Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Low Seed Special

The brackets are out, and Ohio St., Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Duke have received the number one seeds. Are they the favorites to win their region? Are they even favorites to make the Sweet Sixteen? It’s all about the upsets baby. Here, I will break down every lower seed and tell you who I think will pull off the upset, if they have a chance to pull off the upset, or if they will not be pulling off the upset. In addition, I’ll leak my favorites from each region, as well as the teams who will surprise by making it to the second weekend.

#16 Boston University It’s good for senior forward John Holland to finally get into the tournament. Unfortunately for him, he won’t be able to win a game. The Terriers made a nice run to capture the America East championship, but they’ll be awarded with a meeting with the Big 12 champion Jayhawks. Kansas should have its way with Boston, and the only way I see that not happening is if the Morris twins miss the bus to the BOK Center. Actually, let me correct myself: If the entire Kansas team misses the bus. Boston U. will not be pulling the upset.

#10 Florida St. It seems that Florida St. will be having Chris Singleton back for their opening round against Texas A&M, and the Seminoles couldn’t be happier. While they haven’t played to their full potential without Singleton, it should be noted that they lost to North Carolina on a Harrison Barnes rocket, and lost to Virginia Tech by a fingertip. Singleton is the anchor to Florida St.’s stingy defense and that could pose problems to an Aggies team that has seemed sluggish at times. The Seminoles are primed to pull off the upset.

#12 Clemson The Tigers have to win a game before they even advance to the field of 64. In a play-in game for twelve seeds, something I’m not too keen on, they will face UAB. Clemson has gotten better as of late, but blowing the game against North Carolina really was not encouraging. What was worse was watching Demontez Stitt trying to get a game winning shot on an iso play. He’s not that kind of player and the Tigers aren’t that kind of team. If they can control the tempo and win the rebound battle, they certainly have a shot of not only beating the Blazers, but knocking off West Virginia as well. However, due to their inconsistency, I don’t see either of those happening.

#13 Belmont This is the upset that everyone is picking, including me. Belmont has steamrolled over everyone this season, which may not be saying much, but they are such a complete team. They can shoot, rebound, work the post, and force turnovers. Their opponent, Wisconsin, ended the season by scoring only 33 points against Penn St. The Badgers in my mind are a weaker BYU. They have two very good players, but the supporting cast sometimes doesn’t show up. Ultimately, that will be their downfall. It should be an exciting game, but Belmont will advance. After that, they will win again and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

#12 Richmond Seeded five spots lower than last year, the Spiders now look to be a bracket buster in the first round. The duo of Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper provide a solid inside-outside combination. However, aside from Harper, Richmond has trouble rebounding. While Vanderbilt is mainly a guard oriented team, their center, Festus Ezeli, could give the Spiders trouble. I think the commodores are more battle tested coming out of the SEC East, as opposed to the Atlantic-10 where Richmond resides. They are a trendy upset pick as a twelve seed, and while they do have a shot, I don’t think they can overcome Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins.

#9 Villanova In a hot versus cold matchup, the Wildcats barely have a pulse. They face a George Mason team who just had their sixteen game win streak snapped by VCU. This is a very tricky matchup. The Patriots have not beaten many good teams, but seem to be on a roll. Villanova, on the other hand, has some high quality wins despite the fact that they limped to the end of the season. I went back and forth with this one but in the end, it’s really about how you’re playing. George Mason is playing a hundred times better than the Wildcats, but you should still expect a close game. In the end, the Patriots should pull it out, but you can’t sleep on ‘Nova.

#11 Marquette Marquette is a very puzzling team that has been up and down. They boast wins over Notre Dame, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Syracuse. But they had a three game winning streak at the end of the season that was followed by two rough losses, including a very ugly one at Seton Hall. They then had two strong wins in the Big East Tournament before getting mopped up by Louisville. The bottom line is that this is a very talented team. Led by Jimmy Butler’s shooting, Jae Crowder’s aggressiveness, and Darius Johnson-Odom’s all around ability, they’re primed to upset an Xavier team that just lost to Dayton. It should be a very good game and was a very hard one to pick, but I think the Golden Eagles should pull this one out.

#15 Northern Colorado Coming out of the Big Sky conference with their first ever tournament berth, the Bears are another nice story who should just be happy to be there. San Diego St. has beaten everyone it should, and that shouldn’t stop here. The Aztecs play such good defense that Northern Colorado star Devon Beitzel will be smothered. He led the Bears past Montana, but they’re in the big leagues now. San Diego St. will win, and I’ll be shocked of the opposite turns out to be true. Either way, it should be a nice send off for the four senior starters.

#16 N. C. Asheville Given the fact that they beat Coastal Carolina on the road twice, the Bulldogs should feel accomplished enough. They have a play-in game against Arkansas Little-Rock who barely made it through their conference tournament. They should be able to beat the Trojans, but they get a date with Pittsburgh afterwards. The Bulldogs will be happy with their first win and feel a little sour after getting romped by Pitt.

#9 Illinois The Illini have to put together all their pieces if they want to make a win. They have an extremely talented team with Demetri McCamey and their frontcourt of Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. I feel that Illinois will be extra motivated since their head coach Bruce Weber may be playing for his job, while the trio of players mentioned above are all seniors. All of this combined should lead to the Illini overpowering the Runnin’ Rebels en route to a victory.

