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Celebrating the love of the Game.

Tournament Breakdown: Part 3

Thanks to the first two parts, this blog has been viewed more today than it has in any single month (before this one, obviously). Part 4 will come after I know the winner of the…play-in game.

Midwest

Kansas vs. Portland State
I’ve criticized Kansas because they didn’t beat great teams this year (1-1 against 5 seeds or higher–both games against Texas), but one thing they do well is beat up on bad teams. I thought Portland State should have been higher because they played some good teams (as many as Kansas did) and came within 12 of winning at Washington State, but they won’t compete with Kansas. Their guards are pretty good and might not get killed by Kansas’s guards, but their top rebounder is only 6’4″. Kansas will kill them inside, which will lead to outside shots.

UNLV vs. Kent State
I think this is the best first-round game that no one is talking about. UNLV protects the ball and turns teams over (11 turnovers per game/8 steals per game), so they could just get lucky and make a run in the tournament. Kent State has inside and outside scorers and also forces a lot of turnovers (8.5 steals per game). Kent State got a win at St. Mary’s, and UNLV had a 29 point win against BYU. I’m taking UNLV because of the tournament experience they got last year.

Clemson vs. Villanova
I’m not as high on Clemson as others are. They play a heavy-pressure, gambling defense and are bad at free throws. If they play a team that protects the ball well or is in a game that comes down to the last few possessions, they might be in trouble. As good as Scottie Reynolds is, he is young and turns the ball over 3 times a game. Villanova as a team had more turnovers than assists this year. Clemson wins.

Vanderbilt vs. Siena
Siena’s great win this year against Stanford came before Brook Lopez was playing. They apparently got some favorable calls in that game too…they shot 32 free throws to Stanford’s 3. If Shan Foster gets hurt for Vanderbilt and the refs call 12 more fouls on Vanderbilt than on Siena, Siena might just pull off an upset.

USC vs. Kansas State
I’ve said the only reason Kansas State made it is because they have a great freshman. This matchup supports my theory–they paired Beasley with OJ Mayo. Kansas State had a great six-game stretch in January (beating Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Kansas), but they were 14-11 without any wins against tournament teams the rest of the year. USC played well against the best big man they faced this year–beating Stanford at home and holding the Lopez twins to 10 combined points when they played at Stanford. They’ll do well enough against Beasley to get the win.

Wisconsin vs. Cal State Fullerton
Like Kansas, Wisconsin wins big against bad teams. Outside their conference season, they did not have a single-digit win against a non-tournament team. They had a couple bad losses (big to Duke and at home to Marquette) but got it together since then. Their only two losses were to Purdue who is a bad matchup for Wisconsin. CSF played a couple tournament teams and lost by double digits to both St. Mary’s and Arizona. They are high-scoring, but they won’t get to 50 in this one.

Gonzaga vs. Davidson
I said at the beginning of the year that I’d pick Davidson in the first round no matter who they played (like I did with Winthrop last year). Gonzaga is a tough game for them though. Unlike a power conference team that might overlook somewhat a team like Davidson, Gonzaga is used to playing teams like them every game in their conference. Gonzaga has good depth and balance, while Davidson gets 1/3 of their scoring from Stephen Curry. I think he is solid enough to get them a win though. They almost beat Maryland last year and had almost everyone back.

Georgetown vs. UMBC
If possible, I think Georgetown is underrated. They won the Big East regular season and easily won their first two conference tournament games before falling to a hot Pittsburgh team. They’ve showed that they can both blow out good teams and win close games. They won six games by three points or less, which will help them in this tournament. UMBC doesn’t have anyone who can challenge Hibbert inside. Their top rebounder is 6’4″. They lost by 24 to West Virginia and shouldn’t be much closer in this one.

Round 2

Kansas vs. UNLV
I think this will be a tougher game for Kansas than most do. UNLV is one of the best in the nation at protecting the ball. If they don’t turn it over and get a good shot each possession, they could beat Kansas. Kansas would need to shoot poorly to lose this one. They’ll be able to look ahead somewhat, which is something UNLV will not be able to do. The two teams are very similar, but Kansas is just better.

Clemson vs. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is not very good away from home. They were 2-6 on the road in the SEC and 1-1 in the SEC tournament. They only won by 6 on the road against a Depaul team that only won 11 games all year. Clemson isn’t great on the road either, but they did well in the neutral ACC tournament. Shan Foster is the best shooter in the nation, but will Clemson’s pressure defense give him enough good, in-rhythm looks? I’m taking Clemson, but only because Vanderbilt is bad away from home.

USC vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s relaxed, slow style of play is something Mayo and USC hasn’t seen this year. USC was 2-7 when they didn’t score 60 points this year; Wisconsin allowed 60 points only 9 times all year. Wisconsin is underrated because they play in the Big Ten and aren’t flashy, but they are as good as anyone. They’ll shut down USC’s offense and win this one by 12.

Davidson vs. Georgetown
Another game Davidson can win because Georgetown plays so many close games, and Davidson plays well against good teams. Georgetown is a great team though and is able to play any style. This one will probably come down to the last few possessions, and Davidson could very well pull of an upset. I am picking Georgetown’s talent and experience though.

Round 3

Kansas vs. Clemson
If Clemson makes it this far, it is because their hot streak has continued. I think this is the toughest team Kansas could play in this position–Clemson is a team that is able to push and defend all game like Kansas is. It could come down to which team makes more shots. I see this one coming down to the end, and I’m picking the better free throw shooting team: Kansas.

Wisconsin vs. Georgetown
As I said previously, Georgetown can play any style, including Wisconsin’s super-slow style. This game will be played in the 50’s. Georgetown has actually played more games this year with both teams below 60. They’ve beaten good teams in games like that (Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova). Wisconsin also has played good teams in close, low-scoring games, beating Michigan State and losing to Purdue. The teams are very similar, but Georgetown has played more big games this year, has more tournament experience, and has better outside shooting. That is why I am picking them.

Regional Championship

Kansas vs. Georgetown
Continuing the trend in this region, this will be a very competitive game. In fact, there are five or six teams that have a good chance of getting to the final four.  As said before, Georgetown can play any style…but so can Kansas.  In all previous games, I’ve picked the team I think is better.  I’m going to break that trend here.  I’m picking Georgetown because their tournament experience and Bill Self’s inability to win the big games will work in their favor in an otherwise even game.  Both teams have a tough road to get here though.  One could get knocked off earlier or be so beat up that they lose here.  Don’t bet anything big on this region.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tournament Breakdown: Part 1

I’ll look at one part of the bracket today. I’ll do another part tonight and the other half tomorrow.

South

Memphis vs. UT-Arlington
I must confess. Because I was busy with high school basketball teams all winter, I have not actually watched Memphis play this year. I’ve seen more of Arlington than I have of Memphis, so I’m not exactly qualified to talk about this game. I do know, however, that Arlington had lost 5 of their last 7 games before their conference tournament and Memphis had lost 1 of their last 31. I do think this is the best chance a 16 has to beat a 1 this year though. The occasional times those games go down to the end, the better team shows their power at the end and pulls away, right? What if, when Memphis starts to pull away, Arlington just puts them on the line every possession and hits a couple big threes?

Mississippi State vs. Oregon
I didn’t think Oregon should be in it; I can’t figure out why Mississippi State isn’t better than they are. Needless to say, I’m picking MSU. Their starting five is about as talented as it gets. Check out their stats. Oregon only had one big conference win–over Stanford. They never beat USC, UCLA, or Washington State. Their non-conference win was over an overrated Kansas State. Explain why they got in. They have a small guard-oriented team that will not match up well against MSU’s size. They’ll need to force a lot of turnovers and hit threes to have a chance.

Michigan State vs. Temple
Michigan State can compete with anyone on the right day (beat Texas, put up 103 on Indiana) but can play terribly on others (lost to Penn State and Iowa). They committed 18 turnovers and shot only 4 free throws against Iowa. I don’t see that happening in the tournament with Tom Izzo as their coach. Temple has gotten hot at the right time, but they’re still not a particularly good team and don’t have the size to defend Michigan State inside.

