This is Stephen Curry’s tournament

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

I’m not really sure what to say at this point. Even though everybody knew about Davidson and Stephen Curry coming into the tournament, I don’t think anybody outside of the most loyal Davidson fans expected them to run through 3 perennial powers (Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Wisconsin) on their way to the Elite 8. To be honest, Davidson completely dominated the 2nd half against Wisconsin tonight and if they played again I would probably take Davidson (that was rtmsf predicting a Wisconsin win in the preview although I can’t claim that I would have picked Davidson either).

Curry and Davidson are pushing back against the major conference powers

Curry dropped 33 on Michael Flowers bringing his tournament total to 103 points. I hope everyone enjoyed his ability to move off screens to score against an exceptional defender. It reminded us a little of how Reggie Miller used to operate minus all the flopping and leg-kicking.

While Curry will get all the headlines, the real story for me was Davidson holding Wisconsin to 37.8% from the field. For now, I hope all the Davidson fans enjoy the victory particularly all the kids who the school brought up to Detroit for the game. Next up is the winner of Kansas-Villanova. . .

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Sweet 16 Preview: South & Midwest Regions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

South
#1 Memphis vs. #5 Michigan State (9:57 PM): It seems like a lot of analysts consider this the best of the Sweet 16 games. I just don’t see it. I’d take either of the 2-3 matchups (Tennessee/Louisville or Texas/Stanford) over this game, but I still think it should be an interesting game.

Tom Izzo has done a good job getting the Spartans back on track after a bad February stretch where they lost 3 of 4 games. The Spartans returned all 5 starters from last year so they obviously have experience, which helped them withstand that rough stretch. However, coming into the tournament not a lot of people were giving them much respect particularly with Pittsburgh waiting in the 2nd round. The Spartans surprised a lot of people, including me, by knocking off the Panthers. The Spartans are led offensively by a pair of 2nd team All-Big 10 players: Raymar Morgan and the more-heralded Drew Neitzel. The duo, who average 14.2 and 14.1 PPG respectively, will need a big performance out of freshman PG Kalin Lucas if they want to try to run with the Tigers (IMO not the best strategy).

If you’re a college basketball fan (and if you’re on this blog you certainly are one unless you ended up here doing a Google search for Erin Andrews), you know about Memphis’s inability to hit free throws. I don’t buy into John Calipari that Memphis won their 2nd round game against Mississippi State at the free throw line because they made more free throws despite going 15/32 from the line. It seems like there hasn’t been a single analyst who picks Memphis to win the title, but when I look at this team I see an unbelievably athletic team that is 35-1 and came very close to being undefeated at this point in the season. The Tigers like to run and utilize a Dribble-Drive Motion offense. Leading the attack are Chris Douglas-Roberts and the ridiculously fast freshman PG Derrick Rose. While having those two along might be enough to sustain an offense, Calipari also has solid players in Robert Dozier, Joey Dorsey, and Antonio Anderson. The result is an unconvential offense filled with freakish athletes, a combination that is very hard to defend. One big key for Memphis will be is if they can keep Dorsey out of foul trouble as he is their muscle inside (at least as long as he doesn’t try to talk trash like he did last year before he got beat down by Greg Oden).

Opening Line: Memphis -5.
Prediction: A lot of analysts think the Tigers will be the first #1 seed to lose. I could definitely see that happening, but just not in this round. The Tigers have too much talent for the Spartans. If the Spartans have an X-factor, it would be Lucas. Unfortunately, he will be going against Rose who is several levels above Lucas at this point in their careers. The result is Memphis winning by 5-10 points. I think they will outplay the Spartans, but will keep the game close with their “winning” free throw shooting.

- #2 Texas vs. #3 Stanford (7:27 PM): Along with the Tennessee-Louisville game, this was our favorite game of the long weekend. Hopefully, this turns out to be more exciting than than the Cardinals rout was.

I’ll get this over with now: nobody left in the tournament can guard Brook Lopez. If he’s on, he should be getting 30 a night for the rest of the tournament. By now everyone knows that his twin brother Robin is the more defensive-minded one, which has led some people to speculate that Robin may be more successful as a pro (think Joakim Noah or Anderson Varejao). While those two will control the inside, the Cardinal use Lawrence Hill, Anthony Goods, and Mitch Johnson to control the perimeter. This trio hasn’t gotten much respect including from yours truly. However, if Stanford wants to beat Texas in Houston, they will need this group to control D.J. Augustin (and for Trent Johnson to stick around for the 2nd half).

Rick Barnes has done a great job making the Longhorns into a national title contender a year after losing Kevin Durant to the NBA. The Longhorns are led by D.J. Augustin, who has taken his game to another level as he has not had Durant to bail him out like last year. Augustin also has great support from A.J. Abrams, Damion James, and Connor Atchley. While the Longhorns don’t really have an answer for Brook Lopez, I don’t know how well the Lopez twins are going to be able to guard Atchley when he steps behind the 3 pt line where he has shot 42.3% (41/97) for the year.

Opening Line: Texas -1.
Prediction: If this game was outside of Texas, I probably would have gone with Stanford and the big guy inside. In the end, I think the homecourt and the Longhorns edge on the perimeter will let them pull away at the end of the game.

Midwest
#1 Kansas vs. #12 Villanova (9:40 PM): This weekend in Detroit will once again focus all the attention on Bill Self and his heretofore confounding inability to get extremely talented teams into the F4 (o-4 trips to the E8). Considering that this bracket was blown apart by Cinderellas last weekend, the Jayhawks are the odds on favorite to win this region.

Villanova has looked really good in their two games against Clemson and Siena, shooting 52% and holding its opponents to only 37%. Scottie Reynolds has found his stroke, averaging 23 ppg thus far in the Tourney, and dropping eight threes in the two games. Look for Kansas to focus in on stopping Reynolds, as Villanova simply isn’t nearly as good of a team when he’s misfiring (27 total pts in Nova’s last three Ls).

But let’s be serious here. Kansas is the most talented team that Villanova has faced this season, and their season-long inconsistency is the reason they ended up a #12 seed. Their best wins of the year were probably close wins over Pitt and UConn at home, and neither of those teams bring the noise on offense (#1 off. efficency) and defense (#5 def. efficiency) as Kansas does. Villanova will play hard, but by most measures, a run to the Sweet 16 renders their season a successful one, and they’ll be happy to be there tonight. Kansas has much larger aspirations in mind, and as such, we expect a blowout win here tonight.

Opening Line: Kansas -11.5.
Prediction: KU jumps out early and often. Villanova makes a run in the second half to make things interesting, but they never seriously threaten the Jayhawks tonight. Bill Self’s albatross will be judged on Sunday.

- #3 Wisconsin vs. #10 Davidson (7:10 PM): The undercard in Detroit tonight could end up being a total washout, we’re afraid. Davidson has looked fantastic in its two come-from-behind upsets of Gonzaga and Georgetown last weekend, and Stephen Curry’s legend is already concretely imprinted into the national consciousness. But we have a sneaky suspicion that the #1 defensive team in the land will absolutely lock up Curry, leaving the rest of the Wildcats struggling to pick up the slack.

The game that concerns us was the 6-19 (3-10 from 3) clunker (15 pts) that Curry put up against UCLA back in December. The Bruin defense (#2 nationally) keyed on Curry, which allowed the other Davidson shooters to get open looks early, as Davidson ran out to a quick early lead. But once UCLA figured out that they were going to have to guard all the Davidson shooters, they took control of the game and pulled away easily in the second half.

Wisconsin will probably employ a similar strategy. They’ll slow the game down to a crawl, and essentially dare anyone but Curry to beat them. You can count on a bruising, grinding, no-mistakes gameplan by Bo Ryan’s team, and honestly, short of a superhuman effort by Curry again, we don’t see any way that Davidson wins their way into the Elite 8. Gonzaga was soft mentally, and Georgetown forgot that they had a 7’3 beast underneath the basket, but Wisconsin is a different story.

Opening Line: Wisconsin -4.
Prediction: As much as we’d like to see the Curry bandwagon continue for another game, we just don’t think it’s possible. The Badgers will bump and grind him into a poor shooting night, giving him and his teammates more motivation for next year’s possible dream season.

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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.

East
#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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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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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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