Monday, December 31, 2007

Pseudo-Bubble Boy Breakdown

It is still pretty early to do this, but with conference play getting into full swing this week, it is time to at least look at which teams are feeling pretty good about their profile and non-conference season, and which teams are among the vast crowd of still-hopefuls.

Barring unforeseen collapses, major injuries, most folks would have to be surprised if any of the teams listed below missed.

North Carolina, Duke, Georgetown, Pitt, Marquette, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas, UCLA, Washington State, Arizona, Tennessee, Memphis

The next group consists of teams that are on the good side right now.

Boston College, Miami-FL, Dayton, Xavier, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Butler, Stanford, Southern Cal, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, St. Mary's

There are too many teams considered Bubble Boys to list. But, if the teams on the above two lists hold serve (10 conferences represented), that makes 18 AL bids are in line to be taken. I know that many folks could make good arguments for teams not on this list and why a few of the teams I have listed should be left off. The point here is that the Bubble is HUGE right now. I am sure that some of these teams will fall off as conference play begins.

To me, the most interesting story lines going into full-on conference play are:
1. The A-14. Could be a BIG year for them if Dayton, Xavier, and URI keep form.
2. The MVC. Right now, the frontrunner is The Drake. Yes, you read that correctly. SIU is struggling a bit and Creighton lost their conference opener at home to Illinois State.
3. The WCC. Gonzaga has a Bubbly non-conference profile and a real, live challenger in St. Mary's.
4. The SEC. So far, it looks like Tennessee, unbeaten but largely unproven teams in Vandy and Ole Miss, and everyone else. SOMEBODY will win these conference games.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weekend Forecast 12/21-23

Last Night's GOI
--Miami-OH 61, at Illinois 58. Big, big road win for the RedHawks. They have a sack full of solid wins, no bad losses, and a 5-4 record against one of the toughest non-conference schedules out there.
--Oklahoma 72, Gonzaga 68. Sooners are making themselves into a viable AL team with recent wins over The Ark and Zags.
--Pittsburgh 65, Duke 64 (OT). Pitt got it done on a neutral court vs a crowd that was tilted in Duke's favor. Both teams were impressive, but the Panthers were some kind of tough.

--George Mason at FIU. Critical home game for Sun Belt.
--Davidson at NC State. Wolfpack are now up as Davidson continues its torturous non-conference slate.
--Old Dominion at Wintrop. Two tough customers from the non-BCS ranks.
--San Juan Shootout and the Rainbow, Gossner, and Sun Classics are in swing.
--SD State at Arizona. Aztecs go fishin' for that signature win.
--VCU at Bradley. Both need it to harbor AL hopes.
--UALR at Creighton. Both have just one loss, but the Jays are killers at home.
--Miami-OH at Kansas. If anyone plays a tougher non-conf slate than Miami-OH, I truly feel for them.
--Georgetown at Memphis. This one should be a doozy.
--Texas vs Michigan State. Only slightly less of a doozy than the above game.
--Illinois vs Missouri. For the first time in a good while, Missouri may have the better team.
--UC-Santa Barbara at North Carolina. Heels are heavily favored of course, but UCSB is one of the better teams that no one is talking about nationally. The Gauchos are 9-1 (Stanford) and have beaten UNLV.
--Nevada at Northern Iowa. Both really need this one. UNI lacks quality games and Nevada has already lost four times.
--Florida at Ohio State. GREAT game...last year. Neither team has proven much of anything this season.
--TX-Arlington at Oklahoma State. The Other Dallas Mavericks have a shot to make more noise here over a struggling Big XII team.
--Florida State at Providence. Perennial Bubble Boys.
--Holy Cross at Siena. Two very good teams that most of the country will not see on TV this year.
--James Madison at Seton Hall. Two teams off to surprisingly good starts.
--WKU at SIU. Egyptian Dogs are very tough at home, but are currently 4-5.
--Stanford vs Texas Tech. Cardinal have just one loss albeit against a weak schedule, while Knight's crew could fall to .500 with another "L."
--Valparaiso at Wisconsin. Crusaders are 9-1 and look for a signature win in the nearly impenetrable Kohl Center.
--Tennessee at Xavier. Another clash of purported titans.
--Clemson vs Mississippi. A combined 17-0.
--Las Vegas Class games TBA.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Schedule

This blog will be in holiday mode for the next week or so. I hope to find pockets of time here and there, but there will be a lot of "Daily Grind" posts and some dead spots from time to time.

This sparse time is also a signal that bracket season is right around the corner. Conference scores are beginning to pop up fairly regulary as most teams are wrapping up the non-conference portion of their schedule during this time of Festivus. Sometime around New Year's, I'll post the season's first bracket.

The RPI still does not mean that much (evidence? Georgetown is #89 while Portland State is #66), but most good teams are moving up the chart. In another 10 days or so, a "non-conference" bracket will at least give us a starting point. Not long after that, TBB will fall into it's normal pattern:

Mondays: Bracket
Tuesdays: BracketBuster updates
Wednesdays: Bubble Boy Breakdown
Thursdays: Wildcard
Friday: Weekend Forecast

Tonight's GOI
--Miami-OH at Illinois. Two teams that have a Bubbly surface at this early stage.
--Gonzaga vs Oklahoma. Sooners are coming off a win over Arkansas, and could put a huge feather in their AL cap by winning here.
--Duke vs Pittsburgh. Maybe you have heard that these two are undefeated and have very low, small numbers next to their names. I think this is on TV, too. Wait, it's Duke! Pre-game on ESPN started at 7 am today!
--Rainbow Classic and San Juan Shootout are in full swing, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BracketBusters Standings 12/18

Have a look at the current BracketBusters standings. I will be updating the Buster Page about once per week from now until the pairings are announced on February 11. Games will be played on Feb 22-23.

It is still pretty early to put much stock in the RPI, but that is what I used to list the teams in ascending order.

In other news, TBB always keeps one eye on interesting Home/Away factoids. Last night, the home teams went 34-1. Only Robert Morris was able to snag a road win at Youngstown State.

Last Night's GOI
--at TCU 77, TX-Arlington 74 (OT). It took overtime, but the Other Dallas Mavericks suffered their first "L" of the season.

Tonight's GOI
--Ohio State at Cleveland State. No surprise here if the Vikings prevail.
--Kansas at Georgia Tech. 4-4 Jackets need a shot in the arm and have a huge opportunity here.
--Kentucky at Houston. Cats could fall below .500 nine games into the season. Cougars have just one loss, but have not been tested much.
--Winthrop at Mt. St. Mary's. The Mountaineers have won five straight including three roadies. No rest for the Eagles.
--SIU at Western Michigan. Salukis need to get healed, but the road is a tough place to do it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sun Belt Classic Recap

Sun Belt siblings WKU and Middle Tennessee hosted Tennessee and Memphis respectively on Saturday night at the Sommet (soh-MAY) Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The Blue Raiders played Memphis tough for about 15 minutes before the Tigers remembered that they are a junior NBA team and got it going in the second frame. They rolled over an outgunned MT team 65-41.

In the nightcap, the Vols landed several apparent knockout blows to the midsection of WKU, but the Tops got off the mat every time and nearly pulled a huge win out of the fire. But, some late missed free throws and critical turnover with 40 seconds left when trailing by just three let the Vols wriggle away, 88-82. Another near miss by WKU in a string of recent high profile games in recent years left Hilltopper fans with optimism about the team, but a sour feeling in their stomach after letting UT get away. Foul trouble severely hindered WKU throughout the contest and kept their slippery twosome of guards Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton on the bench for long stretches in both halves. Tennessee took advantage during those stretches to build leads. Reserve F/C Brian Williams came up huge with a 16 and 14 double-double.

Tonight's GOI

--TX-Arlington at TCU. Real chance for the Other Dallas Mavericks to grab even more headlines. They are STILL undefeated.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Weekend Forecast 12/14-12/16

Last Night's GOI
--Mississippi 76, Winthrop 71. Rebels remain blemish-free.
--Miami-FL 64, at Mississippi State 58. BIG road pelt for the Canes.

--Drake at Iowa. Computers really like the Bulldogs. Hawkeyes are not that good, but this will still be a good check on Drake.
--Xavier at Arizona State. X looks to further solidify their AL profile, while ASU looks to tie their win total from last season just nine games into this campaign.
--UAB at Kentucky. Two regular NCAA teams that really need to get it going.
--Oregon at Nebraska. Huskers have been TOUGH at home and could use a signature win. This will be a test for the Ducks.
--Texas Tech at New Mexico. The General vs Stevie,-Shoot-A-Three-Pointer.
--Arkansas at Oklahoma. Both have the look of March Bubble Boys.
--Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh. 'Boys could right the ship with a big win here.
--Missouri State at Utah. Perennial Bubble Boy Bears need this kind of game.
--Tennessee vs WKU. Danger game for Vols, and a huge opportunity for the Toppers to snag a signature win on a neutral court.
--Miami-OH at Wright State. A couple of tough customers that have both played brutal schedules. Both have underwent trial by fire in Nov/Dec, and it will be no surprise if these two fill a couple of bracket lines on SelSun.
--Florida State at Butler. Winning in Hinkle would give the 'Noles some big-time AL cred.
--Louisville vs Purdue. Suddenly thin-rostered Cards are suddenly no favorite vs Boilers.
--Ohio at Kansas. Bobcats' chances are slim, but Uncle Mo is with them after winning at Maryland.
--VA Tech at Old Dominion. Two of last year's tourney teams that find themselves in need of a win like this.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Daily Grind

Last Night's GOI

--UMass 83, at Boston College 80. Round and round the Minutemen go, where their at-large profile stops, nobody knows! Maybe IUPUI was an aberration.
--Wisconsin 61, at UW-Milwaukee 39. Bruce Pearl does not live here anymore.
--at Xavier 64, Cincinnati 59. Bearcats were game, but could not quite pull off the upset.

