Tag Archives: ncaa tournament

Perry Jones Is Trash

20120222-141238.jpg

I’d like to make an announcement regarding this year’s NBA draft in particular towards a player who rates high on people’s boards…

Ladies and gentlemen Perry Jones III is not worth your lottery pick, as a matter of fact Perry Jones III is basura (Spanish word for trash).

After watching him in extended action this year I have come to the conclusion that the man that was projected to be a top 5 pick last year isn’t worth a top 15 pick on my board.

Jones III has all of the physical attributes a player should have. He’s 6’11” with handles, an NBA ready body with the ability to go inside or outside. At first glance he looks like the evolution of Kevin Durant, a nightmare of a matchup for a coaching staff. He’s too big for a small forward to guard and too fast for a power forward. He should be a monster, instead he’s a mess.

On a Baylor team that many had projected to be a Final Four contender this year Jones III was supposed to be its catalyst. Instead Jones III is the fourth best player on his team behind Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller and Pierre Jackson.

He doesn’t have Miller’s skill set, he doesn’t have Jackson’s tenacity, he doesn’t have Acy’s tenacity… Jones III is just a glorified role player.

The reason why Baylor has tumbled in the rankings in recent weeks is because of its inability to win tough games. Baylor has lost all four games against their fellow Big 12 top dogs Kansas and Missouri and lost to a suddenly hot Kansas State team on Saturday. In each game the Bears seemed overmatched and couldn’t seem to muster up any type of fight.

Most surprising of all is that it was Jones III that seemed to be the biggest sheep of them all.

To say Jones III has come up small when Baylor has needed him most is an understatement. Outside of the 18 he scored against Kansas in their first meeting, Jones III has scored a total of 21 points in the other 4 Baylor losses… That’s 5.2 ppg against two of the top five teams in the country and one of the teams in the Big 12.

More than numbers it’s been Jones III’s demeanor that really worries me. Plain and simple when the game gets tight Jones III gets tighter. Even in Monday’s close win over Texas Jones III seemed distant and wary of contact in the late going. He’s not a guy that’s built for the big moment. In the words of Mobb Deep that gets shook.

If I’m Scott Drew and I need a big shot late I would draw one up for Miller or Jackson. Those guys have the sack to take a big shot and live up to the moment. Jones would rather play the background

Is this a big deal for Baylor? After all of the hype I don’t think this is a Final Four squad. They’re not deep enough and haven’t shown that they can beat a tough opponent that could make them a contender. Right now they’re a Sweet 16 team at best.

If they can show out in the Big 12 tournament and win it then my mind could be changed, but right now they have work to do.

Jones III has the most work to do of anyone though. The one-time player of the year candidate and once thought of top ten pick is sliding and fast.

My advice to him is to man up and be what everyone thinks you are, a star player who NBA GM’s want to build around.

Because right now I see Jones III backing up Marshon Brooks in New Jersey instead of leading them to the playoffs.

Just saying.


Kentucky Returns To Where It Belongs

A sight that Kentucky fans have been for for a long time.

All of the expectations, the crazy hopes and dreams of Wildcat Nation, the hunger to win and to always be on top… turns out Kentucky was always right to feel that they should have better.

 

Kentucky beat North Carolina yesterday to head to its first Final 4 since Tubby Smith’s first season in Lexington in 1998. Since that national title year, Kentucky has become unconsciously unrealistic in their expectations of what and where their program should be. At least to u and I.

 

The constant criticism of Smith, the quick hook for Billy Gillespie, who was clearly in over his head, the need for a big time name to lead their program… it was maddening in every sense of the word to the average outsider.

 

But Kentucky always knew what it was worth. Its hopes and dreams were answered when John Calipari left Memphis after leading the Tigers during a great 10 year run to come to Lexington.

 

Calipari has long been considered one of the game’s best coaches and was the man that most felt could handle the enormous pressure that comes with being the coach at Kentucky. He also came with baggage and two vacated Final 4 appearances due to recruiting violations.

 

It was a huge risk for Kentucky to hire Calipari, but they knew in order for them to reach the mountain top they needed that kind of coach. In two years he hasn’t disappointed.

