to NC State and Georgetown. But I’m not sure that will actually happen because so many teams have close losses at some point in the season.
No matter how you slice it, today’s game is a must-win for both teams.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
But all I want to do is watch some conference tournament action!
No, I will not be one of the “good people of the world” tomorrow. I’ll be taking time off so I can be planted in front of the TV watching the Big East tournament. If for some reason you are foolish enough to work tomorrow, check back here for my comments on the afternoon session.
In the mean time, I have links to the conference tournament brackets. Yes, you can find these everywhere, but I am linking to the printable brackets! Printing brackets is fun. Filling out brackets is fun. Why wait until next week? You know you want to.
Big East Bracket
Where else can you find 5 AP ranked teams and 9 teams with legitimate bubble chances? In what other tournament could all 8 quarterfinal participants make the NCAA tournament? Big East expansion may have diluted the value of the regular season, but it has also made the Big East tournament the premier conference tournament in the land.
Pac 10 Bracket
The Pac10 isn’t far behind thanks to 9 teams that are capable of making it to the semis. And even if Oregon St. is horrible, they could still cause the Arizona fans to pull their hair out on Wednesday.
How hilarious is it that the only ACC game airing on ESPN2 on Thursday pits Georgia Tech and Virginia, two teams with no at-large hopes.
Big 12 Bracket
Hey, the Big 12 bumped the Big Ten out of their traditional noon Thursday slot on ESPN2. And Oklahoma St. versus Texas Tech should be much more entertaining than Iowa versus Michigan. Nice job ESPN. (By the way, if anyone else out there actually noticed this TV scheduling change, you can officially be my friend.) Also, Kansas may have lost the tie-breaker and gotten stuck with the two seed, but they face the Nebraska / Missouri winner on Friday. Top seeded Texas gets the Texas Tech / Oklahoma St. winner. I think Texas would rather have lost that tie-breaker.
It is always fun to see the unfair bracketing that results from the two division format. Vanderbilt, a team that is comfortably in the NCAA field, has to play on Thursday. Meanwhile Arkansas, a team that probably needs to beat Vanderbilt to make it in, gets a bye.
Big Ten Bracket
Don’t you love it when the regular season finale gets re-hashed a few days later? Oh, not really? Well Ohio St. versus Michigan St. still matters a lot.
How many people in Iowa want to scream now that Steve Alford has New Mexico sitting at 24-7?
Atlantic 10 Bracket
Finally, the A10 has some meaningful games to watch again. The last few years have been brutal.
Don’t Lose Memphis! CUSA Bracket
To put it another way, the recent A10 brackets have held all the intrigue of this year’s CUSA tournament bracket. (How to preview SMU vs UTEP. Hmm, I’ve got nothing. Did you know both schools are located in Texas?)
Don’t lose Kent St! MAC Bracket
Useless fact of the day: Prior to last year, the MAC first round games were held at campus sites.
The WAC has no bubble implications this year, but I’m including the bracket for historical purposes. The bad news is that you have to go to page 20 of this PDF to find the printable bracket.
In my tables, T50 is record vs RPI 1-50, N50 is record vs RPI 51-100, and BL are bad losses to RPI 100+. (I have adjusted team’s records to reflect Monday’s games, but I am still using Sunday’s RPI rank.) I also include the order of wins and losses in the last 11 games for teams that are still alive in their conference tournaments.
CW-L ACC T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
14-2 UNC 9-1 10-1 0 WWLWWWWWWWW 23 15-0
13-3 Duke 6-3 9-1 0 WWWWLLWWWWL 65 11-3
10-6 Clemson 3-5 7-3 0 LWWLWWLWWLW 178 7-6
9-7 VirginiaTech 0-6 5-3 3 WWWLLLWWWWL 133 6-10
8-8 Miami FL 3-3 6-4 2 LLLWWWWLWWL 135 7-7
8-8 Maryland 1-5 6-5 3 WWWWLWLLWLL 71 5-7
7-9 Florida St. 4-5 4-7 1 LLLWLLWWWLW 123 5-9
7-9 WakeForest 3-3 4-7 2 WLLWWWLLLLW 270 2-10
We all know that Maryland and Virginia Tech are missing wins against the RPI top 50, but it is worth noting that their records vs 50-100 aren’t so dominant as to make up for it.
