Category:NCAAB
Posted on: October 27, 2008 8:37 pm
 

Big East Preview 5, Louisville Cardinals

Another of the preseason favorites in the Big East.  I think they're my pick to win the conference regular season (which doesn't necessarily imply that I think they are its best team).  There's a lot going on with this team, what with departing players and new faces, a bit of a fiasco wth one now infamous Caracter, and a coach who is ideal to lead a situation like that.  Below is my breakdown of why I think they're so good, and what I think their upper and lower limits are.
2007-2008
Results:

27-9 Overall, 14-4 Big East (2nd)
Eliminated in Big East tournament second round by eventual champion Pittsburgh
Elite Eight, lost to North Carolina

Roster:

Derrick Caracter         F
Earl Clark                   G/F
Terrance Farley          C
Preston Knowles       G
Andre McGee              G
Stuart Miller                 G
David Padgett            F/C
Juan Palacious          F
Will Scott                     G
Jerry Smith                  G
Edgar Sosa                G
Lee Steiden                F
Terrence Williams     F

2008-2009
Departures:

Caracter, Farley, Miller, Padgett, Palacious, Scott

Teams that make the Elite Eight and lose six players tend not to return there, but some see Caracter's leaving as a blessing.  Padgett and Palacious open a hole, but it looks like they have an answer to that.  I have to add, though, that the Cards struggled when those two were injured and out of the lineup.

Arrivals:

Reginald Delk   G (transfer from Mississippi State)  He is being lost in the shuffle, with the impressive recruiting class below grabbing a lot of headlines and the returning stars taking the others.  I think his impact will be felt, though, because he adds another option in the backcourt.  This isn't a team that lives and dies by its guard play, but they can mix it up back there and Delk makes it that much easier.

George Goode        F  (redshirt)
Terrence Jennings F
Kyle Kuric                 G
Samardo Samuels F
Jared Swopshire     F

So, this team goes from Padgett, Palacious, and Caracter up front to Samuels, Swopshire, and Jennings (perhaps Goode).  They lose a lot up front, but Samuels is the best athlete on that list.  His showing in the Red vs. White scrimmage tells me that he will step right in.  Swopshire and Jennings may need more time, but may prove to be an improvement over their predecessors by season's end.  Ateam that was dominant in the paint last year and lost the whole crew might actually be better in the paint by this March.  I'm five teams into my previews, and so far only DePaul has a less than stellar recruiting class.  Wow.

The Schedule:

Nonconference Games
:  Morehead State, Western Kentucky, Indiana State, Ohio, Lamar, Austin Peay, Mississippi, Minnesota, UAB, UNLV, Kentucky

This to me is the (almost) perfect nonconference slate.  It starts easy, then ramps up as the Big East games approach.  My only criticism is that it could use a truly dominant opponent (which MAYBE UNLV is).  The Cards could realistically sweep this, and it isn't completely filled with cupcakes.

Two Time Opponents
:  Notre Dame, South Florida, West Virginia

This is a sampling of the Big East: one of the frontrunners, a second-tier team, and a bottom feeder.  Very fair.

Remaining Roadies:  Villanova, Rutgers, Syracuse, St. John's, Cincinnati, Georgetown

They avoid traveling to some of the more difficult arenas.  Their two toughest road games may be against teams they also get at home (ND, WVU).

Home Games
:  Pittsburgh, Connecticut, DePaul, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall

There are four teams in the BE making most preseason top tens...Louisville is one and they host the other three.  They DO also go to South Bend, but I think they have the most favorable BE schedule of the four favorites.
The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     The new frontcourt steps in and dominates much like the old from day 1.  Sosa, Smith, Clark, and Delk spread out the scoring out of the backcourt and rotate the hot hand.  They cruise through the early season, notching big wins over UNLV and Kentucky.  They manage to get Pitt and UConn in the early going, and split with Notre Dame...powering them to a regular season Big East crown.  They get at least to the semifinals of the conference tournament, earning them a 1 or 2 seed.  In the NCAAs, they avenge last year's loss to North Carolina on their way to a Final Four or perhaps even a national title.

