Conference Report Card (Sweet 16 Edition)

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2008

Yes, kiddies, the grades are in from the first two rounds, and it’s obvious that some of you haven’t been doing your homework (ahem, SEC), and others of you are instead choosing to rely on your good looks and history (ahem, ACC).  Still more of you are riding the coattails of your top students (ahem, Pac-10), while some of you have a tendency to perform well early while faltering late (ahem, Big East).  Some of you guys there in the back of the class – the quiet ones – it appears you have been doing a little better than we expected (ahem, Big 10); there may even be top of the class potential here (ahem, Big 12)! 

Simpsons Chalkboard

 How do Conferences Stack Up So Far?

Big 12 (6 bids, 2 remaining, 7-4 record)

The Big 12 looked really good in the first round, going 5-1 and only losing one game where Baylor played pretty well.  The second round was only 2-3 for the league, but the twin powers of Kansas and Texas continued to roll, inspiring confidence that one or both will end up playing in the final weekend as well.   Oklahoma and K-State took it on the chin that round, but Texas A&M pushed UCLA to the brink of elimination.  This league has performed very well given its teams’ relatively lower seeding, already exceeding its predicted win total (6.7) with a substantial chance to really destroy it. 

Verdict: this league was probably a little underrated all year in the middle of the pack, but everyone knew what Kansas and Texas were capable of.  Still, a solid to superb performance so far for this league.

Grade:  A-

Big 10 (4 bids, 2 remaining, 5-2 record)

Yes, we know we’ve crushed the Big 10 all season long, and we’re still not convinced this league is worth a damn as a whole.  But we certainly have to give it up for its performance in the first two rounds, going 3-1 in the first round and 2-1 in the second to push half of its bids into the Sweet 16.  Furthermore, both Wisconsin and Michigan St. have looked really solid in doing so.  With an average seed of 5.5, the Big 10 has already achieved its expected win value (4.8 wins), and probably has a fair chance to get at least one more next weekend. 

Verdict:  the Big 10 run probably stops this weekend, but the teams that made the Tourney have performed admirably as a whole (exception: Indiana and their disgraceful collapse this year).   

Grade:  B+ 

Big East (8 bids, 3 remaining, 10-5 record)

The Big East started off tremendously, going a strong 7-1 in the first round, with only UConn dropping out in an upset loss to San Diego.  The second round wasn’t as kind, as Georgetown and Marquette lost close games with Davidson and Stanford, respectively.  As two of the league’s hotter teams, Pitt and Notre Dame’s poor performances in the second round were also surprising.    If it weren’t for the two Cinderellas (WVU and Villanova) taking the place of three protected seeds who were eliminated (Pitt, ND, Georgetown), the Big East could have had a disastrous second round, getting only Louisville into the Sweet 16. 

We can’t shake the feeling that this conference should have had at least five teams in the regionals this year, though, given the relative weakness of most of the other conferences.   Still, its average seed of 5.4 (including four protected seeds of #4 or higher) suggests an expected win total of about 9.6 (1.2 wins per team) through the tournament, and the conference has already achieved that mark with at least two winnable games (WVU and Louisville) upcoming.

Verdict:  major opportunity lost to put 5 or even 6 teams into the Sweet 16 this year.  Three is a nice compromise, especially considering two of them are Cinderellas. 

Grade:  B

Pac-10 (6 bids, 3 remaining, 6-3 record)

The Pac-10 this year is a classic case of haves and have-nots.  First-class teams such as UCLA, Stanford and Wazzu are all still alive (although UCLA and Stanford should feel particularly thankful), while the second-class teams (Arizona, Oregon, USC) were rather easily dismissed in the first round.  Its average seed (5.5) predicts 7.2 wins, and we’re not sure that the league will get there.  Stanford and Wazzu have extremely tough games in the next round against Texas and UNC, respectively, while even UCLA has proven vulnerable and may run into trouble against Xavier or WVU in the regional finals.  No Pac-10 team in the F4 during a year where it was clearly a deep conference with beauceaux NBA talent would be a huge disappointment. 

Verdict:  so far, treading water.  Last second escapes by its big boys don’t exactly inspire confidence for later rounds.  Wazzu has looked the most impressive, but Arizona and Oregon probably didn’t belong in this tournament at all. 

Grade:  B-

ACC (4 bids, 1 remaining, 4-3 record)

Like everyone else, we watched in shock as Billy Packer harangued the NCAA Selection Committee chairman for only including four ACC teams even though the league enjoyed the #1 RPI rating.  Thank God for small favors.    This league stunk up the joint for the most part, as Duke tried to lay its golden egg on Thursday night before getting exposed for good on Saturday, and Clemson manifested its annual collapse into one game against Villanova.  Miami beat St. Mary’s and fought hard against Texas, but they just aren’t that good.  Which leaves UNC, which has been and continues to be the only real class of the league this year.  The ACC’s average seed was 3.8, which means if the league is to reach its expected win value of 6.4, it’s all on UNC’s ample shoulders as the sole survivor.

Verdict:  this league was garbage this year and we all knew it.  UNC may ultimately make the overall record look good, but this wasn’t a good conference and it showed in its performance in the NCAAs.   

Grade:  C

SEC (6 bids, 1 remaining, 4-5 record)

Speaking of terrible leagues, the SEC was a total and complete disaster this year.  Tennessee is the class of the conference, but even they haven’t been playing very well and are an underdog as the only remaining SEC team in the next round.  The SEC went 3-3 in the first round, and 1-2 in the second round, making it the only major conference with a losing record to date.  Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi St…  they all fought hard, but they simply weren’t very good teams this year.  And what can you say about Vandy other than they’re a complete joke away from Memorial Coliseum?  Ugh. 