#10 Michigan St. Despite coming out flat against Penn St., a blowout win over Purdue says that the Spartans are ready for March. No one coaches better in the big dance better than Tom Izzo, and he should have his underachieving yet talented squad ready for battle. They face a UCLA team who has some talent too, but just got thumped by Oregon. In a matchup that I think will be dominated by coaching, Kailn Lucas won’t let his senior season end just yet. With Draymond Green and Durrelll Summers at his side, Michigan St. is poised to upset the Bruins and could even make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

#10 Penn St. The second Big Ten team to earn a ten seed, the Nittany Lions needed a late season surge to make the field. They have won five of their last seven, only losing to Ohio St. Despite the loss, I liked what I saw in the Big Ten championship game. I’m still a little unsure of how their resume got them a ten seed, but they are a threat nonetheless. Temple is a veteran team that doesn’t want to make an early exit like last year. But Talor Battle is playing for his college basketball career life. If he loses, that may be it for the star guard. Expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder and take down the Owls who made an unexpected early exit in the A-10 tournament.

#11 Missouri After playing excellent in their non-conference schedule, losing only once to Georgetown in overtime, they faltered in the conference part of the schedule and are losers of three of their last four. They’re playing a team who was playing pretty well before it got manhandled by Notre Dame. I feel like if the Tigers can control the pace, they should have their way with the Bearcats. Marcus Denmon and Kim English will run the floor and show flashes of their preseason dominance. Cincinnati will be off their game which will lead to an upset win for Missouri.

#15 UCSB The Gauchos are in way over their head in this one. While many people think Florida is overseeded at number two, nobody is giving UCSB a chance. They were only a game above .500 before their conference tournament when they made a big run. Like most fifteen seeds, they have really no chance of winning, and should just be happy to be in the tournament.

#9 Old Dominion One of the best rebounding teams in the country, Old Dominion is primed for a hardnosed battle with Butler. They have Kent Bazemore who does it all, and look like a very dangerous team. However, they may have met their match in the Bulldogs. Butler epitomizes toughness and they have so much experience from last year’s run. Matt Howard is one of the most hardworking players in the country, and he should be able to grind it out for Butler. The Monarchs have a shot in this game that will go down to the wire, but I see Butler getting the victory.

#11 VCU Once again, it remains to be seen if VCU will even make the field of 64. I’m surprised they’ve gotten this far. They’ve shown they can win with victories over George Mason and UCLA, but I’m still shocked they made the field over Colorado. They have an outside shot, I don’t see them beating USC. After that, they certainly couldn’t beat the Hoyas.

#12 UAB The Blazers are another team that isn’t in yet and people are skeptic as to whether they deserve a bid. But they are not a team you want to face. Their Coach Mike Davis has a 7-4 NCAA tournament record and always seems to pull off an upset or two. This could be the case again. I see them beating Clemson, but I don’t expect them to go any further. However, it is possible that the beat the Mountaineers, and they even have an outside shot of advancing to the second weekend.

#12 Memphis This is a twelve-five matchup that a lot of upset lovers are steering away from. That does not include me. While they are young, I feel like Memphis’s freshmen took a big step towards growing up in the Conference-USA championship game against UTEP. On the road against a crazy crowd, the Tigers fell down big in the beginning, came back, and won it close at the end because of free throws. They showed a lot of toughness, and have a lot of talent with four players scoring in double figures. I think Arizona is a one man team, and rather overrated. Will Barton is a great player and Tarik Black should keep Derrick Williams in check enough for Memphis to squeeze out a victory.

#13 Princeton A miracle shot vaulted Princeton into the tournament and left a team who a lot of people belonged in, out (Harvard). Senior Kareem Maddox is a sparkplug off the bench for a Princeton team that shoots pretty well from behind the arc. I have Kentucky in this matchup, but I’m a little scared. If Princeton can get hot, the lack of experience could come out of Kentucky’s super freshman, leading to an outside shot of an upset.

#14 St. Peter’s The Peacocks are a team that is mainly defense oriented. Unfortunately for them, they face one of the highest scoring teams in the country. They will have a ton of trouble guarding E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. St. Peter’s has probably one of the worst matches, and I’m not sure how they can escape this one with a win.

#15 Akron The Zips won an exciting championship game in the MAC tournament against Kent St. thanks to a game saving block by Zeke Marshall. Look for Marshall to give the Irish offense some headaches. Akron is very good at taking care of the ball, and probably has a decent chance of keeping it close. However, Notre Dame is too good to lose this game, but the Zips should make this one interesting.

#16 Hampton The Pirates have a matchup against Duke that they won’t be able to win. No way that a team coached by Coach K loses to a sixteen seed. Hampton’s offense won’t be able to keep up with the Blue Devils, and their defense won’t be able to stop them either. Honestly, I don’t see any sixteen seeds pulling off the unheard of upset this year.

#14 Indiana St. The Sycamores have a tough matchup against a hot Syracuse team. Maybe if it were another team, they would have a shot, but unless forward Carl Richard can somehow outrebound Rick Jackson, Indiana St. has no shot. The Orange are a team who is inconsistent at times, but shouldn’t have trouble getting out of the first round.

#15 Long Island It’s a little upsetting that Long Island is seeded so low. One of the few conference champs who were seeded at the top of their conference tournament, no one is talking about how the Blackbirds are underseeded. If they can hit some threes and control the pace, they may actually be able to beat a North Carolina team that has been getting off to some slow starts as of late. However, I don’t see it happening.

