Big East M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 21st, 2013

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  1. Well, just when everyone had become enchanted with the idea of Providence giving Syracuse a stiff challenge, the Orange came out and showed everyone why they hadn’t lost at home in 37 games. Boeheim’s defensive length sparked a 31-5 run to close the first half, and the Friars were run out of the gym, 84-59. CJ Fair logged his second consecutive double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and the Orange shot almost 57% on a Providence defense that had held Notre Dame to 39% last week. Most encouraging for Syracuse fans was the impeccable performance Michael Carter-Williams turned in after his tapering assist numbers had raised eyebrows. The sophomore ended with 12 assists and an absurd 6:1 assist to turnover ratio to go along with 15 points and five rebounds. Any doubts about Syracuse’s trajectory were erased as they moved back into a tie for first place in league play.
  2. In another Wednesday night blowout, Georgetown freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera played a career game as the Hoyas pounded DePaul, 90-66, to extend their winning streak to eight. Coming off the bench, the stocky Thompsonian guard racked up 33 points on 10-of-12 (83%) shooting, hit 5-of-6 threes and 8-of-10 free throws. It was the most points scored by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page put up 34 in the 1996 Big East Tournament. It also warrants some further research to determine the last time anyone accumulated as many points shooting 80% or higher from both the field, three-point and free throw lines. We’ll look into it.
  3. Jamie Dixon’s emphasis on rebounding is well documented, but it’s even more important this season without a reliable scorer. Despite entering last weekend’s game tied for the best rebounding margin in the Big East, Pitt emerged bloodied from its Notre Dame embarrassment with a -22 margin between two straight losses. In fact, Pitt’s lost six of the last eight games in which it hasn’t earned an advantage on the glass. Dixon stresses the need for “rebounding from every position,” but Lamar Patterson had questioned the effort from his big men after last weekend’s Marquette loss: “We’ve got big guys, too. Steve [Adams] and Talib [Zanna] are big guys. It came down to who wanted it more.” The two performed even worse on the boards against the Irish, collecting four and two rebounds, respectively. Maybe it’s not the kind of criticism you’d pose publicly, but it appears to have some merit.
  4. Notre Dame forward Scott Martin is poised to return to full participation in practice this weekend after missing eight games with chronic knee issues. Despite the leadership and production Martin brings to the table, the Irish are 6-2 in his absence, as Tom Knight has ascended from obscurity to become a reliable starter. It’s not an unfamiliar situation for Mike Brey: “Luke Harangody came back to us at time we were rolling along with a different nucleus. Scott will have to work himself in and he and I talked about that. His attitude is great… I would love to have that body available down the stretch.” Brey also revealed he’s also contemplating inserting Martin at the three spot, which would alleviate the problematic numbers game in Notre Dame’s frontcourt. It’s hard to imagine a hobbled Martin having the lateral quickness to guard many Big East threes, though.
  5. Eric Crawford at the Louisville Courier-Journal juxtaposes the patchwork understanding of basketball Gorgui Dieng brought to Louisville with the astute mind for the game he’s developed in three seasons. He’s gone from not grasping that offensive and defensive fouls count toward one’s foul total, to becoming one of the team’s best passer, whom Rick Pitino compares to former point-center David Padgett for his passing ability and intellect. “He’s our coach on the floor,” says Pitino. While Dieng demurred when asked about his coach’s comments that he may encourage the 23-year-old junior to test the draft after this season, Crawford picks up on subtleties in Dieng’s speech that suggest he might be preparing for an exit. Responding to concerns about fatigue, Dieng said, “I will do whatever to help this team. I’m not worried if I play a lot of minutes or less minutes. I don’t know if I’m going to have this chance again, ever.”
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2008 NBA Draft Musings

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2008

Thanks to N-Bug’s liveblog of the NBA Draft last night, we felt like we were almost in the building sniffing David Stern’s manscent and Darrell Arthur’s ire.  What’s the record for lowest pick of someone in the Green Room?  The best we can muster is Rashard Lewis at #32 ten years ago.  Anyone got a lower pick left stewing in the Green Room all night?