Verdict:  it wasn’t as apparent just how bad this league was until we saw the results of the last weekend.  Without Florida and a stronger Kentucky, the SEC remains the seven dwarves.     

Grade:  D

Mid-Majors (14 bids, 3 remaining, 9-11 record)

The NCAA screwed the mid-majors this year by pitting six of them in games against each other in the first round, but the little guys still pushed through and managed to put three teams into the Sweet 16 – Davidson, Xavier and Western Kentucky.  We have to wonder what would have happened had teams such as Drake, Gonzaga and S. Alabama gotten a chance to play one of the big boys.  Only Xavier has a significant shot to continue advancing (v. WVU next).   

Verdict:  definitely better than last year, when only two (Butler and S. Illinois) made it to the regionals.  Would have liked to have seen a little more fight from the likes of St. Mary’s, George Mason, Temple and St. Joseph’s, though.     

Grade:  C

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Duke: Success or Failure?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2008

With several big-name programs going down on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, we thought it was worthwhile to take a look back at their season and try to evaluate whether it was a success or failure (hence, the name of the post). We’re only going to take a look at the programs that are typically expected to compete for titles. So if you’re looking for a post about Coppin State, you’re out of luck.

To start things off we’ll take a look at Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils.

Where they left off: Coming off an embarrassing 1st round loss to Eric Maynor and Virginia Commonwealth and the early departure of Josh McRoberts, the Blue Devils were not expected to be their typical dominant self this year (preseason AP #13). As noted by resident Duke hater rtmsf, Duke has not had its typical monopolyover top recruits the past few years. Coming into the season, I expected the Blue Devils to go no further than the Sweet 16 as they did not have any low-post presence at all and lacked a true star (DeMarcus Nelson was as close as they came).

Story of the Season: As the season started, Krzyzewski unleashed a startling offensive set essentially playing 5 perimeter players the entire game. Given his numerous talented perimeter players and total absence of talented inside players, it seemed like a reasonable if unusual strategy. Using this offense that Krzyzewski took from Team USA assistant coach (and Phoenix Suns head coach) Mike D’Antoni, the Blue Devils climbed as high as #2 in the AP rankings. However, even as they piled up the wins their lack of an interior game on offense and defense was evident. The Blue Devils showed that they could compete with any team in the country on a given night with wins at then #1 UNC (without Ty Lawson), #5 Wisconsin (82-58), at #23 Davidson, and #24 Marquette. However, they also showed their vulnerability during back-to-back losses at Wake Forest and Miami (FL). In the end, the Blue Devils fell apart again at the end of the seasonlosing 3 of their last 5 with a narrow escape over 15th-seeded Belmont in the 1st round before falling to 7th-seeded West Virginia in the 2nd round.

The Verdict: We are hesitant to consider any season in which a team ranked #2 late in the season then loses 3 of its last 5, barely survives in the first-round against a 15 seed and loses in the 2nd round a success, but given the extremely low expectations for Duke coming into the season and the fact that they had nobody who could play inside (Zoubek? Seriously?) we have to give Coach K and his boys a “success” vote by the narrowest of margins. While they failed to play their best ball at the biggest moment (March), they played well throughout the season and did much better than we expected (not counting the NCAA tournament). Obviously, this is a big exception, but we prefer to look at the season as a whole especially when dealing with a team we never expected to make a serious title run.

Outlook: The Blue Devils certainly had some bright spots this season with the emergence of Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson as solid players who should contribute for the next few years (as long as they don’t do anything stupid and jump early). However, with the loss of Greg Monroe to Georgetown and no highly touted big men on the way, it looks like Duke will be stuck with their current system for the foreseeable future. The question is whether Coach K can turn it around and start landing some of the studs that he used to now that the NBA is forcing kids to go to college for at least a year. Unless Coach K can do this or land one solid inside player, Duke haters will likely be able to rejoice around this time each March for the next few years.

rtmsf Update:  It should surprise no one that we have a slightly different take than our counterpart with respect to the Devils’ season.  His viewpoint is that this was a successful year for Duke, given low preseason expectations.  But how low were those expectations?  He points out that Duke was preseason #13 in the AP poll, and nearly every preseason mag had the Devils in the Sweet 16.  As usual, Duke came out of the gate with a bang, blowing out Wisconsin and positioning itself securely in the top 10 for the rest of the season (all but two weeks).  There was even the usual mid-February talk of another #1 seed for Coach K’s crew.  So while the preseason expectations were slightly lower than usual, the in-season expectations for Duke were considerably higher.  To that degree, looking at Duke’s March success, we consider a #2 seed barely sneaking by a #15 seed and then getting outmuscled by a Bob Huggins team in Round 2 to be a huge disappointment.  It’s Duke, for Chrissakes, not Villanova!  Anything less than a F4 is a disappointing season, and the last two Marches in Durham have been nothing short of disgraceful.

nvr1983 update to the update: I guess I should probably stop using the royal we when I write articles since there appears to be some dissension within the RTC ranks. As I noted in my original post, I wouldn’t consider this season a huge success, which is why I stated it was a success by “the narrowest of margins”. Perhaps, I should have went with an A-F system where I would have given the Blue Devils a C. As for rtmsf’s argument that the in-season expectations being higher than usual for Duke this year, I would argue that he’s out of his f-ing mind. Everybody who watched them play this year knew it was a vastly flawed team and I don’t know of a single person who picked them to go to the Final 4. He also notes that the expectation was a trip to the Sweet 16. I think coming up 1 round short of the preseason expectation isn’t that big of a failure particularly when the Sweet 16 is close enough to the peak of the NCAA tournament performance Bell curve that losing a round earlier isn’t a huge deviation from the expectation. Stealing a point from Billy Beane, I would also argue that post-season performance isn’t necessarily representative of their overall performance especially with relatively low expectations (that they performed close to) and the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament.

