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National Championship Pick
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
April 7, 2008
My final pick is in. I'm taking Memphis to win the national title. Truth be told a Kansas blowout wouldn't surprise me all that much. A Memphis blowout wouldn't surprise me all that much either. I really just hope we see a good game. There are 64 NCAA Tournament games every year, so the chances that the national title game will end up being the most exciting out of the 64 aren't all that good. We haven't seen an outstanding Final Four/Championship game in several years now, though. I'd say the last great one was 2005 when North Carolina knocked off Illinois.

I'll have a recap of the tournament and season posted later this week....possibly tomorrow. I'm 45-18 in my picks so far, but this is yet another game that appears that it could go either way.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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BX Final Four Picks and Analysis
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
April 5, 2008
-I’m 44-17 in my game-by-game picks so far, which is about what I was a year ago. I actually only went 2-2 in my Elite Eight picks. I had Davidson over Kansas, which was a heartbreaking loss for the Wildcats in what was probably the most exciting game of the Elite Eight this year. Steffan Curry has been my favorite player in the tournament to watch so far. I know all the #1 seeds advanced and a lot of people are very excited about that, but as a fan I would personally have more interest if a team like Davidson had made it. If you enjoyed the movie Hoosiers, then you’d understand. It’s nothing against Kansas because they’re a great team that deserves to be here, but I think a lot of people were pulling for Davidson in that game.


-#1. MEMPHIS VS #1. UCLA (pick – Memphis). These two teams clearly looked the most impressive in the Elite Eight, especially Memphis, who blew out a very good Texas team in Houston. UCLA had no problems blowing past Xavier in their Elite Eight win to get here either. This is a great match-up when you consider how athletic Memphis is and how good UCLA’s defense is. It really is a game that could go either way. Andre Allen of Memphis has been suspended for violating team rules, so one has to wonder what that will do to the team’s psyche, but they’ve still looked outstanding in their last two games, including a blowout win against Michigan State, who is also a very good defensive team.

-#1. KANSAS VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick – North Carolina). This has been a match-up that the country has wanted to see for a long time. Roy Williams is taking on his old team for the first time since leaving it. It should be an outstanding game as well, but I just think North Carolina has a slight edge. Like the first game, this one could go either way. North Carolina probably had the toughest opponent in the Elite Eight considering how well Louisville was playing coming into that game. I said before that game that I thought the winner would win the national championship. Had Louisville won I would be picking them to win this game, and the next game, but since North Carolina won I’m picking them to win this game, and probably the next game as well.


-I wish I was in San Antonio this year. I’ve never been there, but from what I hear they do an excellent job with this event. It’s a beautiful city with a great setup for big events right around the dome. I have been to Memphis, and I’m sure Beale Street is an exciting place to be today as well. This is the first time that four #1 seeds have ever played in the Final Four. Hopefully the games will be exciting.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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BX Elite Eight Match-ups, Picks and Analysis
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 29, 2008
-All four #1 seeds are still alive and kicking. I ended up going 7-1 with my Sweet Sixteen picks, which puts me at 46-14 for the tournament so far. Out of my original bracket, I have six of the Elite Eight correct, including Davidson. UCLA and Memphis were the two teams that I had going out prior to now. Somehow, all of my Final Four are still alive. One of them is Xavier, though, who I’m not picking to win today.


SATURDAY, MARCH 29TH

-#3. XAVIER VS #1. UCLA (pick – UCLA). The guard play in this game is dead even, but UCLA just has a huge advantage in the post with Kevin Love. Xavier held on to beat West Virginia, but it seemed as though they struggled to score every time they went inside and didn’t spread out the defense. They’ll struggle even more underneath against a team that’s as strong as UCLA. Xavier does have a chance, and there is reason to hope. UCLA has been winning, but some of the games have been struggles against teams that aren’t as good as Xavier. Still, I believe UCLA’s post play will be the difference.

-#3. LOUISVILLE VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick – North Carolina). These are the two teams in the tournament that have impressed me the most. Right now, I’d have to say that the winner of this game would be my pick to win the national championship. Both teams have simply looked incredible in their first three tournament games. They haven’t even been games, but rather exhibitions. Both teams will probably experience something today that they haven’t experienced in the tournament yet, and that’s a close game. Louisville is certainly capable of winning, but I can only pick one team and I just think UNC is a little bit better. Both teams do everything well. It’s hard to point to a weakness for either team. Clash of the Titans. It should be a great basketball game.


SUNDAY, MARCH 30TH

-#2. TEXAS VS #1. MEMPHIS (pick – Texas). For the third straight year, Memphis is playing a team with a huge geographic advantage in the Regionals despite the fact that they have the better seed. I had Michigan State winning the other night and couldn’t have been more wrong. Free-throws don’t come into play when a team is up thirty at the half. If Memphis plays like that again they’ll be in the Final Four. However, Texas was equally as impressive with a decisive win over a very good Stanford team. Texas has looked great for the past several weeks and I believe they’ll get it done. Having said that, Texas is a great defensive team, but so was Michigan State and they did absolutely nothing to slow down the Tigers in the Sweet Sixteen game.

-#10. DAVIDSON VS #1. KANSAS (pick – Davidson). In my original bracket I had Davidson losing to Kansas in this game, but after seeing them the other night I believe Davidson is good enough to win, and will win. Kansas is outstanding. They’ve blown by virtually everyone they’ve faced up to this point, but I believe Davidson is better than anyone they’ve played despite not having the big brand name. Steffan Curry has been hands down the best player in the NCAA Tournament. I believe he steps up big once again and helps Davidson advance to the Final Four.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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BX Sweet Sixteen Rundown and Picks
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 27, 2008
-I'm currently 36-13 with my picks, which is a little below how I normally do, but if someone could get all of them right all of the time this wouldn't be any fun.


THURSDAY, MARCH 27TH

-#7. WEST VIRGINIA VS #3. XAVIER (pick – Xavier). Both teams looked impressive in their second round games, especially in the second half. Xavier has fallen behind early in their previous two NCAA Tournament games, and did the same in their final conference tournament game. If they want to win this game then it’s something that they cannot let happen again. West Virginia shoots the ball extremely well, especially from the outside, and also plays tough defense. Xavier has some pretty good shooters as well and also a good defensive team. Xavier does appear to be more athletic, and that could end up giving them an edge. It’s still an evenly matched game, though, and neither team can afford to not play up to their maximum ability if they want to win and advance.

-#4. WASHINGTON STATE VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick – North Carolina). Both of these teams won their first two games without too much trouble, especially North Carolina, so the fact that neither team has really been in a close game is one of the things that makes this match-up so interesting. North Carolina has a ton of weapons, but the one thing Wazzu does extremely well is defend, and that alone should be able to keep them in the game, if not give them a chance to win it. The game is in Charlotte, which is a geographic advantage for North Carolina, but it isn’t the same as a home game. Wazzu has played in environments that are more hostile against teams that are arguably as good. I just think the Tarheels have too much talent for Wazzu to handle.

-#12. WESTERN KENTUCKY VS #1. UCLA (pick – UCLA). WKU should be able to run with the Bruins, but UCLA’s frontcourt will most likely end up being too much. WKU has had an incredible run and I have no doubt that they’re extremely confident. UCLA also struggled their last time out against Texas A&M, but I just don’t think WKU matches up all that well. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if UCLA won by a decisive margin. They haven’t played against too many teams that run the court like WKU does, though, so it’s possible that the Bruins could have a difficult time adjusting early on.