Pittsburgh vs. Oral Roberts
Oral Roberts is over-seeded here. They aren’t as good as last year’s team that got a 14-seed and lost by 16 to Washington State. However, there are a ton of bad teams at the bottom of this bracket, so I guess the seed is fair. Still, they don’t have much of a chance against Pittsburgh that is finally (mostly) healthy and could make a deep run.

Marquette vs. Kentucky
Remember that Kentucky doesn’t have their best player, Patrick Patterson. Supposedly they’ve played well without him, but they’ve gone 2-2 without him. Both wins were over non-tournament teams. Only three of their wins were over tournament teams. Compare that to Marquette, who has wins at Wisconsin and Villanova and a neutral court win over Notre Dame. They were playing well in the big east tournament until they ran into the Pittsburgh buzzsaw. They only lose to good teams; Kentucky is not one of them.

Stanford vs. Cornell
Even in their losses, Cornell has not been blown out. I don’t know how they play, but they shoot almost 50% from the field and over 40% from behind the three-point line. Stanford is an inside-dominated team with twin seven-footers Robin and Brook Lopez. Judging by stats, Cornell has a team of jump-shooters. This game could come down to whether the game is played on the inside or outside. If Cornell is able to speed the game up and force Stanford to shoot from the outside, they could pull off an upset. I am picking Stanford, however.

Miami vs. St. Mary’s
I haven’t seen Miami play this year. The one time I watched St. Mary’s impressed me even though they lost to San Diego. They play solid defense, forcing almost 8 steals a game. They’re better than you might think. Their only loss to a non-tournament team was at Southern Illinois, which is as tough a place to win as any. Even though I don’t know much about Miami, I’m picking St. Mary’s because I think they’re that good.

Texas vs. Austin Peay
Texas is as good as anyone in the nation. They aren’t a 1-seed only because they’ve lost some bad games. To be fair though, Missouri made an incredible amount of shots to beat them, and Texas Tech shot 43 free throws to beat them. Austin Peay shot very well against Memphis but still lost by 22 because they couldn’t handle Memphis’s talent and athleticism. Don’t expect anything different to happen here.

Second Round

Memphis vs. Mississippi State.
MSU can match Memphis in athleticism, but they turn the ball over far too much and also shoot free throws poorly. If they protect the ball, they can definitely pull off an upset, but I am picking Memphis.

Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Pitt’s better…but I’m picking Michigan State. I just like Tom Izzo in the postseason and still think Michigan State can beat anyone in the nation if they play right. Ultimately, I think Pittsburgh’s long run in the Big East tournament will wear them down and cause their loss in this game.

Marquette vs. Stanford
Marquette does not have nearly enough size to handle Stanford. They lost big to Connecticut and lost a close one at home to Georgetown (even though Georgetown had a bad game). If they can force turnovers and get fast break points, they might have a chance, but they are not big enough or good enough at shooting to beat a big team.

St. Mary’s vs. Texas
They played earlier this year. Texas won by 19, despite making only 25% of their threes and 54% from the free-throw line and getting outrebounded by 8. Augustin had 30 points despite making only one three pointer. I don’t see anything different happening this time.

Third Round

Memphis vs. Michigan State
Another game I think Memphis could lose but won’t. I’m ripping the Big Ten here: I don’t believe any team from that conference besides Indiana (with a real coach) can beat an athletic team. Michigan State lost by 19 to the athletic Hoosiers when they still had Sampson as their coach. This game will be closer than that, but Memphis will win fairly easily.

Stanford vs. Texas
Texas is a team that can shoot well enough and get enough fast break points to beat Stanford without competing against their size. It will be competitive, but the game is being played in Houston. Stanford is 2,000 miles away. Texas is 150. That gives Texas an advantage in a fairly even game otherwise.

