Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bracket Buster 1

Here are the Bracket Buster standings through MONDAY night's games (last night not included). I will post these weekly until the pairings are announced. I listed them by RPI, even though it's still to early for that to mean much. But, there is enough to show who is in good position early on. It seems that the power is stacked on the "away" side this year with Davidson, St. Mary's, Creighton, and Evansville all in that column.

Other interesting stories to follow:
1. Which home teams will be a in a position to score big against one of those four assuming they keep playing at a high level? Butler, of course, and probably Illinois State. Who else? Utah State? VCU? The door is open for some ambitious team on the home side.
2. Most people who care about this blog know that the Valley race will be extra-interesting this year with SIU down, Drake depleted, and a resurgent Evansville. But, also keep an eye on the MAAC. Siena was expected to be very good, but Niagara already holds five true road wins. Further, Fairfield has come out of the gate 2-0 and currently lead the standings. The Saints are still the fave, but the Purple Eagles (and possibly the Stags) look to be worthy challengers.

Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 96, Oklahoma 88. Hogs hand Sooners their first loss and cash in a monster win at home.
--at Butler 72, UAB 68. UAB maintains their vanilla profile.
--at Dayton 66, George Mason 62. Hard-fought "W" for the 12-1 Flyers.
--New Mexico 68, at New Mexico State 66. Proving, once again, that in-state rivalry games rarely disappoint.
--Illinois 71, at Purdue 67 (OT). How many Big 10ers think they can win in Mackey? Illini take the inside track early in the Big 10 race.
--Clemson 98, at South Carolina 87. Tigers get it done in a rivalry road game that was a track meet.
--at Wright State 71, Cleveland State 62. BEWARE THE RAIDERS! Their defense has been absolutely stifling over the last eight games in which they are 7-1 after an 0-6 start. STIFLING, I say.

Tonight's GOI
--Evansville at Illinois State. Is it me, or have there been a disproportionate number of titanic early season conference games? This is 2/3 of the best teams in the Valley so far this season.
--UNLV at Louisville. Both of these clubs could use a nice win, although UL will have far more chances in their conference as the season goes on.
--North Carolina at Nevada. It's news anytime the undisputed #1 goes on the road in non-conference, much less against a WAC school.
--Wisconsin at Michigan. Badgers are down a bit, Wolverines are ticking upward. Big statement game for both teams.
--Michigan State at Minnesota. Same here. MSU is a perennial fave, but Gophers are unblemished and have a neutral court win over Louisville.
--Northwestern at Penn State. Now we see if we are to take the Wildcats seriously. PSU is no world-beater, but if NW'n can win any conference games on the road, it's time to start looking at them as a potential NCAA team.
--Gonzaga at Utah. Wobbly Zags now face schizophrenic Utes in a dangerous game.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Word On Memphis

The Memphis Tigers took care of Cincinnati last night in a game they absolutely needed to win. It may seem early to talk of "must wins," but last year's national runner-up and perennial high seed in recent seasons could be in some Bubble trouble this season, and a loss last night would have made their situation even more difficult.

Memphis had three big chances to score a signature win...and whiffed in a neutral game with Xavier, a game at Georgetown, and could not hold their home court against Syracuse. Cincy is their best win (currently #52 RPI) and without a somewhat unexpected big season from the Bearcats, the Tigers' non-conference resume is pretty weak. Add to that the CUSA has no other top teams, and it could get dicey for Calipari's squad especially if they lose a number of conference games. They do play at Tennessee on Jan 24, so there is one more shot at a big scalp. Outside of that, they are likely going to need to finish in the top two in CUSA to be under serious consideration for an at-large. The chances of that are good, but Memphis is far from the near lock they have been by Christmas the past few seasons (three straight THIRTY win seasons).

Last Night's GOI
--at Baylor 79, Portland State 66. Bears move to 10-1.
--Davidson 79, at College of Charleston 75. The best chance that Davidson had of losing in conference is now behind them with a "w" in the results column.
--Georgetown 74, at UConn 63. Hoyas take the inside track on the Big East race with this massive road win.
--at Memphis 60, Cincinnati 45. See above.

Tonight's GOI
--Oklahoma at Arkansas. Hogs with a chance for a big scalp at home.
--UAB at Butler. Blazers need a signature win badly.
--George Mason at Dayton. Pats need it a lot more.
--New Mexico at New Mexico State. In-state rivalry alert!
--Illinois at Purdue. Huge Big Televen opener for both teams.
--Clemson at South Carolina. In-state rivalry alert!
--Cleveland State at Wright State. Huge Horizon match up. Raiders are 6-1 in their last 7 (close loss at Wake) after starting 0-6.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pre-Lockbox List

It's still early, and a proper bracket or Lockbox is still a week or two away, but there are a handful of teams that we can put on a pre-Lockbox list of ten teams that meet the following criteria.

1. It would shock nearly everyone if they missed the NCAA Tourney.
2. The RPI and Pomeroy ratings like them.
3. They have the kind of non-conference wins that NCAA teams need.
4. They could do as expected in conference and be assured of a bid.

Here's the list that meets these criteria in my estimation.

North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Oklahoma, Texas, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, UConn, Tennessee, Xavier

I'm not sure Tennessee and Xavier are as good as most of the other teams listed here, but they are the best teams in fairly strong conferences and they both already own some nice wins. It would be surprising if either missed.

Tonight's GOI

--Portland State at Baylor. Watch out, Bears. The Vikings have won three straight including a 27-point demolition of Montana and a win at Gonzaga.

--Davidson at College of Charleston. The two best teams in the SoCon.

--Georgetown at UConn. Clash of the Titans Game.

--Cincinnati at Memphis. Good rivalry from days of yore...and this feels like it matters in Bubbledom.

--Temple at Villanova. Owls have played a brutal schedule, but they need to win a few of the big ones.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Weekend Forecast 12/26-28

I have been traveling all over the rural grandeur that is central Kentucky this week, so it's been slow here. But, so have the games. Not a big week to say the least.

That said, as we press toward the new year, we enter conference season and that means that a lot of computer numbers and NCAA profiles are starting to round into shape. And, that means some Lockbox/bracket talk is warranted. It's coming very soon. Onto the forecast.

Saturday
--UAB at Louisville. Blazers are probably a Bubble team and could use a signature win. Of course, it is worth noting that UL's best win to date is probably Lamar or a fairly run-of-the-mill Ole Miss.
--Washington State at LSU. Both have decent records but are in dire need of good wins.
--West Virginia at Ohio State. 'Eers have been pretty solid and Buckeyes are still blemish-free.
Sunday
--Drake at Evansville. Drake vs the New Drake?
--Western Kentucky vs Florida State. Wildly inconsistent WKU goes up against a hot FSU team holding wins over Florida, Cincy, and Cal. Hard to predict this one and whatever the result, it will not be surprising.
--Siena at Saint Joseph's. At-large will be tough for either of these two, but it's likely they will factor into their conference races and/or tourneys.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Weekend Forecast 12/19-21

WKU pulled out a massive road win at South Alabama (69-66) last night, so my weekend will start well. It was a nice bounceback from the demolition they suffered at Evansville (score NEVER to be posted on this blog) last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Aces stayed within 18 of UNC. That's almost considered success these days.

WEEKEND FORECAST
Tonight
--Wake Forest at Richmond. Deacs are spotless, but this is their first true road game.
Saturday
--BYU vs Arizona State. Combined 18-1, but both lack a substantive win.
--Iowa at Drake. In-state rivalry alert!
--UConn vs Gonzaga. A potential Final Four preview and probably the biggest Clash of the Titans this weekend.
--UIC at Illinois State. Two Illinois teams that are off to great starts (combined 16-2).
--Temple at Kansas. This is #1 on my "to watch/DVR" list this weekend.
--Minnesota at Louisville. Tubby and Rick meet once again. Gophers are blemish-free, but unproven.
--Syracuse at Memphis. Cuse in a ROAD GAME! Alert 60 Minutes, immediately!
--VCU vs Oklahoma. Blake Griffin and Eric Maynor are both good at basketball.
--Rhode Island at Oklahoma State. One of those that feels meaningful to future Bubbledom.
--Davidson vs Purdue. A close #2 on my "to Watch/DVR" list.
--St. Mary's vs SIU. Gaels are building a profile, while Salukis are on a journey of self-discovery.
--Northwestern at Stanford. Combined 13-1 and will tell us what Cats are made of.
--Michigan State vs Texas. Guarantees to be a rugged affair. If you like football and basketball, this is your game. It will be somewhere between the two.
--Arkansas State at UALR. In-state, in-conference rivalry alert!
--Arizona at UNLV. Both will need this one come Selection day, I'll wager.
--Miami (OH) at West Virginia. Do NOT sleep on the Redhawks. You have been duly warned.
--Duke vs Xavier. Likely #2 on the Clash of the Titans list this weekend.
Sunday
--Pitt at Florida State. Combined 20-1!
--Vermont at Quinnipiac. Maybe the best of the Am East vs maybe the best of the Northeast.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Watch List 2

In the second version of the Watch List, all Big 6 types have been purged. Any team who is doing well in the power conferences is going to get pub. So, here is who you may not be hearing about right now, but might show up on a bracket line in March.

Temple (5-3). The X and Dayton are feeling the love with their hot starts, but the Owls get overlooked due to three losses. Yes, two of those losses are to MAC teams, but both Buffalo and Miami (OH) have looked fairly good so far. And, they have beaten Tennessee, College of Charleston (their only loss), and won at Penn State. Plus, the Owls play 13 of their first 16 away from home. If they come through that stretch with a decent mark, 9 of their last 14 are in the friendly confines. But, even then, they drew both Xavier and Dayton on the road this season. The Owls will have a number of losses, but if they can win their home games and steal one or two on the road, they will be fine. And, they are the frontrunner for the Road Warrior Award.