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03.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2008

We’re working on Sweet 16 previews right now, but figured that we should appease our eager readers with some interesting news from around the country, which you may have missed with MLB’s Opening Day in Japan taking all the headlines (it certainly did in Boston).

  • SEC to repay fans who were unable to use tickets: Tornado-related ticket repayment: $2.5 M. Winning a 4 games in 4 days including a doubleheader before running out of gas in the NCAA tournament: Priceless.
  • Sweet 16 Thoughts: RTC favorite (and Duke ’92 grad) Seth Davis chimes in with his thoughts on the regions. We found his analysis of potential Oklahoma State coaches (Bill Self and Billy Gillispie) particularly interesting. Like Davis, we don’t think the Cowboys will get either of them, but it begs the question of how much money Boone Pickens is willing to put into the program?
  • Kansas State coach expects Beasley to enter NBA draft: In other news, Duke is not expect to fire Mike Krzyzewski. . .
  • Chris Lofton has a minor leg injury: We don’t think this will have much of an impact on Thursday against Louisville, but it is something to look out for given Tennessee’s point guard difficulties.
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Second Round Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2008

Saturday 3/22 – Round 2

Day three of the Tourney continued on the same track as the second day, with two upsets by the numbers as well as two classics involving Pac-10 teams. Our new favorite player is West Virginia’s Joe Alexander, in part for these comments:

When Joe Alexander, the Mountaineers’ star forward, was informed that Duke had eight McDonald’s All-Americans, his response was “Who?” When reserve Cam Thoroughman was informed that Duke point guard Greg Paulus was one of them, he said, “Oh my God. Are you kidding?”

  • West Virginia 73, Duke 67. It irritates us to no end how this early game slot is reserved for Duke or Carolina seemingly every single year, but this year we didn’t mind all that much. WVU exposed the Devils as the undersized three-point dependent fraud they are with a 45-19 emasculation on the boards and harassing them into 5-22 from three. Man, you know it’s getting bad for Duke when they’re losing to Mr. Second Round himself, Bob Huggins, at that juncture. One NCAA win in the last two seasons for Duke now – does K need four more McD’s All-Americans to ensure a Sweet 16? And to think that Kyle Singler (6/4 on 1-3 shooting) tied for Oregon POY with Kevin Love last year (see above quotes regarding overrated Dookies).
  • Wisconsin 72, Kansas St. 55. In the same round in which Kevin Durant was eliminated last season, K-State’s two future lottery picks Michael Beasley and Bill Walker ended up scoring 41 of their 55 pts. Wisconsin’s mantra – shut everyone else down. Which they did, easily cruising to a comfortable win.
  • Xavier 85, Purdue 78. We hated to see one of these teams go home. They both play a really fun style and compete at both ends of the court.
  • Washington St. 61, Notre Dame 41. Wazzu held an offense averaging 85 ppg to merely a point per minute. That’s impressive. Can they do similar to the high-octane Tar Heels? UNC shouldn’t take this team for granted after what we saw in the first two rounds.
  • Stanford 82, Marquette 81. Tremendous back-and-forth game including Trent Johnson’s ejection from an overzealous ref, the confounding decision by his replacement to take out both twins mid-second half (coughing up a 7-pt lead in the process), and the punch/counterpunch overtime, where it seemed the team with the ball last would win. Stanford had the ball last, and it won. These Lopez twins are something to watch, and Texas is going to have serious problems with them.
  • Michigan St. 65, Pittsburgh 54. Another Big East Tourney champion flames out early. Is there a correlation? And once again, Izzo manages to turn an inconsistent regular season team into a F4 threat in March. Amazing.
  • UCLA 51, Texas A&M 49. An ugly, ugly game, which is exactly the kind of game that UCLA enjoys playing. We still can’t figure out if all of these close and seemingly miraculous wins for UCLA in the past few weeks are because they’re simply the better team or if they’re being dealt some fortuitous breaks. Even though A&M led for much of the game, we still never felt like they’d pull it out.

Sunday 3/23 – Round 2

The final day of the weekend presented us with two more classics and two other games that became close at the end.

  • Texas 75, Miami (FL) 72. Miami showed more spunk than more highly-regarded ACC brethren Duke and Clemson by roaring back from down 16 in the last four minutes to make Texas sweat for it.
  • Tennessee 76, Butler 71. We had Butler in this one, and were surprised that UT had the tacks to take the hit and actually pull this one out of the fire. As Seth Davis pointed out today, UT has to figure out their point guard situation this week or they’ll be gone by Friday. Louisville’s pressure will eat them up otherwise.
  • Davidson 74, Georgetown 70. Obviously, upset of the Tourney thus far, and we’re absolutely murdering ourselves for waffling on that pick until the eleventh hour and ultimately going with the Hoyas instead. Argh!! Nothing more to be said about Stephen Curry that hasn’t already been said, but we hope that he keeps it up in the next round. Wisconsin will make him work harder than he ever has to get good looks.
  • Memphis 77, Mississippi St. 74. MSU had no business making this game so close (a halfcourt three was in the air to tie it), but Memphis’s well-chronicled struggles at the FT line will ultimately be their undoing. If we’re Tom Izzo and the game is within 10 pts either way at the 5-minute mark, we start fouling their bigs (with the exception of CDR) on every possession. Seriously. That’s how bad they are.
  • Louisville 78, Oklahoma 48 and UNC 108, Arkansas 77. A couple of mercy killings between teams we expect to see in the regional finals.
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Back From Vegas…