Tonight's GOI

--Winthrop vs Mississippi. As December games go, this one is HUGE for both teams.
--Miami-FL at Mississippi State. 'Canes get to test themselves a bit on the road.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Salukis Bite Back

Last Night's GOI
--at SIU 71, Saint Mary's 56. The Wrasslin' Salukis got back on track with a nice win over the visiting Australia, I mean, SMC. It was the Gaels first blemish of the season. SIU went nuts on the glass, winning the O-Reb battle 18-7 and the overall rebounding struggle 35-23. Those boards helped the Egyptian Dogs get up 15 more FGA's. With SIU's half-court defense, they will win every time at home with those kind of numbers. Actually, they DO win nearly every time at home.

Tonight's GOI
--UMass at Boston College. Win at Syracuse, lose three days later at IUPUI. UMass is tough to predict.
--Wisconsin at UW-Milwaukee. All other factors being equal, this is why I root for the Badgers over most BCS-types: they play on the road at non-power state schools.
--Cincinnati at Xavier. Most would say that the Crosstown Shootout is a "throw out the records" game. Hmmm...I think this year the X is simply a lot better and UC has little chance in this one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Semester Ends

As you may have noticed, the game slate this week is fairly sparse. It is finals week on campuses across the country.

So, catch you breath and enjoy the lighter slate. A crush of games comes on the weekend. It is only two weeks until Christmas, and that holiday marks the start of bracket projection time here at TBB.

Now, I must grade like mad.

Tonight's GOI

--Saint Mary's at SIU. The Wrasslin' Salukis have struggled a bit of late, losing by 15 points or more in their last three outings. This includes a double-digit beatdown at the hands of Indiana in Carbondale. SIU was 80-3 in their last 83 home games before the IU loss. Still, the Gaels will get a stiff test in this one.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On the Radar 2

Attention! Attention! All personnel...

The Radar List is in need of updating. Some early seasons hopes have faded, and a few others have burned even brighter.

A point of clarification, if teams were expected to be pretty good, there is no need to document them here. We are looking for potential teams that might surprisingly be positioning themselves for at-large consideration.


--Miami-FL (8-0). Canes are still unblemished and are #2 in the RPI, although it is still early for that to mean much. Early wins over VCU and Providence look a little less stellar than first thought, and the overall non-conference slate is weaker than pond water. But, they travel to Mississippi State on Thursday, so that is a decent test. ACC play will tell us if the Canes are for real or this year's version of last year's Clemson.
--Rhode Island (10-1). The Rams are the first team to ten wins, and that includes wins over Providence and a win at Syracuse.
--Baylor (6-1). Bears have neutral wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop. They did lose at home by three to Washington State, but a loss to the Cougars is no reason to fret.
--Miami-OH (4-3). They stay on because they have a winning record against an absolutely BRUTAL schedule. The RedHawks have beaten Xavier, South Alabama, Mississippi State, and Indiana State. They have lost to USC, Dayton, and Louisville, all by four points or less.
--St. Mary's (6-0). The Gaels are your current #1 RPI team. Wins over Drake, Oregon, Seton Hall, and San Diego State have them in great shape. They are at suddenly struggling Southern Illinois tomorrow night.
--Texas-Arlington (8-0). Oh, we've had our eye on The Other Dallas Mavericks for awhile now. Since the last Radar, they have went 4-0 including a win at Wichita State. Sam Houston is stealing all of the Southland love right now, but UT-A is right there with them. They have big games at TCU and at Oklahoma State coming up.
--Duquesne (6-3). OK, we know that they have lost three straight, but those teams were a combined 16-2 and two were on the road (at West VA, Pitt at home, at Drake). The efficiency numbers agree (top 40 offense and defense). Let's keep the Dukes on for now.
--Dayton (7-1). Wins at Miami-OH, at Holy Cross, and at Louisville. That is some impressive road play.
--Drake (6-1). The schedule has been pretty soft, but the efficiency numbers LOVE The Drake (top 25 Off and Def).
--Seton Hall (7-2). Pirates have lost two of three, including one at Penn State.
--George Mason (7-3). Home losses to East Carolina will destroy your at-large cred. They also dropped one at Kent State recently.
--New Orleans (4-1). You cannot lose to Nicholls State (1-7, their only win) at home and stay on the radar.
--New Mexico (8-2). They failed their only two stiff tests at Mississippi and at New Mexico State.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Weekend Forecast

--TX-Arlington at Wichita State. The Other Dallas Mavericks are 5-0 and are a hyphenated team to fear.
--Michigan State vs BYU. These two are already thinking about seeding.
--SIU at Charlotte. Salukis have wobbled lately. A win on the road would help steady the ship.
--WKU at Eastern Kentucky. The original Battle of the Bluegrass takes place in Richmond this year. EKU is riding high after coming from 13 down in last 12 mins on the road at OVC power Murray State earlier in the week. WKU scratched out a tough one at home over Nebraska in OT on Wed.
--Kentucky at Indiana. Great old school rivalry.
--George Mason at Kent State. Both are 7-2.
--Arizona vs Illinois. Both have had better teams in recent years, so this is important for the overall resume.
--Dayton at Louisville. Big opportunity for the 6-1 Flyers to snag a snazzy road pelt.
--Marist at UMass. Foxes have won six straight.
--Purdue at Missouri. Both could be Bubble Boys so this one has added meaning.
--Pittsburgh at Washington. Huskies need a big win here lest they fall to 4-4.
--Marquette at Wisconsin. In-state rivalry alert! Also, Chris West alert!
--St. Mary's vs San Diego State. These two are a combined 12-1.
--Davidson at UCLA. The Cats meatgrinder non-conference schedule continues.
--California at Kansas State. The blemish-free Bears take on the fightin' Beasleys.
--Boston College at Maryland. Terps find themselves in need of a win.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

WKU Wins Fight Club, 69-92 (OT)

Their names were Tyler Durden.

The Toppers and Huskers hooked up in their office basement for an after-work melee apparently to the delight of both clubs. They seemed to enjoy turning it over just for kicks. They liked punishing the rim with hoists from their muscular bodies. They took turns inflicting hard-to-watch basketball pain on one other--the Tops with some effective press work in the first half and Nebraska with some corn-fed 1/2 court D in the second and a healthy dose of their fight champ, Aleks Maric. It resulted in two battered bodies both down for the count of 55 each at the end of regulation. It seems that both teams simply wanted to destroy something beautiful.

But, like Rocky and Apollo Creed (whoops, wrong movie), one of got off the mat as the ref counted in overtime. And, WKU got to play the Rocky role via some rugged inside work from freshman F Steffphon Pettigrew and a giant clutch Threeball from SR guard Tyrone Brazelton.

It was ugly. It was bloody. It was "declared" a victory for WKU. But, no one really "wins" these games. WKU and Nebraska will see each other at the office water cooler tomorrow and nod knowingly at one another. WKU mumble, "Wassup," with their black eye and swollen red/purple/yellow nose. Nebraska will gurgle a low, "Hey," through two chipped teeth, its arm in a sling, and shuffling their left leg.

The first rule of WKU/Nebraska fight club is that you DO NOT talk about WKU/Nebraska fight club. So, I've said too much already and will stop now.

Last Night's GOI
--West Virginia 88, at Auburn 59. Blowout on the road coupled with West VA's stout season efficiency numbers makes me think there is reason for real optimism in Morgantown.
--at Charlotte 75, Davidson 68. I'm not sure Davidson has the chops for an AL bid this year.
--at Drake 79, Iowa State 44. Creighton and SIU, meet your newest challenger.
--Pittsburgh 73, at Duquesne 68. Good win for Pitt. Keep an eye on the Dukes in the A-14.
--Clemson 82, at East Carolina 67. The whole nation is gun-shy regarding Clemson because of last season, but they are rolling right now.
--Georgia Tech 72, at Georgia State 67. Jackets slip by a tricky in-state road game.
--Washington State 51, at Gonzaga 47. Cougars solidify their status as a national threat.
--Iowa 62, at Northern Iowa 55. Big win for the Hawkeyes.
--Syracuse 70, at Virginia 68. GASP! The Orange leave the state before January! And, WIN!
--at Western Kentucky 69, Nebraska 62. See above.
--at Xavier 79, Creighton 66. The X is looking very strong. They have the best stats of any non-power team.

Tonight's GOI
--Valparaiso at Wright State. Big game in the Summit (huh?) League.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rick Bozich in Bowling Green

Louisville Courier-Journal sportswriter Rick Bozich was the guest speaker at WKU's monthly men's basketball breakfast this morning. He served as the student reporter for the Indiana University school newspaper as a student back in the early 1970s when Robert Montgomery Knight was the youthful head coach at IU, and when Knight was supported by a squirrelly grad assistant named Michael Krzyzewski. Bozich spun yarns about Knight and his time at IU. He talked about WKU Hilltopper hoops a bit, too.

But, he also said something vital to understanding the men's selection process. I have said it. Before me, Jerry Palm has said it. Joe Lunardi says it. Nearly every bracketologist has probably said it only to see folks roll their eyes in disbelief. There is no "conference quota" or favoritism when selecting the last few teams in the bracket. Bozich was in the room with about twenty other sportswriters in a mock selection process last Spring. Of course, playing in a power conference gives a certain team some inherent scheduling and SOS advantages, but if the Big East has seven teams in and the Big Ten only has four, that in NO WAY gives a Big Ten bubble team an advantage over that eighth team in the Big East if their profiles are similar.

Bozich said it as plain as day: conference does not matter, at least in that way. He's right--and it is good to see mainstream media types understand this and communicate this message.

