Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Big Ten, ACC, and a "basketball" game Last Night

The less said about the Wisconsin-Virginia game last night the better.  Anybody who can claim that was fun or even basketball should be ashamed.

Tonight's big game pits Louisville and Purdue.  I'm still expecting Louisville to crumble apart like Arizona appears to be doing.  This should be a fun game to wash the bad taste out of Monday's crap show

Wednesday's pairing look more like must see TV.  Duke should run Indiana out of the gym but it's been 4 straight poor first half showings

Clemson at Ohio State, 7:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
Penn State at North Carolina State, 7:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
Michigan at North Carolina, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Miami at Minnesota, 9:15 p.m. (ESPN2)
Boston College at Nebraska, 9:15 p.m. (ESPNU)
Duke at Indiana, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The best game is probably Thursday night, all by itself.  One under the radar Final Four team and one favorite. 

Notre Dame at Michigan State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

By the way, Alabama scores more with 3 players than both Virginia and Wisconsin can with 5....

Jesus Tap Dancing Christ

Virginia 49 Wisconsin37

Remember Sunday night when Florida lead Duke 53-49? At halftime?

Virginia averages 62.4 possessions per game. Michigan is next slowest at 64.1. Wisconsin, not exactly the Golden State Warriors, average 4 more possessions per game. Jesus Tap Dancing Christ.

 Ban Virginia 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ten things I think

Two weeks since I posted and a lot has happened in an entertaining start to the college hoops season. Here’s 10 things I think. I’d say things I think I know but let’s not kid ourselves.

10. I do know yesterday’s ending to Minnesota-Alabama was wild. A brawl erupted that saw Alabama’s entire bench get ejected. Shortly after, Alabama lost a player to five fouls and injury leaving them with 3 players. Easy win for the Gophers, right? Bama outscored them the rest of the way playing 5-on-3. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything of the sort. Minnesota got the win but Alabama gets the kudos.

9. Alabama’s game segues to my next thought. I stand by my pre-season thoughts this is the best the SEC has been in years. Tennessee had a nice trip to Atlantis and most see them in the bottom half of the league. Bet it’s a top 3 league based on the metrics this year.

8. Atlantis also provides the wildest outcomes. Western Kentucky and Northern Iowa got quality wins for themselves and their leagues. Villanova won but loses because they didn’t really get a chance to play the best perceived opponents. And they’ll be penalized in March for something out of their hands.

7. In other Atlantis happenings, Purdue gets a w over Arizona that most would have thought a huge scalp but  lost two other games to Tennessee and Western Kentucky. They were sloppy on offense and reverted to bad Purdue. 

6. Arizona is a mess. Brian mentioned it earlier and they will be the first team ever to be number one in the nation and completely out of the polls a week later. There’s a good team there but it might take Sean Miller a lot of dress shirts to sweat through trying to get it to work.

5. This year’s crop of freshmen are the most talented and NBA ready we’ve seen. 

4. Arizona State’s decimation of Xavier got lost in the shuffle of games this past week but shouldn’t be overlooked. Bobby Hurley has something special cooking there.

3. Michael Porters injury news is devastating. Good thing he had to go to college. That’s sarcasm.

2. There’s been some weird results this year but Cal getting run off the court by Chaminade is the worst result thus far. Cal actually had a double digit lead in Wichita State in the opening round in Maui but ended up 0-3. Never competitive against Chaminade is bad and portends a long season in Berkeley.

1. Brian and I texted during and after the Duke-Texas game and while I’m not sure we’re on the same page, I think this is Coach K’s best team in a long time. The game against Texas is a game the last two teams lose, especially after Grayson Allen fouled out. Still, they managed to get the game to overtime where super frosh Marvin Bagley displayed his full game. Bagley is the best player to come through Duke in a long time. That includes Okafor, Parker and so on. He’s Carmelo/A Davis capable of leading a team to a title and I think he will. Duke will have bad defensive nights but I think this group will be much better come March. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Upsets Galore?

Watching the games yesterday I though to myself man there's a lot of upsets going on.  First, Duke was losing to Portland State, which thankfully didn't come to fruition.  But, one's that did were Rhode Island over Seton Hall, Western Kentucky over Purdue, and not only Arizona losing to North Carolina State but SMU as well.
Two things came to mind as I processed these games.  First is the overreaction that comes with these losses.  It happens every year!  Oh my god!  Rhode Island beat a top 20 team!  Rhode Island is a good team and Seton Hall is a tourney team but not a top 3 team.  Western Kentucky took down the #2 Big Ten team!  Yeah, Purdue will be the second best big ten team and still have 7-8 losses by March.
Second, is what's going on at Arizona.  Yes, some of that goes to the first statement, that all good teams lose, but, this is a distracted team if I've ever seen one.  Predicted prior to the season, you can see they are not what they were supposed to be.  I wonder how long this Adidas scandal sticks with this team.  Can they break free from the distraction during the season?  I have my doubts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tyler Herro, Duke and stuff

1. Whitnall’s Tyler Herro committed to Kentucky yesterday. As you know, he was committed to Wisconsin before re-opening his commitment last month. Depending on who you believe, he isn’t going to Madison because he’s either a snake, wasn’t smart enough, is delusional about his talent or a bag man got to him and his family.

None of those is the case. He wants to play in the NBA. If you want to play in the NBA, you don’t go to Wisconsin. If you want to play in the NBA and Kentucky offers you a scholarship (This applies for Duke as well), you take it. The vitriol coming from a segment of the Badger fanbase reflects poorly in the program itself. If you don’t think other top flight recruits in the state haven’t noticed, you’d be wrong. Nothing wrong with being disappointed but spitting venom at a high school kid you have no relationship with? That’s low class.

2. Being less than a week into the season, it’s silly to read too much into results. Things will change dramatically in the next four months but Duke’s win over Michigan State will probably be the most impressive of the non-con season. Doing so without Marvin Bagley is quite impressive. Grayson Allen is going to be a monster this season so get ready for a flood of Duke hate not seen since Laettner. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

3. Other good wins include Minnesota winning at Providence and Purdue winning at Marquette. It wasn’t that Purdue won, I expected that, but they executed so brilliantly and like last year, earlyb signs point to a team with a solid defense and offense. Both these teams are capable of winning the Big 14.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Marquette: 2017-18 Guesses

We enter year four of the Wojo era are at Marquette. Gone are any remnants of the Buzz era. The upperclassmen are Wojo recruits. This is his team, for better or worse.

Last year’s club was a less talented mirror of Duke. Electric offensively, massively deficient on defense. Like Duke, Marquette’s hopes for the season revolve solely around how the defense performs. You should be concerned. 

The backcourt will be lead by the undersized but prolific scoring duo of SR. Andrew Rowsey and super sophomore Markus Howard. There will be nights they shoot the opposition out of the gym. There will be nights they get torched on defense. Howard has the ability to become a good defender and if he wants to play at the next level, he needs to start showing he can this year. Neither is a true point but both will be bringing the ball up the court and setting the offense. Marquette can’t afford for them to get into foul trouble.

There are some wild cards. Junior Haanif Cheatham regressed badly over the second half of his sophomore year. A return to freshman form will boost what the Golden Eagles can do. In their scrimmage last Saturday, RS sophomore Sacar Anim had the ball in his hands quite a bit and wasn’t afraid to attack the rim. His shot still appears to need some work or teams will sag on him. He missed half his FTs as well but showed a knack to get there.

Freshman Greg Elliot saw plenty of minutes in Rowsey’s absence. I doubt he sees a lot of minutes once they role into conference play but he gives them athleticism and length they lack.

In the frontcourt, junior Matt Heldt, Wojo’s first recruit will take over as the big man. At times awkward, he’s gotten a lot stronger and will give them plenty of good nights. My hunch is, he’ll have a tough time staying out of foul trouble against more physical teams. Freshman Theo John has a Big East ready body and early reports indicate he should contribute this year. SMU transfer Harry Froling will be eligible by league play. How he integrates will be interesting. He was a top recruit a year ago. He could be a big addition.

The best player will likely be sophomore Sam Hauser who was one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation last year. Will his efficiency remain will higher usage? Perhaps not but he’s a great shooter and underrated rebounder. The Novak comparisons are legit even if they’re race lazy. 

Jamal Cain is the last man left and how he’ll be used is a mystery. He’s long and athletic and considered a solid defender. 

Marquette will go as far as their defense takes them. They’re the youngest team in the Big East. The league will be very competitive and a grind. A .500 season would be a success and give them a legit chance at dancing. It won’t be easy, though.

And It Begins......