Liberty (4-2). Since being torched by UNC-Asheville on Nov 18, the Flames are 4-1 with wins at Virginia as well as CAA brethren William &Mary and George Mason. They have Stephen Curry's younger brother, Seth, on the roster and he's been lighting it up. Winthrop is down, and it looks like VMI and Liberty are the class of the Big South early on.

Hofstra (7-1). The Pride is back! Long Island's best lost their first game to Clemson and have since reeled off seven straight including 5 wins away from home.

Cleveland State (6-4). The Vikings are Temple lite regarding their schedule. Their losses are at Washington, at West Virginia, and home to Butler and Kansas State. They have beaten Syracuse. They are being forged in the fire and will be a tough out in the Horizon.

Niagara (7-2). While Siena gets the MAAC TV time, the Eagles have been winning tough roadies at Buffalo and at South Florida. Their losses are to Villanova and Akron, who are a combined 15-4.

Miami (OH) (6-3). Not an overpowering record, but the three losses are to UCLA, Pitt, and Xavier. Nine of their first 12 are away from home. How's that for scheduling? They do have that win over Temple in hand and they are at West Virginia on Saturday.

Illinois State (10-0). Unblemished, but no big wins.

Evansville (5-1). The Aces completely destroyed TBB's team, WKU, last weekend. UTTERLY. Their only loss was at Butler. You may have heard that they are at North Carolina on Saturday.

BYU (10-0). The only team to beat Utah State so far, but no monster wins.

Jacksonville State (5-1). Hottest team in the OVC has won at UMass and destroyed VMI.

College of Charleston (6-1). Lost a close one to Temple, but has beaten TCU and South Carolina. Could be Davidson's strongest challenger in the SoCon.

Last Night's GOI

--St. Mary's 78, at Oregon 73. Not a great win, but a game the Gaels needed to maintain realistic at-large hopes.

-- at Pitt 79, Siena 66. Saints continue in their quest for a signature win.

--at VCU 73, Akron 69. In addition to Hofstra, VCU looks like a CAA contender.

Tonight's GOI

--Evansville at North Carolina. Aces with a BIG chance to show that they are for real. Heck, even losing by 20 might prove that against the Heels.

--WKU at South Alabama. These two plus Middle Tennessee figure to contend for Sun Belt East Division crown. This will provide a head start in positioning for one of these two.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not Time to Open Lockbox

I got ahead of myself yesterday and posted tonight's GOI a day early. That's what you get for blogging at 5 am, I guess.

Still too early for Lockbox or brackets or anything of the like. Hang in there over the holidays and then the serious debate will begin about the time conference season begins.

Tonight's GOI
--St. Mary's at Oregon. If the Ducks don't right the ship soon, their NCAA campaign is going to be over before the Pac-10 even starts.
--Siena at Pitt. Saints have lots of chances against Big 6-types, and I'll bet they win one. But, probably not this one.
--Akron at VCU. Two consistently solid mids.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

GOI 12/16

Last Night's GOI
--Cleveland State 72, Syracuse 69. 60-foot shocker, yes. Shocking upset? Not really. CSU lost to Butler on a last second three last week. The Vikings will likely be around all season in the Horizon.
--at UL-Lafayette 86, UL-Monroe 58. Could be another LONG year for the 'Hawks in the Belt.

Tonight's GOI
--St. Mary's at Oregon. If the Ducks don't right the ship soon, their NCAA campaign is going to be over before the Pac-10 even starts.
--Siena at Pitt. Saints have lots of chances against Big 6-types, and I'll bet they win one. But, probably not this one.
--Akron at VCU. Two consistently solid mids.
--

Monday, December 15, 2008

Increase In Activity

I must have grades posted by noon tomorrow, so activity will pick up considerably here this week.

At some point in the next few days, we will have our first Lockbox action in the form of a "pre-Lockbox." That is, while there are no LOCK teams yet, there are a number of teams that are fairly safe to pencil into your bracket (the UNC's of the world) and doing so gives us an idea of how many at-large slots are truly up for grabs. It also allows us to look at what teams have accomplished, who is on the right track, and who may be paper tigers.

More tomorrow.

Tonight's GOI
--UL-Monroe at UL-Lafayette. Belt games are beginning to trickle.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekend Forecast 12/12-14

TBB will have to beg off a thorough Weekend Forecast this week (just this once) due to a mountain of grading to be done.

Saturday
--Xavier at Cincinnati. Crosstown shootout rarely disappoints.
--West Virginia at Duquesne. Just have a feeling about this one.
--Western Kentucky at Evansville. Two hot mids renew a long rivalry.
--Memphis at Georgetown. Lots of big, strong youngsters in this one.
--Indiana at Kentucky. Lots of great memories for me in this long series.
--Tennessee at Temple. Good road test vs a solid team for the Vols. Good opportunity for Owls to get a signature win.
Sunday
--Gonzaga at Arizona. Zags should win, but the road is a fickle mistress.
--SIU at Nevada. Two perennial powerhouse mids both under .500 at the moment.
--Oklahoma State at TAMU-CC. Big @ little.



Last Night's GOI

--at Middle Tennessee 81, Troy 53. Sun Belt faves played like it vs a weaker team.
--at Villanova 59, Saint Joseph's 56. Nova pulled one out of the fire, but I bet we will hear from the Hawks in A10 action.

Tonight's GOI
--Iowa State at Iowa. Corn-tastic in-state rivalry.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GOI 12/11

Tonight's GOI
--Troy at Middle Tennessee. Sun Belt slate kicks off tonight!
--Saint Joseph's at Villanova. Mmm...Philly goodness.

Last Night's GOI
--Butler 87, at Bradley 75. Bulldogs not accustomed to scoring this much, but they still had more than the Braves.
--at BYU 94, Boise State 56. WOW. Cougars do not have a big win yet, but they are blemish-free and playing strong.
--at Colorado 75, Colorado State 56. No one like a blowout rivary game...unless you are the rival team on the good end of the score.
--at Creighton 77, Dayton 59. Notice to Valley: your favorite to win it is back after a less-than-Creightonish start t the season.
--Northeastern 76, at Harvard 71 (2OT). Had a feeling this was going to be a good one, hence it's presence on the GOI.
--Cal 72, at Utah 69. Bears get the medicine, Utes have now dropped two straight.
--Gonzaga 74, at Washington State 52. Not expected, but maybe we should start expecting things like this from this Zags team.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last Night's GOI
--Purdue 68, at Ball State 39. The Boilers remind me of those "Messin' with Sasquatch" commercials. Since the loss to Duke, Sasquatch, thy name is Purdue. It's been all beef jerky and tearing limbs from their sockets since then.
--Davidson 68, West Virginia 55. Cats win without Curry playing a monster game (by his standards).
--at Georgia 67, Virginia Tech 66. Nice win for UGA, despite going 10-21 at the line on the home court!
--Drake 66, at Iowa State 63. Drake was down 10 with 8 mins to play. They held ISU to one basket over that span. Drake never led until the score was 64-62. Jared Cox went for 14/14 for the Bulldogs. In other words, the Cyclones feel like total crap today.
--Texas 67, Villanova 58. Horns collect another quality, non-conference win.
Tonight's GOI
--Butler at Bradley. Good road test for the undefeated Bulldogs.
--Boise State at BYU. Combined 13-1.
--Colorado State at Colorado. A couple of Big State U's in a rivalry game.
--Dayton at Creighton. So don't be hatin', this will be a good one, I'm statin'.
--Northeastern at Harvard. These two have looked solid early and both will likely be a factor in their conference races.
--Cal at Utah. These two raced out of the gate only to find disaster in their last outings. Cal was obliterated at Mizzou by 27, while Utah, after beating Ole Miss, Missouri State, and Oregon, lost at formerly WINLESS Idaho State.
--Gonzaga at Washington State. Excellent in-state tussle.

Monday, December 08, 2008

GOI


Not much time today, but I'll at least give you the tube times for these games.


Tonight's GOI
--Purdue at Ball State. In-state rivalry game at the "smaller" school's gym and it's Purdue's first true road game.
--West Virginia vs Davidson (7 pm ESPN). Excellent neutral court match up between two teams who need quality non-conference scalps.
--Virginia Tech at Georgia (7pm FSN). Neither has beaten a really good team yet. VT's win over Fairfield is probably the best of the two combined.
--Drake at Iowa State (9 pm ESPNU). In-state rivalry alert! Neither has a big win.
--Texas vs Villanova (9 ESPN). The two are a combined 14-1.

On Marathons

I finished the Memphis Marathon in 2.58.48 on Saturday. As I was running, at some point I realized that 26.2 miles is close to 28-29 games most college hoops teams play in a season. So, if the season is truly "not a sprint, it's a marathon," we are at about Mile 7 or so in this season. Long way to go, but enough to see where a lot of runners/teams are going to finish. More on that this week as time permits...which brings to me this news item: it's finals week at WKU, so I will have a mountain of grading to do. I am not sure what this blog will look like this week, but I'll at least try to maintain the GOI.

That said, not much vital action tonight.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Weekend Forecast 12/5-7

Some wonderful hoops this weekend, and I will spend it under a blanket of ice. Not due to any Kentucky snowstorms, but due to my running of the Memphis marathon tomorrow. Lots of fun, pain, recovery foods, and bags of ice/frozen peas on my joints on tap for me this weekend. But, that also means lots of hoops to watch.

Last Night's GOI
--UConn 68, at Buffalo 64. It was NOT easy. I like these kinds of games. It helps the nation pause before they criticize good teams from non-Big 6 conferences for losing conference road games. It's not easy to win on the road--ANYWHERE.
--Butler 50, at Cleveland State 48. Caught the 2nd half of this fantastic game. The Vikings led throughout, but a couple of late threes (including one as the buzzer sounded!) pulled this one out of the fire. Dogs get a BIG leg up in the Horizon race with a road win at a contender's place.
--Murray State 58, at Eastern Kentucky 50. Anther big conference road win among conference contenders.
--at Oklahoma 73, Southern Cal 72. Not even a punch to the man tackle could stop Blake Griffin and the Sooners.
--at Texas 68, UCLA 64. These two will be around all season for your enjoyment. These should be two very complete basketball teams by season's end. As usual.

Weekend Forecast
Tonight
--Arizona at Texas A&M. Neither has been terribly impressive to this point.
Saturday
--Dayton at Akron. Flyers are probably better, but there's that whole road thing again.
--Utah State at BYU. Combined 11-0.
--UAB at Cincinnati. One of those "It's early, but it feels like it means something" games.
--NC State at Davidson. Big State U on an in-state "mid-major's" home court. And a Wolf Pack win would be a MAJOR upset.
--Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech. One will bounce back from a baffling loss (Vandy to Illinois-Chicago at home and GA Tech to Penn State at home).
--Gonzaga vs Indiana. At some point, the Hoosiers will have that "we're still IU" game. Zags should be careful even though they are a much better basketball team.
--Miami (FL) at Kentucky. Cats have looked better lately, so this is a big test for the Canes after being tripped up by Ohio State at home.
--Wisconsin at Marquette. Always a special in-state game. Make sure you read Chris West's take after the game.
--Duke at Michigan. Round 2: Duke won round one in the 2k Sports Classic on Nov 21. Huge opportunity at home for the Wolverines to get that signature win for their resume.
--Murray State at Morehead State. Yes, I know Murray is good. Yes, I know Morehead is 1-6. But the Eagles should be OK this year and they have yet to play a home game. Keep an eye on this one.
--DePaul at Northwestern. A Chi-town brawl and it actually matters! Both have just one loss to date. The winner can wear the label of "NCAA hopeful."
--Rhode Island at Providence. In-state rivalry alert!
--Creighton at Saint Joseph's. Both need it pretty badly.
--Albany at Siena. One of America East's best vs One of the MAAC's best.
--Western Kentucky at Tulane. WKU is quietly building a resume. This is the first of three dangerous road games (at Evansville and at South Alabama follow).
--Baylor at Washington State. Another game that feels meaningful in future Bubbledom.
Sunday
--Nebraska at Arizona State. Combined 11-1 so far.
--Florida at Florida State. In-state rivalry alert! Combined 13-2 to date.
--Maryland at George Washington. Regional rivalry with ACC at A14. Colonials are 3-1.
--Oklahoma at Tulsa. In-state rivalry alert!
--NCCU vs UT-Pan American. Combined 0-12. SOMEBODY will get their first win!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bizarro Belt

The UALR Trojans, who were 5-0 with two true road wins and a win over Creighton, spent last night throwing an orange ball at a hoop to no avail whatsoever. They went into Missouri State probably expecting to fight to the death in a tough game and instead were plowed into the ground to the tune of 59-37. I was hoping that this UALR team was different, but this is reminiscent of past Trojan teams: big, tough, thick athletes who play very hard, but lack shooting skill. Hopefully, there will be less games like this than most years, though.

On the other hand, hapless New Orleans (who has losses to Nicholls State and Savannah State) walloped CUSA member and crosstown rival Tulane 49-39 last night. Hopefully, that did not cheese off the Green Wave too badly, as WKU gets them next on Saturday in Nawlins.

North Texas also nipped Sam Houston by 2.

Last Night's GOI
--Miami (OH) 68, at Temple 52. Beating the Owls by 16 in Philly takes some doing. RedHawks have played a murderer's row all on the road to this point and have managed a 3-3 record (losses to UCLA, Pitt, Xavier). This win over Temple sets them up for a three game home stand.
--at Maryland 75, Michigan 70. Both feel Bubbly early in the season, so this one was important.
--Illinois-Chicago 74, at Vanderbilt 55. Memorial Magic? The Flames took the wands and snapped them like twigs, drank poison and spit it in the face of Kevin Stallings, then turned a pumpkin into a chariot and smashed it at center court. Probably the "Wha...?" score of the night. UIC is 4-2 with close losses to DePaul and Bradley, though, so keep an eye on them in the Horizon.
--West Virginia 80, at Mississippi 78. Another game that might seem important come Sweaty Selection Sunday time.
--at Utah 95, Oregon 81. Utah lost their first game to a DII team...and have simply dropped the hammer on every opponent since including Mississippi, at Missouri State, and now the Ducks. They are 5-0 and rolling.
--North Carolina 98, Michigan State 63. The Tar Heels are good at playing basketball. Seriously, they are making some pretty decent teams look like garbage.
--at Northwestern 73, Florida State 59. Wildcats are now 5-1 with only a narrow loss at Butler.

Tonight's GOI
--UConn at Buffalo. Huskies take a true roadie at...Buffalo? Interesting.
--Butler at Cleveland State. Oh, yeah! A conference game that means something!
--Murray State at Eastern Kentucky. And another! Two of the better teams in the OVC.
--Southern Cal at Oklahoma. Trojans could use a solid win, but I'm betting it's not happening here.
--UCLA at Texas. If you like rough-and-tumble muscular college guys from two of America's finest institutions...or defense, this game is for you.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tops Consolidate UL Win, Beat Georgia 67-63

Now no one can call the WKU win over Louisville a fluke.

Off of just two days rest, WKU again rose to the challenge of a bigger, stronger BCS team and defended their home court, outlasting the Georgia Bulldogs 67-63. This one is deserving of a game log.

PREGAME
There were at least 500 students snaked around the front of Diddle arena in the breezy, cold night waiting to get inside and cheer for this Card-killing Topper club. My spirits rose, knowing that it was going to be loud and proud all night long. And it was.

FIRST HALF
9:52--It was a carbon copy of pretty much every game in this series. WKU came out hyped and tight and the shots were not falling. UGA built a slim 15-12 in the slugfest.

1.50--Much like ancient wars of olden times, each side picked its fiercest warrior to do battle mano a mano. UGA's Terrance Woodbury and WKU's AJ Slaughter dressed in chain mail and armed themselves with fine implements of war and met at midcourt to settle this siege. Slaughter went with the net and trident, while Woodbury chose a longsword of fine steel. In this six minute fight, Slaughter tallied 12 points (including a 4-pt play), but was edged by Woodbury's 13. Amazing stretch by both.

What resulted was a 3-pt bulldog lead at the half (38-35) and the Toppers vowing, "You may have won this battle, Woodbury, but the war is not over." Or insert your favorite movie "revenge line" here.

2nd Half
14:38--The Toppers came out with a blowtorch and opened the half on a 13-5 run built by cranking the defensive intensity up to 11. Steffphon Pettigrew capped the run with a 3...one of his 2 FG in 15 attempts. Not a typo...not a good shooting night for Grew.

5:25--From the 11.30 mark, the teams scored 5 points COMBINED with ZERO field goals. Five points in 6 mins...that's TWO teams. Oy.

4:46--With a 7-point lead and a chance to start driving some nails in the coffin, Topper F Jeremy Evans missed the front end of a 1-and-1. But wait! Pettigrew grabbed the offensive board and kicked it out to senior G Orlando Mendez-Valdez...who inexplicably launched an inexplicable ill-advised inexplicable three. UGA grabbed the carom, and scored four straight and forced a 30-second timeout.

0.00--However, the WKU defense clamped down again, and the Toppers cashed in their free throws down the stretch.

The crowd and atmosphere was electric in a packed Diddle Arena. Georgia put up a valiant effort, but WKU was able to come off their taxing win vs Louisville and two days later beat a big, brawny, tough bunch of Bulldogs. The young Dawgs will need solid PG play and to contend in the SEC, but they have enough quality bigs to be pretty good if the perimeter is decent.

The Tops are riding very high after dispatching SIU, Louisville, and Georgia in the last six days. They will now try to take their defensive show on the road at Tulane on Saturday.

Last Night's GOI
--Saint Joseph's 77, at Lehigh 64. Hawks over Mountain Hawks.
--Houston 70, at Middle Tennessee 67. Raiders fail to capitalize at home against both Tennessee and Houston.
--at SIU 64, Saint Louis 48. Salukis restore a bit of order after a 1-3 start.
--at WKU 67, Georgia 63. See above.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Watch List 1

OK, we know some teams are VERY good right now and will likely be good the whole winter long. There is no need to sing the praises of teams like North Carolina, Duke, UConn, Oklahoma, Texas, Pitt, and a few others. No, the focus here is on clubs that are not getting tons of buzz but have accomplished more than most everyone else in November.

This is not an exhaustive list, just some teams that deserve watching.

Illinois State (7-0). They have four wins away from home including true road W's at Wright State and SMU.

Utah (4-0). Beat Ole Miss on a neutral court and won at Missouri State.

Jacksonville State (3-1). Lost at South Carolina in game #1, but have won three straight including wins at Georgia State, at UMass, and a neutral win over VMI by 28.

Florida State (7-0). Neutral court wins over Cincinnati and Cal.

College of Charleston (4-1). Lost a close one to Temple, but has beaten TCU and South Carolina.

Lamar (3-0). Only team with a winning record so far in the Southland and they are spot-free with wins at UL-Lafayette and at Rice.

UALR (5-0). Two true road wins over Cal Poly and Pepperdine, plus impressive home win over Creighton.

Tonight's GOI
--Saint Joseph's at Lehigh. Hawks v. Mountain Hawks. Hawks should beware: Mountain Hawks are 5-1.
--Houston at Middle Tennessee. The Belt fave has a good shot to score a nice win at home.
--Saint Louis at SIU. Both are 1-3 and need a cure for their ills.
--Georgia at WKU. Tops with a chance to back up that big Louisville win with another BCS takedown.Big Televen/ACC Challenge. Check your listings. Duke at Purdue is probably the cream of tonight's slate.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toppers Outwork Cards

Once in awhile, as a "mid-major" fan, you get those moments of pure joy that feel like God's justice. Some Big State U. that normally avoids playing your school waits until your school's ranks are ravaged by graduation and the entire coaching staff jumps ship after a successful run to coach at a BCS school, and THEN Big State U. wants to schedule a four-game series with your guys that includes one "neutral" game, two road games, and one game at your gym (that will likely be put off, wrangled over, and eventually bought out and serving only to seriously cheese off the entire fanbase). Sorry for the length of he previous sentence, but you have to read it while imagining me ranting, red-faced, and refusing to take a breath.

