Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I'm really thinking

As you all know, I don't like to predict the future when making out the projections. After all, I like to make assumptions on what direction the Division I Men's Basketball Committee goes each week, solely on what teams have done up to a certain point. After all, the committee has to deal with unexpected curve balls selection weekend, to predict those situations weeks in advance is, IMHO, unecessary and mostly wrong. With that in mind, here's my attempt to predict the future:

The Pac-10 Question
Most experts think the Pac-10 will not have an at-large worthy team. I disagree with them and put forth Washington as one, if possibly the only one, and even that is somewhat remote. With Southern California out due to probation, the rest of the conference is somewhat shallow, only Arizona State and Washington doing anything of note. If you ask me, the Pac-10 will have a second team chosen, only on account of the presence of the committee chair, Dan Guererro, the UCLA AD.

Tar Heel Trouble
North Carolina is reeling, having lost 3 straight in ACC play, and 4 out of 5 overall, the last one a come from ahead loss at the College of Charleston. The upcoming schedule is daunting, with 7 games on the road, plus the annual battles with Duke. What's in the Heels favor is wins over Ohio State(improving daily) and Michigan State. What isn't is their lack of real road wins, of course having only one true OOC game is not what the committee wants to see, but the Heels are trying to work in a stellar recruiting class. If North Carolina wants to be in the mix, it probably needs to get to 9-7 or 10-6 at the end of the season and even there, it will be near the cut line.

Husky Battle
As if Connecticut needed more to worry about than losing coach Jim Calhoun to a leave of absence(not cancer-related), the Huskies are in the same boat as the Heels in which the resume will be devoid of a road win OOC, along with neutral-court losses to Duke and Kentucky. What the Huskies do have is the top SOS rank in RPI calculations. It will be touch and go whether the Huskies make the field.

Mid-Majoring in making the field
Of the mid-majors, only Butler is in a solid position to make a case for an at-large, though this is diluted by losses to teams like UAB. Up until last night, the same could be said(possibly) for William & Mary. But getting smoked in the 2nd half by Virginia Commonwealth won't help matters, especially in a loaded Colonial. The Ivy League is intriguing, with both Cornell and Harvard having had excellent OOC performances. But with teams like Dartmouth and Pennsylvania having really bad RPI's, neither the Crimson nor the Big Red.

Seeds, damned seeds and pods
No team that is contending for a #1 seed is a lock for one. Not even Kansas, the presumed favorite. Kentucky is currently in line for #1 in the polls, but some aren't convinced they have the goods. Some have doubts on Texas, Villanova, Duke, Syracuse and others. In terms of sites, some good teams will have to go out west to San Jose and Spokane, since only Gonzaga(and perhaps Brigham Young) appear to be solid enough to warrant staying west.

What about Minnesota?
If I posted this without a question about the homestate team, I'd be labeled a cheesehead. With no real wins on the road(sorry Iowa, you don't count) and only a win over Butler on a neutral court. The Gophers are treading on thin ice(if their not in the figurative lake already), and with a slowly withering RPI, need some spectacular results the rest of the way to stay on the good side of the cut line. Some didn't wait for improvement, they cut them right away after losing 3 of 4 in Big Ten play.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

About last night - Now we've got a race

The race I'm talking about is the Missouri Valley as previously undefeated Northern Iowa went into Wichita to face Wichita State and came out a 60-51 loser. Since they were just ranked by both the AP and Coaches polls, expect the Panthers to fall out of both. On the bracketology front, most of us(Including myself) probably had the Panthers a bit too high, but should the Panthers finish the year with only one loss in conference, they should have a solid case for an at-large. Conversely, the Shockers win makes up for their loss at Creighton and then some. Provided they win this weekend, they could be in the projections on Monday.

To all of you who had Northwestern in the projections...HA, HA, HA! Evan Turner(with yet another double-double) and Ohio State routed the Wildcats 76-56 in Columbus. Now, I'm not going to easily dismiss the Wildcats chances at an at-large, but, apart from Notre Dame and Saint Louis, they didn't necessarily tear up their OOC schedule. Their best chance to score a quality non-conference win was against Butler and the Wildcats lost by 13.

Elsewhere: In a battle of ACC mid-packers, Georgia Tech escaped with a 66-64 win over Clemson, after trailing most of the way. The margin was provided by Zachary Peacock's 2 free throws with 3 seconds left. Purdue went into Assembly Hall(Champaign) and walked out with an 84-78 win over Illinois. Tennessee outlasted Alabama, 63-56, and San Diego State continues to build it's resume by edging Utah 70-68 in Salt Lake City.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

About last night-After a Pro Game

Yes, let it be said for the record that the most exciting game I saw yesterday was the 76ers-Timberwolves game at Target Center. The Wolves trailed 57-37 late in the 2nd quarter before rallying in the 3rd, ultimately leading to a 108-103 overtime win.

Now on the college scene, Kansas State helped reinforce the notion that it's hard for Big 12 teams to win on the road. The Wildcats took down unbeaten and top ranked Texas 71-62 in a game that was very chippy near the end. There was an incident near the end of the game where punches were nearly exchanged. Fortunately, the situation was diffused quickly and the rest of the game went on without incident. As far as seeding goes, the Longhorns are still, for the moment, on the top line, but this Saturday they head to UConn where they will face a desperate Huskies squad looking for one last OOC scalp to their resume.