And Cincinnati collects the first win of the year vaulting up to the top of AP Poll.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Brian's Not All That Bold but Fearless Predictions That May Be Somewhat Correct

Here I was, already to type out my Final Four picks and such and suddenly Kurly’s post comes across with basically the same Final Four as mine.  The only difference I had was no Villanova with one of his other contenders in their place.  I’m hesitant to put Duke at the top but quite frankly they do have the top roster from top to bottom.  It comes down to two “simple” things.  Defense and maturity.  Can their defense be a top 20 defense and can Greyson Allen finally mature.  If those things happen, and possibly if only one of them happen Duke is the team to beat.

On to the rest of the predictions

National Champion:  Duke – I’ve already mentioned the reasons why above.  I’m going to peg Marques Bolden as the X-Factor here.  He doesn’t need to score 15 points but he needs to give them Zoubek type numbers and minutes.  15 minutes, 6 points, 8 rebounds.  Be a presence in the middle

The Other of the Final 4:  Kansas, Michigan State, Cincinnati.  As Kurly said, it’s chalky but sometimes that’s what it is.  I like Cincinnati a bit more than he does and I thought about putting St. Mary’s here as a big surprise.  Everybody has Wichita State pegged as the best Mid-Major but the Gaels may be better.

Other Contendesr:  Also known as the rest of my Elite Eight.  Wichita State, St. Mary’s. North Carolina, Kentucky

3 That are Underrated: Wisconsin, St. Mary’s, Notre Dame – I’m mentioned the Gaels already.  Wisconsin lost a lot but I think they end up being a solid Sweet 16 team.  Notre Dame has a player of the year candidate in Bonzie Colson

3 That are Overrated:  Florida, Texas A&M, Northwestern – I’ve mentioned my disdain for the SEC even if I’d like one of those teams to usurp Kentucky as the alpha-male.  Northwestern made strides but I don’t think it’s sustainable

Player of the Year:  Miles Bridges, Michigan State, Marvin Bagley, Duke, Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Eric’s Bold, Fearless and Certainly Wrong Predictions

National Champion: Duke - I think the Blue Devils are the most talented team and one of the deeper teams in the nation. The focus will be on the freshmen but Grayson Allen will be the guy carrying them. It won’t be popular but given the black cloud hanging over the sport, it’s least popular player holding the trophy at the end of the season seems appropriate. Doesn’t hurt he’s an All-American candidate. 

The Others of the Final 4: Villanova, Kansas and Michigan State - Seems chalky? It’s chalky. I think this is Villanova’s best team of the last 3. Omari Spellman is going to be a load. They get a full year of Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges is going to be a breakout player.

Kansasn brings back Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk to form a potent backcourt. Lagerald Vick is also back. They add Malik Newman who if disciplined, could be one of the nation’s best bucket getters. The name to know be big man Udoka Azubuike. He’s going to be a stud.

Despite my disdain of Tom Izzo is March, this team is as talented as any he’s had in East Lansing. Miles Bridges is a popular choice as Player of the Year. Anything less than a Final 4 is a miss this year.

Other Contenders: Arizona, Cincinnati, Wichita State, Florida, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, USC

3 That are Underrated: Xavier, Purdue and St. Mary’s- Truth is, I’ve seen a lot of press on these 3. Hell, Tom Crean has Xavier winning it all. St. Mary’s has 3 great seniors lead by C Jock Landale. Purdue isn’t as sexy as Northwestern but I think they’re better. 

3 That are Overrated: Kentucky, Wichita State and West Virginia- Wichita State has some early season injuries to overcome and though the AAC isn’t very good, it is a step up in competition. West Virginia is down Esa Ahmad to start the year. The numbers will like them but I’ll have to see them to believe in them. Kentucky is as young as it’s ever been. Again, I think we have to see them piece it together. They could be 2012 good. They could repeat 2013. My guess is they’re wildly erratic but a legit threat come March. KenPom has them as 1. That seems OVERrated.

