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Tag:Jeff Borzello
Posted on: March 6, 2012 2:06 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:02 pm
 

Poppin' Bubbles: Do-or-die in league tourneys

Seton Hall kept its at-large hopes alive with a dominant win over Providence in the Big East first round. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

It truly is do-or-die time for bubble teams. With a loss, they will be left to sit on the sidelines until Selection Sunday, anxiously awaiting the committee to announce their fate. With a win, they get to keep boosting the profile and also stay squarely in the forefront of the committee’s collective mind. With the Big East and Atlantic 10 tournaments getting underway on Tuesday, several bubble teams have work to do.

Note: This page will be updated throughout the day, with bubble discussion and analysis.

Winners

Connecticut: The Huskies, with their quintet of top-50 wins and terrific strength of schedule, seem to still be in pretty good shape. What they couldn’t afford, however, would have been a loss in the first round to DePaul. Jim Calhoun’s troops obliged, cruising to an easy win over the Blue Demons. Connecticut improves to 6-8 away from home, which doesn’t look as bad anymore. The Huskies will play fellow bubble team West Virginia on Wednesday. The winner will be locked in, the loser will sweat until the selections. 

Seton Hall: The Pirates likely had to win two Big East tournament games to get into the NCAA tournament (or at least feel remotely comfortable about it), and they accomplished the first step of that task on Tuesday. Seton Hall overcame a slow start to throttle Providence over the last 20 minutes. Next up for the Pirates is a battle with Rick Pitino and Louisville. Can Seton Hall survive a loss there? Depending on what else happens around the country, they might not be able to. A win would certainly help.

Dayton:
The Flyers still have a extremely strange profile, but they also have at-large hopes after taking care of business against George Washington in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. In the quarterfinals, Dayton will get Xavier for the third time this season. It's a huge bubble game, as both teams need a win and neither team might be able to overcome a defeat. The Flyers have three very good wins over Temple, Saint Louis and Alabama, but four sub-100 losses makes things difficult.

Saint Joseph's:
The Hawks have a lot of work to do in order to get an at-large bid, but they are still alive after holding off Charlotte in the second half. Next up is a rematch with St. Bonaventure, which beat Saint Joseph's last week and really hurt the Hawks' at-large hopes. If SJU wants to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, it needs to beat the Bonnies and then probably also beat Temple in the semifinals. 
 
Harvard:
The Crimson will not have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday, and they certainly won't have to sweat a one-game playoff on Saturday. Princeton beat Penn in the regular-season finale, meaning Harvard clinched the outright Ivy League championship for the first time since 1946. Harvard is going to the NCAA tournament.

Everyone else:
With Harvard getting the automatic bid, there is no chance the Ivy League gets two bids to the NCAA tournament. For yet another time this season, it seems power conference teams on the fence are continuing to luck out. The bubble hasn't shrunk yet. 

Losers

Proponents of mid-majors:
As I mentioned in the prior sentence, the bubble hasn't shrunk yet. What that means is that we haven't seen the mid-major conferences get any extra bids as a result of a surprising tournament champion. We almost saw it happen in the Missouri Valley, where Creighton had to hold off Illinois State, while Murray State barely escaped Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley. Moreoever, with Penn losing tonight, there's no chance that both Harvard and the Quakers get a bid. Throw in the fact that Oral Roberts, Iona, Middle Tennessee and Drexel all lost in their conference tournaments, and we're on the path to seeing a plethora of middling power-conference teams get a bid -- and very few potential upset picks in the first round. It could make the NCAA tournament slightly less exciting on the first two days. 

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:55 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:56 am
 

Adidas unveils new uniforms for postseason

By Jeff Borzello

Apparently Adidas isn’t superstitious when it comes to not changing things heading into the postseason.

On Tuesday morning, the company revealed new uniforms for Baylor, Louisville and Cincinnati for the upcoming tournaments.

At first glance, the Cincinnati and Louisville ones are pretty solid. Louisville has the metallic gray that everyone seems to be wearing these days, although the stripes on the shorts don’t really fit what “Cardinals” do. Cincinnati’s stripes on the shorts make sense, since they’re the “Bearcats” and all, and the black-on-black jersey and shorts look is nice.