 

Last year’s stellar class featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and a slew of freshmen that led the Wildcats to the Elite 8 before falling to West Virginia and then bolting for the NBA. This year all Coach Cal did was reload with Terrance Jones, Doron Lamb, Brandon Knight and almost Enes Kanter before the NCAA ruled him ineligible.

 

Though not as touted as the last class, Kentucky’s fab freshmen led them to their second consecutive SEC tournament title and Knight in particular has been a savior for Kentucky in every possible way. Knight hit game-winning buckets against Princeton in round one and

Brandon Knight has eclipsed John Wall in equal time at Kentucky.

against Ohio State in the Sweet 16 to put them in a position to make the Final 4 and he dropped 30 on West Virginia in the second round to help them pull away and 22 against UNC.

 

Along with veterans Josh Harrelson and DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky has put together its most cohesive unit since the 2003 squad, which was heavily favored to win the national title but didn’t make it out of the second round.

 

Yesterday versus UNC you saw a team that didn’t melt down late in games like the previous Wildcat squads did under Smith or Gillespie. When UNC kept fighting back and Harrison Barnes started getting hot Knight and Liggins stopped them with huge 3’s late in the game and Darius Miller blocked a Barnes three point heave to seal it for Kentucky.

 

Once it was all said and done Kentucky returned to where it felt it always should be, the Final 4.

 

It took them three coaches, millions of questions and lots of criticism but Kentucky is right back where it belongs, in the Final 4 playing for a shot at its 8th national championship.

 

For some programs, 13 years since its last Final 4 would seem like a normal occurrence. At Kentucky they demand better. Looks like they weren’t so crazy after all.


VCU Sticks It To The Haters

Hate if you want, but VCU is going to Houston.

So… Who still thinks VCU doesn’t belong in the NCAA tournament?

After the long and much talked about selection of VCU over Colorado an Virginia Tech, looks like the committee was absolutely right.

VCU was more than tough enough to hang with the big boys and showed no fear in mowing them down one by one. The Big Ten, Big East, ACC, Big 12 and PAC-10 all fell from their perches to the little school from Richmond, VA who who played bigger than their namesake.

The conversation at the beginning of the tournament was how could the NCAA allow a third team from a small conference like the CAA over another big conference school? The reality is that the CAA might’ve been better than most other conferences (hi, ACC and Big Ten).

Shaka Smart never let any of the attention get to his team. The very animated and energized coach kept his players focused on the task at hand. He put the game in his point guards hands and even though Joey Rodriguez chucked up some bad threes at times, he remained poised and made the necessary plays to help VCU reach the Final 4.

After beating a suspect USC team they handled downtrending Georgetown and beat up Purdue to make the Sweet 16. Brandon Burgess led VCU with 26 including a last second layup to stun Florida State to setup their Elite 8 matchup with the Kansas Jayhawks. To say that Kansas was not like any other team that they’ve faced is an understatement. To be honest with you, VCU faced the middle of the road teams of each conference that they faced. Georgetown, Florida State, USC, and Purdue were not thought about in the national title discussion. Kansas was a national title contender that was the clear favorite after Ohio State fell to Kentucky.

And none of that mattered as Shaka’s boys treated the Jayhawks as if they were the Delaware Blue Hens.

Shaka Smart had led his team to an precedented NCAA tournament run.

VCU raced out to a 14 point halftime lead as Jamie Skeen and company hit 9 of 17 threes and shut down the Kansas offense completely. Markieff Morris suffered through the worst game of his season turning the ball over 8 times and couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. They held Kansas to a season low 27 first half points and 11% from three point land. It was a dominating performance that made it seem like VCU was the one seed.

However, Kansas came back firing in the second causing several turnover and. Cutting the Rams lead to 2. With the partisan crowd rocking and the Rams fading, Smart never lost faith in his boys. He never called timeout and let them work through it. They rewarded him by jumping back up by ten behind Skeen’s shooting and Rodriguez’s ball handling including a great pass to Burgess for a deuce at the 8 minute mark.

That was it for the Jayhawks. They couldnt hit a shot for over four minutes and the Rams salted the game away as Kansas cried on their bench.

The celebration wasn’t like you would’ve expected. The Rams were cool and calm not being too overly exuberant. They dance an their few fans cheered loudly as Kansas walk off to another disappointment.