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2008

We’re back from Sin City, with a few dozen new STDs and liver transfusions in tow. Just walking The Strip among all the depraved humanoids, skeezers and trash these days makes you long for a Purell shower. What a town. There was even one celebrity sighting (using a very liberal usage of the word). We swear we saw new Arkansas St. coach John Brady outside the Treasure Island chumming up to a woman not named Misty Champagne (his wife).

LV Strip

First off, we need to throw some major love to our proxy while away, N-Bug, for keeping the site afloat and otherwise making a bunch of obnoxious predictions. Hey man, we’re the only ones around here who is allowed to choose every wrong team (currently sitting dead last in the RTC pool).

Next, on to the games. We watched the majority of all 32 weekend games, and besides the typical visual and other sensory overload of a Vegas sportsbook, we’d guess that roughly half of them were actually worth it. Here are a few of the thoughts we jotted down for each day… (Round 2 updated in a separate posting)

Thursday 3/20 – Round 1

Overall, a largely boring day. Fears of all-chalk reign after favorites go 14-2 (one #11 over a #6, and a #9 over a #8 – barely an upset).

  • Xavier 73, Georgia 61. We thought Georgia would get rocked by Xavier in the first round (see: Syracuse 2006 after G-Mac’s run through the Big East Tourney), but boy, were we ever wrong. For thirty minutes, it appeared Georgia was going to keep the run alive. Ultimately, tired legs prevailed and XU won (as well as a backdoor cover, much to the delight of the Caesars Palace sportsbook).
  • Marquette 74, Kentucky 66. Kentucky’s Joe Crawford finally fulfilled the promise that he brought with him to Lexington four years ago, torching Marquette with 35 pts before succumbing to the overall superior team. 64 of UK’s 66 pts came from Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Perry Stevenson, two of which are seniors. Where are the points going to come from next year aside from currently-injured Patrick Patterson?
  • UNLV 71, Kent St. 58. Kent St. blew up for a whopping ten points by halftime of this one, and it was significantly in doubt whether the Flashes would reach double-digits. Tremendous upset pick in our bracket there.
  • Purdue 90, Baylor 79. Wow, Purdue looked fantastic in this game.
  • Kansas St. 80, USC 67. We were kicking ourselves for listening to the hype on this one and going with USC. K-State was playing two hours from home – why didn’t we listen? This was a clunker of a game. Aside from a brief early second-half run by USC, they never seemed very interested in winning this game. Beasley was the and1 master, and surprisingly Mr. Oh-fer Bill Walker (22/5 on 7-12 shooting) got the best of his former and more heralded Rose Hill/Indian Hills teammate OJ Mayo (20/5 on 6-16 shooting).
  • Duke 71, Belmont 70. Game of the Day and monumental near-miss on par with 89 Princeton-Georgetown and 96 Purdue-Western Carolina. There were a 999 people in Caesars rooting for Belmont that night, and only one person standing right behind us rooting for Duke. The sad part is that this young shemale Dookie actually acted smug and self-righteous after nearly losing to Belmont. What the hell was that lob play to no one anyway?
  • Washington St. 72, Winthrop 41. We’ve never seen a team play so completely on par with one team in the first half only to be thoroughly dismantled and crucified in the second half. A halftime score of 29-29 quickly became 72-41. Wow.
  • West Virginia 75, Arizona 65. No, Kevin O’Neill, just because you were 16-6 with Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless doesn’t make you a good team. Most of those 16 wins were in the pre-conference schedule.

Friday 3/21 – Round 1

Somehow we wormed ourselves into the high-rollers roped-off section at the Caesars book, even though our average bet was around $20. Must have been the million-dollar haircuts and the winning smiles. On a day when two of our preseason F4 (Gonzaga & Indiana) were eliminated, this was the day to have great seats, though, as there were six upsets by seed, and three absolutely classic games.