And then we have Baylor. I would say it's a disaster, but some people like the really, really bright colors. So I'll say it's tough to look at for a long time. I personally prefer a hint of neon when it comes to uniforms. Either sneakers or socks -- but not the entire thing in a monochromatic neon. 

First of all, they look like they glow in the dark. I’m not sure if it’s a neon green, highlighter yellow, or something else. The Bears also have the stripes on the shorts, which in this case probably helps onlookers not gouge their eyes out. The best part? The neon socks and shoelaces. That really ties it all together.

Which new uniform do you think is the best?

Update: Apparently Baylor also had a black uniform released today (per a comment below). And it's awesome. Seriously. Check out the alternate here

Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:54 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 3:57 pm
 

Championship game preview: Sun Belt

The first conference tournament to get turned upside-down this year was the Sun Belt, which saw three of the top four seeds – including the top two seeds – lose in the quarterfinals. The fun didn’t stop on Monday, as the remaining favorite, No. 3 seed Denver, was toppled by No. 7 Western Kentucky. On the other side of the bracket, No. 5 seed North Texas will head to the title game for the third straight season after beating No. 9 Arkansas State.

North Texas won the first meeting between the two teams, in mid-January. In that game, the Mean Green shot better than 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range en route to a 17-point win.

Western Kentucky is a very different team than it was back then, as Ray Harper took over as the head coach and completely turned around the Hilltoppers’ season. They knocked off regular-season champion Middle Tennessee in the season finale and also beat the top tournament contenders in the conference tournament. During their recent five-game winning streak, the Hilltoppers are playing far better offensively and showing more consistency on the defensive end.

Plenty of impressive freshmen will be on display Tuesday night in Hot Springs, Ark. North Texas’ Tony Mitchell is one of the top newcomers in the country, capable of dominating at both ends of the floor. Western Kentucky counters with Derrick Gordon and George Fant.

North Texas has been far more balanced lately, with Alzee Williams, Jacob Holmen and Roger Franklin all picking up the slack with Mitchell struggling in the postseason. If Mitchell returns to the form he showed in the regular season, Western Kentucky could have trouble.

The winner of this game will likely be the lowest-rated team in the field, meaning the winner could end up in Dayton for the First Four.  

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:07 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:11 am
 

Tiny Dancers: Davidson

By Jeff Borzello

For the first time since Stephen Curry was the go-to guy for Davidson, the Wildcats are back in the NCAA tournament.

They survived a double-overtime contest against Western Carolina in the championship game, constantly overcoming clutch shots by the Catamounts. Davidson had five guys score in double-figures in the title game, with three of them playing more than 40 minutes. It was head coach Bob McKillop's sixth conference tournament championship.

Davidson was one of the few regular-season champions to get through the conference tournament unscathed so far this season, winning three in a row after going 14-2 during the campaign. The Wildcats started 9-0 in the league before dropping a three-point game at Samford in late January. During the non-conference season, Davidson knocked off Kansas in Kansas City; this team can play.

Bob McKillop has steered Davidson back to the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)

Player to know: De’Mon Brooks. The Southern Conference Player of the Year could have been the hero in the first overtime of the title game, but his leaner rimmed out as time expired. Brooks still managed to finish with 19 points and eight rebounds, staying true to his extremely efficient self. In games against Duke, Vanderbilt and Kansas, Brooks averaged 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 25-7 overall, 16-2 in SoCon
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2008, No. 10 seed. Beat Gonzaga in first round, beat Georgetown in second round, beat Wisconsin in Sweet 16, lost to Kansas in Elite Eight.
  • We’re thinking: 14 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 58
  • Sagarin ranking: 66
  • RPI: 65
  • Best wins: Kansas, Penn, Richmond
  • Worst losses: Samford, Charlotte
  • Notable stat: Davidson could be tough in a close game. The Wildcats rank ninth in the country in free-throw percentage, shooting 76.6 percent from the foul line.

-- Jeff Borzello

Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:47 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:49 pm
 

What-to-know conference previews: Atlantic 10

The Atlantic 10 has a chance to be one of the more intriguing conference tournaments this week. Throughout the season, it was extremely competitive and no one team really dominated and forced its will on the rest of the league. Even the two teams that didn’t reach the tournament – Fordham and Rhode Island – pulled off wins over Saint Louis, Dayton, Massachusetts and La Salle within the conference this season. Eight of the 12 teams finished on the right side of .500 in league play.

