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.