#13 Morehead St. Kenneth Faried is a monster. He’s pulled down more rebounds than anyone has in the entire NCAA history. But Louisville is a really good team. Unfortunately for Faried, the Eagles don’t have enough players to help him beat a team like the Cardinals. Rick Pittino is a fantastic coach that won’t let his team be beat by a weaker Morehead St. They have a shot, but expect the Eagles to only be able to keep it close for a little while as Faried plays his final college game.

#11 USC Why are the Trojans in the tournament again? They lost to Rider, Bradley, TCU, Oregon St., and Oregon twice. By the way, that loss to Rider was at home by twenty. Yuck. However, with Nikola Vucevic and Jio Fontan, USC has some talent and potential. I can see them beating another undeserving team, VCU, but I give them no chance against a rejuvenated Georgetown team with Chris Wright back in action. Watch out though, with those bad losses, the Rams could knock them off before the second round begins.

#14 Bucknell When I watched the Patriot League championship game, I was very impressed with the Bison, and especially their do-it-all center Mike Muscala. Bucknell moves the ball very well and is a team to watch because of their upset history (Kansas anyone?). However, just look at how UConn stormed through the Big East tournament, and your decision should be made for you. The Bison have a chance, but they aren’t the team that will stop the momentum of the Huskies.

#10 Georgia Despite completely choking against Alabama in the SEC tournament, Georgia is in as a ten seed. However, instead of playing another struggling team, they get red hot Washington. Georgia has not done very well against good teams, having a 3-9 record against tournament teams, one of them being against UAB. I don’t see them stopping the Husky train, especially because of their coach, Mark Fox. I’m not a fan of Fox, and he really killed a chance to win that Alabama game late. A lot of times I’ve seen Georgia collapse down the stretch and with athletes like Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslies, I feel like Fox is the problem. You won’t win any tournament games with a bad coach.

#14 Wofford In my biggest upset of the bracket, I have Wofford defeating BYU. They have two excellent players in Noah Dahlman and Cameron Rundles. They play great defense, and have won eight straight. Last year, they finished their season hot and came within four of Wisconsin. Now, with everyone back, expect them to pull off the upset over an overrated BYU team. Jimmer Fredette will get his points, but with almost no one to help him, they will ultimately fall. The loss of Brandon Davies hurts, and Fredette and guard Jackson Emery are the only ones on the team who do anything. In what will be a team game, look for the Terriers to pull off the monumental upset.

#16 UTSA The Roadrunners were seeded seventh in the Southland Conference tournament and still managed to get into the tournament. The upsets end here. They have absolutely no chance against Ohio St., but I’m going with my gut a picking them to lose to Alabama St.

#16 Alabama St. Refer to my prediction above. The Hornets should beat UTSA because of their defense, but like the Roadrunners, they would have no shot in beating the Buckeyes.

#13 Oakland After playing a tough non-conference schedule, the Grizzlies stormed through the Summit League to win the title. They are battle tested and have a ton of talent, especially in the front court with Keith Benson. It’s a shame they have to play the Longhorns who are a team that is just too good for them to beat. Look for this one to be close, but Jordan Hamilton will be the difference in this one.

#16 Arkansas-Little Rock Solomon Bozeman miraculously led the Trojans to the tournament but the Cinderella story stops here. They live and die by the three, and that will ultimately be their undoing against UNC Asheville. Of course, if they do win, I don’t need to tell you what will happen. Ashton Gibbs will happen.

#11 Gonzaga A hot streak by the Zags have led them into the tournament. Mark Few has a lot of experience in March Madness, but I think it the wins end here. Steve Lavin has St. John’s so confident right now and these kids know that if they lose in the second round, it will be a major disappointment. Unless Robert Sacre can really take advantage of D. J. Kennedy being out, I don’t think the Bulldogs will beat the Red Storm.

#12 Utah St. A lot of people like Utah St. over Kansas St., but I just don’t see how that’s going to happen. Yes, they have talented players in Tai Wesley and Brockeith Pane, but who did they play this year? A thirty win season includes wins against all no names except for St. Mary’s, who got left out of the dance. Meanwhile, Kansas St. is playing great and despite an early exit in the Big 12 tournament, they’ve beaten a lot of good teams, including Kansas who has two losses. I’m not buying into the Aggies like the rest of the country.

I see Washington upsetting a North Carolina team that they are evenly matched against to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. St. John’s should also advance by overpowering Wofford with Dwight Hardy. Although I like Kansas St., I see them eventually losing at the hands of an incredibly dangerous Belmont team. And finally, I have Bruce Pearl and Tennessee pulling off a monumental upset over Duke. My final four teams are Ohio St., Texas, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. In the championship game, I see the Buckeyes overpowering the Cardinals, as they frankly can’t be stopped.

Let the Madness begin!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bubble Bursting

With only one week before conference tournaments start, the NCAA tournament bubble is ready to pop. Teams looking to make late season surges only have a few more games to make their claim. Some teams are on the inside, some are on the outside, and some are just on the bubble. Here, I’ll tell you what I think about a team’s current position, and if I feel they will ultimately make the tournament. I have excluded the smaller conferences, unless they have teams with a shot of getting an at-large bid without winning their conference tournament.


Florida St. 19-8 (9-4) The Seminoles tournament hopes took a big hit when they lost their star player Chris Singleton to injury. It’s a shame for them, who looked like the best ACC team not named Duke or North Carolina. They were able to beat Wake Forest without him, but got roughed up by Maryland on the road. The RPI and strength of schedule numbers really don’t help them that much, although they do have that big win against Duke. They have a dangerous game against Miami on Saturday which may be a must win. A win on Wednesday over North Carolina will help big time, but I don’t see that happening. Expect Florida St. to beat the Hurricanes, win their season finale at N. C. State, and win a game in the ACC tournament. All of this should lead a tournament berth, and most likely a #9 seed, the same position they were in last year.