In addition to the high level of competition in Atlantic City this week, there is also a lot on the line in terms of at-large bids. Temple is a lock, Saint Louis is in pretty good shape despite a fairly barren profile, but there are at least three other teams looking for a bid. Xavier has been up and down for the last three months, but the Musketeers are in the mix. Dayton has a strange profile, but the Flyers still have a shot, as does Saint Joseph’s.

Four teams get a bye in the quarterfinals, including a St. Bonaventure team that surprised its way to 10 conference wins. Atlantic City is always fun, but it’s going to take on some extra excitement this week. (Note: The first-round games take place at campus sites.)

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

No. 8 Massachusetts vs. No. 9 Duquesne:
Massachusetts was in the mix for a regular-season title until dropping four of its final six games to end the season. With that said, the Minutemen are difficult to play due to their extremely fast pace and aggressive defense. It will be interesting to see if Duquesne can take care of the ball; we know the Dukes like to run too.

No. 5 Saint Joseph’s vs. No. 12 Charlotte: Saint Joseph’s was making a run at an at-large bid, but the Hawks lost at home to Richmond two weeks ago, and then followed up a win over Temple with a road loss at St. Bonaventure in double overtime. Short of a trip to the title game, and Phil Martelli’s crew might be in the NIT. Charlotte has lost five of its last six games.

No. 6 Dayton vs. No. 11 George Washington: Despite getting little publicity from bracketology types, Dayton is still in the hunt for an at-large bid. The Flyers have wins over Temple, Saint Louis, Alabama, Xavier and Ole Miss, with an 8-7 record against the top 100. However, they also have four sub-100 losses. George Washington has lost nine of its last 11 heading into the tourney.

No. 7 La Salle vs. No. 10 Richmond: La Salle was one of the bigger surprises in the conference this season, getting out to a 6-2 record in the first half of the season. Losses in five of six games in February ended the Explorers’ chance at a regular-season championship, but they are very solid at both ends of the floor. Richmond has won three of four, including wins over Saint Joseph’s and Dayton.

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:21 am
 

Sun Belt tournament bursts wide-open

Conference tournaments have been fairly normal so far. Only a couple of No. 1 seeds were knocked out, but the second seeds in those leagues picked up the slack.

Not in the Sun Belt. Sunday saw both Middle Tennessee and Arkansas-Little Rock – the top two seeds – fall in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Moreover, No. 4 seed Lafayette also lost over the weekend.

Where does that leave things?

No. 3 seed Denver is now the favorite to win the automatic bid, as the Pioneers have won five in a row and are the highest-remaining seed. They draw No. 7 seed Western Kentucky in the semifinals. The Hilltoppers have defeated Middle Tennessee and Arkansas-Little Rock in the past two weeks, so they won’t be an easy out anymore.

An intriguing team could be North Texas. The Mean Green have the league’s most dominant player, freshman forward Tony Mitchell. He is capable of carrying the team at both ends of the floor. Moreover, Mitchell struggled in the quarterfinals, but North Texas still had four players score in double-figures. The Mean Green face No. 9 Arkansas State in the semis on Monday.

The loss by Middle Tennessee also brings up another discussion point: are the Blue Raiders worthy of an at-large bid? Heading into last weekend, it would have looked like they had a chance, but they have since lost to Western Kentucky and Arkansas State, two teams with RPIs below 200. They have no marquee wins, with the best victories coming over Ole Miss, Belmont and Akron. The computer profile has also taken a huge hit with the recent losses. More than likely, Middle Tennessee is headed to the NIT. 

-- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:04 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 12:52 pm
 

What-to-know conference previews: Southland

Texas-Arlington went into the weekend’s season finale gunning to finish the Southland’s regular season unbeaten, but Texas-San Antonio had other plans, handing UTA its first loss of the campaign. Will that open the door in the tournament, or is UTA still the favorite?

