The Basketblog

Celebrating the love of the Game.

NIT First round: Illinois State vs. Utah State

I headed down to see this game live tonight.  ISU won by four but was only up by two when Utah State missed an open three with seventeen seconds to go.

ISU won, but they did not impress me at all.  I had them as my last team in the tournament, but I’m glad they didn’t get in.  They would have brought shame and embarrassment to the Missouri Valley if they played Clemson in the first round.  I was also unimpressed with their crowd compared to Bradley’s crowds.  They couldn’t even sell out an 8,000-seat arena for a postseason game…Bradley sells out its 13,000-seat arena for non-conference games.  Step it up, ISU fans, or you’ll always be the inferior Central Illinois team…

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March 20, 2008 Posted by | Basketball, MVC, Sports, WAC | Leave a comment

Tournament Breakdown: Part 4

East

North Carolina vs. Mt. St. Mary’s
I was sad that Coppin State lost. Two years ago when their entire team was freshmen and sophomores, I said they’d win a game in this year’s tournament. I was going to call the play-in game their one win and say I was right. Then I was going to talk about how they play some of the most difficult non-conference schedules each year but how the teams they play end up finishing much worse than they start each year, and then I’d make up a “Coppin Curse.” But they’re not in this game, so I won’t talk about them. Carolina wins.

Indiana vs. Arkansas
Indiana’s been average at best since Kelvin Sampson left. They’ve gone 3-3, including losses to Penn State and Minnesota and a 103-74 loss to Michigan State. Two of their three wins were by three points each over Northwestern and at home over Ohio State. Stories came out that players were still in contact with their old coach and would rather play for them than interim coach Dan Dakich. Well, they’ve been playing like it. That sounds like a first-round loss to me. Although Arkansas made it to the SEC championship game, all games played after the tornado shouldn’t count for much. Their win over Tennessee was after the tornado; their win over Vanderbilt was before, but Vanderbilt is bad away from home. Overall, they’re only 6-6 in their last 12 games. They’ll win though because they’re playing Indiana.

Notre Dame vs. George Mason
Notre Dame played an unimpressive non-conference schedule, playing zero road games and losing games to Baylor and Georgia Tech. Their conference schedule was about as weak as a Big East schedule can get. They only played two of the seven other tournament teams more than once. They split with Connecticut and Marquette and lost to Marquette again in their first conference tournament game. Notre Dame is somewhat overrated. George Mason isn’t as good as when they made the final four, but their two best players were key players in their final four run–Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas. They are both seniors and ought to play well in their last chance. Their final four team had two good big men and good shooters; this team has only one good big man and good shooters. They won’t make the final four, but I’m picking them to get out of the first round at least.

Washington State vs. Winthrop
I’m guessing Winthrop got this high a seed because they played good teams, even though they lost to them. They only went 10-4 in a bad conference and don’t have a top 100 rpi. Teams not in the top 75 rarely win games. This isn’t the same Winthrop that beat Notre Dame last year and nearly beat Tennessee two years ago. Their leading scorer and point guard are still with the team but the quality of the rest of the team is quite a bit lower. Washington state lost eight games this year to four teams. They went 0-3 against Arizona, 0-2 against Stanford, 0-2 against UCLA, and 0-1 against California. Other than the Cal loss, their losses were to the most talented teams in the Pac-10. Winthrop is not one of the three most talented teams.

Oklahoma vs. St. Joseph’s
This seems to be everyone’s favorite upset pick. I guess that’s because St. Joe’s beat a top-15 team twice in a week. Xavier is a guard-oriented team though, and St. Joe’s other “big” wins were over Villanova and UMASS, two teams without a key player over 6’8″. Oklahoma’s top three scorers are 6’10”, 6’11”, and 6’6″. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t beat big men, but Syracuse’s big men beat up on them; Gonzaga’s 6’10” forward Austin Daye led them in scoring when they beat St. Joe’s; Holy Cross’s big men did well; Creighton’s big men did well. I’m picking Blake Griffin to have a big game and Oklahoma to win.

Louisville vs. Boise State
Am I the only one really hoping Boise State plays Oklahoma in the second round? Can Louisville throw this game and make that happen? Boise State hasn’t had a really bad loss since early December, so they could be dangerous, and their best player Reggie Larry fills up stat sheets. Louisville may be another overrated Big East team. The only tournament teams they played twice were Marquette and Georgetown. They did beat Georgetown once and Marquette twice though, and beat West Virginia, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Villanova the one time they played each of them. Four of their eight losses were without David Padgett (or in his first game back). They are a solid team with him healthy and shouldn’t lose this one.

Butler vs. South Alabama
This one angers me, as does the fact that the winner faces Tennessee. I wanted to pick both of them to make the sweet sixteen but don’t have either of them doing that now. Butler is a great team, has their entire roster back after a sweet sixteen run last year, and is led by seniors. South Alabama has a good team, is playing in their home state, and is also led by upperclassmen. Usually if I think a team is underseeded, I’ll pick them every time, but I’m afraid to pick against the team in their home state as well. I’m picking Butler but could be convinced to change that pick.

Tennessee vs. American
Underseeded team vs. overseeded team. This ought to be a 1/16 game, and the 1s never lose those. American ought to be back for another try next year. Their top four scorers are all juniors. Watch for them to be like Vermont (from the same conference) a few years ago.

Round 2

North Carolina vs. Arkansas
Tyler Hansbrough is the best player in the nation. I haven’t been watching college basketball that long, but he is the best player I remember seeing. He’s not the most talented player ever (or even this year; there are a few more talented than he is), but no one combines his talent with his work ethic and toughness. Now take a great player who plays hard and tough all game and make him an 82% free throw shooter. Now look at the rest of his team: a great point guard, great shooters, and great athleticism. Arkansas doesn’t impress me, and no one has impressed me more than Carolina this year.

George Mason vs. Washington State
I think Mason’s seniors extend their career one more game. The three teams WSU lost to multiple times all have good inside players. I’m calling Will Thomas to have a big game and bring George Mason to the sweet sixteen.

Oklahoma vs. Louisville
I tried to come up with a good reason for picking Oklahoma here but couldn’t. Call it my obligatory “6 over 3″ pick. Louisville did lose to UCONN and Georgetown, teams with 7-footers. Oklahoma doesn’t have a 7-footer, but they do have 6’10” Griffin and 6’11” Longar.

Butler vs. Tennessee
Butler scared Florida last year and will scare Tennessee this year, but Tennessee is too good. This is a good an upset pick as any, though because Drake is led by seniors and was there last year. However, Tennessee is also led by seniors, was there last year, and almost knocked off a title-game team in the third round. Butler got a horrible seed and will pay for it by losing this game.

Round 3

North Carolina vs. George Mason
Even though he goes to the line ten times a game, Tyler Hansbrough is rarely in foul trouble. He’s only had four fouls four times. When have you seen a player who plays as physically as he does commit so few fouls? Will Thomas shoots almost 6 free throws per game and also commits few fouls. Both will stay in the game and battle the whole way. Hansbrough’s supporting cast is better though and will pull out a close game.

Oklahoma vs. Tennessee
I didn’t have a good reason for Oklahoma to beat Louisville. Who do you think I’ll pick in this one? Before the tornado game, which should not be held against Tennessee (even though it clearly was), their only losses were at Texas, at Kentucky, and at Vanderbilt. If you ignore Kentucky’s horrible non-conference season, those three teams lost a total of one home game all year. Tennessee did not lose a game that wasn’t in an opponent’s gym and won in many good teams’ gyms. They are as good as it gets and should have gotten a 1-seed.

Regional Championship

North Carolina vs. Tennesee
The last five teams I have left are all great teams that are hard to separate from each other. When I was picking them, I picked the team I thought was better to win each game. Well, except for this one. Carolina is playing in Charlotte; they don’t lose tournament games in North Carolina. I’d have a hard time deciding whether Tennessee or North Carolina was better, so I’m going with the “home” team.

Final Four

The better team wins each game.  North Carolina is better than Georgetown, UCLA is better than Texas, and UCLA is better than North Carolina.  Championship game score:  72-65.  If you disagree with any of these picks, let me know why.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Basketball, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, Sports, WAC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Championship Week Saturday

Which was the most crazy performance today?  Coppin State becoming the first 20-loss team to ever make the tournament?  Illinois being the first 10-seed to ever make it past the second round of the big ten tournament, let alone the championship game?  Georgia beating two tournament teams in one day to get to within one game of .500?  Or Boise State’s triple overtime defeat of New Mexico State?

Oh yeah, there were some other good games too…UNC vs. Virginia Tech…Wisconsin vs. Michigan St….Clemson vs. Duke…Kansas vs. Texas A&M…UCLA vs. Stanford…Temple vs. St. Joseph’s…Miss. Valley St. vs. Jackson St….  I know I’m repeating myself, but this March is already better than last March.  Now tomorrow we have a legitimate shot at Illinois and Georgia becoming the lowest-seeded “power conference” teams in the tournament ever and a Texas/Kansas game that would be great anyway but now has the added weight of a possible #1 seed to the winner.  Losses by Duke, Georgetown, and Tennessee in one day made that possibility happen.

Tomorrow’s games should be fantastic.  North Carolina is playing for a possible #1 overall, and Clemson is competing for perhaps a #3 seed.  Georgia and Illinois are playing for highly improbable tournament bids while Wisconsin and Arkansas seem to have little to gain and only want to avoid losing seeds.  The game of the day is, of course, Kansas and Texas.  I’m not convinced the winner gets a #1 seed, but there is a very good chance.

I’m working on some numbers tonight.  Tomorrow during the day I will post a complete prediction list of tournament teams and seeds.

March 15, 2008 Posted by | ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, NCAA, Pac-10, SEC, WAC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment