Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Lockbox 1/06

Bracket season is officially here as the Lockbox makes its first appearance. Take this with a 6-lb grain of salt, but it is an attempt to see where teams stand at this point. A few interesting notes:

1. The Big East might get shaken up a bit, but at this point, there is a clear line of demarcation after nine teams. Pitt, UConn, Georgetown, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Villanova and Marquette seem to be in good position. One can only assume Louisville will get it together with three likely NBA players on the roster. All nine of those can be found in the top 34 of the efficiency numbers (before last night's games). From there, it's a long tumble to Bubble hopefuls Cincinnati and Providence. The bottom five are likely done before they even really get started in Big East play. Cincy and Providence might upend enough contenders to sneak in, but the line seems pretty clear even at this early stage.

2. The SEC is terrible by power conference standards. Tennessee has been good, not great, and there is no team that can be considere a lock beyond them. Arkansas is the only team in the West that can feel good about their current profile.

3. Outside of the power conferences, Illinois State, Xavier, Gonzaga, and BYU look the cream of the crop at this stage. But, Illinois State lost at Bradley last night and have no marquee wins and none forthcoming in the Valley. It's going to be tough for them to find their way in if they lose more than three games.

4. There is still bias in this Lockbox. Some teams simply have not been tested enough to know how good they are, so some guesswork is still there. There will be less and less of this as we go along in the next few weeks.

Last Night's GOI
--at Arkansas 67, Texas 61. Hogs have staked claim to the best non-conference profile in the SEC West.
--at Bradley 56, Illinois State 52. Coupled with Creighton's loss to Northern Iowa, this could be an early sign that the Valley is a one-bid league this year. Braves have now won 6 of 7.
--at Dayton 45, Miami-OH 40. Flyers survive a meat-grinder from the Redhawks.
--at Georgia Tech 67, Georgia 62. Jackets rally after a slow start to hold off Dawgs.
--at Kansas 91, Siena 84. The Saints did not get that monster non-conference win, but they have established themselves as a very dangerous team.
--at Michigan State 67, Ohio State 58. This puts OSU in a 2-game hole behind MSU.
--UConn 61, at West Virginia 55. Huge road win for the Huskies in the first of three straight conference roadies.

Tonight's GOI
--Providence at Cincinnati. Neither can really afford to lose to the other. Not when there are nine other teams in the league better than these two.
--Davidson at Duke. ESPN ticker teaser: "Duke takes on leading scorer Curry." Well, if Davidson's other players are allowed to suit up, it should be interesting.
--Gonzaga at Tennessee. The Zags beat UT in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving, but this game in Knoxville will be a tough test for struggling GU.