Listening to Verne Lundquist call a game and hearing the CBS basketball music has me ready for March Madness. I don't care if both my teams lost on Saturday; I love this game. My spirit can no longer be crushed.
1) Why does UCLA keep playing games at 10am Pacific Time?
2) Just when it looked like the CAA was becoming a two team race between Northeastern and VCU, both lost road games on Saturday. There are now 7 teams within 2 games of first place in the CAA.
3) Seton Hall remains perfectly predictable. The Pirates are undefeated against the bottom 5 teams in the Big East and winless against the rest of the league. Seton Hall actually lucked into the easiest schedule in the conference (with Rutgers and St. John’s twice each.) The Pirates can get to 7-11 in conference play by simply beating up on the bottom of the league. That’s great news for Big East tournament seeding, but terrible news for their NCAA tournament hopes.
Wake Forest is the inverse Seton Hall, beating the top 4 teams in the ACC, but posting a record of 2-4 against the rest of the league.
4) Last year Georgetown needed a ton of close victories to win the Big East outright title. This year Georgetown has lost 2 OT games in a row. For margin-of-victory stats people, that means that last year’s team was over-rated and this years team is under-rated, but I truly believe that execution in late game situations is a vital characteristic of a team. Hibbert, Wallace, and Ewing had a special ability to thrive in high pressure situations and that was something to be admired and not criticized.
The amazing thing about Big East leaders UConn and Pitt is that neither team has played in a one-possession game in Big East play. (Louisville won a white-knuckler at Villanova, while Marquette lost a heartbreaker at USF) Is it time for UConn and Pitt to play a close game on Monday?
5) Missouri got revenge for an early season loss to Nebraska and based on fantastic margin-of-victory numbers is a great sleeper pick for the NCAA tournament.
6) Taylor Battle finally ended a mini-slump in a win against Minnesota including a key steal at the end. If I were to pick my favorite Big Ten players right now the list would be:
Talor Battle, PSU, the all-everything PG
Kalin Lucas, MSU, the one-man secondary break
Jon Leuer, Wisconsin, the true athlete and next year’s go-to-star
Damian Johnson, Minnesota, no one gets more blocks and steals
Mike Tisdale, Illinois, terrible rebounding, but Mehmet Okur-like touch
These aren't the best 5 players in the Big Ten, but they are my favorites. The best part is that all 5 of these players should be back next year.
7) Maryland is back to .500 in conference play, but the remaining schedule is brutal (at Clemson, vs UNC, vs Duke, vs Wake). If Gary Williams can win one of those 3 home games, he probably keeps his job. On the flip side, Miami (FL) has a very favorable schedule after UNC tomorrow night. The Hurricanes end the year against the bottom 3 teams in the ACC. Want another scheduling quirk? After Sunday, Boston College only has 4 regular season games left.
8) Texas avoided what would have been a catastrophic loss, winning in OT at Colorado. And Purdue avoided a catastrophic loss, winning by 4 at Iowa. Both the Buffaloes and Hawkeyes play at an excruciatingly slow pace so that every game is close and no one looks good against them. (Colorado even came within 5 points of Kansas.) But Colorado and Iowa are still terrible basketball teams and I refuse to watch them. (For the record, Texas did somehow manage to get Colorado to play at a faster pace today.)
9) Florida was not so lucky suffering a terrible, terrible loss at Georgia. For a Florida team that wants to avoid bubble talk due to a weak NCSOS, this is crippling. Congrats to the Bulldogs for picking up their first win of the year. Hey, if Georgia is only going to win one game, it sure is nice to beat an arch-rival.
10) But no team suffered a more crushing loss than Utah St. As I may discuss again on Monday, Utah St.’s Nitty Gritty numbers are not very impressive and their only claim to an at-large bid was going to be a ridiculously long winning streak. Utah St. has been left out of the NCAA tournament before with a gaudy record and don’t be surprised to see it happen again.