Virginia Tech 18-8 (8-5) The Hokies have underachieved in a mediocre ACC this year, getting swept by in-state rival Virginia. But tournament teams before, this is not a team you want to play in March. Virginia Tech has the potential to be dangerous with Malcolm Delaney leading the way. Virginia Tech has a very tough schedule to end the season, but that could help a lot. A win over Duke on Saturday would all but lock up an NCAA bid. They are in a very similar position as Florida St., and I expect the results to be similar-win two of your last three, win an ACC tournament game, and get a middle seed, maybe a #8 seed.

Clemson 18-9 (7-6) Clemson is a team on the outside looking in with not very good computer numbers. They have some rough losses to South Carolina, Virginia, and N. C. State this year, and really only two quality wins over Florida St. and Boston College. The reality for the Tigers is that they need to win now. Their Saturday game against Wake Forest is a must win. Also, I really don’t see them even being considered if they can’t beat either Duke or Virginia Tech. In the end, I think the Tigers will come up short and spend their postseason in the NIT.

Maryland 18-10 (7-6) The Terrapins are still looking for that signature win and they have a shot for it at Chapel Hill on Saturday against the Tar Heels. Though they don’t really have any bad losses, Maryland sits well below 50 in both RPI and strength of schedule. They need this win against North Carolina badly, but I don’t think they’ll get it. If they lose, the only thing that can vault them into the tournament is a deep run in the conference tournament. I also don’t think they’ll get that either. Look for them to win their last two games of the season, and be one of the first four out.

Boston College 16-11 (6-7) If there’s a team that has dug itself into a whole, it’s Boston College, who has lost seven of their last ten after starting the season off 10-2. The Eagles find themselves struggling in conference play, which includes being swept by Miami. They also have loses to Yale, Harvard, and Rhode Island. Although their strength of schedule is 16, it may not be enough to save them. Beating North Carolina last weekend would have put them right back in the picture, but they were unable to, mainly because they failed to score in the first seven minutes. The Eagles have a relatively easy road to end the season that includes a road game against Virginia and a home game against Wake Forest. They also have a date with Virginia Tech in between. Plain and simple, Boston College has struggled too much in conference play, and won’t make it to the tournament, barring a miracle.

Miami (FL) 17-11 (5-8) The hopes of the Hurricanes are hanging by a thread. Their average computer numbers won’t mask bad losses to Rutgers, UCF, and N. C. State. If they can win out and win a few games in the ACC tournament, there may be a spot for them in March. But Reggie Johnson can only do so much, and this team really is not good enough and does not have enough quality wins. I believe they have a better chance than Boston College, but that isn’t saying much.

Atlantic 10

Richmond 21-7 (10-3) The Spiders have looked good in conference play, only losing three times to three good teams. However, loses against Georgia Tech, Iona, and Bucknell hurt them. So why do the Spiders belong in the NCAA tournament? They have a win over Purdue, which is looking better as the season goes on. A win against VCU helps too, and by winning out their remaining three games, they should make it to the big dance. The finale against Duquesne won’t be an easy one, but look for the Spiders to pull it out, and if they’re lucky, possibly get a #11 seed.

Duquesne 17-9 (9-4) After starting off the season scorching hot, they have lost four of their last five, three of those games by a combination of four points. The Dukes are in trouble now, as they probably won’t make March Madness unless they win the A-10 tournament. Sure, maybe winning their last three games and a few conference tournament wins could add to a resume that already has a win over Temple, but Duquesne has had too many bad losses and too little quality wins. Robert Morris and St. Bonaventure are teams you need to beat. The Dukes are a dark horse to win the A-10 tournament and while it certainly is possible, it’s not really probable.

Rhode Island 17-10 (8-5) Could the Rams really make it to the big dance? Only if they win the A-10 tournament. The reason why I’m including Rhode Island in this article is because they have a solid record and a very good shot at winning 20 regular season games. Still, they are a long shot to win their conference tournament. Their highlight wins include Boston College, Richmond, and Duquesne, all bubble teams who have a better shot than the Rams. Don’t expect to see Rhode Island come March, but if you do, don’t fall off your chair either.

Big East

Cincinnati 22-6 (9-6) I was very skeptical about the Bearcats earlier in the season when they went undefeated out of conference, beating up on weaker competition. I was still unimpressed when they beat Louisville. But after thumping Georgetown, a national title contender, on the road, Cincinnati is tournament bound. They also have a win over Xavier and beat St. John’s at the garden, which is looking more and more impressive each day. While I’m still unsure how far the Bearcats will go in the tournament, they are nearly an automatic for an at large bid. A win in one of their final three games should lock that up, and maybe another win (beating UConn or the Hoyas again) or a run in the Big East tournament, and maybe Cincinnati improves its seeding much more. I expect them to upset UConn on Sunday, but fall to Marquette and Georgetown to end the season. They’ll probably win a conference tournament game, putting themselves at 24-9, and probably a #7 seed.