Last Night's GOI
--at Bahston U 79, Hahvahd 72. Crimson tumble back to earth after beating Michigan.
--Michigan State 66, at Bradley 61. Braves led most of the way only to see Sparty scratch it out in the final few minutes. Attendance: 11,597.
--Tennessee 76, at Chattanooga 70. The Mocs had 33 turnovers and shot a paltry 26% from downtown. Slight improvement in either area might have been enough to pull this one out. Attendance: 11,221.
--New Mexico at New Mexico State. In-state rivalry alert! Lobos are off to a much better start (7-1 vs 2-6)
--Holy Cross 71, at Saint Joseph's 66. Good win for the Cross, which has certainly solidified their place as the Patriot League fave.
--Notre Dame 68, Kansas State 59. Big win for ND in the Jimmy V Classic.
--North Carolina 106, at Penn 71. The Heels are pretty good at basketball.
--at Rhode Island 77, Providence 60. The Rams appear to be legit and this is looking like a big year for the A-14.
--Memphis 62, Southern Cal 58 (OT). Memphis made this one very close by shooting 7-18 from the FT line. And, despite what Dickie V says, this had NOTHING to do with USC controlling the pace or slowing down the game. This game was played at a breakneck clip of 81. Great defense? YES. "Controlled pace?" No way.
--at Winthrop 68, Akron 58. Eagles have taken their lumps in tough contests early, but this is a nice win.

Tonight's GOI
--West Virginia at Auburn. 'Eers have real potential to be bubblicious, so a win here means something even at this early stage.
--Davidson at Charlotte. If the Cats have hopes of securing At-Large insurance, they have to win games like this.
--Iowa State at Drake. In-state rivalry alert and attendance watch.
--Pittsburgh at Duquesne. Biggest game of the night.
--Clemson at East Carolina. AW, and ECU is coming off a big win at George Mason. That was a puzzler.
--Georgia Tech at Georgia State. In-state game and AW.
--Washington State at Gonzaga. Two powers at a combined 14-1.
--Iowa at Northern Iowa. In-state rivalry alert and AW.
--Syracuse at Virginia. GASP! The Orange leave the state before January! Surely, there has been an error!
--Nebraska at Western Kentucky. Huskers need to prove themselves on the road and WKU needs to right the wrongs suffered in a tough road loss at Northern Arizona. Also, AW.
--Creighton at Xavier. Tremendous matchup of non-power powers.

End of Semester Vortex

I have been absolutely swamped the past few days with:

1. my band's (Redfoot) CD release show
2. my church's Christmas program
3. class presentations from my students at work
4. our departmental appreciation banquet

More meaty posts are on the way in the near future. I am almost into Winter Break time, which means LOTS of hoops watching and hoops blogging.

Tonight's GOI

--Hahvahd at Bahston U. In-city rivalry alert!
--Michigan State at Bradley. Attendance watch and a HUGE opportunity for the oft-bubblefied Braves.
--Tennessee at Chattanooga. Attendance watch. Come out and support your Mocs!
--New Mexico at New Mexico State. In-state rivalry alert! Lobos are off to a much better start (7-1 vs 2-6)
--Holy Cross at Saint Joseph's. Nice non-conference matchup. HC is coming off its first loss (Dayton).
--Kansas State vs Notre Dame. Two teams with real Bubble Boy potential. Winner will savor this one.
--North Carolina at Penn. Attendance watch. Support the Quakers!
--Providence at Rhode Island. This in-state rivalry alert has not meant this much in a LONG, LONG while.
--Memphis vs Southern Cal. Do you like athletic players of the game of basketball? You do? Hmmm. Might want to give this one a watch.
--Akron at Winthrop. Two of best non-$$$ teams in all the land last season and both figure to be pretty good again.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend Forecast

Last Night's GOI
--at George Mason 85, Drexel 38. I trust Jerry Palm at as much as anyone when it comes to accurate data, but I must admit that I verified this score from a second source. Whoooooooooo doggies. A double up +9 more score in a college hoops game between two teams that expect to be pretty darned good? It was 40-15 at half.
--Gonzaga 70, at Saint Joseph's 65 (OT). Hawks let a big fish get away. There will be many NCAA teams without a road win like this one come March 16. Zags are once again piling up a nice non-conference profile with plenty of meat left.
--at Southern Cal 66, Oklahoma 55. Trojans have been strong since their opening loss to Mercer.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Oregon 80, at Kansas State 77 (OT). Beasley got his, but K-State fell short...a scenario that could be frequent against quality competition this season.

Weekend Forecast
--Washington State at Baylor. Bears (5-0) can burst onto the national scene with a big home win here.
--Providence at Boston College. Old Big East buddies hook up for a meaningful non-conf game.
--Texas Tech at Centenary. Raiders have already lost at Sam Houston. The Gents are probably not as good as the Bearkats, though.
--South Carolina at Clemson. In-state rivalry alert!
--Duke vs Davidson. Tall order for the Wildcats, but a gigantic opportunity.
--Creighton at Drexel. This would have been a lot more interesting if the Dragons had not been chopped into kindling by Mason.
--UConn vs Gonzaga. The Zags look to collect another valuable road (techinically, neutral) pelt on their East Coast trip.
--Michigan at Harvard. Crimson coach Tommy Amaker hosts his old team.
--Dayton at Holy Cross. Crusaders get a decent team on their home court.
--North Carolina at Kentucky. It would appear that this is a total mismatch, but there will be a throng in Rupp to try to help this flailing Kentucky team right the ship.
--New Mexico at Mississippi. These two are a combined 12-0.
--Indiana at SIU. Salukis have been licking their wounds for a few days after USC crushed them into a fine powder. They have been nearly unbeatable in Carbondale for several seasons now.
--Seton Hall at St. Mary's. Two of the seasons nicest early surprises (10-0 combined).
--Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt. Vandy is unblemished and GT is need of a big win.
--Winthrop at West Virginia. Winthrop continues to battle BCS teams in the non-conf.
--Belmont at Xavier. Beware of the ursine ones, XU!
--St. John's at Miami-FL. Both are unblemished and the Canes have already handed Providence their only loss.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Arizona State at Nebraska. Both are 4-1.
--Kansas at Southern Cal. Pretty fat game for Dec 2.
--Texas at UCLA. Ditto.
--Texas A&M at Arizona. Aggies have looked strong...Zona? Not so much.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A real, live Lockbox will not be born until about a month from now, but there are a few teams that most folks agree are going to be in the NCAA Tourney this season. If any of these teams miss, pretty much everyone is wrong about them.

ACC: North Carolina, Duke
Big East: Georgetown, Louisville
Big Ten: Michigan State, Indiana
Big 12: Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas
Pac-10: UCLA, Oregon, Washington State
SEC: None
CUSA: Memphis

There are lots of other teams that are probably confident in their position, but we judge teams based on performance here at TBB. The above teams had the weight of preseason expectations and have validated those lofty expectations to some extent on the court. We do not do polls here, but rather judge teams based on their NCAA resume. No team will have a truly meaningful one until about New Year's Day, but the above teams certainly look to be on the right track. Obvious? Yes. But, this illustrates how few teams can feel comfortable at this early stage.

Does everyone expect USC to be in the Dance? Sure. But, with a blowout loss to a bad Mercer team, some rugged sledding in the Pac-10 ahead, and tremendous reliance on a freshman superstar, there is reason to take a wait-and-see approach with the Trojans. Surely Tennessee is comfy? Well, they have a not-that-impressive 2-point win over West Virginia and were ravaged by Texas on a neutral court. I fully expect both of these teams to be there...but I would have said the same thing about Syracuse last year and Louisville the year before that.

Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 94, Missouri 91. These two runnin' teams did not disappoint. The pace of this game was a brisk 84.
--UMass 107, at Syracuse 100. Good win for the Minutemen, but realize that the 'Cuse had a Def Eff of 132.4 in this game on their home court! UMass might be pretty good, but a lot of that has to be on the Orange defense.
--at Texas A&M 76, Alabama 63. Bama (along with Syracuse) is on my "no confidence" list.
--Georgetown 66, at Old Dominion 48. This may not be ODU's 2007 NCAA team, but this is still a fairly impressive win by G'town.
Big 10/ACC Challenge
--at Maryland 69, Illinois 61. Illini are going to need more from Brian Randle to be a tourney team.
--Boston College 77, at Michigan 64. BC is turning into one of the more consistent programs in the country.
--at Michigan State 81, NC State 58. Sparty looked more like the Big Televen fave in this one than they have in a few other early games.
--North Carolina 66, at Ohio State 55. Buckeyes were game, but UNC will be ever scarier when Lawson returns.
--at Penn State 66, VA Tech 55. Not a terribly promising start to the season for the Hokies (2-3).

Tonight's GOI
--Drexel at George Mason. The CAA kicks it off right with this tasty match up (both are 5-1).
--Gonzaga at Saint Joseph's. The Hawks' biggest home game of the year. Golden opportunity for a quality non-conference win.
--Oklahoma at Southern Cal. One of those early season games that will make one of these teams much more optimistic about their tourney hopes.
Big 12/Pac 10 Challenge
--Oregon at Kansas State. The Ducks invade Michael Beasley U.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Daily Grind

Last Night's GOI
--Northern Iowa 61, at Iowa State 48. Panthers win this in-state tilt.
--Sam Houston 81, at UW-Milwaukee 77. We will be keeping a close eye on the Bearkats (3-0, with wins over Texas Tech, Fresno State, and now UWM on the road).
Big Ten/ACC Challenge
--at Clemson 61, Purdue 58. Tight game pulled out by K.C. Rivers and the Sunshine Band.
--at Duke 82, Wisconsin 58. Duke is often overhyped, but they looked awfully good last night. Wisconsin? Not so much. The Badgers looked tentative and less physical than usual.
--at Florida State 75, Minnesota 61. Oh, FSU. How you tease every season. The 'Noles are perpetually on the Bubble it seems. Also, Tubby Smith has tasted defeat for the first time as Gopher coach.
--at Indiana 83, Georgia Tech 79. Another tight one goes to the home team (they all did last night).
--at Virginia 94, Northwestern 52. I knew it would be bad,

Tonight's GOI
--Missouri at Arkansas. Should be fun time of rip and run hoops.
--UMass at Syracuse. Both were at-large hopefuls that missed last season.
--Alabama at Texas A&M. Bama needs to make a statement other than, "Yes, we are overrated...again."
--Georgetown at Old Dominion. Georgetown won at Ball State and now faces a better non-power conference for on their home court. Kudos to the Hoyas for going into "smaller" teams' gym.
Big 10/ACC Challenge
--Illinois at Maryland.
--Boston College at Michigan.
--NC State at Michigan State
--North Carolina at Ohio State.
--VA Tech at Penn State.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

State of the Sun Belt: Early Edition

We will look at the state of Sun Belt about once per month during the season. This seems like a good time given the Belt's 0-4 performance last night. In the preseason, I took an optimists' view of the league: the Belt returned 11/15 of the all-conference team and the bad teams looked to be improved. I should have known that it is always a bad idea to be optimistic about the Belt.