Sunday's game between Louisville and WKU was such a case. The Louisville Cardinals, they of Big East title and Final Four Contendership, squared off with WKU, who lost 75% of it's scoring and all of its coaches from its magical Sweet 16 team in 2008, for the first of four meetings as laid out above. But, the Toppers worked over the bigger Cards with stifling defense and relentless pursuit on the glass (WKU +14!). What was left in the Topper wake of activity was 26% shooting for UL and a bumfuzzled Rick Pitino mumbling about a bad week of practice. Of course, if you watched the game, it was not hard to understand why UL lost: they let their poor jumpshooters jack up scud missiles instead of pounding the ball into either of their TWO future NBA power forwards. What resulted was a 14-point beatdown of justice of UL by the Tops.

Even more staggering is that eight days ago, this Topper team was doing some grave soul-searching after being annihilated by 28 points at Murray State. Since then, the Tops have dispatched SIU (on Wed) and now Louisville in the early buds of this "rebuilding year." They are also crafting a serious defense/rebounding identity. Well, at least I should give UL a little credit for scheduling the series in the first place, even if they waited until we were "down."

WKU next hosts Georgia on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at which teams have laid solid foundations for their March resumes.

Tonight's GOI
--Wisconsin at Virginia Tech. ACC/Big Televen challenge gets cranked up with a couple of teams who could use a solid "w."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Southern Illinois at WKU

This was supposed to be a marquee match up of a couple of the highest profile non-BCS schools in Hoopdom. Instead, what we have are two clubs with a combined 1-4 record and both in desperate need of a win. SIU was pounded by Duke (by 25) and UCLA (by 17). It's worse for WKU, who played a great first half at Houston before being thrashed in the second frame and then backing that up with a 28-point shellacking at Murray State. And, while the Racers are pretty good, they are not Duke or UCLA.

All Topper fans expected a big dip this season after last year's banner run to the Sweet 16 and the subsequent losses of most of their scoring, minutes and entire coaching staff. But, the offense is truly offensive and the defense was matador-esque at Murray. Both teams are doing a big of soul-searching, but make no mistake, WKU needs it more. This is a home game after all.

TBB will be in full holiday travel mode the rest of the week and will return on Monday.

Tonight's GOI
--North Carolina vs Notre Dame. UNC hasn't been truly pushed yet. They might be in this one.
--Texas vs Oregon. People like to THINK that Oregon matters on a national level, but most years, they don't.
--UAB vs Oklahoma. Blazers are 4-0 and have not played a home game yet. Sooners have yet to play away from Norman. Something's a-brewin'.
--Boston College vs Purdue. Boilers first chance for a competitive game.

Last Night's GOI
--Mississippi State 76, at St. Bonaventure 71. The Bonnies lose a tight one at home.
--at UALR 71, Creighton 69. Few are paying attention to the Trojans, but peolpe will come around eventually. They are now 4-0 with road wins over Cal Poly and Pepperdine and home triumphs over LA Tech and Creighton.
--Syracuse 89, Kansas 81 (OT). Orange are on their way.
--Notre Dame 81, Texas 80. Tremendous game...these two will likely be around all season.

Big night for the Belt, as the league went 5-1 in DI games, raising its overall record to 21-25.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feast of Exemptions

There are more exempt tournies, challenges, and classics than you can shake a (drum)stick at over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Here's a list o' links of brackets and schedules to help you keep all of them straight as you overeat, fall asleep to football, and awkwardly attempt conversation with estranged and obscure uncles, cousins, in-laws, and future/potential in-laws over the next few days.

Nov 24-26: Maui Invitational
Nov 25: CBE Championship
Nov 26, 28: NIT Tipoff
Nov 26-29: Great Alaska Shootout
Nov 27-30: 76 Classic (Anaheim, CA)
Nov 27-30: Old Spice Classic
Nov 28-29: Las Vegas Invitational
Nov 28-29: Legends Classic "Championship" Rounds
Nov 28-29: Philly Classic
Nov 29-30: Cancun Challenge

Tonight's GOI
--Mississippi State at St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies have not been good for a long while. But, they are 3-1 and just nipped Rutgers at the RAC on the weekend.
--Creighton at UALR. HUGE change for the Trojans to score a big one. Both teams are 3-0.
Sun Belt Slate
Georgia St at Troy
Stephen F. Austin at UL Monroe
Florida Atlantic vs James Madison
Oral Roberts at UL Lafayette
Arkansas St at UT Martin
Creighton at UA Little Rock

Last Night's GOI
--Syracuse 89, Florida 83. Orange get a nice resume builder.
--Notre Dame 88, Indiana 50. I don't care what has happened at IU, they never expect to lose by 38 to ND.
--UConn 76, Wisconsin 57. Get used to the "Big East is better than the NBA" hyperbole. They are backing it up.

Sun Belt Slate
--at Davidson 76, Florida Atlantic 60. They held Curry to 39.
--at Vanderbilt 65, Middle Tennessee 57. MT dug a 25-11 first half hole and couldn't get out, even after closing the lead to 6 with 11 mins to go.
--at Florida International 50, Toledo 46. Panthers hold serve at home..

Monday, November 24, 2008

GOI 11/24

Tonight's GOI
Florida vs Syracuse. Two clubs expecting a little number next to their name in March.
Indiana vs Notre Dame. In state rivalry...game played in Hawai'i.
Wisconsin vs UConn. Anyone want to guess how the Badgers season will go? Underestimated in the pre- and early season, big success in the regular season, good seed in the Tourney, early-than-expected exit in the Dance. Maybe it will be different this year.

Sun Belt Slate

Florida Atlantic at Davidson. Lambs, Owls actually, to the slaughter.
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt. Let me go ahead and call the "upset" in this one.
Toledo at Florida International. Belt needs these winnable home games.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekend Forecast 11/21-11/23

Since this is the "Bracket Board" and all, how about some brackets for the early season tourneys and invitationals that are starting up/underway?

Nov 20-22: Basketball Travelers Invitational
Nov 20-23: Puerto Rico Shootout
Nov 21-24: Paradise Jam

Last Night's GOI

--Duke 83, Southern Illinois 58. It was close for 30 minutes...
--Michigan 55, UCLA 52. Huge win for Beilein and the Wolverines. His system works. Period.
--at Oklahoma State 91, Tulsa 73. Cowboys roll in this OK match up.
--North Texas 76, at Sam Houston 71. Good road win for the Mean Green and for the Belt.
--Iowa 70, at The Citadel 48. Too big a gap between these two for the home court to help much.
--McNeese State 82, at UL-Monroe 63. Jarringly bad loss for the Belt.
--at Washington 74, FIU 51. Expected.
--Centenary 81, Troy 77. Troy looks to be going NOWHERE with its hoops program since moving to the Belt.

Weekend Forecast
Tonight
--Michigan vs Duke. For the 2k Classic title.
--UCLA vs Southern Illinois. Score should rocket into the high 30s.
--Notre Dame at Loyola Marymount. Interesting roadie for ND.
--North Carolina at UC-Santa Barbara. Ditto.
--Oregon at UC-Irvine. And again. Some high-profile Big Sixers doing some interesting traveling.
Saturday
--Georgia Tech at Mercer. We're tracking the SEC-killing Bears.
--UAB at Old Dominion. It's hard to tell which games will matter a lot at this point, but this one feels important.
--VCU at Rhode Island. Same for this one.

Sun Belt Slate
Tonight
--Alcorn St vs Troy
--Tennessee at Middle Tennessee. WHOA! It simply does not get any bigger than this for Belt teams.
Saturday
--UL Lafayette at Utah Valley
--UMKC at Florida Atlantic
--Denver at Lamar
--Florida A&M vs South Alabama
--Western Kentucky at Murray St. Olde tyme rivals square off in a (likely) sold out RSEC.
--Miss Valley St at Arkansas St
--Louisiana Tech at UA Little Rock
New Orleans at Savannah St
Sunday
North Texas at Indiana St


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bear Market

Here is an early developing story line to watch out of the mighty A-Sun: the Mercer Bears are 2-0 with road wins at SEC brethren Alabama and Auburn. Now, we're not talking about Tennessee and Florida here, but this merits watching. Even more intriguing is the fact that Mercer was considered an Atlantic Sun bottom-dweller coming into the season. The Bears get Georgia Tech in Macon on Saturday and are at Dayton next week, so the stiff tests and opportunities for big wins will continue. And, it's a good thing that they like this road game stuff, because they play SEVEN roadies in a row from Dec 17 to Jan 11.

The Sun Belt split its games last night, as Arkansas State took care of Murray State (the OVC favorite) in Jonesboro, 55-47, while New Orleans was thrashed by 17 on the road at Nicholls State. That brings the Belt's non-conference tally to 10-13.

Last Night's GOI
-- at Arkansas State 55, Murray State 47. John Brady gets his first DI win at ASU.
--Mercer 78, at Auburn 74. See above.
--Michigan State 70, at IPFW 59. Sparty survives his road trip into non-BCS country.

