Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wichita State and Mid-Majors Crashing the Dance

Wichita State is 19th in the latest KenPom numbers.  They were underseeded but their run was still impressive.  They earned this bid despite beating a 13 seed in the round of 16.  Take out a 1 and 2 seed?  Yeah, you deserve it.

Here is al ist of where the recent mid-majors ranked in the final KenPom numbers;

- 2006, George Mason, 23rd
- 2010, Butler, 12th
- 2011, VCU, 52nd
- 2011, Butler, 41st

George Mason's run was the most impressive, knocking off heavyweights in the opening and second round and in the regional final.  The real "stunners" are probably Butler and VCU in 2011.  Butler's 2010 team was a contender from the opening tip. 

As a fan of the Missouri Valley, I'm glad they got their first Final 4 bud since 1979.  They've provided a lot of good memories in the tournmanet, especially in the last decade.

Easter Sunday: Elite 8

South Region:

Florida vs. Michigan - Michigan has no right being here.  How Kansas gacked that game up is amazing.  Never underestimate the point guard position.  And that's the key here, I believe.  Florida's pressure defense can wear a team down.  Can Burke eat them up like he did to VCU's pressure?  And can Albrecht provide a few minutes from the bench, doing the same? 

Michigan's defensive deficiencies were in full effect on Friday against Kansas.  The Jayhawks pounded them inside and despite another fantastic offensive performance from Mitch McGary, no one stopped the Jayhawks until they stopped themselves late in the game. 

Florida hasn't been seriously tested in this tournament.  They've struggled in close games as we know.  Michigan will have to keep this close but they play better playing up-tempo.  Florida isn't afraid to do that or ugly it up and frustrate the Wolverines, the way Sparty or Wisconsin did.  I think the B1G gets shut out of the Final 4 and TV sets in Maryland & New York don't watch the Final 4.

The Pick:  Florida 68  Michigan 57

Midwest Region:

Duke vs. Louisville - So, in a Regional final, we get KenPom's 2 and 4 playing?  Get your popcorn, no?  Duke beat Louisville sans Giourgi Dieng at Atlantis at the start of the year.  I wouldn't take much from that game.  Teams change so much between then and now.

So far, I doubt any team has looked as good as Louisville, thus far.  Duke has been equally impressive in my mind, at least in the last 2 games.  Why?  Because they've been really solid on defense.  Stopping Michigan State isn't overly impressive given their offensive deficiencies but Sparty had a clear advatage on the boards and Duke continued to harass them into tough shots.  What they did to Creighton was more impressive, giving them virtually no good looks.

Louisville has been great at forcing turnovers.  Duke has enough guys to handle the ball, including their big men.  Coach K is 11-1 in regional finals, only losing to Tubby Smith and Kentucky.  I think this game comes down to whoever is shooting better and I think Duke is typically more consistent in that regard.  Should be a good game, either way.

The Pick:  Duke 73 Louisville 72

Friday, March 29, 2013

Elite 8: Saturday

East Region:

Marquette vs.  Syracuse -  Wow.  I haven't looked but I'm guessing the number of people who picked this regional final was pretty small.  Both teams are coming off pretty impressive victories.  Marquette imposed their will on a solid Miami team while Syracuse stymied a good Indiana team who look shocked the Orange ran a zone defense.

In their earlier meeting, Marquette abused the Orange in the paint and got a monster game out of Davante Gardner.  According to the heads, Syracuse is very upset they let that one get away.  Look for Marquette to use their own zone.  Marquette will need to protect the ball and win the board battle again.  The Golden Eagles shouldn't be as effected by the zone.  Syracuse will have to be stronger on the glass and make the shots the Canes missed.  As good as Marquette was on Thursday, the Canes left some buckets behind.

Syracuse was a one-seed type team before the final ten games.  They tried to give the game away against Indiana but this seems like an improbable Boeheim run.

The Pick:  Syracuse 62 Marquette 56

West Region:

Wichita State vs. Ohio State -  It'd be easy to dismiss both these teams.  Ohio State got a lot of breaks just to survive Iowa State and then survived blowing a late lead against Arizona on last second winners.  Wichita State beat a 13 to get here and maybe an overrated Zags team.  That's March, though.

Wichita State has a size advantage they need to continue to ride.  For all the Craft love, the truth is, he's been a bit erratic in second halves.  Wichita State can't just defend Thomas and Craft, though.  The Buckeyes "others" have really stepped up nicely.  On the Shockers side, they've gotten healthy and are probably undervalued.

I'd love a Valley team to dance into the Final Four and Wichita State can win this game.  If they do, they'd be the first 9 seed since the Penn team of 1979 to make a Final Four.  That being said, the most improved team since October has been the Buckeyes.  They extend their winning streak to 12.

The Pick:  Ohio State 69 Wichita State 61

Some Bo Ryan practice video located

Blogger won't or can't post it, so just go to Deadspin and take a look.

Quick Friday Preview

I don’t have a lot of time to breakdown games as I’ll be spending most of my day in the car driving to Indianapolis for the Duke game tonight!

Louisville  77, Oregon 62
Michigan 67, Kansas 66
Florida 74, Florida Gulf Coast 64
Duke 63, Michigan State 60

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sweet 16, The Friday Games


Michigan vs.  Kansas:  This might be the best of the Sweet 16 matchups from a purely competetive standpoint.  Michigan projects more as a high 3, low 2 than a 4 seed and Kansas is probably a 2 seed.  KenPom favors Michigan by a 1 point with only a 51% win probability.  That's a virtual toss-up.

Michigan is 11th best in the nation in offensive effecive fg%.  Kansas is 1st in defensive effective fg%.  Michigan shoots 37.5 from 3.  Opponents of the Jayhawks shoot 30.2%.  Michigan shoots 53.8% from 2, Kansas is the best at defending the 2 and is 3 in the nation in block %.  Michigan does not go to the foul line at all.  KU doesn't send teams there.  Michigan doesn't turn it over, the best at protecting the ball with the nation's best offensive turnover %.  KU doesn't force many.  Michigan is so-so on the offensive glass and Kansas is better on the defensive glass.  Can Michigan hit some shots from 3?  They don't solely rely on the 3, scoring well inside the arc.  Watch how the Wolverines are shooting from deep.  I think they'll have to do that effectively.