First, the good news: league favorite WKU has lived up to the hype so far. The Toppers are 5-1, losing to Gonzaga on a neutral court, but beating Michigan on an NC. They also pasted perennial OVC power and local rival Murray State by 24. UNO has actually been better than advertised with big road wins at NC State and Tulane. The Privateers have yet to lose. North Texas, last year's NCAA rep, has continued their solid play. South Alabama and UALR have been solid, too. The jury is still out on FIU (1-1) and UL-Lafayette as they have only played two games, but neither has been impressive.

The problem is that the other six teams have not just been bad, they have been horrendous. Most puzzling in UL-Monroe. The Warhawks won the West last year and returned five starters, yet have gone 0-4 to start the season. Granted, those losses are to teams that are a combined 14-2 and all have been on the road, but ULM has not even been close in these games. They play just ONE non-conference home game against a D-I school. That is recipe for failure in a big way and most of these games are money games. FAU (1-5) was a bit of a dark horse pick in the East, but they have yet to play a home game. They lost to Cleveland State on a neutral court and at UMKC last night. Troy is winless vs DI teams and needed OT to beat Paul Quinn. Denver has actually been a little better than expected.

Most disappointing are Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State. These teams were expected to challenge in their divisions and have simply been terrible. A-State has lost at home to Utah Valley State and have not been competitive in any of their road games. MT has lost home games to San Jose State and Appalachian State, and were absolutely dismantled by Tennessee (109-40!!!) and Belmont (by 23 last night). There is simply too much talent on the Blue Raiders' roster for these ridiculous results.

Granted, many of the struggling teams are playing a lot of road games, but that is part of the problem. Scheduling is tough as a Sun Belt team, but we have to do better than this.

The early read is that WKU, UNO, North Texas, South Alabama, and UALR need to keep it up. The rest need to step it up.

Last Night's GOI

--Davidson 71, at Appalachian State 60. Yeah, they have lost two games early, but make no mistake about who is the heavy favorite in the SoCon. It's the Wildcats.
--Wake Forest 56, at Iowa 47. Some nice reflection on Skip Prosser (RIP) during this broadcast.
--at Holy Cross 62, Ohio 60. Ralph Willard has yet another fine club this year. They have home games against Yale and Dayton this week, then go on the road for five of six games including tests at Saint Joseph's, Siena, and Maryland.

Tonight's GOI
--Northern Iowa at Iowa State. In-state rivalry alert!
--Sam Houston at UW-Milwaukee. The BearKats have beaten Texas Tech and Fresno State at home. Let's see how Sam plays on the road.
Big Ten/ACC Challenge
--Purdue at Clemson. We've seen this fiery start from Clemson before only to see them collapse in a heap, but the Tigers have already possess a road win at Miss State. This is the Boilers' first road game and first real test.
--Wisconsin at Duke. Both unblemished and both have looked strong.
--Minnesota at Florida State. Tubby Smith's first test as Gopher coach.
--Georgia Tech at Indiana. Did you know that 7 of GT's first 8 eight games are away from home?
--Northwestern at Virginia. Cavs are smarting from a recent loss to Seton Hall. This does not look good for the Wildcats.
Sun Belt Slate
--Colorado at Denver. State vs City.
--Troy at Mississippi. Troy: 0-3. Ole Miss: 4-0.
--UALR at Rice. Rice is winless.
--UAB at UL-Lafayette. ULL is winless.
--Alcorn State at UL-Monroe. Both winless.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On the Radar

Even at this early date, there are a few teams that most folks agree are going to the NCAA Tournament: North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, Georgetown, Duke. They consumed their Thanksgiving vittles with little worry about their status on Selection Sunday.

So, what TBB looks for at this early stage are some teams flying a bit under the radar that have reason to hope this season. These are just the teams I find intriguing. Have a suggestion? Send it may way.

--Miami-FL (5-0). Canes have neutral court wins over VCU and Providence, and no losses to date.
--Rhode Island (6-1). Only loss is at BC by 4. No signature wins yet, but URI is likely going to factor into the A-14 race.
--Baylor (5-0). Bears have neutral wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop.
--Seton Hall (5-0). Yes, the SHU needed OT in home games to beat Monmouth and Robert Morris, but they just waxed Virginia on a neutral court and have yet to lose.
--George Mason (5-1). Wins over Dayton, Kansas State, and South Carolina will likely help the old resume.
--Miami-OH (3-1). Defeated Xavier, South Alabama, and Mississippi State. All three of those teams will win their fair share of games this season.
--New Orleans (3-0). Defeated Northwestern State, NC State, and Tulane...ALL on the road. And, not in some faraway tourney, either. The Privateers have won in opponents' gyms.
--St. Mary's-CA (5-0). The Gaels have yet to leave the friendly confines, but they whacked Oregon by double digits at home. They have Seton Hall coming in next weekend, then they will have 7 of 9 away from home.
--New Mexico (6-0). I have no idea how good the Lobos are, but they are absolutely annihilating inferior teams with staggering consistency. Granted, all have been at home save one (at Colorado), but they do deserve watching...for now.
--Texas-Arlington (4-0). Wins over two decent Belt teams, including one at UALR that is currently the Trojans only loss. They also took out North Texas, who figures to be a pretty good club. Let's keep an eye on the other Mavericks from the Dallas area.
--Duquesne (5-0). No huge wins, but some GAUDY Efficiency ratings. We will know more after they play Pitt and West Virginia the first week of December.

Tonight's GOI

--Davidson at Appalachian State. The biggest conference game of the year to date...and a MAJOR game in the SoCon.
--Wake Forest at Iowa. Big Televen/ACC Challenge gets underway.
--Ohio at Holy Cross. Neither team has a mark in the loss column.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hoopy Thanksgiving

Sorry for the terribly corny title.

I will be in full Thanksgiving travel mode starting today, so this could be it until Sunday or Monday. At that point, we can probably put together an "at-large watch" board comprised of some teams who have done some early season resume building.

Last Night's GOI
--at St. Mary's 99, Oregon 87. The Gaels led throughout and put up a staggering 61 points in the second half. Attendance: 3,500. Last year's avg: 2,474.
--Missouri 84, Maryland 70. Tigers have made folks take notice in KC...and there is reason to be concerned about the Terps.
--UCLA 68, Michigan State 63. This one will sting Sparty for awhile. They led nearly the entire game before the Bruins dug it out in the waning minutes. A neutral court win over UCLA is the kind of win that makes hay on Selection Sunday.
--Duke 79, Illinois 66. Illini had a good start, but it was all Duke for the last 3/4 of the contest.
--Marquette 91, Oklahoma State 61. Marquette played a stellar game, but it's time for honesty: the Cowboys are not good right now.

Turkey GOI
--Georgetown at Ball State. No one expects the Fighting Lettermans to win, but we will check attendance here.
--Rhode Island at Boston College. URI is good (5-0). They can show the nation with a win here.
--Louisville at UNLV. Huge home game for the Rebels.
--Michigan vs Butler. The Great Alaska Shootout tips off tonight.
--Duke vs Marquette. For all the Maui marbles.
--Syracuse vs Ohio State. Both have a lot to prove, and can do so in the PNIT.
--Texas A&M vs Washington. Ditto for these two.
--Western Kentucky vs Gonzaga. Both have dominated early competition. Zags are a pretty heavy favorite going into this one.
--George Mason vs Kansas State. Both have high hopes and both need to win these kind of games if they have at-large hopes.
--Villanova at UCF. Attendance watch.
--Florida State at Florida. In-state rivarly alert! Tebow will prove to be too much.
--MASSIVE Early Season Tourney action!
--Nebraska at Creighton. In-state rivalry alert!
--New Orleans at Tulane. In-city rivalry alert!
--Nevada at UNLV. In-state rivalry alert!
--More massive tourney action!
--Air Force at Washington State. Sludgy pace, beautiful offense.
--Final games of the T-giving tourneys.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ursine Upwardness

Bears. Or, as Stephen Colbert refers to them: godless, marauding, machines of death. They are large, strong, and fast. The fastest humans cannot outrun them and the strongest of our kind cannot overpower them. One species (Chicago) assembled one of the greatest footballs teams of all-time. They ran. They passed. They shuffled. One bruin species (UCLA) ripped off the most dominant run in NCAA hoops history a few decades back.

Two friends of Katow-Jo are off to encouraging starts this season. The mid-southern variety of bruins, called Belmont, have taken quite well to migration around the region in November. Belmont is 4-2 and has yet to play a home game. These Bruins have clawed out wins at Cincinnati (BearCATS? Pfffft. That's an insult to real bears), Samford, and last night at Alabama. They still have a game at Xavier on the docket. Belmont only has three non-conference home games, but if they keep up the road wins, they can build a nice profile. Also, the media is gaga over the A-Sun, but there is some serious dead weight at the bottom that will hurt the league's overall strength: Campbell, North Florida, Stetson and Kennesaw State do not figure to be very good, and newcomer Upstate South Carolina is 0-4 so far in their first go-around. Mercer got a lot of pub for that big win over USC, but they have lost three straight since, including a pasting at the hands of Harvard.

