Late Introduction & Weekend Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2008

By way of a late introduction, we wanted to thank our buddy N-Bug for his detailed postings this past weekend on the various conference tourneys and bracket analysis.  We’ve been insanely busy with our real job(s), and haven’t been able to do much more than catch the occasional game and periodically watch Bob Knight get molested by Digger.  Somebody should call an Amber Alert on Digger and just get it over with – that dude is creepy.  As for Knight, we figure that one of these times where Digger is busily groping his arms and shoulders, he’s going to snap and dispose of Mr. Phelps in the nearest wastebasket.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the weekend games and brackets.

  • That tornado situation at the SEC Tourney in the ATL was crazy.  We were watching it live and the rumbling locomotive sound for anyone who grew up in flyover land (we did) was unmistakeable.
  • By the same token, penalizing Georgia/Kentucky by making it play two games in a single day, and further limiting the fan access to school administrators and families at the Alexander Coliseum was a total bush league maneuver by the SEC.  Does anyone think this would have been the same response (no fans) had the SEC football championship game been interrupted by a natural disaster?  No freakin way.
  • Props to Georgia and Dennis Felton though for sticking it right back up the SEC’s ass by winning three games in about 27 hours.
  • Seth Greenberg’s diatribe about whether the Hokies were one of the best 65 teams in America has been debated endlessly already.  Clearly, they’re one of the best 65, but that’s not the important measure.  They needed to be one of the best 34 at-large teams, and it’s arguable whether they were.  Then his follow-up response yesterday was pure idiocy, which N-Bug eloquently captured.  It’s about the “experience,” Seth?  If it’s really about the “experience,” then most of your players already got to have the “experience” last season; whereas South Alabama’s and St. Mary’s players will get that “experience” this time around.  What a joke.
  • Also can’t believe he brought up the garbage bowls at all, as if any but a handful of bowls are on par with the NCAA Tournement.
  • What is it about Pitt in the Big East Tourney?  They completely outmuscled and outhustled the Hoyas all over the court on Saturday night.
  • UNC, UCLA, Kansas, Wisconsin.  Pretty much all chalk in those tourneys.  Most likely second-round loser?  Wisky.
  • Who else thought Bob Knight was ready to rip into Vitale for the mere mention of him returning to Indiana?  We’re not sure whether Knight is on some gag order as a result of his settlement with the school, but his eyes told the tale.  He was livid, and he quite obviously sees Vitale and Digger as little more than failed coaches turned circus clowns.  He seems to respect Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas, though.  Maybe it’s a players/coaches thing.
  • Easiest bracket is the West, with UCLA only facing a serious threat from UConn, depending a) on whether the Huskies can avoid losing in the first two rounds; and b) which UConn shows up (which largely determines the first point).
  • Toughest bracket is the East, with UNC potentially facing an Indiana team with enough talent to knock them off in the second round (think: UNC 2000?), an explosive ND squad, and either Louisville or Tennessee potentially in the regional finals.  Any of those three teams are F4-worthy.

Final thing for now – thanks again to N-Bug for helping out and also setting up the Yahoo Bracket for RTC.  Be sure to sign up by Thurs. morning.

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Mulligan (Part 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2008

Short recaps now since I’m running short on time before the selection show starts.

SEC
– This deserves a lot more attention because UGA should be the team of the day even if they got a huge no-call against Kentucky in their early game and Dennis Felton was whining before the night game about having to play 2 games in a day. UGA managed to beat UK and MSU in the same day, which is a pretty impressive feat. Arkansas beat Tennessee 92-91, which will cost the Vols a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
– Prediction: Arkansas. We think the fatigue will catch up with UGA the day after.

Pac 10
– UCLA overcame the absent Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (sprained ankle) and an injury to Kevin Love (back spasms) to beat Stanford 67-64. This time they used 28 points from Darren Collison instead of shady officiating to beat the Cardinal. The win wraps up the #1 seed in the West for the Bruins who should be good until the Sweet 16 even without Mbah a Moute.

