Sunday, March 11, 2007

FINAL Bracket Projection

1. Ohio St. (1) v. 16. Central Connecticut St./Florida A&M
8. Villanova v. 9. Georgia Tech

4. Washington St. v. 13. Wright St.
5. Tennessee v. 12. Davidson

2. Texas A&M v. 15. North Texas
7. Southern Cal v. 10. Michigan St.

3. Memphis v. 14. Miami (OH)
6. Marquette v. 11. Winthrop

1. UCLA (4) v. 16. Weber St.
8. Vanderbilt v. 9. Indiana

4. UNLV v. 13. Holy Cross
5. Virginia Tech v. 12. Stanford

2. North Carolina v. 15. Belmont
7. Butler v. 10. Syracuse

3. Texas v. 14. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
6. Creighton v. 11. Old Dominion

1. Kansas (2) v. 16. Niagara
8. Arizona v. 9. Xavier

4. Maryland v. 13. George Washington
5. Notre Dame v. 12. New Mexico St.

2. Georgetown v. 15. Penn
7. Virginia v. 10. Texas Tech

3. Southern Illinois v. 14. Oral Roberts
6. BYU v. 11. Purdue

1. Florida (3) v. 16. Jackson St.
8. Boston College v. 9. Virginia Commonwealth

4. Oregon v. 13. Albany
5. Louisville v. 12. Gonzaga

2. Wisconsin v. 15. Eastern Kentucky
7. Duke v. 10. Kentucky

3. Pittsburgh v. 14. Long Beach St.
6. Nevada v. 11. Kansas St.

Last Four In: Purdue, Kansas St., Old Dominion, Stanford
Last Four Out: Arkansas, Drexel, Air Force, West Virginia

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Say hello to the champions

Specifically, Oregon, George Washington, Jackson State, UNLV, Florida A&M and Miami University. The last two mentioned won their bids at the buzzer.

Florida A&M won it after a tip-in from a halfcourt inbounds pass with 1.1 seconds left. Miami U won after Akron missed the front end of a one-and-one that could have seen them up go up by four, but Miami got the rebound and raced back down to win it when Doug Penno side-stepped an defender to get an open look for a bank shot winner. There was some timing controversy that put .6 on the clock but fortunately didn't really end up mattering.

In those games that weren't as dramatic at 00.0, Oregon put a beatdown on USC thanks to a perfect game from the floor and the line from underrated junior guard Bryce Taylor, who had 32. G-Dub won the A-10 with four guys getting in double figures. Jackson State had 33 from super-scorer Trey Johnson and UNLV withstood 34 from Keena Young to beat BYU on their home floor. I just wish that Mountain West game could have been played in Denver, with no home court to either team (the home team won all three meetings).

NC State wins again

NC State has now beaten Duke, and the ACC's number two and three seeds on three consecutive nights. They now will go for the one, two, three sweep against North Carolina.

Now, on to a couple of teams that will definitely be in the show.

Notre Dame and Georgetown equally impressed me in that matchup last night. It was truly a top five game this year, along with four others probably involving Texas.

Notre Dame showed that they can force the tempo against a truly elite team (yes, Georgetown is that good) that does not play the high-tempo offensive game. Conversely, for Georgetown, they showed that they can hang in a game when they are not controlling the tempo with what I like to call "The Princeton Offense for Major-Conference Talent". After Notre Dame had their double-digit lead early in the first half, Georgetown decided to run with them and count on the turning point in the game being halftime. That's exactly what the Hoyas ended up doing, playing more of their style in the second half.

It was also a very hard-fought game for being so high-scoring and showed that Notre Dame can play a little defense when it was needed with the Irish down seven late.

The contest, regardless of what happens tonight against Pittsburgh, affirmed my belief that Georgetown can go very deep in the tournament. For Notre Dame, it made me think that, with the right draw, that they could be a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 team.

The next set of games on this oh-so-beautiful day of hoops features a bunch of conference title game with the A10, Pac-10, MEAC, SWAC, MAC and MWC winners all to be decided in the next three hours or so.

The Eighth ACC Team?

No, I'm not talking about Florida State. I'm talking about NC State. They are currently up on Virginia Tech, a team they swept in the regular season. If they win, they get UNC in the final to possibly knock a bubble-dweller out.