Their greatest achievement in all of this is that they have bragging right over rival George Mason, because, they are this year’s George Mason. They shocked the world just like their CAA compatriots, as and 11 seed, and beat the tournament favorite to do it.

So for anyone that said VCU didn’t belong, this is for you. Five wins in two weeks against a team from all major conferences except the SEC.

In a sense you could say the VCU Rams already are national champions.


They’re Baaaaaaaaack!

Butler proved that last year was no fluke.

Last year I wrote a blog stating that the Butler Bulldogs should now be perceived as a major program after their run to the Final 4.

 

This year they have more than proven me to be a prophet.

 

After Butler’s 74-71 overtime victory over Florida in the Southeast Regional final, the Bulldogs reached their second consecutive Final 4. In the last 11 years only Florida, Maryland and UCLA have done that exact same feat. Those are heavy hitters folks.

 

Funny thing about this year’s team is that they were on the verge of not making it back to the dance. After last year’s improbable run the team suffered a few setbacks. Super Sophomore Gordon Haywood went to the NBA and combined with their heartbreaking loss to Duke The Bulldogs suffered from a long Final 4 hangover.

 

They came out of the gate super slow going 4-4 with huge losses to Louisville and Duke and a close road loss to Xavier. After they seemed to pull it together by winning the Diamond Head classic in Hawaii they suffered a 24-point thrashing at the hands of Milwaukee-Wisconsin and then lost three straight conference games including an embarrassing loss to 9-21 Youngstown State. At 14-9 the Bulldogs were battered and bloodied and seemed destined for the NIT than the NCAA and winning the Horizon League title was their only sure bet.

 

So naturally they picked themselves off of the mat and kept going.

 

Just like last year’s 24 game winning streak, Butler has reeled off 13 straight games including their 4 wins in the NCAA tournament. Butler has become masterful in close game situations, as 9 of the 13 wins have come by 8 points or less including outlasting a much bigger and stronger Florida team.

 

Butler does it with defense limiting two opponents to over 70 in their last 14 games. Against Florida they outrebounded the Gators 36-33 and held them to 3-14 from behind the arc.

Brad Stevens might be the best coach in college right now.

This is a testament to Brad Stevens’ brilliance as a head coach. You can make the case that Stevens is currently the best coach in America after this four year run in Indianapolis.

 

After losing his star to the NBA and watching his team become the target of every mid-major program, Stevens just kept it moving and kept pushing his players. Once Haywood left, Shelvin Mack stepped in to take on the bulk of the scoring responsibilities. Matt Howard shook off a poor NCAA tournament last year and as been great down low, and Ronald Nored is still the defensive beast this year coming off of the bench.

 

While most coaches would have panicked after a mid-season lull, Stevens stayed the course and let his team figure it out and it paid off. In doing so Stevens now heads to his second Final 4 and is the youngest coach to ever reach two Final 4’s. He now has the same amount of appearances in the Final 4 as John Calipari, Gary Williams, and Bob Huggins and has more appearances than Thad Motta, Tubby Smith and Bill Self. That’s not a bad bragging point.

 

12 months ago after the shot that almost was, we wondered if we would ever see Butler come close to the opportunity that it had to win it all that night. We wondered could the little school from the little Horizon League conference, or any mid-major for that matter, replicate what had almost happened that night.

 

12 months later we get to find out.

 

Once and for all Butler proves their aint nothing small about their program. You can officially remove the mid from their vernacular. These guys are just major.


Hands Down, Kemba’s The Best

Kemba Walker has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's the best player in the nation.

While Jimmer Fredette was all the rage of the NCAA lighting up scoreboards and putting up ridiculous numbers, Kemba Walker took a backseat.

 

Walker was the NCAA’s main attraction after an unreal start to the season that saw him put up 30-point games like it wasn’t a problem. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot and took UCONN from preseason unranked to the top 10.

 

Then he tailed off. Why? Because he knew he couldn’t do it all by himself. Truth be told, Walker and Fredette were walking the same path during this season as the top two players in the nation up for the player of the year. Both were little guards who put up big numbers and only hoped that their teammates got involved.

 

Yet while Jimmer jacked away to his hearts content, Kemba decided to do what all great players do and that’s make his teammates better.