Marquette 17-11 (8-7) It seemed like time was running out for Marquette, but they picked up a huge win on the road against UConn. Now, Marquette looks like it will be dancing. This adds to their resume that includes wins over West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Syracuse and no bad losses. Every team the Golden Eagles have lost to is currently ranked except for red hot Gonzaga. I expect Marquette to win their last two home games, but drop a road contest to Seton Hall. They will then conclude their season with one or two wins in the Big East tournament, and a #8 seed in the NCAA tournament. This is not a team any #1 seed wants to draw in their region.

Big Ten

Michigan St. 16-11 (8-7) After a miserable start to the season, the Spartans look to be back on track. Despite having only 16 wins currently, they have a fifth ranked in terms of Strength of Schedule, and an RPI of 37. Winners of three of their last four, Michigan St. holds victories over Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota (twice). They have a huge home game against Purdue on Sunday, a game I think they will win. I’m predicting them to win in their last three games and a few in the Big Ten tournament. This will lead to a possible #7 seed in the big dance, and a team that absolutely no one wants to see in March. This is Sparta.

Penn St. 15-12 (8-8) The only thing keeping the Nittany Lions’ tournament hopes alive is their sixth ranked strength of schedule. To go dancing, they would need to win their final two games against Ohio St. and Minnesota. Even if they pull off that feat, they still would need a few wins in the Big Ten tournament. I don’t see it happening for Penn St., whose only quality wins have come against Duquesne and Minnesota. Talor Battle has had a stellar college career, but he’ll be lucky if he finishes it in the NIT.

Illinois 17-11 (7-8) If the Illini weren’t shooting so well from behind the arc in the beginning of their battle with Ohio St., the end result would have been a lot worse than it was. With bad losses to Illinois-Chicago and Indiana, Illinois is struggling to improve their resume. Their computer numbers are good, but they’ve dropped back-to-back games, and need to beat Iowa on Saturday. A win over Purdue would be huge for a team who already has four Top 50 wins. The Illini have potential, as well as a nice track record, but need to improve if they want a higher seed. A #9 seed is likely.

Michigan 17-12 (7-9) The Wolverines lost a heartbreak against Wisconsin that would have likely sent them back into the conversation for the big dance. Michigan benefits from being ranked 21st in terms of strength of schedule, but losses over Indiana and UTEP hurt. Still, this team beat Penn St. twice and Michigan St. on the road. They’ll have to win their remaining two games over the Spartans and Minnesota, as well as win a game or two in the Big Ten tournament. I don’t see that happening. The Wolverines overachieved this year, but will most likely miss out on post season play.

Minnesota 17-10 (6-9) The Golden Gophers are in a tailspin, losing six of their last seven. They have decent computer numbers, and wins over North Carolina and Purdue, but because of this losing streak, and losses to Virginia and Indiana, Minnesota will need to win out to secure a postseason berth. With games against Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn St., that is entirely possible. I’m confident they will do this, and wind up with a #12 seed. Still, the Golden Gophers should be a little disappointed in themselves.

Big 12

Kansas St. 19-9 (7-6) A late season surge has the Wildcats feeling god about their tournament hopes. Jacob Pullen has been red hot on their three game win streak that includes wins over Kansas and Nebraska. A preseason favorite, Kansas St. looks to be the team everyone thought they were. In their final three games, I expect them to lose only to Texas, beating Missouri along the way. That, good computer numbers, and a few wins in Big 12 tournament could lead to a #6 for the hungry Wildcats. Tournaments teams have been put on notice.

Nebraska 18-9 (6-7) A huge win over Texas has got people talking about the Huskers. They then missed out on really helping their resume more against Kansas St. Nebraska has RPI and strength of schedule numbers of 74 and 75 respectively, so there is still work to be done. This team has shown it has the firepower with wins over Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. With three games remaining, Nebraska will beat Iowa St. and Colorado, but fall short of upsetting Missouri. That will leave their NCAA tournament hopes up to how well they play in the Big 12 tournament. They should win their first game, and I’m expecting a big upset for them to win a second game, leading to them just squeaking into the big dance. They may be one of the four teams in the play-in games as a #12 seed.

Baylor 17-10 (6-7) The Bears are loaded with talent in the form of Perry Jones and LaceDarius Dunn. So why do the Bears intend on playing themselves out of postseason play? After coming up short against Texas, they lost to Texas Tech and didn’t show up against Missouri. Baylor better turn themselves around quickly. They do have wins over Oklahoma St., Texas A&M, and Nebraska, but they also have losses to Iowa St., Oklahoma, and the Red Raiders. Their tournament hopes all depend on which team shows up. I feel that they had the ability to win every game left on their schedule (Texas A&M, at Oklahoma St., Texas), but they don’t have enough discipline to win them all. They’ll probably lose in the first or second round of the Big 12 tournament, and finish just outside the bubble, missing the big dance.

Colorado 17-11 (6-7) Despite a mini slump for star Alec Burks, the Buffaloes have won two of three, their only loss coming to the second ranked Jayhawks. However, aside from sweeping Kansas St. and beating Missouri, Colorado has not done enough to deserve a bid. Early season losses to San Francisco and Harvard will hurt the Buffaloes, as their computer numbers are not very good. I see them struggling to even win a game the rest of the year, and missing the big dance.

Oklahoma St. 16-11 (4-9) Oh, how they miss James Anderson. The former Big 12 player of the year could have really helped Oklahoma St. to some more wins. Instead, they are riding a four game losing streak, and have lost seven of their last nine. They have wins over Kansas St. and Missouri, but unless they win out and make some noise in the Big 12 tournament, they aren’t going anywhere. Sorry Cowboys, I don’t see that happening.