The other Bear club is of the Waco, Texas variety, the Baylor Bears. The ugly days of the Dave Bliss era in some ways seem long ago, but the ramifications reverberated through the last few seasons. However, at this writing, Baylor is 4-0 with neutral court wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop. Both ND and Winthrop expect to Dance this year, and there is room in the Big 12 for Baylor to make a huge jump. Baylor now has six of their next nine at home, including a home date against Washington State. They also have a neutral game vs Arkansas, and road games at South Carolina and Southern U.

Last Night's GOI
--Belmont 85, at Alabama 83. See above.
--Auburn 89, at Charleston Southern 59. Even 3,817 in the house could not help the Bucs in this one. They averaged 1,187 last season. But, this game was not the the CSU Fieldhouse. It was crosstown at the North Charleston Coliseum.
--Michigan State 86, Missouri 83. Sparty holds on, but Missouri looks to be going in the right direction under Mike Anderson.
--UCLA 71, Maryland 59. These other Bruins were impressive...without Darren Collison.
--Oklahoma State 83, LSU 77. LSU has been in freefall since their F4 appearance in 2006.
--Baylor 62, Winthrop 54. Good win for Baylor, and I doubt we have heard the last from the Eagles this year.
--Georgia Tech 70, Notre Dame 69. Important win for Jacket morale.

Tonight's GOI
--Oregon at St. Mary's. Attendance watch.
--Maryland vs Missouri. Should be a rip and run affair.
--Michigan State vs UCLA. Should be a smashmouth affair.
--Duke vs Illinois. Illinois beat Hawai'i on their home court, so this should be an interesting one.
--Oklahoma State vs Marquette. Cowboys could use a confidence win and Marquette is prone to some early season puzzlers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


From the Weekend Attendance Files
--Auburn 63, Alabama State 60. The Tigers slipped past the Hornets after A-State shot a pitiful 28% in the second half. A full 4,663 were on hand to witness the brickfest and near upset. The Hornets averaged 2,599 last season.
--at Siena 79, Stanford 67. Attendance: 6,274. Siena saveraged 5,834 last season, and did not quite sell out Pespsi Arena (8,000+). The telling stat: the Saints shot 32 free throws to Stanford's three. Now THAT is what I call home court advantage!
--Oregon 85, at Portland 61. The Pilots clicked 4,881 through the turnstiles, and they only avergaed 1,941 last season. That was not enough to stop the Quack Attack. I wonder how many of the nearly 5k were wearing Duck yellow and green?

Tonight's GOI
--Belmont at Alabama. Bruins already have road wins over Cincinnati and Samford.
--Auburn at Charleston Southern. The Tigers barely escaped Alabama State with a win. Watching attendance here.
--Missouri vs Michigan State. Resurgent Tigers looking to make national noise with a win here.
--Maryland vs UCLA. Both of these teams figure heavily into America's March travel plans.
--LSU vs Oklahoma State. Both of these programs have been high recently, but suffered trying time last season...and OK State's continued at North Texas in their last outing.
--Winthrop vs Baylor. The Eagles have proved their mettle. Is this the year Scott Drew and Baylor break through? Notre Dame is convinced.
--Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame. No one likes losing two in a row in these faraway tourneys, but one of these teams is going to do just that.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekend Forecast

Last Night's GOI
Attendance Watch
--Southern Cal 74, at The Citadel 47. I guess USC got the message after their loss to Mercer. The C averaged 1,688 attendance last season. Last night: 4,023. The fans did show, but the team was severely overmatched.

2k Sports Classic

--UConn 78, Gardner-Webb 66. Too many long, lively bodies for G-W to handle.
--Memphis 63, Oklahoma 53. AASAA rolls on.
--at Georgetown 74, Michigan 52. Never a contest.
--Clemson 84, at Mississippi State 82. Tigers get a precious early season road pelt.

Weekend GOI
--Memphis vs UConn. For all the 2k marbles.
--Illinois at Hawai'i. Things are usually tough for visitors on the island.
--A gaggle of early season tourney games are in action, too.
--Virginia at Arizona. Cats looking for payback after last year's loss at UVA.
--Oregon at Portland. Checking attendance here.
--Stanford at Siena. Ditto.
--USC at USC. Heehee. It's at South Carolina.
--Murray State at WKU. Great rivalry renewed after a two-year hiatus.
--More tourney games.
--Mucho tourney action.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mean Green Come Through

Last Night's GOI
--at North Texas 82, Oklahoma State 73. The Mean Green come through! More evidence that these are sunnier days in the Sun Belt. Oh yeah, the attendance was 6,793. NT averaged 2,063 last year, so this more than tripled that average.
--North Carolina 72, Davidson 68. The Wildcats were in position to take down UNC, but it slipped away. Rest assured, this is not the last we will hear from Stephen Curry and the Cats.
--at Sam Houston 56, Texas Tech 54. The BearKats nipped Bob Knight's boys in another non-power win over a Big 12 team. Lo, and behold, another attendance anomaly: 4,842. This was the third largest crown in Johnson Coliseum history. SHSU averaged 1,967 last year, so this was more than double that average.

Tonight's GOI
Attendance Watch
--Southern Cal at The Citadel. No one really expects The Citadel to pull this off, but fans should show up in droves nonetheless and give them every chance to do so.

2k Sports Classic

--Gardner-Webb vs UConn. Some folks in Kentucky are going to watch this one with great longing for the Big Apple.
--Oklahoma vs Memphis. The Tigers are a heavy favorite to win this tourney.
--Michigan at Georgetown. Big early test for new-look Wolverines. G'town is primed for another monster year.
--Clemson at Mississippi State. Two teams that could easily be Bubble Boys come March. Both need games this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Strike Four

Well, not one of our "upset" alerts were able to pull it off last night.

--Alabama 90, at Mercer 83. The Bear's University Center had 3,280 packed into its 3,200 seats. A golden opportunity was lost in Bama's Richard Hendrix's 28 and 14 monster night.
--Nevada 77, at UC-Irvine 68. Come on, Anteater fans! Your guys get a team that has been a Top 25 team and a perennial NCAA club for a few seasons, and only 1,007 of you show up! Your gym holds 5,000! Considering UC-I only lost by nine, it makes one wonder what a packed house would have done for them. Guess we'll never know.
--Vanderbilt 77, Toledo 70. Savage Hall holds 9,000, but only 4,061 showed up for this one in Toledo.
--Washington State 86, Boise State 74. Taco Bell Arena holds 12,380, and 6,718 came out for this one. The Broncos led by six at halftime, but WaSU ripped off a 33-12 run from which BSU would not recover.

Also, Xavier lost on the road at Miami-OH last night. Despite the misses by the big underdogs last night, it's still tough on the road.

Tonight's GOI
--Oklahoma State at North Texas. Come on, Mean Green fans. Your team is coming off its first ever NCAA trip and you have a Big State U coming into the Super Pit.
--Davidson at North Carolina. Davidson was good last year. They return all five starters and are should be VERY good this season.
--Texas Tech at Sam Houston. Another chance for a big attendance game for a non-power team. Sam figures to be one of the best teams in the Southland, so Knight's team will have to come to play.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Upset" Alerts

We have a few candidates for our little experiment tracking abnormally large crowds at non-power schools on the slate tonight:

Washington State at Boise State
Alabama at Mercer
Vanderbilt at Toledo
Nevada at UC-Irvine

Of course, it is unknown how the attendance at these games will stack up to the average season attendance until later, but these are good "upset" candidates. Most intriguing is Alabama at Mercer, as the Bears are coming off a HUGE road pasting of Southern Cal. They will be riding high and the buzz surrounding them should help them pack University Center (3,200) tonight.

The "big" schools will be favored in all of these games. But, a win or two (I'm thinking Mercer is most likely) by the underdogs would not surprise TBB one bit.

Tonight's Other GOI
--Xavier at Miami-OH. The X always have NCAA hopes, but games like this one are necessary for the at-large profile.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hawai'i's Lament

There is a triple-header on ESPN2 tonight, so all is right in the world. As football fans try to sort out the haystack of one-loss teams, we merely watch our much more game-dense, much more democratic season begin to pick up the pace. By the way, Hawai'i, if you go undefeated in hoops, I guarantee that you be the national champion.

Soon, it will be turkey, time off, and the yawning chasm between the end of the football regular season and the BCS title game. Literally hundreds of basketball games will occur between the end of football's regular season and its national championship contest. Whether the reasons are valid or not, this is preposterous.

Thankfully, there is no such great divide in college hoops. In fact, the season consists of four parts:
1. Non-conference. This time is made for Gardner-Webbing and Mercering of much ballyhooed "major" teams with resumes built on nothing more than reputation and anticipation.
2. Conference season. This is where a lot of winnowing occurs. Teams are sifted and the wheat and chaff are separated.
3. Conference tourney. Good teams from power conferences jockey for seeding, good teams from non-power conferences battle for the right to rest easy on Selection Sunday, Bubble Boys look to jump to the good side of the fence, and teams mired in mediocrity or teams that are downright stinkeroos look to make a last-gasp run to an automatic bid.
4. NCAA tourney. 64 games in three weeks and we get one champion decided on the court.

While much energy is focused on #4, let us take time to relish Turkeyball. November has already offered up surprises from various A-Sun teams and the upcoming tourneys have more in store, to be sure. Enjoy phase one to it's fullest this November/December.

And, know that if Hawai'i or anyone else does not lose a game this season, they WILL be crowned the champion.

Tonight's GOI

--New Mexico State at Duke. The Aggies are smarting after opening the season with a loss at Ohio, but the WAC faves have a chance to make amends in a big way tonight.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Full Swing

Games that count come hot and heavy this weekend, and there are a few to keep an eye on. Hence, I give you the season's first GOI (Games of Import).