Miami (FL) had the ideal order for an 8-8 bubble team. While they started 2-6 in conference, they finished 6-2. And thanks to some nice non-conference victories, they look solid. Still, I wouldn’t want to lose that first round ACC game.
Florida St.’s top 50 wins include a sweep of Miami, a win over UAB, and a win over Clemson. But unless Florida St. or Wake Forest can upset North Carolina in the quarterfinals, I don’t see either team making it in.
CW-L Big 12 T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
13-3 Texas 10-3 5-1 1 WWWWWWWWLWW 27 9-4
13-3 Kansas 6-2 6-1 0 LWWWLWLWWWW 152 9-3
10-6 Kansas St. 3-5 3-4 1 LWWLWLLLLWW 79 5-8
9-7 Oklahoma 6-7 4-2 1 LLLWWWLLWWW 67 7-7
9-7 Baylor 3-8 4-1 0 LWLLLLWWWLW 147 9-5
8-8 Texas A&M 4-6 3-3 0 WWWWLLLWLWL 222 6-5
7-9 Texas Tech 4-9 2-4 1 WLLWLWWLWLL 28 2-12
7-9 Oklahoma St. 3-9 2-2 3 LLWLWWWWWLL 130 3-11
7-9 Nebraska 3-6 3-2 3 WLWLLWWWLLW 312 3-8
Outside of Texas and Kansas, none of the “in-the-field” teams have played well down the stretch. For that reason, they would all be well served to win at least one game in the conference tournament.
CW-L Pac 10 T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
16-2 UCLA 9-2 8-0 1 WWWLWWWWWWW 104 12-1
13-5 Stanford 5-3 6-3 0 WWWWLWWWWLL 299 8-5
11-7 WashingtonSt 4-6 6-1 0 LLLWWWWLWLW 199 14-3
11-7 USC 4-7 7-2 1 LWWLLWWWWWW 97 10-5
9-9 Oregon 4-8 3-2 2 LWLWWLLLWWW 159 6-9
9-9 Arizona St. 5-6 2-3 2 LLWWLLWLWLW 306 6-7
8-10 Arizona 5-7 5-4 2 WLLWLLWLLWL 7 7-7
7-11 Washington 2-11 4-4 0 LLLWLWWLLWL 224 4-9
6-12 California 2-9 3-3 2 WWWLLWLLLLL 180 5-6
Thanks to some nice wins at home, Oregon now looks a little more solid.
Arizona St. has enough nice wins that they deserve to be in the tournament , but if they lose the opener to USC, they could still be in trouble. A loss would leave Arizona St. at 5-7 in the last 12 and with a NCSOS of 300+, and the committee would have two strong discussion points to argue to exclude them.
CW-L Big East T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
15-3 Georgetown 6-4 4-0 0 WWWLWLWWWWW 127 9-4
14-4 Louisville 9-5 3-1 1 LWWWWWWWWWL 21 9-5
14-4 Notre Dame 6-5 3-1 0 WWWLWWWLWWW 274 7-6
13-5 Connecticut 7-4 2-3 0 WWWWWWLWWLW 54 8-6
11-7 Marquette 3-8 6-0 0 WLLWWWWWLWL 156 6-6
11-7 WestVirginia 3-7 4-1 1 LWLWWLWWLWW 136 9-7
10-8 Pittsburgh 4-6 4-1 2 WLWWLLLWWLW 86 6-7
9-9 Villanova 4-6 4-2 3 LLWLWWWLLWW 168 7-8
9-9 Syracuse 2-8 6-2 2 WWWLLWLLLWW 16 5-7
Syracuse is probably my last team out, but be careful about their NCSOS. It looks good but that’s mainly because they avoided the terrible teams. They’ve played one team with an RPI over 200. The loser of the Villanova/Syracuse Big East tournament game will be 6-6 in the last 12 and in serious trouble.