Unfounded Rumors of a Kidney Problem Sunk Arthur’s Stock (photo credit: AP)

Darrell Arthur’s Kidney.  The story of last night’s draft, of course, was the unsubstantiated rumor of a serious undisclosed kidney problem that arose during Darrell Arthur’s medical tests.  Luke Winn details the report much better than we can here, but suffice it to say that it now appears that this kidney issue was a complete red herring, and the Memphis Grizzlies (through two subsequent trades) got an absolute steal at the #27 slot.  Winn suggests that the whispers about Arthur’s health could have cost him in the neighborhood of $1.3M over the course of his rookie contract.  Shouldn’t we just go ahead and put Slim Shady at the top of next year’s ROY contenders (Paul Pierce-style) based upon this slight alone?  He’ll have gobs of additional motivation, that’s for sure. 

One-and-Done Redux.  We’ve written about 1-and-dones until we’re blue in the face, but let’s face it, the Class of 2007 is arguably one of the greatest HS classes of all-time.  Four of the top five picks, seven of the top fourteen, and a record ten of the thirty first-rounders were freshmen.  Throw in the eight sophomores chosen in the first round, and that means 72% of the guaranteed contracts that went to American players were to players with 2 years or less of college experience.  Only five seniors were chosen in the first round, and the first at #12 overall, Jason Thompson from Rider, resulted in a perplexed “who?” from much of the crowd and viewing audience.  Again, there is no question that the NBA rule helped in terms of marketing these players.  Thanks to the Season of the Freshman, every basketball fan in America is now intimately familiar with the games of Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, and so on.  If they’d all gone pro after high school, we’d have little to no clue what those teams were getting.

Mayo Posing as Stringer Bell (photo credit: SI.com) 

Beautiful Disasters.  Two of the one-and-dones who were bound and determined to stay in the draft no matter what anyone told them were DeAndre Jordan and Bill Walker.  (note: we were happy to see that our feelings of overratedness (see: HoopsAddict podcast at 34:30) with Jordan and Anthony Randolph were corroborated on draft night, although not so much with Russell Westbrook, chosen fourth!)  Both got drafted in the second round (#35 and #47 respectively) but last night had to be severely disappointing to both players, as Jordan was being talked about as a lottery pick earlier this draft season, and Walker last year (before blowing out his knee again).  Does Walker with his former #1 player in his class pedigree and seemingly constant knee injuries remind anyone else of Randy Livingston?  But the prize for biggest clowns of the draft go to USC’s Davon Jefferson and Mississippi State’s Jamont Gordon, both of whom were undrafted last night.  As for Jefferson, this one-and-done prospect declared early, signed with an agent (assuring he couldn’t return to USC), and then proceeded to float his way through the pre-draft camp.  He was a possible second-rounder at that point, but his uninspired effort in Orlando ensured that he would be left on the outside looking in.  Gordon’s situation was even worse, as he completely skipped the pre-draft camp (incredulously assuming he was a first-rounder), also signed with an agent, and otherwise did nothing to show that he was a serious candidate for the draft.  Ok, we get it, you reallyreallyreallyreally want to play in the NBA, and you reallyreallyreallyreally think you’re good enough… but you guys really need to start doing some listening when people who make these decisions (scouts, GMs, draftniks) are telling you otherwise.  Good luck in the D-League, guys.   

Katz discusses some of the other early entry disappointments in last night’s draft. 

