Blog Entry

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Posted on: January 1, 2009 1:40 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2009 1:42 pm
 

I was on a radio station in Arkansas yesterday talking about the Hogs' win over Oklahoma when the conversation turned to postseason aspirations. I commented that Arkansas looked as much like an NCAA tournament team as anybody at this point, and that if the goal was a Sweet Sixteen then that seemed possible to me, if only because any tournament team from a power conference will usually be one of the top 12 seeds in a region, and as long as you're not an eight-seed or nine-seed it's reasonable to hope to advance past the first weekend because all you have to do is win what is typically a winnable first game, then hope the bracket breaks in your favor like it did for Western Kentucky last March, when the Hilltoppers beat Drake and San Diego to advance.

So anyway, that was my main point -- not that Arkansas is necessarily one of the best 16 teams in the country, but that a tournament team from a power league almost always has a chance to advance to the second weekend, and now I'm ready to take it a step farther in light of what we've seen this week and suggest that any so-called top 30 team can reasonably hope for a trip to the Final Four because it's clear multiple flawed teams will get there given that there is only one truly elite squad: North Carolina.

Just this week, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 9 Purdue have all gone down while preseason top 10 teams Gonzaga and Louisville took their fourth and third losses, and when you compare what's happening this season to what happened last season it really puts things into perspective. Consider that last season it was easy to identify four elite teams pretty much from the start, specifically Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA. Those schools were ranked first, second, third and fourth in the preseason poll, and on New Year's Day they were a combined 49-1 with the lone loss of the bunch belonging to UCLA, which had fallen only by two points to No. 8 Texas.

This season, the top four teams in the preseason poll were North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville and UCLA, and on New Year's Day they have a combined record of 42-6. North Carolina is great, obviously, but Connecticut lost its Big East opener at home, Louisville has no good wins and three losses to unranked opponents, and UCLA has no good wins to go with its two defeats. Consequently, I submit -- and I've said this before, but now I have the stats to back it up -- that UNC is better than any team from last season, but that nobody else is even close to as good as Kansas, Memphis, UNC or UCLA was last season, meaning that if you combined all the teams from last season and this season your top five would look like this:

1. North Carolina (2008-2009)
2. Kansas (2007-2008)
3. Memphis (2007-2008)
4. North Carolina (2007-2008)
5. UCLA (2007-2008)

Bottom line, dream big Clemson!

And you too, West Virginia!

And you too, Baylor!

Sure, on the surface, none of you look like Final Four teams in the traditional sense. But the thing about the Final Four is that four schools have to be there, and any combination featuring North Carolina and three other teams seems possible this season because there aren't four teams clearly better than the next 30, and that fact has been on display all week, every night.

Comments

Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 4:40 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Okay, Spetrizzi, I've done my research, and it backs me up.  In the Notre Dame game, the score was tied at the 12:50 mark, 17-17.  At 8:16, Carolina was ahead 27-24.  That's what I mean about games being competitive for the first 12 minutes.  And that was a game against a team that had to play #6 Texas down to the wire the night before, while Carolina had the gift of coasting past Oregon. 

Michigan State hung with them a little longer -- at the 5:21 mark UNC was ahead 39-33, which is nowhere near blowout territory for late in the first half.

snegglish,

I don't have a great memory, but to the best of my recall UNC led Kentucky 17 zip, didn't they?  Whatever it was, they blew them out from the tip off.

Carolina doesn't always start slow, but it doesn't matter.  I can say from watching UNC since 1967 that it's always been typical of them to wait until the second half to take control of a game.  As long as they're reasonably close, I don't get excited if they're behind at the half, although, I admit I wouldn't like it this year.

As for the Notre Dame comment, I don't buy, and never have bought into the idea that because a team had a tougher game yesterday they're at a disadvantage today.  If a team has played for several days in a row, on the road sleeping in a hotel and is playing a fresh team who hasn't played for several days, yeah, but if both teams played the day before, no advantage normally, IMO. 

 Since you have been watching Carolina's play so closely this year, have you not noticed that since they've been playing the Oral Roberts and Valpo's they have not turned up the speed they used against MSU, Notre Dame and others earlier in the year? 

  





Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 4:10 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Ok so Gonzaga is not deserving of a top 20 ranking right now.  But let's look at the numbers.  Their 4 losses have come by a total margin of 18 points.  An average of 4.5 pts/gm.  The one loss that never should have happened was the Portland St. game.  But IMO they were emotionally and physically spent from the UConn game.  Which, if not for a "rabbit out of the hat" shot with no time left, should have been a win.  I realize that the top tier teams should win these types of games.  But the parity in college basketball is increasing every year. 

I am a supporter of Gonzaga,  but I am making no excuses for their play right now.  They are not playing smart, team basketball.  Coaches included.  But to say that Gonzaga is a bubble team is ignorant IMO.  The facts do not support that statement. 

  GO ZAGZ!!!




Since: Sep 14, 2007
Posted on: January 2, 2009 3:46 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Way too early to call Louisville a bubble team... we lost more games last year before conference play started and ended up going to the Elite Eight. Never count out anty team that Rick Pitino coaches



Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 3:33 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

UNC looks to be a lock at this point for at least the Final Four - especially since they always have an easy road and hardly ever leave their friendly confines.

So you, orangeman90, not to be outdone, decided to look silly now, right?LOL




Since: Aug 12, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 3:08 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

UNC looks to be a lock at this point for at least the Final Four - especially since they always have an easy road and hardly ever leave their friendly confines.