--Butler at Ball State. What will the Bulldogs do for an encore this year?
--DePaul at Creighton. Big East travels to an MVC power.
--Vermont at George Mason. Two premier non-power schools in recent times.
--Drexel at Penn. See above.
--Albany at Bucknell. Maybe the best game that talking heads will be not talking about this weekend.
--Missouri State at Toledo. Cannot call this a must win this early, but these kinds of games are where At-Large hopes are made and unmade.
--UMass at Northern Iowa. See above.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bluegrass Bombshell

Most know that I am a native Kentuckian. Born and raised here (Hudson, KY), and went to school and now work here (WKU). It's a hoops-mad commonwealth. UK is the big gun in this territory and historically they expect to waltz through their non-conference home slate with little resistance. Not so last night.

Gardner-Webb shellacked Kentucky 84-68 last night on UK's home court. Most of the state is currently suffering an apoplectic meltdown of Biblical proportions. Blame is being launched in every direction with no regard for human life (somehow, this is STILL Tubby Smith's fault in many UK fans' minds).

The nice part for TBB is that we have a heaping pile of evidence that this is November. TBB always takes an opportunity to remind folks of this each season. Things tend to get wild and crazy in November. Santa Clara beats national champion North Carolina teams (2005). Butler rips through the preseason NIT field to take a title (2006). Michigan State and Ohio State lose exhibition games while UK loses by SIXTEEN in Rupp to G-W (2007). Some of these things are early indicators of unexpectedly fantastic teams (Butler) and some are merely lessons learned by future March juggernauts (North Carolina, 2006). Is G-W that good? Is Kentucky that bad?

Hard to tell. It's NOVEMBER, and most wonderfully, games like these remind us that it is basketball season. Soak up this wild mess while it lasts. Games like G-W over UK are exactly why I posted the early season event guide a few posts down. Although the Bulldogs managed to smack UK in Rupp, these early season events often put non-BCS schools against BCS teams in lots of neutral court games. This usually makes for interesting hijinks and so-called "upsets" which are often not upsets at all. Often, they are merely games between fairly even teams on a neutral court.

So, we have a smattering of games tonight that will give way to a tidal wave of contests this weekend. And, rest assured, there will be some wild results ticking across the bottom of the screen. We will take a closer look at the weekend tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No Preseason Bracket

Hmmm. Somehow my post about no preseason bracket disappeared. I will try again.

There are oodles of preseason picks and brackets out there. Some are willy-nilly, flip-a-coin-between-the-historically-best-conference-teams kind of picks, and some are majestic models of completeness (thanks, Blue Ribbon!). But, picking a preseason bracket just does not do it for me anymore. My focus here is on what teams actually do on the court. Then, I evaluate teams based on the selection criteria. I cannot possibly do that until we have a somewhat meaningful RPI and teams have played at least a dozen games. So, I will wait until early January.

That means more time for me to batter you with my often unpopular opinions. Bully for you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Home Court: Part II

Earlier, I posted on the impact of big crowds on game performance and outcomes. I asked these three questions:

1. Does playing on the road on Saturday (presumably facing larger crowds than weeknight games) increase a team's chance of losing a road game?
2. Ken Pomeroy has demonstrated that home court advantage in a broad sense is often overblown. But, I'm not sure his data shows us that spiked attendance at "big games" does not matter. Of course, Duke and Kentucky and several other teams are almost always going to have a big crowd on hand. We already know it's tough to win there on any night. I am more interested in...
3. Do teams perform better statistically when the crowd is bigger? Do they "pull the upset" with a bigger crowd on hand? For example, does San Francisco "overperform" when Gonzaga comes to town and a big crowd is on hand?

I still want to track this, but proving statistical significance is probably beyond my capability. I have posed my question to Ken Pomeroy, and hopefully he will take me up on it and give us some answers.

What I have done is probe my USF vs Gonzaga question a bit. Last year, USF averaged 2104 attendance in their home games (not including GU). When the Zags came to town, 4500 folks ventured into War Memorial Gym. Season numbers:

Gonzaga: 113.9 OffEff, 95.8 DefEff, #55 Pythag Win%
USF: 103.0 OffEff, 102.6 DefEff, #153 Pythag Win%

GU managed to pull it out in OT. This is merely one game and is meaningless in proving anything. My point is that these are the kinds of games that I wonder about. I will try to flag similar type games as the season progresses.

That said, this kind of stuff is not really what I do here, and I do not want to get too far away from my focus here: evaluating teams by the selection criteria regardless of polls, conference, star power, TV contracts, or any other factor outside of the criteria. That is somewhat of a subjective process, but that is the system we have.

Therefore, while I do use efficiency rankings from time to time, I deal mostly with predicting what the committee will do. And, I thrive in the subjective. Hopefully, Mr. Pomeroy can help with the numbers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Early Season Event Guide

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some links to many of the top early season events for 2007. This comes in handy when planning visits to faraway (or close-to-home) Thanksgiving get-togethers. There is nothing quite like watching Butler or WKU or Siena try to take down a BCS team while suffering (reveling in?) the effects of a turkey coma enhanced with an insulin-spiking pumpkin pie overload. That combo makes one's pancreas curse like Bob Knight after a home loss to Baylor, but it is a November hoops rite of passage.

So, here's to profanity-spouting pancreases everywhere! Enjoy!

Nov 8, 9/15,16: 2k Sports Classic

Nov 12-14/21, 23: Preseason NIT.

Nov 12, 13/19, 20: CBE Classic.

Nov 16-19: Paradise Jam

Nov 15-16, 18: Puerto Rico Shootout

Nov 15-18: Top of the World Classic

Nov 19-21: Maui Invitational

Nov 20-24: Great Alaska Shootout

Nov 22, 23, 25: Anaheim Classic

Nov 22, 23, 25: Old Spice Classic

Nov 17, 18/23, 24: Las Vegas Invitational

Nov26-28: Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sun Belt Preview

Things are a bit sunnier in the Sun Belt this season. Eleven of the fifteen members from the 2007 All-Sun Belt team return this season, including the cream of that group: New Orleans PG Bo McCalebb (New Orleans), WKU SF Courtney Lee, Arkansas State G Adrian Banks, and South Alabama G Demetric Bennett. The Belt should, SHOULD, have its strongest season in several years. The conference RPI for the last five years has been #15-17-13-18-20. The league has taken a tumble the last two seasons mainly due to adding a couple of RPI anchors to the league and the utter demise of used-to-be-perennially-powerful UL-Lafayette. The anchors look a little less weighty this year, ULL should be improved, and a couple of teams should be downright good. The Belt might creep into the top 15 again this season.

1. WKU Hilltoppers. Fourth verse, same as the first. The Tops are the favorite just about every year, but they have yet to fully deliver in the Darrin Horn era. There are six seniors on the roster including pre-season All-American Courtney Lee and Horn will can go as deep as he wants with the bench. SO PF Jeremy Evans has huge potential. There is real size and athleticism in the newcomers. Anything less than the NCAA will be a major disappointment this season.
Why they will be better than this: If one or two of the bigs can actually defend and rebound, this will be the best WKU team since the days of Chris Marcus.
Why they will be worse than this: Horn's team have yet to figure it out defensively. This team will fall short unless they shore up the matador defense. Also, one of the big men will have to step up for this team to max out.

2. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. MT has the goods to challenge WKU in the East. They return four starters and coach Kermit Davis inked a top 50 recruiting class including two standout JUCO frontcourt players and 6'5" G Josh Sain, who won Tennessee's state tourney MVP and was a finalist for its Mr. Basketball. PG Kevin Kanaskie is one of the better guards in the league and F Desmond Yates had a great FR season (10.9 pp, 3.4 rpg). Big Theryn Hudson returns up front as well. Calvin O'Neil, Nigel Johnson, and newcomer Demetrius Green will give MT a deep and talented backcourt. This should be Davis' best team since the Tommy Gunn era.
Why they will be better than this: If Green and JUCO C Uriah Hethington are as good as their press clippings.
Why they will be worse than this: If a number of these star recruits do not pan out--as has happened in the past with MT.

3. South Alabama Jaguars. Coach John Pelphrey left for Arkansas, so USA went back to the future in hiring former head coach Ronnie Arrow. Arrow has been busy building TAMU-Corpus Christi into a D-I program, nay, an NCAA Tourney-calibre D-I program, over the last few seasons. Pelphrey did not leave the cupboard bare. USA has a super backcourt tandem in guards Daon Merritt and Demetric Bennett, who combined for 29 ppg last season. Bennett shot 43.5% from downtown last season and Merritt averaged 5.3 assists. They are also high on former Mr. Kentucky Basketball Dominic Tilford who is eligible this season. Like a lot of Belt compadres, the guesswork is up front. The Jags have high hopes for former Cincinnati Bearcat Ronald Douglas in the post, and they do have F Brandon Davis returning.
Why they will be better than this: If Ronald Douglas is for real.
Why they will be worse than this: Several potential pratfalls including a new/old coach and reliance on newcomers.

4. Florida Atlantic Owls. They lost a super guard in DeAndre Rice, but return the Belt's best frontcourt player in Carlos Monroe (18.4 ppp, 9.4 rpg). The Owls have other options on the perimeter, too. They also add transfer Sammy Hernandez, who folks might remember from George Mason's Final Four team in 2006. FAU completed a $10 million renovation of their facilities in the offseason. The Owls made a solid debut in the Belt last season, and they seem to be headed in the right direction. This is my dark horse in the East.
Why they will be better than this: The Owls play ANY defense whatsoever (an abysmal #308 in AdjDefEff last season).
Why they will be worse than this: The loss of Rice hurts more than anticipated.