  • Davidson 82, Gonzaga 76. We can’t add more value than has already been written about Stephen Curry and Davidson, but a 30 pt second half (40 for the game) on 8-10 shooting from three to lead a second half comeback for the Wildcats was absolutely thrilling to watch. At least we nailed this one back in October. As for the Zags, we’re so over them. The nation’s favorite mid-major is largely el busto come March (two S16s and no further in the last seven seasons).
  • Miami 78, St. Mary’s 64. Didn’t see this one coming, but Miami’s Jack McClinton equaled SMC’s score 32-32 in the second half all by himself. Oh, and he was sick too.
  • W. Kentucky 101, Drake 99. Like everyone else, we really believed that Drake had pulled off the improbable comeback from down 9 with 3:32 to go. But what an unreal shot by Ty Rogers to win that game. Not only did he pull the trigger from about 28 feet, he only cleared the defender’s outstretched hand by mere inches. This was one of the best Tourney first round games in several years.
  • Butler 81, S. Alabama 61. NCAA Tourney Committee, please stop pitting mid-majors against mid-majors in the first round!!!
  • San Diego 70, Connecticut 69. Would you have believed that out of the troika of WCC teams Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and San Diego that USD would be the one to win its first round game? Against a power like UConn, no less? Of course, we didn’t pick it, but UConn was clearly a flawed team, and they haven’t been a serious threat the last two seasons. Great upset win for the Toreros on an absolutely brass-balls shot by De’Jon Jackson.
  • Siena 83, Vanderbilt 62. Vandy was garbage away from home all season, and it was no more apparent than ever in this game. Siena led from start to finish, and the Dores never seriously threatened them. Worst protected seed selection of the Tourney by far.
  • Arkansas 86, Indiana 72. What a wasted season for DJ White and Eric Gordon. We’ll never know how good this team could have been had phone-gate not delivered the termination of Kelvin Sampson, but it was clear from there forward this IU team was just going through the motions.
  • Villanova 75, Clemson 69. A most improbable 12-over-5 matchup, considering that Nova was probably the last team invited, and Clemson had been playing so well lately. Yet, in typical Clemson self-destruction fashion, the Tigers blew a ginormous first-half lead of 16 pts and gave Villanova the preferred entree into the second round against a waiting #13 seed.
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Where are they now? (Championship Edition)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2008

We found an interesting piece in ESPN.com’s Daily Dime last week. They decided to list players from recent championship teams that are still in the NBA. They happened to miss a few players who we added. We might have missed a player here and there. If we did, leave a comment with an update on their status since it’s hard to keep track of all these leagues around the world.

You may notice that the number of NBA superstars from championship teams has decreased in recent years with the exception of Carmelo Anthony. We feel it is pretty clear that this is becasue a lot of guys who are NBA stars decided to skip college or not stay around long enough to win a title. We’re pretty sure Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Dwight Howard (he would be a senior now!) would have affected the NCAA tournament a little.

The list:
2006-07 Florida: Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, & Chris Richard.
-All of the UF guys seem like they could end up being solid pros. Even Richard who is spending time in the NBDL could end up being a decent bench guy. Horford has exceeded expectations and is challenging the much more hyped Kevin Durant for Rookie of the Year honors. The real question is whether any of them other than Horford will become stars in the league. Noah and Brewer have a chance, but we aren’t sold on them yet. We think Noah will end up being a solid contributor if he can keep his mouth shut.

2005 North Carolina: Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Sean May, & Marvin Williams
- All of the Tar Heels have turned into respectable NBA players, which isn’t surprising to anybody who say this team play. May hasn’t played this year due to injuries, but was putting up respectable numbers when he was healthy. Felton and Williams are definitely the studs of this group although McCants does show flashes of brilliance up in Minnesota not that anybody sees the Timberwolves play.

2004 Connecticut: Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Boone, & Charlie Villanueva
- While this group has turned out 3 solid NBA players (Okafor, Gordon, and Villanueva), we get the suspicion that none of these guys will turn into the superstars they were expected to be. It seems hard to believe that a lot of people thought Orlando made a mistake drafting Dwight Howard ahead of Okafor in 2004. However, this is a solid group of pros that will probably end up being the equal of the last 2 championship teams (UNC and UF).

2003 Syracuse: Carmelo Anthony & Hakim Warrick
- While Melo has lived up to the hype and is a perennial All-Star, it appears that Warrick is going to stay in the 10 PPG and 5 RPG range, which is probably worth a $8 mill/yr contract or a max contract if Warrick can wait for an offer from Isiah. Having seen this team play at the East Regional in Albany that year, this is one of our favorite championship teams particularly because they were the last team that was a big surprise winning the tournament. We knew that Gerry McNamara’s game wouldn’t work at the NBA level, but we always liked him and often thought that he was closer to Jameer Nelson in college than a lot of analysts were willing to admit.

2002 Maryland: Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, & Chris Wilcox
- The players from this team, which won the ugliest Final 4 in recent memory, have done just about what we expected as pros. Dixon has been a solid player who is often underappreciated by his team and has floated around the league but contributed everywhere he has gone. Steve Blake has provided solid if unspectacular point guard play and won a starting job in Portland for a time over the uber-hyped Sebastian Telfair. Wilcox has been somewhat of a disappointment. He puts up solid numbers, but has never turned into the star that his athletic ability suggests he could be. Of course, he was the same way in college so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

2001 Duke: Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, & Mike Dunleavy
- It amazing that on this team with several college superstars (including Jason Williams), that Boozer turned out to be the stud of the group. While Casey Sanders’s lack of development forced him to play the center position more than he probably should have, he was a guy who was routinely abused by Brendan Haywood. Somehow, Boozer grew a pair of huevos; so much so that he stabbed a blind man in the back. Just imagine what Boozer could have become if he had stayed in Cleveland to play with Lebron James. Battier, Duhon, and Dunleavy are all solid NBA players even if they haven’t lived up to their draft status (Dunleavy) or hype (Duhon-”What a man!”). To be fair, Battier was selected after Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry, so maybe he wasn’t taken too early. The most disappointing thing about this group is that we never got to see what Jason Williams could have become. Although he struggled adjusting as a rookie with the Bulls, he showed flashes of brilliances including a triple-double against a still-in-his-prime Jason Kidd.

2000 Michigan State: Charlie Bell, Morris Peterson, & Jason Richardson
- Jason Richardson has put up solid numbers even if we have a hard time considering him a star. He’s a phenomenal athlete who has never really made the transition to the superstar (except in fantasy basketball) that many projected for him. Morris Peterson had a solid run as a consistent double-figure guy in Toronto before going to New Orleans this year. As for Bell, we never expected much out of him, but he has had a nice little career and actually averaged 13.5 PPG last year. That championship team’s heart and soul was Mateen Cleaves who had a couple of nice seasons where he was one of the top cheerleaders in the league particularly when he was on the Kings. However, he never stuck and according to Wikipedia he is now playing for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL.