Kansas does everything pretty well on the offensive end but nothing spectacular.  They have one glaring issue and that's the turnover.  They're offensive turnover % is 201st in the land.  Michigan, though, doesn't force a lot of turnovers.  Their defensive turnover % is 237th in the land.  KU gets to the line at a decent clip but Michigan typically doesn't foul a lot.  Even with Withey, Michigan should be okay on the boards.  The question will be, do they have someone that can defend Withey?  Their best defender is Jordan Morgan and he hasn't played much since the regular season.  As good as Mitch McGary was last week, VCU's Jevonte Reddic was 7-11 from the field.  What Michigan will want to do is, make it hard for KU to get the ball inside.  In the 1st half against UNC, KU turned the ball over a lot, many times on entry passes to Withey.  In the second half, those issues disappeared.  Michigan will want to force some turnovers and pressure the ball handlers.

This is a coin-flip game based on the numbers.  Kansas needs  to stay committed to getting paint touches and protecting the ball.  Michigan needs to pressure the ball and take advantages of open looks and get Withey away from the basket.  It should be an excellent game

Pick:  Michigan 69 Kansas 68

Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida:  I'd do a statistical breakdown but the numbers favor Florida by 19 with a 95% win probability.  Florida plays like FGCU but with better players.  Yes, FGCU could win this game and truly shock the world but I don't see it.  I think they hang around for 30 minutes but the Gators run away at the end.

Pick:  Florida 85 Florida Gulf Coast 70


Louisville vs. Oregon:  Both teams are coming off impressive opening weekends.  Oregon proved those who called their seeding a joke, right.  They also beat St. Louis by doing something they don't usually do.  They hit a lot of 3's.  Can they do it against the Cards?

You want a red flag from the get-go for the Ducks?  They're 264th in turnover % on offense.  Now, some of that has to do with Dominic Artis being out but still.  Louisville is 2nd in the land in defensive turnover % and their steal % is 16.3%, 2nd best.  Think Oregon needs to protect the ball?  Oregon has an offensive rebounding % that is 46th best.  Louisville is 242nd on defensive rebounding %.  Lot of that has to do with their pressure d.  VCU has very similar numbers.  Oregon has to protect the ball and take advantage of any second chance opportunities.

As bad as Louisville is on the defensive glass, they're 14th best in the land with an offensive rebounding % of 38.5%.  But, the Ducks are pretty good at eliminating offensive boards.  They are 25th in defensive rebounding %.  Oregon has to win this battle.  It's a push on turnovers.  Louisville is a litle loose with the ball but rarely do they allow the opposition get steals.  Their offensive steal % is 8.4%, 39th best.  Louisville has plenty of weapons on offense.  It'll be difficult for Oregon to stop everyone.

Louisville will and is an overwhelming favorite in this game.  They may be playing the best basketball of anyone in the nation.  Big deficits haven't phased them and they have the type of depth you saw on those prime Pitino Kentucky teams.  Oregon will have to be as good as they were against St. Louis and I don't see them repeating that.  Typically, they shoot 33.2 from deep, 203rd in the country.  They shot 73% last Saturday while holding SLU to a paltry 14%.  They'll be hard-pressed to do that again and even more glaring, they had 18 turnovers against SLU.  Repeat that and they are toast.

Pick:  Louisville 73 Oregon 62

Duke vs. Michigan State:  I typically don't check the numbers of real good teams like Duke or Michigan State through the course of the season.  They're good.  They're always good.  I'll only look at them if they're struggling.  Found some interesting things here and explains a few things, too.

Duke has improved dramatically on defense this year.  They were 70th in the nation in AdjustedD in 2012 and 22 this year.  They're 11th best at defending the 3 (Ask Creighton how good they are) but 102nd on 2's.  Overall, they're defensive FG% is 45th best.  You'd think this will give Michigan State an advantage inside in scoring but Duke actually shoots better, abeit not by much from 2.  Michigan State turns the ball over ALOT for an elite team.  They're 238th in the land on offensive turnover% but Duke typically doesn't force a lot of turnovers.  They'll want to take advantage of Sparty's looseness with the ball.  Sparty will destroy them on the glass, though.  If Duke can be more effective on the defensive glass, Michigan State will struggle to score. 

Duke is a joy to watch on offense.  They protect the ball and shoot well.  They're 5th in 3-point shooting making 40% and shoot 51.3% from 2.  Michigan State protects the arc.  Teams only shoot 29.8%, 17th best.  They're not as stingy inside the 3-point line but still good, holding teams to 44.3%.  Duke is a terrible rebounding team on offense while Michigan State does a good job on the defensive glass.  Michigan State needs to harass Duke's shooters and dominate the glass.

This'll be an interesting matchup.  I think Duke is the better squad and the fact they've been better on defense should give them a slight edge.  I don't trust Sparty enough on offense and think Duke pulls it out.  Could go either way, though and a Sparty win won't shock me nor should it shock you.

Pick:  Duke 66 Michigan State 60

On offense, Dukeis usually

My Short Preview

I won’t go into depth breaking down the games since Kurly already broke them down.  I’ll just go quick hitting style.

Miami vs Marquette
Miami is without Reggie Johnson but Marquette will still have a hard time containing Larkin and Kadji.  A close game but Miami pulls it out.
Miami by 5

Arizona vs Ohio State
Up until the tournament these teams were heading in different directions.  The high pressure has lit a fire under Arizona and I see them keeping that up through at least Thursday.  Craft falls apart again and can’t redeem himself at the end.
Arizona by 4

Indiana vs Syracuse
I believe this was my preseason championship game although it might have been Kansas-Syrcause….either way this should be a good game.  In the end Indiana has just too much talent and Boeheim takes his ball and goes home.
Indiana by 7

Wichita State vs LaSalle
Plain and simple, whoever dictates pace wins.  I look for LaSalle to speed the Shockers up and pull off the “minor” upset.
LaSalle by 3

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sweet 16 Thursday Games


Marquette vs. Miami:  Marquette has found itself against Davidson and well-respected Bob McKillop and Butler and its well-respected Brad Stevens.  Miami's Jim Larranaga has been profiled quite a bit this year as a bit of a Moneyball college hoops coach.  Can Buzz and company take down another?

