Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Early Season Woes

Oregon continues to struggle but Dillon Brooks is starting to get healthy so they might be able to turn that around.  Just remember I said they won;t.  UCLA is the class of this conference.

Indiana hilariously loses to IPFW and you can bet unfrozen caveman coach will never schedule a game with them again.  No use in getting embarrassed again.

Michigan State is starting to turn around the 0-2 start but the game vs Duke is looming large.

Wisconsin looked good last night and I think the loss to Creighton is more about Creighton being better than people thought than Wisconsin being overrated.

Key game tonight is Wisconsin vs North Carolina in Maui.  Should be good.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Put a Rest To That Talk

An undefeated season for Duke I mean.  I've seen that written a couple times and even healthy I never thought they would go undefeated.  However, the team you saw last night will not be the team you see in February and March.  3 of their 4 top freshman did not play and we are talking about 12-17 point scorers for each of them.  They didn't deserve to win but it was a great last minute.

Speaking of last minute...the reason that was great is the referee's stopped calling everything.  A college basketball game should not take 2.5 hours and have 9 players in foul trouble.  At least they were consistant both way

Other notes

Wisconsin lost....good

Oregon lost...cause they aren't as good as everybody says and I am ahead of that curve

Monmouth lost out on a chance for a nice resume building win against South Carolina

Maryland came back and snagged a win over Georgetown

Michigan State is 0-2

Friday, November 11, 2016

Marquette: Year 3 of the Wojo Era

We enter the third year of the Steve Wojciechowski era at Marquette today. After inheriting a team bereft of players to fit his system or of much talent, Wojo slogged through the worst year in recent Marquette basketball history and then rode a one-and-done to a 20-13 season.

Expectations this year? I'm not entirely certain. Most publications/"experts" have Marquette anywhere between 5th and 7th in the league. KenPom has them 7th in the Big East but that still makes them a top-50 squad. 

The big concern entering the season is the bigs or lack thereof. Luke Fischer returns for his senior season and will be backed up by sophomore Matt Heldt. Heldt was a string bean coming out of Neenah but has bulked up considerably. Matt Velasquez of the Journal Sentinel who covers the team, remarked he didn't recognize Matt when he saw him this fall because of the drastic change. Does that mean he can play productive minutes? That we don't know but there's a glimmer of hope.

The Eagles biggest problem in 2015-16 was turnovers. Exactly 1 in every 5 possessions ended in turnovers. The hope is Traci Carter with a season under his belt protects the ball better. Haanif Chetham should see less time at the point with freshman Markus Howard being the primary backup at pg.

The lack of height can be overcome if they're a better shooting team this year as well. They were 210th in 3pt shooting and 54th in 2pt shooting. With Fischer in the roster, the 2pt shooting even without Ellenson should stay close to that. If they improve the 3pt shooting, true shooting % should improve. The addition of UNC-Asheville transfer Andrew Rowsey should help. A true shooter, the hope is he can match what he did in the Big South. Howard and fellow freshman Sam Hauser can also shoot from deep. 

Defensively, the team was middle of the road last year. Ellenson wasn't an elite defender but did provide size. Carter was very efficient at steals. Sandy Cohem terrorized Nigel Hayes at the Kohl Center last year so he has shown he can be a good defender. The key will be keeping Fischer on the floor. The guards will have to defend the perimeter. Senior Jajuan Johnson had a steal % that was 38th beat in the nation. He has the game to be a solid defender.

They should run 8-9 deep. Carter, Cheatham, Cohen, Fischer, Heldt, JJJ and Duane Wilson all return. Sacar Anim is redshirting. Hauser, Howard, Rowset and grad transfer Katin Reinhardt will also play. How will they mix this group will be the thing to watch for these first few weeks.

My gut tells me this team wins 9-10 games in league. They play Vandy, Michigan or SMU, Georgia and Wisconsin in non-conference so they have enough of a schedule to get on the bubble.