Sideshow Bob Was Drafted by the Suns Last Night (photo credit: SI.com)

Conference Call.  A year ago Pac-10 coaches were telling us that they had far and away the most talent in the nation, suggesting that there are as many as a dozen first-round picks on their squads in 2007-08.  Well, it turns out they weren’t that far off, as there were seven first rounders last night, including three of the top five (#3 Mayo, #4 Westbrook, #5 Love, #10 Brook Lopez, #11 Jerryd Bayless, #15 Robin Lopez, #21 Ryan Anderson), and twelve players chosen overall.  Also keep in mind that several other probable first rounders from the Pac-10, such as Darren Collison (UCLA), Chase Budinger (Arizona) and Jeff Pendergraph (Arizona St.) elected to stay in college another year.  The Big 12 was next with nine players chosen, including four first rounders and five (!!) players – tying the 2006 UConn Huskies and 2007 Florida Gators – from the National Champs (#13 Brandon Rush, #27 Darrell Arthur, #34 Mario Chalmers, #52 Darnell Jackson, #56 Sasha Kaun).  Throw in former Jayhawk JR Giddens (#30) and an astonishing six players passed through the KU program en route to this draft.  The SEC had six draft picks, and the Big East and ACC had four each.  The usually-pathetic Big 10 once again finished last among the BCS conferences with only three picks.  See table below.

 

Not NBA Material.  We reserve this spot to formally bid adieu to some of the notable collegians who have entertained us for the last four years, but whom the NBA has decided are not worthy to play in their league.  Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), Demarcus Nelson (Duke), David Padgett (Louisville), Josh Duncan (Xavier), and Pat Calathes (St. Joseph’s) are but a few of the names we’ll probably never see again unless they become coaches someday.  The honor of the biggest undrafted name, though, goes to Tennessee star and cancer survivor Chris Lofton, who holds the all-time mark in the SEC for three-pointers, and ranks third in NCAA history on that measure.  If there’s one guy we’d bank on finding his way to an NBA court near you in the next couple of years (even for a cup of coffee), it would probably be this kid.  He stares toughness and grit directly in the eyes before they walk away in shame. 

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DJ Augustin Has Little Wee Arms

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2008

Apologies in advance for the small text on the table below.  You can see the entire cache of numbers here on a document we saved at Google Docs (fully sortable).  Alternatively, check the list (also sortable) over at DraftExpress, who we owe our eternal thanks to for providing these initial numbers.   

So what we’ve done here is color code highlight the best five (light green) and worst five (beige) performances in each category.  For basketball purposes, we’re assuming that height, weight and length are good things, body fat is a bad thing, and athletic ability in terms of vertical jump, agility and sprint times are valued.  For example, Brook Lopez was one of the tallest, heaviest and longest players at the camp (as expected), but his lane agility time of 12.77 seconds makes Shaq look like a gazelle (ok, maybe not that bad…). 

Anyway, for now we wanted to throw the numbers up and start digesting them.  We’ll have our thoughts on some of the surprises at the bottom later this afternoon.  Enjoy. 

Draft Combine Numbers

Thoughts:

The Lonny Baxter Award.  The biggest surprise that we saw this year was that Michael Beasley stands only 6’7 in socks (6’8 with shoes).  How is this possible?  How can the most dominant big man in the history of freshmen all-time only stand at 6’8 in his Nikes????  Can Beasley play 3 at the next level?  Chicago must be asking itself the same question.

 

Yes, Baxter Really Is Two Feet Tall

Well, it’s a good thing they’ve got the option of the next Jason Kidd in Derrick Rose then, right?  Oh wait, Rose is only 6’1.5 in socks ( 6’2.5 with shoes), a solid couple of inches shorter than Kidd, and more on par with Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul as comparisons.  The good news is that Rose can fly outta the gym with his 40″ vertical leap and his 3.05 3/4 court time, both third best in the camp this year.

One more player suffering from shrinkage this year is Joey Dorsey (6’6).  The Mouth of the South is lucky that he has such an unbelievable plastic-man wingspan (7’11) for his size, or he wouldn’t even be getting a sniff from the professional ranks. 

