There's very little Bubble News to report. And, frankly, I am thankful for that.
We're five hours away from the Selection Show and the official end of Michigan's NCAA Tournament drought.
According to this morning's update of the Bracket Matrix, the Wolverines are holding steady and solid along the 10-seed line. The final at large bids in the Matrix are Maryland, San Diego State and Creighton. Lunardi, meanwhile, subs in St. Mary's for the SDSU. The teams that look to be just short of a bid include Penn State, Arizona, Florida and Auburn. All four were just one win short.
We have three title games going on this afternoon in advance of the pairings announcment.
ACC Championship: Florida St vs Duke. Line, Duke -6
A few things to think about when watching Florida State play Duke in the ACC Championship.
Michigan may hook up with the Noles next season. Both will be in the 2009 Old Spice Classic, played in Orlando over Thanksgiving weekend. Matchups have not been announced, and the remainder of the field includes Xavier, Marquette, Creighton, Baylor, Alabama and Iona.
Michigan will be relieved to know that all-everything talent Toney Douglas will be in the NBA by then, but the Noles will enter next season with a lot of expectations, and more importantly, a lot of talent. Rivals ranked this season's freshmen class as 11th best in the country. They've been able to ease into their roles due to the presence of Douglas and fellow senior Uche Echefu, but next year expect a leap in production out of all of them.
Added to the mix will be Marcus Snaer, the 11th ranked overall player on next year's freshman list who will start right away and has a Johnny Flynn-type game. That's three straigt years that Leonard Hamilton has pulled in a top-25 recruit. As a result, the Noles will have one of the best centers, forwards and scoring guards from recent recruiting classes. That's a nice core to build around once Douglas departs. This team will be a load to handle should the Wolverines meet up with them eight months from now in Orlando.
Northwestern bitch slapped this club back in December by 14 points back in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. The Wildcats. Northwestern, University of. In Evanston.
The last time Florida State won a league title of any kind was in 1991 when they played in the now defunct Metro Conference. They competed in the league against the likes of Louisville, Memphis, Cincinnati and South Carolina. The Noles won the title in the league's last season before teams split into various ACC, SEC and Great Midwest destinations. The Noles had a stacked roster back then that included Doug Edwards, Sam Cassell and Charlie Ward. They dove head first into the ACC and finished in second place the first two years they were league members. It helped that the precocious Bobby Sura was added to the core in those years. They advanced into the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 those first two years in the ACC. But, other than a random NCAA appearance since, the program has not been all that relevant.
It's taken Leonard Hamilton a year or two longer than he expected, but it appears that FSU is ready to become the ACC player that they expected to be when they joined the league during a peak time for the program. One thing is for sure: in the immediate future, the team is poised to do damage in March for the first time since those days.
As far as this game, I think they're every bit as good as Duke. These teams played twice this season and for 30 minutes in each game, the Seminoles were the better team. The problem? In the first game, Duke built too big a lead in the first 10 minutes for FSU to come all the way back from. In the rematch, Duke caught fire in the game's final 10 minutes to earn a comeback win.
I think third time is the charm for Florida State today. They have the best player on the court in Douglas. They have ridiculous size and length on the interior that will create problems for Duke. They play great defense. If they can close out on the defensive glass like they did against the Heels, they will win today's game comfortably.
The Pick: Florida State +6.......the Noles are 12-5-1 ATS in ACC games this season, including a pair of covers against Duke. I've been gushing about this team through the Bubble News Chronicles. Hopefully they can pay off one more time. I think they'll win, but I'll take the points anyway.
SEC Championship: Miss. St vs. Tennessee. Line, Vols -6
The remaining drama around the final makeup of the NCAA field will center on the SEC Championship Game. For the second straight season, the SEC looks to send a champion into the field that otherwise would not get an at large bid.
The difference between Georgia from last year and Mississippi State this season is the UGA Dawgs were a last place team. The Cowbell Dawgs from Starkville are a quality program with a good team. They did have a winning record in conference play, so its not like they're playing above their heads advancing into this final.
There's a lot of anxious Creighton and St. Mary's boosters keeping an eye on this one. Conventional wisdom this morning hailed one of those two mid majors as NIT-bound should MSU pull through.
Last season, the Bulldogs bowed out in the NCAA second round to Memphis, giving the Tigers one of its closest games of the season. Expectations for this season took a big hit due to some unexpected departures (including Hansborough's Lil Bro, who transferred to Notre Dame.....oh, let the hate begin). They looked depleted in OOC play going winless in key games against Wassau, Texas Tech, and Cincy. They played well in league play, but were undone by an 0-4 record against LSU and Auburn. If just a few of those results go the other way, then maybe MSU is already sitting on a bid.
Nobody is really talking about it, but I think the SEC West ended up the better division this season in SEC play. Just my e-pinion.
The Vols got through a desperate Auburn team yesterday. Today they face another, but I think the Bulldogs inside presence and physical play is something the Vols did not have to face against Auburn. Jarvis Varnardo did not play great earlier this season in an up tempo game agaisnt the Vols. I dont think we'll see the same pace today. The Bulldogs will throw the kitchen sink at the Vols to keep this a half court game. I dont like the Vols in those types of games. The way Varnardo is playing, I dont want to go against him.
The Pick: MSU +6....the Bulldogs went 6-0 ATS vs the SEC East this season. They lost by 5 to the Vols in Knoxville, so I think they can stay within six at a neutral site
Big 10 Championship: Ohio St vs Purdue. Line, PU -6
The Big 10 continues to take lumps. Watching the Sunday Gameday special right now, they pundits started the show gushing about Florida State and the depth of the ACC. However, when they got around to the Big 10, they weren't as kind. Digger Phelps said Michigan State getting whipped proves to him the league isn't that good.
So, FSU advancing is proof of ACC depth. But, OSU beating Big 10 Champ MSU is proof the league is weak. I need some aspirin. The Buckeyes do, after all, have one of the nation's top all around players (a la FSU) and also have a high-end recruiting class (a la FSU) thats lived up to its billing as much as anyone else's incoming freshmen. Unlike Florida State, the Buckeyes at least beat Northestern, and also came within single digits off them on the road. Thad Matta is a great coach.
Yet, Digger Phelps thinks them beating Michigan State proves how weak the Big 10 is. What a tool.
Anyway, I'm staying on the Bucks today. I've had them in each of their tournament games and they won and covered both times. I have been impressed with Purdue's play this weekend too, but I just think this will be a low scoring game. I just like Matta in tournament situations. From Xavier to Ohio State he's always cashed.
The Pick: OSU +6.....for this Michigan fan, Indiana grad, this final represents pure evil. But, if the Bucks cover, I can take solace that I will have been 4-1 in both these teams games this weekend. If my rivals are going to succeed, I might as well profit off of it.