The key to this game will be whether Marquette can protect the ball or not.  Besides sketchy 3-point shooting, they're weak on protecting the ball.  Their turnover % is 20.9%, which is 234th in the land.  Miami doesn't force a lot of turnovers typically, so Marquette can't afford to allow them to improve that in this game.  Miami doesn't foul and cleans the defensive glass, something Marquette excels on offensively.  Not protecting the ball will make it difficult for them to win.

Miami is a good 3-point shooting team and Marquette is okay at defending it.  They'll need to guard the Canes from beyond the arc.  Unlike Marquette on offense, the Canes don't get to the glass that well and don't get to the line at all.  The Golden Eagles usually guard well enough to keep teams off the line but have been a weak defensive rebounding team.  They need to limit the Hurricanes second chance opportunities, especially from long range. 

In the Illinois game, Miami was devoured in the second half on the glass and that allowed the Illini to stay in it.  That wasn't the norm.  Can Marquette do this to Miami?  If they can, and they protect the ball, they can win.  Miami is the favorite according to KenPom.

Pick:  Miami 56 Marquette 52 (I'll stick with this even w/o Reggie Johnson making the trip)

Syracuse vs. Indiana:  This is a rematch of the great 1987 title game.  26 years later, only Jim Boeheim remains the same.  Can his zone defense help stifle the good shooting Hooisers?

There aren't many things Indiana doesn't do well on offense.  If they have one weakness, they're a little loose with the ball but even at that, they're still average.  This'll be a spot Syracuse needs to exploit.  The Orange were 23rd in the nation in defensive turnover %.  They also held teams to a 9th best 43.1% effective fg%.  Teams can make 3's against the zone but they only make 29% of attempts.  Indiana makes 40.8% of their 3's.  There's a key stat to watch.

Offensively, Syracuse has been great at rebounding misses while Indiana has been so-so on the defensive glass.  Again, to pull the upset, Syracuse needs to take advantage of this.  Otherwise, it's a wash between the two, except Indiana has been good at holding teams to bad shooting.  Their defensive effective fg% is 43.9, which is 18th best in America while Syracuse is an average shooting team. 

There are certainly some things that say Syracuse can win this game and it shouldn't completely shock us if they do.  But this is one where I'd lean to the eye test.  Syracuse played okay in the Big East tournament after a terrible finish during the regular season.  Still, they haven't looked that good to me while Indiana does more things better and more consistentcy as a team and from its players.

Pick:  Indiana 70 Syracuse 63


Arizona vs. Ohio State:  Two months ago, you'd have had the seedings reversed.  Arizona scuffled down the stretch while Ohio State has been arguably the most improved team since February 1st. 

Arizona is loose with the ball on offense but surprisingly despite the Aaron Craft worship, OSU is just average at forcing turnovers.  Arizona is good at shooting the 3 and has a good effective fg% and OSU is good defensively at those things.  OSU doesn't foul a lot and the Wildcats don't get to the line.  Arizona's key on offense?  Protect the ball.  Can they do that against Craft and the Buckeyes w/o a true PG?

Offensively, Ohio State is real good at not turning it over.  They have an effective fg% of 51.2%, while Arizona defensive fg% is 46.5%.  Ohio State isn't good at getting to the line nor very special on the offensive glass while the Wildcats are 13th best in the land in protecting the defensive glass.  To pull the upset, Arizona needs to limit second chance points to the Buckeyes.  If they give up that advantage, it'll be that much more difficult.

Part of me sees enough in the numbers to pick Arizona in an upset but Ohio State has been playing better.  Arizona wasn't tested in the 1st two games while Ohio State went to the buzzer against Iowa State.  Arizona is talented enough but are they tough and disciplined enough?

Pick:  Ohio State 67 Arizona 62

Wichita State vs. La Salle:  I'm such a dork, this is the game I want to see the most in the next round not including Marquette.  Besides the "mid-major" Sweet 16 matchup, it's an interesting contrast.

La Salle plays a 4-guard lineup that Ole Miss should have beaten into submission but you know Marshall had to Marshall.  On offense, La Salle shoots the 3 well and protects the ball well.  They don't get to the line at all nor do they hit the glass.  On the other hand, Wichita State cleans the glass on both sides.  If La Salle is getting offensive boards, Wichita State no showed.

La Salle defends well without fouling.  They also defend the arc well.  Wichita State bombed their way past Gonzaga but generally speaking, they're not know as a 3 point shooting team.  They shoot 50% from inside the arc and La Salle gets beat up there as they're the worst defensive team in regard to fg% defense on 2's.  Couple that with what should be a huge advantage on the boards, La Salle's best defense will probably be trying to force the Shockers to launch from deep.

La Salle has 2 more tournament wins than they did combined since 1956.  They withstood a late Kansas State charge and then beat Ole Miss at the wire.  Destiny's darlings or Cinderella whose coach is about to turn into a pumpkin.  Wichita State has more clear advntages and is fully healthy, something they didn't have the bulk of the season.

Pick:  Wichita State 70 La Salle 58

Monday, March 25, 2013

Quick recap of the opening weekend

Here's a quick look at what I took away from the opening weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament-


Best Game:  There wasn't a great game per se in this region so I'll go with Florida Gulf Coast defeating Georgetown in the opening round.  Probably the most remarkable thing was what FGCU did in the second half.  Enjoy the dunks and lobs ut 54 points in the 2nd half  against a team that relied on its defense to win a share of the Big East and earn a #2 seed.

Team Redeem:  After the brackets were released, Michigan became a somewhat trendy pick to lose to Nate Wolters and South Dakota State.  Reality was, it was a real good matchup for the Wolverines who easily handled the Jackrabbits.  Some pundit named Jay Bilas picked VCU out of this bracket.  By halftime of the Round of 32, the Rams were already beaten and looking ahead.  As is often the case, the matchup was awful for VCU and perfect for Michigan who took advantage to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994, or when 3/5th of the Fab Five were still playing.

Individual Breakout:  FGCU players will be waxed about nostalgic years from now but Michigan FROSH Mitch McGary dominated VCU with 21 points and 14 rebounds and reminded people why after his junior year in HS he was a top-5 recruit.