Things I Think We'll See

- Cheatham establishes himself as the best player on the team

- Heldt, by the end of Big East play, will provide solid minutes

- Hauser will play a lot and be the most effective of the 4 newcomers 

- They'll improve 100 spots in 3-point shooting

- Jajuan Johnson looks like a Top-50 player

Things I Hope We Don't See

- Turnovers remaining a dilemma

- Inability to overcome rebounding deficiencies 

- Wojo unable to find the right rotations 

- Freshman unable to provide any minutes in Big East play 

- Bad Gunslinging Duane Wilson

Final Prediction: I think they'll be uneven in non-conference play but find a way to 10 wins in league play to put themselves on the bubble. Either way, they'll play in a postseason tournament. And Wojo won't be on any hot seat. He's building a program. He didn't inherit a program, he inherited a mess whether people admit it or not. Next year? They'll be Big East contenders for certain. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Seasons Predictions

Elite Eight Matchups
Virginia over Virginia Tech
Michigan State over Ohio State
Wisconsin over Arizona
North Carolina over Maryland

Final Four Matchups
Virginia over Michigan State
Wisconsin over North Carolina

Wisconsin over Virginia

That looks about as bad as I could ask for so that should about do it

Season Predictions

Elite Eight Matchups:

UCLA over Michigan State
Kentucky over Villanova
Kansas Over North Carolina
Duke over Gonzaga

Final Four:

Duke over UCLA
Kansas over Kentucky


Duke over Kansas

Nigel Hayes and Athlete Activism

Last month, when College Gameday was in Madison, Badgers basketball player Nigel Hayes stood near the set with a sign asking for money since he was a poor student athlete. The point he was trying to make was, the NCAA and UW are rolling in cash because of athletics while those who play the games are left with zero.

Now this past week, Hayes and a group of football players tweeted a message asking the university to answer them about racism on campus and what they were going to do about it. This stems from the Nebraska game Halloween weekend when two fans, one with a Donald Trump mask was pulling around the other in a noose while he wore a Barack Obama mask.

On the first topic, Hayes is fighting a battle the NCAA and UW don't want him to win. I'll argue Hayes and most athletes have it pretty good. Free housing, a financial stipend, free health care, access to world class training and nutrition and won't leave school $160,000 in debt. He's also not the best example of the poor student athlete. He had his opportunities to go play professional basketball, either the NBA or elsewhere but chose not to. Still, he has a valid argument.

What he should be able to do tough, is make money off of being Nigel Hayes, UW basketball player. Endorsements, likeness, etc. that he can sell, he should be able to. That includes signing with an agent. Andy Staples of SI has layed this out multiple times. It alleviates concerns by universities of Title IX implications and would eliminate a lot of the silly oversight by infractions committees.

Would there be overzealous boosters and others at certain universities? Well, yeah. It's still the most sensible plan to pay athletes. Who is selling that 10 jersey? If Hayes wasn't wearing 10, no one is buying a 10 jersey.

As for the second concern rasied by Nigel Hayes, he's right about racism at UW. It's been apparent for years a certain segment of the fanbase appreciates the "cleanliness" of the program. Take a gander at what's said about the type of player at Marquette versus the type of player at UW by the locals. It can be pretty blatant.

A clear example was the whole Diamond Stone saga. Henry Ellenson was as highly recruited as Stone. When Ellenson chose Marquette, nepotism was the excuse. When Stone chosen Maryland, they attacked his grades and smarts. Unfounded cries of low test scores and an inability to be admitted rang out from a segment of the fanbase, including the coaches daughter. When Stone visited as an opposing player, chants of "SAT" rang out. Why didn't Ellenson hear those chants?

I've never been a minority. When they say they get discriminated against as students by fellow students I have to believe them. Whether it's blatant racism or the avoidance of peer group work because of false assumptions, that is an indictment of our culture. I'm not dumb enough to believe this a UW problem alone. There's little doubt this exists across the nation at other institutions of "higher education."

Unfortunately for Hayes and his fellow African-American athletes, the response from the fans and some fellow students will be tepid and dismissed. Worse yet, he'll be told to focus on Final 4's instead of tackling issues he feels need tackling. I've already heard it from people whose opinion I didn't ask for. I hope most alum and fans applaud this young man for taking a stand. I think most will but it'll be the ones that don't that will prove his points.