Worst Case Scenario:
   They have a little trouble figuring out who is who up front, apart from Samuels.  The guards distribute the ball well, but no one averages better than 10 or 11 a game.  They lose their last two nonconference games, and limp into Big East play on a losing streak.  They right the ship against South Florida, but then get upset at Villanova and lose at home to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.  Things go better later, but the three early Big East losses are enough to keep them from the title discussion and they finish in the 5-7 range in the conference.  They win themselves into the quarterfinals in the BE tourney, but can't beat the team they face there.  In the NCAA tournament they outplay their seed, but fail to get past the Sweet Sixteen.

My Take:
    I think Louisville has the inside track to the Big East regular season crown, as stated above.  The reasons are that they return a lot of talent, supplement it with perhaps the Big East's best freshman, and have the "easiest" conference schedule of the frontrunners.  Even if they don't win, they should be in the hunt.  I suspect that one of the other talented teams will keep them from sweeping both BE titles, but they could end up with a number one seed easily, because winning the Be will carry a lot of weight.  They are legit as a title contender.  Now on to my concerns.  They have a TON of talent up front, and Samardo Samuels should step right in...but the other guys might not be ready so immediately.  I'm not in love with any one of their guards, though they are very deep at the position.  I don't think there's a lot of dropoff from Clark and Sosa to Smith and Delk, and even Kurik could get into the mix.  I don't really think they have an elite outside shooter though.  The biggest criticism of the Cards is that they are young in their strength (in the paint) and that all their experience is in the backcourt, which isn't where the bulk of their talent lies.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 26, 2008 4:21 pm
 

Big East Preview 4, Georgetown Hoyas

Sorry to those who have actually been reading these.  I got a little behind.  Hopefully I can pound out one late tonight and get a little more on track.  This one is one of the more interesting teams, in the Hoyas.  They lost a lot, but are bringing in a very solid recruiting class.  Can they hang in the Big East with the new blood?  Will the Hibbert loss be as huge as it seems?  Where will they finish amid nine or ten teams with real NCAA aspirations?


2007-2008
Results:

28-6 overall, 15-3 Big East (1st)
Lost Big East Championship game to Pittsburgh
Eliminated second round NCAAs (Davidson)  [and let me say, that was one TOUGH half-region...Kansas State, Wisconsin, Davidson, Georgetown...all for the right to play Kansas.  Ouch.]

Roster:

Tyler Crawford               G/F
Patrick Ewing, Jr.            F
Austin Freeman              G
Roy Hibbert                      C
Bryon Jansen                   F
Vernon Macklin                F
Nikita Mescheriakov       F
Jeremiah Rivers             G
Jessie Sapp                    G
Dajuan Summers           F
Jonathan Wallace           G
Omar Wattad                   G/F
Chris Wright                     G

2008-2009
Departures:

Crawford, Ewing, Hibbert, Macklin, Rivers, Wallace

That's quite a list, highlighted by Hibbert.  When six players go from a team that had such great results the last two years, it leaves some shoes to fill.

Arrivals:

Julian Vaughn      F  (transfer from Florida State) with so many players leaving, this was good news for the Hoyas.  Still, he didn't really light the world aflame at FSU, averaging just 13.3 minutes and 3 points.  I expect him to have only limited impact.

Greg Monroe        F
Jason Clark         G
Henry Sims          C

This group makes Georgetown the third of the four teams I've previewed so far with an outstanding recruiting class.  Monroe should be a nice tandem with Summers, and Sims and Clark should be great in the future.

The schedule:

Nonconference Games:  Jacksonville, Drexel, Wichita State, American, Savannah State, Memphis, Mount St. Mary's, Florida International, Duke

Two tough ones in Memphis and Duke, and a couple of dangerous but "easy" ones.  I'm not sure that slate will prepare them for the conference season, sine Duke comes later...

