Posted on: March 27, 2008 9:24 am
CHARLOTTE -- The coaching carousel is gaining speed, evidence being Wednesday's hiring of Cuonzo Martin at Missouri State and firing of Ben Braun at California. So Missouri State is now filled and Cal is now open. But the best job available is still Indiana, where the names most regularly mentioned as potential replacements are Washington State's Tony Bennett, Xavier's Sean Miller and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl.
Two other names making the rounds here at the East Regional: Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Texas' Rick Barnes.
Would either take the job if offered?
Honestly, it's hard to say -- though all indications are that Barnes is perfectly happy at Texas while a move further west would make more sense for Dixon considering he's from California. Still, multiple sources said Wednesday night that Indiana officials are at least interested to know whether Dixon or Barnes (along with Bennett, Miller and Pearl) would be interested in taking over the Hoosiers program, meaning Dixon and Barnes are legitimate IU targets until they make it clear they don't want to be.
Posted on: March 26, 2008 11:24 am
CHARLOTTE -- You're probably not keeping up with the NIT, and for that I can't blame you. But it's worth nothing that Florida advanced to the semifinals Tuesday night with a victory at Arizona State, meaning the Gators are now just two wins away from their third straight national title.
Yes, that's a little misleading.
But the NIT is considered a "national" title.
And it's also interesting that Ohio State is on the other side of the bracket.
In other words, we could be heading towards a repeat of last year's national title game -- minus Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook, Ron Lewis, Ivan Harris, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Al Horford, Chris Richard and, of course, CBS. So it wouldn't be quite the same, I admit. But it's still difficult to argue that these two programs aren't benefitting from the experience, if only because it's allowing their young players to have additional practice time while notching victories.
For instance, had Florida not experienced the NIT it would've entered next season having to answer questions about all sorts of things, among them whether this group was capable of beating a good team on the road. But the Gators spent Tuesday night beating a good team on the road -- specifically an Arizona State team that had previously beaten five NCAA tournament participants at home, among them Stanford and Xavier. And my guess is that'll help Billy Donovan in the long run, aid his quest to return to the NCAA tournament next season.
Posted on: March 25, 2008 6:58 pm
CHARLOTTE -- I was flipping through some notes on the flight to Charlotte this afternoon and found something kinda interesting. It's that 23 of the 25 teams in the preseason Associated Press poll ultimately made the NCAA tournament, an impressive number given all the variables that can potentially change things from November to March.
The top four teams in that poll were North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis and Kansas.
Those are also the top four seeds in this NCAA tournament.
The only schools in the preseason Top 25 that didn't make the field were No. 21 North Carolina State and No. 24 Southern Illinois. Again, that's an amazing example of accuracy considering how last season there were five teams ranked in the AP preseason Top 25 that did not make the NCAA tournament -- namely No. 5 LSU, No. 11 Alabama, No. 17 Washington, No. 18 Connecticut and No. 20 Syracuse.
If you're wondering, 10 of the 16 teams in this Sweet 16 were ranked in the preseason.
The omissions were Villanova, Wisconsin, Xavier, Davidson, Western Kentucky and West Virginia.
The only preseason Top 10 schools that did not make the Sweet 16 were No. 5 Georgetown and No. 9 Indiana.
Posted on: March 24, 2008 4:57 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2008 4:59 pm
The first weekend seems to have changed what the oddsmakers are thinking.
According to Bodog, UCLA and North Carolina are now co-favorites to win the national title. Both are currently at 3-to-1, followed by Kansas (7-to-2), Louisville (4-to-1), Memphis (6-to-1) and Texas (10-to-1). What stands out from that list is that the oddsmakers saw the same thing I saw this past weekend in Birmingham, which is that Louisville is playing at a high level -- so high that the Cards are now considered the fourth most-likely team to win this NCAA Tournament despite being the No. 3 seed in the East Region. If you're wondering, they also opened as a 2.5-point favorite over Tennessee in Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup in Charlotte.
The biggest Sweet 16 spread?
That's UCLA minus-13 over Western Kentucky.
The smallest Sweet 16 spread?