Nigel Hayes has taken a stance. Let's see how the public handles an African American student athlete having a public opinion. I have a pretty good idea how the Wal-Mart Badgers will respond.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Conference Previews #1 - ACC

Conference Champ – Duke

The top of the mountain, the ACC.  There are no less than 4 potential Final Four teams in this conference alone.  Sitting at the top is Duke, who will be my pick for the National Champ.  They are young, old, experienced, deep, and the team to beat.  Following Duke is their old rival North Carolina.  They’ll miss Marcus Paige, but there are oodles of talent on the bench.   Third in the conference will be the plague on basketball, Virginia.  Don’t watch their games, just know they will score 52 and win.  That is of course until the tournament, when actual basketball is played and they get upset.  Rounding out my top 4 is Louisville who would probably win most conferences but only finish 4th here.
So, we’ve hit on the top heavy teams of the conference, now let’s get into the depth.   There will be a minimum of 10 bids here and 11 would not surprise me.  I have my final 6 bids listed below and although I have North Carolina State projected higher than the other 5 there isn’t much difference between Florida State and Clemson.  In fact, there isn’t much difference between Florida State and the two teams I don’t even have in the bracket, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.  Good luck trying to figure out how the middle of the ACC shakes out.  Just sit back and enjoy the games (except Virginia)

At-Large: North Carolina 1 seed
At-Large: Virginia 2 seed
At-Large: Louisville 2 seed
At-Large: North Carolina State 4 seed
At-Large: Florida State 8 seed
At-Large: Syracuse 9 seed
At-Large: Miami 10 seed
At-Large: Virginia Tech 11 seed

At-Large: Clemson 12 seed

Monday, November 7, 2016

Conference Previews #2 - Big 10

Conference Champ – Michigan State

I’ve been going back and forth on this all week and I finally decided to take Michigan State over Wisconsin.  It’s close talent-wise but I’ll take Izzo over Gard at this point.  Both teams are potential Final Four teams and they both fall in that second tier behind Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas.   After these two and before the terrible, terrible bottom third of the Big 10 are a group of teams that have high ceiling but glaring weaknesses.  Indiana is probably #3 in the pecking order followed closely by Purdue.   5 and 6 (I have 6 bids for the Big 10 this year) are more questionable.  Two teams will come out of the group of Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland, and Iowa.  Michigan returns enough to get the slight nod over the other 3.  The last team in is a crap shoot.  I’m penciling in Ohio State but Maryland or Iowa wouldn’t surprise me.

At-Large: Wisconsin2 seed
At-Large: Indiana 5 seed
At-Large: Purdue 7 seed
At-Large: Michigan 10 seed

At-Large: Ohio State 11 seed

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Conference Previews #3 - Big 12

Conference Champ – Kansas

I’m just going to short circuit this right up and tell you this conference is Kansas’s from now until Bill Self retires.  Saves me the time since the rest of the coaches seem to be amateurs at this point.  As for at-large bids I have the conference getting 6 total.  West Virginia and Baylor seem to be the second tier and will fit in the 6-8 seed slots.  Texas is probably 4th and then the final 2 spots go to Oklahoma and Iowa State.  Texas Tech and Kansas State just miss out.
Kansas is a national champion threat.  Boom

At-Large: West Virginia 6 seed
At-Large: Baylor 7 seed
At-Large: Texas 10 seed
At-Large: Oklahoma 11 seed

At-Large: Iowa State 11 seed

Friday, November 4, 2016

Conference Previews #4 - Pac 14

Conference Champ – Oregon

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I see Oregon as a national title contender or not but I have not wavered on them being the class of the Pac-14.  I’m just not as big of a fan of Dana Altman as others and although I can see them making it to the Elite Eight I think that’s their ceiling.  Speaking of ceiling, I think Arizona’s is a lot lower than others.  I don’t even have them second in the league while some websites have them ahead of Oregon.  I like UCLA’s freshman class and with who they have returning I think they finish ahead of Arizona.  As for 4th and 5th in this conference…..thank the committee for expanding to 68 from 64 because I think that’s the only reason Colorado and California squeak in.