Two-time Opponents:  Syracuse, Marquette, Cincinnati

Really not a bad draw.  Two second-tier teams, and one on the outside looking in.  All three are very dangerous opponents, though.

Remaining Roadies:  Connecticut, Note Dame, Seton Hall, South Florida, Villanova, St. John's

That starts tough, but softens up a little.

Home Games:  Pittsburgh, Providence, West Virginia, Rutgers, Louisville, DePaul

The Hoyas Big East slate isn't all that rough as such things go, but they open it in a gauntlet.  How's this for a stretch of games: @ Connecticut, Pittsburgh, @ Notre Dame, Providence, Syracuse, @ Duke, West Virginia? Ouch!  Four of those are in most people's preseason top tens, and the other three are very talented, and in the case of Provy and 'Cuse very hungry, teams.

The Outlook
Best Case Scenario
     Sims is ready to go on day one, and makes people forget about Hibbert right away (well, almost).  Summers and Monroe add their wieght and make the Hoyas dominant up front.  The returning guards step up their game a level, and while they don't have a real star back their they have the shot when they need it.  They enter Big East play undefeated, including a statement win over Memphis.  Even in the face of the brutal seven-game stretch mentioned above, they get out with only one or two losses, setting the stage for another run at a conference title.  They fall short of that, but finish in the top 3.  They have a good BE tournament showing, and are rewarded with an excellent NCAA tournament seed.  They lack the experience for a real run to a championship, but again impress with a Sweet 16 or even Elite Eight appearance.

Worst Case Scenario
:
     Sims, Monroe, and Clark aren't ready to be their best when the rough late December/early January stretch rolls around.  They take a loss to Memphis first, then lose 5 or 6 of 7 from December 29-January 22.  Having dug themselves such a hole, they finish tenth in the conference.  The BE tournament isn't much kinder, and their opening round win isn't enough to propel them into the NCAA field.  They have a reasonable showing in the NIT, and regroup for a 2009-2010 season in which they have a chance to do something special.

My Take:
     I like this Hoyas squad.  BUT.  They are very reliant on an (admittedly talented) incoming class, which I don't think is a formula for great success in this conference.  I believe there are four teams clearly better than the Hoyas in this league, and four OTHER teams that are on roughly equal footing.  I don't believe their newcomers will be ready for the rough opening they have to conference play, especially Sims.  He has to face Thabeet, Blair, and Harangody in his first three conference games, and there isn't much depth behind him at the position.  This team has enough talent to be an NCAA tournament team.  I know I sound like a broken record here, but that just isn't enough to challenge in this league.  I believe they will sneak into the NCAAs, finishing somewhere between 7th-9th in the league.  I wouldn't be surprised if they landed in the NIT, though, nor would I be surprised if they finished fourth or fifth.  There is just really that great a range of possibility here.  The reason I err on the low side is that they are one of the few Big East teams to have lost so much, and their recruiting class, while very solid, isn't really better than several others.  Inexperience will hurt them; the question is how much.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 22, 2008 4:16 pm
 

Big East Preview 3, DePaul Blue Demons

I will be as forgiving as I can, but his is a not very good team in a powerhouse conference.  I have to feel a little bad for the Demons, because they had some succesful seasons, which got them an invite to the expanding Big East.  I feel like they are the only school to have not really benefitted from the move.  South Floirda has been futile in basketball as well, but at least they built up a pretty good football program from the move.  In any case, be forewarned that this preview is less optimistic than the previous two.
2007-2008
Results:

11-19 overall, 6-12 Big East (13th)
No postseason play

Roster:

Michael Bizoukas        G
Draelon Burns             G
Karron Clarke               F
Cliff Clinkscales          G
Jabari Currie                G
Wesley Green              C
Adam Handler              F
Mac Koshwal                C
Kenechukwu Obi         C
Matija Poscic                C
Mario Stula                    F
Dar Tucker                    F
Will Walker                    G
Eric Wallace                  F
Joshua Washington    G

2008-2009
Departures:

Burns, Clarke, Clinkscales, Green, Handler, Washington

Losing Draelon Burns to graduation will really hurt this team.  He was the only star last year, and no one appears ready to take on that mantle, especially not at Guard.  Clarke represents another 25 minutes a game.  The rest of the pack were not real contributors, but those two leave holes.

