With most of the mid-major conference tournaments now in the books, it’s time for the BCS leagues and the like to begin their postseason sectionals.
Not a ton of drama exists in the today’s games as it pertains to the Bubble. In the afternoon sessions of the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA, nobody is a true at large contender. St. Louis/Lasalle, UNCC/St. Joseph’s, Rice/Marshall and Southern Miss/UCF are pure elimination games. The winners advance into league quarterfinals tomorrow afternoon. The loser gets ready for baseball season. All of these teams need to win out for the automatic bid in order to make the field. None are even in the NIT projections, but if teams like the St. Louis, Lasalle and St. Joseph’s win a couple of games this week, they might be able to extend their season and play in the Invitational instead.
In the Big 12, Texas, a team safely in the field, plays last place Colorado. The tournament begins with an intriguing 8/9 between Nebraska and Baylor. Both need to win out to make the field, although a case might be made for Nebraska, whose 9-9 league mark is the best they’ve done in 10 years, for an at large should they advance all the way into the league finals.
The marquee bubble game of the day session is taking place now, as you read this, when the Providence Friars, the league’s 8-seed, plays Depaul, the 16-seed. Providence will be a team discussed all week as far as their NCAA merits are concerned. As of this morning, the Friars are fifth-to-last out of the Bracket Matrix. Only 9 Bracketologists include Providence in their field. One of them is B101, which has projected the most accurate fields over a three-year period, so there might be more to PC’s candidacy than meets the eye.
Heading into the game, the Friars have already lost. By virtue of Depaul’s upset yesterday over Cincinnati, Providence misses a chance to book a nice looking win on its resume this afternoon. A loss to the Blue Demons would be lethal. However, a win won’t force people to take a second look at the Friars. Depaul won for the first time since December yesterday and became the first team in Big East history to go winless in league play, but rebound to win a BE Tournament Game. For the Friars to get over the hump and impress the selection committee, they need to take care of business today and beat top-seeded Louisville tomorrow afternoon.
While everyone expects the Friars to beat the Blue Demons today, Providence has to overcome its own Big East Tournament Demons in the process. They’ve lost five straight BE Tournament games, 10 of their last 11 and have not won a game in this sectional since 2003. Nobody questions the Friars offense, but their defense needs to shore up if they want to win a couple of games and have a chance at making the NCAAs. In eight of their last 14 games, Providence has given up at least 90 points. In Big East play, they allow just over 80 points per game.
Today against Depaul, the Friars are heavy chalk. The line closed at PC -10. The only way Depaul advances is to play the complete opposite of Providence and slow the game down, limiting the total number of possessions. Providence should win, but I can’t bite on that big number. Depaul played them within single digits in slow paced game earlier in the season. How will PC respond to the letdown of playing Depaul? Will they be looking ahead? Do the Demons have an advantage because they got their tourney feet wet? We’ll find out.
In the second game, Marquette plays St. Johns, who put the final nail in the Hoyas coffin yesterday. The winner advances to play Villanova. In addition to the ESPN broadcasts, Card Chronicle will be live-blogging the day's action over at the Louisville's SB Nation Blog. With the winner of the first game up next for the Cards, it might be worth checking out their take.
Predictions, Wednesday Day Session
I do like one game in the noon session today: I have Nebraska in a pick ‘em over Baylor. Nebraska’s great defense against the Bears great offense, I’ll take the defense every time. These clubs come into the game headed in opposite directions with the Huskers having covered three games in a row, while Baylor has covered only three times this calendar year and are on a 1-10 ATS run. Nebraska will not wow anyone with their talent or athletes, but they might be the most intense team in the Big 12. Baylor might be the least intense team and are just playing out the string. Nebraska just went into Waco and beat the Bears by four points. No reason to think they cant do that again this afternoon.
The Pick: Nebraska, pick ‘em, over Baylor. Game starts at 12:35.
In the next round of games beginning during the 2 o'clock hour, I will be taking St. Joe's over UNC Charlotte. The Hawks are solid enough to win a couple of games in this field. Bottom line, I have a soft spot for St. Joe's, probably because I like their mascot, which never stops flapping its wings. They'll have enough firepower to ease by the Miners.
The Pick: St. Joe's -2 over UNCC. After the CSU cover last night, the March record is 19-12-2. Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!
On one hand, CMU, WMU and EMU all had disappointing seasons. On the other hand, the Chippewas and Broncos tied for first place (along with Ball State) in the MAC West with the Eagles just a game behind.
The good news for CMU is the Chips notched a share of their first division title since 2003 with a come-from-behind win against the rival Broncos over the weekend. The bad news, while the win tied them for first, the Chips still only had a 7-9 league mark. Suddenly EMU being a game behind that mark does not sound all that impressive.
All of them have a chance at redemption this week when the MAC Tournament convenes in Cleveland with opening rounds beginning this afternoon. All three Michigan schools take the floor today. Interestingly, Central and Eastern hook up today in the 7/10 game, beginning at noon. The Eagles swept the Chips this season, including a win almost two weeks ago with last second free throws by EMU proving to be the decisive points.