In other news, I hate Illinois. I can't believe that this pathetic, no offense team will likely be in the tournament. Sure the defense is good, maybe bordering on top 10 in the nation. BUT THEY CAN'T HIT A SHOT!!! AT ALL!!! I can't watch this team or their game with Wisconsin, who is like them but whose offense is like Tennessee's compared to Illinois'. I would be thrilled tomorrow if the committee keeps both them and Air Force out. I'm afraid (not only for my wishes, but the tournament overall) that Illinois will still be in, however.

Kansas State and Purdue, meanwhile, while no one is confusing them with Top 4 seeds, I feel (and the committee should feel) did enough today to challenge elite teams to get in.

I promise to talk about teams that are actually going to be in the field for my next entry.

Albany wins in "The Cathouse"

Vermont had the ball down by one against Albany with 30 seconds left and didn't even get a shot off before turning it over with about five seconds to go. Why? The held the friggin' ball for the last shot.

I will acknowledge that if holding the ball works, the coach looks like a genius. But you're down by one! In that case, even if you want to hold the ball for a little bit of time, you should start the play by 20 seconds have a shot off at the very latest by 10. That way, you can get an offensive rebound or foul if the other team gets the rebound.

All this strategy talk takes away form the fact that Albany went into a really difficult place to play, and allowed their star and conference player of the year to take over. Jamar Wilson had 20, but his most important plays came when he was able to drive and then dish to guys like Jason Siggers (Dallas product) and Carl Ross who were able to hit open jumpers after Vermont collapsed four guys on Wilson.

In other action, UNC is controlling BC and an overrated Jared Dudley, and Purdue and Kansas State are playing their potential top-seeded oppositions close. Memphis won, and Arkansas is beating Mississippi State with under twelve to go.

Quick seeding update

Here's an S-Curve update after the craziness of yesterday and last night:

1: Ohio St., Kansas, Florida, UCLA
2: Texas A&M, Georgetown, Wisconsin, North Carolina
3: Pittsburgh, Memphis, Southern Illinois, Washington St.
4: Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNLV, Texas
5: Oregon, Notre Dame, BYU, Tennessee
6: Marquette, Creighton, Southern Cal, Louisville
7: Nevada, Virginia, Boston College, Duke
8: Villanova, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Butler
9: Xavier, Georgia Tech, Arizona, VCU
10: Michigan St., Syracuse, Indiana, Texas Tech
11: Purdue, Winthrop, Old Dominion, Kansas St.
12: Akron, Davidson, Illinois, Gonzaga
13: George Washington, New Mexico St., Wright St., Vermont
14: Penn, Texas A&M-CC, Oral Roberts, Holy Cross
15: Long Beach St., Belmont, Delaware St., North Texas
16: Miss. Valley St., Central Conn. St., Weber St., Eastern Kentucky, Niagara

The first of many

The first two of the eleven conference championship games today are underway and Memphis is unsurprisingly leading Houston. Houston just keeps hanging in there though, and are doing it on very tired legs as Tom Penders has hadly made any subs during the three game conference tournament run. However, Houston is in some foul trouble which could lead to a widening of Memphis' current lead, hovering around double digits. Memphis and their penetration to the basket has been good, so they shouldn't have many problems coasting to the win on their home floor.

In a somewhat surprising result after a half, Albany leads Vermont. Just that phrase doesn't surprise me as much as how the Great Danes are doing it by basically out-toughing one of the toughest teams in the country. Albany's post players are crashing the glass in an excellent manner on the nation's top rebounding team. It also helps that Albany has the truly great Jamar Wilson, who has superior quickness to anyone else on the floor (by far) and might just single handedly take this game over.

Bubble-shrinking Friday

And, perhaps, Saturday and Sunday could turn into bubble shrinking days as well.

So much happened yesterday that I don't know where to start. But I will start with a couple of the definite games that watched a couple of spots get eaten up from the at-large pool. In the WAC, Nevada lost again to Utah State, meaning that the Aggies will take on....the Aggies (of New Mexico State) for the auto bid. The game is on NMSU's home floor, where they haven't lost this season, and I would be shocked if Utah State pulled this one out. Nevada's definitely in, but these two losses in about a two-week span may drop their seeding a couple of lines.