-#3. LOUISVILLE VS #2. TENNESSEE (pick – Louisville). Louisville has been as impressive as anyone in the tournament so far. They’ve just been blowing teams out. Tennessee has been struggling for the past several weeks. They’ve been winning, but not impressively and not against teams that are nearly as good as Louisville. Tennessee is incredibly athletic and they love to press and run the court, but Louisville is well coached, well disciplined, and has the weapons they need to stop it. Louisville is a pretty good pressing and transition team as well. There could be a lot of fouls in this game given the pace and the defensive styles each team plays, which works to Louisville’s advantage if the game is called evenly. I think the Cardinals will win and move on to the Elite Eight.


FRIDAY, MARCH 28TH

-#10. DAVIDSON VS #3. WISCONSIN (pick – Davidson). If Wisconsin can stop, or even contain, Steffan Curry then Davidson doesn’t have much of a chance. The thing is that no one has been able to do that all year. Georgetown and Gonzaga are good teams, and Georgetown plays great defense, neither team could slow down Curry. This would be a big upset if Davidson pulls it off, but I do think they can do it and I won’t be surprised if it happens. Wisconsin has played outstanding basketball in both of their previous games, and they appear to have a big advantage in the post. That could be an issue for Davidson, but Georgetown had the same advantage and the Wildcats found a way to get past them.

-#3. STANFORD VS #2. TEXAS (pick – Texas). Both of these teams had close calls in the second round. Stanford won a classic against Marquette, and Texas blew a big lead against Miami, FL, but still managed to hold on and win. I love the way Texas has played these past few weeks. Stanford has looked good as well, and I certainly wouldn’t be at all surprised if they won, but the Longhorns have just looked a little bit better. One area where Stanford may have an advantage is with their bench. Texas isn’t quite as deep and could be in trouble if the fouls start to pile up. It’s an evenly matched game and hopefully it will be a good one.

-#12. VILLANOVA VS #1. KANSAS (pick – Kansas). Villanova is certainly no stranger to top notch competition, but as well as they played in the first two rounds I just don’t think they have enough in the tank to get past Kansas. Kansas literally looks better all the way around. This one could turn out to be rather lopsided. If Kansas wins and advances to the Elite Eight and Davidson pulls the upset over Wisconsin, the Jayhawks could advance to the Final Four without having beaten anyone seeded better than #9th. I wonder if that’s ever happened before.

-#5. MICHIGAN STATE VS #1. MEMPHIS (pick – Michigan State). Michigan State’s defense is really tough, and as good and as talented as Memphis is I believe this is the round where they go down. I believe Michigan State matches up really well, and will be able to control the tempo of the game, which will play to their advantage if they can control Memphis’s transition game. Memphis also struggles from the line, which was an issue against Mississippi State, but will likely be an even bigger issue in this game.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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BX NCAA Tournament Notebook: Recapping the First and Second Rounds
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 26, 2008
MY PICKS

-I’m 36-13 with my game-by-game picks so far. I actually went 13-3 in the second round, and had Butler picked over Tennessee, but the Bulldogs couldn’t finish them off. I also had Duke over West Virginia and Purdue over Xavier. Obviously, I’m not all that upset that I didn’t get the Purdue game right.

My original bracket still has 12 of the Sweet Sixteen and all of the Elite Eight in it, but I had some damaging misses. I had BYU over UCLA. The Cougars didn’t even make it out of the first round, but Texas A&M nearly pulled the upset in their place. Had that happened it wouldn’t have helped my score, but it sure as hell would have hurt everyone else’s. It’s a good thing I’m not in a jackpot because I don’t think I’d be taking home any money this year, but who knows?? The last time I was allowed to be in it, I won it with just nine Sweet Sixteen teams. I had everything correct from the Elite Eight on, though.


RECAPPING THE FIRST TWO ROUND

-Davidson has been the story of the tournament so far. They had to come from behind to win both of their games. I’m not surprised that they beat Georgetown because I actually picked them to win that game, but I am surprised at how they won. Once Georgetown jumped out to an early double-digit lead I thought Davidson was toast, but they were able to come back. Steffan Curry has been the most impressive individual in the tournament so far. Some of his critics pointed out that his statistical accomplishments were skewed because of the weak competition he face in conference. Georgetown is anything but weak competition, and he lit them up for thirty points. They’ll be facing Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen, which is another good defensive team. I originally had Davidson losing that game, but I’m starting to like their chances.

-Butler was another team that came from behind after falling behind big early to Tennessee. They missed several lay-ups down the stretch and even had a shot to win at the end of regulation, but couldn’t quite get over the top against Volunteers. They had a lead in overtime with just over a minute to go, but the Vols pulled out another close one. Tennessee has been in quite a few tight games lately against teams that one would expect them to destroy. Butler is obviously very good, but American played them tough, Arkansas beat them, and South Carolina and Kentucky nearly beat them as well. It’s good that they can win close games, but their next opponent is much tougher than anyone they’ve struggled against in that recent stretch. They could be in big trouble against Louisville in their next game.

-Western Kentucky and San Diego were two other Cinderellas who pulled off big first round upsets and had to face each other in the second round. Western Kentucky is a very athletic, fast paced team, so it has been interesting to watch both of their games against Drake and San Diego, because both of their opponents had such differing styles. They opened up a big 16 point lead against Drake and appeared to be putting the game away, but because the game was played at such a fast pace Drake was able to come back and force overtime. WKU then hit what is the shot of the tournament to win the game at the buzzer and move on to the second round. It was the same story against San Diego where WKU built up a big lead, but then ended up losing it. The most important thing is that they won and advanced. They’ll face UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s the farthest WKU has been since 1993.


-In 2004 two #1 seeds lost in the second round. None have lost that early since then, although we’ve seen some incredibly close calls. This year we saw two.

UCLA trailed by as much as ten in the second half against Texas A&M, but the Aggies went dry in the final minutes. TAMU still had a chance to pull it off, but a very controversial no-call at the end of the game on what looked to be a foul on UCLA pretty much ended their chances and the Bruins advanced.

Missed freethrows nearly cost Memphis a chance of advancing as Mississippi State came from behind to almost force overtime, but missed a shot at the buzzer and came up just short.

North Carolina and Kansas both won without too much trouble. They’ve both looked very impressive in the tournament so far.

I’ve heard many people say they’d rather be a #11 seed than a #8 or #9 seed because they feel that not having to face the #1 seed in the second round will make it easier to go on a run. While I understand the logic, I completely disagree that a #11 seed is better. For starters, those teams have much tougher first round opponents than a #8/9 seed. Secondly, the #1 seeds are vulnerable in the second round. Chances are they were able to sleepwalk through their first game. In addition to that, they aren’t entirely sure who they’re going to play, whereas the winner of the #8vs#9 game is. The arena is also going to get behind the #8/#9 seed if they’re able to keep it close, and if they can win that game the bracket is suddenly lined up in their advantage.

If it’s trivia you want, a #11 seed has only been to the Final Four twice, the most recent being George Mason in 2006, who also had to beat a #1 seed to get there. A #8 seed has actually won a national championship, and multiple others have made Final Fours The #8/9 seed also has a winning record in the Sweet Sixteen. The #11 could arguably buy a team one more round, but more often than not it costs them a shot at the second round. Historically the #11 seed has a losing record in the first round. Although a #8/9 hasn’t won since 2004, we had two very close calls each of the last two years. It will happen again. It’s not THAT unusual. We’ll most likely see many more 8/9 seeds in the Elite Eight over the next five years than we will #10/11/12 seeds.


-One of the teams that I thought would put up a fight and didn’t was Cornell, who was absolutely blasted by Stanford in their first round game. That’s an example of a team looking better than they really are for most of the season because of who they play in conference. Cornell, which was an excellent shooting team all year, couldn’t hit anything against Stanford.

Stanford head coach Trent Johnson was ejected from their second round game against Marquette, which was very uncharacteristic of him. That game was much closer and Stanford needed a last second shot to win that one. Both teams played an outstanding game, and it was a crushing loss for Marquette. The only heartbreaking thing about a great game is that one of the teams will play great and still not win. That’s what happened to Marquette.


-Belmont nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history when they were within reach of Duke in the final minutes, but came up empty on their final four possessions of the game. Duke held on to win 71-70. That especially stings for Belmont because I’m sure those players and coaches will be replaying each of those final four possessions over and over in their heads for a long time. If they convert on one of them they probably win that game.

Duke followed up that game with a rather unimpressive second round showing against West Virginia. Not to take anything away from the Mountaineers because they did play pretty well. They overcame a second half deficit to basically put themselves in control for the last ten minutes of the game. It was never out of reach of Duke, but it was always in control of the Mountaineers.

West Virginia will face Xavier, which is another team in this tournament that has gotten into the habit of falling behind early, but coming back to win. Purdue scored the first nine points of the game against Xavier, but Xavier pretty much dominated after that. Xavier also trailed Georgia by 11 in the second half, but dominated the final fifteen minutes of that game to win by twelve. It’s possible (although it doesn’t appear to be all that likely) that Xavier will face Western Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Wouldn’t that be interesting?? A team that falls behind early, but comes back to win squaring off against a team that jumps out to early leads and blows it, but still manages to hold on and win.


-Lastly, Louisville and North Carolina have clearly looked like the most dominant teams. Boise State, who is better than many probably realized, stayed with Louisville for about thirty seconds. Oklahoma didn’t even last that long. Louisville has breezed through the first two rounds, and their fans are among the few that haven’t even had to sweat anything out yet. They’ll face Tennessee this Thursday. As good as Tennessee is, if the Vols don’t play better than they have in the past three weeks that game might not be close either.

North Carolina blew out Mount Saint Mary’s, which really didn’t surprise anyone, and then blew out what appeared to be a fairly solid Arkansas team. Neither game was all that close after the first media timeout. They’ll face a very tough defensive Washington State team in their next game and should get a battle out of the Cougars. Wazzu isn’t great on offense, but they’re certainly more than efficient, and they are VEEERRRY tough on defense. They completely shut down Notre Dame in their second round win. Wazzu is under the radar, but they blew through their first two games as well. Their fans may be among the few that still have all their fingernails left.

I’ve also been very impressed with Wisconsin, but that isn’t too much of a surprise. They haven’t had too much trouble dusting off their first and second round opponents either, and did a great job defending what was a talented Kansas State team in their last game. They’ll face Davidson, who has been one of the most exciting teams to watch in the tournament this year. I can’t wait to see that match-up.


-I’ll have my Sweet Sixteen Rundown and Picks posted late tonight/early tomorrow.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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BX NCAA Tournament Second Round Picks (Sunday, March 23rd
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 23, 2008
-#13. SIENA VS #12. VILLANOVA (pick – Siena). Considering who they played and how decisively they won, Siena was one of the more impressive teams in the first round. Villanova was solid as well in beating a very good Clemson team. Siena just looked better and has looked better in their past couple of games.

-#7. MIAMI FL VS #2. TEXAS (pick – Texas). The Longhorns just look like a better team in every aspect of the game. Miami has had a good season and may put up a strong fight, but I don’t see them pulling the upset.

-#7. BUTLER VS #2. TENNESSEE (pick – Butler). Butler is a much better shooting team, and although they aren’t anywhere near as athletic as Tennessee, they’re better at controlling the game. I believe the Bulldogs will be able to slow down the tempo and force Tennessee to play their type of game. Butler has also looked much better in their last two games than Tennessee has over the past couple of weeks.

-#10. DAVIDSON VS #2. GEORGETOWN (pick – Davidson). If Davidson wins it will be an upset, and they’ll have to play a better game than they did in the first round in order to win today, but I just have a feeling that they have it in them. Georgetown does have a few chinks in their armor. If they can defend against Steffan Curry then Davidson won’t have much of a chance, but that’s much easier said than done.

-#13. SAN DIEGO VS #12. WESTERN KENTUCKY (pick – Western Kentucky). If you had this match-up in your bracket, then you are either a genius or just very lucky. These two teams play contrasting styles, which should make for an entertaining game. WKU likes to run the floor and use their athleticism whereas San Diego plays more of a half court game. I could see this one going either way, but WKU appears to have more talent and I believe they’ll win and advance.

-#8. MISSISSIPPI STATE VS #1. MEMPHIS (pick – Memphis). Memphis just has too much talent and has looked much better throughout the season. I believe they’ll win this one rather decisively.

-#6. OKLAHOMA VS #3. LOUISVILLE (pick – Louisville). I think the Cardinals were one of the more impressive teams in the first round considering who they played, how prepared they were, and how well they executed their game plan. Oklahoma has been an inconsistent team all throughout the year and is capable of playing very well, but even on their best day they’d struggle against a Louisville team that’s playing as well as they are right now.

-#9. ARKANSAS VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick – North Carolina). The Tarheels are close to home, they’ve looked fantastic over the past couple of weeks, and I don’t think Arkansas could beat them on their best day. The Razorbacks did recently upset Tennessee so have shown they can knock off a top notch team, but I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off that type of upset today.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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BX Second Round Analysis and Picks (Saturday, March 22nd)
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 22, 2008
-#7. WEST VIRGINIA VS #2. DUKE (pick - Duke). Duke really struggled in their first round game and quite frankly are still lucky to be alive, but they are alive, they're still a good team, and I think they'll win today. There is no debating the fact that West Virginia looked much better in their first round game than Duke did, and if they were to win today it wouldn't be that big of a surprise. I just think that Duke has looked better more often this season, and that they'll rebound from their first round struggle and get it done today.

--#11. KANSAS STATE VS #3. WISCONSIN (pick- Wisconsin). Kansas State played what was perhaps their best game of the season in the first round against USC. If they play that well again, they'll have a chance of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. It’s hard to not pick Wisconsin, though. They're well coached, they’re a smart team, and they aren't going to beat themselves. I believe they'll be able to handle K State's talent and advance to the next round.

-#6. PURDUE VS #3. XAVIER (pick - Purdue). Xavier had an amazing second half against Georgia and if they can play like that all the way through today's game they should be able to win. The problem is that the second half of their last game is arguably the best they've played all season. Purdue is better than anyone Xavier has beaten all year, and they'll have to play their best game of the year in order to win. Purdue is young, but they're battle-tested and they won impressively against Baylor in their first round game. They've looked more impressive than Xavier in the latter part of the season, and they certainly looked better in the first round.

-#5. NOTRE DAME VS #4. WASHINGTON STATE (pick - Washington State). Both teams looked impressive in their first round wins, especially Notre Dame, who showed up ready to play against a George Mason team that was very hard to prepare for. This is a toss-up game between two battle tested teams and if they played ten games against one another I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was an even 5-5 split. Wazzu has just looked better on the road more often than Notre Dame has, which is why I'm taking them.

-#6. MARQUETTE VS #3. STANFORD (pick - Stanford). Stanford looked as good as a team can look against what appeared to be a fairly solid Cornell team. I doubted them once and won't make that mistake again. Marquette is solid, but they're matched up against a good team with a geographic advantage that's just as battle tested as they are. I like Stanford because of their size, execution, and athleticism. Marquette is good and I wouldn't be surprised if they won, but Stanford just looks to be as good or better.

-#8. UNLV VS #1. KANSAS (pick - Kansas). UNLV played what was probably their most impressive game of the season in the first round when they absolutely wiped out Kent State. Kansas got past their opponents without too much trouble, and UNLV may give them a fight today, but Kansas is the better team, they've looked better more often, and they should be able to wrap up the win today and advance to the regionals. Vegas has a young and talented team, but Kansas is much more battle-tested and simply looks like a better team than UNLV.

-#5. MICHIGAN STATE VS #4. PITTSBURGH (pick - Michigan State). Both of these teams bring their lunch pales to work. They play tough defense, they work hard on offense, and they are all around blue-collar teams. I just have a feeling about Michigan State. Pitt has never been past the Sweet Sixteen, but if they win today I like their chances of advancing past the next round. I like Michigan State's as well. This one should be a black-and-blue defensive war.

-#9. TEXAS A&M VS $1. UCLA (pick - UCLA). The stars are aligning for UCLA. They're facing a TAMU team that hasn't really proven they can put up much of a fight against a top level team away from their home court. They did beat Texas earlier this season, but that was at home, and Texas returned the favor a few weeks later by blowing TAMU out. UCLA has been amazing all season long. They have a big geographic advantage, and if they win they're taking on the winner of San Diego vs Western Kentucky. It's to the point to where if they don't make the Elite Eight it will be a big disappointment. I think they win today. I think they win next week. I believe they're a national championship contender.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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NCAA TOURNAMENT: Bracket Express First Round Rundown and Picks
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 20, 2008
-I’m currently 1-0 with my tournament picks so far if you count the opening round game, which I do. It is technically an NCAA Tournament game. I actually attended the game, and I must say that I was impressed with the turnout Mount Saint Mary’s had, especially with how many of their students were there. It made for a pretty good atmosphere. Coppin State had some fans there as well, but not quite as many. I know that game gets dogged quite a bit by the main stream media, and I can’t say I’m a big fan of the concept of it, but if you’re a person that likes college basketball it’s the most fun you’ll ever have for six bucks. If any of the people dogging it were to attend the game and give it a chance they’d probably end up having a good time. I was probably one of the few people there that wasn’t a fan of either team that actually knew a little something about both of them, but generally one side of the arena starts rooting for one team, and the side roots for the other. I don’t know which I enjoyed more, seeing the Mount Saint Mary’s students really getting into the game, or seeing everyone else on that side of the arena who had no idea who Mount Saint Mary’s was cheer right along with them just for the hell of it.


-I’m not in any jackpots, but I filled out a bracket as if I were. For the sake of this site, I’ll just be picking each game round by round and game by game, though.

When I fill out a bracket for a jackpot, I pick teams for all sorts of different reasons. Mostly it’s who I think will win, but not always. Sometimes I’ll pick a team to win knowing they’re a long shot. If you’re in a pool with ten other people then getting the long shots right isn’t that important and it’s probably best to not even try, but if you’re in one with 100 others you have to pick a long shot or two and be right in order to win. Plus, it makes it more fun. That’s why the winners have sometimes never seen a college basketball game all season. They correctly picked the long shots without knowing they were long shots.

If I like a team that I don’t think is as good their opponent, but still has a reasonable chance of winning, sometimes I’ll pick the team that I’d root for to win. I won’t be doing that for my picks on this site, though.

Some highlights from my would-be jackpot bracket are:

-My Final Four is North Carolina, Kansas, Texas and Xavier. Obviously Xavier falls under the category of picks that I’m rooting for. I have Texas beating Kansas in the championship game. It’s worth noting that if Texas gets to the Sweet Sixteen, they’ll be in their home state the rest of the way. Since their first game is against Austin Peay, they’re virtually one win away already from being on a bus trip for the remainder of the tournament.

-My long shot, probably-won’t-happen-but-if-it-does-you-win-the-jackpot-upset is BYU over UCLA in the second round. I also have Davidson taking down Georgetown, Butler over Tennessee, and Siena over Vanderbilt, but those three things are probably more likely to happen than BYU over UCLA.

-I have Memphis going out against Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen, which is a dangerous pick because I wouldn’t be surprised if Pitt beat Michigan State in the second round, but I see Memphis’s poor free-throw shooting being an issue if they’re ever in a close game.

-Below are my picks for the first round, which aren’t necessarily identical to who I’d pick if I were to enter a jackpot. If you take my advice and lose, it’s your fault.


THURSDAY, MARCH 20TH

-#14. GEORGIA VS #3. XAVIER (pick – Xavier). Georgia is coming off one of the most improbable accomplishments I’ve ever seen in college basketball. If they play as well today as they did in the SEC Tournament, their season will not end. The thing about Xavier is that they’re better than anyone Georgia actually faced head-to-head in the SEC Tournament when they want to be. Lately, they haven’t played with the level of intensity that they’ll need to in this tournament if they want to last long. That might be due to feeling like they were under-matched in conference play, but they won’t be under-matched here. They say that Drew Lavender is healthy after dealing with an injured ankle down the stretch, and if he is they should play well. I’m picking Xavier to win, but they won’t win if they don’t play better than they have in their last couple of games.

-#16. PORTLAND STATE VS #1. KANSAS (pick – Kansas). Portland State is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and they clearly look to be the best out of all the #16 seeds. Kansas, however, is among the best in the nation and a strong Final Four contender. If we’re going to see a #16 beat a #1 this year this is the game where it is most likely to happen, but I’d say there is about a 98 percent chance that it won’t. Kansas should win big.

-#12. TEMPLE VS #5. MICHIGAN STATE (pick – Michigan State). The Spartans have struggled away from home throughout the year, at least when you compare them to top level teams, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this team go deep into the tournament. Temple is a good team as well, and an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. I just think the Spartans will be too much for them. Temple did beat Xavier big earlier in the year, but other than that they haven’t beaten anyone as good as Michigan State, and from what I saw rarely played up to that level.

-#11. KENTUCKY VS #6. MARQUETTE (pick – Marquette). Given how tenacious Kentucky has been this season, it’s hard not to like them (unless you’re a Louisville fan), but I don’t see them pulling off the win today. Kentucky did take Tennessee to the wire, but they haven’t beaten anyone as good as Marquette away from home. Marquette just appears to have too much talent.

-#11. BAYLOR VS #6. PURDUE (pick – Purdue). Purdue is a young team, and generally speaking young teams don’t do as well as veteran teams in the tournament. The thing about Baylor is that they’re fairly young as well, and none of their players have any NCAA Tournament experience. Other than the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue was fantastic down the stretch. If they can play at that level they should win this game.

-#9. KENT STATE VS #8. UNLV (pick – Kent State). I was really impressed with both of these teams this year, and this is one game that could certainly go either way. Kent State looked a little better in their conference tournament than UNLV did in theirs, especially when you consider that UNLV was hosting. The Rebels beat BYU decisively in the championship, but struggled in their other games. Kent is great when they’re at the top of their game, but they haven’t always been. They’ve shown they can play when the spotlight is on them, though, which it definitely is today.

-#13. ORAL ROBERTS VS #4. PITTSBURGH (pick – Pittsburgh). Oral Roberts had a great season, and they could end up giving Pitt one hell of a game, but I just don’t see this turning out to be an upset. Pitt’s defense is fantastic, and they’re playing their best basketball of the season right now. Oral Roberts will likely have trouble getting their offense going.

-#14. CORNELL VS #3. STANFORD (pick – Cornell). If Cornell pulls the upset it wouldn’t surprise me too much. They’re a well disciplined team that can score, and have four players that can really shoot the three. Common sense tells me I should pick Stanford and it’s almost impossible to give an acceptable analysis as to how Cornell could win. Stanford has a geographic advantage, they’ve played outstanding basketball all season, and there is no reason to not expect them to win this game. I do believe Stanford is good enough to go deep into the tournament, and I realize this would be a huge upset, but I just have a feeling that Cornell is going to play really well. This is one of the first round games that I’m really looking forward to.

-#11. KANSAS STATE VS #6. USC (pick – USC). This is a highly anticipated match-up given the fact that O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley will be playing in the same game. Kansas State has tremendous talent, but they didn’t look as good as USC coming down the stretch. USC went through periods where they struggled, but part of that was due to injuries. They’re coming off a game where they nearly upset UCLA and they’d been playing pretty solid ball prior to that. If they’re focused coming into this one I believe they’ll win it.

-#15. BELMONT VS #2. DUKE (pick – Duke). Belmont is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, but they’re also no stranger to getting bounced out by big margins in the first round. They did have a good year in the Atlantic Sun this year, but they’re simply way overmatched in this game. Duke is a team that we could see go deep into the tournament. They lost in the first round last year and I’d be shocked if that hasn’t been a source of motivation for them.

-#13. WINTHROP VS #4. WASHINGTON STATE (pick – Washington State). Winthrop played some pretty tough opponents early in the season and did fairly well, but they’re still a very young team. The future of their program is bright and they had a good year this year where they won the Big South, but I don’t see them pulling the upset today. Wazzu is a well coached team that’s been battle tested and should be able to get through without too much trouble.

-#9. TEXAS A&M VS #8. BYU (pick – BYU). The Cougars didn’t look all that good in their last game against UNLV, but I really like their team. They shoot the ball very well and have two fantastic three point shooters in Lee Cummard and Jonathan Tavernari. They’re also good on the boards. Overall, they look to me to be a better team than Texas A&M and I believe the Cougars will get the win.

-#10. ARIZONA VS #7. WEST VIRGINIA (pick – West Virginia). Arizona has not looked good at all in the last few weeks, and their poor finish to the season nearly cost them a bid. I don’t see them getting past the first round today against a West Virginia team that played pretty well in the Big East Tournament, and appears to be playing their best hoops of the season right now.

-#14. CAL STATE FULLTERTON VS #3. WISCONSIN (pick – Wisconsin). Not a whole lot of people are all that excited about Wisconsin, but they’re a good basketball team. They won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, they won a huge game at Texas earlier this year, and I could see them going deep in the NCAA Tournament. Cal State Fullerton won the Big West and looked really good in their tournament, but I don’t see them giving Wisconsin too much of a scare.

-#12. GEORGE MASON VS #5. NOTRE DAME (pick – George Mason). This would be another big upset, but when George Mason plays up to their abilities, they are a very tough team to beat. They don’t always do that, which is why they’ve lost some of the games that they have, but they looked good in their conference tournament and I expect them to come into this game with quite a bit of intensity. The Irish have had a good season and I certainly wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they won this game. For that matter I wouldn’t be surprised if they won their second round game either.

-#16. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE VS #1. UCLA (pick – UCLA). This is the last game of the day to tip off, and it looks to be the most uninteresting game of the day. I guess they’re saving the worst for last. Mississippi Valley State comes into this game having won nine in a row, but just one of those came against an RPI top 300 team. UCLA is a true national championship contender that’s playing this game very close to home. This one could (and likely will) get ugly quickly.


FRIDAY, MARCH 21ST

-#15. AMERICAN VS #2. TENNESSEE (pick – Tennessee). This game is a huge mismatch, and Tennessee should win easily. American had a good year in the Patriot League, but they don’t have the athletes that the Volunteers have and Tennessee could very easily end up running them over. The Vols have struggled recently and their lack of free-throw shooting could be a problem later on, but I don’t see this game being very close for very long.

-#10. DAVIDSON VS #7. GONZAGA (pick – Davidson). Davidson didn’t manage an impressive win during the season, but they put up tremendous fights against the likes of UCLA, Duke and North Carolina. They’re definitely a top 25 caliber team, and I believe they’re better than Gonzaga despite the fact that they’re seeded lower. They also have the advantage of playing close to home in Raleigh. Gonzaga has a good team as well and has shown that they can play against high level teams. I believe this is a great match-up that either team could win. I could also see either of these teams giving Georgetown trouble in the second round if that’s who they end up facing.

-#10. SAINT MARY’S VS #7. MIAMI, FL (pick – Miami, FL). Neither of these teams strike me as being outstanding. Saint Mary’s has played well, but they really haven’t looked overly impressive when facing other top notch teams. Miami has looked pretty good down the stretch, but they’ve struggled away from their home court. This looks like a game that could go either way, but I just think Miami has looked a little better lately. I don’t see the winner advancing much further than this, though.

-#12. WESTERN KENTUCKY VS #5. DRAKE (pick – Drake). I really like both of these teams and think that both are good enough to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament, but only one will be able to. It’s almost unfortunate that they’re opening against each other. I just believe Drake is better, though. They’ve passed some tough road tests and played amazingly well in their conference tournament. Western Kentucky does have some great athletes, though, and Drake could have a hard time stopping WKU in transition if the Hilltoppers are able to push the tempo.

-#10. SOUTH ALABAMA VS #7. BUTLER (pick – Butler). South Alabama had a great season, and the fact that this game is in Birmingham should give them a geographic advantage, but not to the level where Butler won’t be able to adjust. Butler is a very good team who is seeded where they are merely because of the lack of opportunities to face quality opponents. They’ll get those opportunities now, though, and I believe they’re a dangerous team. They can shoot, rebound and play defense. I’m picking them to win today, and on top of that I can see them being a very tough team to beat in the second round.

-#15. UMBC VS #2. GEORGETOWN (pick – Georgetown). I really like UMBC’s team and think it’s great that they’ve grown as a program and are now playing in their first ever NCAA Tournament game. They’re certainly well coached by Randy Monroe and are a fun team to watch. Having said that, chances are they’re going to get stomped today. I’ll be cheering for them (nothing against the Hoyas. I just like UMBC), but that won’t do them much good against a very tough Georgetown team.

-#13. SAN DIEGO VS #4. CONNECTICUT (pick – Connecticut). San Diego is red hot right now and just beat two very good teams in Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga to win their conference tournament, but they’re not on their home floor for this game, and they’re playing a very strong Connecticut team. The Huskies didn’t look all that good in the Big East Tournament, but that’s the sort of thing that can shake a well coached team awake. San Diego undoubtedly has a ton of confidence, and they may be able to stay with the Huskies, but I don’t see them pulling the upset.

-#15. AUSTIN PEAY VS #2. TEXAS (pick – Texas). Texas could have arguably been a #1 seed, but chances are they’re not too disappointed with how the brackets came out. Austin Peay doesn’t stand much of a chance. The Longhorns should win this one going away.

-#11. SAINT JOSEPH’S VS #6. OKLAHOMA (pick – Saint Joseph’s). Both of these teams have been inconsistent all season, so it’s hard to say who will win or how close the score will be. If you’re a gambling man I’d stay away from this game. Saint Joseph’s is a good defensive team, and when they show up they’re very tough to beat. Oklahoma is a good team as well, but I must say I was surprised they were seeded as high as #6th. They did look pretty strong coming down the stretch, though, so they’re definitely good enough to win this game.

-#16. MOUNT SAINT MARY’S VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick – North Carolina). Mount Saint Mary’s won the opening round game to get here, but it would take the miracle of miracles to upset the Tarheels in Raleigh. North Carolina is the #1 team and they’ve been playing like it for the past couple of weeks. This game will probably end up out of reach after just the first few minutes.

-#13. SIENA VS #4. VANDERBILT (pick – Siena). Siena is a good basketball team, and they’re no stranger to upsets. They knocked off Stanford earlier this season, so they’ll definitely be confident coming into this one. They also gave some other pretty good teams a scare earlier in the year. Vanderbilt looks better on paper, and they’ve had some monster wins this season, so anyone who does pick Siena to win this one like I am is going out on a limb. Siena just looked really good down the stretch. Even though they weren’t playing good teams, they looked good themselves. Vanderbilt has looked good this year as well, but they have struggled away from their home court, and that’s something to consider. They’ll need to play better than they typically do on the road in order to win.

-#9. OREGON VS #8. MISSISSIPPI STATE (pick – Mississippi State). Mississippi State struggled out of the gate. It also looked like there were some chinks in the armor during the SEC Tournament, but I still think they look a little better than Oregon. The Ducks are more battle-tested, and that is definitely a factor, and they finished the regular season by winning three straight games, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them pull this one out. This is another game that could go either way.

-#14. BOISE STATE VS #3. LOUISVILLE (pick – Louisville). Boise State has really made huge strides in improving their program in recent years, and they are a fun team to watch play. They’re athletic, but so is Louisville. Louisville also plays excellent defense and that should be able to slow down Boise State some. I’m looking forward to this match-up, but I think it will be more interesting from an X’s and O’s standpoint than it will competitive. Boise might make it a game for awhile, but I believe Louisville will open it up before it’s over.

-#9. ARKANSAS VS #8. INDIANA (pick – Arkansas). Indiana just hasn’t looked all that good since Kelvin Sampson left the team. Even when the Hoosiers have won they haven’t looked all that impressive. Arkansas has been inconsistent all season long, but they did look pretty good in the SEC Tournament and enter this game with quite a bit of momentum. If they play the way they did throughout the SEC Tourney they should end up winning this without too much trouble.

-#12. VILLANOVA VS #5. CLEMSON (pick – Clemson). Nova is a solid team that played well down the stretch of the regular season, but Clemson looks even better. They’re probably better than what their overall credentials indicate. They took North Carolina to the wall three times, and lost twice in overtime. They also looked fantastic all throughout the ACC Tournament, and if they play at that level then I can see them going deep into the NCAAs.

-#16. TEXAS ARLINGTON VS #1. MEMPHIS (pick – Memphis). I’m not expecting much of a game in this one. Texas Arlington finishes 7th in the Southland Conference, but earned the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. Even by #16 seed standards they don’t appear to be all that good. This game could turn into a flattening, much like the three conference tournament games Memphis played in last week as they skated to the Conference USA title.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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Analyzing the Selecion Committee/Opening Round game
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 18, 2008
MY SCORES

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

-I was 13-17 in picking the conference tournament winners. This is the first time since I’ve been doing this that I ever finished below .500. Some of them were as improbable as anything that’s ever happened during Championship week. I never get them all right, but generally there are only one or two results that really surprise me. This year there were five.

Mississippi Valley State was second in the SWAC standings, so it isn’t too shocking that they won the conference tournament, but they were four games behind first place Alabama State. They split during the season, so a Mississippi Valley State win over Alabama State wouldn’t have been too surprising, but a Jackson State win over Alabama State sure was. That’s what happened and my pick was eliminated. They also nearly pulled another upset over MVSU in the championship game.

Mount Saint Mary’s and Coppin State will face off in the opening round game, and I didn’t have either one winning their conference tournament. Mount Saint Mary’s upset both Robert Morris and Sacred Heart on the road to win the Northeast Conference. Robert Morris won 27 games, which is the most ever for a team to not make the NCAA Tournament. Coppin State did finish the season with quite a bit of momentum so I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised, but it was still shocking to see them win the MEAC. On February 4th they were 2-19 against div1 teams, and they are the first 20 loss team to ever make the NCAA Tournament.

Texas Arlington finished the season by losing five of their last seven games and earned the #7 seed in the Southland Tournament. I thought Stephen F. Austin would run away with it, but somehow Texas Arlington went on a run and won the automatic bid.

Of course, the most improbable result of all was Georgia winning the SEC Tournament. Had I picked them to win prior to that tournament starting I may have been fired right on the spot. They won four games in four days, and three games in two days to win the SEC. Their win total in the conference tournament matched their regular season win total in conference play.


CRITIQUING THE SELECTION COMMITTEE

-As for the NCAA Tournament field, I ended up with 64 out of 65 teams, and had 57 within one of the actual seed if I counted correctly. I had Illinois State in instead of Oregon, but Oregon was my next team to make it, and I actually had them in the bracket until Georgia won the SEC Tournament. I’m not surprised at all by that selection, but I was sort of surprised that they got a #9 seed. The top three teams from a given conference cannot be put into the same region, so when the first three regions were revealed and Drake’s name hadn’t been called yet, I knew that Illinois State wasn’t getting in.

The biggest misses I had in terms of seeding were Vanderbilt, who I had as a #7 and they were given a #4. They did beat Tennessee and were undefeated at home, so I could make a case that they deserved a #4 if I had to, but I just thought the committee would hold their road record against them more than they did.

I had Villanova as a #10, but moved them up to a #9 to make the bracket fit. They ended up receiving a #12. Given the way they finished the season and how none of their losses were all that damaging I thought they’d be seeded a little better, but I’m not too shocked by that.

Indiana as a #8 was much lower than I expected, but I can see the logic behind it. They haven’t been the same team since Kelvin Sampson left. I had them as a #5 matched up against Western Kentucky in the first round. If both of those teams were to actually play each other now, I’d pick Western Kentucky to win that game, so I’m not going to say that they don’t belong on the #8 line.

I only got two of the #1 seeds right, which is my most noticeable inaccuracy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the four #1s were not unanimous #1s. For the second year in a row, the four #1 seeds were all conference tournament winners. In 2006 there were two #1 seeds that lost in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. The year before that North Carolina lost in their conference tournament quarterfinals to what appeared to be a rather poor Clemson team, but still ended up as the top #1 seed. I’ve been told by multiple committee members that they look at the conference tournaments as just one more game and don’t really put any special emphasis on them. The last time I was told that, though, was two years ago, so I intend on asking about that again. The committee members change from year to year, so naturally the points of emphasis and points of view are going to change as well. Kansas and UCLA definitely had a case, especially if they’re taking an extra close look at the conference tournaments, so I had no problems with either of those teams being seeded #1. It’s just that I thought the committee would factor in head to head competition. Tennessee beat Memphis, and Texas beat both UCLA and Kansas. That impressed me. I thought it would impress them, but evidently it didn’t impress them enough.

Neither team can be all that disappointed, though. Texas is still in Houston and Tennessee is still somewhat close to home in Charlotte, although North Carolina is there as well. If anything, I think Texas is happier with their #2 than Memphis is with their #1. If Memphis and Texas wind up facing each other, it’s the third year in a row Memphis has had to play a regional as the better seeded team against an opponent with a huge geographic advantage. They faced Texas A&M in San Antonio last year, and UCLA in Oakland the year before that. Memphis really needs to get on the horn with Vanderbilt, Belmont or Lipscomb and try and convince them to put in a bid to host a regional in Nashville.


-In 2002, which was before the days of Draft Express, Kansas and Oklahoma faced each other in the Big Twelve Championship game, which as you know is always on a Sunday. Both teams were top five teams, and it seemed to be the consensus that the winner of that game would end up as the final #1 seed. Oklahoma won the game, but Kansas still got the #1 seed. When the chairman was asked about it he stated that it was just one more game and that they felt they already had enough information on all the teams playing that Sunday and didn’t need to factor in any of the championship games taking place that day.

I must commend this year’s committee. It was stated that they had eight different contingency plans in place to take into account all of Sunday’s games. That is more work than most people realize. Just moving a team up one seed, especially if it’s from a #2 to a #1, means restructuring the whole pod and reassigning some of the locations. I’m sorry, but I’m not coming up with eight contingency plans just for the sake of projections. The NCAA has software that helps them make the adjustments easier. I have a pencil and a piece of paper, and have to write all the teams in one line at a time. For the sake of projections, it generally isn’t all that important anyway. I’m projecting the field, not putting the actual tournament together.


OPENING ROUND GAME

-#17. COPPIN STATE VS #16. MOUNT SAINT MARY’S (pick – Mount Saint Mary’s). If the NIT had an opening round game both of these teams would be in it if they were playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA. In fact, these two teams have the weakest credentials out of any of the three postseason tournaments, and I don’t think there have ever been two teams that had such poor seasons playing in this game since it was implemented. Both finished the season on a high note, though, and won their conference tournaments which made them the conference champions. I like Mount Saint Mary’s. They won decisively on the road against a good Robert Morris team, and then beat Sacred Heart on the road. They struggled during the season, but they were CLEARLY the best team in their tournament. Coppin State has won 12 of their last 13, though, so they definitely have more momentum. The winner will face North Carolina in Raleigh.

I say this every year, but this is not a play-in game. It’s an NCAA Championship Tournament game that’s being treated by the NCAA league office as a championship event. Both teams get a full share of NCAA Tournament money for having made it this far, and to be technically correct, Coppin State is a #17 seed. The fans and media don’t treat this like an NCAA Tournament game so it’s not quite the same experience, but as far as the NCAA is concerned it is.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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FINAL BRACKET EXPRESS PROJECTIONS: (updated 5:46pm, est)
by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
March 16, 2008
-My latest Bracket Projections are posted below. There are five championship games today and those could potentially impact things, but if all the higher seeds win I don’t plan on changing it much, if at all. I will be updating this article, and possibly the bracket throughout the day, though, so be sure and check back periodically.

Here are some important links.

THE BUBBLE WATCH HAS BEEN UPDATED. CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT


CLICK HERE FOR A RUNDOWN OF TODAY'S FIVE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES


TEAMS THAT WERE MOVED TO MEET THE BRACKETING GUIDELINES

-Arizona moved from a #10 to a #9
-Villanova moved from a #10 to a #9
-UNLV moved from a #9 to a #10
-Mississippi State moved from a #9 to a #10

I really don’t like Arizona and Villanova as #9 seeds. They certainly don’t seem to deserve it, but with eight Big East teams there was no other way to make the bracket fit. I had Nova as #40 on my S Curve, which means they were the worst #10 seed. I almost think there is a better chance of them getting a #11 than a #9. Arizona has struggled down the stretch and doesn’t look like a #9 either, but with four Pac Ten teams on that side of the bracket they needed to be moved up.





OTHERS CONSIDERED: Ohio State, Syracuse, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Massachusetts, Dayton

Those profiles can be seen in the BUBBLE WATCH


UPDATE: 5:44pm, est

-Georgia has done what seemed to be impossible. They’ve won four games in four games, and three games in two days, to win the SEC Championship against Arkansas 66-57 and advance to the NCAA Tournament despite being the last place team in the East Division. To sum up this game, it was the SEC Championship game that was being played on an ACC floor that was being broadcast by CBS, but aired on ESPN2. With all of that craziness, of course Georgia was going to win. Anything else would have been too normal. I’ve seen a lot of conference tournaments in my day, but I’ll NEVER forget this one. Congrats to your SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs.

-The bad news is that one less bubble team will get in. In my case, I now have Oregon out, with Saint Joseph’s being my last team in.

-Kansas also won the Big Twelve Championship, but I’m still keeping Texas as a #1 seed. They beat Kansas during the regular season and just seem to have too many good wins (more on that is discussed below). Kansas should get a #2 seed at worst. This was a major statement win for the Jayhawks.

-I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see UCLA as a #1 seed. They’re certainly deserving and a strong argument could certainly be made. It would also make geographic sense to put them in the Phoenix Region, although I don’t believe that is a factor. If they do get in, it’s hard to say who they’d take down. Texas is the lowest ranked team, but rankings don’t matter and Texas did beat UCLA earlier this season.

We shall see.

-Best of luck to all the teams who are hoping for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.


UPDATE: 5:01pm, est

-The Opening round game has been announced. Mount Saint Mary's will be facing off against Coppin State. I've updated the bracket to reflect that. The reason they announced it early is to allow those schools a few extra hours to make travel arrangements, ticket arrangements, collect film, etc. Mississippi Valley State appears to have a much weaker profile than Mount Saint Mary's, but the committee seems hesitant to match the MEAC and SWAC winners in that game for some reason. This is the second year in a row it looked as though the two weakest teams were coming from those conferences, but weren't paired up in the opening round.


UPDATE: 3:36pm, est

-Texas Arlington defeated Northwestern State to win the Southland Championship 82-79. Obviously, they have replaced Northwestern State in my bracket projections. It's their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. Someone after the game was holding up a t-shirt that read "Picked Sixth." I'm assuming that was referring to where they were picked to finish in the preseason. What's funny about that is that they actually finished 7th. They are, however, the conference champions and are on their way to the NCAA Tournament.

-Clemson put up a fight against North Carolina, but came up just short. This is the second year in a row the Tarheels have finished in first place and won the conference tournament. They'll almost assuredly be the #1 seed in the Charlotte Region.

-If Illinois and/or Georgia win their games, Oregon will be the first team to come out, and Saint Joseph's will be the next team. They'll receive #13 seeds in my projections. George Maosn would be the first team I'd move up to a #1, and Oral Roberts would move up after that. What a crazy week it has been.


COMMITTEES

-Although sometimes I can’t help myself, I try not to look at other bracket projection sites too much. I definitely don’t like to look at them until I’ve finished mine because I’m afraid I’d start second guessing myself while putting mine together. However, if you follow basketball it’s impossible to avoid them entirely this time of year. There is one thing that people should keep in mind about this made-up science that is “Bracketology.” It’s a process that’s done by committee, and a committee is anything but scientific. If you’ve ever been on any sort of committee in your life, be it a school board, or a youth sports league, or PTA, or a hiring committee, organizational planning, or whatever, you know that there is no quantitative, scientific way to for an outsider to predict what the hell the results are going to be. The best anyone can do is hypothesize. If you’ve ever worked in academia (and this is, after all, COLLEGE basketball) you know that virtually everything that happens at a university decided by one type of committee or another. There is no telling what’s going to be emphasized by who, or how everyone else is going to respond whatever discussions happen to take place. Some members of the committee might feel Illinois State’s win at Southern Illinois is a good one because Southern Illinois lost so few home games. Others may not because Southern Illinois is not a top 25 caliber team. You just don’t know. I don’t think many in the media understand that. I think everyone gets too caught up in RPI, or RPI top 50 wins, or conference records, or sub 100 RPI losses, or whatever. Whenever I see ESPN do those blind resumes I have to laugh because that simply isn’t how the committee is going to evaluate the teams. That type of data is way too general. If you see a team has six RPI top 50 wins, that really doesn’t tell you much. Did they win at home against Creighton, or did they beat UCLA on the road?? There is a BIIIG difference. I’m not calling out ESPN specifically, or anyone else for that matter, but it just seems like people constantly obsess over the general data without looking at things more precisely. Then, when the actual NCAA Tournament field is released all the same analysts are scratching their heads and wondering why some of the teams didn’t end up where they thought they would. Oftentimes their next course of action is to start bashing the committee, who has spent much more time on this than any of them have. I’ve been guilty of that myself, but then again, who’s to say I’m right and they’re wrong??

-Just so everyone can get an idea of exactly how much time is spent, each of the ten committee members has three conferences that they’re supposed to evaluate throughout the season. By evaluating, that means watching virtually every game that any team in that conference plays from November through March. On top of that, they’re supposed to keep up with all the other teams around the nation. The idea that a team would go unnoticed by the committee because they don't watch enough games is so ridiculous it's almost funny. I can almost guarantee that they watch more basketball and follow it more closely than any member of the media does, and they do a better job of keeping up with the non-major conferences. No team will ever get in simply because of name recognition, as the media sometimes alledges. The reason that won’t happen is because the committee literally recognizes every team. It isn’t as if there is going to be a team that they haven’t heard of or that’s under their radar. In addition to all the work that they do, these are highly educated people who have extensive professional careers in college athletics as athletic directors or conference commissioners and are regarded as being successful. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been selected to be on the committee in the first place. Not only are committee members aware of schools like South Alabama, VCU and Illinois State, but many of them could probably tell you who the baseball, softball and swim coaches are at those schools and have some knowledge about how they did in those sports. The notion that they aren't familiar with the basketball teams is ridiculous. Considering all the interaction that they have with other universities, they're naturally going to be somewhat familiar with every single Division One program in the country before they're even on the committee. Once they're on the committee, they're completely absorbed with basketball. They work in college athletics for a living. The media merely reports on what they do for a living. Personally, I trust the committee's expertise more than anyone else's in the media...except for my own ;)


#1 SEEDS

-UCLA is my best #2 seed and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they ended up with a #1. I just don’t know who they would replace.

North Carolina appears to be a shoe-in having finished first in the ACC, and the fact that they’re ranked #1 probably means the NABC has them ranked highly as well. They’re also an amazing 12-0 on the road, and one of their two losses on the season was without Ty Lawson. Seeing as how they beat Duke on the road with him back in the lineup, I think that loss will be negated.

Texas has wins at UCLA, on a neutral floor against Tennessee, and at home against Kansas. That’s three huge wins, one of which was on the road against the team in question. Since the profiles are similar, it seems to me that head-to-head should clearly indicate who is more deserving.

Tennessee lost in their conference tournament, but they still have a win at Memphis, which is one of the most impressive road wins of the year by anyone. They’re #1 in the RPI, they’ve played the toughest schedule in the country, and have 11 wins against the RPI top 50.

Memphis is probably the weakest on paper, but they still have wins over Georgetown, Connecticut and USC. I also have a suspicion that they’ll be very high in the NABC Rankings given their current record.

UCLA’s best win was against Stanford, which is good, but not as good as some of Tennessee’s or Texas’s wins. They’re also lower in the RPI (abliet barely) and played a weaker schedule. Although they do have six RPI top 25 wins, they all came against just three different teams. They beat Stanford three times. Again, a strong case can be made for UCLA to be a #1, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them as a #1 seed, but I just don’t know who they’d replace.


KANSAS

-I’ve seen Kansas play some incredible basketball this year, and they have a good chance of winning the Big Twelve Championship this Sunday, but on paper they aren’t quite as good as their ranking. They’re 7th in the RPI, but their SOS is 59th (that will go up after they play Texas again, but it won’t take that big of a jump). They also don’t have a win against the RPI Top 25. They took Texas to the wire on the road, so they are a good basketball team, but they’ve been looking a little sluggish lately. To be fair, top teams don’t always look good as good in conference tournaments as they will in the NCAA Tournament because when they play teams multiple times every year, facing them yet a third time in the conference tournament gives their opponents an element of familiarity that teams in the NCAA Tournament don’t have. Still, it wouldn’t be hard to make a case that Kansas wouldn’t even deserve a #2 seed if they fail to win today. I believe they should get a #2, but if they were to get a #3, or even a #4 (that won’t happen), there would be no one seeded ahead of them that they actually managed to beat during the season if they lose to Texas again today.


IT’S CALLED MADNESS FOR A REASON

-Every year I’ve done this, some strange scenario pops up that I’ve never seen happen before. Therefore, it’s impossible to accurately predict what the committee is going to do because there is no specific frame of reference. This year, we have two games that tip off at 3:30pm, est that involve teams that will either win the game and make the NCAA Tournament, or lose and go home. That means they’ll have to have multiple brackets made out already if they want to get it done in time.

-On top of that, no one with an overall losing record has ever won a major conference tournament. Today, we have two teams that could do it in Georgia and Illinois. How do you seed a team that played so badly for most of the season, but yet finished so strongly?? Since neither can get an at-large, I’m guessing they’d end up on the #13 line if they actually do manage to win today. They’ll be behind the at-large teams, but ahead of the automatic qualifiers from low level conferences. Oregon and Saint Joseph’s are my last two teams in. They’ll be the ones that come out of my bracket if one or both of these teams win today.


-Best of luck to all the teams who are waiting to see where they’ll end up, or if they got in at all. I know it’s nerve-racking. If you’re a fan of a team and you’re nervous, then just imagine how the players and coaches feel. It’s like being a finalist for your dream job and sitting there waiting for the phone to ring. Actually, it’s probably worse.

Feedback for this article may be sent to drew.barnette@draftexpress.com
 
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