5. Florida International Panthers. FIU has not been good for awhile (see: Arroyo, Carlos: early career), but here is cause for optimism this year. The Panthers have added some serious size to their roster in the form of 7'0" Pepperdine transfer Russell Hicks and 6'11" JC transfer Badara Ndiaye. Neither put up huge numbers at their former schools, but FIU hopes they do enough to allow Alex Galindo (13.9 ppg) to do his thing more freely on the perimeter. FIU also adds Texas A&M transfer G Kenneth "Red" White who carries the reputation of a big-time scorer. Colorful coach Sergio Rouco is high on this team. FIU hosts Miami-FL, George Mason, and South Florida this year as part of a 17-game home schedule. FIU could make a little noise against those names in the non-conference.
Why they will be better than this: Rouco is right in his assessment of this team's talent.
Why they will be worse than this: If they are typical FIU: all sizzle, no steak.

6. Troy Trojans. The Trojans lost four major players from a 13-17 team, all of them double-digit scorers and the leaugue defensive POY.. In a league full of uncertain frontcourts, Troy has the youngest and least experienced. In standard Troy fashion, they have some gunners on the outside including seniors Odarian Bassett (15.1 ppg) and Justin Jonus (9 ppg). There are a truckload of other seemingly capable young guards and wings. This is coach Don Maestri's 25th year at Troy, and he has not won 424 games without being resourceful. Troy will likely wind up being better than they look on paper and will clip some wings of the league's peacocks when they are on from outside.
Why they will be better than this: The young size can play and some leadership emerges.
Why they will be worse than this: The losses hurt as much as it looks like they will.

1. UL-Monroe. They won the West last season and the 'Hawks return all five starters. ULM was small, but scrappy, and they add two promising newcomers with size this season. Four players that averaged double-figure points and another that chipped in 9.7 ppg return. They are also adding 6'7" F Mitchell Hampton who had offers on the table from Ole Miss and Auburn. WKU may be the overall favorite, but ULM certainly has the NCAA Tourney on its mind this season...and with good reason.
Why they will be better than this: If the perimeter players keep pace with last season and the frontcourt is indeed upgraded.
Why they will be worse than this: Seemed to overachieve last year (read: LUCKY. By Ken Pomeroy's calculations: 10th luckiest in the nation), and karma may come back on them.

2. New Orleans Privateers. One is hard-pressed to find any trio of seniors that have endured what Bo McCalebb, Ben Elias, and James Parlow have endured. McCalebb and Parlow not only went to UNO during Hurricane Katrina, but both are actually from the city of New Orleans. Also, McCalebb tore his ACL two seasons ago just for good measure. It is hard not to root for reigning POY McCalebb. He has been the best penetrator in the league for years, is as tough as nails, and will likely become the Belt's all-time leading scorer if he avoids injury this season. Three other starters return to flank McCalebb, and UNO has hired hometown guy Joe Pasternack as head coach. This should be UNO's best team in awhile.
Why they will be better than this: If some frontcourt scoring emerges.
Why they will be worse than this: If Privateer bad luck continues. Oh, and maybe that pesky issue of no returning big who averaged more than 2.8 ppg.

3. Arkansas State. If Isaac Wells had returned instead of declaring for the NBA draft (he's in Poland now), the Indians would be the pick in the West. They still have a shot as it stands. Adrian Banks is a POY candidate (21.1 ppg) and will be a headache for any team to contain. Combo G Ryan Wedel had a great FR campaign last year and give ASU another solid perimeter player. There are MAJOR questions up front, however. With Wells and starting center Theo Little gone, they will need JC transfer Yima Chia-Kur to live up to his considerable hype (recruited by Colorado, Providence, and Nebraska).
Why they will be better than this: Chia-Kur is for real and frontcourt steps up.
Why they will be worse than this: Frontcourt does not deliver and they are relegated to being a perimeter-only team.

4. North Texas Mean Green. Gone are Greenies Kendrick Davis, Calvin Watson, Rich Young, and Michael Sturns from NT's NCAA Tournament team that gave Memphis a serious run in the NCAA first round. PG Ben Bell does return and the Green adds USF transfer Collin Dennis (a starter for the Bulls), and two guys that filled it up in high school in Tristan Thompson and Josh White. In a rarity for Belt clubs, the strength is up front. Seniors Keith Wooden (9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Quincy Williams (10.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) will anchor what will likely be the best frontcourt in the league.
Why they will be better than this: Young perimeter players can step right in and present a scoring/shooting threat.
Why they will be worse than this: The losses are too great to overcome.

5. UALR Trojans. The Trojans are always physical--on that you can rely. Further, coach Steve Shields is not hiding his optimism. He does not have a lot of size up front, but he has lots of 6'6" and 6'7" guys. UALR welcomes two Ole Miss transfers in Brandon Patterson and big Mike Smith (6'7", 277 lbs). Add these two to the returning firepower of Lekheythan Malone and company, and there is potential for UALR to suprise some folks. This is my dark horse pick in the West.
Why they will be better than this: The infusion of the Ole Miss tandem and JC F Shane Edwards will shore up the frontcourt and open the perimeter up for Malone, et al.
Why they will be worse than this: Frontcourt does not deliver and it's a repeat of last season.

6. UL-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. Like many teams in the Belt, the Cajuns have real reason for optimism this year. They return two excellent players in G David Dees and SF Elijah Millsap (Belt FR of the Year). Incoming 6'6" FR G Chris Gradnigo has Coach Robert Lee going gaga. He made official visits to Arkansas and Notre Dame before committing. They also have something else in common with a lot of Belt teams: lack of a proven inside presence. They have good perimeter talent, but will need one or more of the bigs to step up. No obvious answers are on the roster.
Why they will be better than this: If there is a hidden gem among the bigs.
Why they will be worse than this: If Gradnigo does not deliver and the bigs are as sparse as they seem.

7. Denver Pioneers. They were 4-24 last season and #335 of 336 in the RPI (thank you, Northern Colorado!). They lost three starters and will be in their first year implementing new head coach Joe Scott's Princeton-style offense. Expectations are, uh, low.
Why they will be better than this: The Princeton offense clicks right away.
Why they will be worse than this: If God is unmerciful.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Season-Long Experiment

My rooting interest lies with the WKU Hilltoppers. I have spent the last two months lamenting the schedule. It is not a terrible schedule in terms of quality, mind you, it's the timing of the games that has me worried. See, much of the Sun Belt is also in the Bible Belt, and that means that Wednesday night games conflict with church for a healthy portion of our community (we have four Wednesday night tips this season). That means fewer big home crowds for the Tops. Further, the Toppers play a whopping nine games away from home on Saturday nights. My question is, do these things matter?

I am not a mathematician or a statistician, so I may not be able to prove causation, but we can certainly see if there is a correlation between crowd attendance and losing on the road. I am interested to examine several things:

1. Does playing on the road on Saturday (presumably facing larger crowds than weeknight games) increase a team's chance of losing a road game?
2. Ken Pomeroy has demonstrated that home court advantage in a broad sense is often overblown. But, I'm not sure his data shows us that spiked attendance at "big games" does not matter. Of course, Duke and Kentucky and several other teams are almost always going to have a big crowd on hand. We already know it's tough to win there on any night. I am more interested in...
3. Do teams perform better statistically when the crowd is bigger? Do they "pull the upset" with a bigger crowd on hand? For example, does San Francisco "overperform" when Gonzaga comes to town and a big crowd is on hand?

It should be interesting to track this over the course of the season. Of course, the numbers will not mean much, statistically speaking, until late in the season when the RPI and Sagarin can help provide some baselines.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Familiar Hum

An elderly man shuffles to the far wall in an dark, old, musty gymnasium. His left leg drags a bit as he walks. He clears his throat, and it echoes off the concrete walls. The air smells of damp leather and hardwood with a tinge of salt and mineral spirits. He raises a crackled, brown hand to the light switch panel. He flips the first switch. High-above bulbs flicker, and a low hum commences. The purplish twilight of the bulbs casts a pale, lavender, dim moonglow on the empty hardwood hall. The elderly man licks his lips, while he slowly and deliberately flips the second, third, and fourth switches, each one awakening a sound akin to a small hive of bees.

Over the next five minutes, the gymnasium lights gradually brighten like a glorious sunrise, eventually making the gym an empty, radiant sanctuary awaiting its priests, prophets, and congregants. The old man smiles a Chesire-cat smile in the warmth of the new luminosity. Soon, the first leather sphere will be cradled in knowing hands like a newborn babe. It will bounce on the waxy floor and shatter the vacuous silence, and then be launched toward a hoop that has held its waiting mouth open for a seemingly everlasting off-season.

The silence has been broken. It is time for basketball.

Coming soon (before November 3):
Early season event roundup
Sun Belt Preview
Preseason Bracket

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lights Out

Congratulations to the Florida Gators (again). They were the best team (again), with the best players (again), and they retained their coach (again).

The buzzing glow of the gym lights have dimmed and hang silently yet again until mid-October. A post-NBA draft bracket will appear sometime this summer, and other updates will occur as needed. But, for the most part, my work here is done for the 2006-07 season.

Read more of my stuff on my personal blog that focuses mostly on running.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Three Games to Go

At this point, it is time to enjoy our dessert. We have made it through another wonderful season of hoops, and while I probably care less about this weekend than most of my readers, it is still the culmination of another enjoyable season.

Enjoy the games. A tearful farewell to the season is on tap for next week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NCAA Pace: Part II

OK, I made a slight miscue yesterday. The pace numbers were for the first round only.

What I have done today is averaged the pace for all NCAA tourney teams during their regular season games. That number is 66.6 (Mark of the Beast!!! Watch out, Ken Pomeroy!), which is just a smidgen under the 66.7 average for all teams in the regular season. So, in FIRST ROUND games, teams slowed down to average pace of 66.3, which is 0.3 possessions slower than this group of NCAA tourney teams averaged during the season. The games did slow down a bit.

In Round Two, the surviving 32 teams had a average pace of 66.0 in their games this season. So, more slower paced teams survived Round One. In Round Two games, the average pace was 63.0--a full three possessions slower than what these teams averaged in the regular season. Of course, with more "slow-minded" teams playing games against one another, this is not terribly surprising.