George Washington and Rhode Island will play for a dance ticket after the Rams beat Xavier, who is on rockier footing than Nevada, but should still be in.

Yesterday also brought us a few bubble teams capitalizing on their opportunities in their respective conference tournaments.

Kansas State put a defensive beatdown on Texas Tech in a 66-45 win. I have no doubt that the committee was saying to themselves yesterday afternoon, "That's quite a statement." I feel that they should be in now. However, I felt Florida State would be in after beating Clemson Thursday afternoon, and after the uninspired performance against UNC, nothing could be farther from the truth. In short, if the Wildcats stay in the game today against Kansas and don't get blown out, they should be fine.

Purdue slapped Iowa in a similar matter in the Big Ten, and Illinois beat Indiana. If I was on the committee, I would surely have Purdue in right now, and Illinois still out. However, I'm not on the committee (obviously) and I feel that if the Illini don't get thrashed by Wisconsin today that the group of ten will pick them.

The bubble could shrink further in the next 30 hours after NC State has made a surprise run to the ACC semis, one of Arkansas or Mississippi State will play for a Sunday SEC bid, Oklahoma State is in the Big 12 semis after beating an offensively stagnant Texas A&M team. Also, let's not forget that Houston could beat Memphis and take a bid away in the C-USA title game. Will all four of these conferences turn up surprise auto bid winners? Probably not. But could one or two? Don't be surprised.

Today is also my day of marathon blogging starting up in about an hour and a half and not ending until the Big West crowns a champion around 1 am eastern time. Nineteen games will be played today, 17 on national TV, and 11 of which will punch dance tickets. Today is also the the day where so many of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, ranging from mid-major conference bids to major conference seedings to be officially determined tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Brackets as of 3-8

1. Ohio St. (1) v. 16. Mississippi Valley St.
8. Kentucky v. 9. Texas Tech

4. Nevada v. 13. Wright St.
5. Maryland v. 12. Old Dominion

2. Georgetown v. 15. Delaware St.
7. Southern Cal v. 10. Georgia Tech

3. Memphis v. 14. Oral Roberts
6. BYU v. 11. Winthrop

1. UCLA (4) v. 16. Weber St.
8. Boston College v. 9. Villanova

4. Texas v. 13. Davidson
5. UNLV v. 12. Purdue

2. North Carolina v. 15. Belmont
7. Creighton v. 10. Michigan St.

3. Pittsburgh v. 14. Penn
6. Tennessee v. 11. Stanford

1. Kansas (2) v. 16. Eastern Kentucky
8. Butler v. 9. Xavier

4. Virginia Tech v. 13. Holy Cross
5. Notre Dame v. 12. Gonzaga

2. Wisconsin v. 15. Long Beach St.
7. Vanderbilt v. 10. Syracuse

3. Southern Illinois v. 14. Toledo
6. Oregon v. 11. Florida St.

1. Florida (3) v. 16. Niagara
8. Arizona v. 9. Indiana

4. Virginia v. 13. Vermont
5. Louisville v. 12. Missouri St.

2. Texas A&M v. 15. North Texas
7. Duke v. 10. Air Force

3. Washington St. v. 14. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
6. Marquette v. 11. Virginia Commonwealth

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A special bid; The second phase of Championship Week

What I like to call Act I of Championship Week (plus a few days) is now over. It has left us with a Old Dominion vs. Drexel debate somewhat analogous to the George Mason vs. Hofstra debate a year ago, Missouri State with an identical wait from last year's snub and countless ESPN askings of the question of "Who is this year's George Mason?"

More importantly though, fourteen teams have played their way into the field, the most important to me being North Texas winning the Sun Belt.

If you try and look through this blog, I'm not sure you will find one mention that I go to the University of North Texas. In fact, I think I have made only one passing reference to "my Mean Green" back in January. I just never talk about them on here because I didn't want to overdo this blog with Sun Belt/UNT talk, and have this be a total homer-ass website. But yet, I have been following this team for several years now, and Tuesday night was one of the more special ones I have had as a college hoops fan.