Legit BigsBrook Lopez and Javale McGee are legitimately 6’11 in socks, David Padgett isn’t far off (6’10.25), while DeAndre Jordan is just shy of 6’10.  McGee, Lopez and Jordan all have wingspans of 7’6 (Lopez is a half-inch shy) and utterly ridiculous reaches of over 9’5.  The most intriguing big man is John Riek, the postgraduate high school student who certifiably stunk up the camp, but comes in at 6’10.5 with a nearly 7’9 wingspan and a reach reported (but unverified) at 9’10.  Ummm… ok. 

Feeling a Little DoughyKevin Love said that he’s dropped fifteen pounds since the F4, but his body fat percentage (12.9%) belies a ways to go.  His size was a little shorter than expected (nearly 6’8), but his vertical leap was better than expected (35″), so he may end up being ok at the next level, given his already skilled face-up game.  The Tubbiest Player Award goes to Kentrell Gransberry, who clocked in at 17.4% body fat.  It showed in his ups as well, as his at 27.5″ was one of the lowest five of the camp. 

Best All-Around Athlete.  This is a tough call, but we’re going with Eric Gordon.  He has a top five vertical leap of 40″, which is simply eyepopping, he was also in the top five in the 3/4 court sprint (3.1 seconds), and he managed to bench the 185-lb bar fifteen times, which is significantly more than some other young guards (OJ Mayo – 7; DJ Augustin – 2).  Derrick Rose is also a consideration, as he can also get way up and is speedy all over the court.  But We’ll give second place to DeMarcus Nelson, who finished in the top five in both the lane agility drill (10.54 seconds) and the 3/4 court sprint (3.13 seconds), in addition to having a 38.5″ vertical leap and benching the bar nineteen times.  We give the nod, though, to Gordon based on his relative youth and the possibility of those numbers getting significantly better.

     

E-Giddy Is All Kinds of Athleticized

Other Minutiae.   Jerryd Bayless is a great athlete, but his wingspan is astonishingly short (6’3.5) for a 6’2 guy.  Don’t expect Bayless to ever become a tremendous on-the-ball defender with those arms.  Sonny Weems and Joe Alexander are two more players who tested well athletically, as Weems finished in the top five in the agility and sprint drills, while Alexander finished in the top five in the bench press and sprint drills.   This combine was not good to DJ Augustin – he appeared small and weak based on the numbers.  Shouldn’t a 5’10 sophomore be able to do more than two bench presses at that weight by now?

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Elite 8 Preview: UCLA-Xavier & UNC-Louisville

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

- #1 UCLA vs. #3 Xavier (6:40 PM): Both teams are coming off hard-fought victories in the Sweet 16. Xavier obviously was challenged by West Virginia, who took them into OT and may very well have won if Joe Alexander had been able to hit a FT at the end of regulation (81% FT) or not foul out early in OT. The Bruins were challenged by Western Kentucky, who came back from 21 down at half as Tyrone Brazelton scored 31 pts abusing Darren Collison (before Collison fouled out with 5:39 to play). The Bruins held strong at the end and won with big efforts from Kevin Love (29 and 14–no surprise) and James Keefe (18 and 12–huge surprise).

The Bruins can count on a big game from Love who finds a way to get his numbers because he knows where he needs to be. What the Bruins can’t count on is Keefe coming anywhere near those numbers. They need Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp to really step up their games this round. If they can get this inside/outside balance, they should control this game, but they haven’t looked that good since their opening round game against Mississippi Valley State. However, I’m not sure if that was more UCLA or their opponent. In either case, the Bruins haven’t looked like the team that most analysts predicted would cut down the nets in San Antonio.

As noted earlier, Xavier escaped with a win in their Sweet 16 game with Joe Alexander’s mistakes and some clutch 3 point shooting from B.J. Raymond. Even though Josh Duncan dominated the scoring last round, the Muskeeters are usually pretty good at spreading the ball around leading to their extremely balanced scoring averages. It will be interesting to see how they try to match up against Love, Collison, and Westbrook as that may be the key to the game.