In the other game that involved a prospective top seed, Syracuse received a test courtesy of Notre Dame, but l'Orange passed with top marks in recording an 84-71 grade. The 'cuse shot 49% from the floor, but an impressive 47% beyond the arc. Numbers like those should give Syracuse a boost should Texas, or most likely, Villanova slip up. (Yes, I still have Nova as a top seed of the Orange, but that's because I prefer to give top seeds to actual conference leaders, rather than give the team with the best resume. Unless of course, the team leading the conference does not have a stellar resume.

That last statement can apply to Virginia, the lone unbeaten in the ACC. Last night was a significant example of what can happen to a team looking to build momentum. It can continue to ratchet up it's strength, or it can loose it all at once, and it almost happened to the Cavaliers. They beat UNC Wilmington, but it was only 69-67, and the Seahawks were in it throughout. On the Rivals RPI, Virginia moved up to 100th in those ratings. Imagine how low it would have fallen had they lost.

Virginia Tech can certainly feel what the Cavs almost went through. Although the Hokies crushed North Carolina Central 72-30, the RPI was creamed in the process.

Elsewhere, Western Kentucky got edged by Middle Tennessee, damaging the Hilltoppers' at-large candidacy to the point where another loss and it's Sun Belt championship or bust; Texas Southern topped Jackson State and helped to create a 4-way tie at the top the SWAC; Siena beat Manhattan to stay 2 games ahead of Fairfield, a 2-point winner over Canisius, in MAAC play; and Morgan State waltzed over Winston-Salem State outside of MEAC competition.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bracket Watch: Part III

My mind has been mostly on the Vikings' run to the NFC championship game this week, so the posts have not been as numerous as they should be. Don't worry, the About Last Night, Bubble Battles and TWTWTW posts will resume in due time, but in the meantime, enjoy the newest projections(Through Sunday night):

Final Four pairings:
South(1) vs. East(4)
Midwest(2) vs. West(3)

South Region

@Oklahoma City
1-Texas(Big 12) vs. 16-Lafayette(Patriot League)
8-Richmond vs. 9-Nevada-Las Vegas
@San Jose
4-West Virginia vs. 13-Siena(Metro Atlantic)
5-Georgia Tech vs. 12-Minnesota
2-Georgetown vs. 15-Buffalo(Mid-American)
7-Baylor vs. 10-California
3-Tennessee vs. 14-Oakland(Summit)
6-Florida State vs. 11-Marshall(Conference USA)

East Region

1-Villanova(Big East) vs. 16-Campbell(Atlantic Sun)
8-Virginia Tech vs. 9-Xavier(Atlantic 10)
@San Jose
4-Ohio State vs. 13-College of Charleston(Southern)
5-Brigham Young(Mountain West) vs. 12-Cornell(Ivy)
2-Duke vs. 15-Coastal Carolina(Big South)
7-Mississippi State vs. 10-UAB
@New Orleans
3-Kansas State vs. 14-Murray State(Ohio Valley)
6-Wisconsin vs. 11-Washington

Midwest Region

1-Kentucky(SEC) vs. 16-Opening Round winner
Opening Round: Long Island(Northeast) vs. Jackson State(Southwestern)
8-Butler(Horizon) vs. 9-Missouri
4-Clemson vs. 13-Louisiana Tech(Western Athletic)
5-Temple vs. 12-Marquette
2-Michigan State(Big Ten) vs. 15-Arkansas State(Sun Belt)
7-Wake Forest vs. 10-St. Mary's
3-Pittsburgh vs. 14-Vermont(America East)
6-Texas A&M vs. 11-William & Mary(Colonial)

West Regional

@Oklahoma City
1-Kansas vs. 16-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi(Southland)
8-New Mexico vs. 9-North Carolina
4-Gonzaga(West Coast) vs. 13-Weber State(Big Sky)
5-Mississippi vs. 12-Arizona State(Pacific-10)
2-Syracuse vs. 15-Morgan State(Mid-Eastern)
7-Vanderbilt vs. 10-Rhode Island
@New Orleans
3-Purdue vs. 14-Pacific(Big West)
6-Northern Iowa(Missouri Valley) vs. 11-Virginia(Atlantic Coast)

Last four in the field: California, Minnesota, Washington, Marquette
First four left out: Connecticut, Dayton, Florida, Wichita State
Next four left out: Maryland, Northwestern, Cincinnati, Old Dominion
Also under consideration: Miami(FL), Charlotte, Notre Dame, St. John's, Illinois, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Northeastern, Memphis, Tulsa, Harvard, San Diego State, Washington State, Alabama, Nevada

Moving up: Virginia, Campbell, Richmond, Marquette, Weber State, Ohio State, Pacific, Marshall, Buffalo, Arizona State, Washington, Lafayette, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Jackson State, Arkansas State

Moving out from the last bracket: Miami(FL), East Tennessee State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Northern Colorado, UC Santa Barbara, Harvard, Kent State, Colorado State, Lehigh, Texas-San Antonio, Prairie View A&M, Denver