Tonight's GOI
--Southern Illinois vs Duke. Devils will face some fierce half-court D.
--UCLA vs Michigan. A good barometer for Beilein Year 2 at Michigan.
--Tulsa at Oklahoma State. In-state rivalry alert! Always worth tracking.
--North Texas at Sam Houston. Battle of two Texas clubs that have been solid in recent seasons.
--Iowa at The Citadel. A Big Six team on the road against true little guy.
--McNeese State at UL-Monroe. Belt must win these type of games. Must.
--FIU at Washington. Tough deal for the Panthers here, but Huskies have already lost to Portland.
--Troy vs Centenary. Another one that the Belt must have to move up the conference charts.
Puerto Rico Shootout
--Four games, including Southern Cal vs Seton Hall and Missouri vs Xavier.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Games of Import 11/19

Last Night's GOI
--at Mississippi 89, South Alabama 71. Team USA takes it on the chin...not unexpectedly at Ole Miss.
--Florida State 65, at LaSalle 61. Thought an upset might be in the offing here, but alas, no.
--at North Carolina 77, Kentucky 58. Even sans-Hansbrough, the Heels were far superior.
--UAB 72, at Arizona 71. Blazers play SIX games in a row away from home to start the season. They are currently 3-0. That makes them a team to watch as a potential at-large down the road.
--at Oklahoma 82, Davidson 78. Curry's 44 still was not enough as both he and Blake Griffin lived up to billing.
--at Portland State 81, Portland 76. Vikings with the Rose City Classic. I attended a conference at Portland State once, so I have a soft spot for the Vikes. They were great hosts and their school is a great center of learning and of service to the city of Portland.
--Lamar 78, at UL-Lafayette 68. Come on, Cajuns! We (the Belt) feel your pain when you lose!
FAU 65,
at Santa Clara 61. On the other hand, Mike Jarvis' Owls (2-1) bear watching.

Tonight's GOI
--Murray State at Arkansas State. Of great local interest, due to Murray being a regional rival and ASU being a Sun Belt member.
--Mercer at Auburn. Bears have already taken down Alabama.
--Michigan State at IPFW. Big Six takes a roadie to Summit country!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Games of Import 11/18

Tonight's GOI
--South Alabama at Mississippi. Down south brawl that will test one of the Belt's best and most consistent teams.
--Florida State at LaSalle. A Big Sixer steps up for a true roadie against a non-Big Sixer.
--Kentucky at North Carolina. UK lost to VMI, but they usually show up for the big ones. They had better come switched on for this one.
--UAB at Arizona. Blazers are already 2-0 with two wins away from home.
--Davidson at Oklahoma. Maybe the best game of the season so far.
--Portland at Portland State. Crosstown battle, and the Pilots are puffed up after a win over Big State U., Washington.
--Lamar at UL-Lafayette. One of those "must win at home" games for ULL and the Belt.
--FAU at Santa Clara. Belt team in a neutral court game.

Sun Belt record to date: 8-10

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekend Recap

Gotta be quick today.

How did the Big Six do on the road vs non-Big Six teams?
Friday
--at Howard 47, Oregon State 45.
--Stanford 75, at Yale 57.
Saturday
--Florida State 59, at Jacksonville 57.
--NC State 65, at New Orleans 59.
--at Portland 80, Washington 74.

2-3 for the non-Big Sixers. Not a winning record, but not a bad showing.

In other news, the Belt went a respectable 7-6 in DI games, including two road wins on the West coast by UALR (over Cal Poly and Pepperdine).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekend Forecast 11/14-11/16

Kentucky is looking for it's first snow of the season this weekend. Further, I have drawn some amazingly good weather of late on my Saturday long runs in preparation for the St. Jude Marathon (Memphis, TN) on December 6. It looks like Mother Nature is cashing in some of her kindness with a blast of arctic air and stiff winds for my 23-miler tomorrow.

But, after basketball's long winter of summer (that makes sense, right?), folks are crowding around the old wood stove to thaw in the cozy warmth of our first full slate of hoops since last March. There are a lot of lump-of-coal payday games on tap, but there are a few glowing embers as well.

First, this blog cares about the Sun Belt. Most of you don't--I get it. But, consider this non-conference season a case study in the life of non-power conference. There are some interesting story lines to follow.

SUN BELT SLATE
Friday
--UALR at Cal Poly. Cal Poly looks to be down. UALR should be decent-to-good. This is the type of road game the Trojans and the Belt need to win.
--Arkansas State at Mississippi. John Brady begins his tenure against a familiar SEC foe.
--Eastern Kentucky at FIU. Golden Panthers have four starters back and coach Sergio Ruoco likes this squad...but, we've seen/heard this before with FIU.
--Monmouth at FAU. The Mike Jarvis era begins at Florida Atlantic.
--Morehead State at UL-Monroe. Warhawks should be better than last year, but Morehead is a big-time sleeper in the OVC this season.
--Alcorn State at South Alabama. Jags should be OK this season if they get any sort of guard play.
Saturday
--Denver at Northern Iowa. Pioneers were horrid on the road last year and they have 8 FR and 3 SO's on the roster.
--NC State at New Orleans. That's right, an ACC school visits a Belt school...and UNO won in the Pack's den last season.
--LA Tech at UL-Lafayette. The Cajuns return four starters and should contend out West.
--UAB at Troy. Huge, huge game for the league. Troy can be a tough place to play. They shoot so many threes that if a team like UAB catches them on a good night, an upset could easily occur.
--WKU at Houston. The Cougars have already lost to GA Southern on a neutral court and WKU lost a ton from last year's Sweet 16 team and the current roster is riddled with injuries. No idea what is going to happen here.
Sunday
--UALR at Pepperdine. The Trojans are pulling a double on this weekend west coast road swing.
--Houston Baptist at Middle Tennessee. The Belt favorites should roll.

Big Six Teams on the Road
Friday
--Oregon State at Howard. Michelle Obama's brother starts his tenure on the road.
--Stanford at Yale. The SAT Score Classic.
Saturday
--Florida State at Jacksonville. In-state battle and a big opportunity for the Dolphins.
--NC State at New Orleans. See above.
--Washington at Portland. Kentucky would NEVER play at WKU, Eastern Kentucky or Murray. EVER. Never, ever.

Other Games
Saturday
--Butler at Drake. Both will likely fall off a bit from last year, but it's still a good match up.
Sunday
--Old Dominon at Charlotte. This is sort of like that UMass/SIU tilt. May not be meaningful, but a win like this early on gives a team hope.
--Winthrop at South Carolina. In state rivalry alert! Eagles are favored to win the Big South AGAIN. Gamecocks have a brand new coaching staff with a lot of players returning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Egytians Dogs Triumph

SIU gets a leg up on other teams from the fringe conferences hoping to put multiple teams into the bracket. They took care of UMass last night in Carbondale, 80-73. The Minutemen got the Salukis to break from their traditional methodical pace and got this game to 72 possessions. UMass also shot (+11) and made more free throws (+8). They also out-rebounded SIU on the O-glass (+4) and overall (+10). When a team goes on the road and does those things, they have to like their chances.

But, those rabid Egyptian Dogs forced 20 TO's and only committed 10, which allowed them to get up a 12 more shots than UMass. Thus, SIU made 7 more field goals even though the teams shot similar percentages from the floor (47-45%, SIU +2).

Who knows how much a win over UMass is going to be worth, but it's a starting point among NCAA hopefuls.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at the HUGE slate of games coming this opening weekend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

UMass vs SIU

Our first really meaningful game of the year happens tonight in the 2k Sports Classic. These two are no stranger to success, but both missed the NCAA last year. Both lost key components, but both have enough returning talent to expect to contend for spots in the bracket. It's too early to tell a lot about teams, but this is the kind of game that NCAA hopefuls not in Big Six conference need to win if they want to build a solid resume.

For a November 12 game, this one is pretty big.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Embrace the Selection Committee

They are an oft-maligned group. The chair of the men's basketball selection committee takes on that high position knowing that s/he will be skewered and spat upon by Billy Packer, Dick Vitale, and Digger Phelps. They know that there are millions of fans incapable of removing their bias for their school that will screech about being left out, underseeded, or misplaced in the bracket. Tens of thousands more will question their motives and their integrity. Hundreds of us bracketologists will nitpick their every move and spend hours and not a small amount of bandwith trying to read their minds. The hardiest of us are the kind of people who read the selection criteria for fun and occasionally do find legitimate flaws in their work.

But, it is time to admit that in the grand scheme of things, the NCAA Men's Basketball Selection Committee does a pretty good job. This is helped by the fact that the bracket is the fairest, most democratic, and expansive championship in major sports. What makes men's hoops the best championship is that the quibbling occurs about who missed out on a 12-seed and not about who got left out of the title game (welcome, college football fans!). Further, the only way a team with a .500 record gets in is by winning their post-season tournament (welcome, most pro sports fans!).

The committee's job is basically this: pick the most deserving 34 at-large teams to go with the 30 teams who actually won their league tournament and the Ivy League regular season champ. So, in essence, the committee combs through teams that have already been "eliminated" once in the post-season in their conference tourney. That should help folks sleep at night in case their "deserving" team (who could not win their conference tourney) gets left at home.

So, this is my yearly call to read the selection criteria (which is NOT as conspicuous on the NCAA website as it once was) and watch as many games as possible. As much as we like to yell about how our teams get screwed on Selection Sunday (it truly is a Spring rite of passage) the reality is that most years the committee does a good job. I have been doing bracketology for nearly 10 years and we usually disagree on only one or two teams. And, those teams are usually deeply flawed anyway. With the exception of the 2006 stinkeroo, the committee has done a pretty good job at following the selection criteria.

Now, whether the criteria itself is fair or not is another post for another day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Ball Is Tipped

There are two games of importance tonight, mainly because they are the first two games of the season. Duke hosts Presbyterian in the 2k Sports Classic, and Georgia Southern will play Houston (future WKU opponent) in the same event.

Later in the week, there are five games in which Big Six teams will go on the road against non-Big 6 teams. Just FYI at this point, but we'll look closer at these in the Weekend Forecast on Friday.