Player of the Year: Grayson Allen, Duke


Power 6 Preview Part 6 - ACC

Projected Champion:  Duke
Possible Contenders:  North Carolina, Virginia
At-Large Bids: Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Florida State

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess Louisville does not play in the NCAA tournament this year.  Two months ago they had enough talent to be a legit Championship contender.  Now, not so much.  Enough on that though.  Duke pops up as the #1 preseason team but I’d be weary of giving them the title already.  As Kurly said earlier if they can’t be a top 25 defense they can’t win a title.  That’s still a legit concern in Durham.  North Carolina is poised to be a top 10 team and when Joel Barry comes back from his broken hand this team is going to be a handful.  Virginia will continue to bore the hell out of me and beat a bunch of un disciplined teams.  Notre Dame will be fun to watch and is a dark horse Final Four contender.  Miami has enough talent to get a mid-range bid and Buzz Williams gets enough out of his players to get a low seed.  Syracuse is always in the mix for an at-large bid regardless of their poor Non-Conference schedule.  Count them as sweating out Selection Sunday.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Power 6 Preview Part 5 - Big-10

Big 10
Projected Champion:  Michigan State
Possible Contenders:  Purdue
At-Large Bids: Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Maryland, Indiana

As is the theme this year with the Power conference there is a clear cut favorite to win the conference.  In the Big 10 it’s Michigan State.  There is no doubt this is top 5 team and outside of a certain team in the ACC they may be the second favorite to cut down the nets in March, actually April.  Purdue seems to be on everybody’s radar as the number two team but after that its going to be like throwing darts at a wall.  Northwestern should be good but I was so sick of hearing about them last year I’m almost cheering against them.  Wisconsin should be good, but not Final Four good.  Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa all seem to be in the same 7-10 range.  I guess one team could get hot and make a run but it seems like a stretch at this point.  I’m predicting Maryland to bounce back and get a low seed and as a surprise Archie Miller puts Indiana on the map sooner rather than later.

Power 6 Preview Part 4 - Big-12

Big 12
Projected Champion:  Kansas
Possible Contenders:  None
At-Large Bids: WVU, Baylor, TCU, Texas, Oklahoma

There’s rumblings every year  that this may be the year that Kansas finally loses their stranglehold on the Big 12.  Once again, I don’t see it.  Kansas is still really really good.  Final Four good.  Are any of these other team even in that conversation?  West Virginia will always be solid with Huggy Bear leading the squad but they aren’t a top 10 team.  Baylor is good but they lost a lot and will fall off a bit.  TCU is on the rise but they just don’t have the players to go far.  A bid is a giant step for them.  Texas is still 2 years away in my opinion but when 2020 comes around I expect Shaka Smart to have this team pushing Kansas.  Until then, pencil Kansas in as the Big 12 champion and either an Elite Eight run or a loss in the first round to Bucknell

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Power 6 Preview Part 3 - Pac-12

Projected Champion:  Arizona
Possible Contenders:  USC
At-Large Bids: UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State

Arizona is a big favorite here and is a real threat to win the National Championship.   Unfortantely for them they have two things working against them.  First is Sean Miller who, maybe unfairly, has been labeled as a coach who can’t get over the hump and get this team to a Final Four.  Second, the big recruiting scandal has hit the Wildcats.  Nothing big has come down yet but that’s a cloud you don’t want around all season.  Without that this is a Final Four team.  Going back to the scandal, USC is affected as well.  Maybe a contender for the Pac-12 title they will be held down as well.  Depth is solid and there is a lot of talent.  Andy Enfield is a great coach and he should be able to get the most out of this group.  As for the at-large group I don’t think we a have much above a 7 seed.  Oregon will be good but not great after losing a ton.  Stanford will be solid and Arizona State is on the rise with Bobby Hurley.  Watch for ASU to take over this conference in 2-3 years

Saturday, November 4, 2017

More Big East

As we begin the season., the Big East is second in KenPom conference “power rankings”. Brian is right about Villanova being the favorite and the only legit national title contender in this league. Being 2nd in pre-season speaks more to the depth of this ten-team league.

Providence, Xavier and Seton Hall check in at 25, 26 and 28 respectively. Basically, that’s some 5-6 seed teams. My hunch is, two of these teams are higher than that come selection Sunday. Providence is riddled with injuries to start the season. Emmitt Holt has an abdominal injury that sounds serious. Jalen Lindsay and Drew Edwards are also dealing with injuries. Don’t be surprised if Providence struggles out of the gate.

I like Xavier and Seton Hall a lot. Both have potential All-American players in Trevon Bluiett and Angel Delgado. Both are potential Sweet 16 teams.