Laying Eggs:  Georgetown was over seeded and over rated but the problem is, their results dictated where they ended up.  It's probably not fair to criticize them but 2-seeds shouldn't get blown out.


Best Game:  In another region of mediocore games, I'll take Louisville's performance over Colorado State.  It wasn't close but Louisville dominated a team full of seniors and lead by 12 at halfrime despite CSU shooting near 60%.  It was a clinic in Rick Pitino basketball.

Team Redeem:  The Oregon Ducks last made the dance in 2008 when Ernie Kent was head coach.  Their last Sweet 16 was in 2007.  After Kent was canned in 2010, Oregon dropped a wide net in its coaching search including delusions of grandeur trying to sway Tom Izzo.  In the end, they got Dana Altman.  The 1st two years were okay but little was expected of the Ducks in 2012-13.  In the end, Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament.  Underseeded as 12, they dfeated Oklahoma State and easily dispatched a very good St. Louis team to return to the Sweet 16

Individual Breakout:  Oregin FROSH Damyean Dotson went 5-6 from deep and scored 23 points to help lead the Ducks past the Billikens.

Laying Eggs:  There would have been no shame in St. Louis losing to Oregon but they did so without doing the things that made them so good during the regular season.  The 74-57 score indicates how lopsided the game was.


Best Game:  Marquette over Butler highlighted a tense weekend for the Golden Eagles.  This game was played at a higher level than their win over Davidson.  Both teams played well in a hard fought game.  In the end, Vander Blue was too much and despite tryng to throw it away, Marquette did enough.

Team Redeem:  Syracuse punked Seth Davis who picked Montana by running them off the court and then doing enough to comfortably win over California in San Jose, no simple task.  A Sweet 16 was no sure bet for this enigmatic team entering the tournament.

Individual Breakout:  I profiled Vander Blue earlier and his past two games reinforced what I thought of him as a player.  A game winner against Davidson, he was even more special against Butler leading the way with 29 that included a crucial late 3, something unheard of prior to this year. 

Laying Eggs:  2012-13 will be one of incredible frustration for UNLV and their exit in the round of 64 exemplifies that best.  This would be a good time to include the Mountain West who basically no showed.  As a conference, they have a measly 4 Sweet 16's in their history. 


Best Game:  Ohio State over Iowa State.  Iowa State were down double digits with about 8 minutes left when they stormed back to tie the Buckeyes.  In the end, Aaron Craft won the game on a 3 inthe final second but the game was so much more than Craft being "clutch".  Craft did not have a good second half but that's not the narrative.  Iowa State had a chance to lead by 4 but a brutal charge call (Almost all charge calls are brutal, especially in the B1G) gave the ball back to Ohio State.  It was absolute heartbreak for the Cyclones in a year "Chalk" full of them.

Team Redeem:  Way to go Arizona.  You survived Belmont and beat an overmatched Harvard team.  Is there a more underrated insufferable fan base?  I don't think so.

Individual Breakout:  LaQuinton Ross did a good job in helping the Buckeyes withstand a barrage of Cyclone 3's by scoring 17 points and could be a key player for them this next week.  Also deserving of mention are La Salle's Ty Garland who hit the game winner in amongst the trees against Ole Miss to finish off his 17 point performance and Wichita State's Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker who each hit 4 3's to help upend the Zags season.

Laying Eggs:  Speaking of the 'Zags, it's hard not to say the moment was simply too big for them.  They were too good to struggle with Southern and even after taking a 9-point lead against the Shockers they never put their foot on the throat.  When I profiled them in late January, I said perhaps Illinois provided the blueprint in beating them by raining 3's and that's what Wichita State did.  And Wichita State is a below average team from deep.  March happens but what happened was, it further embeds those seeds of doubt about both the Zags and mid-majors in the future, fair or not.

Buzz-a-palooza 2013

Welcome to the 2013 edition of Buzz-a-palooza!  Where will Buzz end up coaching in 2013?  UCLA?  USC?  Minnesota? 

Stay tuned because his name will be mentioned with every job.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tournament Glance Sure To Be Full of Folly

I've filled out a few brackets at a few different sites, most notably the Holy Lands of Hoops, a site dedicated to the new Big East and like Brian, it was chalky until I doubled back and got as ridiculous as I could.  I've thought all year that by time we get to the Final 4, it's going to include 4 very good teams and no surprise and I still feel that way.  I put a disclaimer on that, though.  It wouldn't shock me to see a couple of 4/5 line teams and another lower seed.  I'm pretty wishy-washy on it because the teams I think are a cut above do stupid things like blow leads to Ole Miss or get stuck in the Region of Doom.  Here we go:


The Pick:  I'm sticking with Florida.  As I wrote a few days ago, someone named this the "Region of teams no one believes in." 

The Surprise:  Is Michigan a surprise?  I'll say yes because they've slipped in national reputation in the last month after being #1 in the country.  They're capable of giving up 50 to Nate Wolters but they should score at will against them as well.  They protect the ball and VCU HAS to froce TO's to win.  They're certainly talented enough to beat Kansas.

The Upset:  Based strictly on seeding, Minnesota over UCLA.  Or both teams could play 17 overtimes in a futile attempt to out-disappoint their fan bases.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Carolina beat KU in a potential 2nd, er, 3rd round game. 

Who the hell do I pick?:  UCLA-Minnesota again.  I only predict both coaches will have the send button at their fingertips should they lose to send resumes.


The Pick:  The so-called "Region of Doom".  I'll stick with pre-season pick Louisville.

The Surprise:  Creighton slips out of the bottom of the bracket to an Elite 8.  We're all focused on Duke-MSU Sweet 16 matchup but know Sparty can't score consistently and Creighton has enough size to bother Plumlee and can match buckets with Duke.

The Upset(s):  St. Mary's over Memphis; Oregon over Oklahoma State. 

Who the hell do I pick:  Oklahoma State is uber-talented but so is Oregon.  Numbers favor OSU but Oregon is better than a 12-seed.


The Pick:  I believe in Jim Larranaga.  So, I'll pick the Canes.