Friday, Nov 14
--Oregon State at Howard
--Stanford at Yale

Saturday, Nov 15
--Florida State at Jacksonville
--NC State at New Orleans
--Washington at Portland

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ready, Set

This is TBB's fifth year of yakking about college hoops and it has pretty much done the same thing for five years: view teams equally regardless of polls, star players, coach, conference, TV exposure, fan base, or any other factors, through the lens of the NCAA Selection Criteria. When surveying the daily hoops landscape for the GOI (Games of Import), a battle for the top seed in the MEAC conference tourney is just as important (nay, moreso, because they only get one bid!) as a titanic match up between ACC powers.

I also do not do "preseason brackets." There are scads of them around and some of them are well-done. But, those are based on paper and fantasy. TBB deals in actual performance and evaluation based on the criteria. It is impossible to do that before any games are played and past performance in previous seasons means zero. So, I cannot do my thing until some games have been played. Hence, there are no brackets here until at least New Year's Day.

What will happen here during the first couple of months is this:
1. Tracking games in which a Big 6-type team goes on the road against non-power conference team. It is rare and interesting.
2. Tracking the Sun Belt. Why would any sane person doe this? Because the geography of this league is high comedy. Because we put TWO teams in the Dance last year. And, well, because I...
3. Follow the WKU Hilltoppers. Coming off a Sweet 16 run and near toppling of UCLA in that round, the Toppers will be a great lesson in what success and its aftermath means at a non-power school. Of course, I follow them no matter what, but it should be interesting for everyone who cares about schools outside the Big 6. Some teams rebuild. Some teams reload. Some teams hire a 30-year old alum in hopes that he will stay for a long time, suffer through some terrible defense watching the young coach figure things out, watch that coach break through to the Sweet 16, and then lose that coach, his entire staff, an NBA wing player, a pro PG, the 4-yr glue guy, other role players, and hire a first-time head coach to start over again.

Should be interesting. First GOI comes on Monday.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Change We Can Believe In (?)

Welcome back, hoops. We missed ya. TBB will be heavy with WKU and Sun Belt talk sprinkled with essays early on, but will transition into its comfy model of Brackets, Bubble Boys, and selection criteria as the calendar turns to 2009. On with it.

In this political season rife with talk of change, the WKU Hilltoppers are actually walking the walk. New coach. New backcourt. New philosophy. It's the one constant in fans' lives if they follow schools like WKU. One of the darlings of last season's NCAA Tourney, the Toppers lost their stellar backcourt of Courtney Lee (Orlando Magic), Tyrone Brazelton (pro overseas), and Ty Rogers (he of NCAA lore and an ESPY Award for "the Shot"). The Hilltoppers also lost head coach Darrin Horn and his entire staff who jumped to South Carolina after the Toppers amazing Sweet 16 run last March. He has been replaced by Ken McDonald, a former WKU assistant under Dennis Felton and, more recently, Rick Barnes' top assistant at Texas. If people want to see real change this political/hoops season, I would suggest following the WKU Hilltoppers.


Blue Ribbon has picked WKU to finish third in the Sun Belt East behind Middle Tennessee, the Belt favorite by a wide margin, and South Alabama. Those three look to be a cut above the other four in the East. The West again should be a scrap between a number of teams, but give me the UALR Trojans who return all five starters and are not afraid to play defense. UL-Lafayette and North Texas should be right there as well. Overall, the consensus is that WKU will still be in the upper tier of the league, but few expect the Tops to make it back into the bracket this season.


That said, if it is change that the people crave, this is the time and the Tops are your team. "Change" has been the primary theme in this everlong political season. Not a politics fan? The sports season changes from baseball to basketball (football is but a distraction, pay no attention). Need more change? Middle Tennessee is the Belt favorite in men's hoops. Still not enough? The entire Topper identity is in flux coming off one of the most successful season in recent times.

But, the most exciting part of all this is that there was frost on the pumpkins in southern Kentucky this morning, the radiance of fall is upon us, teams are strutting their stuff in exhibition games flooding the nation with optimism about their local college teams, and I will be in Diddle for the kickoff of another hoops season tomorrow night.

Fortunately, some things never change.



Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Time to Build

Hopefully, the UCLA was not merely a loss to end a great season, but a starting point for a bright red Hilltopper future.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sweetness

More from my blogging for local CBS affiliate WNKY: "Sweetness." And, it's not about Walter Payton.

My Hilltoppers are Sweet 16 bound and will face juggernaut UCLA. Topper fans, keep believing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ode to Joy

11.31 pm
Here is a complete bracket after the first round.


4.04 pm
It's only appropriate that I follow the "sadness post" with one of unabashed jubilation. Ty Rogers let fly a 30-footer at the buzzer that had eyes and gave WKU a 101-99 OT win over Drake. It's the first WKU tourney win since 1995 and the first for the Sun Belt in the same time span.

More on this later, as I simply will spend the rest of the day basking in the afterglow. As I wrote earlier in the week, no event is 100% joy/sadness, but this one is close. The tiny slice of sadness in this event is that we will see no more of Drake this season. If not for a superhuman 1st half for WKU, Drake would be moving on. They erased a 16-point deficit in the last 10 mins to send it OT. I wish the win was over someone other than Drake, but it is truly a red letter day in Topperland.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just A (Sad) Fan

My team is in the bracket. WKU is playing in their first NCAA tourney since 2003. For the vast majority of schools, this is not a long drought. It's seemed LONG in Bowling Green, though. I am very happy that my Toppers are en route to Tampa for their first round game vs Drake. Should be a good one. I should be happy.

Also, this weekend is probably my favorite sports weekend of the year. Actually, it's probably a tie between this one and the last two weekends. I should be happy.

This championship is the greatest championship in sports, and I know that there are some wonderful stories to unfold in the next three weekends. I should be happy.

But, there is a tinge of lament with all this. I can check my biases when evaluating teams by the NCAA selection criteria, but I am a WKU fan and a "mid-major" fan to the core when the bracketing day is done. While I understand why Illinois State and VCU are not IN, that does NOT mean that they are not better teams than Kentucky or Oregon. I think that they are, frankly. But, the nature of the scheduling world, resources, exposure, and other factors does handicap non-power schools to some degree.

Also, as a fan, I don't pick against my team, so I will not be posting my bracket picks. I'll either look ridiculous for picking WKU to win, or I'll have to pick them to lose. So, I'm not filling one out. My rationale does not quite match my esteemed friend at the Mid-Majority's view, but I was moved and convicted by this essay.

Finally, the real downer comes with hearing the entire world talk about this bracketed national title like it simply plowed into the earth after being launched from some distant planet. NOW people are talking about basketball, and most are unaware of the paths that most of these teams had to navigate to get here. It gets reduced to a name on a seed line, and in a lot of cases, teams full of players who will someday be your hometowns' dentists, lawyers, business owners, doctors, teachers, wildlife officers, etc., are seen as warm-up fodder for the teams with big names, big alumni bases, big dollars, big conferences, big exposure, and players who will earn big NBA paychecks. It saddens me to some degree.

But, that's what we do at schools like WKU. We labor in relative obscurity until we breakthrough into the this March attention bonanza. We do unearth an NBA-quality gem every once in awhile (Courtney Lee!), but at best, a few of these guys might get to knock around Europe for awhile if they are lucky, and then come back and get a job like most of us have. It's a shame that WKU is playing Drake in the first round, because the Bulldogs are exactly the kind of team that I celebrate and root for this time of year.

No event brings 100% happiness or 100% sadness, and I am certainly more happy than sad. But now, even if WKU wins, there will still be a tinge of sadness for the loss of Drake and those like them. Barring a George Mason redux of some sort, I'll probably care less about the Final Four than anyone reading this post. That said, let the best weekend of the year commence, and may the obscure prolong their newly found celebrity deep into the bracket.



Monday, March 17, 2008

Committee Comes Through

All things considered, this committee did a very good job. I need more time to say if they were as good as 2005's crew, but Tom O'Connor's group did a great job.

Honestly, who has a right to cry foul? Arizona State? NO. They played the #293 SOS. They weren't scheduling for a bid. They were scheduling for WINS. Illinois State? A team can't be as flawed as they were, lose by THIRTY in the conference title game and complain. Virginia Tech? Sorry, but the committee cannot ignore the first 80% of the season. No one got the shaft.

Now, the inclusion of Oregon over some of these teams can be debated, but not definitively. I had Illinois State in for Oregon, but Illinois State would have been the next team to get the axe. No quibbles from me on who got in.

There are some puzzlers in the seeding. It's amazing that Vanderbilt managed a four seed given their lack of good road wins. And, somehow, Oregon pulled a nine seed, while Temple, the red-hot A10 champ, only garnered a 12. Switching those two on the seed lines would be closer to the truth. Butler feels slightly underseeded as a 7 as does Indiana as an 8. Finally, Wisconsin should have been a two over Duke. Period.

But, these are fairly minor issues compared to last year and especially 2006 (a disaster).

I try not to pay attention to the talking heads too much, but I found the hypocrisy from ESPN's crew appalling. Most of them referenced the "eye test" or the "bald dome index," and advocated using common sense. I have just one question for those trumpeting such: how many times did they watch Drake or South Alabama? I think I know the answer for most of them. So, this "eye test business" is bull.

More bracket breakdown coming tomorrow.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

First Reaction

I'm not going to go into great detail tonight. I want to mull it over and sleep on it before I give a full breakdown, but I think it's safe to say that I feel better about this committee's work than either of the last two years. There are a few puzzling seeds as always (Oregon? Temple? Vandy?), but they put together a field that makes sense for the most part. It's no great travesty that Illinois State, Oregon, Arizona State Virginia Tech, or Ohio State is not in this tourney. They were all DEEPLY flawed.

And I can tell you that both TBB and the SCKySSiP each got 33/34 AL teams correct. I missed two teams by more than 2 seed lines and SCKySSiP missed 4.

Full breakdown coming tomorrow.

Selection Sunday

4.54 pm
Due to one of the most improbably tournament championship runs I have ever witness, the Georgia Bulldogs just knocked someone out of the bracket. In my bracket (and the SCKySSiP's), that someone was the Oregon Ducks.