Arrivals:

Krystopher Faber     C
Devin Hill                   F
Jeremiah Kelly         G

All of these guys are three star recruits.  they all appear to ahve the potential to be contributors, but all lack star power.  I just don't see an impact player on that list, at least not one to fill the shoes of a Draelon Burns.  Faber is ranked 22 among centers, and will add some depth there.  Kelly would probably make a good third guard for a team that was set on starters, but I don't see him consistently hanging with Big East defenders as a freshman.

The Schedule:

Nonconference Games:  Albany, Illinois-Chicago, Detroit, Indiana State, California, Northwestern, Morgan State, UCLA, Liberty, Southern U., St. Louis, Alcorn State

DePaul will probably enter Big East play looking stronger than they did last year, because this year's ooc slate is much more forgving.  Only UCLA looks outright unwinnable for them.  Cal, Northwestern, St. Louis, and Albanay are potential slip-up games.

Two-time Oponents
:

Pittsburgh, Marquette, South Florida

I believe this demonstrates how overmatched DePaul is in the conference.  They get a reasonable sampling here (one preseason favorite, one mid-tier, and one bottom feeder) and could still easily go 1-5 in the games.

Remaining Roadies:

Providence, Syracuse, Rutgers, Louisville, West Virginia, Georgetown

Home Games:

Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Villanova, St. John's, Connecticut

This home/road split is very fair.  They get a little of everything in both situations.

The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     Koshwal and Tucker lead the way up front, while Obi and Faber put in some minutes when the frontcourt gets in foul trouble.  Walker ratchets up his game, and Kelly is a surprise star, averaging more than 10 points his freshman year.  They manage to swim through the nonconference games with just two losses (UCLA and someone else).  They sweep South Florida and manage to take one from Pitt or Marquette at home.  They take care of business at Rutgers and versus Seton Hall and St. John's, and add one or two upsets, giving them 7-8 Big East wins and keeping them out of the bottom four slots in the BE tourney.  Their one win in MSG gets them an invite to the CBI, or even the NIT depending upon their showing vs. the 5 seed.  Such a showing could inspire them to win a game or two there.

Worst Case Scenario
:
     Assume no injuries.  Only Tucker and Koshwal manage to average double figures.  The freshmen don't really provide a lift, and no one can fill the holes in the backcourt.  They only manage 7-5 before the conference games start, and they go 0-6 in their six "double games."  They only manage two Big East wins for an overall record of 9-21, get the last seed in the Big East tournament and are embarrassed by the likes of Cincinnati, Georgetown, or whoever lands in ninth.

My Take:
     This team is probably worse than last year, and certainly one of the four worst in this year's Big East.  They do have an opportunity to prove that they aren't terrible in a relatively weak nonconference schedule.  I don't believe they are a postseason quality team, but there are a few other weak teams in the bottom of the conference, and they might be good enough to feed off of them and win one in New York.  The bottom line is, though, last year's formula was to hope Burns was on, and maybe get a few points from someone else.  Now Burns is gone and the couple of major contributors who remain can't carry the load he did.  They are a team of mostly role players in a dominant league, and so 2008-2009 could be a very long year.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 20, 2008 6:38 pm
 

Big East Preview 2, Connecticut Huskies

This one was a little easier, because I'd already done a lot of the research knowing that Connecticut was one of the preseason Big East favorites.  This is the team that many think will be the best of that leviathan of a conference, and for good reason.  Do I agree?  Read and find out.
2007-2008
Results:

24-9 Overall, 13-5 Big East (5th)
Eliminated second round of Big East tournament (by 5 seed West Virginia)
Lost opening round of NCAA tournament (as 4 seed)

Roster:

Jeff Adrien                        F
Craig Austrie                   G
Kyle Bailey                       G
Donnell Beverly              G
Johnnie Bird                    G
Jerome Dyson                G
Gavin Edwards              F/C
Alex Hornat                       F
Curtis Kelly                       F
John Lindner                    F
Jonathan Mandeldove    C
AJ Price                             G
Stanley Robinson            F
Hasheem Thabeet          C
Jim Veronick                     F
Doug Wiggins                  G

2008-2009
Departures:

Bird, Hornat, Kelly, Wiggins

Only Wiggins is a loss to speak of, and his 18.9 minutes, 6.7 points, and 2.7 rebounds will be easily replaced by the newcomers.  Two of the others didn't even play in 2007-2008.  It makes me wonder why the Huskies had such an enormous roster to begin with.  Why have so many players you aren't going to use?

Arrivals:

Scottie Haralson      G
Charles Okwandu   C
Kemba Walker         G
Ater Majok                  F

There it is.  The freshman class the nation (of college bball fans, anyway) is going nuts about.  Even without Nate Miles, who I won't discuss in detail, it sounds like an imposing lineup on its own.  Add it to the list above, and you can see why this team is easy to like.  They will be especially deep and talented in the backcourt, which is something to think about when Thabeet grabs so many headlines up front.

The schedule:

Nonconference games:  Western Carolina, Hartford, La Salle, Bryant, Delaware State, Buffalo, Stony Brook, Gonzaga, Fairfield, Michigan

Wow.  Except for Gonzaga the Huskies should blow through that schedule.  They don't need a tough OOC schedule to be taken seriously, but they'd better avoid a hiccup.  Not that one would really hurt them much, assuming they do well in BE play.

Two-time opponents
: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Seton Hall

Ouch.  They're the favorites going in, but they have to play two of the other three front runners twice, and Pittsburgh and South Bend are notoriously difficult places to play.  Seton Hall should be easier.

Remaining roadies:  West Virginia, Cincinnati, St. John's, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette

Again, ouch.  Four of those six are very dangerous places to play.  Bad enough to get Pitt and ND twice, but adding a road game with Louisville is downright insulting.

Home games:  Georgetown, Rutgers, Villanova, Providence, Syracuse, South Florida

They probably wish they could swap their home and road Big East slate.  Not that the teams above are all pushovers, but it's a little softer.
The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
     Hasheem Thabeet silences all his critics, and fills the holes in his game, while newcomer Okwandu and returning backup Mandeldove spell him effectively.  Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson hold it down up front, and some of the new blood takes the pessure off.  Four guards average 10 points a game or better, with AJ Price leading the way.  This all on their way to sweeping the Big East crowns, and cutting down the nets in New York and Detroit.  They are bandied about in the conversation of ten best teams in NCAA history.

Worst Case Scenario
:
     Again, this does NOT include the possibility of a major injury.  Thabeet still struggles at times to be consistent.  The new guys aren't quite what the Huskies were hoping for, and the team can't get enough help up front.  The deep backcourt and Thabeet's shot blocking keeps them in most games, though.  They wind up with 6 or 7 Big East losses, thanks to an unforgiving schedule, can't get t done in New York, and again exit the NCAA tournament prematurely.