1999 Connecticut: Richard Hamilton & Jake Voskuhl
- This team, which we ranked as the best team of the past 10 years, knocked off an unbelievably loaded Duke team that might have been in the top 10 of all-time had they won that night in St. Petersburg. While Hamilton has been an excellent NBA player and one of the few guys in the league who can hit a mid-range jumper, the rest of this team has been a disappointment. We had no idea that Voskuhl was still in the league and barely noticed him when we knew he was in the league. The team’s other star Khalid El-Amin played for a short time in the NBA before finding his way to the CBA and Ukranian Basketball League before end up with Türk Telekom B.K. of the Turkish basketball league. We weren’t able to find much information about Ricky Moore, the star of the title game. We’re assuming that he had a rather undistinguished career after that night in St. Pete.

1998 Kentucky: Nazr Mohammed & Jamaal Magloire
- The Wildcats, who weren’t expected to win the title this year, were fueled by a big comeback against a very young Duke team in the South Regional finals. Looking back at this team’s roster, we couldn’t see anybody else on this team making a big impact in the NBA. Magloire had a run from 2002-2006 where he averaged around 10/10 and made an All-Star team (more the result of the lack of centers than his exceptional play) while Mohammed has had a slightly less distinguished career. His most notable achievement was helping the San Antonio Spurs win the 2005 NBA Championship (with an assist from Isiah Thomas).

1997 Arizona: Mike Bibby & Jason Terry
- Both Bibby and Terry have had excellent careers as was expected for them coming out of college. The more intereresting story is that of the team’s star Miles Simon. Simon was never considered a top NBA prospect, but we at least expected that he would stick around the league because he could make plays. Instead he spent a year in Orlando then traveled across the globe, before ending up in the CBA where as his Wikipedia page states he became “the most decorated player in CBA history”. Not exactly what we expect out of the MOP.

1996 Kentucky: Antoine Walker, Derek Anderson & Nazr Mohammed
- This was likely the last of the all-time great teams. This team was incredibly deep with 6 guys who had significant NBA careers (including Tony Delk, Ron Mercer, and Walter McCarty). This team just crushed the teams they played utilizing Pitino’s press with their superior talent and athleticism. None of the players ever became a superstar, but all of their studs had solid NBA careers including a handful of All-Star appearances and awards. We’ll leave Rick Pitino’s stint in Boston for another post.

1995 UCLA: N/A
- This team didn’t really have as many superstars as other championship teams did, but they played very well together finishing an impressive 32-1. They had 2 first-round picks (Ed O’Bannon and George Zidek) who had short-lived NBA careers. The team’s other stars were Tyus Edney, Toby Bailey, and Charles O’Bannon, but none of them ever did anything notable in the NBA.

1994 Arkansas: N/A
- Nolan Richardson’s “40 Minutes of Hell” team used a late Scotty Thurman rainbow 3 to knock off Grant Hill’s Duke team, which basically consisted of Hill and a bunch of nobodies. Corliss “Big Nasty” Williamson had a nice career first in Sacramento then in Detroit even winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2002. Thurman ended up leaving school early, going undrafted, and playing in the CBA.

1993 UNC: N/A
- This team didn’t really have any guys we considered potential NBA All-Stars back in 1993. Of course, we were 10 at the time and were already learning to hate the Tar Heels. We’ll let you look at the starting lineup and make up your mind: Eric Montross, Brian Reese, George Lynch, Donald Williams, and Derrick Phelps. Not exactly a murderer’s row of talent there. To be fair, Montross, who hails from the same high school as Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. (Lawrence North in Indianapolis), was selected 9th overall by the Celtics and had a decent rookie season before falling off the map. George Lynch was also considered a solid prospect coming out as 12th overall to the Lakers. He only had a mediocre pro career never averaging over 8.6 PPG and his main NBA achievements on Wikipedia are wearing 3 numbers (#24, #30 and #9) while with the Lakers and being traded to the Grizzlies to clear up cap space (and buffet space) for some guy named Shaq. Phelps played briefly in the NBA. And when we say briefly we mean 3 games and 1 shot, which he missed. Donald Williams, who is best remembered for being the MOP and having a huge game against the Fab 5 in the title game, spent his professional career floating around every league on the planet except for the NBA. The more interesting thing is that the Tar Heels actually had more talent the next year when they added Jerry Stackhouse and a young Rasheed Wallace (who in a sign of things to come got tossed from the McDonald’s All-American game) to this nucleus. However, the 1994 team never really came together and lost to Bill Curley and the Boston College Eagles, which was famously captured on this SI cover.