TBB's Final Bracket Projection

SCKySSiP Mock Committee's Final Projection

Final Lockbox

Complete OSS

I figure that there are 8 Bubble slots, and I would divide the Bubble into two tiers.

Tier 1: Kansas State, Baylor, Arizona, Saint Joseph's
Any of those four COULD miss, but I'd be pretty surprised.

Tier 2: Kentucky, South Alabama, Illinois State, Oregon
Personally, I think South Alabama is IN. But, I'm prepared for them to miss for a number of reasons (Sun Belt, no committee representation, reps from Pac 10 and Big 10, etc). So, even though USA was ahead of Zona on my S-curve, I'd be more surprised if the committee excluded Zona than I would if they excluded USA.

OK, enough. It's bracket time.


3.32 pm
OK. I've made my decision. Here is my final bracket, although the contingencies are still highlighted. I'll adjust them after the scores go final. Lockbox is updated, too.

I may be sorry for leaving Ohio State OUT, since their AD is on the committee, but Oregon simply has a better profile. So, the Buckeyes are out and the Ducks are in. I had to leave Arizona State behind, too, based on their garish #293 non-conf SOS and their #83 RPI. They would have the lowest RPI to EVER receive an AL bid if they get one. I simply do not think their overall profile is good enough to offset these considerable weaknesses.

Of course, if Georgia holds on, none of this matters and the Ducks will be OUT as well. I GUARANTEE you that Kentucky is pulling hard for The Ark. I know that "conferences do not get bids," but it sure would be convenient to simply plug UGA into Kentucky's slot.

Onto the breakdown:

Last Four IN: Kentucky, Arizona, Illinois State, Oregon

Just Missed: Ohio State, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, VCU, UMass, Dayton, Mississippi, Stephen F. Austin (in roughly that order)

SCKySSiP
Here is our mock committee's bracket. I value this process GREATLY, and my projection closely matches this one with a few seeding adjustments. This committee voted teams in during a REPLICATION of the process, NOT a guess at what the committee will do. We did what the actual committee does as best we can.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (8): Georgetown, Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pitt, West Virginia, Villanova
Big XII (6): Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M
Pac-10 (6): UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Southern Cal, Arizona, Oregon
SEC (5): Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky
Big Ten (4): Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State
ACC (4): Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami-FL
Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Saint Joseph's, Temple
West Coast (3): San Diego, St. Mary's, Gonzaga
Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Illinois State
Sun Belt (2): WKU, South Alabama
Mountain West (2): BYU, UNLV

2.30 pm
OSS is complete, save the three games currently in progress.

Lockbox have been updated as well. I'm not 100% set on this field, but it's where I stand now. I'm really struggling with Ohio State, Oregon, and Arizona State for the last slot. I fear for South Alabama, Illinois State, Villanova, and Kentucky's slots as well, but I feel pretty good about having those teams IN.

I'm hoping Georgia or Illinois can win and end the misery of picking from those three.

I am working on the final update now, and it will come before the Selection Show. I will also put the SCKySSiP's results up, too.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Perfect Storm

10.28 pm

The SCKySSiP work is complete! We have contingencies built for Georgia and Illinois if they were to win. I will post our work tomorrow afternoon before the Selection Show. I'll divulge our one seeds early:

North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, and the winner of Kansas/Texas tomorrrow

Personally, I'm wrestling with the last two slots for my projection. I will post my final bracket tomorrow afternoon as well.

FTP server is still down, so I will update when I can...hopefully after lunch tomorrow.

3.42 pm

--As you might have noticed, my links to OSS and Lockbox aren't working. Of course, my employer (WKU) would pick THIS weekend to do server maintenance!!! I hear that it's only going to be today, so HOPEFULLY, everything will be up later tonight or tomorrow.

If it's still down tomorrow, I will simply post my final projections and the SCKySSiP's work in text on this blog. Sorry for the OSS trouble. Hopefully, things will be up again very soon.

--That said, VA Tech now is an interesting case. Of COURSE, they are one of the 34 best AL teams right now (about the last 3 weeks, actually). The question is, do they have one of the 34 best profiles? No, they don't--but there recent play makes them a very interesting case.

7.07 am
--The OSS is updated through last night. One game could not be completed (or even started) because of the storm last night in Atlanta. Kentucky and Georgia will tip off at noon today instead, and the rest of the SEC tourney has been moved to GA Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
--Lockbox and bracket are up to date, but I will tweak the seeding at some point today.

SCKySSiP Mock Selection Committee
I will not be updating quite as often today, because of the SCKySSiP (South Central Kentucky Selection Simulation Project). The ridiculously long name is used for effect. This is a "mock committee" of six folks, and we are replicating the actual selection process as closely as possible. We will be meeting this afternoon until very late tonight voting in teams and seeding teams. This is a replication of the process, not a prediction of what the committee will do. There is a big difference. My personal bracket on this site work in "prediction"--trying to guess what the actual committee will do. The SCKySSiP actually DOES the process. I will post our results and my personal, final prediction tomorrow just before the bracket is released.

What to Watch
--Saint Joseph's vs Temple (A10 Championship). One will go for sure, and maybe both have done enough. I have them both IN today.
--Kentucky vs Georgia. Kentucky can strengthen it's hand with a win here, and can clinch it late in the day if they can win two.
--Virgnia Tech vs North Carolina. Hokies are IN if they win this one.
--Illinois vs Minnesota. One of these spoilers will play for the Big Ten title tomorrow and take someone's bid if they can pull it off.
--Arkansas vs Tennessee. Hogs can LOCK it up here.
--BYU vs UNLV. For the Mt West auto bid.
--Memphis vs Tulsa. For the CUSA bid.
--Kent State vs Akron. For the MAC bid, and to keep Kent State out of the Bubble mess.
--Hartford vs UMBC. For the Am East bid.
--Jackson State vs Mississippi Valley State. For the SWAC bid.
--Coppin State vs Morgan State. For the MEAC bid.
--Pittsburgh vs Georgetown. For the Big East title.
--Boise State vs New Mexico State. For the WAC bid.
--CS-Fullerton vs UC-Irvine. For the Big West bid.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Updates/New Bracket

10.42 pm
--OSS is updated as is the Lockbox, but there are a few games still going on. However, those games DO NOT include Kentucky vs Georgia. That game has been postponed until tomorrow due to a possible tornado and severe weather in Atlanta that damaged the Georgia Dome. Crazy stuff! The winner of that one early tomorrow will have to another later in the day.
--Temple and Saint Joseph's have made heroic Bubble Boy runs to the A10 final.
--Texas A&M locked it up, and pushed Kansas State onto the Bubble. The Wildcats are probably OK, will might be a tad antsy on Sunday after losing 5/7 to close the season.
--Arkansas is likely safe now after beating Vandy, although I'm keeping them on the Bubble for the time being.
--The Bubble Universe will be praying for Kent State to win the MAC title game vs Akron tomorrow. The Flashes will be yet another Bubble team if they lose.
--American punched their ticket by winning the Patriot title game.

4.10 pm
--OSS has been updated.
--Florida State is likely toast after losing to UNC. Virginia Tech greatly helped their case by beating Miami-FL. A win tomorrow would go a long way for the Hokies. Even with a loss to UNC tomorrow, they have played themselves onto the Bubble. Miami-FL has to be considered Bubble, but their resume is pretty stout compared to other Bubble Boys.
--Ohio State lost to Michigan State and is now straddling the fence.
--Mississippi State has done enough. They are IN.
--Arkansas currently leads Vandy in the 2nd half. If they hold on, that will move them to the strong side of the Bubble.

12 noon
The bracket has been tweaked. Lockbox has also been slightly adjusted. Oklahoma has surely done enough, so I LOCKED them IN.

Last Seven IN: Arizona, Ohio State, Villanova, South Alabama, Saint Joseph's, Temple, Illinois State.

Just Missed: Oregon, Arizona State, Syracuse, Florida, Virginia Tech, Mississippi, UMass, Dayton, New Mexico.

These last few slots are VERY much up for grabs and I could easily change my mind tomorrow...or in an hour.

Multi-Bid Conference Breakdown
Big East (8): Georgetown, Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pitt, West Virginia, Villanova
Big XII (6): Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M
Pac-10 (5): UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Southern Cal, Arizona
SEC (5): Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky
Big Ten (5): Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State
ACC (4): Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami-FL
Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Saint Joseph's, Temple
West Coast (3): St. Mary's, Gonzaga
Missouri Valley (2): Drake, Illinois State
Sun Belt (2): WKU, South Alabama
Mountain West (2): BYU, UNLV

11.37 am
The OSS is up to date.

What to Watch
--Florida State can get into the convo with a win over North Carolina. Miami-FL can LOCK it up today. VA Tech can help their cause with a win.
--Temple and Saint Joseph's probably both need to advance to stay alive.
--Kansas State and Texas A&M play each other. One will LOCK it up, the other is probably still OK, but Bubble. Oklahoma State could get back in the Bubble mix with a win over Texas.
--Ohio State needs to beat Michigan State to feel safe. A loss puts them squarely on the Bubble.
--Kent State needs to advance to the MAC title game to harbor AL hopes.
--UNLV needs to beat Utah and get to the MWC title game.
--Arkansas is on the good side right now, but a win over Vandy would make them much more stable. A loss keeps them on the Bubble.
--Kentucky cannot afford a loss to Georgia. They would sweat if they lose.
--Mississippi State can LOCK it up with a win over Alabama. They are likely IN anyway.
--Stephen F. Austin has to win today and get to the Southland title game to have any shot.
--American and Colgate play for the Patriot bid this afternoon (3.45 CT, ESPN2).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday Updates

11.45 pm

--A tweaked bracket comes tomorrow.
--OSS has been update with just a few games still going.
--Lockbox has been updated. The "blue" teams are gone. Teams are either a LOCK, working on a LOCK with another win (if that teams loses, they go to the Bubble or their existing profile gets them IN), or on the Bubble. This will continue to sort out even more over the next few days.
--Temple and Saint Joseph's helped themselves today. UMass and Dayton did not...and I fear both are going to miss. UMass is not totally dead, but I think Dayton probably is.
--So long, Maryland. Get out your kNITting needles.
--Texas A&M is still not LOCKED, but one more would do it. They are in pretty good shape even if they lose tomorrow.
--Villanova will sweat it out this weekend.
--Kent State TCB.
--UNLV survived a tussle with TCU and stays on the good side of the Bubble.
--Arizona State and Oregon will hang out with Nova in the antacid aisle this week.
--Mississippi and Florida both went down to what have to be considered lesser teams. Both are likely OUT.