Colonial Athletic

Old Dominion 23-6 (13-4) Since George Mason has the CAA regular season title pretty much wrapped up, along with an at-large bid, the Monarchs are sitting comfortably in second. They have an RPI of 26, and hold victories over every top team in their division, including the Patriots. They seem to be a lock for the big dance even if they can’t win their conference tournament. If they could make it to the finals of that, or even win it, they make be looking at a #7 seed, which is what I see them getting.

Hofstra 19-10 (13-4) Charles Jenkins has led the Pride to a lot of wins this season. But due to weak computer numbers, and losses to Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, Iona, and Drexel (twice), they won’t make it to March without a win in the CAA tournament. Jenkins certainly has the ability to do it, but they seem to be a long shot in grabbing an automatic berth.

VCU 21-9 (12-5) The Rams have shown why they’re clearly not in the top tier of the CAA, get handled by George Mason and Old Dominion, and then losing to Drexel. VCU has had too many hiccups in the road, and the only way I see them making it to March without winning the CAA tournament is if they can make it to the finals, beating George Mason along the way. The Rams certainly have a chance, but are a dark horse to beat the league’s top two teams. Consider them NIT bound.

Conference USA

Southern Miss 21-6 (9-4) A strength of schedule at 40 helps, but the Golden Eagles would greatly benefit from winning out and having a strong showing in the C-USA tournament. They’ve been pretty solid all year, and should be able to secure an at large bid if they do just that. In fact, I’ll take it one step further, and say that Southern Miss will win the conference tournament and be awarded an #11 seed.

Memphis 21-7 (9-4) The Tigers have good computer numbers, a couple good wins (Gonzaga, Southern Miss), and a good shot at winning out. However, Memphis has struggled with losses to Marshall, Tulsa, and Rice. I predict a run to the C-USA tournament finals, only to lose to Southern Miss. This will give them the same result as the Golden Eagles: being seeded at #11.

UAB 19-7 (9-4) The Blazers usually manage to steal a win in the big dance. But can they get there? They have pretty good computer numbers. Their only bad losses have been to Arizona St. and Tulsa. They just need one more big win. Do I think they’ll get it? Probably not, but I can seem them getting four or five more wins to close out the season. All of these factors combined, I expect UAB to be in a play-in game as a #12 seed.

UTEP 20-8 (8-5) The Miners have some rough losses, including back to back defeats by UCF and East Carolina. Their rest of the season schedule isn’t a cake walk either, with games against Memphis, Marshall, and SMU. They should be able to get a few more wins, but losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech have UTEP looking elsewhere for a place to go in March.

SMU 17-10 (8-5) Southern Methodist has really been hurt by early season losses, despite the fact they are currently hot, winning seven of their past nine. With that being said, the Mustangs will only be dancing if they win their conference tournament. That’s a long shot at best.

Horizon League

Cleveland St. 23-7 (12-5) After losing four of their last six, including a bad loss to Detroit, the Vikings are in trouble. They really don’t have any other bad losses, but they also don’t have any quality wins. The only way that Cleveland St. makes the tournament is with a very strong showing in the Horizon League tournament, at least making it to the finals. And with Norris Cole on board, expect him to carry them to that. A #12 seed is likely.

Butler 20-9 (12-5) Nobody is hotter than Butler right now, winners of six straight. With average computer numbers, the Bulldogs still need a strong showing in their conference tournament. But with Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, last year’s darlings should take it one step further and win it. That should lead to Butler locking up a #10 seed, and being scorching hot come tournament time.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee 17-12 (12-5) The Panthers were a mess earlier on in the season, but by winning eight of their last nine, including wins over Butler, Valparaiso, and Cleveland St., they’re relevant again. However, don’t expect them to go dancing unless they win the Horizon League tournament. Don’t expect that to happen either.

Valparaiso 20-10 (11-6) Ever since I started taking Valparaiso seriously, they have been struggling. Losing three of their past four, they have been unimpressive. While wins over Cleveland St., Oakland, and Butler are nice, it hardly makes up for bad losses and computer numbers. They have to win the conference tournament to advance.

Wright St. 18-12 (10-7) After losing three straight to the big boys of the Horizon League, they got a much needed win when they crushed Hofstra. Still, like the two previous teams, a Horizon League Tournament Championship is their only ticket to the big dance.

Missouri Valley

Wichita St. 23-6 (14-3) What looked like a conference that could produce an at-large berth has not become rather undecided. Wichita St. and Missouri St. will battle it out on Sunday for the regular season title. There’s still a chance that both of them can make it, but it depends on this game and how the MVC tournament goes. The Bears won their first meeting by three, but aside from a hiccup against Southern Illinois, Wichita St. has had an excellent season. I see them picking up a tough road win against Missouri St., and then winning the MVC conference tournament. That will lead to a #13 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Missouri St. 22-7 (14-3) Missouri St. is basically in the same position as the Wichita St. Due to slightly weaker computer numbers, as well as losses to Tulsa and Evansville, Missouri St. has less breathing room. Even a win in the regular season finale doesn’t lock up a berth. They will have to win the conference tournament. Like stated earlier, I don’t think that will happen.

Mountain West

UNLV 21-7 (9-5) With conference super powers BYU and San Diego St. flying high, the Runnin’ Rebels probably don’t have much of a chance to win the conference tournament. But with RPI and strength of schedule at 25 and 28, that’s just fine with them. Winning their last two games against Wyoming and Utah, as well as making it to the MWC semifinals, will solidify them a #8 seed, which is what I think they’ll wind up getting. Even if they don’t do all of those things, they should still have no trouble getting a bid. Wins over Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, and Kansas St. are very impressive, especially since the second two came on the road.