So, who is left? Sixteen teams that averaged 66.1 possessions this season, that's who. So, if the trend from Round Two holds up, games will be played at a pace of about 63.

Of course, these numbers are not perfect, but they do show that more teams surviving to this point play a slower brand of basketball. They also show that there is some truth to the "games slow down in the tournament" mantra. North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas, and Tennessee are in the minority in this group. They are the only four teams left that are even in the Top 100 in quickest pace of play.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pace of Play: First Two Rounds

Time to put the old cliche that "games slow down in the NCAA tournament" to the test.

Regular season avg pace of play for all NCAA teams: 66.7
Avg pace of play through NCAA tourney first round: 66.3

So, the games actually slowed down a hair in the first round. HOWEVER...

1. Only five of the Sweet 16 played a pace faster than 66.7 during the season.
2. Not only were 11 of the remaining 16 teams slower than average, but 5 of the 16 were in the slowest 20% of all teams (UCLA, Pitt, SIU, Georgetown, Butler).

Is this small slowdown a result of the tourney setup or merely a result of the types of teams that are in the tourney? Do teams that play slow tend to be better teams or at least advance farther in the NCAA tournament? If we averaged the pace of play of tourney teams, would 66.3 actually be an INCREASE in pace of play for this cohort?

I am sure there are answers out there. Please share. Or maybe I'll find time to run some numbers tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2007


There are so many stories about VCU's win over Duke that I will not insult you with links. Otherwise, the bracket was pretty chalky yesterday.

Today's schedule might offer more drama. I am traveling today, so this may be it until late tonight or tomorrow morning.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

So It Begins...

My bracket picks are ready to go. First round "upset" winners include Davidson, Winthrop, VCU, Arkansas, and Creighton. Final Four: Florida, Ohio State, Georgetown, and Kansas. Florida over Georgetown to win it. I know...pretty boring.

Here is a schedule of today's games. Soak in the wholesome goodness. Sadly, it will prevent you from enjoying the NBA anymore, but it will be good while it lasts. I am only half-kidding.

More later, time permitting.
1.50 pm: Teams cannot be judged solely on first round performance, but did Stanford look like a tournament team? Louisville simply demolished the Tree. In fact, Stanford moved liked trees...with DEEP roots.

Maryland spoiled by biggest lower seed pick by holding off Davidson who simply ran out of gas late in the game.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Adventures in Mis-Seeding

To start, let me say that I can certainly be wrong about any given team's seeding. So can any bracketologist. That said, the lists below show the differences in seeding for the 18 teams that the committee placed more than two seed lines away from what I had projected. Also included are the two teams that the committee put IN that I left out. What I am looking for here are patterns:

Vanderbilt +2. SEC commish on the committee.
Virginia +2. Virginia AD on the committee.
Purdue +2. Ohio State AD on the committee.
Indiana +3. Ohio State AD on the committee.
Gonzaga +3. No rep on the committee.
Long Beach +2. UC-Riverside AD on the committee.
Nevada +2. No rep on the committee.
Albany +2. No rep on the committee.
Butler +3. Horizon AD on the committee.
Arkansas (got IN). SEC commish on the committee.
Stanford (got IN). UCLA AD on the committee.

UNLV -2. Utah AD was on the committee (Mountain West).
BYU -2. See above.
Creighton -3. No Valley rep.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi -2. No Southland rep.
Louisville -2. No Big East rep.
Marquette -2. No Big East rep.
Villanova -2. No Big East rep.
Syracuse (left OUT). No Big East rep.
Drexel (Left OUT). George Mason AD on the committee.

Only two of the Big Six conferences did not have representation: the Big XII and the Big East. The Big XII seemed pretty cut and dried: Kansas 1/2 seed, Texas A&M 2/3, Texas 3/4, Texas Tech as a bubble team that expected to be IN, and Kansas State and maybe Oklahoma State as Bubbly Boys that expected to be OUT. The Big East was trickier and, in my opinion, all of the teams above were underseeded or left out. Both Indiana and Purdue seem overseeded to me.

In fact, of the teams seeded lower by the committee than projected, only 3/9 had committee representation. Of the teams seeded higher by the committee than projected, 8/11 did have committee representation. As I said yesterday, this is not to say that the committee is "dirty." But, I do think it is inaccurate to say that "friends on the committee" does not matter. It only makes sense that if Syracuse and Arkansas are vying for one of the final slots, it is going to help to have the SEC commish on the committee. He or she will have special knowledge about the Hogs that no one in the room can provide regarding the Orange. There is no need for drastic change or alarm, but having representation on the committee DOES matter.

Tomorrow morning, I will post my bracket picks which are probably the least helpful or meaningful part of what I try to do here. But, it is part of the fun, is it not? And, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is the best weekend in sports in this writer's humble opinion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

SCKySSiP, Lockbox, and Lousville

There are several items for discussion today.

Our third edition of a mock selection selection once again matched most bracketologists projections. This shows that most bracket heads out there have a pretty good grasp on what the committee is trying to do. The actual 10-member committee does NOT sit in a room debating teams over brandy and cigars and handing out seeds as a result of their conversation. Far from it. The process begins with each member submitting two lists: 1) a list of all teams that should be IN, and 2) a list of all other teams for consideration. Teams appearing on at least 8/10 committee members' List #1 goes into the tournament. All other teams, along with all teams on List 2, go onto an At-Large Nomination board.

From this point, members nominate 8 teams on the ALN board. The top 4 vote-getters are held over for a future vote. Then, 8 more teams are nominated and those top 4 join the four that were held over. This 8-team list is then ranked 1-8 by all members. The top four vote-getters go into the tournament. The four teams that did not get in are held over for the next vote. Then, eight more teams are nominated. This process is repeated until all 34 at-large spots are filled. When that occurs, teams are seeded using the same process. Of course debate about X team does occur, but any given team's fate is decided by a 10-member vote.

And this is exactly what the SCKySSiP did. We replicated the selection process. Have another look at our results, only we had to rely much more on paper copies, a kitchen table, and Papa John's pizza in place of a fancy hotel, PC's for everyone, and whatever the real committee ate (some of Josh Heytvelt's mushrooms, I'd guess, based on some of the seeds).

Lockbox Accuracy
Can readers count on the TBB's Lockbox? The Lockbox had 25 teams LOCKED. They all got in. I also had Michigan State as a near lock and they also got in (26/26 so far). So, all teams guaranteed by the Lockbox made the field.

Syracuse was listed as "projected IN, but not a sure bet." Turns out, they were not a sure bet at all, I guess. This was the only real miss by the Lockbox. Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Illinois, Purdue, Xavier, Old Dominion, and Drexel were Bubble IN, and all but one made the cut (Drexel).

So, if the Lockbox says a team is a LOCK, they are a LOCK. Picking Bubble Boys is difficult, and it seems most experts missed on Syracuse and a lot missed on Drexel as well. It was a pretty good year for the Lockbox.

A lot of talking heads (who are obviously not from Kentucky) are under the delusion that 6-seed Louisville will have a monster home court advantage when they play in Lexington (just 70 miles east of the Ville) this weekend. There are a couple of factors that make this unlikely. First, Ohio State is also there. Buckeye fans will suck up tickets in a hurry. Secondly, Louisville is the University of Kentucky's most hated rival. Most locals who have bought tickets to the tourney will be Wildcat fans. This is akin to Michigan playing a bowl game in Columbus, Ohio. Ask Duke if they enjoyed their trip to Lexington a few year's back (they lost to Indiana there in the tourney). Louisville will have it's share of fans to be sure, but there are going to be LOTS of UK fans rooting loud against Pitino's team. This should be an interesting scene.

Tomorrow: Adventures in Mis-Seeding.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Better Than Last Year

All I truly wanted from this committee was a better job than last year's debacle, and I think that this Gary Walters-led group accomplished that task. There were no wild surprises as to who got in, but leaving out Syracuse was a puzzler and I really thought Drexel had done enough even though their exclusion was not that surprising. Still, let me say up front that this committee did an adequate job this year--not as good as the 2005 group, but better than last season. Furthermore, I have been doing bracketology for 8 seasons and this was the toughest year that I can remember.

The committee nailed the one seeds, even though I did not. I thought that Wisconsin making the Big Ten final and the late start time against Ohio State would help them secure a one. The committee opted for Kansas and, even though Wisconsin's profile is better, Kansas won their tournament and the Badgers did not. No huge criticism from me regarding the one seeds.

There are always a few seeding issues. I have no idea how anyone can look at Butler's overall profile and finish to the season and give them a 5 seed. I though they were a 7, tops. Gonzaga, without Heytvelt, looks much closer to a 12/13 than a 10. Indiana somehow secured a 7 without a single meaningful win away from home. UCLA has to be comfy looking at the IU/Gonzaga winner as their 2nd round game. On the underrated side, UNLV, Creighton and BYU all look vastly underseeded to me. How anyone has Indiana three seed lines higher than Creighton is beyond me.

Compare a wide array of projections at the Bracket Project. TBB did better than some and not as well as others. This was not my best year, but not my worst either. I predicted 63/65 teams correctly (having Drexel and Syracuse IN with Arkansas and Stanford OUT), with 25 exactly seeded and 47 within one seed line. Fifty-nine of sixty-three correct teams were within two seed lines. Those numbers compare pretty favorably with most projections listed at the Bracket Project.

The SCKySSiP had similar results. A full breakdown of our work comes tomorrow. I can say that the SCKySSiP's work matched 63/65 as well (having Drexel and Syracuse IN with Stanford and Purdue OUT) with 29 seeded the same and 47 within one seed line. Fifty-eight were within two seed lines.

More on the SCKySSiP, the accuracy of the Lockbox, and how the selection committee makeup affects seeding tomorrow.

Also, here is a link to nice, clean actual bracket. Enjoy!