31 Down, 34 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2009

So we got through yesterday, where twelve auto-bids were handed out, and now we’re down to four remaining conference championships today.  Let’s give our brief synopsis on each as they day moves on…

#28 – Stephen F. Austin (23-7, 16-3 Southland).  SFA got 20/6 from their center Matt Kingsley as the Lumberjacks (there are trees in Texas?) defeated UT-San Antonio 68-57 to advance to their first-ever NCAA Tournament today.

Projected Seed: #14

Something to Remember: #2 nationally in defensive efficiency – these guys get after it.  They held Texas A&M to 34% shooting earlier this year, one of their worst outputs of the season.

#29 – Duke (28-6, 14-5 ACC).  Duke ran all over Florida St. today to win their seventeenth ACC title this afternoon, tying UNC for the most all-time.   Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were superb today, combining for 56 pts on 15-27 FG and 8-13 from three.

Projected Seed: #2

STR: You may have heard this team’s name once or twice before. The perception is that the Devils are great three-point shooters, but that’s only a perception.  At 34.4% on the year, they are middle of the pack nationally in that statistic (#154).  However, because Duke plays such stifling defense on the perimeter, when they do hit a fair number of threes (like today), they’re very difficult to beat.

#30 – Mississippi St. (23-12, 13-7 SEC).  MSU outlasted Tennessee 64-61 in a game that saw not one, two, three, but FOUR straight turnovers on an out-of-bounds play with ten seconds remaining.  And that coming off of a mishandled rebound off a missed FT.  Great basketball there.  The SEC will definitely get three teams in this year, and it’s a league that has made itself easy to pile on, but all three of these SEC squads are extremely athletic and well-coached.  Nobody will want to play these guys.

Projected Seed: #12

STR: Jarvis Varnado.  His 4.6 blocks per game leads the nation, even ahead of Hasheem Thabeet at UConn.  MSU’s overall defense isn’t as good as it usually is, but Varnado can change a game by himself.  Keep an eye on MSU as an upsetter if they play an undisciplined team that won’t work the ball for the best available shot (someone like FSU or USC, for example).

#31 – Purdue (25-9, 14-7 Big 10).  Purdue fought hard in a typical bruiser of a Big 10 game to get their first Big 10 Tourney win in the decade-plus of the event.  Robbie Hummell is just outstanding – he had an all-floor game of 9/11/5 assts, but it was E’Twaun Moore’s five threes, including several timely ones in the mid-second half that led to the Boilers coming back from a deficit and taking control of the game.

Projected Seed: #3

STR: Like most Big 10 teams, Purdue is driven by its defense, but in our eyes, unlike most of the others, Purdue can actually boast several offensive playmaking options in Johnson, Moore and Hummell.  Plus, they’re balanced – their offense mostly comes from the point, the wing and the post.  This will be a difficult team for most to handle, and Matt Painter has proven that his teams are tough (Purdue gave 2007 Florida its toughest game in the back-to-back season, for example).

#32 – #65. That’s it.  Everyone else has to get an invitation to the Dance.  Join us over at RTC Live for the Selection Show right now, and let’s talk about it.

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ATB: 9 Down, 56 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

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Four More Automatic Bids Tonight.  We’re combining this feature tonight because every game of interest involved a conference tournament final.  The CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC all crowned champions tonight, and only one of the four would be considered a surprise.  The other three will all be very tough outs for whichever team(s) have to face up against them in the first round of the NCAAs next week.

#6 – VCU (24-9, 14-4) – Anthony Grant’s VCU Rams rode a home crowd to a 71-50 obliteration of George Mason for its second CAA championship in the last three seasons.  You already know Eric Maynor from his game-winner over Duke in 2007′s first round; also keep in mind his 6’9 frontcourt mate Larry Sanders (not the host of a dated HBO show), who dominated GMU with 18/20/7 blks tonight – this talented duo will make any higher seed nervous on Selection Sunday.

Projected Seed: #10

Something to Remember: VCU wasn’t a good road team this year, going 7-6 compared to 11-3 two years ago when the Rams last made the Dance, but they were 2-1 against the RPI top fifty (an 11-pt loss against Oklahoma).

This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)

This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)

#7 – Chattanooga (18-16, 11-9) – This is exactly why conferences are moving away from penalizing high seeds from playing on opponents’ home floors in conference tournaments – instead of having a Davidson in the NCAAs with a chance to win a game or two, the SoCon will send Chattanooga to become cannon fodder for a #1 seed.  Chattanooga came into the SoCon Tourney three days ago as a team with a losing record – tonight they left it with more than a winning record; they also got a ticket to the Big Dance by virtue of their 80-69 win over College of Charleston (who may have still been feeling the effects of knocking out Davidson yesterday).  The Mocs used a 20-0 run bridging the half to build a commanding lead that left CofC shellshocked.

Projected Seed: #16

Something to Remember: Chattanooga started the season 2-8, and has one of the worst defensive efficiency ratings in the nation (#296).  Take the over.

#8 – Gonzaga (26-5, 14-0) – The Zags made quick work of a St. Mary’s team that still looks a little lost while Patty Mills tries to return to form from his wrist injury, defeating the Gaels 83-58.  Six players reached double figures for the Zags, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17/6.  Gonzaga won its nineteenth in twenty tries, with the only defeat coming at the hands of a red-hot Memphis team in February.  It’s definitely difficult to ascertain whether the ‘potential Zags’ have crossed over into actualization, but if things are clicking and they continue to play strong defense (#5 nationally), the Zags are a darkhorse for the Final Four.