Texas-Arlington has lost just two games since December 20, road games at Weber State and Texas-San Antonio. The Mavericks love to play up-tempo basketball, forcing turnovers at a very high rate and playing an aggressive brand of attacking basketball. They are long and quick, with multiple offensive options. LaMarcus Reed can fill it up from the perimeter, while Bo Ingram and Kevin Butler also need to be stopped.

Stephen F. Austin won its last five games to end the season, and is the perfect foil to Texas-Arlington. The Lumberjacks control the tempo, preferring a halfcourt game and a slow pace. They play some of the best defense in the league, dominating the glass and contesting everything inside the arc. Big man Jereal Scott is difficult to handle in the paint.

LaMarcus Reed and UT-Arlington have lost just twice since mid-December. (US Presswire)

Lamar has one of the best trios in the conference, with Mike James, Anthony Miles and Devon Lamb leading the way. Offensively, the Cardinals are explosive, but when the perimeter players go cold, they are in trouble. Their ceiling is high, though. Despite having the league’s best scorer, McNeese State has lost four in a row.

A team to watch could be Texas-San Antonio, the only team to beat UT-Arlington this season. The Roadrunners play a 1-1-3 trapping zone for 40 minutes, which is difficult for the faster teams to play against. They also shoot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range, and have plenty of size and scorers.

With only eight teams making the tournament, it’s going to be ultra-competitive. Can UT-Arlington survive?

****

TOURNAMENT BRACKET

Title game: Saturday, March 10 on ESPN2 (3:00 p.m., ET)

BEST PLAYERS

  1. Patrick Richard, McNeese State
  2. William Mosley, Northwestern State
  3. LaMarcus Reed III, UT-Arlington
  4. Mike James, Lamar
  5. Jereal Scott, Stephen F. Austin

Conference RPI: 28

KenPom.com rating: 28

Sagarin rating: 27

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances

  • Lamar Cardinals: 2000, No. 16 seed, lost to Duke 82-55 in the first round.
  • McNeese State Cowboys: 2002, No. 14 seed, lost to Mississippi State 70-58 in the first round.
  • Nicholls State Colonels: 1998, No. 16 seed, lost to Arizona 99-60 in the first round.
  • Northwestern State Demons: 2006, No. 14 seed, beat Iowa 64-63 in the first round, followed by a 67-54 loss to West Virginia in the second round.
  • Sam Houston State Bearkats: 2010, No. 14 seed, lost to Baylor 68-59 in the first round.
  • Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks: 2009, No. 14 seed, lost to Syracuse 59-44 in the first round.
  • Texas-Arlington Mavericks: 2008, No. 16 seed, lost to Memphis 87-63 in the first round.
  • Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners: 2011, No. 16 seed, beat Alabama State 70-61 in the opening round, followed by a 75-46 loss to Ohio State in the first round.

- Jeff Borzello

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:11 am
 

Championship game preview: Southern

Back on February 11, Western Carolina was just 10-17 and was suffering through a 4-10 Southern Conference record. Only three weeks later, and the Catamounts will get a chance to play one game for the right to go to the NCAA tournament.

On the other side will be Davidson, the best team in the conference and a squad that dominated its way to a 14-2 league record.

Western Carolina might be the hotter team, winning its last seven games, including three in the past three days. The Catamounts knocked off The Citadel to open the tournament, upset title contender Wofford by 23 and then handled division champion UNC-Greensboro on Sunday evening.

Davidson had far less excitement in its road to the title game, winning its two games by a combined 35 points without much of a sweat.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Davidson rolled to a 19-point win. But Western Carolina is a very different team than it was in mid-January. Against the Wildcats, the Catamounts will go as far as their 3-point shooting takes them. They shot 50 percent from deep in the quarterfinals against Wofford, and knocked down 10 3-pointers in the semis against Greensboro. Davidson is susceptible to prolific shooting teams, but will Western Carolina be able to stop the Wildcats at the other end?

Davidson is a very balanced team with five double-figure scorers and two very tough inside-outside scorers in De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen. Western Carolina only starts one player taller than 6-foot-4; Davidson’s entire lineup is at least 6-foot-3.

Bob McKillop’s team will be the heavy favorite, but Western Carolina has made a living off upsets this week. Can the Catamounts pull off one more?

-- Jeff Borzello

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com