My Take:
     This team could well be as good as the prognosticators are saying.  I don't think they will win the Big East title, at least not the regular season, thanks largely to a brutal slate of road games.  They might be the best team in it, regardless.  I know they will be very solid, and have plenty of depth, at guard.  AJ Price, Jerome Dyson, and Craig Austrie would be enough, but with Haralson and Walker coming in that backcourt is insane...and that doesn't even count the possibility of one of last year's backups stepping up with some quality minutes.  I do question their depth up front, though.  Thabeet is talented, but I believe he is criticized for a reason.  He changes games, but I wonder what the Huskies' contingency is for when he's in foul trouble.  Okwandu is tall, but can he play with the other Big East Centers?  Mandledove was not an effective backup last year.  The same is true at Forward.  Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson are solid, but after that I wonder.  Majok sounds like the real deal, but is he, and will he be ready?  Even with those potential issues, this team can score from anywhere and will play excellent defense.  I believe my best case scenario above is much more likely than the worst.  I wouldn't hand any team the BE crown, though, because at least three teams have the talent to press them.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: October 19, 2008 12:26 pm
 

Big East Preview 1, Cincinnati Bearcats

Now that college basketball is practicing for real, I'm analyzing the Big East team by team, alphabetically by school.  I'll culminate the whole thing in a preseason ranking of all 16 teams, but I'm holding off on making exact predictions on where each team will finish exactly until I've done all the research on all the rosters.  What fans of each team will get is a somewhat impartial (except for Pitt, obviously) view of how things will shape up.  The conference is a monster in 2008-2009, so if I think your team isn't going to be in the running it isn't necessarily because I think that team is bad.  We open with Cincinnati, a team with a winning history but recent struggles.  Will they be all the way back in the '08-'09 season?

2007-2008

Results:

13-19 overalll, 8-10 Big East (10th)
eliminated 1st round Big East tournament (by eventual champion Pittsburgh)
lost 1st round of innaugural College Basketball Invitational (Belmont)

Roster:

Kenny Belton       F
Rashad Bishop  F
Larry Davis          G
Marvin Gentry      G
Adam Hrycaniuk C
Anthony McClain C
Brandon Miller     G
Avin Mitchell          F
Marcus Sikes       F
Deonta Vaughn   G
Jamual Warren   G
Darnell Wilks       F
John Williamson F
2008-2009

Departures:

Gentry, Sikes, Warren, Williamson, Hrycaniuk

The Bearcats lose a lot of minutes in that group, but not really a lot of quality minutes.  Williamson certainly contributed, with 11.6 points per game in 26.5 minutes, but the others really did not take full advantage of their time on the floor.

Arrivals:

Mike Williams F (transfer from Texas) He is a talented player, but unproven.  In his tenure with Texas, he only played his freshman season, averaging 13.6 minutes, 2.3 points, and 3.1 rebounds.  He should be able to improve on that, but I'm not sure he will be the impact player that some suspect.

Domonic Tilford
G (transfer from South Alabama) I'm not 100% certain about this, but I believe Tilford has been tabbed to replace JUCO transfer Nick Aldridge, who was kicked off the team for selling drugs.  Any Uc fans have confirmation?  Anyway, I think he could be a bigger addition than Williams, if that's true.  He adds experience to the guard play alongside Vaughn.

Cashmere Wright
G
Dion Dixon G
Yancy Gates F
Steve Toyloy C
John Reik  C

That's the freshman class, and it looks pretty impressive.  This team will be very deep at guard, and won't lack for talent at Forward, either.  They really didn't get great play at Center last year, and the two newcomers should improve that, especially Reik with his size.  They will be relying on freshmen or Anthony McClain, though, so Center could be their weak spot.

The schedule:

Nonconference games: South Dakota, Texas Southern, Western Illinois, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, UAB, Xavier, Charleston Southern, Mississippi State, Eastern Kentucky, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Memphis

There are four, perhaps five, very dangerous games on that slate, with some real cake in between.  The Bearcats will need to win one or two of those, and avoid any upsets in the easy ones, to look good going into conference play.

Two-time opponents: Georgetown, Providence, St. John's

That is by no means easy, but perhaps as forgiving as one can ask for in this conference.

Remaining roadies: DePaul, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, South Florida, Villanova
Home games:  Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall, West Virginia

Not a bad split.  They get three of the four preseason Big East favorites at home, and play none of those twice.