1991-92 Duke: Grant Hill
- Along with the 1996 UK team, Christian Laettner’s Blue Devils were the last of the teams that we consider truly great. To consider how big/great this team was, you have to remember that before this team, Mike Krzyzewski’s boys were the lovable losers who couldn’t win the big one despite multiple Final 4 trips. After this team, Duke became Duke. This team was really built around their 3 superstars: Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill. Everyone knows their college accomplishments: Laettner (#12 on ESPN’s list; maybe the top college player since 1990); Hurley (NCAA all-time assist leader); and Hill (also led Duke to the title game with a YMCA team around him in 1994). Laettner actually had a decent pro career, which most people would realize if he hadn’t been so great in college or if he wasn’t the most hated college player of all-time (multiply Joakim Noah by 100 and you get Laettner). His career highlights include an All-Star appearance as well as being an original Dream Teamer (ok, I can’t type that with a straight face). Hurley was selected 7th overall by Sacramento, but had his career derailed early with a car accident (signs of things to come for another great Duke point guard). However, we don’t think he would have ever become a great NBA PG as evident by how Jason Kidd destroyed him in the 1993 NCAA tournament. Hill actually had the best NBA career of the bunch and was considered one of the top 5-10 players in the league before multiple foot/ankle injuries eventually turned him into a shell of the player that he once was. Antonio Lang was taken 29th overall by Phoenix, but never did much in the pros. Brian Davis played a season in the NBA before floating around the basketball planet and settling on running a Duke-based group that tried to buy the Memphis Grizzlies with Laettner (the deal fell through). Thomas Hill (best known for being the guy crying after Laettner’s 1992 East Regional shot) was drafted 39th overall by Indiana, but never played in the NBA as he played in the Australian National Basketball League for a few years.

That’s all I have on these guys/teams. If you have any more information or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment section.

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Hoya Killers

Posted by nvr1983 on March 23rd, 2008

Hoya Killer

On Friday, we made a post asking “Is Stephen Curry becoming a March legend?” Today, we feel like we can answer the question with a resounding “Yes”. Although today wasn’t his finest shooting performance as he went 8/21 from the field and 5/15 from 3, Curry led the Wildcats to the biggest upset of the tournament knocking off #2 seed Georgetown 74-70 in a game Curry sealed with some clutch free throw shooting in the final minute.

The entire Wildcat team showed their mettle coming back from 17 down in the second half to tie the game up before going on a 7-0 run with 4 minutes left to give them the breathing room they needed before bringing in the closer (Curry at the FT line) to seal it. Curry led the way with 30 pts (25 in the 2nd half), but he also had a lot of support from Jason Richards who chipped in 20.

On the other side of the ball, Georgetown is left to pick up the pieces. As on the preseason favorites to win it all, they never really came together. While several new stars emerged, the Hoyas (much like their star Roy Hibbert) never became the juggernaut everyone expected them to become. The Hoyas used hot shooting (ended up 63.4% from the field) to build a big lead, but were unable to hold onto the ball and consequently the lead. Turning the ball over 20 times compared to the Wildcats’ 4 turnovers and having Hibbert only play 16 minutes before fouling out was too much for the Hoyas to overcome. As a result, John Thompson III and the Hoyas legacy players (Jeremiah Rivers and Patrick Ewing Jr) will be heading back to Washington, DC while Bob McKillop and Stephen Curry will head to Detroit for the Sweet 16 to play the Wisconsin Badgers.

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Pics of the Night

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2008

If you’re expecting more Erin Andrews, you’re out of luck unless you want to check out the link (and we suggest you do). Tonight I will leave you with these pics that I found on a Texas A&M message board:

Forearm doesn't equal basketball

ucla-foul

It’s a good thing that UCLA got away with it instead of Duke. If that had been Kyle Singler instead of Josh Shipp hacking Donald Sloan, the masses would be calling for blood.

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Day In Review: March 22, 2008

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2008

The story of the day was UCLA surviving an upset bid by Texas A&M. We (like a lot of other analysts) thought that UCLA had a clear path to San Antonio. With the 2 (Duke) & 4 (UConn) seeds in the West going down in the past 24 hours, things looked pretty easy for the Bruins. Instead, Texas A&M opened up a 10 pt lead in the 2nd half. After falling behind 36-26, Ben Howland rode Kevin Love and Darren Collison back to a tie at 45 with 2:53 left. The final 2 minutes were filled with both teams hitting big baskets. The game appeared to be sealed with 9.5 seconds left when Darren Collison hit a shot that was eerily reminiscent of Tyus Edney’s shot against Missouri in 1995. However, the Aggies had one last shot, but their attempt was “blocked” and Russell Westbrook finished the scoring with an emphatic slam that appeared to be after the buzzer. They often say that championship teams usually end up winning tight games like this that they probably shouldn’t win. UCLA’s offense didn’t show up today with the exception of Collison and Love, but Howland’s defense came through (especially Love’s 7 blocks). If the Bruins end up winning a championship, they (along with their fans) will point to this game as that game.

Pittsburgh, another trendy pick to make it deep into the tournament (Knight picked them to win the championship), was unable to make it past a big performance by Drew Neitzel’s 21 and freshman Kalin Lucas’s 19 that led the Michigan State Spartans to a 65-54 victory that was closer than the final score makes it appear. In the end, Pittsburgh’s awful 3 pt shooting (2/18) cost them a shot at the victory. Perhaps their legs finally gave out after a run through the Big East tournament.

In the other big upset, everybody’s most hated team (unless they’re your favorite team) Duke fell to West Virginia, 73-67. Going into the tournament, everybody knew Duke’s weakness–they rely on their outside shooting. When the outside shot isn’t falling, they’re screwed. Today it wasn’t falling, and today they’re heading back to Durham. The Blue Devils went 5/22 from 3 pt range including 15 straight misses. Somehow Duke stayed in this game. And before people claim conspiracy theory, the difference in fouls was only 25-23 in favor of Duke. In the end, the Mountaineers used big games from Joe Alexander and Joe Mazzulla to send the Blue Devils home for the season.