Big 10
– Wisconsin used a big steal late and Michigan State’s inability/refusal to get the ball to Drew Neitzel late to beat Sparty, 65-63. In the other semi, Illinois beat Minnesota 54-50. Unfortunately, we don’t have much to add here because we took the same attitude Bobby Knight had when asked to predict the game on ESPN (“Who cares?”).
– I guess it goes without saying that we like Wisconsin this afternoon.

Big 12
– We could just use the recap of the previous 2 Big 12 tournaments for this. Texas and Kansas advance to the finals for the 3rd year in a row. The winner will most likely get the #1 seed in the Midwest.
– We’re going with Kansas here to get the #1 seed in the Midwest.

We’d also like to congratulate Coppin State for earning a spot in the play-in game as the first 20 loss team in tournament history.

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Can I take a mulligan?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2008

So my predictions yesterday didn’t turn out so well and I might have left out a few things. . .

Ok, if you used my picks in Vegas you are probably reading this blog at a public library because you lost your home yesterday. And yeah, I completely forgot about that small conference called the Big East. I’ll chalk it up to trying to cover one of the busiest days in the sport on my first day.

Big East
– Pittsburgh 74, #9 Georgetown 65: Pitt is rounding into a very dangerous team as they recover from early-season injuries. They basically won this game on the boards as they held a 41-29 advantage on the glass to overcome an atrocious 22-for-44 performance from the line.
– The bigger picture (other than Pitt winning the Big East tourney for only the 2nd time despite 8 finals appearances) is that Georgetown probably didn’t change its seed for the NCAA tournament with this performance. They will likely end up a 2 or 3 seed, which we don’t think will matter in the end. We like Georgetown’s inside/outside combination, but we wouldn’t count on Roy Hibbert to deliver consistently in the tournament. Despite his height, reasonable inside game, and good feel for the game that you see with his passing, we just feel something is missing with Hibbert (read: a desire to dominate). Pittsburgh will be a very interesting team to watch on the selection show. Lunardi has them as a 3 seed based on their post-season performance, but that seems really high for a team that wasn’t even ranked going into their conference tourney. In any case, they will be a dangerous team that nobody wants in their region.

ACC
– Well these games ended up a lot more competitive than we expected. The first semi was a back-and-forth affair that featured big plays from multiple players on both team (we hope you were watching, OJ) that wasn’t decided until ACC and potential national POY Tyler Hansbrough grabbed a rebound and hit a jumper along the baseline with 0.8 secs left to beat Virginia Tech, 68-66. He then proceeded to show us the most awkward celebration we have ever seen. He clearly needs to watch Laettner’s celebration again to see how it is done. In the second semi, Clemson pulled off the upset over Duke, 78-74 (tip of the hat to Vegas Watch). Clemson is a very athletic team that can play with anybody on a given night, but is often killed by its free throw shooting. Amazingly, they went 7/8 from the FT line down the stretch to put the Blue Devils away.
– UNC locked up the #1 seed in the East Regional with their win (and Tennessee’s choke job), which gives them an in-state path to the Final 4. Duke’s loss takes away any shot it had at a #1 seed, and they will likely end up with a #2 seed. Clemson was already getting in the tournament so at this point they are just climbing up the seeding charts. Viriginia Tech will be playing for the right to call itself the 66th best team in the country.
– In today’s final, we’re going with UNC (down by 1 at half). We don’t think Clemson can hit FTs two days in a row.

Back with more from the other conferences later.

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Night in Review: March 14, 2008 (Part 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2008

Back for the second part of the review after a short 2+ hour nap.

Pac 10
– We’ll get the late game over with first since it was past our East Coast bedtime (had to get up to watch a bunch of 9 year-olds “run” a 5k at 8 am). #11 Stanford beat #22 Washington State 75-68 behind Brook Lopez’s 30/12/3 for the third time this year. Basically the Cougars don’t have anybody who can match Lopez inside and not even a 12/20 showing from 3 could save them. Not much to say here except it sets up a rematch of the most controversial game we have seen this year.
– In the most exciting game we saw all day, UCLA hung on to beat USC 57-54 when OJ Mayo’s last second hesitation 3 was a little long. This was a pretty exciting game to watch and UCLA didn’t even need the refs giving them a 6th man to win this game. It was a back-and-forth affair all night. In the early going, USC controlled the game behind their freshmen (Mayo and Jefferson) who are almost as old as Dwight Howard is. Ben Howland’s vaunted defense looked terrible early as UCLA decided they didn’t want to defend off the screen. Down 6 at half, UCLA woke up and Kevin Love scored 11 of his team-high 19 during a Bruin 15-2 run coming out of half. UCLA built up a pretty good lead going into the closing minutes, but OJ Mayo took over and started to show flashes of what made him the most-hyped recruit in his class for most of high school as he beat up on UCLA and Pac 10 Defensive POY Russell Westbrook hitting a 3 and a tough left-handed layup. Then on the last 2 possessions, he showed us why he dropped off his perch as the next Lebron (not sure how anybody ever saw that) and fell to probably the #3 guard in his class behind Rose and Gordon. On the first possession, he dribbled into traffic and was stripped from behind by Westbrook. Then on the final possession, he had a good look at a 3 from the top of the key to tie it, but added an unnecessary hesitation which may or may not have thrown off his timing to cause a miss. Daniel Hackett grabbed the offensive rebound, but did not have enough time to get off another 3 as Mayo did not leave his team with enough time for another shot. Perhaps the bigger news for UCLA was the loss of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who sustained a sprained ankle. I haven’t heard anything definitive about how long he’ll be out but I wouldn’t expect to see him for a while as he had a similar injury recently.
– Prediction for tonight: Stanford gets revenge for getting screwed on the call at the end last week at Pauley. The match-up down low should be one to watch as the Lopez twins battle Love who will be without Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (see above).

Big 10
– This seems like it was a pretty interesting set of games unfortunately I somehow missed all of them, but I’m making up for it today by watching MSU-Wisconsin as I am typing this. First, the routine stuff with Wisconsin crushing Michigan 51-34. We’re reserving judgement on the Beilein experiment for another year or two given how unique his offense is and the players it requires. Also Michigan hasn’t been Michigan the past few year, but this year wasn’t that encouraging. Now onto the important games. We’ll start with MSU beating OSU 67-60. It seems like MSU controlled this game as OSU only had the lead once at 32-30, but MSU could never really pull away with their biggest lead being 9 points. OSU will probably make the tournament (one of Lunardi’s last 4 in) unless some “locks” in small one-bid conferences lose and cost the majors a few middle-of-the-pack teams. The two other games were arguably the most exciting of the night not involving falling roofs (we can joke since nobody was hurt, right?). In one game, Illinois continued its push for an improbable auto bid with a 74-67 OT win over #17 Purdue. The Illini were led by Demitri McCamey’s 26 points and now stand 2 more win away from returning Bruce Weber to the NCAA tournament. This road was made slightly easier by the shot of the night by Blake Hoffarber pulling a Christian Laettner with a turnaround off a full-court pass at the buzzer to beat the up-and-down Hooisers 59-58. DJ White did his part for the Hooisers with 23 points, 13 boards, and 4 blocks, but super-frosh Eric Gordon was off as he finished with 16 on 4/13 FG and 5 turnovers. All-in-all, a very satisfying day for Illini fans who made the trip to Indianapolis. With the loss, Indiana might be positioning itself as the scariest #7 seed in a long time (probably a #6 now, but depending on how the other games work out they make drop a seed given their Jekyll/Hyde act the past few weeks). On a sidenote that I’m sure all of you have heard a hundred times already today, Blake Hoffarber is no stranger to miraculous last second shots as his most famous one makes the turnaround last night rather routine.

First, the ESPN highlights from last night:

Which gives me a reason to post the Laettner shot (and to piss off rtmsf):

And it was shown as a flashback in the first clip, but it won and ESPY and won a state title so here is Blake Hoffarber’s most famous shot:

– Since there is still 3 minutes left in the 60-57 MSU-Wisconsin game, I guess I can still make my predictions for the Big 10: MSU and Minnesota.

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Night in Review: March 14, 2008 (Part 1)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2008

I am not sure what to call this column because I don’t want to steal rtmsf’s “After the Buzzer” title and it’s too damn early to think straight. If you have any clever ideas for a title, leave a comment and I’ll consider it. I’m breaking this into multiple parts because it would take me roughly the entire day if I tried to do this for every conference tourney. I’ll try to recap the major conferences with more emphasis on the games I actually saw. Since there is just too much stuff going on for one man to cover (thanks rtmsf), some people will get the short end of the stick (apologies in advance to the Big West Conference fans). If you want to add your 2 cents on these games or the ones I skip over, feel free to leave comments on them.

Onto the games/tornadoes. . .

SEC
– Obviously, the big story of the night as the Worldwide Leader told me this morning was the tornadoes/storms that delayed the SEC Tournament (and probably destroyed a few homes and various other buildings). I didn’t get to see much of the game because of other commitments (read: much better games were on), but the finish of Mississippi State-Alabama game was ridiculous. I caught the end of regulation as Alabama’s Mykal Riley hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer that hit every part of the rim and bounced off the backboard before falling through. With the game going into OT, the really weird stuff as the roof tore and the building began to shake. After a hour-plus delay, play resumed and MSU won 69-67 as Riley couldn’t work his magic again at the buzzer at the end of OT. We would say more, but we were already on FSN watching the battle of LA. If anybody who was in the Georgia Dome when this all went down, we would be interested in hearing about it. In other SEC news, Tennessee survived a scare and maintained its bid for a #1 seed as Chris Lofton hit a 3 with 11.4 secs left to give UT an 89-87 victory over South Carolina in Dave Odom’s final game as coach of the Gamecocks.  In the other game of the day, Arkansas beat Vandy 81-75. I didn’t see any of this game (not even the highlights), but I will just point to the HUGE edge for the Razorbacks on the boards (43-20 or 45-24 depending on whether you believe the box score or AP article).
– Play resumes today as the delayed UGA/UK game will be played at noon ET at Georgia Tech. After that, UT and Arkansas will play in thee first at 6 PM. MSU and the winner of UGA/UK will tip at approximately 8:30 PM. This obviously puts the winner of UGA/UK at a huge disadvantage as they will have to pull an Ernie Banks, but in the end I don’t think it will matter. UK is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the tournament and UGA won’t be making the tournament now that players can’t take a Harrick Jr. basketball class. The picks here are UK, UT, and MSU. Yeah, I’m going chalk and I briefly considered taking the Razorbacks, but I’ll go with UT waking up and taking care of business.

ACC
– Normally, I would give more coverage to the most hyped conference in the sport, but this year the conference is UNC/Duke and a bunch of nobodies. So here’s a quick recap of the games: UNC wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but beat FSU, 82-70 (Psycho T chipped in 22 and 6); Duke survived a weak stretch with the lead falling to 52-50, which they are prone to have given the way they play, but won 82-70 (not a typo); Virginia Tech and Clemson both won handily. I don’t even have to look at the match-ups to tell you my predictions: Duke and UNC.

“Other”
– Big 12: I’ll give them more billing on my recap tomorrow, but there was not much that was noteworthy yesterday. Recap: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas A&M won. Beasley’s 25 and 9 wasn’t enough to lift KSU over TAMU, but KSU still should be in the NCAA Tournament comfortably given the way other bubble teams have performed. Another conference with 2 really strong teams followed by mediocre teams so the picks are Texas and Kansas
– CUSA: Memphis won to reach the finals where they will play Tulsa. Obviously, Memphis is the pick here.
– Atlantic 10: This was actually pretty big news for bubble teams as #10 Xavier lost to St. Joe’s in the semis. St. Joe’s will play Temple for an auto bid. This is particularly important because it means that St. Joe’s can give the conference its 3rd team in the tourney if they can beat Temple. Xavier is guaranteed with Temple and St. Joe’s a good shot regardless of whether or not they win the tournament. I’m going with Temple to win tonight.

I’ll be back later with a recap of the Big Ten and Pac Ten.

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: SEC

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2008

Next Up:  SEC Tournament.  The SEC has been an interesting league this year.  Tennessee is clearly the class of the conference, but after that, it’s been a nightly tossup as to who the next best teams are.  Whether this belies a competitive balance including several good-not-great teams such as Vandy and MSU, or mimics the staid mediocrity of the middle of the ACC, we’re not sure yet.  Althought we’re tending toward believing the latter.            

Where:  Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
When:
  Thursday-Sunday

2008 SEC Tourney Bracket

The Favorite(s).  Tennessee, with a significant asterisk.   The Vols and Bruce Pearl don’t tend to fare so well in this event.  In 2006, Pearl’s first season at UT, the Vols won the SEC East then proceeded to drop their opening quarterfinal game to South Carolina.  Last year, they were conference co-champs in the regular season, and once again lost to a terrible team (LSU) in the quarterfinals.  There’s more on the line for the Vols this year – most notably, a shot at a #1 seed in the NCAAs next week.  The Vols have looked a little shaky down the stretch, but we have to believe that this year’s team will avoid the upset bug and at least play on Sunday.   

The Darkhorse.  Florida.  Surprised?  Yes, we know that the Gators have proven they can only beat bottom-dwellers Georgia (twice) and South Carolina in the last ten games.   Yet, they played Tennessee and Kentucky into the final minute in their last two games.  The talent is there, and we know the coaching is second to none, especially this time of year.  Plus, if the Gators expect to return to the big stage, they really need a couple of wins this weekend.  The biggest roadblock we see to Florida reaching the finals is Mississippi St., an experienced and defensive-minded team that gave Florida fits in Gainesville. 

Bubble Buster Game.  Probably that Florida-MSU game in round two, if UF can win its first game.  If the Gators can make the semifinals, they’d be sitting at 23-10 (10-8).  Does the committee leave out a two-time defending champion with 23 wins?  Doubtful. 

Cinderella.  How about LSU?  The Tigers finished strong down the stretch, going 5-4 with an upset win at Florida and close losses vs. Tennessee and Kentucky after making the right decision and firing Coach John Brady on February 8.  Rest assured this is not a team that anyone wants to see in their bracket (read: Tennessee).   

Games We Want to See.   Tennessee and Vandy simply do not like each other, so that would be a fun semifinal on Saturday afternoon.  A Vandy-Kentucky final game would also be interesting given the last time they played (UK down 30+ at halftime).   

Champion.  Mississippi St.   Funny we hardly mentioned the Bulldogs yet, but MSU is playing great ball right now.  We expect Tennessee to lose early, and MSU’s best-in-class defense should lead the Bulldogs to wins over Florida and Kentucky, where Arkansas will likely be waiting.  We like the Dogs to take the title and earn a #4 seed in the NCAAs because of it. 

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: ACC

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2008

Next Up:  ACC Tournament.  Does anyone else have the feeling that this league was consistently better when it was only nine teams?  At any rate, the ACC Tourney kicks off tomorrow for the 55th time, and while it used to deserve top billing on Fri/Sat of conference tourney weekend, we’re not sure that it places in the top four at this point.  The projected Big East, Pac-10, Big 12 and SEC semis all look more compelling to us.   

Where:  Charlotte Bobcats Arena, Charlotte, NC
When:
  Thursday-Sunday

2008 ACC Tourney Bracket

The Favorite(s).  Um, Carolina?  Look, there are two really good teams in this conference (although Duke is flawed when it comes to the NCAAs), two johnny-come-latelys who will probably lose their first ACC and NCAA games (Miami and Virginia Tech), and a morass of mediocrity and inconsistency remaining.  UNC and Duke are too well coached and talented in March to lose to any of these teams – each can probably sleepwalk to the finals on Sunday, setting up the monumental spoogefest on ESPN all over again. 

The Darkhorse.  Maryland has enough talent to make a run in this tournament, if  only they could get over their tendency for brainlock, their complete lack of understanding of the game, and Gary Williams.  Maybe those are all the same things.  Still, to believe they could beat Duke and Carolina on consecutive days (days 3 and 4 of the tourney, mind you) is laughable.     

Bubble Buster Game.  If it comes to pass, Virginia Tech vs. Miami.  The Hurricanes have the better computer profile, but Virginia Tech was 9-7 in the conference.  In our opinion, both teams are complete garbage and shouldn’t even be considered for the NCAAs, but if the committee is looking at taking a fifth team from the ACC, Virginia Tech has the most to gain with a win here. 

Cinderella.  Both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have enough raw talent to win their first game and pull off a monumental upset in round two, but neither team has the consistency or discipline to turn that into a serious run at the title.  Expect Duke-Carolina in the finals again.   

Games We Want to See.   As we said above, there isn’t much worth watching here this season.  If Maryland can get to the Duke game, that would be interesting because that means the Terps are playing well enough to challenge the Devils.  And of course, the presumptive Duke-Carolina final will be intriguing, even if we have to wash ourselves of the Dickie V. effluvia afterwards.   

Champion.  Carolina.  They sometimes lose focus, but this is clearly the class of the conference, especially now that Tywon Lawson is back from injury.  The only team we see as having a serious shot at beating them is Duke, and that’s only if the threes are falling and Gerald Henderson’s elbow is freshly sharpened.  Otherwise, the Heels are the choice. 

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2008

Next Up:  Pac-10 Tournament.  The best conference in America this year should provide us with more entertainment this weekend, as there are arguably nine teams who have enough talent to make a run and win this thing.  One question – why is it in the Staples Center every year?  Memo to the Pac-10 commisioners: there are other NBA arenas in Phoenix, Oakland, Portland and Seattle that would also make great venues for this event. 

Where:  Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
When:
  Wednesday-Saturday

Pac-10 Tourney Bracket

The Favorite(s).  Vegas Watch doesn’t have the Pac-10 odds up yet, but UCLA is sitting on a 94% chance at a #1 seed in the NCAAs, and they’re playing about ten miles from campus, so we’re going to go ahead and anoint them the easy favorite here.  There is some evidence that Ben Howland teams don’t take this tournament seriously, though, with three first-game losses in his four years at UCLA (although the Bruins did win the Pac-10 Tourney in 2006). 

The Darkhorse.  Take your pick.  The #9 seed, Cal, just played within a blown call and a circus shot of beating UCLA at Pauley last week.  The #7 seed, Arizona, took Kansas to overtime at Lawrence.  The #4 seed, USC, starts two potential lottery picks.  We could go on, but you get the point.  The Pac-10 is loaded, and anybody but the hapless Oregon St. Beavers could make a run at this title. 

Bubble Buster Game.  Arizona v. Stanford in round two.  Arizona has a tremendous computer profile with the #2 strength of schedule in the nation and a #29 RPI according to KenPom, but that 17-13 (8-10) record leaves a lot to be desired.  They’ll beat OSU tonight, but they really need to beat Stanford tomorrow to get to .500 in conference and add one more quality win to their resume.   If the Cardinal mails it in like they did last weekend at USC, Arizona should have a very good chance to win that game.  Oregon (#54 RPI) could also stand to beat Wazzu, but they’re terrible away from home this year, so we don’t expect that to happen.

Cinderella.  USC.  The Trojans have been playing a lot better lately, and if UCLA dumps the first game again, they should have a relatively easy path to the finals on Saturday.  Even if UCLA doesn’t dump that game, they’ve already defeated the Bruins once and played them very tough in another game.  Also, playing in familiar environs doesn’t hurt. 

Games We Want to See.   Basically, all of them.  No other league has as much individual talent or intriguing contrasts in style of play as the Pac-10, so this should be a great tournament.  If it comes down to it, though, we’re hoping for a third matchup between the two LA schools, followed by Stanford getting another shot against the Bruins on Saturday. 