The Surprise:  I'd say Syracuse but it looks like they have some distractions heading their way, so I'll say UNLV.  They have Final 4 talent but play like a potential 1st, er, 2nd round upset candidate.  NC State should beat Temple.  They have talent to matchup with IU.  Just saying.

The Upset(s):  Bucknell over Butler.  Davidson certainly could upend Marquette.  The key to that game will be turnovers.  If Marquette protects the ball, they'll win.

Who the hell do I pick:  Butler-Bucknell are closer than one might think based on numbers.  I think it's a toss-up and I'm banking on Mike Muscala to win it for the Bison.  Colorado-Illinois, too.  If Illinois is hitting buckets, they could run Colorado off the court.  And if they don't...It's a coin-flip.


The Pick:  Now or never for Gonzaga.  They're really good if you haven't seen them, they're capable of playing up-and-down the court and ugly.

The Surprise:  Arizona is a trendy upset victim but has the talent to make a deep run.  They were a top-5 team at one point that has a PG issue.  If they can get a good Mark Lyons for two weeks, they can certainly beat New Mexico or Ohio State.

The Upset(s):  If Notre Dame survives Iowa State, I'll take them over the Buckeyes where the first to 40 wins.  Despite what the numbers say, I don't see Pitt making a run.

Who the hell do I pick:  Ole Miss is labeled a "hot" team but are less than two weeks removed from losing to Mississippi State, one of the worst BCS teams in recent memory.  Forget Henderson.  Ole Miss can win if he has a bad game, they need solid play inside.  And everyone is in Wisconsin's shorts because they beat Michigan and a disinterested Indiana last week despite no-showing Purdue at home and escaping by the skin of their teeth at Penn State.  Weak point guard play and bad FT shooting will haunt them at some point.  I'll take madman and colossoal a-hole Bo Ryan over Andy Kennedy. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

First Glance Tournament Preview

Before I get into the preview there are two things to note.  First, this is my initial thoughts on the bracket.  I reserve the right to change any or all picks especially since my first bracket is chalky.  Second, my bracketology finshed 2nd by 1 point on the Bracket Project site.  Not too bad and I did consider swapping Wisconsin and St. Louis which would have given me the top Payman point total.  I fully expect CBS.Sports to come calling after they fire Jerry Palm.
Anyway, onto my preview.


MY PICK – Duke: Of course I’m going with Duke.  Up until last Friday they were most people’s pick to win it all.  1 loss and everybody jumps off.  Not me.  It’s a tough region but I think Duke can get past both Michigan State and Louisville.  Whoever wins this region will definitely of earned it.

MOST LIKELY TOP SEED TO BE UPSET – Michigan State:  Most years I’m all over Izzo in March but not this time.  Not enough offense and I think they’ll struggle to beat Valpo.  Not sure they make the Sweet Sixteen this year.

MOST LIKELY UNDERDOG TO MAKE SOME NOISE – Colorado State:  Very capable of beating Louisville in Round 2.  They get a ton of offensive boards and if Peyton Siva falls back into his old self the Rams could roll.

HARDEST 1ST ROUND GAMES TO PICK – Oklahoma State vs Oregon, Middle Tennessee/St. Mary’s vs Memphis, Creighton vs Cincinnati


MY PICK – Gonzaga:  They aren’t getting a ton of media love because of their schedule but this is still a very efficient team.  ESPN seems to like them to lose to Pittsburgh in the second round but I don’t see it.  Might be my easiest Final Four pick

MOST LIKELY TOP SEED TO BE UPSET – Kansas State:  I have no faith in Bruce Weber and I’m leaning towards picking them to lose in the 1st round

MOST LIKELY UNDERDOG TO MAKE SOME NOISE – Iowa State:  if they win those two games against Kansas this is probably a 4 seed.  Woefully underseeded.  I look for them to make the Sweet Sixteen at least.

HARDEST 1ST ROUND GAMES TO PICK – Arizona vs Belmont, Kansas State vs LaSalle/Boise State


MY PICK – Kansas:  More of a pick against the other teams in the region then a ringing endorsement for the Jayhawks

MOST LIKELY TOP SEED TO BE UPSET – Georgetown:  They’ll go cold for 10-12 minutes in round 1 or 2 and lose.  Book it

MOST LIKELY UNDERDOG TO MAKE SOME NOISE – Minnesota:  if they find that will to win like they had in the November they should win a could in a row.  UCLA is no match in round 1

HARDEST 1ST ROUND GAMES TO PICK – San Diego State vs Oklahoma, South Dakota State vs Michigan


MY PICK – Indiana:  I know, a lot of chalk for me in the Final Four.  Remember, this is my first glance look.  I reserve the right to change any or all of these picks

MOST LIKELY TOP SEED TO BE UPSET – Syracuse:  I could make a case for any of the top 4 seeds here.  I have no faith in Miami either.  Everybody forgot they were barely over 500 in their last 10 games.  And their wins weren’t that good

MOST LIKELY UNDERDOG TO MAKE SOME NOISE – Colorado:  Dinwiddie and Roberson are a potent 1-2 punch.  I’m leaning towards picking them over Miami

HARDEST 1ST ROUND GAMES TO PICK – NC State vs Temple, UNLV vs California, Butler vs Bucknell, Marquette vs Davidson, Syracuse vs Montana.  Wow, this is a tough bracket to pick

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Brackets by the Numbers

Here's a brief look at the brackets if we re-seeded based on KenPom rankings.  Though I spend time here looking at these things, the true beauty of this game and the tournament is, anything can happen.  Perhaps, though, these numbers could help you look for upsets or teams capable of better post-season results.  I think most reasonable people can agree about things like, Syracuse hasn't played like the 13th best team in the nation for the past month or Butler sure seems like they play better than 52nd when the competetion is elevated.  That's the fun part of filling out or brackets, we may believe something despite evidence to the contrary.  Gut, numbers, hatred, love, mascots, colors, chaos.  Go with any of them and enjoy the madness.  After all, wagering is illegal unless at an approved sports book.

I also included Nate Silver's Final 4 probabilites for strictly entertainment purposes.