At-Large: UCLA 4 seed
At-Large: Arizona 6 seed
At-Large: California 12 seed
At-Large: Colorado 12 seed

Thursday, November 3, 2016

More Big East Preview

I think Brian has the Big East too low but it's a minor quibble. Behind the ACC, it's pretty close amongst 2-5 in conference rankings with my belief the Big 14 is 2 because of its top heavy nature.

As we've moved through the previews, I've added some thoughts on conference realignment and how each league made out. The Big East isn't the Big East of its heyday, which was '05-'13. Yes, I know about 1985 and the legendary players but '05 expansion made the league more competitive than ever.

But as far as how they made out, they did as well as they could without the benefit of football money pouring in the league. In Brian's preview, he has the 3 latest additions (X, Butler & Creighton) to the league making the tournament. All 3 have been great additions and all 3 have rabid fanbases. On top of that, all 3 have vastly improved their recruiting. The move up has been a plus/plus for all involved.

The league has thrived despite rebuilding at Marquette, indifferent play from Georgetown and massive rebuilding at St. John's. If or when those 3 meet expectations, the league should be even stronger.

It's not the Big East of your youth or recent vintage but it's a great basketball league. Predictions of gloom and doom proved unfounded.

As far as the upcoming year, 5-6 teams will fight for bids. Villanova and Xavier are legit Final 4 teams. Butler cracks KenPom top 20. My guess is, they'll do better than Brian's prediction. Creighton has one of the most talented back courts in America. Don't be surprised if they sneak into a 5-6 seed line.

Seton Hall loses Isaiah Whitehead but still have a very talented team. Winning the Big East tournament isn't likely but double digit wins in league is doable. I'll have more on Marquette later and Brian is right, they're a borderline tourney team but there's potential for them to take a big step forward. I refuse to say anything about Georgetown.

Providence is rebuilding but still is in the top 65 of KenPom to open the season. They'll be a pain in the ass by time league play rolls around. St. John's will be much better than last year and will probably surprise a few teams. DePaul will be DePaul and that's not good for DePaul.

The talent level continues to rise despite proclamations from the Jeff Goodman's of the world the league wouldn't attract top talent. Should be another fun year in the Big East

Conference Previews #5 - Big East

Conference Champ – Villanova

Conference champ and potential Final Four repeat visitor.  Yes, The Wildcats lost their starting point guard and center but they return most else and have some clutch shooters to hang plenty of points on the rest of the nation.   I think the key to this team is Phil Booth replacing some of the ball handling duties left vacant by Ryan Arcidiacono.  In addition to Villanova the Big East has a second potential Final Four team in the Xavier Musketeers.  It’s going to completely depend on the status of currently suspended Myles Davis, but if he is cleared this is a top 10 team.  No sneaking up on anybody this year.  So, there are two top 4 seeds right there; what else does the Big East have to offer?  Butler looks locked in at a bid right around the 9-10 level along with a resurgent Creighton.  That puts us at 4 bids for the Big East but ultimately I think they get 5.  That last spot is going to be between Seton Hall and Marquette.  Both have questions…Seton Hall lost its best player and Marquette has 1 player taller than 6’6” with experience.  Unfortunately for us I think the Hall wins out in the end.

At-Large: Xavier 3 seed
At-Large: Butler 9 seed
At-Large: Creighton 10 seed
At-Large: Seton Hall 12 seed

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Conference Preview #6 - SEC

Conference Champion – Kentucky

This write up is going to be short because it’s no different this year than it’s been the last 5.  Kentucky has a #1 recruiting class, tons of talent, and will win the conference.  They’ll go 9 deep and be a Final Four team.  The rest of the conference can be broken into two groups.  Good enough to get a bid but lose in the first round garbage and just garbage.  The Good Enough group includes Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M.  The rest belong in the just garbage group.  Alabama and Auburn are looking to move from one dump to the other but not this year.

At-Large: Texas A&M 7 seed
At-Large: Georgia 9 seed

At-Large: Florida 10 seed