FYI hogg,

the last 8 times Carolina has gone to the NCAA Tourney they've played their first round games at:  2008 #1 seed-Raleigh, 2007 #1 seed-Winston Salem, 2006 #3 seed-Dayton, 2005 #1 seed-Charlotte, 2004 #4 seed-Denver, 2001 #2 seed-New Orleans, 2000 #8 seed-Birmingham, 1999 #3 seed-Seattle, 1998 #1 seed-Hartford. 

What makes you think Dayton, Denver, New Orleans, Birmingham, Seattle and Hartford are "friendly confines"?  Do you think you're slick enough to slide that lie past everyone or dumb enough to believe it?  Notice that the times that Carolina played close to home they were also a number one seed.  That's the way it works in this or most any other tournament. The higher seed gets the advantage, even playing the weaker teams.  Since your team hasn't got a history of making the tourney often, (four times in the last eleven years and I didn't look past then) you haven't learned that yet, I guess.

One more thing, what in the world makes you think Joe Lunardi has any idea where anyone will be sent in the 2009 NCAA Tourney,DUH?  Forget my second question, you've already answered it.

 




Since: Jan 1, 2009
Posted on: January 2, 2009 1:46 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

North Carolina is gonna make the Final Four, they might have some close games leading to the Final Four but they will get there. Wake Forest is gonna give them a great game when they play. With there young team they could scare some teams in the ACC like Clemson, Duke, and Carolina. North Carolina will win the ACC tourney but the other major conferences it could be very hard to predict. The Big 12 will probably go to Oklahoma but if you can stop Blake Griffin that team will have a rough time competing against big time team's, Texas will do good if they can build momentum going into the tournament, and they have decent depth on that team so they can compete with good team's, and Kansas which is led by Sophomore Cole Aldrich who is 6-11 and a great young player. He could matchup with Blake Griffin when Kansas and Oklahoma play so that will be a fun game to watch. And Baylor who could scare alot of teams in the NCAA tourney.

The Big East is a toss up with Conneticut, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and possibly Syracuse. Conneticut should win it if they come ready to play. If they dont win than it will be Pittsburgh. In the Pac-10 UCLA will beat Arizona. Tennessee should win the SEC but Arkansas and LSU could be contenders in that conference. The Big-10 is the most improved conference but Ohio State and Purdue are overrated. Michigan State and Wisconsin will play in the Big-10 championship with Michigan State coming out on top by a few points.

And I think in the NCAA tourney the Four #1 seeds will be

#1 North Carolina

#1 Uconn

#1 Pitt

#1 UCLA

but that is just my guess based on talent.




Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 1:33 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Okay, Spetrizzi, I've done my research, and it backs me up.  In the Notre Dame game, the score was tied at the 12:50 mark, 17-17.  At 8:16, Carolina was ahead 27-24.  That's what I mean about games being competitive for the first 12 minutes.  And that was a game against a team that had to play #6 Texas down to the wire the night before, while Carolina had the gift of coasting past Oregon. 

Michigan State hung with them a little longer -- at the 5:21 mark UNC was ahead 39-33, which is nowhere near blowout territory for late in the first half.

As I said, Carolina is way deep (although at this point there is a steep dropoff after Lawson at PG -- as much as I like Frasor and Drew, they'll have to get better or they will struggle against elite teams).  I think they have a good chance to go undefeated.  My point was just that there is only one hope I see of beating them, and that's jumping on them at the outset.  If you can put them in a 12-15 point hole in the first 12 minutes, you have a chance.  Not a good chance, mind you -- because they can and will torch you repeatedly for the next 28 minutes, and as you said, they will wear you down -- but it's a chance nonetheless.  And I think a great team on a great night can get that kind of a jump on them, because mediocre teams are hanging with them for that long.



Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 12:55 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

They start slow? Start slow? They have started slow twice in thirteen games. They ahve been leading by double digits in every game except one. Come on man, do your research. MSU? ND? Not what happened.

UNC also has the advantage of being able to wear people down. They are a second half team cause of their depth. Sure a team might be able to stay with them for eight minutes, but that doesn't matter at all, you have 32 minutes after that.

Your point on staying with them for 8 minutes is completely mute.




Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 12:48 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

I am a UNC fan, and I don't think they will go undefeated but I will say somethings to go against wha tyou said.

Hansbrough may not take Thabeet to the shed, and Lawson may not be on a completely different level than AJ Price, but both those players are on separate teams, Hansbrough and Lawson are. That is the difference. And UNC already crushed Notre Dame, who beat Texas, os there you go.

UNC is ALWAYS the hunted. They are UNC. They have always been the hunted and will probably always be. They are used to from the first game of their freshmen year.




Since: Apr 2, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 12:31 pm
 

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

@mutiger312

You do have a good point about the heels and where they stand about going undefeated but (and I've started to say this instead of "they will") I would not be surprised if they did go undefeated. Uconn does have a great man down low but dont forget the Heels have Deon Thompson and Ed Davis to compliment Tyler Hnasborough (and they would have Tyler Zeller if it wasnt for the cheap, not dirty, foul against Kentucky). Not to mention the Heels are actually getting healthier. Hansborough hasnt been 100% all year and they are finally getting back their shutdown defender back in Marcus Ginyard. Like I said I will not be shocked in the least if the heels go undefeated and right now I do think everyone else is playing for number 2. I just hope "George Mason" isnt on our side of the bracket this year.



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