Re-Seeding by KenPom:

  1. Indiana (3rd overall)
  2. Syracuse (13)
  3. Miami (14)
  4. Marquette (25)
  5. NC State (35)
  6. UNLV (36)
  7. Illinois (42)
  8. Colorado (50)
  9. Butler (52)
  10. California (58)
  11. Davidson (59)
  12. Bucknell (62)
  13. Temple (68)
Nate Silver Final 4 Probability:

  1. Indiana 52.3%
  2. Miami 12.7%
  3. Syracuse 11.7%
  4. Marquette 6.0%
  5. NC State 4.8%
  6. Butler 3.1%
What stands out:  It appears Temple is overseeded and Davidson & NC State are underseeded based on region.  As we move to the other regions, what also stands out is, this is the weakest region.  Ask yourself this when filling out your bracket, what coach in this group do I trust most?  May not be a bad idea.


Re-Seeding by KenPom:

  1. Gonzaga (4th overall)
  2. Ohio State (5)
  3. Pitt (7)
  4. Wisconsin (9)
  5. New Mexico (17)
  6. Arizona (19)
  7. Kansas State (30)
  8. Notre Dame (31)
  9. Wichita State (33)
  10. Ole Miss (34)
  11. Iowa State (37)
  12. Belmont (46)
Nate Silver Final 4 Probability:

  1. Gonzaga 33.4%
  2. Ohio State 23.8%
  3. Wisconsin 9.5%
  4. New Mexico 9.3%
  5. Pitt & KSU 4.7%
What stands out:  The computer numbers and Jay Bilas have loved Pitt all year.  Same with Wisconsin.  Both have offensive droughts that make the Sahara look waterlogged.  Same with Ohio State.  We'll see what gives.  Whatever happens in that portion, if Gonzaga beats all to move on through the West, they'll have more than proven themselves.  Based on the numbers, they should have to defeat Pitt, UW & OSU, 3 top 10 KP teams.  It'll probably end up being WSU, KSU, NM and that would be okay, too.  KSU has de facto home games by playing in Kansas City.


Re-Seeding by KenPom:

  1. Louisville (2nd overall)
  2. Duke (6)
  3. Michigan State (10)
  4. Creighton (15)
  5. St. Louis (16)
  6. Missouri (18)
  7. Oklahoma State (20)
  8. St. Mary's (22)
  9. Colorado State (24)
  10. Middle Tennessee (32)
  11. Memphis (39)
  12. Cincinnati (40)
  13. Oregon (43)
Nate Silver Final 4 Probability:

  1. Louisville 52.9%
  2. Duke 18.3%
  3. Michigan State 10.6%
  4. St. Louis 4.6%
  5. Missouri & Creighton 2.8%
What stands out:  Out of the 3 regions we'vebriefly looked at, this is indeed the toughest.  Perhaps Oregon is seeded where they should be.  The play-in game between Middle Tennessee & St. Mary's is a bit of a shame.  Both profile as teams capable of doing some bracket busting, though nothing is certain.  I don't think Michigan State is as good as their profile but get two de facto home games in Detroit.  I was a bit surprised Silver has Louisville as the overwhelming favorite to win the region.  They will earn their way to a Final Four should they make it.


Re-Seeding by KenPom

  1. Florida (1st Overall)
  2. Kansas (8)
  3. Michigan (11)
  4. Georgetown (12)
  5. VCU (21)
  6. Minnesota (23)
  7. San Diego State (26)
  8. North Carolina (28)
  9. UCLA (44)
  10. Villanova (45)
  11. Oklahoma (51)
Nate Silver Final 4 Probability:

  1. Florida 37.1%
  2. Kansas 31.6%
  3. Michigan 12.8%
  4. Georgetown 6.9%
What stands out:  The fatal flaw of Florida has been their inability to win single-digit games.  They've won zero.  So, win by double-digits, right?  Someone called this the bracket of "teams no-one believes in".  Hard to argue that.  Also, there are a lot of Final 4's colllectively in this group, isn't there?  My gut last night said Florida here and the numbers lean that way but...other things that stand out are UCLA & Minnesota could be swapped.  Minnesota bulit their numbers from crazy early success while UCLA went the other route.  Have faith in either?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Not Too Bad

68 out of 68 teams picked correctly.  343 points on the Payman scale.  Another step in the right direction. 

Now, lets go fill out some brackets.

I am outraged!

By nothing!  Let's play the games!

The Folly of Suits and Sports

Last night, the Big East, the real Big East came to an end.  When the lights were turned off at MSG, the vision of Dave Gavitt that had prospered and given college basketball fans great memories took its last breath.  Waxing nostalgic is one of the more silly things we do as sports fans.  If we can separate ourselves from rooting interests and realize this is just entertainment and our diversion from whatever we choose to divert our attention from, sports is so much simpler.

The Big East was created to bring together like-minded institutions to play sports.  And make buckets of cash.  And it did that.  The college basketball glitterati and talking heads bemoaned the end being the result of college presidents and commissioners chasing eyeballs for fat TV money and the such.  Truth is, the Big East perfected this first.

The Big East was a perfect combination of location and timing.  Created at roughly the same time as ESPN, the Big East provided content for this network from day one.  The Big East put itself on the map with great basketball and owning Monday nights on ESPN with Big Monday.  It was must see-TV for college hoops junkies.  It lust it's luster as the years went by and the conference had its ups and downs.  Nonetheless, classic matchups drew attention.

The pinnacle of the conference came early.  What it did in 1985 hasn't been equaled.  It put 3 teams in the Final Four with St. John's, Georgetown & Villanova.  In the 80's, nearly all members made a Final 4 appearance.  People younger than me probably can't conceive Providence or Seton Hall making a Final 4.  Yet, there were the Friars in '87 coached by a hot shot named Pitino.  Seton Hall was mere seconds from winning a national title in 1989.

The 90's weren't as kind.  Legendary coaches such as Carneseca, Carlesimo, Pitino, Massimino had retired or moved on to the Association.  The one program that ascended was UConn and its coach who would join the ranks of those legends in Jim Calhoun.  While UConn found great regular season success, it would take until '99 to reach a Final 4, eventually winning it all.  Other than that, your only Final 4 appearance were the John Wallace-led Syracuse Orange of '96.

At the turn of the century, the basketball behemoth had seen better days and the league had made its choice to be a football and basketball league.  I wrote about the history earlier and wont rehash but what they accomplished was establishing was a shaky foundation.  The conference  re-established itself as a force with Syracuse finally cutting the nets in '03 and UConn tasting their 2nd title in '05.