Say what you will about their overall records, but both clubs are at least playing their best ball of the season in March. The Chips have won 4 of their last six. Eastern, after entering the final week of February with just four overall wins, rallied to close the season with four straight wins. After enduring three different losing streaks of at least six games, the Eagles doubled their season win total over the final fortnight of the schedule. With Ball State, a club each has beaten already this season, up next in the quarterfinals, I wouldn’t rule out a mini run in this field by either team. Technically speaking, Michigan fans should root for the Eagles since it would help out the SOS and RPI numbers.
Western tips off at 4pm against the Ohio Bobcats in the 8/9 game of the first round. A quarterfinal date with top-seed Bowling Green looms for the winner. The Broncos are not playing their best ball right now. They’ve lost 9 of their last 12 games. They vomited away a chance for the outright West title and #2 seed in the MAC field. Western has twice as many losses as wins right now. Yet, they are a first place team. Such is life in the MAC, I guess.
The MAC this season has been both easy and difficult to figure out. The easy part comes from the East’s dominance over the West this season. In head-to-head games, the East ran up a 29-6 record against the West. The three Michigan schools contributed to those woes with a 4-14 mark against East foes. That math led to the equation where five East leagues have at least 10 league wins and no West team had a winning league mark.
Of course, the hard part of the MAC to decipher who is the best team. The top five teams record wise are all within one game of each other and basically played the same type of schedule. Is it surprising top-seed Bowling Green? How about upstart Buffalo, carrying over some momentum from the historic football season the Bulls had? Or, is the top dog still one of the usual suspects in Miami, Kent or Akron?
We’ll find out between now and Saturday night. My pick? I’m going with Bulls of Buffalo. The league is about as Even Steven as you can get. The Bulls have a tricky quarterfinal game against Kent, but otherwise I like their draw much better. Three of the power teams from the East are on the top side of the bracket. The Bulls get the side with Ball State, the 7-9 West Champ, serving as the field’s #2 seed. I see Buffalo, the #3 seed, beating Miami, the #4 seed in Saturday’s final.
As for today’s game, I think Central Michigan breaks their losing streak to the Eagles and advances. In the Western game, how can you fade the season long trend of east over west? I can’t. Ohio nips the Broncos in the end. Please note, however, these are just leans and not actual picks.
Oakland, yes that Oakland, plays for a bid
The biggest news of the day among the Michigan Mid-Majors is the stirring run the Oakland Golden Grizzlies have been on of late in the Summit Conference. Winners of nine games in a row, the Grizz square off against North Dakota State with, get this, an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Yep, you read that right; Oakland is 40 minutes away from going to the Dance. Michigan’s RPI and SOS numbers will skyrocket if the Grizz upset top seed NDSU, won’t it?
Oakland’s success should not surprise savvy college hoops followers. Their home games are the most underrated sporting events in the Detroit Metro area. Head Coach Greg Kampe has been a mainstay of the Detroit sports scene for a quarter century. He turned the program into a D2 power and shepherded it through the transition years of becoming a full-fledged D1 program. Since joining the Summit League, Kampe has led the Grizz to top-3 finishes in six of 10 seasons, including a pair of league titles.
The highlight of their D1 tenure was a 2005 appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They went a surprise run in the Summit Sectional to get the bid. After winning the play-in game over Alabama State, the Grizz played eventual national champion North Carolina in a 1/16 game. I’ll say this about Oakland: They are 2-0 ATS lifetime in the NCAA Tournament. They were catching 29 points against the Heels, but only lost by 28. Woot!!
That season, Oakland was a Cinderella story, even within its own league. This go around, they’re legit contenders for the Summit’s auto bid.
Oakland spanked tournament host South Dakota State last night in the semifinals, stifling the Jackrabbits offense all night. Oakland surged to a 19-point halftime lead and never looked back.
Oakland has a nice seven-man rotation and, at times, can go even deeper than that. Their two mainstays are the guard tandem of Erik Kangas and Jonathon Jones. Both rarely leave the court, averaging over 35 minutes a game. Kangas is one of the nation’s top three point shooters. Jones, meanwhile, mans the point, dishing out almost 8 assists a game to go along with 13.9 ppg.
Last night, Kangas poured in 21 points, while Jones had a double/double, scoring 16 and dishing out 10 dimes. Keith Benson, their 6/11 pivotman, provides beef up front and grabbed 14 boards last night.
The chore will be tough tonight going up against the Bison. They’ve been the wire-to-wire first place team in the Summit all season. Since Christmas, they’ve won 20 of 22 games. One of those losses, at least, was a one-point defeat at the hands of Oakland. The Bison returned the favor, beating the Grizz by 10 back in February.
Leading the Bison is the best player you’ve probably never heard of or seen play, Ben Woodside. He has a fantastic, rather old school game. The Bison have been steamrolling folks much of the winter. As such, they’ve compiled a pretty good statistical resume, so much so that according to KenPom’s projections, the Bison are one the top 70 teams in the country.
The Bison are a new team to the D1 level and this is the first year they’re eligible to play in the Summit Sectional and compete for the conference’s automatic bid. Don’t think this game is important for the NDSU folks? Consider this storyline: The team is led by a core of seniors who all took a redshirt season just so they would still have eligibility left for this particular season. An entire college career has pointed to this season, to this particular tournament, to this particular night.
Make no mistake, there will be a lot of pressure and drama in this one. It’s the essence of March Madness. I think NDSU has too much invested to let this one slip. They’re favored by just four points. I will be pulling for the Grizz, but, if I were to gamble tonight, I would take the Bison. The O/U total is 152, so expect a rather high scoring contest.
The Sun Belt Conference will also hand out its automatic bid tonight when South Alabama plays Western Kentucky. I don’t know a whole lot about the league this year. My gut tells me WKU is the better team, but South Bama has looked better this weekend. Instead, I’ll drop this historic information: Michigan beat South Alabama in the second round during its 1989 title run. Western Kentucky beat Michigan in the first round of the 1995 tournament, ending the Wolverine careers of Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.
The Horizon League title game offers the most important bubble game of the night. Win or lose, Butler will be in the field. But, a Cleveland State win gives the Vikings the auto bid and will eventually knock one bubble team off the bracket line. Butler won both games this season. Both games went down to the wire and were among some of the more well played games of the season.
I’ll try and dig up more information on those two games as the day goes on
The Big East gets its five-day tournament off the ground this afternoon in Madison Square Garden. In the first round, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Georgetown all play today with one last chance to impress. Each needs at least two, if not three, win to put itself in legit at-large conversation.
Only one today. I’m taking Cleveland State +6 over Butler. I backed the Vikings both times this year against the Bulldogs and came out even. I lost the first matchup, a pick ‘em, when Butler drained a three-pointer at the buzzer. I won the second game with CSU catching 7 points on Butler’s home floor in a game that also went down to the wire. Tonight, the rubber match for my wallet. I had no second thoughts taking CSU two weeks ago on Butler’s home floor. With the spread basically the same, I don’t see why they cant do it again.
Maybe more predictions later, we’ll see.
Diarist Note: Sorry folks, I wanted to do a better piece here, but work is slammed and I'm under the gun here. But, writing is an on going situation. I'll be using the comments for running commentary on these games tonight, so what I failed to say below, will make it out in 'print' anyway. Cheers!
I'm taking a break from my vigilant watch of the NCAA Bubble tonight. Besides, what more can I add that Brian did not with his excellent post from this afteroon.
My focus tonight is on four mid-major conference title games. The Monday of Championship Week is always one of my favorite nights of the Madness. We have four bids handed out, but these aren't your standard 'happy-to-be-here' sort of leagues. All four of these leagues--Colonial, Southern, MAAC and West Coast--are prone to sending competive teams in the Dance and each have seen their champions pull of a couple upsets this decade.
Looking for a dangerous 12- or 13-seed? You might one tonight.
Anyway, instead of rambling on and on about the Bubble and Michigan's tournament chances, I have got quick previews on these four games with, you guessed it, predictions for the night. So far, my March record is looking good, 16-10-2. We're taking half of profits made so far and spreading them out on these games. I'm sure everything will work out just fine.
Colonial Athletic Association Championship, 7pm, ESPN
George Mason vs. Virginia Commonwealth. Line, VCU -3
Three reasons to watch this showdown between league powers:
1.) Eric Maynor. The VCU little guy is one of the best players in the country. There aren’t many guards, if any, from the Big 10 that I would take over this guy. He does it all, scoring, assists, rebounds and makes everyone around him better. He is money in crunch time and in big games. He’s been one of my favorite players to watch in the college game for the last several seasons. Tonight, he’ll try to carry the Rams back into the NCAAs.
2.) The Colonial is one of the most competitive leagues in the land. These two programs have stood above the crowd in recent seasons. They have a combined 7 NCAA appearances this decade. Both teams have had Cinderella March runs. Tonight, these two mid major powerhouses go tête-à-tête with the league’s one and only bid on the line. But, these are not one-and-done type of teams. Either one of these clubs could win a tournament game and even advance out of the first weekend.
3.) We’re doing a little gambling bird dogging in this one. The CAA has been a money maker in the NCAA Tournament this decade. Their teams are nice 10-4-2 ATS in the Big Dance the last six seasons. The CAA Champion carries a 6-2-2 ATS mark in the NCAA First Round the last 10 seasons. Much of that success was built by these two programs. VCU is 4-0 ATS in the NCAAs this decade. Mason, meanwhile, is 6-2 ATS, a number spurred by their 4-1 ATS run to the 2006 Final Four as an at large bid. Rest assured, come next Thursday afternoon, I will have money on one of these teams. Might as well take a look at what I am buying.
As much as I enjoy the George Mason program, I am sticking with the Rams tonight.
The league's top points per possession team meets the top points allowed per possession club. I'll always go with the defense in those situations and that's VCU. Actually, both teams play great defense, but the Rams have a bit more scoring, in large part because of Maynor. The Patriots have a bit more size up front. The Patriots have struggled shooting the ball all weekend and have advanced in spite of their ragged play. The Rams have looked solid all along.
This game will be a defensive battle. It will go down to the wire. In that situation, I’ll take the team with the best player. In this case, it’s Maynor and the Rams. In crunch time, I don’t think Mason has anyone who can trade hoops with Maynor. That will be enough to carry the day.
The Pick: VCU -3, In Eric Maynor I Trust. He dominated the Patriots in the team's only meeting this season. Mason has lost 9 games this year by a combined 44 points, so I hate laying points against them, but Maynor's scoring touch and their own cold shooting of late will do them in when the game is on the line.
Southern Conference Championship, 7pm, ESPN 2
Tennessee-Chatanooga vs. College of Charleston. Line, CC -2
Some of the intrigue in this league disappeared with Stephon Curry and Davidson’s elimination. I won’t lie; I wanted to see Curry and Company playing in this game. That skinny kid is a blast to watch. And, I will be tuning into his NIT games, for sure.
Intrigue still exists tonight. One of these teams will obviously grab an NCAA bid. The other, might not even play in the NIT. Both teams have a lot of seniors. Guts will be on the floor.
The Charleston storyline attracts me. The Cougars were the mid-major darling in the 1990s, before the term was even coined. After tearing it up at the NAIA level, the Cougars made the leap to the D-I level and quickly established themselves as the best team in the small league they joined. That league doesn’t exist anymore as the teams have scattered to various Big South and Atlantic Sun destinations. The Cougars, though, tried to climb the ranks of the college hoops world and joined a tougher league. After making four NCAA appearances (including 1997, when they advanced into the second round) and a pair of NITs in the final six years of the 1990s, the Cougars have not played in a post season game in this attempted climb up the mid-major ranks.
Also, their coach is the one and only Bobby Cremins. During college basketball glory days of the 1980s, Cremins was a central figure. He built powerhouse teams at Georgia Tech. In an attempt to break the Tobacco Road hammerlock in the ACC, Cremins brought in some of the game’s top talents from Mark Price to John Salley to Kenny Anderson. Those were some classic teams.
Cremins is long removed from Georgia Tech. Once a March fixture, he has not coached in the Big Dance in more than a dozen years. If he can coax one more win out of the Cougars, a program and a coach familiar with March success, will be home again on a bracket line.
What I found interesting watching yesterday’s semifinals was Charleston took out Davidson without having to play their best game. They were awful in the first half. They could have won by double digits, but could not convert some late possessions. To beat the league giant without your ‘A’ game tells me something.
Chattanooga, meanwhile, had it all going last night. They played a near perfect game and cruised by Samford, the upstart 6-seed. If they can repeat that performance this evening, they will be heading to the Dance. They're shooting the rock much better in this tournament than they did all season. Tonight they face a defense that stifled Curry and Davidson last night. I doubt they can maintain that kind of accuracy.
The Mocs have also enjoyed a rebounding edge this weekend, but tonight face a Charleston team that collected 17 offensive rebounds last night.
What does any of that mean? I think Charleston has room to improve their showing tonight. Chatanooga does not. The Cougars come in playing their best defense of the season. They will cool off the Mocs who seemed to hit everything they threw up yesterday. Charleston has the personnel and know-how to neutralize the two advantages the Mocs have had--shooting and rebounding--to get to this point. The Cougars went 2-1 this season against the Davidson juggernaught. I think they get it done tonight and return to the Big Dance for the first time since 1999.
The only time the two played this season was on Senior Night in Chatanooga. Charleston won that game. If they beat these guys on the road in February, I expect them to win on a neutral site in March.
The Pick: CC -2. I'll take their defense and hope that the Mocs can't replicate their scorching shooting touch from last night.
Metro Athletic Association Conference Championship, 9pm, ESPN2
Niagara vs. Siena. Line, Siena -3
All season, it was clear that Siena and Niagara were the top teams in the MAAC. In league circles, this game is as anticipated as the showdowns in the Colonial and WCC tonight.
Both clubs ran the other out of the gym with home court advantage. Guess what? Tonight’s game in Albany is played on Siena’s home floor.
Both teams have a lot of scoring. Both teams play a lot of guys. The Eagles have more size up front, but the Saints are the better shooting team. Unless the Hasbrouck injury keeps the kid out of tonight’s game, then I don’t think the Saints will be denied. He played in the title game last year with a bum shoulder. The Saints have enough firepower where they dont need him at his best to win this game. They’ve been clicking on all cylinders all weekend. The Saints have trailed for only eight seconds this entuer tournament. Siena has won 20 in a row on this court. I think that's important, dont you?
The Eagles, meanwhile, have looked sloppy this weekend and were fortunate to advance into this game. This game will be a track meet, and I wonder if the Eagles will have gas to keep up with Siena coming off that double OT win last night. I see this game staying close for 30-35 minutes before a late Siena scoring surge tucks the game away.
Much has been made about the 180 that Niagara has done this season on the defensive end. They had developed a reputation of being soft in that regard. They really have improved this year. However, the Saints scored at will on them in both games this year. They're a buzz saw on their home floor. In my opinion, Niagara still lacks the defensive identity needed to slow them down.
The Pick: Siena -3. Late word is that Hansbrouck is a go, although he skipped the shoot around. The senior has started every game since he arrived in Albany. He's not sitting this one on account of a Charley Horse. His backup scored 16 points the other night, so they wont be dead in the water if he's not 100 percent. Bottom line: Siena is more fundamentally sound than the loosey-goosey Eagles. Siena runs right past them the last 10 minutes or so, for an easier-than-it-looks win.
West Coast Conference, 9pm, ESPN
St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga. Line, Zags -7.5
Pride, rivalry and the league title are on the line when Gonzaga hooks up with St. Mary’s tonight in the West Coast Conference. I don’t believe, however, any NCAA bids are on the line. In my opinion, the Gaels are already in. The selection committee will cut them a break since most of their losses occurred when their best player Patty Mills was out with an injury. Mills looked rusty last night in his first game since January. Now that his feet are wet, we'll see if he can elevate his game.
Just because it's likely that no bid is on the line, that does not make the game any less important. Gael players have been chirping all weekend about sending the Zags a message that they’re not the league’s top dog anymore. Tonight, they get that chance. In order to do that, they have to get by a Bulldog club that looked its best last night in thumping Santa Clara.
The Zags swept the Gaels this year. But, in the only half that Mills was able to play, the Gaels looked to be their equal. St. Mary’s saw their season nearly unravel in February without Mills. With him back in the fold, I expect them to make a bit of a March statement this evening.
They might not win, but I expect them to cover the number.
The Pick: St. Mary’s +7.5. This might be the best rivalry west of the Mississippi River. The Gaels take it straight up if Mills is the best player on the floor. There's a great chance of that happening, but I'll put those points in pocket anyway. Besides, I needed to play at least one underdog
I expect a fun night of hoops and I will provide running thoughts throughout the night. Enjoy!
For the last three years, I have wondered how in the heck did Michigan fritter away that Indiana game at Crisler Arena to close the 2006 regular season. I'll carry the same puzzlement for a while in the wake of yesterday's game. From a Wolverine perspective, its good to be on the other side of that equation this go around. Michigan's karma is now even steven, at least in that regard.
It helps when you have one of the best coaches in the college game.
Laval-Lucas Perry, this next round is on me.
Name dropping alert; Name dropping alert. When the Gophers played at Crisler Arena a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting with WLA Goons Dex and MRG. Among the talking points, was a whole lot of chuckles at Tubby Smith's timeout pattern. He let Michigan rip off a scoring run to close the first half without even trying to stop momentum. Yet, he called a TO with 3 seconds in the half to diagram a play. It didn't work. He continued to react slowly the whole second half, but at least still had a TO in his pocket to use in the final five seconds with his team hopelessly behind double digits.
His TO yesterday took place well before Westbrook even began his shooting motion, so its probably not as big a gaffe as its being made out. But, how typical of Smith. Your guy is loose in open court, nobody has picked him up. Just trust your players. Quit over coaching! One of your money shooters is going towards the rim and is free enough to measure up his shot, and your first instint is to take the ball out of his hands? Thank you, Orlando Smith.
Check out Yinka Double Dare's Diary for all the seeding possibilies in the Big 10 Tournament that will be impacted by the final three league games played today. I know Iowa would be a tougher out, but I am spinning bad mojo on ice in my head at the prospects of playing Indiana in the 6/11 game. As many of you know, yours truly is an Indiana University Grad, circa none of your business. Anyway, as much as I have loved and admired the effort of the kids this season, it would not give me any satisfaction to see them spring an upset and advance in this field on the backs of Michigan. While I am not superstitious enough to believe in live blog curses, I am deathly afraid for Michigan because of my own bad karma. I've gone into Crisler to cheer for Indiana over Michigan before. At some point the sports gods will want some blood in return.
Make no mistake, regardless who the Hoosiers play in that 6/11 game, Conseco Fieldhouse will be filled at the tip with Cream and Crimson clad fans. Hoosier faithful knew the score heading into the season and they've still showed up in droves to root for their team. They had the best fans out in Maui. And, they serenaded the lone outgoing senior as the final seconds of the Assembly Hall season ticked off the clock. Let's admit it: how many of us would have been willingly to do the same to the Michigan seniors this past football season? It will be close to a road game for the opponent on Thursday. I'm comforted by the fact that if its Michigan, there will be several thousands Wolverine fans, so the players will at least have a lot more support than a true road game.
If Northwestern does win later today against Ohio State, it would create an intriguing lineup of games to open the tournament Thursday afternoon. Ohio State and Minnesota would start in the 8/9 game in what could be an elimination game. Northwestern/ Iowa would play in the 7/10 game with the Wildcats probably still needing a win to clinch their first ever tournament bid. We've seen what Iowa can do in recent games. That game could go either way. And, then Michigan-Indiana to cap the day with Michigan also trying to clinch a long awaited bid. I dont think there's been a first round of this tournament that's had as much possible stack on the line. Now, I just need a plan to get out of work.
My foray into handicapping small school championship games ended unsuccesfully yesterday, logging a 1-2 mark in three showdowns. I went with my heart for the second straight game with the Loyola Marymount reincarnate VMI Keydets in the Big South. This time, it burned me as Radford sprinted right by the Keydets in a game that outscored five of the 11 NBA games played last night.
Pick that should keep its job: East Tennessee State dominating Jacksonville. That wager was never in doubt. Anytime I think of the Buccaneers, I think of tiny guard Keith Mr. Jennings who nearly led ETSU to a 1/16 upset over Clemson in the 1990 tournament and lost in the second round in the 1992 tournament to a team that played a lot of freshmen. You may have heard of them.
For most of the Ohio Valley Finals, it looked like I would coax out a winning record in these games. Austin Peay controlled the whole game and seemed to play the whole second half up somehwere between 6 to 10 points. The final six minutes rivalled the UM game, however. as APSU stopped converting and Morehead State began making shots. The bid to the field was finally decided in double overtime on a near buzzer beater. Morehead has not advanced into the tournament in a quarter century and three years ago they won just 4 games. From a March Madness perspective, it was exactly what I love about this month. My bank account, however, is not as pleased.
I lost the gambling battle in those games, but won the overall war yesterday. My picks from yesterday's column ended 7-4. I'll take a record like that any day.
Valley Title to be Decided; Unease in Omaha
Needless to say, the folks in Omaha will be anxious all week. Creighton's resume will be among the most scrutinized as we bat around bracketology topics this week. Expect it to be one of the most common arguments of the week. I'm not sure the Blue Jays are in any better position than Illinois State was last season when the Redbirds guady record, and a second bid for the MVC, was denied in the wake of a bowing out of this sectional with a blowout loss. That loss was in the title game, though.
Creighton's eliminated, but their two games in Arch Madness left an impression. First, the amazing sequence of events and eventual win at the buzzer over Witchita State. Then, in the final minutes of yesterday's embarrassing loss being dually serenaded by Redbird fans yelling 'ISU, ISU' and by a nice sized contigent of WSU fans who stuck around chanting 'NIT, NIT.' Classic.
In that same courtside CIL, it was reported that a straw poll of on-site media had the Blue Jays out of the NCAA field. FWIW.
Moving to this afternoon's title game between Northern Iowa and Illinois, i am undaunted by the failures in picking the title games right yesterday. I have a strong feeling ISU takes this game today. I know the Panthers have beat them twice already, but both those games went down to the wire and could have gone either way. After being snubbed last year, ISU is on a mission to get into the tournament and have been waiting to peak during Arch Madness to ensure their ticket gets snapped.
NIU has a large 7-foot presence in the middle with Jordan Egleseder. But, he's a bit of a pylon. He's called Floor Jordan for a reason. Illinois State's size and athleticsm of their own front line will be a tough matchup for him. Overall, I think ISU has matchup advantages with Osiris Eldridge and Champ Oguchi, and I really like they play of rugged forward Dinma Odiakosa who can impact the game without having to score a point.
I think Illinois State has the better team, and this weekend they've been playing better. I like the roll they're on right now.
Quick Bubble Hitters
With teams like Maryland and UNLV losing yesterday and the overall bubble carnage of the week, Virginia Tech is in position today to really make a move up the charts in advance of the ACC Tournament. The problem is they have to go on the road against Florida State to do it. Tech's chore today is similar to Michigan's yesterday where a road win against a good league foe will clinch a .500 league record. If they win, their road map to a bid will also rival Michigan. Just dont go one-and-done in the ACCs. If they do win, they would play NC State in a 7/10 game Thursday.
Tennessee is losing at home by 10 right now to Alabama. Are they playing themselves out of a bid? Or, just down the seed line? Discuss.
Northwestern plays its most important game in program history today in Columbus. There's no reason for me to add anything else.
More Mid Major Drama
The real excitement for me today is the conintuation of the mid major tournaments. Almost 100 teams have been eliminated since Thursday thanks to these fields. Only 213 remain standing by my rather unofficial, possibly off by a team or to, Sunday morning count. Regardless, we'll see more teams fall throughout the day with semifinals of the Colonial, MAAC, WCC, Southern, American East, NEC and quarterfinals in the Sun Belt and Summit.
The Colonial, MAAC, Southern and WCC semis are on ESPN2 or ESPN Full Court. I'll be keeping my eye on all those games.
It's March, his team is facing elimination and he drops 44 points. All in a day's work for Stephon Curry. Can the train live another day today against College of Charleston?
A Cinderella run is taking place in the CAA where the 11-seed Towson plays perennial power George Mason in the second semifinal today. Towson, led by former Depaul and Florida State coach Pat Kennedy, has upset Drexel and Northeastern the last two nights. That latter result takes a small bite out of Michigan's SOS. This is the farthest an 11 seed has ever advanced in the CAA sectional.
The first semi between ODU and VCU (3 pm) can go either way and ought to go down to the wire. The Rams must play on a higher level than they did yesterday, or Old Dominion will knock them out. Other than Towson, I think the other three teams are more than capable of winning a game in the NCAA Tournament.
In the MAAC, its all about seeing if the two heavyweights, Siena and Niagara, both big favorites, can advance into a showdown tomorrow night.
The game with the biggest bubble impact will take place in the nightcap between St. Mary's and Portland. Gonzaga might get pushed by Santa Clara in the opener, but eventually will tuck away the Broncos. Then, all eyes will be on the Gaels, to see if they can get make a statement. This team was cruising to an at large bid until their best player Patty Mills went down with an injury. Predictably, they began losing. The ship has steadied in recent weeks, including a big win in the Bracket Buster event over Utah State. Will the selection process cut the Gaels any slack due to the Mills injury. There is some precedent to do so, but the Gaels need to take advantage of the next two days and make own last on-court statement of their own. A loss tonight to the third place Portland squad probably would do them in. A win, and a nice showing over Gonzaga tomorrow night, might put them in the final bracket.
As you can see, there's a fun day of hoops still ahead. To think, I rambled on about my excitement about today's games with nary a mention the fact that Clemson is playing Wake Forest and, more importanrtly, Duke and UNC face off. Tar Heels versus Blue Devils. Shares of the ACC Crown on the line. National Spotlight on CBS. No Dick Vitale or Billy Packer on the call. Oh yeah, today will be a blast.
Predictions to feed to the addict, er, I mean the instinct
We're 13-7-2 on our handicapping this March season, If you're going at 100 a pop, thats a +490 profit.
***As I outlined above, I like Illinois State to win over NIU. They're a slight favorite today, and I will play them on the -150 moneyline.
***Yep, that's me on the Purple Bandwagon. They might win this straight up, but I'll take the Wildcats +6 over Ohio State. Game starts at 5:30 on the BTN
***Virgina Tech +6 over Florida State. Yes, I have been on the Noles a lot lately. But, usually when they're catching points. Both of these teams are underdogs I like to play. So, I'll buy in with the Hokies who always play close games and 7-4 ATS this season as an underdog with road covers at Boston College, Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson to go along with a neutral court cover against Xavier. This game starts at 2pm and is on ESPN Full Court.
****Give me VCU -4 in the first CAA semifinal today. The Rams lost a tight one on the road to the Monarchs, but blew them out at home. Yes, ODU is the hottest team in the league right now, but the Rams have won six of eight, so its not like they're lukewarm. The Rams are 8-3 ATS in this tournament if favored by single digits. In Eric Maynor I Trust.
***** As much as I hate betting against Stephon Curry, I'll grab the 10 points with College of Charleston over Davidson. These clubs played arguably the two best games of the SoCon season with each winning close games on the other's home court. I dont buy any chance of Davidison blowing out the Cougars today. While Davidson remains the team to beat in the league, we've seen they're not rolling through the conference the way they did last year. Davidson is just 9-14-2 ATS as a favorite this season, 3-7-2 the last dozen times out. Meanwhile, the Cougars are 15-8 ATS the last two seasons as an underdog. I expect Davidson to win, but they'll need every point they can get out of Steph.
**** I also think Portland will stick with St. Mary's tonight. I'll take the Pilots +8.5. The Gaels at large bid wont come easy. These teams handled each other pretty well when armed with home court advantage. That tells me these are even teams. Expect this one to play out close to the final buzzer.
And, I am sure to have a call or two on some of the other mid major tournaments. That action does not begin until later. I have only seen the lines for the first time a few minutes ago. I am going to chew on them for a few more minutes and update my predictions section at the half of the MVC game coming up here after the MSU game.
The 45-37 win over Michigan State was amazing for the play on
the field, but maybe even more so because of the atmosphere
surrounding the game — an environment that was directly
related to the amount of light in the sky. When the sun set over the Big House, the atmosphere drastically improved.
And that is why Michigan needs to add a night home game to its
schedule each year.
This thought first crossed my mind even before the game ended.
As I walked from the press box, down the aisle between section 23 and 24 to get on the field, I looked around me and decided: that we need to have a night game each year, to recreate this
You think anyone would be opposed to actually waking up at a
reasonable hour following a Friday night out on the town and still having all day to tailgate?
How could they not love it? Think back to how great the
atmosphere was at the end of Saturday’s game.
Instead of equal levels of brightness all around the stadium,
when the sun set, you could barely see the crowd, and fans were able to focus solely on the well-lit 120-yards of turf in front of
The scoreboard was much brighter and vibrant in the surrounding darkness, and flashes went off throughout the sea of 111,000-plus fans.
The closest thing I got to a negative answer about a potential
night game was when Matt Lentz suggested that playing one in
November might be too cold — a problem that some good
scheduling could easily solve.
Not surprisingly, this night game idea tested through the roof
with all the players I talked to after Saturday’s win.
-Daniel Bremmer, Michigan Daily
“I wish we had a night game here at Michigan
Stadium,” senior safety Ernest Shazor told me after
“I think the fans get into it a little bit more under the
lights,” tight end Tim Massaquoi said. “I felt the
crowd. The crowd got rowdy.”
"Anyone think night games would be cool at Michigan Stadium? And I think if the team wore those maize jerseys and blue pants as an alternate once a year, and the game was a maizeout, it could get crazy! As crazy as Penn State's whiteouts!" Thats an excerpt from my last diary...
Maybe we're getting soft because we're spoiled with success. Well, last season should fix that. And hell yes on a night game. HELL YES!
only in my dreams will we ever have a night game where we have as much a home advantage as we do at yost. imagine how awesome that would be
I am imagining it man! It would be so kick-ass! I don't know why they won't do it? Are they afraid too many people will get drunk? C'mon its Michigan. Not like people are gonna riot like Ohio State fans do after the game...
If you think the athletic department should schedule some night games in the future, go to my petition and sign it! It will only take a few seconds of your life and it will be totally worth it if it actually happens! Michigan could actually have a night game with as much advantage as games at yost!
What is wrong with you people? Don't you remember the first OT game in the Big House? Penn St. in 2002? That was pretty electric, but they don't compare to Braylon Edward's grab in 2004 and Super Mario's catch in 2005. These were some of the best games I have ever watched, and they all have something in common. What could it be? O YA, THEY WERE UNDER THE LIGHTS!
1 game a year or every 2 years against Penn St, Michigan State, or Iowa! Thats all I ask!
GO BLUE 2009
With Penn State's double OT loss at Iowa (and PSU needed a comeback from 9 down with under 2:30 left to get it to OT), the picture clears up a tiny bit, but not much. Only three conference games remain: Purdue @ MSU, Northwestern @ Ohio State, and Indiana @ Wisconsin. I'm going to try to break down the scenarios.
The tiebreakers are here: http://bigtennetwork.com/Championships/Big-Ten-Basketball-Tiebreaker.asp
Michigan State has clinched the outright conference title and the 1 seed. Iowa is the 10 seed, and Indiana is the 11 seed. These seeds are set. Seeds 2-9 are still not set.
Purdue controls who is the 2 seed and who is the 3. If Purdue beats MSU, then Purdue is the 2 seed. If Purdue loses to MSU, then Illinois is the 2 seed by virtue of its season sweep over Purdue.
Wisconsin is the 4 seed if they win against IU regardless of the other games, as they swept PSU and won their only game against OSU. If they lose, see below.
Ohio State is the 4 seed if they win and Wisconsin loses. They are the 5 seed if they win and Wisconsin wins. If they lose, well, see below -- they can fall as low as the 8/9 game.
Penn State is the 4 seed if both Wisconsin and OSU lose. They are the 5 seed if either of those teams lose. They are the 6 seed if both of those teams win.
And now for the fun part involving the fates of Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, and potentially Ohio State and/or Wisconsin should either or both of those teams lose.
IF OHIO STATE AND WISCONSIN BOTH WIN:
Fairly straight forward. Northwestern is the 9. Michigan is the 7 by virtue of a sweep over Minny. Minnesota is the 8.
IF WISCONSIN WINS AND OHIO STATE LOSES TO NORTHWESTERN:
We have a 4 way tie. The records against the group are:
That makes Michigan the 6 seed. Minnesota is the 9 seed. Because the other two teams are tied, we next move to best record against MSU. This makes Northwestern the 7 seed due to their victory at the Breslin Center while OSU did not, thus leaving Ohio State as the 8 seed.
IF WISCONSIN LOSES AND OSU WINS:
Northwestern is the 9 seed. In the round robin of Wisco, Michigan and Minny, each of the teams swept one and got swept by the other. None of them beat MSU, and Michigan becomes the 6 seed by virtue of a win over Purdue while the others did not (Purdue losing to MSU won't matter because all 3 teams split with Ill.). Wisconsin takes the 7 spot having swept Penn State and Ohio State (the next teams in the standings, which are tied in this scenario), leaving Minnesota in the 8 spot.
IF WISCONSIN AND OHIO STATE BOTH LOSE:
Nightmare scenario. As best as I can tell, only Wisconsin (4-3) and Ohio State (3-4) do not have a .500 record against the resulting 5-way tie group. Wisconsin becomes the 5 seed on that basis and Ohio State becomes the 9. Of the three .500 teams, Northwestern gets the 6 seed because of their MSU win. Michigan would be the 7 because of a win over Purdue (both Minn and Mich split with Ill, so even if Purdue loses to MSU, Michigan is still 7), and Minnesota would get the 8.
Hopefully I got all this right. The tiebreakers are a real doozy.