Butler, Creighton and Marquette are 42, 45 and 49 respectively. I think St. John’s is amongst this group as well battling for 5th place. Two of the four will dance. Pretty likely one will be in a play-in game. I’ll delve into Marquette next week but if they defense can be Top 80, they play in the tournament. I’m more bullish on St. John’s than a lot of people. Justin Simon and Marvin Clark can be impact newcomers in the league.

The best thing about the Big East is the round robin format and depth of the league. Even DePaul should be a lot better. They start the season 119th, which is higher than they’ve been in some time. They’ll win a few games that’ll make some fanbases ornery. Remember the name Max Strus. 

The Big East is going to be buckets of fun again this year. 

Power 6 Preview Part 2 - Big East

Big East
Projected Champion:  Villanova
Possible Contenders:  Xavier
At-Large Bids: Seton Hall, Providence, Creighton

Villanova again looks like the favorite in the Big East this year.  Jalen Brunson should be the player of the year in this conference and Villanova is a legit Final Four contender.  Coming up behind them are going to be a group of teams that need to figure out a way to separate themselves from each other.  I don’t think there’s a clear cut #2 team here but based on history I’d lean with Xavier.  Providence  and Seton Hall have been slowly building over the past couple years and although I do expect them to take another step forward I don’t think they have enough to contend for the conference title.  Creighton seems to be a step below these teams and I can see them sneaking in and being one of the First Four.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SEC: Eric vs. Brian

I disagree with Brian slightly about what lies ahead for the SEC. Largely, I believe Florida and Texas A&M are better than what Brian thinks they are.

KenPom has Kentucky 2 and Florida 8 at the beginning of the season. If you asked me which team matches those expectations, I’ll take Florida.

The Gators lose Kasey Hill and Devin Robinson and don’t have John Egbunu until January. It’s likely the defense is worse this year but I love the backcourt. Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen are rock solid players. Kevarrius Hayes has a chance to take a big step for this club in the frontcourt. Also, they added Egor Koulechov as a graduate transfer from Rice. While not a big guy, he is a very good rebounder. The competition is tougher but don’t be surprised if he’s a major contributor.

Texas A&M begins the season 15th. Robert Williams, a potential lottery pick is the sexy name in College Station but this is a deep squad. Tyler Davis and DJ Hogg, both juniors are double-digit scorers. PG was a concern last year but redshirt freshman JJ Caldwell is a former 4* capable of running the offense. They also added Marquette graduate transfer Duane Wilson who will see time at the point. This is a Sweet 16 team.

Alabama is 23rd in KenPom and should dance for the first time since 2006. The league should be deeper and more competitive than in recent memory. The uncertainty at Auburn probably weakens the league but this is likely a 7-bid league. Keep an eye on Vandy. They open 38th in KenPom and Bryce Drew is involved with some top flight recruits. Good things are happening in Nashville.

Oh, yeah. Almost forgot about Kentucky. I was a little surprised they were 2nd in KenPom. I have little doubt they’re as talented as any team in the nation. I have no idea what to expect. Is this 2012? Or is this 2013? My gut tells me it’s closer to 2012. I’m not sleeping on Hamidou Diallo’s early enrollment last January. Those practice experiences matter. Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones are talented enough to take significant leaps. I’d guess Gabriel is more likely to do that between the two. He was productive at times last year.

I do believe Kentucky will likely win the SEC but my guess is, the record is less impressive than last year even if they’re a better squad. The competition should be better and deeper. Kentucky is probably the only national title contender but 3 teams into the second weekend isn’t a reach. 

Power 6 Preview Part 1 - SEC

Projected Champion:  Kentucky
Possible Contenders:  None
At-Large Bids: Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri, Alabama

I’ve read a lot about an SEC resurgence but I just don’t see it.  They may get a couple more bids this year than in years past but outside of Kentucky these are all 7-11 seed teams.  Speaking of Kentucky, they aren’t what they used to be either.  Sure, they will win the SEC but I’m finding it hard to believe they are actual National Title contenders.  Great, but not championship great.  Texas A&M seems like the next in line with Robert Williams coming back but again, this is not a 1-4 seed team.  Florida lost a lot but will be good enough to get a mid-range bid.  Alabama will be solid but not spectacular although they do have a nice group of Freshman coming in.  Speaking of freshman, Missouri should be able to do what LSU with Ben Simmons and Washington with Markelle Fultz couldn’t do…get a bid with the 1.1 Michael Porter.