The Outlook

Best Case Scenario:
    Vaughn averages 20 points a game, while Tilford, Dixon, and Wright support him for great depth in the backcourt.  Yancy Gates is as good as advertised, and Mike Williams steps up in a big way.  Reik immediately capitalizes on his height and is spelled capably by McClain and Toyloy.  They blow through a pretty tough nonconference slate with one or two losses, and finish Big East play over .500, win a round or two in the Big East tournament, and get a 7 seed in the NCAAs.  I think NCAA second round is about the best this team can hope for, though.

Worst Case Scenario:
    Let's be clear, this does not include the possibility of injury to a major part of the team.  Vaughn goes a little cold (still good for 12-15 ppg, though).  Williams is not the player they hoped for, and Tilford is unable to keep pace in the Big East.  The talented freshman class just isn't ready to go, as a whole.  Cincinnati meanders into conference play with 5 losses, and just can't compete with the big guns in the conference.  They still manage to knock off a couple of great teams, but return to the CBI.  They're too talented to not win that tournament, if they land there.

My take:
    There is a lot of talent coming to Cincinnati this year.  Their coach got more from them than he should have last year, except down the stretch.  The arrivals are certainly better than the departures, and Deonta Vaughn is among the best scorers in the conference, if not the nation.  This year it won't be Deonta Vaughn and "who else?"  They're improving, but this is the wrong year to be sneaking up on the Big East.  I'm sure the Bearcats will be better, but I'm not so sure that will translate to a much higher finish in the standings.  Most of the teams that finished ahead of them last year are also better.  The Bearcats are going to beat some very good teams this year, but I don't think they're ready to win consistently against top competition.  They have NCAA tournament talent on that roster, but I believe there are 11 teams in the Big East who can make that claim, so getting in will not be easy.  There's a bright future here, to go with a storied past.  Even with Vaughn graduating, I think the 2009-2010 team will be a force again in the Big East as they'll be improving while the top dogs soften a little around them.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2008 8:14 pm
 

An extrapolation on the CBS Bubble Watch

I recently read the CBS version of the bubble watch, (here) and I thought it was pretty well done.  Kudos to Brian De Los Sanntos for putting the whole thing together.  Based on what I saw there, I put together a "bottom up" elimination scheme, leaving behind the teams to make the field.  Since there are 5 teams from nontraditional powers worthy of autobids, if they win their conference tourneys each one would "add a slot" up to 20 of the 26 teams.  There are a bunch of games this weekend whose outcomes will narrow the field.


My first six out, to get the bubble teams down to 20, are as follows:

1. loser of Dayton - St. Joseph's.  The winner should be able to squeeze in with a good A 10 tournament run, but the loser is out.
2. Western Kentucky. After being swept by South Alabama and falling to third in the Sun Belt, they're done.
3. Southern Illinois. They blew their chance short of an MVC crown.
4. loser of Arizona-Oregon.  Arizona sports the number 1 SOS but if they lose to Oregon I don't see how they've done enough with it.  Oregon needs this game even more.
5. loser of Florida - Kentucky.  There might be room for both, but I doubt it.  Play-in game weeks ahead of schedule.
6. Syracuse or Villanova.  I don't think there's enough room in the BE tournament for two teams to put together the kinds of runs these teams each need.  They'd practically need to play for the title, and I don't see that happening.  If this weekend goes a certain way, they could face each other Wednesday night in the first round instead.


So, that would get it down to a group of 20 teams, assuming Butler, BYU, Drake, Memphis, and Xavier all cut down some nets.  But wait!  One by one they all lost their tournaments!  Oh no!  Then I think the following teams would be out:

7. Maryland or VT.  Much like the Big East tournament, the ACC only has room for one (at most) bubble-saving run.  I don't see two of the top seeds going down to these two teams.
8-12.  This is a near tie between, in no particular order:
Rhode Island.  Too many losses too fresh in the minds of the committee.
Whoever fared better out of Syracuse/Villanova.  Both of these teams need a good run, and it's possible even the better of the two doesn't cut it.
Arizona State. That loss to Oregon may have done them in if too many surprises happen in the conference tournaments.
UAB.  They'd better beat Memphis if they want in.
Ohio State.  Not impressed even after the win over Purdue.  Another team that had better surprise this weekend.