In 2006, the conference expanded to 16 teams.  Some scoffed, others were intrigued.  Unquestionably, the final result was the conference was as strong as it had been since its heyday in the mid-to-late 80's.  Ultimately, it couldn't hold.

The Big East found itself in a world of TV eyeballs and University Presidents hoodwinked by league commissioners promising great things based solely on TV revenus and exposure.  With a fractured membership of football and basketball schools, it was evident their member schools would be targeted.  One-by-one, the football schools left.  Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia followed BC and former football add-on's Miami & Virginia Tech out.  By the way, how's that worked out?  Lots of dream matchups between FSU & Miami in ACC title games?  BC isn't a complete wreck, is it?  ACC has become that football power it dreamed of right?  The basketball is as great as ever. I'm sure.  A school like Maryland can't be losing money, can it?  Whatever.

Gone are the great rivalries and matchups of Big Monday.   Sure, Syracuse will have heated games on Tobacco Road.  And someday, if the ACC still exists, Pitt will have develpoed rivalries as well.  Same with Louisville & Notre Dame.  Or the ACC will be the next classic conference to drastically change.  Diamond Jim Delany dreams of Carolina in the B1G with Virginia or maybe Georgia Tech.  And then maybe FSU & Clemson bolt for greener dollars in the Big 12.

But I've accepted the end of the rivalries I grew up with and brought me into the world of college sports.  I grew up in an era where our local teams were laughingstocks, afterthoughts.  I found greatness on Monday nights and in March from those teams on the east coast.  The sports will go on, banking crazy money and will be as competetive as ever and great moments will ensue but as is often the case, it just can't be as good as it once was, right? 

Bracketology - FINAL

I will be out coaching most of the afternoon so I'm posting my final bracket right now.  If for some reason I feel the need to change anything based on the afternoon games I will just post a note with the movement.  I don't forsee much change unless Mississippi dominates Florida and requires a seed bump or I decide to flip flop North Carolina and St. Louis.

1 seed vs 16 seed
Indiana vs NC A&T(MEAC/Liberty(Bsouth)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs J.Madison (CAA)/Long Island(NEC)
Louisville (Beast) vs Southern(SWAC)
Kansas (B12) vs W. Kentucky (Sbelt)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Miami (ACC) vs Albany (Aeast)
Duke vs Pacifc (Bwest)
Ohio State (B1G) vs Iona (MAAC)
Georgetown vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Florida (SEC) vs Montana (Bsky)
New Mexico (MWC) vs Harvard (Ivy)
Michigan State vs Northwestern State (Sland)
Michigan vs South Dakota State (Summit)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Kansas State vs New Mexico State (WAC)
Syracuse vs Davidson (SoCon)
Wisconsin vs Valparasio (Horizon)
Arizona vs Bucknell (Patriot)
5 seed vs 12 seed
St. Louis (A10) vs Akron (MAC)
Oklahoma State vs LaSalle/Mid Tenn St
Marquette vs Belmont (OVC)
UCLA vs Mississippi/Boise State
6 seed vs 11 seed
VCU vs California
North Carolina vs Temple
Butler vs St. Mary's
UNLV vs Oklahoma
7 seed vs 10 seed
Notre Dame vs Minnesota
Pittsburgh vs Iowa State
Creighton (MVC) vs Villanova
Memphis (Cusa) vs Colorado
8 seed vs 9 seed
Illinois vs Cincinnati
N. Carolina State vs San Diego State
Colorado State vs Wichita State
Oregon (P12) vs Missouri

First Four Out
Southern Miss
Next Four Out

8 Hours

8 hours before the bracket comes out and I'm at a loss for the final at-large bid.  I've locked in LaSalle, Middle Tennessee, Temple, Villanova, and Mississippi.  However there is one spot left.  Who to take out of these 4?

Boise State:  Pro - 8 top 100 wins, Con - NCSOS of 215

Virginia:  Pro - good computer numbers, Con - a ton of awful losses

Tennessee:  Pro - solid end to year, Con - nothing spectacular

Maryland:  Pro - 2 wins over Duke, Con - NCSOS of 300

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Quick Hitters

Massachusetts loses and they're done

Alabama loses and they're gone

Maryland loses is a golden chance

Mississippi looks like they've locked up a bid

The question is who wants the spot vacated by Southern Mississippi today?

Tom Crean

You're worthless.  Actually, you're Roy Williams 2.0. 

That is all

Southern Miss

Unfortunately I think they are done.  Apparently nobody wants the last bid

This Afternoon's Bids

Prairie View A&M vs Southern - It's a battle for a 16 seed. Prairie is a play in game candidate while Southern probably is one of the 16's who doesn't play early.
Prediction:  Southern

Morgan State vs North Carolina A&T - the MEAC's 5 seed against the 7 seed.   These teams might take seed 68 away from Liberty.
Prediction:  Morgan State

Big 12
Kansas vs Kansas State - Kansas will probably grab the last #1 seed over Duke with a win here.
Prediction: Kansas

Mountain West
New Mexico vs UNLV - Should be awesome.  New Mexico might be able to sneak out a 2 seed with a win.
Prediction:  New Mexico

Ohio vs Akron - neither will get an at large but both could cause some Havoc come next weekend.
Prediction:  Akron

Big East
Syracuse vs Louisville - Lousiville locks in a #1 seed with a win, if they haven't already.  Syracuse is looking to end their Big East run with a tournament championship
Prediction:  Louisville

Stephen F. Austin vs Northwestern State - SFA has been running away with this league and were legitamite at-large candidates as of about 6 weeks ago. 
Prediction:  SFA

Big Sky
Montana vs Weber State - The 1 and 2 battle it out for the Big Sky auto-bid.  We're looking at a couple 15 seeds here
Prediction:  Weber State

Big West
Pacific vs UC-Irvine - I'd love to be able to cheer for the Anteaters but Pacific is too much for them.  Long Beach State was bitten again.
Prediction:  Pacific

UCLA vs Oregon - Oregon is starting to look like they did before Artis got hurt.  This is one team that that could be a mid seed that goes far.
Prediction:  Oregon