2.35 pm

--OSS has been updated, as has the Lockbox (it had a few glitches yesterday).
--Dayton lost to Xavier and will have to sweat...and I don't like their chances.
--Villanova lost to G'town, so they are squarely on the Bubble.


8.41 am
Late Last Night
--Arizona bludgeoned hapless Oregon State in a game they had to win.

The OSS is complete through last night's games and all 30 brackets are now complete as the last of the tourneys get going today.

What to Watch
--The A10. Dayton, UMass, Temple, and Saint Joseph's are all on the Bubble and all could be playing for their lives today. Surprisingly, none of them are playing one another.
--Maryland probably has to beat Boston College to stay alive.
--Ohio State would be wise to beat Michigan State, although they are probably on the good side of the Bubble right now. But, if they lose, they will sweat on Sunday.
--Texas A&M can probably breathe easy if they beat Iowa State today, but a loss could really damage them.
--Villanova can seal it with a win over Georgetown.
--Kent State cannot lose to Toledo and harbor AL hopes.
--UNLV needs to play to their 2-seed to feel safe. New Mexico is in must win mode. They probably need to get to the finals of the Mt West.
--Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon all could use upset wins today to help stabilize their shakiness.
--Mississippi and Florida must win today.

Enjoy! Updates coming throughout the day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday Updates

10.58 pm

The OSS has been updated to show today's completed games with just a couple still going on.

--Congrats to Mt. St. Mary's and Portland State on their bids.
--Any razor thin hope that Rhode Island had is now gone with their loss to Charlotte.
--Pitt LOCKED it up.




3.40 pm

--So long, Syracuse. What a bright orange egg you laid against Villanova. In fact, I replaced you with Villanova in the bracket and in the updated Lockbox.

--Dayton and Saint Joseph's secured must wins to keep hope alive.

--West Virginia all but locked it up by surviving a test from Providence. I upgraded them to "virtual lock" status.

More Tickets

WKU ended a five-year drought by dispatching a feisty Middle Tennessee squad 67-57 in the Sun Belt title game. It was a struggle, but WKU played lock-down defense in the middle of the game, holding MTSU to just one FG during a 10-minute stretch. The Toppers built a 14-point lead during that run, and the Raiders never truly recovered.

And I was there! GREAT trip for me resulting in a sweep by both the WKU men and women.

Congrats also to Butler and Oral Roberts who gave Bubble Boys a night of respite by winning.

We drove back to Kentucky overnight last night, so I'm not 100% today, but I do have:

Updated OSS

Bracket Update (breakdown later if time and my body permits)

I took teams like Ohio State, Arizona, UMass, Oregon, South Alabama, Arizona State, and Syracuse over Villanova, New Mexico, Illinois State, Temple, VCU, Mississippi, and Dayton along with a few fringe others.

More later if possible.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday Update

Through the miracle of remote technology, I was able to update the OSS even though I'm in Mobile. I think this internet thing might catch on.

Sun Belt Tourney
One could analyze the Middle Tennessee/South Alabama game to death, but it all boiled down to two things.

1. Middle Tennessee is playing MUCH better than they did earlier in the season.
2. South Alabama is a tired team.

That's it. The finer details all stem from those two facts.

UALR hung with WKU for awhile, but the Toppers young, improving bigs simply took over the game, especially SO Jeremy Evans. The Topper D dictated the game for the last 15 mins and that was that. Should be a great title game tonight between WKU and MTSU. These are two bitter, regional rivals with absolutely huge stakes on the line.

Bracket coming tomorrow.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Update

The OSS is updated through tonight's games.

EDIT: WKU DID win over NT (84-70!!!), so I am on the road to Mobile tomorrow morning. I will update everything on late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.

Congrats to Drake for their auto bid today.

The Colonial, Metro-Atlantic, and Southern conferences award bids tomorrow.

-------------------------------------------------------------
Frequency of updates here is largely contingent upon WKU's success or lack thereof in the Sun Belt tourney. I will likely not be able to update again today until VERY late tonight. If WKU wins tonight, I will get on the road to Mobile, AL, for Monday's night game. If they win Monday, I will not be back until early Wednesday morning after Tuesday night's game.

So, updates could be scarce if WKU is winning over the next couple of days. If not, I will update very frequently, but probably be in a sour mood.

But, we'll know more after WKU's game vs North Texas tonight at 9 pm. I hope to have a bracket update up late tonight or early tomorrow morning as well.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Saturday Updates

Late Night Update (10.45 pm CT)

Lockbox Updated
--Southern Cal has been upgraded to LOCK. The Trojans have done enough.
--Baylor and West Virginia have been upgraded to "virtual locks."

One Stop Updated
--Congrats to Winthrop (Big South auto) on their 8th bid in ten years.
--Belmont (Atlantic Sun auto) is going to their third straight Dance.
--Austin Peay (OVC auto) led wire to wire this season and they smoked Tennessee State in the title game today.

Friday's Aftermath

Bubble Boy Impact
Well, the conference tourney season has popped it's first Bubble. SIU probably needed at least two wins to find their way in, but alas, Northern Iowa's Panthers pounced on the Egyptian Dogs, 54-49 in the Valley quarters last night. SIU will almost assuredly miss the bracket with a 17-14 record, losses in their last two, and six sub-100 losses. Even in a bad year for the Bubble, this will not get it done.

Lockbox has been updated. BYU is now a LOCK. No way they miss at this stage. A couple other teams shifted a bit, too. There are several that are a win away (Kansas State, St. Mary's, Mississippi State, Southern Cal, maybe a couple others).

Conference Tourney Roundup
The OSS has been updated.

Higher seeds went 17-5 yesterday, making their cumulative record 44-13 to this point. I would not call any of the upsets "major," but there was one of note: 6-seed Tennessee State successfully navigated through the quarters and semis of the OVC Tourney (over a pair of Kentucky brethren, Morehead State and Murray State) and will play for a bid today against season-long OVC leader Austin Peay. TSU has won 5 of 6 and one of those was a win over APSU. They have a 13-16 overall record, so I think they qualify as the season's first Cinderella. It will be nice for TSU G Bruce Price to perform on a national stage. He's had a good career at TSU and he's a good player few people know about. The TSU Tigers have not been Dancing since 1994.

Today's GOI
BIG SOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
--Winthrop vs UNC-Asheville [10:30 AM CT, ESPN2]. These two have been the best in the conference all year. Only one gets to Dance.
OHIO VALLEY CHAMPIONSHIP
--Tennessee State vs Austin Peay. [3 PM CT, ESPN2]. TSU is the underdog (6 vs 1 seed here), but they are in their home city of Nashville playing for a spot in the bracket.
--Towson vs VCU. Rams have to make the final to hang on to AL hopes.
--Creighton vs Drake. Jays must win to harbor any AL hopes. Drake is playing for a protected seed in the Big Bracket.
--Nothern Iowa vs Illinois State. A loss to UNI could be fatal for the Redbirds. A win and loss to Drake keeps them in the AL picture.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Best Weekend #1

The OSS has been updated through last night's games. Higher seeds are 27-8 so far in the tourney season.

Ticket punchers, to your stations! The Atlantic Sun, Big South, Horizon, Missouri Valley, and OVC will crown champions this weekend!

Last Night's GOI

--at Oregon 67, Arizona State 61. These two jokers are destined for the Bubble. There will likely be some sweaty Ducks and Devils come SelSun.
--at Saint Joseph's 71, Xavier 66. Hawks probably had to have it...and they came through. A win at Dayton tomorrow and a decent tourney showing will make the Hawks hard to leave out.
--at UCLA 77, Stanford 67 (OT). Cardinal might have let a 2-seed get away from them in this one.

Weekend Forecast
Tonight
--America East first round
--Atlantic Sun semis
--Colonial quarters
--Horizon 2nd round
--MAAC first round
--Missouri Valley quarters
--Ohio Valley semis
--SoCon first round
--West Coast first round
Saturday
--Auburn at Arkansas. Hogs can't afford to lose this one.
--Saint Joseph's at Dayton. HUGE stakes for both teams.
--North Carolina at Duke. I think this one is televised.
--Miami-FL at Florida State. Noles must have it and then some.
--Louisville at Georgetown. For all the Big East reg season marbles.
--Temple at LaSalle. Owls can lock #2 in the A10.
--UAB at Memphis. Blazers can make a good case if they win here.
--Arizona at Oregon. Zona is probably OK, but it sure would not hurt to win here...but Ducks are fighting for their feathery lives at this point, too.
--Villanova at Providence. Nova can't afford a loss at this stage.
--Marquette at Syracuse. Orange need it in the worst way.
--Kansas at Texas A&M. Golden opportunity for Aggies to make a stand.
--Lots of tourney action! See the OSS.
Sunday
--Kent State at Akron. Flashes must win to prop up AL hopes in case they need it.
--Virginia Tech at Clemson. Surging Hokies could really help themselves here by winning their last 5 ACC games.
--Florida at Kentucky. Bubble Death Match.
--Michigan State at Ohio State. Buckeyes look for monster win #2 this week.
--Maryland at Virginia. Terps must win to stay afloat.
--See OSS for tourney games.