That gets us down to 15, actually 14 because it was hard to separate teams 8-12 on my list.  I would say that New Mexico and UNLV, in that order, had better avoid disappointments or they're in the next-most trouble.


So, the 15 in would then be: Massachusetts, Arkansas, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Illinois State, Mississippi, winner of Dayton-St. Joseph's, Winner of Arizona-Oregon, winner of Florida-Kentucky, Virginia Tech (or Maryland, but my bet is on the Hokies), UNLV, New Mexico, and someone from that 8-12 mess above.

Now, that group doesn't necessarily have the best 15 resumes of the mess right now, but some of the teams with slightly better profiles at the moment will necessarily lose between now and Selection Sunday by virtue of head-to-head matchups.
Posted on: February 27, 2008 9:52 pm
 

Phew!

As we've known all year, Big East wins don't come easy.  In a game that was a must-win for the Panthers, they managed to get it done.  It came down to the wire, though.  This just in: Ronald Ramon needs to start shooting well again.  When he clanks 'em (as he has been lately) Pitt struggles.  They are in general settling too much on ill-advised threes.

No time has it been more evident to me than now how tough it is to win games in the Big East.  Pitt this year suffered a home loss to the worst team in the league, a loss at Cincinnati who is now 13-14 overall, and a three-game losing streak to three ranked teams.  Only one of the ranked teams had an easy time with Pitt.  Tonight, Pitt struggled to keep ahead of  the Bearcats and could've easily lost to them for a second time.

The most frustrating thing is, four of the top five teams in the Big East could've fallen to Pitt easily, but only one did.  Pitt won against Georgetown, led by 7 at the half @Connecticut (and lost by seven but it only got that wide in the final 2 minutes), led by 11 late against Notre Dame (who then got absurdly hot in the final 6 or 8 minutes and won by 12), and got a bit hosed on their own court by Louisville (I don't complain about officiating that often, but this is one Pitt deserved).  Only Marquette beat Pitt convincingly, and kudos to them.  Tom Crean knows how to beat Pittsburgh.

I shouldn't complain much.  What it tells me is that after Cook and Fields got hurt (I know he's been back, but it isn't the same as having had him all season would be) it left Pitt as about the sixth best team in the league (1-4 against the top 5 says so to me).  They could easily climb back higher than that if they get used to playing this rotation again.  Then again, in a league this tough they could be destined for only 1 more win, an early out in the BE tourney, and an 8 or 9 seed in the NCAAs.  It's an interesting, but nerve-racking, season.
Posted on: February 16, 2008 9:20 am
 

Sigh, Marquette

I hate Marquette so much.  Not really, because they are well coached and a great program etc. etc.  Nothing seems to make us capable of beating them, though, no matter the circumstances.  I am so TIRED of losing to this team.  Ever since that sweet 16 with Dwayne Wade (such an impressive athlete and classy guy, but boy do I wish he'd played his college ball elsewhere).  In fact, Pitt hasn't won at Marquette since 1930.  Say what again?

OK, so everyone is panning Fields because he had a bad first game back.  Guess what, he JUST HAD A BROKEN FOOT.  He looked like he was fine in terms of health and shape, but he couldn't hold onto the ball or find his shot.  That will change.  Wouldn't anyone be rusty after a 12-game absence from the lineup?

Man does Pitt need to win.  The next to are @ ND and home vs. Louisville.  If they don't at least split they could be in serious trouble.  After that they have two tough road games at WVU and Syracuse, though there's a home contest with cincinnati first.  They close the regular season at home vs. DePaul.  I will be satisfied with 3 wins out of that slate, because it's so tough.  That would be a little disappointing, though, after we showed how good we can be in our first 11 games.
 
 
 
 
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