That's West Virginia minus-1 over Xavier.
And how many points will Stephen Curry have Friday against Wisconsin?
The over-under is 27.5.
And my instincts tell me I should tell you to take the under, particularly because Wisconsin just held Michael Beasley to 23 points. But my instincts have been totally wrong about all things related to Davidson. So if you're betting against Curry, you're doing so at your own risk.
Posted on: March 23, 2008 8:25 pm
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Sunday was tame, relatively speaking.
Just one of the eight games played resulted in an upset.
And I bet you can guess which team got upset.
Anyway, the Sweet 16 is now set.
Here's how it looks by league.
Pac-10: Three representatives (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State)
Big East: Three representatives (Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova)
Big 12: Two representatives (Kansas, Texas)
Big Ten: Two representatives (Wisconsin, Michigan State)
SEC: One representative (Tennessee)
ACC: One representative (North Carolina)
C-USA: One representative (Memphis)
A-10: One representative (Xavier)
Southern: One representative (Davidson)
Sun Belt: One representative (Western Kentucky)
Posted on: March 23, 2008 4:41 am
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Donald Sloan is the Texas A&M player who took the last shot against UCLA.
Some people believe he was fouled on the play.
And pictures seem to back that opinion.
But I'll let you be the judge.
Click this link and look.
Posted on: March 23, 2008 12:21 am
Edited on: March 23, 2008 8:53 pm
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Yeah, I'll stick with UCLA as my pick to win the national championship.
That was some finish, huh?
And though I know many will look at the Bruins' 51-49 too-close-for-comfort win over Texas A&M and use it as evidence that this team isn't playing like a national title contender, I'll go the other way and tell you that what transpired Saturday night actually provided further evidence that this team is built to win a national title -- the way it defended like crazy, the way it battled back from a deficit, the way it had bigtime playmakers making bigtime plays down the stretch.
I mean, how many teams have clutch playmakers as good as Kevin Love and Darren Collison? Those two combined to make one winning play after another in the final minutes -- Love with fall-aways and Collison with driving layups. Poor Texas A&M seemed helpless late, incapable of stopping either future first-round draft pick. So now Love and Collison and the rest of the Bruins will head to Phoenix, where they'll meet Western Kentucky or San Diego in the semfinals of the West Region.
Also in the Sweet 16: Washington State and Stanford.
That's another storyline from Saturday.
The Cougars dominated Notre Dame while Stanford edged Marquette, meaning three Pac-10 schools are in the Sweet 16. Only the Big East can top that number, but for that to happen it'll take Georgetown beating Davidson (likely), Villanova beating Siena (probable) and Louisville beating Oklahoma (probable) on Sunday. West Virginia has already advanced thanks to Saturday's victory over Duke.
Sticking with that theme, here's a look at how the Sweet 16 will look by league assuming all of Sunday's favorites advance ....
(Editor's note: It's stupid to think all the favorites will advance, so keep that in mind)
Big East: Four (West Virginia, Georgetown, Louisville, VIllanova)
Pac-10: Three (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State)
Big 12: Two (Kansas, Texas)
Big Ten: Two (Wisconsin, Michigan State)
ACC: One (North Carolina)
SEC: One (Tennessee)
A-10: One (Xavier)
C-USA: One (Memphis)
Sun Belt: One (Western Kentucky)
So again, if the favorites win Sunday then the Sun Belt will have as many Sweet 16 participants as the ACC and SEC.
That just sounds funny, doesn't it?
Posted on: March 22, 2008 8:26 pm
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- So I'm sitting in the hotel watching the NCAA tournament, and I just realized something wild. Do you understand that if Texas A&M somehow beats UCLA later tonight it will ensure that one of the following teams will be in the Final Four.
But how many of you have a bracket with one of those schools in the Final Four?
Furthermore, how many of you have a bracket with two of those schools in the Elite Eight?
The number can't be high. So if you want an unconventional Final Four participant you should be rooting for Texas A&M. And if UCLA gets past the Aggies, well, this sure is setting up nicely for the Bruins, isn't it?