Regional Championship

Memphis vs. Texas

Texas comes to play in big games. They beat UCLA and Tennessee earlier in the year when both were ranked high and beat Kansas when Kansas was ranked #2. Their loss in the conference championship game wouldn’t have happened if Kansas had shot a normal three-point percentage… Memphis’s early-season wins don’t look as impressive anymore. Oklahoma, USC, Georgetown, Arizona, and Gonzaga have all dropped in the rankings since they played Memphis. They lost at home to the best team they’ve played this year–Tennessee. Oh yeah, the game is played in Texas too. Texas wins and advances to the Final Four.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, CUSA, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tournament Teams and Seeds Predicted

This is more for my vanity than anything. I doubt anyone needs to see predictions a couple hours before the actual brackets come out. I just want to prove that I can pick these just as well as the “experts” and that Joe Lunardi and his bracketology are overhyped. I picked a decent amount more accurately than he did last year and am confidant I could do it every year. Why? Because he follows it the whole season and gets hung up on teams that have good starts. The selection committee waits until the end of the year and looks at the entire season. For example, they’re going to see how Indiana has struggled against bad teams lately and won’t put them as high as a 5-seed. With that said…

1-seeds
#1 North Carolina
#2 UCLA
#3 Memphis
#4 Tennessee

2-seeds
Georgetown
Texas
Wisconsin
Kansas

3-seeds
Stanford
Pittsburgh
Xavier
Duke

4-seeds
Washington State
Louisville
Drake
Vanderbilt

5-seeds
Butler
Clemson
Connecticut
Notre Dame

6-seeds
Marquette
Michigan State
Indiana
Purdue

7-seeds
USC
Oklahoma
West Virginia
Arkansas

8-seeds
BYU
UNLV
Gonzaga
Mississippi State

9-seeds
Texas A&M
Kent State
Davidson
Miami

10-seeds
Kansas State
Saint Mary’s
Arizona
Baylor

11-seeds
South Alabama
Temple
Saint Joseph’s
Kentucky

12-seeds
Illinois State
Villanova
Oral Roberts
Western Kentucky

13-seeds
San Diego
George Mason
Cornell
Georgia

14-seeds
Belmont
Boise State
Austin Peay
Siena

15-seeds
Maryland-Baltimore County
Portland State
Cal State Fullerton
Winthrop

16-seeds
Coppin State vs. Mississippi Valley State (play-in game)
Mount St. Mary’s
Texas Arlington
American

What happens if Illinois or Georgia or both win today? My last two teams in were Arizona State and Villanova. Illinois/Georgia would take either Arizona State’s seed or both their seeds if they win. Illinois would get the higher seed if they both win.

UPDATE: I’ve finalized some picks based on how later games have gone today.

March 16, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, CUSA, Horizon, MVC, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports, WAC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NCAA Championship Tournament: Third Round

Chalk rules this year. The elite eight consists of all four number ones, three number twos, and a number three. Chalk rules and so do brackets picked by those who don’t follow college basketball. I need not say who has the best bracket in my family, but it is not me or my dad. I actually don’t have a bracket anymore.

I burned it. Charcoal lighter, matches, and a bowl of water for safety. It’s now a small black crisp. It’s not that it was in such horrible shape (although it was), it’s that I’m tired of people thinking the bracket matters. I don’t gamble (says the guy who is paying $900 in income tax on poker winnings), so the bracket means nothing to me. When the last two teams in the tournament that I like lost, I just quit caring about who wins and emphasized that fact with fire.

Yeah, all the teams I like are out. That means I now cheer for the teams that will prove me right: UCLA is the best team in the tournament, Ohio State and Greg Oden are weak (they’re trying to prove it; their opponents just aren’t letting them do it…), Florida is not motivated enough to win again, and Kansas is too streaky to advance far. Now on to some comments… Continue reading

March 23, 2007 Posted by | ACC, Big 12, Big East, MVC, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NCAA Championship Tournament: Second Round

See? I told you this round would be better than the first. However, though it looked great compared to the first round, the second round was only an average round; we can still do better! The lowest seed left is still only UNLV’s seven, and there were still only five upsets (only two weren’t a 5 over 4). I’m sure you’re expecting exciting summaries of all the great games on Saturday, but sadly I only saw one of them. CBS had electrical trouble at their broadcasting tower and went out halfway through the Butler/Maryland game and stayed out the rest of the night. I’m currently looking into a lawsuit for causing me emotional anguish. I did see all the games on Sunday though and have comments. …

Continue reading

March 19, 2007 Posted by | ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, CUSA, Horizon, MVC, MWC, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment