Posted on: March 20, 2008 4:10 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2008 4:11 pm

Early observations from Alabama

BIRMINGHAM, Ala -- Friday-Sunday pods really are the worst.

They place writers in a dilemma, force us to act like we care about what is happening in some interview session when we're really most interested in the actual NCAA tournament games starting elsewhere. I mean, Ronnie Arrow is great, just a splendid coach and wonderful story. But Kentucky and Marquette are in a tight game, and it's right there on the TV. And this must be what Amy Winehouse feels like when somebody puts a pipe in front of her. She knows what she's supposed to be doing (and not doing). But it's difficult, I tell you, and I'm sure Coach Arrow understands.

Anyway, her are some early observations:

  • Michigan State snapped a pattern of producing first-round wins backed by first-round losses every other year that began in 2001. The Spartans cruised to a 72-61 win over Temple. Next up is Pitt, which is destroying Oral Roberts.
  • Georgia's dream run is over. I'm not surprised. But I was stunned when the Bulldogs jumped to an early big lead over Xavier before ultimately falling 73-61. I have Xavier going to the Elite Eight. I was concerned at the half.
  • Kent State looks terrible.
  • Purdue does not look terrible.
  • When is our first notable upset coming?
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 18, 2008 5:36 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2008 3:24 pm

UCLA is the favorite, according to Las Vegas

NEW YORK -- The oddsmakers have weighed in on the NCAA tournament.

(What, you thought gamblers were going to sit this one out?)

UCLA, with 7-to-2 odds, is the favorite to win the national title (according to Bodog), followed by North Carolina (4/1), Kansas (5/1), Memphis (6-1) and three programs -- Georgetown, Texas and Duke -- getting 14-to-1 odds. You can probably tell by that that the four No. 1 seeds are the favorites to take their regions. That makes sense. But if you like somebody besides UCLA, UNC, Kansas or Memphis to win the national title, you can take the entire field against the top seeds, and if anybody besides UCLA, UNC, Kansas or Memphis wins the national title you'll make $130 for every $100 wagered.

Translation: It'll be a major surprise if somebody besides a No. 1 seed wins the national title.

Anyway, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough is the favorite to be the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. You can get him at 4-to-1. After that, it's UCLA's Kevin Love (7/1), Memphis' Chris Douglas-Roberts (8/1), Kansas' Brandon Rush (10/1), UCLA's Darren Collison (10/1), North Carolina's Ty Lawson (12/1), Tennessee's Chris Lofton (15/1), Kansas' Darrell Arthur (15/1), Memphis' Derrick Rose ( 15/1), Duke's Kyle Singler (15/1) and Texas' D.J. Augustin (19/1).
As for the first round, the biggest spread is UCLA minus-32 against Mississippi Valley State. The smallest is Miami minus-1 against Saint Mary's.  And just so you know, my super-duper, 10-star lock of the century is Xavier minus-8 over Georgia. I think I'm calling that the Dream-Stops-Here Thursday Guarantee/Get-Rich-Or-Die-Trying Extra Special Tip-off Special of the Year.

Or something like that.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 17, 2008 11:28 am
Edited on: March 17, 2008 6:00 pm

An argument for Illinois State

NEW YORK -- Illinois State was the lone team I had in the field that did not make the field.

So naturally, I'm gonna defend the Rebirds and address some of the complaints about their body of work.

Here goes ...

People say Illinois State didn't beat anybody. OK, I'll concede the point. ISU didn't beat many (if any) good teams. But some of this is about opportunity, and with the MVC supposedly down this season how many opportunities was ISU ever really going to get? The three games against Drake and a game against Indiana is it, best I can tell. But the Redbirds still had two Top 50 wins, and am I supposed to believe that because they came against Creighton they do not count? Seems Top 50 wins only matter if they come against Top 50 teams from power leagues, or at least that's the message sent.

Anyway, two Top 50 wins.

That's terrible, right?

But UNLV only has two, and if the Rebels would've lost to BYU in the MWC title game they'd be stuck on one.

You think UNLV would've been left out under that scenario, with just one Top 50 win?

Answer: Not. A. Chance.

Meantime, Baylor only has three Top 50 wins.

Clearly, that's one more than Illinois State.

But the Bears also had 11 games with Top 50 opponents. So they were 3-8 against the Top 50, meaning they won 27.3 percent of those matchups. Illinois State was 2-5 against the Top 50, meaning they won 28.6 percent of those matchups.

Baylor got in.

Illinois State did not.

(I'm not saying, I'm just saying.)

Anyway, let me be clear about something: Illinois State's omission is not a reason to riot. Had the Redbirds played Drake close in the MVC final my guess is they'd have made the field. But they got killed, just run straight off the court. So on Selection Sunday they paid the price, and on some level they did it to themselves. But it's still difficult to ignore that 13 schools with lower RPIs than Illinois State's 33 were awarded at-large bids, and that it always seems to be the Missouri Valley Conference schools that are getting left out despite high RPIs (No. 33 Illinois State and No. 46 Creighton in 2008; No. 36 Missouri State and No. 38 Bradley in 2007; No. 21 Missouri State and No. 39 Creighton in 2006, etc.).

Is this merely a coincidence?


But if I was MVC commissioner Doug Elgin, yeah, I'd be a little pissed, too.
Posted on: March 16, 2008 6:59 pm

Some quick thoughts now that the bracket is out

Some initial (and quick) thoughts ...

  • I have no real problem with the four No. 1 seeds. It's not the way I would've done it, but it's fine.
  • Tennessee shouldn't be the fourth No. 2 seed. It still has the No. 1 RPI and No. 1 strength of schedule.
  • I hate that Illinois State did not make the field. Guess losing by 30 in your league title game is a killer.
  • Michael Beasley vs. O.J. Mayo in the first round? Excellent!
  • Eight teams from the Big East is exactly right.
  • Memphis might have to play Texas in Houston in the South Regional final. That sucks for Memphis.
  • Wisconsin should be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. A No. 3 seed is wrong for a Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion.
  • It's a good thing for Kentucky that Dwyane Wade is out of college. You remember the last time the Wildcats got Marquette, right?
  • I don't like South Alabama vs. Butler in the first round. It seems like a clever way to eliminate a non-BCS team that could make a run.
  • Ditto for Gonzaga vs. Davidson in the first round.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 16, 2008 3:16 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2008 3:17 pm

Nearly set at the top

North Carolina's win over Clemson in the ACC final means we now know three of our four No. 1 seeds.

UNC, Memphis and UCLA are locks at the top.

The fourth No. 1 seed will go to either Tennessee, Texas or Kansas.

My opinion: If Texas beats Kansas in the Big 12 final the Longhorns should get a No. 1 seed. But if Kansas beats Texas then the final No. 1 seed should go to Tennessee because the Jayhawks' body of work (7-2 record against the Top 50), while impressive, simply doesn't match that of Tennessee (11-3 record against the Top 50) or Texas (11-3 record against the Top 50).

Anyway ...
Posted on: March 15, 2008 3:00 pm

Book it: Memphis is the top seed in the South

Almost nothing is settled as it pertains to the NCAA tournament.

Except this: Memphis will be the No. 1 seed in the South Region and start Friday in Little Rock.

Such is the luxury of cruising through the C-USA tournament and capping the event with a 77-51 win over Tulsa in Saturday morning's title game. The Tigers now head into Selection Sunday with a 33-1 record and top three RPI, assured of their second No. 1 seed in the past three years. So now the only question is their match-up and potential match-ups, specifcally whether the selection committee will make Texas the No. 2 seed in the South Region and send John Calipari into full conspiracy mode.

Why would Calipari go nuts?

Because that would mean Memphis would likely play Texas in the Elite Eight.

In Houston.

As in Houston, Texas.

And it would also mean the Tigers would be placed as the No. 1 seed in a region for the second time in three years where the No. 2 seed was actually in its homestate. No. 1 seed Memphis had to play No. 2 seed UCLA in Oakland in the Elite Eight in 2006. You remember how that went, right? So pay attention to Sunday's Selection Show and watch for the South Region, and if Texas pops up as the No. 2 seed there just know Calipari will be sitting on his couch, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Memphis
Posted on: March 15, 2008 11:19 am
Edited on: March 15, 2008 11:19 am

Lets play two!

The SEC Tournament is taking the form of an AAU Tournament.

Two games in one day?

The only thing that'll make this better is if the teams with the second game -- Tennessee and Arkansas -- have to sit in the bleachers to watch Kentucky-Georgia while Sonny Vaccaro comes out to give a speech at halftime. Oh yeah, and I'm gonna need a bunch of chairs all around the court, you know, for other coaches to sit in. And I need officials in shorts. And can't they just roll in two more goals at Georgia Tech, turn the court sideways and play two games at the same time so everybody can watch four rosters full of players at once?

I mean, if the SEC is going AAU it needs to go all out.

I want somebody's uncle who happens to be on a Nike payroll to coach every team.

And I want to see runners for agents on the freakin' bench, drawing up plays and handing out cash.

And ... (I could go on for 500 more words but I think I'll just stop right here)
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Georgia, Kentucky, SEC
Posted on: March 14, 2008 5:08 pm

Tennessee should have its No. 1 seed locked up

It's probably too early to know for sure. But my guess is that Tennessee's 89-87 victory over South Carolina in Friday's SEC quarterfinals secured a No. 1 seed for the Vols regardless of what happens in Saturday's semifinals. Why? Because even if UT loses to Vanderbilt or Arkansas they will get out of the weekend without a "bad" loss -- Vandy and Arkansas are both NCAA tournament teams, you know? -- and thus with a solid resume that'll be difficult to push to the second line.

Right now, the Vols are 28-3 with the No. 1 RPI and No. 1 Strength of Schedule in the country.

They've beaten Memphis.

And Xavier.

And Vandy.

And West Virginia.

And at least five other teams that figure to be in the NCAA tourament (Gonzaga, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Western Kentucky and Kentucky) plus at least another four that were either on the bubble as recently as yesterday (Florida and Ole Miss) or are still on the bubble today (Temple and Ohio State). Add it up, and that's nine victories over likely NCAA tournament teams and four more over legitimate bubble teams. And that's why the Vols are probably headed for a No. 1 seed regardless of what happens next.

Want the name of a possible surprise No. 1 seed?

Watch out for Texas.

The Longhorns are 27-5 with the No. 5 RPI and No. 6 Strength of Schedule in the country.

They've beaten Tennessee.


And Kansas.

And Saint Mary's.

And at least four other teams that figure to be in the NCAA tournament, namely Oklahoma (twice), Baylor (twice), Texas A&M and Kansas State. They're 5-2 against the Top 25, 10-3 against the Top 50. And if the Longhorns were to beat Oklahoma and presumably Kansas to win the Big 12 tournament they'd have a great case for a No. 1 seed and perhaps be in position to jump UCLA based somewhat on their December victory at Pauley Pavilion
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Tennessee, Texas
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