Sweet 16 Preview: West Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2008

– #1 UCLA vs. #12 Western Kentucky (9:40 PM): Already more than one analyst has declared that WKU is going to pull off the monumental upset in this game. And one UCLA blog is seriously tempting the Weauxfgods with its rather brazen mocking of the Hilltoppers’ chances in tonight’s game. (Retracted strikethrough: rtmsf thinks he is the Dennis Miller of the college basketball blog world). So we ask ourselves – is this possible? Could UCLA lose to a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16?

One thing we know for certain is that the Bruins will not score enough points to obliterate the Hilltoppers. The question is whether the Toppers will be able to score enough points to put enough pressure on the Bruins to make something interesting happen. The answer lies in WKU’s backcourt of Courtney Lee (20/5/2) and Tyrone Brazelton (14/3/4), who have collectively averaged 44 PPG in the NCAAs thus far. UCLA’s perimeter defense is notoriously good at shutting players down, but will have their hands full with this pair.

On the other side of the ball, the Bruins have talented guys at every position. While uber-frosh Kevin Love has taken most of the headlines, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Russell Westbrook have provided solid perimeter play to compliment the Pac-10 POY along with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the inside. The Bruins cruised in their first round game, but ran into a stiff challenge in the 2nd round against Texas A&M. In the end, they survived with some timely shooting from Love and a little help from the stripes. One of the concerns for the Bruins is that while their Ben Howland-designed defense has been as good as advertised, they have struggled offensively in the tournament outside of Love and Collison, who combined for 40 of the team’s 51 points versus the Aggies. UCLA is talented enough and this region is weak enough that they probably can get to San Antonio without bringing their “A” game, but eventually they will need more from Shipp and Mbah a Moute, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle.

Opening Line: UCLA -13
Prediction: I think that UCLA will eventually get pissed off at all the press they have gotten for getting away with calls (looking around . . .). This is a really big spread for a Sweet 16 game, but I guess it is a 1 vs. 12 so maybe it isn’t that big of a spread. Maybe Vegas Watch knows what a typical 1-12 spread is although I don’t think it happens that often. Anyways, the Bruins should be too much for the Hilltoppers and advance by double digits pulling away at the end after a hard-fought game. Even if their offense isn’t clicking, their intensity and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball will rattle Western Kentucky.

– #3 Xavier vs. #7 West Virginia (7:10 PM): The Musketeers may be the least heralded #3 seed of all-time and could be considered a mid-major of Cinderella of sorts, but after West Virginia knocked out Duke I’m pretty sure the Mountaineers have enough national goodwill that the crowd won’t be rooting that hard against them.

As I noted in an earlier preview, Xavier throws out a deep lineup with 5 players now averaging between 10.1 and 12.1 PPG to go along with a solid defense. For those that still doubt they are a legit team, I would suggest that you look at their wins over teams from power conferences in the first 2 rounds. Yes, Georgia’s record was mediocre at best, but they were hot coming off their SEC tournament run while Purdue had been a solid team the entire season in the Big 10, which admittedly isn’t having a great year.

West Virginia will counter with Joe Alexander, a rtmsf favorite, and a set of players who have adjusted well to the contrast in styles between current coach Bob Huggins and former coach John Beilein. As anyone who watched this team come from behind to beat #2 seed Duke in the 2nd round knows, Huggins has a nice stable of guys who can really play as they controlled the 2nd half of that game.

Opening Line: Pick ’em
Prediction: I’m going with the A-10 champs. These two teams are pretty evenly matched. Xavier doesn’t have a “star player” like Alexander, but they probably have a little more depth and experience and I’m going with that for the win.

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Sweet 16 Preview: East Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2008

With the next games coming on Thursday (we don’t count the NIT or CBI), we figured you might want a preview. Since we have more than the usual 4 hours between games and sleep that we usually have before games the first week, we can offer you a little better preview. That doesn’t mean we will do any better with our admittedly awful predictions, but they will be more in-depth. I’ll cover the East Region first with the West Region to come later today and the Midwest/South tomorrow so check back later for our thoughts on the games.

#1 UNC vs. #4 Washington State (7:27 PM): This game should be a battle of contrasting styles. During the first two rounds, no team has been as impressive offensively as the Tar Heels have been (scoring 113 and 108 points). On the other side of the ball, no team has been as impressive defensively as the Cougars have been (allowing 40 and 41 points).

Normally, we would argue that the team who wants to slow the game down could control the pace and consequently the game. However, the Tar Heels have looked unbelievable in the first two rounds. They appear fresh and may be coming together at the right time. Tyler Hansbrough is pretty much a guaranteed 20/10 at this point and Ty Lawson appears to be getting close to 100% (0 turnovers the first weekend). If the Tar Heels have a (relative) weakness, it is that they don’t have a lot of great shooters. Wayne Ellington can certainly fill it up from the outside, but if he is off they do not another reliable shooter. Given the Tar Heels other strengths (including the ability to play defense as shown at the end of the game at Cameron), they can usually make up for it, but they are vulnerable if another team is hitting from the outside.

We would really like this Washington State team to advance to the Final 4 if they were in any other region. If they are to advance to the Elite 8, they will need solid defense and hope that Aron Baynes and the other inside players can find a way to slow Hansbrough and company down. On top of that, they will also need to be hitting their outside shot because UNC will dominate them on the inside even if they do a good job. Fortunately for the Cougars, they have 3 excellent perimeter players who all shoot over 38% from 3. Tony Bennett will need big games out of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver, and Taylor Rochestie to pull off the upset.

Opening Line: UNC -7.5 (O/U 142.5)
Prediction: Tar Heels by 10+. The Cougars have played well so far, but the Tar Heels are on a completely different level than Winthrop or Notre Dame. I think Washington State will keep it close for most of the first half, but the Tar Heels will start to pull away just before half and cruise in the rest of the way. A lot of the “experts” have been telling everyone who will listen that they think the Cougars can beat UNC, but I just don’t see it happening. Of course, you can look at my predictions from last week and draw your own conclusions. . .

#2 Tennessee vs. #3 Louisville (9:57 PM): In my opinion this is the most interesting of the Sweet 16 games. Tennessee has been one of the top teams in the nation all season and in my opinion is/was the top #2 seed in the tournament. Louisville was one of the hottest teams in the country late in the season. Both teams would be legitimate Final 4 threats in any region and against any team. Obviously, potentially having to beat the Tar Heels in Charlotte will be a very tall task. Before they do that, they need to get by each other (and UNC has to win to, but we’re assuming that as almost a given with how good UNC looked last weekend).

While the mainstream media has had fun hyping this up as Rick Pitino in his Colonel Sanders suit versus Bruce Pearl in his orange blazer, the more important point is that they both have really good teams. The Cardinals have done an excellent job rebounding from a shaky early season start when they were slowed by injuries. While David Padgett is their “star” player, it is more of a committee of stars as 4 players average between 10.5 and 11.4 PPG and that isn’t counting the more well-known players like Edgar Sosa, Derrick Caracter, and Juan Palacios. However, the Cardinals calling card may be their defense that holds opposing teams to a meager 38.2% FG (6th in the nation).

The Cardinals will need that strong defense against the Volunteers, who are one of the most athletic teams in the nation averaging 82.5 PPG. While Tennessee doesn’t have a traditional low-post presence, they have plenty of guys who can get to the rim and finish. The Vols are led by preseason All-American Chris Lofton, who to be perfectly honest never really displayed the national POY level of play that he was predicted to provide before the season began as his numbers are down across the board most notably scoring from 20.8 PPG on 1.51 PPS (points per shot) down to 15.5 PPG on 1.32 PPS, a career low. However, he has picked up a lot of additional support from transfer Tyler Smith who averages 13.7 PPG and 6.8 RPG, who is as close to a low-post presence that Bruce Pearl has. With how good Pitino’s 2-3 zone has been, Pearl will need Lofton and JaJuan Smith to hit their outside shots. If they start hitting from 3, I wonder how long Pitino will wait before going man-to-man. One area of major concern for the Vols is their point guard play, which has been spotty at best lately.

Opening Line: Louisville -2.
It looks like Vegas isn’t giving the higher-seeded Volunteers any love. Neither will I. The Vols had a tough 2nd round game against Butler (a team that was much better than its #7 seed), but I just can’t shake the feeling that the Vols just haven’t raised their game to a March level quite like the other teams have. Of course, Bruce Pearl’s boys could come out and drop 100 on Pitino, but I just don’t see it happening. I’m going with Louisville in a close game (less than 5 pt victory).

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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


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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