 

During UCONN’s lull in the Big East season Walker saw his points per game average drop but had an increase in assists. In wins and in losses Walker was getting guys like Shabazz Napier, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Jeremy Lamb involved more in the game. He was freeing up and finding Alex Orakhi underneath the rim, he was getting everyone involved and making them better.

 

The results were mixed at the time, but once the Big East tournament hit, you saw that it was going to payoff in the long haul.

 

Lamb more than any other player on the roster has emerged as a gigantic threat opposite of walker. Lamb has put on a show scoring 24 versus San Diego State and 19 in the West region final versus Arizona.

 

Because of Lamb’s success in the last 2 months teams now have another problem to watch be wary of when facing the Huskies.

Jeremy Lamb is one of the main recipients of Kemba Walker's change in approach in the last 3 months.

However, when the chips are down, when you need a bucket, and when you need a big play, that’s when Kemba Walker takes over.

 

During the Huskies 9 game in 19 day win streak (which has to go down in sports history as one of the most stupefying streaks ever) Walker hasn’t played less than 33 minutes, topping 40 minutes 4 times. He hasn’t shot under 40% in any game, he buried Pittsburgh with a devastating crossover and game-winner over Gary McGhee, he shredded the Aztecs defenders with ease whether it was 6 foot D.J. Gay or 6-8 Billy White.

 

The nickname Iron Man doesn’t seem sufficient enough to describe Walker and his brilliance; he’s been a superhero and then some for UCONN. He’s led the Huskies far beyond anyone’s expectations since they took the court versus Stone Brook back in September. Now with two games left he has them at the peak of the mountaintop even though he has to be gassed.

When Walker and coach Jim Calhoun bear hugged each other at midcourt after their win over Arizona in the West regional final, you saw how deep a connection Calhoun has with his star pupil. Calhoun’s season has been one to forget off of the court, as he will be suspended for three Big East games next year due to recruiting violations. Through it all Calhoun has held his head above water and having Walker there to lead his team and overshadow that dark period has definitely been a blessing.

 

Calhoun has been known to be very hard on his players because he demands so much out of them. In Walker he hasn’t to be and their bond is more special than any I’ve seen with Calhoun in his 20+ years at Storrs.

 

Jimmermania was fun. He was a blast to watch and did some impressive things. But when it comes down to who the player of the year was this year in the NCAA, there’s no question it’s Kemba Walker.

 

He’s done everything asked of him and more this year. It seems like every time we look up, Walker is at it again and carrying UCONN to another victory. With possibly two games left in college career, who’s to say he wont do it again.


Arizona Schools Duke

When I say that Arizona beat up Duke I’m doing them an injustice.

Derrick Williams and Momo Jones dominated Duke during a crippling 28-10 second half run.

Arizona outclassed, outplayed, out-everythinged Duke to the point that every person in the bar I watched the game at ooooh’d and aaaah’d for an 8 minute run.

Actually for Duke the 28-10 run that lasted for 8 minutes seemed like an eternity.

Arizona came out of halftime down by 6 points after an up and down first half. Derrick Williams, who lit up Duke for 25 points in the first half, kept them in the game by showing off his ridiculous game dominating Duke both inside and out. Once they came out they took it to Duke in a barrage of highlight reel plays, fantastic defense and posterizations that had me hoping the Singler family had their TiVo recorders turned off.

Momo Jones knifed through 3 defenders for a spectacular layup. Williams threw down a monster jam that would’ve made Blake Griffin blush. Jamelle Horne banged on Singler to the point where I couldn’t drink my beer.

It was a slaughter. Arizona couldn’t miss, they shut down Duke in every single way, they outrebounded Duke 25-9 in the second half… Keep in mind duke has 3 players at 6-10 while Zona has none.

In short Coach K should’ve texted Shane Battier to help him because Duke couldn’t get it done offensively or defensively.

I knew Sean Miller was a good coach, but damn. His adjustment at halftime was to run Duke ragged and they did. Even with Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith running the show Duke couldn’t keep up with Momo and D-Will. Zona’s above the rim game donated the Dukies to the point that you felt bad for them. Arizona’s athleticism destroyed Duke. They had no answer for their drives, drive an kicks, or inside bludgeoning that took place at Honda Arena in Anaheim.

Lute Olsen should’ve and probably did crack a smile at an Arizona team that resembled one of his many squads that dominated the PAC-10 during his tenure.

This win spoke volumes about the talent that Miller has continued to amass at Arizona like he did at Xavier, and the athletic weakness of the ACC.

For all of the critics that touted ACC as basketballs best conference after the Big East’s lackluster week last week, this game showed why only 4 ACC teams were worthy of the field. They lack the necessary athleticism to keep up with the field and don’t have the same punch as a Big East team or Kansas or even Butler. Duke was done in by it’s lack of aggression around the rim and by the fact that it couldn’t keep up with Arizona’s faster more athletic guards. Even though Duke had been number one for most of the year, games against St. Johns and UNC exposed them as an unworthy squad for winning a national title.

For Arizona it puts then right back in a position that they were used to under Olsen. They are close to a final 4, a serious national title contender an one of the top 4 teams left in the field. If Arizona plays like it did in the second half tonight against Duke then no one could possibly stop them.

So while one of the favorites goes home, Arizona moves on. UCONN beware, Arizona has all of the tools it needs to go for the national title. Don’t believe me? Replay the last 20 minutes of this game and ask Coach K how good this team is.


The Jimmer Spectrum

Love him or hate him this tournament has been all about Jimmer.

My buddy asked me over Facebook what I thought of Jimmer Fredette the other day; I didn’t answer him because there is a Jimmer max out that I’m at right now with Jimmer Fredette.

I like his game, his fearlessness, his toughness and his never say die attitude. Yet I’m sick of hearing about his fearlessness, his toughness and his never say die attitude. This happens whenever gets a hold of its IT guy for the moment, they run him into the ground so at the end you either love or hate the guy.

I’m trying to watch Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Shelvin Mack and all of VCU ball and all I hear is Jimmer Jimmer Jimmer.

So instead of answering I ignored him for a few days and decided to answer it in the only way I know how (thank you English classes at Ohio State) through contrast of course, love and hate.

Love: He’s a New York guy.

Hate: He plays in a weak conference with little competition.

Love: His shot. Whenever he lets one rip you get a good feeling that it’s going in. it doesn’t matter where he is on the floor he can bury that J in anyone’s grill at any spot.

Jimmer's game has a playground feel to it.

Hate: His shots. I texted my buddy Will this tidbit on Saturday during the BYU-Gonzaga game, “doesn’t Jimmer remind you of that guy you play ball with on the playground who chucks up shots without caring who he plays with?” In Brooklyn we would’ve shut him out long ago.

(and I understand that he has no real offensive options on his team, but if he is going to be a point guard in the Association then he’s got to ATTEMPT to make his teammates better. Walker made UCONN better, Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith make the Plumlees not look like stiffs, Kendall Marshall resurrected UNC, BYU is still a one-man show.)

Love: He more than makes up for his team’s offensive deficiencies. I know I wrote that he should make his teammates better, but watching him find spots on the floor and night in and out hit every shot that he’s supposed too is amazing.

Hate: Jimmer Fredette plays no defense… period.

(that sound you heard was Erving Walker smacking his lips.)

Love: His demeanor. He’s not Tim Tebow. He doesn’t jump around and scream when he doesn’t have to. He is a leader that leads by example and only gets amped when necessary.

Hate: The Tebow-like coverage. There are ten guys in the game that should be getting just as much coverage as Jimmer. He’s a good player from a crappy conference. He’s not Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams or the Morris who ball out in better conferences to less acclaim.

Love: Dude’s look. He has an NBA ready body. His arms are huge and he looks like he could break me in half.

Hate: I think he needs facial hair… just saying.

Love: … the fact that he has a pretty good skill set besides shooting. He’s not J.J. Redick, Kyle Korver or Adam Morrison, he can get to the rack, he can pass, he has some rebounding skills.

Hate: It’s pretty good, not great. I don’t think he sees the whole floor and I don’t think that he could run a set offense. In transition he could 6-7 assists a game in the NBA. But in the Triangle, ball distribution like how Rajon Rondo exemplifies in Boston, making marginal talent good a la Deron Williams? That’s not him.

Jimmer's future may or may not be a home run.

Love: Him as a college darling. So often we make classifications of a guy based on what his NBA stock when we should look at the present. What Jimmer is doing is leading a so-so BYU team on a run in a weak bracket that could end up taking them to the Final 4 in Houston and put his name down among the greats to ever play the game. In the process Jimmer has improved each and every year that he has been in school. He’s a proficient scorer who can get his any night and at anytime. I love Jimmer Fredette the college player because he gives the game something it misses when every other year guys like John Wall, Derrick Rose and others who dip out early and that’s a dominant figure that captures our imagines over a period of time…

Hate: …but with that said it is hard not to look at the future and what Jimmer will become and he won’t do this in the NBA. Jimmer is a two-guard in a point guard’s body. In order for his game to work and for him to develop into a decent point guard he has to play on an up-tempo team (hi Knicks.). he isn’t a great half-court player and can’t defend either guard spot. His best case scenario is a backup point guard spot, which in actuality would be great for most teams who need energy off of the bench. However, him as a starter? No way. Unless he talks to Stephen Curry and makes the same kind of transition that he made to the point guard spot then he won’t see the floor unless it’s off of the bench or in certain spots.

I don’t hate Jimmer Fredette, but I am critical of his game. Hopefully that answers my buddy’s question.


Florida Is Proving Their Worth

Note to self, Florida might be the best team in the southeast bracket of the NCAA.

We all doubted Walker and the Gators... oops.

After holding off UCLA 73-65 in front of a Florida dominated crowd  the Gators have positioned themselves as the team to beat in that region.

Not bad for a squad that was considered by many as a team that got a fluke two seed.

The man mostly responsible for Florida’s longest tourney run since the Joakim Noah title teams of the 2000’s is Erving Walker.

After Jai Lucas bolted Gainesville for Austin, Walker stepped right in and stepped up way past his diminutive 5-8 height.

Against UCLA Walker made all of the plays necessary to hold the Bruins at bay. He scored 10 o the Gators last 12 points, hit a three that put them up for good an hit and unreal circus shot in the paint over 6-10 305 pound Josh Smith that will require multiple replays to gain understanding for what he just did.

Walkers clutch play more than made up for the lack of production from Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton who couldn’t find their shot all day.

What they couldn’t get on offense they more than made up for on the defensive end holding the Bruins to 41% shooting including 23% from three. The shots that the Bruins got against the Spartans were non-existent today with the perimeter play and inside presence of Alex Tyus who neutralized Smith on the boards.

All of the bad momentum that followed Florida from the SEC tournament has been erased in two games including the 79-51 beat down of UCSB. The Gators have taken control of the weakest bracket in the field and look to be a serious Final Four contender.

The rest of the bracket gives them more fuel for their optimism.

Up next are possible matchups with either BYU or Gonzaga. Without Brandon Davies in the middle there isnt an answer to hold Tyus and Florida is more than capable of limiting Jimmer Fredette. And while Gonzaga does have athleticism they’re not as disciplined as the Gators on offense or defense.

So you can pencil the Gators into the elite 8. What most experts perceived to be a short stay in the tourney might be a long one. Florida has proven themselves to be worthy of that controversial number two seed and could bring back the glory days of just 4 years ago with another run to the Final Four.

Not bad for a team that was supposed to be done before the beginning of spring. Continue reading


St. John’s Early Exit Is A Bad Case Of Deja Vu

St. John's found a familiar adversary in an all too familiar setting.

Forget the aesthetics of basketball for a second. Forget the fact that St. John’s didn’t play well enough to beat Gonzaga for a second (they didn’t by the way. Out rebounded 41-18?! Come on fellas.). Forget the fact that during that day in Denver the 12 and 13 seeds won their games to begin the yearly tournament shakeup.

Just understand this statement… The NCAA has something against St. John’s.

Conspiracy theory? Yeah. But do I as a fan have a reason to feel like they do? Hell yes.

This theory stems from the 2000 NCAA season that included an NCAA investigation of Erick Barkley when he was the starting point guard for the Red Storm. Barkley was suspended for two games for borrowing a friend’s car (no, seriously that’s what gets you suspended in the NCAA. Yet John Calipari can have violations at two schools, have banners tore down and his schools removed from the record books and still get coaching jobs whenever he wants. You can’t make this stuff up.) In what was a stupid penalty for a minor incident. St. John’s didn’t seem to suffer as they ran through the Big East winning the regular season and conference tournament.

They were considered a favorite to win the NCAA title and had a shot at a possible number one seed. So naturally the selection committee puts the Big East champion as a two seed… out west… in Arizona… against Northern Arizona in a first round disadvantage… with the possibility of a second round match against the West Coast’s own Gonzaga…  yeah, they got hosed.

St. John's suffered a disappointing end to a great season.

They were on the NCAA hit list and were put at a disadvantage from the jump. That tournament still ticks me off to this day. No team, not Michigan State, Arizona, Oklahoma or anyone was stopping that team from winning it all. If they would’ve gotten a two seed in the East they would’ve beaten Florida and gotten to the Final 4 and beaten the Spartans for the title. You can’t tell me different.

11 years later after one the best runs that they’ve had since the 98-2000 teams the Johnnies came into this tournament with high hopes and were a dark horse candidate for the Final 4 even without D.J. Kennedy who tore his ACL. All of this ended on Sunday during the selection with this matchup, #6 St. John’s… goes to Colorado… to take on Gonzaga… who after struggling all year is peaking after winning the WCC tournament and 11 of its last 12… Shoot me.

11 years after screwing the Storm the NCAA did it again. Of all of places, they send them out West again to face Gonzaga again. Once I saw that matchup I knew it was over.

Gonzaga is too tall and athletic for the smaller Red Storm who do play physical, but can’t run up and down the floor with a team like this. And it showed.

Besides the rebound margin the Bulldogs got to the line 26 times and dropped 20 assists to the Storm’s 9. It was over before it really even started.

I’m not shocked though. I saw it coming even though my optimism was giving me thoughts of a run deep into March. The Johnnies got a bad matchup and got creamed, that’s NCAA tournament for ya. For all of the magic and success that they accumulated this year it was all undone by the NCAA selection committee in one year. It felt like 2000 all over again, thanks fellas for screwing the Johnnies once again at least you’re consistent with your punishment for a program in one way NCAA.


Tourney Time!

The Buckeyes are the team to beat on the road to Houston.

With all due respect to the Colorado Buffaloes being 21-13, losing to Harvard, and San Francisco and beating such power houses like Maryland Eastern Shore and the Citadel don’t make you a tournament team. Even if you did beat Texas, Missouri and Kansas State three times.

 

I know you thought you should’ve been in but your yawn of a start didn’t make up for a flurry of a finish. I mean where do you think you are, the Big Ten?

 

As with every year the selection of the field of now 68 is not without some controversy. USC, Clemson and Penn State in, St. Mary’s, Missouri State and Virginia Tech out.

 

However, you must deal with it. The best part is now we can watch it all unfold in the way that a national champion should be rewarded, in a playoff. Hi BCS.

 

This year the field expanded to 68 teams, which essentially allowed three more crappy teams to make the field and create two more “Play-in” games to feed our growing appetites for basketball.

 

The field is pretty interesting. For the second straight year the number 1 seed overall gets the toughest bracket (Ohio State would love to trade with Pittsburgh right now) and Duke is a #2 disguised as a #1 (going to Anaheim 4 hours away from #2 San Diego State).

 

But this year there are 11 Big East teams, shattering the record of 8, a larger amount of mid-majors that could be primed for big runs (Oakland and Belmont), and about 9 teams that can win it all.

It would've been fun to watch St. mary's, but oh well.

As much as I like Ohio State their depth concerns me. As much as I like Duke location concerns. As much as I like Kansas their expectations concern me (I learned a long time ago that when everyone picks Kansas, pick against them). And as much as I like Pittsburgh I don’t think one Big East team can win this tournament…

 

But I think they’ll make it interesting.

 

I don’t expect much from the Big East except to kill a bunch of brackets and then fall. St. john’s, Marquette, West Virginia and Cincinnati could make someone’s life miserable and then fall the next game. The last thing I want to see being a top seed is a mid-level big east team waiting for them because disaster might ensue.