Opening Line: UCLA -6.
Prediction: As Kevin Love said after their last game, the Bruins play has been “unacceptable”. I think that on paper (and when they are on) UCLA has all the makings of a championship team with a nice mix of experience, talent, and an inside/outside game. If they’re firing on all cylinders, the Bruins could blow this game wide open like they did in the early part of their Sweet 16 game. Unfortunately for Ben Howland, they have not been able to do that consistently. I think UCLA has have played with fire one too many times and tonight it will catch up with them. I’m going with Xavier in a hard-fought game earning a trip to the Final 4.

#1 UNC vs. #3 Louisville (9:05 PM): This is probably the best match-up of the weekend on paper. Both teams are absolutely loaded and appear to be playing at their peak. The Tar Heels have been the most dominant team in the tournament so far while the Cardinals have matched them in dominance the past 2 rounds. Both teams absolutely crushed their very capable opponents (Washington State and Tennessee, respectively) on Thursday night.

The Tar Heels’ calling card this season has been their phenomenal offense, but in the last round they showed Tony Bennett’s Cougars that they know how to play a little D too. Offensively, Tyler Hansbrough has been solid if not spectacular although he hasn’t needed to be so far in the tournament. One of the major drivers of the Tar Heels dominance in the tournament has been Ty Lawson who appears to be back near 100%. When he gets in the open court, I’m not sure if anybody can keep up with Lawson. Although those two get all the hype, I think the key to the game for UNC will be if Wayne Ellington can hit from outside. He’s the only great outside shooter that Roy Williams has and his ability to hit from 3 will be very important against Rick Pitino’s 2-3 zone. If he is hitting, Pitino will have a decision to make: let him bomb away or go man-to-man and risk having Psycho T go off.

Louisville is peaking at the perfect time. They made a very good Tennessee team look very bad on Thursday night although the Vols PG issues certainly contributed. They don’t have quite the star power that UNC has, but Pitino’s boys (David Padgett & company) are no slouches. Padgett has a lot of help offensively as the Cardinals have another half dozen guys who can get in double figures on the right night. The key for the Cardinals will be how their defense controls UNC. It will be interesting to see how their press is able to handle Lawson and how their zone matches up against Ellington’s outside shooting.

Opening Line: UNC -5.5.
Prediction: I’m going with the Tar Heels tonight. They’ve been the best team in the country in the first 3 rounds and they weren’t even clicking offensively against Washington State. Louisville has a great team and that line is ridiculously high, but I don’t think Hansbrough will let the Tar Heels lose. He’s had a very good college career so far, but he hasn’t been able to get his team over the hump. This will be a tight game, but I think that Hansbrough will come up big down the stretch giving the Heels the slight edge. The Tar Heels were on the verge of going to the Final 4 before collapsing against Georgetown and I can’t see them letting it happen again. As an added bonus, this sets up a potential national semifinal of Roy Williams versus Kansas. . .(more on that set of Elite 8 games later)

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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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East Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2008

As I stated earlier during my live blog of the selection show, the East Regional definitely seems likely the toughest of the four regions, which seems a little unfair to #1 overall seed UNC. I also included links to the team’s ESPN pages that includes schedules and rosters.

Teams
#1 UNC: Despite all the hype that the analysts are giving UCLA, I still think UNC is the team to beat as they have Hansbrough, the most reliable player in the nation on a team that doesn’t have a #2 guy who lay a 0-for-14 in a big game, a very good if not great yet perimeter player in Ellington, and one of the best PGs in the nation in Lawson (still unsure when he will be back to his prior form). They also have Roy Williams, who despite his record of losing tournament games with superior teams has also won a national title before so at least he knows how it is done. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Tennessee: Out of all the #2 seeds, the Vols definitely got the short end of the stick. For all the talk of Wisconsin being cheated out of a #3 seed, I would almost prefer to be in Wisconsin’s position rather than Tennessee’s. The Vols have one of the most exciting/athletic teams in the country, but sometimes they just don’t show up. I’m still waiting for Chris Lofton to turn into the potential national POY that he was hyped as coming into the season. Even though their first round game should a cakewalk, the second round will be a challenge as they will end up with either Butler (much, much better than its 7th seed) or South Alabama (the game is in Birmingham, AL). This is a pretty rough bracket for the team that most would consider the best #2 seed especially since Wisconsin didn’t even get a #2 seed. Schedule/Roster.