In the numerous amount of games I have attended at the UNT Coliseum (colloquially known as and always referred to as the Super Pit) over the past few years, dating back to when I was in high school, I always (at least once a game) took a look up at the banner saying "NCAA TOURNAMENT 1988". The 1988 is positioned below and to the left side of the text to have the room to put more years up on the banner, and to confidently say, "Yeah, we'll be back."

Games and wins and losses went by and I would always say to myself, "Man, it would be great if we could put up another year up there while I'm here." And two nights ago, after a thrilling and sometimes tense four-game conference tournament run, they earned the right to put another year on that banner.

Now back to Championship Week (plus a few days) and these next two days, usually the second wildest pair of back-to-back days coming behind the first two days of the big dance.

Today (and actually about an hour from now) will feature the most significant 8-9 game in ACC history between Clemson and Florida State. This isn't a play-in game, but it sure as hell is a play-out game. The loser would be well-advised to start lobbying for NIT home games right when the final buzzer sounds. A couple of other bubbilicious games include West Virginia probably needing a win against Louisville in the Garden to get in and Stanford trying to avoid a potential fall out of the field against USC.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A slight bracket update

Hardly any changes. This is just to reflect our new auto bid winners.

1: UCLA, Ohio State, Kansas, Wisconsin
2: Georgetown, Texas A&M, Florida, North Carolina
3: Southern Illinois, Memphis, Maryland, Pittsburgh
4: Marquette, Virginia, Tennessee, Washington St.
5: Virginia Tech, Texas, Nevada, Notre Dame
6: Louisville, Southern Cal, Vanderbilt, UNLV
7: Oregon, Duke, BYU, Arizona
8: Butler, Indiana, Creighton, Boston College
9: Xavier, Air Force, Kentucky, Villanova
10: Georgia Tech, VCU, Texas Tech, Syracuse
11: Stanford, Clemson, Michigan St., Winthrop
12: Davidson, Old Dominion, Purdue, Missouri St.
13: Gonzaga, Wright St., Vermont, Holy Cross
14: Penn, Toledo, Texas A&M-CC, Oral Roberts
15: Long Beach St., Belmont, Delaware St., North Texas (more on this later)
16: (Miss. Valley St., Central Connecticut) Weber St., Eastern Kentucky, Niagara

Monday, March 05, 2007

Seeding S-Curve 3-5

Basically, the order of number one seeds is one through four, left to right across your computer screen and then going down the order like a snake. For example, Maryland is my number 11 overall seed.

1: UCLA, Ohio State, Kansas, Wisconsin
2: Georgetown, Texas A&M, Florida, North Carolina
3: Southern Illinois, Memphis, Maryland, Pittsburgh
4: Marquette, Virginia, Tennessee, Washington St.
5: Virginia Tech, Texas, Nevada, Notre Dame
6: Louisville, Southern Cal, Vanderbilt, UNLV
7: Oregon, Duke, BYU, Arizona
8: Butler, Indiana, Creighton, Boston College
9: Xavier, Air Force, Kentucky, Villanova
10: Georgia Tech, Michigan St., Texas Tech, Syracuse
11: Stanford, Virginia Commonwealth, Clemson, Winthrop
12: Davidson, Old Dominion, Purdue, Missouri St.
13: Gonzaga, Wright St., Vermont, Holy Cross
14: Penn, Toledo, Texas A&M-CC, Oral Roberts
15: Western Kentucky, Long Beach St., Niagara, Belmont
16: (Miss. Valley St., Central Connecticut) Weber St., Eastern Kentucky, Delaware St.

The last teams out (and in this order): Florida St., Drexel, Illinois, West Virginia, UMass, Kansas St., Appalachian St., Arkansas

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A major conference championship game

Well, not technically. However, the game between Kansas and Texas did decide the number one seed in next week's Big 12 Tournament, making it a defacto Big 12 title game.

Basically, a couple of incredibly efficient offensive halves were played, one by each team (Texas in the first, Kansas in the second). So naturally, the team that played the best defense when they were on offensively won the game. And that happened to be Kansas, who came out with a sense of purpose in the second to erase a 12-point halftime deficit quicker than it took three field goals to be made in the Michigan St.-Wisconsin game (I'm not kidding).

The incredible Kevin Durant had 20 by the eight-minute break in the first half, but was shut down in the second half much like he was in the second half of the Texas-Villanova game. The should-be national player of the year went down later in the half with an a rolled ankle and was not the same after coming back noticeably injured, but was not being able to do a whole lot before the injury.