Colorado St. 18-9 (8-5) The Rams have pretty good computer numbers, but only one real quality win over UNLV. They have a chance for another in their season finale at San Diego St. Even if they don’t win, a trip to the conference finals could still send them dancing. Unfortunately for the Rams, I don’t see either of those happening. They should finish just outside of the bubble because of their inability to win big games. Welcome to the NIT, Colorado St.

Ohio Valley

Murray St. 22-7 (13-4) The Ohio Valley Conference has a similar situation as the Missouri Valley Conference-two teams who would likely need to win their conference tournament to go dancing. Murray St. has been hot, winning nine of ten and holding an early season victory over Morehead State on the road, as well as just recently beating them at home. So you think they would a lock for the NCAA tournament. I disagree, as I believe they will lose to Morehead St. in the OVC tournament. I’ll explain why in the next section, but don’t be surprised if the Racers aren’t dancing.

Morehead St. 21-9 (12-5) The Eagles had a nine game win streak snapped by Murray St. on Thursday night, but don’t be too alarmed. Morehead St. has something that the Racers don’t- Kenneth Faried. The NCAA’s all-time rebound leader will be playing motivated at the end of his senior season, and will help the Eagles win their conference tournament. A higher seed is not going to want to face Morehead St., who will likely be a #15 seed.


UCLA 20-8 (11-4) UCLA has a killer schedule to end their season, hosting Arizona, and then going on the road to face Washington and Washington St. Losses to USC, California, and Montana hurt, but the Bruins, led by Tyler Honeycutt, look to finish strong. I see them upsetting Arizona and beating Washington St., while falling to Washington. A solid showing in the Pac-10 tourney should then lock up a #7 seed for the Bruins. They hold big wins over BYU and St. John’s.

Washington 19-8 (10-5) The Huskies, in my opinion, are the best team in the Pac-10. While they don’t have a player like Derrick Williams, they have an even better one in Isiah Thomas. The point guard has made some ridiculous passes this season, and makes his team better. They were barely nipped on the road against Arizona. However, when they played the Wildcats at home, they won by 17. With an RPI of 36, the Huskies are set to do what they did last year-win NCAA tournament games. Despite losses to Oregon, Oregon St., and Stanford, I see Washington winning out and then winning the Pac-10 tournament. That should lead to a #6, and a very dangerous team.


Georgia 18-9 (7-6) A lot of people like Georgia to make the tournament. Not me. While the Bulldogs have good computer numbers, I don’t like what I see from this team. Aside from wins over Tennessee and Kentucky, they don’t have any good wins, but they don’t have any bad losses. That is, until now. I predict Georgia to get upset at home against South Carolina and then loss their season finale at Alabama. A first round exit will then send Georgia packing as they should be one of the first four out. The game against Vanderbilt really made me dislike them, as they really just fell apart down the stretch.

Tennessee 17-11 (7-6) The Vols have a realistic shot to reach 20 wins and they have the highest strength of schedule rank in the nation. That’s even more impressive considering that Bruce Pearl was suspended for eight games. Tennessee is not an elite team, but they’ve done enough to go dancing. I can see them winning their next two games before losing to Kentucky, and then winning at least one game in the SEC tournament. Those are all the ingredients of a #10 seed which has upset strongly on their minds.

Alabama 19-8 (11-2) The Tide has been strong in the SEC this year, but have not played Florida yet. The problem with Alabama is that their early season losses not only hurt them, but signal an exit from the SEC tournament without a win. They have lost to Seton Hall, Iowa, St. Peter’s, Providence, and Arkansas. Coach Anthony Grant has this program headed in the right direction, but I just don’t think this is the year they make it back to the tourney.


St. Mary’s 22-7 (10-3) The Gaels are in trouble, losing three straight. Although two were to Gonzaga and Utah St., the loss to San Diego is unacceptable. St. Mary’s has a very low strength of schedule, and really needs some more wins to improve their seeding. While they do hold wins over St. John’s and the Zags, they haven’t won any other big games. They finish the season against a Portland team that previously beat them by 15. I don’t like what I’m seeing, and what I’m seeing for the future. An earlier than expected exit in the WCC tournament should give the Gaels a #12 seed and very little momentum heading into the NCAA tournament.

Gonzaga 20-9 (10-3) Gonzaga is hot, winners of five straight, including an overtime win at St. Mary’s on Thursday. The Bulldogs struggled in the beginning of the season, but still tout wins over Marquette, Baylor, Xavier, and Oklahoma St. I see them winning the WCC tournament and receiving a #10 seed, continuing their WCC dominance.


Utah St. 25-3 (12-1) The Aggies have been the team to beat in the WAC, and finally picked up a quality win over St. Mary’s. While they aren’t a lock yet, an early exit in the conference tournament could spell doom for them, they are in good shape. They should be able to avoid any other upsets and cruise to a WAC tournament title. It still remains to be seen what Utah St. can do against tougher competition, but they could wind up with a #9 seed, which is where I have them at.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Upset Special Saturday and Top Ten Preview

After a weekend of crazy upsets and top teams falling, the college basketball world has been shocked, and with only two more weeks until the conference tournaments begin, teams have picked up some big wins to help their resumes. So in the midst of this pre-March madness, what does that top ten look like? The rankings will come out tomorrow, but as a preview, I’ll share with you my thoughts of what teams will be on top, and what order they’ll be in.

10. Georgetown 21-6 (10-5) Last Wednesday, the Hoyas saw their eight game winning streak come to an end. However, it was on the road against one of the better teams in the country, so the Hoyas shouldn’t be too ashamed. They did what they had to do last night by beating South Florida, and only drop one spot. They are a very good team filled with talented players like Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Julian Vaughn. Don’t be surprised to see them make a deep run in both the Big East Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament. With two games against Cincinnati left and one against Syracuse, the Georgetown could win out and improve its resume, eventually leading to a #2 seed.

9. Notre Dame 21-5 (10-4) The Irish have been a pleasant surprise all year, and are playing the definition of team basketball. Ben Hansborough is a candidate for conference player of the year for not only his scoring, but his excellent defense as well. Notre Dame also saw its winning streak come to an end after they fell to West Virginia on the road yesterday. They had won their previous seven. While their remaining schedule is not easy, they should be up for the challenge. A lot of people said the Irish would falter in the tournament due to their lack of a superstar, but Hansborough seems to be fitting into that role nicely. Expect them to bounce back and finish strong.

8. Purdue 22-5 (11-3) A preseason favorite until star forward Robbie Hummel went down, the Boilermakers seem like the real deal. They dynamic duo of JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore has combined to make one of the most dominant frontcourts in the country. Moore went off for 38 points against a team who many thought was the best in the country, Ohio St. Purdue beaten some very good teams, and they looking to keep rolling with a relatively easy schedule to end the season. If the upsets continue and Purdue has a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament, they could wind up as a #1 seed.

7. Pittsburgh 24-3 (12-2) The Big East continues to make appearances in the top ten, but none of them right now are in the top five. After dropping a nail biter against St. John’s, the Panthers drop a few spots, and for good reason too. A lot of people will argue that Pitt should be given a break since it was a one point road loss to a red hot St. John’s team. But the Panthers just kept letting them getting back in the game. They had too many turnovers, and didn’t give enough help to Ashton Gibbs. That game was not the performance of a #1 seed. Luckily for the Panthers, they are a much better team than that, and with their depth, should thrive down the stretch. However, they may have played themselves out of that coveted #1 seed.

6. BYU 25-2 (11-1) The Cougars had one game this week, a win yesterday over lowly TCU. But with all of the top teams losing, they were able to move up a spot. Jimmer Fredette is my pick for National Player of the Year. BYU is a very good team and with Fredette, they have the capability of beating anyone. A #1 seed is not out of the question, as they have a very exciting matchup against rival San Diego St. next Saturday, whom they beat at home. But before they face the Aztecs, they play Colorado St. on Wednesday, which will not be a cupcake. As the season comes to a close, look for Fredette to be the barometer on the Cougars’ success, as well as how deep they go in the tournament.

5. Ohio St. 25-2 (12-2) I thought Ohio St. would retain the top spot, but a road loss to a tough Purdue team will prevent that from happening. The Buckeyes still have the talent to be a #1 seed and make a deep run in March. William Buford is playing at a high level right now, and with the help of three point shooters Aaron Kraft, Jon Diebler, and David Lighty, Ohio St. is elite. Throw in stud freshman Jared Sullinger and losses to two ranked in-conference rivals don’t seem so bad. I expect the Buckeyes to win out, win the Big Ten Tournament, and ultimately grab a #1 seed.

4. Kansas 25-2 (10-2) The loss to Kansas St. doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that the Wildcats were ranked coming into the season. But even on the road, a double digit loss to a lesser team is really unacceptable. Kansas still has a very talented and deep team that crushed Colorado yesterday thanks to superb performances by the Morris twins. Kansas still has some tough games on the schedule, including a road season finale at Missouri, but the Jayhawks should continue to play the way they did yesterday and be the top team in the respected tournament region.

3. San Diego St. 27-1 (11-1) The Aztecs continue to roll, beating a New Mexico team on Wednesday that knocked off rival BYU. San Diego St. gets a big bump because of all of the upsets, and is currently in a position to take a #1 seed. That’s what makes the February 26th matchup against BYU so enticing. I feel that the winner of that game will receive a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the loser may wind up with a #3 seed. Both teams are the real deal despite not playing in a power conference. I’m very excited to see how the Aztecs do in the tournament and determine just how good they really are.

2. Texas 23-4 (11-1) Despite having four losses, the Longhorns are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the country. The combination of Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton are a nightmare for opposing teams. The reason I chose Texas as the team to not fall due to their loss is because it was only a three point road loss to a pretty good Nebraska team. Look for the Horns’ to continue their Big 12 dominance, and sit comfortably at a #1 seed. Their last two games against Kansas St. and Baylor, as well as the Big 12 Tournament, will tell us just how strong Texas as,

1. Duke 24-2 (11-1) Do I think Duke is the best team in the country? No. They will be number one because they did something that none of the other top teams could do: win all of their games this week. Considering they were against Virginia and Georgia Tech, that’s not that impressive. But they did what they had to do. I feel that the Blue Devils will ultimately fall back to that number five spot and receive a #2 seed in the tournament. They would be in the conversation for nation’s best team if they had Kyrie Irving. But Duke has not done much aside from beating up mediocre ACC competition. Yes, they had a big win over North Carolina, but aside from that, Duke really hasn’t beaten any really good teams. They have a daunting schedule to end the season so if they really want to hold the top spot, they’ll have to earn it.