#3 Louisville: Despite their horrendous early-season start, Rick Pitino (and the team recovering from injuries) turned the season around and has Louisville at a very respectable seed. While they lack the star power of some of the top teams, Louisville makes up for it with their depth. Their most explosive scorer (Sosa) comes off the bench and they also have solid (if somewhat anonymous) play out of the backcourt to compliment Padgett, Character, and Palacios, who actually started on their Final 4 team. Normally, I would give this group a good chance to make the Final 4, but with UNC and Tennessee in their bracket they will be hard-pressed to make it to San Antonio. Schedule/Roster.

#4 Washington State: It’s hard to believe that earlier in the season this team was ranked #4 and now they are probably getting the 4th most hype out of the Pac-10 teams in the tournament. With tons of experience and solid play from Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low, the Cougars should be competitive with almost any team in the tournament, but their lack of firepower and depth will probably cost them if they get deep into the tournament. I’m sure that all of you are also looking at Winthrop as a potential Cinderella based on their prior performance so the Cougars also have that to worry about. Schedule/Roster.

#5 Notre Dame: Led by Big East POY candidate Luke Harangody, the Irish were one of the big surprises for us out of the Big East. We didn’t get to see them play much, but when we did they looked very good. Part of their success seems to be related to their home-court winning streak. It’s too bad for the Irish the tournament isn’t played in South Bend. They play the 2006 Cinderella George Mason in the first round, which should be an interesting matchup (we’ll leave the Irish/Cinderella commentary/jokes to someone else). Like Duke, the Irish rely on the 3 although they are not completely lacking an inside presence. This makes them dangerous on a given night, but also subject to an early upset. Schedule/Roster.

#6 Oklahoma: It looks like that whole Kelvin Sampson leaving thing didn’t turn out so bad for the Sooners. Somehow they ended up a higher seed than Sampson’s more recent previous team. The Sooners are led by Blake Griffin who managed to put up big numbers (15.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG) despite injury both knees this season. Jeff Capel has done a good job replacing Sampson on the sideline while staying off the cell phone (we hope). The Sooners aren’t a force offensively so they have to rely on their defense. While that normally is a good thing for a team, we wonder how far this team can go with all the offensive firepower in this region. Schedule/Roster.

#7 Butler: Seriously, this is unbelievable. 29-3. Ranked #10 or 11 depending on which poll you believe. They’re a #7 seed?!?!? Normally with a balanced attack (4 guys average double figures), experience (a Sweet 16 trip last year), and several impressive non-conference victories, we would expect the Bulldogs to outperform their seed, but Committee Chairman Tom O’Connor must think Butler head coach Brad Stevens looks like a bitch because. . .well you know the rest of the line. This is one of the all-time great screwjobs. They play #10 seed South Alabama in the first round in Birmingham, Alabama. If they survive that, the Bulldogs will likely face Tennessee, the best #2 seed in the tournament. Schedule/Roster.

#8 Indiana: Honestly, this is the most surprising seed that I can remember. I wouldn’t have pictured the Hoosiers as anything lower than a 6. It’s amazing that the team with the Big 10 POY (DJ White) and possibly the best freshman in the nation (Eric Gordon) along with a host of other solid players could be a #8 seed. I realize they lost 3 of their last 4, but one was in OT and the other was on a last second miracle shot (I wonder if Tubby got the idea after hearing about it so much while he was at UK). We would pick the Hoosiers to go deep in the tournament, but they have lost to every elite team they played this year (Xavier, UConn, and Wisconsin). Perhaps, Dakich can work some of his magic or Dick Vitale will be calling for the return of Robert Montgomery Knight. Schedule/Roster.