Champion.  We’re not sure Stanford will ever recover from their collapse and screwing in Westwood last week, nor do we have enough faith that the Bruins will put their best foot forward in this event.  Wazzu and ASU are good choices to fill the void, but we really like the way USC has been playing in recent weeks, and we think maybe they’ll put it all together this weekend to make a nice run (only to get overconfident and drop their first round game next week, of course).  So our champion is USC.    

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2008

Next Up:  Big 12 Tournament.  So… last year, with Kevin Durant, Texas finished third in the Big 12, while this year the Longhorns finished first.  Dunno about you guys, but we’re hoping for a rematch of last year’s final game, which Kansas won in overtime 88-84. 

Where:  Sprint Center, Kansas City, KS
When:
  Thursday – Sunday

2008 Big 12 Tourney Bracket

The Favorite(s).  Texas and Kansas are the co-favs (both finished 13-3), although Vegas Watch will have the odds for us soon as to who is the actual favorite.  In the unbalanced schedule of the Big 12, we were only treated with one matchup between these two teams, as the Horns handled the Jayhawks 72-69 in Austin.  You almost never know for certain who will show up in the Big 12 this year, but we’d say that the odds are favorable for both teams to meet on Sunday afternoon again.       

The Darkhorse.  Oklahoma has won six of its last eight and shown some guts in winning on the road against its rival without Blake Griffin.   If Texas should falter, we wouldn’t be surprised to see OU in the finals against Kansas.

Bubble Buster Game.  A second round matchup between Texas A&M and Kansas St. could make things interesting for the committee.  A&M is #47 and Kansas St. is #45 in KenPom’s RPI ratings, and neither team has really lit it up in the last few weeks (K-State 3-5; A&M 2-5).  Would the committee really leave out Michael Beasley and the #3 seed in the Big 12?  Probably not, but we wouldn’t want to give them a reason to put TAMU over them, if we were a K-State fan.      

Cinderella.  Baylor.  But for one home egg laid by the Bears, Baylor finished strong down the stretch, and the route to the finals is more favorable through Oklahoma and Texas.  Baylor was 0-4 against these teams in the regular season, but every game was close, and it’s very difficult to defeat a good team three times in one season.

Games We Want to See.   Part 3 of Kansas-Kansas St. would be fun in the semis, as well as Part 2 of Kansas-Texas.  Basically, the teams that don’t suck. 

Champion.  Kansas is coming off of two straight Big 12 Tourney titles, and they’re playing in their own backyard.  When KU brings it, there are only a couple of teams in American who can hang with them, and they usually bring it in this tournament.  So we’re going with the easy choice here – Kansas.   

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2008

Next Up:  Big Ten Tournament.  Who can predict this tournament?  Every team has a flaw or three.  Of the top four seeds, Wisconsin runs a program system, MSU can’t win away from E. Lansing, Indiana is on the brink of implosion and Purdue plays a bunch of freshmen.  If we’re feeling sleepy next weekend, we’ll just turn over to one of these games for a certain sedative. 

Where:  Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When:
  Thursday – Sunday

Big 10 Tourney Bracket

The Favorite(s).  Wisconsin is the favorite because the Badgers went 16-2 and proved itself very proficient at beating other Big Ten teams.  The one team it couldn’t defeat in two attempts?  Purdue.  Guess who should be waiting on UW in the finals, assuming it can get past the MSU/OSU winner?  That’s right, Purdue.   

The Darkhorse.  Indiana.  Huge IF here.  Indiana is the darkhorse candidate, playing in a Hoosier-friendly environment, IF they can get over the funk they’ve been lost in since Dan Dakich took over as head coach.   Losing at Penn St. and getting obliterated by Michigan St. on consecutive weekends doesn’t portend well, but their talent cannot be denied. 

Bubble Buster Game.  Ohio St. is the only bubble team in the league this year, so they could use another win against Michigan St. on Friday.  Thad Matta has traditionally been a good tournament coach, and MSU simply cannot win games outside of Michigan, so we expect OSU to get this one.   

Cinderella.  Tough to say here, but how about Tubby’s Minnesota Gophers?  They get the easiest first round game, followed by a second round game with Team Turmoil.  A green Purdue team would stand in the way for a trip to the finals.  We’re not saying this will happen, but this is the best possibility.  It’s not our fault there are only about 2.5 decent teams in this league this year.

Games We Want to See.  Um, is none an acceptable answer?  If they came to pass, we’d watch an Indiana-Purdue rematch as well as a Michigan St. final against either of those teams.  We probably wouldn’t look forward to it, though.  And anything involving Wisconsin…  well, let’s just say that’s what Tivo is for. 

Champion.  We envision Wisconsin v. Purdue in the finals on Sunday, and we know that the Badgers can’t seem to get past the Boilermakers, so we like Purdue to cut down the nets with Robbie Hummels as the MVP. 

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Conference Tourney Mini-Previews: Big East

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2008

We’re less than a week away from Selection Sunday, and already five teams have earned automatic bids to the NCAAs.  Congrats to Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Cornell (Ivy), Drake (Missouri Valley) and Austin Peay (OVC) for securing bids over the weekend.  Belmont (2006 and 2007), Winthrop (1999-2002 and 2005-2007) and Austin Peay (1996 and 2003) are old hands at March Madness, but some special love should go to Cornell and Drake, as Cornell hasn’t been to the Dance since 1988 and Drake since 1971!

Every year we always have trouble finding brackets for each of the major conference tournaments, so we decided to provide them for ease of use this time around.  Over the next couple days, we’re going to do a quick analysis of each conference tournament, starting today with the Big East.   

Where:  Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When:
  Wednesday – Saturday

Big East Bracket v.3

The Favorite(s).  We don’t see much of a difference between regular season champion Georgetown and runner-up Louisville.  Both of their regular season games were low-scoring affairs marked by grinding defense and big plays down the stretch.  If it comes down to a rematch, we like Louisville’s experience prevailing in the neutral court environment. 

The Darkhorse.  UConn.  It’s difficult to ever think of Connecticut as a darkhorse in this tournament, but so long as the Huskies avoid playing Providence again (PC would have to upset WVU to reach UConn on Thursday), they are in prime position to make a run at Jim Calhoun’s seventh BE Tournament title.  They have the size to counter Georgetown in the semis, and UConn always enjoys a quasi-home crowd environment at the Garden. 

Bubble Buster Game.  The first game of the tournament is also the most important game for the NCAA Selection Committee.  Syracuse and Villanova have almost identical profiles – it would be hard for us to believe that the loser of this game will be chosen over the winner on Sunday afternoon. 

Cinderella.  With that in mind, we know that Syracuse loves to make runs in this tournament.  They have a great following in NYC, and have very recently handled both Villanova and Georgetown, the two teams they will see in the first two rounds.  Paging the ghost of Gerry McNamara…

Games We Want to See.  The Big East is the strongest conference in America at the top, and therefore we’d love to see a strong semifinal group of Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut and Notre Dame (or Marquette) on Friday night, followed by GU-UL part 3 for the title.  All of these teams are Sweet 16 teams or better, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see two of them in the F4 this year.  The quality of basketball should be better than any other conference at that level. 

Champion.  On Saturday night, whoever comes out of this group of teams will have definitely proven itself.  We like Rick Pitino’s Louisville team.  Since David Padgett returned to the lineup, the Cards have gone 15-4, including a strong 9-1 stretch run that included only the narrow road loss at Georgetown this past weekend.  Surprisingly, Pitino is only 3-4 with no titles in the BE Tourney in two stints at Providence and Louisville.  We think that this is the year he improves on that record.

Those Left Home.  Depaul, St. John’s, South Florida, Rutgers.  How embarrassing is it that St. John’s cannot even make the Big East Tourney, played ostensibly on its home floor at MSG?

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