CW-L SEC T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
14-2 Tennessee 11-3 3-0 0 WWWWWWWLWWW 3 12-3
12-4 Miss. St. 3-7 1-2 0 LLWWWLWWWLW 131 9-6
12-4 Kentucky 4-7 1-3 1 WWWLWWWWLWW 92 4-7
10-6 Vanderbilt 5-4 6-1 1 LWWWWWWWLWL 87 6-6
9-7 Arkansas 4-5 3-1 4 WWWLLWLLWLW 88 5-9
8-8 Florida 2-8 1-1 1 WLLWLLWWLLL 275 6-6
7-9 Mississippi 5-4 2-0 5 LLWLLWLLWWW 122 7-7
I’m done arguing that Mississippi St. and Kentucky don’t have the resumes to make it in. Despite losing records vs the RPI top 100, they’ve both made it to 12 conference wins and that is still impressive no matter how you slice it.
Take a moment to compare the profiles of Florida and Syracuse. Syracuse is 6-2 vs RPI 50-100, while Florida is 1-1. The culprit is Florida’s weak NCSOS. I don’t see the Gators getting in without a deep run in the SEC tournament.
On the other hand, Ole Miss is an interesting case. Let’s say they beat Georgia and Kentucky and lose to Mississippi St. in the SEC semis. They’d be 7-5 in the last 12, they’d have a nice profile vs the Top 50 and Top 100, and if the committee was truly conference color blind, you’d have to say they have a chance. So why do I think they are going to lose to Georgia?
CW-L Big Ten T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
16-2 Wisconsin 5-4 3-0 0 WWWLWWWWWWW 66 10-2
15-3 Purdue 5-4 1-0 3 WWWWWWLWWLW 256 8-6
14-4 Indiana 6-5 4-0 1 WWWLWWWWLWL 85 8-4
12-6 Michigan St. 5-5 3-0 2 WLWLLWWLWWL 45 7-7
10-8 Ohio St. 3-9 4-1 2 WLWLWLLLLWW 13 5-9
Ohio St. just won its two biggest games of the year, but you can’t overlook the 4 game losing streak that came before that. If they lose to Michigan St. and finish 5-7 in the last 12, they are out.
CW-L Atlantic 10 T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
14-2 Xavier 6-1 5-4 0 WWWWWWWWWLW 15 10-4
11-5 Temple 2-3 4-6 3 WLWWLWLWWWW 29 8-8
10-6 UMass 2-2 4-4 3 WLWLLWWWWWW 84 10-6
9-7 Saint Joe’s 3-4 4-3 4 WWLLWLWLLWL 117 10-6
9-7 Charlotte 2-3 5-3 6 LLWLLLWLWWW 100 5-9
8-8 Dayton 2-3 7-2 4 WLWLLWLLWWW 41 6-6
St. Joe’s finished the regular season with 6 losses in the final 9 games and I can no longer project them in the field. But for a team playing on the first day of the A10 tournament, they actually got a very favorable draw.
Will Chris Wright return for Dayton? Could I have built him up anymore by this point? Will this be enough for Dayton to beat Xavier in the second round? Or will the Flyers lose to Rick Majerus in the first round? Hey, I don’t know if Dayton is really a bubble team or not anymore, but at least there is something to watch for.
CW-L MVC T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
15-3 Drake 4-1 4-1 2 9-3 132 13-3
13-5 Illinois St. 0-5 5-0 4 9-3 114 9-8
11-7 S. Illinois 4-6 2-2 6 8-4 4 5-11
10-8 Creighton 0-6 4-1 3 7-5 103 6-8
Illinois St. has zero RPI top 50 wins now that Southern Illinois and Creighton have fallen outside the top 50. Illinois St. was also blown out by Drake in the MVC final. In other words, the Redbirds should be scoreboard watching all week.