Look, I'm not going to blame Rick Barnes for not setting up a bunch of iso plays for Durant, but I will blame the team's youth. The common thread in both this game and the Villanova game was that Durant was taken out of his rhythm when the opponent got their offensive game moved into the next gear. Texas' young players got rattled defensively in each game and that carried over to the offensive end. Even Durant, as great as he is, doesn't move as much without the ball when the other team is on a game-changing run. That's an extremely minor complaint about Durant's game, however, which is just about as complete as any 18-year old's game has ever been.

Also, be prepared to hear that this injury will really damage Texas, but Durant will be fine on the ankle after a couple days of rest.

Another night, another upset

The Southern Conference tournament was supposed to conclude with a battle royale between the two teams that ate up select national headlines at times, Davidson and Appalachian State. Each team had 25 wins, but needed to win the SoCon tournament for bids due to the (very) weak underbelly of lower-tier SoCon teams.

Dontaye Draper and Charleston had other ideas, and took down the only conference team that beat Davidson in the regular season by winning 89-87 in OT. Draper had eight threes and finished with 38 points in one of the season's great performances. Charleston was a sick 11-of-21 from behind the arc.

So now, instead of the rematch between teams with 32 combined conference wins, the focus switches to whether or not Bobby Cremins can return to the NCAAs in his first year at the helm in the Lowcountry by beating a Davidson team led by freshman Stephen Curry.

In other conference tourney action, form actually held in an Arch Madness quarterfinal round for what seems like the first time this millenium. The victories by Creighton and Missouri State likely mean that this conference is a lock for three bids and will not have to be sweating (as hard as last year) on Selection Sunday. However, if Bradley can knock off Southern Illinois this afternoon, it sets up and intriguing Sunday scenario where the Valley could get their four bids from a year ago.

My dream of Yale sending the Ivy into apocalypse was officially killed off by Penn last night, clinching the first of the 31 auto bids for the Quakers.

Four conferences that decide things like they should give out their invites today. In addition to the aforementioned SoCon title game, East Tennessee State plays Belmont in the A-Sun, Winthrop and VMI get together in the Big South and Austin Peay takes on Eastern Kentucky in the Ohio Valley.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

VMI shocks the world

...or at least those who follow the Big South. VMI, who had lost to 22-win High Point twice in the regular season by an average of 14 points, took down the Panthers and their shot for the auto bid, 91-81. VMI will take on Winthrop, who swept them as well during the regular season, for one of the first automatic bids.

VMI took down the team that was basically a forgone conclusion for Saturday afternoon in Rock Hill based on their ability to shut down newly-crowned Big South POY Arizona Reid. Reid was just 5-of-14 for 13 points, eight below his season average. VMI also found just about every open shot on the night from just about every spot on the floor and dominated points in the paint. Likely national scoring champion Reggie Williams scored 28 (right at his average) on 9-of-18.

(By the way, I have an beef with the people who put together those graphics for ESPN. Obviously, VMI is going to score the most points in the country. They play the fastest pace! And obviously, they are also going to give up a lot of points. Why? They play the fastest pace! I feel like so many poor folk are missing out on a beautiful, tempo-free world.)

(Oh, and for the record, VMI is 127th in offensive efficiency and 288th in defensive efficiency.)

Speaking of pace, two of the fastest in North Carolina and Georgia Tech got together and Georgia Tech came out on top by catching absolute fire during a 25-or-so-minute stretch that went from about 15 minutes left in the first until about 10 were left in the game.

It's that time of year again...

Say what you want about the holidays, but this is the most wonderful time of the year. In November and December you have your three holidays, but in this one month, you have so many memorable days and nights that cannot be found in any other sport.

The first jewel of March, Championship Week (plus a few days), started in earnest two days ago as the first set of conference tournaments got underway. For the most part, things have held to form, except for Army defeating Lehigh in the Bucknell-Holy Cross League and VMI beating Liberty in the Big South in a slow-for-the-Keydets 79-78 game.

And right now, VMI is beating No. 2 seed High Point, with under eight to go.

More after the jump (to use a trite blog phrase that I've never understood).