In what might have been the best game of the day, Stanford beat Marquette, 82-81 on a Brook Lopez crazy leaning/falling down shot with 1.5 seconds left in OT. Seriously, Lopez has the strangest form of any shooter we have ever seen. We have no idea how he gets his shot off and we are even less sure that he will be able to put that up at the NBA level, but it goes in. Lopez (Stanford) and Jerel McNeal (Marquette) each put in 30 pts for their respective sides. The Cardinal made it to the Sweet 16 without the help of head coach Trent Johnson who was ejected in the first half. With the Cardinal advancing, it appears that Brook Lopez is the most difficult player in the tournament to match up against. We just don’t see anybody in college who can stop him.

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Predictions for today’s games

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2008

We’ll be updating this throughout the day so we can get the predictions out before the games start.

2:10 PM tip:
- West Virginia vs. Duke – If the Blue Devils want to get to the second week, they will have to play much better than they did in their opening round game versus Belmont. The key for Duke (as it has been for every game this year) is whether they will hit they 3. If they do, they can beat anybody because well 3 points > 2 points. For the Mountaineers to win, they will need to play solid D on the Blue Devils perimeter shooters and get a big game out of Joe Alexander. Duke also needs be cognizant of the West Virginia shooters as these are still guys recruited that John Beilein recruited.
We’re going with Duke by 5.

4:20/4:40 PM tip:
- Kansas State vs. Wisconsin – If the Wildcats are going to get past the Badgers, they will need Bill Walker to have another good game. Michael Beasley will get his 20 and 10, but he needs a little help if KSU wants to beat the Big 10 champs. The Badgers don’t have the big names that KSU has, but they have more depth. The key to the game for them is to play solid defense on Walker and try not to let Beasley have a 40/20 game. We figure that they will put Michael Flowers on Walker and pray that Beasley doesn’t go off (or just hope he gets in early foul trouble again).
We think the Wildcats run ends here. We just can’t see Walker having another big game especially with Flowers, an outstanding defender, guarding him.

- Purdue vs. Xavier – This game lacks the star power and national appeal of most of the other games today, but it should be interesting. Purdue brings in a very young, but talented team while Xavier brings in a deep team without a defined star. Even though Xavier is the favorite (both in Vegas and in seeding), but we think the crowd will be behind Xavier because of their mid-major status against the traditional Big 10 power.
Xavier’s mix of experience and depth will give them the edge as they pull away late by 10

6:40/6:45/6:50 PM tip:
- Notre Dame vs. Washington State – We really have no idea who will win this game. The Irish have an explosive offense led by Luke Harangody along with some good outside shooting while the Cougars have been up-and-down all year. Both teams had relatively easy first round games. The winner gets a date with UNC.
We’re going Washington State by 5.

- Marquette vs. Stanford – The Golden Eagles had a tough first-round game that was closer than the final score made it appear. They will have to play much better today if they want to get by Stanford who crushed Cornell in the first round in the all-nerd matchup. Marquette will have to dominate the perimeter to make up for the huge advantage Stanford has on the inside with Brook Lopez.
We don’t think Marquette will be able to make up for Stanford’s edge inside. The Cardinal by 10.

- Kansas vs. UNLV – The Jayhawks cruised in their first round while UNLV dominated Kent State despite the lack of respect Vegas was giving them. We just don’t see how UNLV can keep up with this Jayhawk team. Just too much talent and experience on Kansas’s side.
We think it will be close for a half then Kansas pulls away to win by 15.

We’ll be updating the final games later today so check back in a bit.

9:10/9:15 PM tip:
- Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh – This game is a matchup between two teams that are traditionally known for their physical play. Officiating will play a major factor in this game especially for Pittsburgh, which plays very physically. Pittsburgh has been playing better than Michigan State lately and the Spartans will need Drew Neitzel to play much better than he did in the first round while still getting a good game out of Raymar Morgan.
We think that Pittsburgh will win this game fairly comfortably given how well they have played lately.

- UCLA vs. Texas A&M – UCLA is definitely the dominant team in this region and has the easiest path to the Final 4 especially with UConn losing to San Diego. Texas A&M has some good low-post players but nobody with the skill of Kevin Love. UCLA also has the advantage on the perimeter.
UCLA should win this game by double digits

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Your Announcers for Tomorrow

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

Courtesy of Awful Announcing:

2:10 PM tip:
- West Virginia vs. Duke – Craig Bolerjack and Bob Wenzel

4:20/4:40 PM tip:
- Kansas State vs. Wisconsin – Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner
- Purdue vs. Xavier – Craig Bolerjack and Bob Wenzel

6:40/6:45/6:50 PM tip:
- Notre Dame vs. Washington State – Gus Johnson and Len Elmore
- Marquette vs. Stanford – Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas
- Kansas vs. UNLV – Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner

9:10/9:15 PM tip:
- Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh – Gus Johnson and Len Elmore
- UCLA vs. Texas A&M – Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas

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San Diego pulls off the biggest upset so far

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

In the second great finish of the day San Diego pulled off the big upset of UConn. De’Jon Jackson hit a fallaway jumper to give San Diego the lead with 1.2 secs left and the Toreros managed to hang on giving Jim Calhoun his first 1st round loss ever. Although some analysts warned us about UConn going down early, this still has to be a massive surprise to most people. We wonder if this will affect Calhoun’s memory of the St. Pete Times Forum where he won the national title in 1999.

Congrats to San Diego. Going into the tournament who would have thought they would be the only West Coast Conference team to make it to the weekend.

Once again, YouTube comes through with the video:

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