And here we are, ladies and gentlemen. March Madness.
I have a bunch of hoopservations about the college game, none of which is worthy of more than four or five sentences. Thus, here is a potpourri of mini hoopservations:
1a. For starters, this is not the site to come to for upset picks based on super-duper-insider info and fantastic scouting reports. If you want that kind of analysis, keep surfing the ‘net and you’ll find it without too much trouble. I’ve never seen St. Peter’s play. Or Indiana State. Or Belmont. In fact, I thought Belmont was a horse race, not a college.
1b. Great, I just offended all of my readers from Belmont. When you only have eight loyal readers, you can’t afford to offend anyone, but I just did. No wonder I’m having so much trouble attracting new readers.
2. BYU, at one point this season, looked like a legit contender. Then it suspended one of its best players for having sex with his girlfriend. I have plenty of opinions about this, but they’d certainly offend some people and, well, I just can’t afford to offend anyone at this point.
3. Is it too early to declare the expansion to 68 teams a failure? If not, what additional information do we need before we are able to determine that the expansion was a bad idea?
4. Jeff Capel got fired this week. Not the biggest story out there, I know, but I think it’s interesting because of what it says about the way we perceive college coaches. When Capel made VCU competitive, he was a hot young candidate for a job at a bigger program. He took the job at Oklahoma, and did quite well, when he had Blake Griffin. Since losing Griffin, he hasn’t done so well. Funny how that works. Take a step back and look at this: when he makes a team like VCU competitive, people think he’s a coaching prodigy. When he recruits Blake Griffin, people think the praise was worthwhile. Then when he loses Griffin and stops winning, people think he doesn’t even deserve to keep his job. How about some perspective, folks?
5. Last year, I hoopserved that tournament upsets, contrary to popular belief, generally did not involve a team with five underrated upperclassmen beating a team with five overrated underclassmen. Rather, they generally involved a lower-seeded team having a star who carried it to a win. (Here, if you’re interested.) In light of that, I looked at the list of this year’s leading scorers, and note that teams to keep an eye on are Penn St. (Talor Battle averages 20.1 ppg), Wofford (Noah Dalman averages 20 ppg),and BU (John Holland averages 19.2 ppg). If you’re kind of into this angle, but you’re more interested in rebounds than points, I note that the list of leading rebounders includes Nikola Vucevic from USC (10.2 rpg) and Keith Benson from Oakland (10.1 rpg).
6. It’s interesting that people can see what they want in this tournament. Those who are down on the game will see that the top eight seeds are about as weak as the top eight seeds have been in a while. Florida? Notre Dame? They’ll also see that the tournament is wide open, essentially because there is a lot of mediocrity, and very few teams that have potential for greatness. Those who are not down on the game will see a lot to like about this tournament. For starters, the defending national champion returns multiple critical starters, and heads into the tournament as a #1 seed. And, they will see a bunch of potentially great matchups. UCLA-Michigan State in Round 1?!? Seriously? Plus, a potential matchup of St. John’s, the revitalized school from NYC, and BYU, the school that kicked a player off of its team for violating the school’s Honor Code — an Honor Code that, as I understand things, does not allow students to drink caffeine. Like I said, I’m not going to comment on BYU’s decision, but you don’t need my commentary to see that St. John’s / BYU would be an interesting clash. Looking down the road, a potential Ohio State / Syracuse matchup would be awesome. Another run from Butler would be thrilling. And, don’t forget, Kemba Walker might just grab the whole bracket by the throat and not let go.
I don’t know about you, but I’m psyched.
Funny how Tweener links to an old, on-point article about picking NCAA tourney upsets when he mentions Fredette (who reminds me of Deron Williams at Illinois) but fails to recognize his previous postings praising Izzo when reporting on Michigan State’s swoon. Izzo’s/MSU’s struggles this year recall last year’s disappointing UNC team and prove, once again, that even the best programs and coaches have a down year every now and then. The Tar Heels, by the way, are quietly playing their best basketball of the year heading into Cameron on Wednesday. Duke should win on Wednesday but expect the game to be a classic Duke-Carolina game unlike the last game between the rivals in Cameron.
Regarding making sense of the Big East, that conference is a reflection of all of college basketball this season. Apart from the top 5 teams (as currently accurately ranked), the next 30 or so are just about interchangeable.
My top-four conference rankings at this point: 1. Big East (by wide margin), 2. Big 12, 3. ACC (underrated) and 4. Big 10 (slipping each day). Not too much farther down the list would be the Ivy League, which is boasting its strongest teams at the top in a long, long time.
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TigerHeel! Always good to have you. A few responses:
1. I wasn’t linking to an old article to pat myself on the back. I’m well aware that there’s stuff in old articles that makes me look bad (I picked the Cavs to make the playoffs this year!). Good dig, though.
2. Aside from Pitt, the teams “at the top of” the Big East have changed a few times this year.
3. What I’m looking to see is whether the Big East teams get a boost from playing all the tough competition this year, or whether it winds up meaning nothing.
4. ACC underrated? Who’s dangerous other than Carolina and Duke?
FSU was looking like a good sleeper tourney team because they are so good defensively. But yesterday the Seminoles lost their best player (Chris Singleton) for the year because of a broken foot. BC, Clemson and Maryland are all solid and would be in the middle of most conferences other than the Big East, which is just stacked.