Projected Seed: #4

Something to Remember: The Zags are the #1 team in America in 2-pt defense (38.9%), but when the Zags struggle (and lose), they also have a tendency for poor shooting – Memphis, Arizona, Utah and Portland St. all held them under 43% shooting from the field.

#9 – Siena (26-7, 16-2) – Siena was the best team in the MAAC, and after what the Saints did to Vandy in last year’s first round of the NCAAs, nobody is going to want to see Fran McCaffery’s team in their pod.  Tonight they held off a good Niagara team that had given them one of their two conference losses behind Kenny Hasbrouck, who shook off a 1-10 first half to score 17 second-half points on his way to 19/6/3 stls.  This is a dangerous team – they return the bulk of last year’s squad, and they were competitive early in the season in losses at Kansas, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

Projected Seed: #9

Something to Remember: Siena is an offensively balanced team, with six players averaging between 8-15 ppg, and all six of those players having at least one game of 20+ this year. Who do you stop?

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QnD Conf Tourney Update.

The Big East, MAC, MEAC and WAC begin their tourneys tomorrow, but there are three more auto-bids in store.

  • Horizon League Championship – Butler vs. Cleveland St. RTC Live will be there.
  • Summit League Championship – North Dakota St. vs. Oakland. Here’s hoping Ben Woodside makes the Dance.
  • Sun Belt Championship – Western Kentucky vs. South Alabama.  WKU goes for its second straight trip to the dance against the upstarts from S. Alabama.

It’s the last chance saloon for Georgetown, Notre Dame and possibly Cincinnati beginning tomorrow.  Who wants to keep playing?

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5 Down, 60 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2009

Just one more ticket punched today, but rest assured no high major team will want to see Missouri Valley champion Northern Iowa in their first game. Here’s your brief introduction as now five invitees have accepted the NCAA’s bids.

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#5 – Northern Iowa (23-10, 14-4 MVC). UNI won the regular season championship and took care of business this weekend at Arch Madness, winning tight ones over Indiana St. and Illinois St. (in OT) to get the automatic bid.  In today’s game, we kept expecting Illinois St. to put UNI away behind the shooting of Osiris Eldridge and Champ Oguchi; but UNI stayed poised and made the correct plays down the stretch to secure the third win over ISU this season.

Projected Seed: #12

Something to Remember: UNI likes to slow the pace down to a crawl.  They don’t turn the ball over, they hit their FTs (75%) and they don’t make many mistakes.  Look for a possible upset if they play an undisciplined team that gets frustrated with ball-control teams.

Stay tuned – four more tickets will be punched tomorrow – CAA, MAAC, SoCon, WCC.  RTC Live will be reporting live from the WCC Finals.

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Great West Conference: Another Play-In Game on the Horizon

Posted by rtmsf on September 27th, 2008

Several sources today are announcing the formation of the 32d Division 1 league, the Great West Conference, which will begin organized basketball operations in the 2009-10 season.  You may recall that the GWC already exists in football as a transitional league between D2 and D1-AA (or whatever they’re calling it now).  The basketball counterparts at most of these schools have largely been relegated to the dreaded Independent status, which forces those teams to schedule games anytime, anywhere, anyplace, in order to complete a full schedule.  One of these teams, the much-maligned New Jersey Tech, made infamy last year with an 0-29 season, earning the lowest Sagarin rating (46.91) of the past several years.

Frankly, despite the league’s spin on the matter, reading down a list of these schools sounds a little like something out of the American Chiropractic Colleges Association manual.  Houston Baptist, Texas-Pan American, New Jersey Tech, Utah Valley, North AND South Dakota. Not to mention the fact that with two Texas schools, a Utah school, two Dakota schools and a freakin NEW JERSEY school, this new league is all over the place (Cal Poly, UC-Davis and Southern Utah, each of whom play in the football version of the GWC, are not expected to leave their basketball conferences – the Big West x2 and Summit, respectively).

In fact, looking at the map below, this “Great West” conference is 2,194 miles from east to west, 1,639 miles from north to south, and if you decided to drive the circuit between all six schools, it would take you through 22 states, 6,540 miles and approximately 41 Waffle Houses.  Oh, and only one team is even in a “western” time zone, with UVU in MST.

So what’s really going on here?  Of course, money.  The GWC is attempting to become the 32d league that gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and while that may be a decade away (fulfilling all the requirements would take until 2020), Kyle Whelliston thinks that’s a possibility.

NCAA men’s basketball rules require conferences to pass a three-step eligibility check for auto-bid qualification: at least seven fully fledged Div. I members, seven that have been Div. I for at least eight years (known as “core members”), and six core members who have been league mates for five years. The current membership wouldn’t meet all of those guidelines until the year 2020.

You can rest assured that if the GWC eventually gets an automatic bid that the NCAA won’t take away one of the current 34 at-large bids, so the natural response would probably be to add another play-in game to the scorecard.  That would allow for two more teams to “make” the dance, and it would balance the brackets on both sides.  While this makes economic sense from an NCAA Tournament perspective, it’ll end up minimizing the achievements of the MEAC, SWAC and other league champions that have gotten accustomed to playing in the “real thing” on Thursday like everyone else.

And what happens to everyone’s bracket if one of these teams actually beats a #1 seed one of these days?

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