#9 Arkansas: Led by new coach John Pelphrey (look for him in the background of rtmsf’s favorite March moment), the Razorbacks have had an impressive season after a few bad non-conference losses. Much like Nolan Richardson’s teams (although not nearly as good), the Razorbacks like a quick pace. After a nice run to the SEC tournament finals, Arkansas might be a trendy pick to make a run, but they have a killer draw (Indiana then UNC if they want to make the Sweet 16). While this stat won’t help you make your picks, watch for how the Razorbacks start the game for a hint at the outcome. During the regular season, they were 18-0 with a halftime lead and 2-10 when trailing at the half. Schedule/Roster.

#10 South Alabama: After failing to win the Sun Belt tournament, South Alabama was on the edge of not making the tournament. The good news: they’re in and their pod is in Alabama. The bad news: to make it out of the sub-region they will have to be Butler and Tennessee. If they are going to make a run, they will have to feed off the home crowd and need a big performance out of star Demetric Bennett. Schedule/Roster.

#11 Saint Joseph’s: Led by Pat Calathes (older brother of UF star Nick Calathes), the Hawks made the tournament by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, St. Joe’s was on the verge of a perfect regular season and almost made the Final 4. It’s also hard to believe that Jameer Nelson and Delonte West played at St. Joe’s at the same time. If Phil Martelli wants to survive the opening weekend, the Hawks will need to step up their defense. Fortunately for them, they start off with Oklahoma, a team that isn’t know for being high-scoring. Schedule/Roster.

#12 George Mason: The Patriots (Final 4 Cinderella in 2006) are back and they start off against Notre Dame. We don’t see the Patriots making a deep run this year, but then again we never would have imagined they could beat a loaded UCONN team back in 2006. Schedule/Roster.

#13 Winthrop: If the Eagles are to pull off another upset, they will need a big night out of Michael Jenkins (14.3 PPG). Before you go out and make the Eagles a Cinderella you should realize this is a different team, which is most noticeable when you see they have a new coach on the sideline.Schedule/Roster.

#14 Boise State: It looks they know one thing at Boise State and we’re not referring to the hideous blue football field that makes you try to adjust your TV every bowl season. Like the football team, the basketball Broncos can light up the scoreboard averaging 81.2 PPG (12th nationally) and shoots 51.5% from the field (2nd nationally). They are led by first team All-WAC Reggie Larry (19.3 PPG and 9.1 RPG) along with 2 other forwards who average double figures. Side note: We loved watching replays of their Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma (didn’t see live because I had to be in the hospital at 4 am for an orthopedic surgery rotation) and would love for them to meet in the 2nd round of the tournament so we can root for that. Schedule/Roster.

#15 American: I’m not going to put much time into this because well they aren’t going to be spending much time in the tournament. They like to slow the game down and they shoot 40.9% as a team from 3. Unfortunately, both of their starting guards are under 6′ tall. The result is that they might hang with the Vols for 10 minutes then it’s over. Schedule/Roster.

#16 Mount Saint Mary’s / Coppin State: Honestly, we don’t know anything about either of these teams except that Coppin State is the first 20-loss team to ever make the tournament. Nothing against either of these teams, but a detailed analysis of these teams isn’t really worth the time since they will likely be gone 5 minutes into their game with UNC. Mount Saint Mary’s Schedule/Roster. Coppin State’s Schedule/Roster.

P.S. Kelvin Sampson must love this region with his two former teams in it. I wonder how much he will be mentioned during their games. We know it’s pretty much impossible, but we would love the possibility of an Indiana-Oklahoma Elite 8 match-up.

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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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