New Mexico State vs UT-Arlington - I'm cheering for NMst because they have a 7-3 guy who's fun to watch.  Now that's big time analysis.
Prediction:  New Mexico State

Early Saturday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Indiana (B1G) vs Southern(SWAC)/Liberty(Bsouth)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs Morgan St(MEAC)/Long Island(NEC)
Louisville (Beast) vs James Madison (CAA)
Duke vs W. Kentucky (Sbelt)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Miami (ACC) vs Pacifc (Bwest)
Kansas (B12) vs Vermont (Aeast)
Michigan State vs Iona (MAAC)
Georgetown vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Ohio State vs Montana (Bsky)
Florida (SEC) vs Harvard (Ivy)
New Mexico (MWC) vs Stephen F Auston (Sland)
Michigan vs South Dakota State (Summit)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Kansas State vs New Mexico State (WAC)
Syracuse vs Davidson (SoCon)
Oklahoma State vs Valparasio (Horizon)
Arizona vs Bucknell (Patriot)
5 seed vs 12 seed
St. Louis (A10) vs Akron (MAC)
UCLA (P12) vs Southern Miss
Butler vs LaSalle/Mid Tenn St
Wisconsin vs Mississippi/Temple
6 seed vs 11 seed
Marquette vs Villanova
UNLV vs California
Notre Dame vs Oklahoma
Pittsburgh vs Belmont (OVC)
7 seed vs 10 seed
VCU vs Iowa State
North Carolina vs Minnesota
Creighton (MVC) vs Colorado
Memphis (Cusa) vs Cincinnati
8 seed vs 9 seed
N. Carolina State vs St. Mary's
Colorado State vs San Diego State
Illinois vs Wichita State
Missouri vs Oregon

First Four Out
Boise State
Next Four Out

Making Sense of This Mess

Every year we get to this point and we here the same lines about the bubble being soft and 2-3 spots still being open for discussion on the last weekend.  This year, though, it's even worse as there are still 5 bubble spots open with 2 days left!  I went back to the last couple years and at this point last year we were looking at 3 teams for 1 spot.  Last year it was Iona who got that last bid over Drexel and Seton Hall.  Looking at this year situation I'm shocked at what fills out spots 64-68.  Look at these last 5 in and tell me any of them should feel confident this morning:

64 - Mississippi
65 - Temple
66 - LaSalle
67 - Middle Tennessee State
68 - Southern Miss (who I reluctantly put in)

And look at the First and NextFour Out.  Do any of these teams really "deserve" a bid?

69 - Boise State
70 - Virginia
71 - Alabama
72 - Tennessee
73 - Kentucky
74 - Maryland
75 - UMass
76 - Baylor

The good news is that Southern Miss, Alabama, Maryland, and UMass still control their destiny.  The rest are left waiting until tomorrow evening.

A second bubble note is that most years there is a surpring team that everybody believes is in but either gets shafted or gets a really low seed.  The two teams I think have a chance to be that "surprise" team is either Oklahoma (great computer numbers but average resume), or California (take out their 6 game February win streak and they are a NIT team).  I'll be watching those teams closely.

And last but not least is are the number 1 seeds.  Most years we have 3 locked in and then usually the last filled by the winner of either the B1G or Big East Tournament.  This year we have 2 locked, Indiana and Gonzaga, with 5-6 teams still alive for the last two.  Miami can get 1 if they win the ACC tournament and Louisville gets the other if they win tonight.  However, if neither of those two win their tourneys it's wide open for Duke, Kansas, or even Michigan State to grab one.  There's a lot to be settled in the next 36 hours.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tomorrow Morning's Bids

America East
Vermont vs Albany - As much as I would like to see the Great Danes of Albany back in the tournament Vermont is got too much firepower.
Prediction:  Vermont

Conference USA
Southern Miss vs Memphis - Another matchups of 1 versus 2 but this means more for Southern Miss as they are 50/50 to get a bid.  Should be close but I see the real Golden Eagles sweating out the next 36 hours
Prediction:  Memphis

Friday Afternoon Bubble

Tennessee and Virginia both lose today which leaves them in a very precarious position.  My gut feeling has Virginia with no chance to make it.  Their 300+ NCSOS should have the committee vomitting.  Tennesee is a bit different as they have solid computer numbers and have been hot lately.  They have a chance to hang on but they need to be cheering against Mississippi tonight and Southern Miss tomorrow in the CUSA Championship.

Got to throw an edit in here as I completely let the LaSalle loss slip my mind.  The Explorers might be able to absorb this loss and still remain in but they will almost surely be playing Tuesday or Wednesday should they make it.

Early Friday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Duke vs Southern(SWAC)/Liberty(Bsouth)
Indiana (B1G) vs Morgan St(MEAC)/Long Island(NEC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs James Madison (CAA)
Louisville vs W. Kentucky (Sbelt)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Georgetown (Beast) vs Long Beach State (Bwest)
Miami (ACC) vs Vermont (Aeast)
Michigan State vs Iona (MAAC)
Kansas (B12) vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Michigan vs Montana (Bsky)
Ohio State vs Harvard (Ivy)
Florida (SEC) vs Stephen F Auston (Sland)
New Mexico (MWC) vs South Dakota State (Summit)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Oklahoma State vs New Mexico State (WAC)
Arizona vs Davidson (SoCon)
Kansas State vs Valparasio (Horizon)
Syracuse vs Bucknell (Patriot)
5 seed vs 12 seed
St. Louis (A10) vs Akron (MAC)
Marquette vs LaSalle/Mid Tenn St
Butler vs Kentucky
UCLA (P12) vs Villanova/Tennessee
6 seed vs 11 seed
Wisconsin vs California
UNLV vs Oklahoma
Notre Dame vs Temple
Pittsburgh vs Belmont (OVC)
7 seed vs 10 seed
Colorado State vs Minnesota
VCU vs Colorado
Creighton (MVC) vs Cincinnati
Memphis (Cusa) vs St. Mary's
8 seed vs 9 seed
North Carolina vs Iowa State
N. Carolina State vs Oregon
Illinois vs Wichita State
Missouri vs San Diego State

First Four Out
Boise State
Southern Miss
Next Four Out
Also Considered