So what does history look like for teams with 0 top 50 wins? Well, the record isn’t good for teams from the major conferences. But for teams from the best of the non-BCS conferences, things look a little better. See Air Force in 2006 and UAB in 2005. Since the MVC had the 8th best conference RPI, I think 13 conference wins will get Illinois St. in, but it will be close.
Southern Illinois might look good if you just look at these numbers, but at 17-14 overall, they aren’t getting in.
CW-L MWC T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
14-2 BYU 2-3 3-2 1 WWWWWWLWWWW 138 9-6
12-4 UNLV 1-3 6-2 2 WWLWWLWWWLW 56 6-5
11-5 New Mexico 1-4 3-1 2 LLWWWWWWLWW 264 8-5
9-7 San Diego St 1-5 3-2 4 LWWLLLWWLWL 197 8-8
Steve Alford thinks New Mexico is in. The problem is with a weak NCSOS his team’s profile isn’t as strong as he thinks. New Mexico may need to beat UNLV in the conference tournament (in Las Vegas) to earn a bid.
CW-L CUSA T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
16-0 Memphis 8-1 4-0 0 WWWWWWLWWWW 9 13-0
12-4 UAB 1-2 1-2 5 WLWWLWWWWWL 151 8-8
Joe Lunardi (among others) has been pretty high on UAB, but I think they have no chance because the quality wins just aren’t there. It is one thing to have only one win against the RPI top 50, but having only two wins against the RPI top 100 is killer.
CW-L Horizon T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
16-2 Butler 1-1 8-2 0 WWWWWWWLWWW 105 15-2
12-6 Cleveland St 1-3 5-2 6 LLLWWWLWWWW 46 9-8
Will Cleveland St. take a bubble slot away by defeating Butler on Tuesday?
CW-L MAC T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
13-3 Kent St. 2-2 7-1 3 WLWWWWWWLWW 63 9-6
I think Kent St. has locked up an at-large berth, but it is never good to lose early in the conference tournament.
CW-L CAA T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
15-3 VCU 0-2 3-1 4 9-3 80 12-6
12-6 George Mason 2-1 2-2 7 8-4 37 10-9
George Mason got in the old fashioned way; they won the CAA tournament. I’m sad to say I no longer see a scenario where VCU makes the field.
CW-L WCC T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
13-1 Gonzaga 3-5 4-2 0 10-2 12 12-6
12-2 St. Mary's 2-3 6-3 0 8-4 31 10-5
11-3 San Diego 4-6 0-4 3 10-2 32 8-8
San Diego wins the auto bid to make the WCC a 3-bid league.
CW-L Sun Belt T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
16-2 S. Alabama 3-2 1-1 3 9-3 75 9-5
16-2 WKU 0-4 1-1 1 WWWWWLWWWWW 99 12-5
11-7 Mid. Tenn. 2-5 1-3 6 WWWLWLWLWWW 1 5-8
I’ve still got South Alabama in the field, but I may re-evaluate that in a few days. Remember, South Alabama now has 3 losses to teams outside the top 100 in the final 12. Western Kentucky is now in position to take the automatic bid.
Auto CW-L Team T50 N50 BL Final 12 NCSOS RN
BSth 10-4 Winthrp 1-4 2-0 7 8-4 38 10-8
MAAC 13-5 Siena 1-2 0-2 6 9-3 19 9-6
Ivy 14-0 Cornell 0-2 1-1 2 WWWWWWWWWW 190 10-4
OVC 16-4 A. Peay 0-2 2-3 5 11-1 10 10-9
ASun 14-2 Belmont 0-1 0-3 4 12-0 72 14-7
SC 20-0 Davidsn 0-3 0-2 1 12-0 8 14-4
Ten other one bid conferences will join these to round out the field.