 

So what’s going to happen? Well before that, lets take a look at who should have and shouldn’t have made it.

 

ST. MARY’S 25-8

They won their conference, were ranked for last half of the season, played in a relatively decent conference and have a great history in the tournament and they played tough games versus St. John’s and BYU. Plus they had 25 wins (more on this later.).

 

MISSOURI STATE 25-8

They took Tennessee to the limit and won their regular season conference in the Missouri Valley, which year in and out is very competitive.

 

THE BIG TEN FOUR: PENN STATE (19-14), MICHIGAN STATE (19-14), ILLINOIS (19-13), MICHIGAN (20-13)

Here is my biggest problem with the tournament committee. It’s this thing called overvaluing a conference. The Big Ten was heralded as the best conference in the country and didn’t live up to it.

 

It was a top-heavy conference that featured three really good teams (Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin) and the rest of the conference was mediocre.

 

These four teams only got in because of their namesake. Critics will tell you that they played tough schedules and should be rewarded for how they played. Ok, I understand you play a tough schedule… BUT YOU LOST 13 GAMES, THAT MEANS YOU’RE NOT THAT GOOD!

 

Two weeks ago Penn State was 15-13 including losses to Maine, Maryland and Ole Miss.

What do 14 losses, 3 20 point losses and no consistency all year get you.. a ticket to the dance of course.

Illinois was 6-9 in their last 15 and lost to UIC by 3.

 

Michigan lost every game they played versus a top 25 team and went 0-6 against the top 3 in their own conference.

 

And Michigan State lost by double digits to the following teams: Syracuse, Purdue, Iowa by 20, Wisconsin by 24, Ohio State, Purdue by 20 and Penn State.

 

And these four teams were worthy of not only making the tournament, but also avoiding the play-in games?

 

Why not include Northwestern?

 

I guess having Gene Smith at the head of the committee does wonders for your conference.

 

And now, the field (not covering the play-in games because those are the only game s that those teams are winning).

 

EAST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: OHIO STATE

BEST PLAYER: JARED SULLINGER

DARKHORSE: NORTH CAROLINA

UPSET SPECIALS: MARQUETTE OVER XAVIER

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND- WASHINGTON-GEORGIA. DOWN THE ROAD: OHIO STATE-KENTUCKY

I thought as the number one seed in any playoff that you were supposed to have the least challenging field to deal with as reward for your regular season. Guess I was wrong.

 

OSU has to potentially play Kentucky and Syracuse or North Carolina on their way to the final four and all three teams are peaking right now and have an equal share of claim as the top team to contend for a trip to Houston.

 

The region is stacked as West Virginia is a potential roadblock for Kentucky and Washington could do damage to UNC or Syracuse. Also George Mason could pose a little bit of a threat to OSU in the second round with Cam Long looking to take advantage of freshman Aaron Craft.

 

This bracket is also the lottery showcase with UK’s Terrance Jones and Brandon Knight, OSU’s Jared Sullinger and UNC’s Harrison Barnes looking to make statements before they potentially put their names into the for June’s draft.

Looking for a lottery pick this June? Then this regional is for you.

You’ll also want to get a peak at UW’s Isaiah Thomas, Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Princeton’s Kareem Maddox. Thomas is a guard in the same vein of Nate Robinson while Tu Holloway is flashy point guard who can shoot the lights of any opponent and Maddox is a post up player who can score in buckets.

 

I like Ohio State to win the region but two things concern me, the lack of depth and lack of killer instinct. If Sullinger or Dallas Lauderdale gets into foul trouble then its slim pickings on that bench that runs seven deep at best.

 

The good news is Kentucky only rolls six deep and Syracuse and UNC flip flop between lots of bench production and dead weight.

 

FINAL 4: OHIO STATE

WEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: DUKE

BEST PLAYER: DERRICK WILLIAMS

DARKHORSE: SAN DIEGO STATE

UPSET SPECIALS: OAKLAND OVER TEXAS AND MEMPHIS OVER ARIZONA

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: MEMPHIS-ARIZONA. DOWN THE ROAD: SDSU-UCONN

I really want to pick UCONN but playing 5 games in 5 days will catch up to them like playing 4 in 4 caught up to Syracuse years ago. UCONN matches up well with Arizona, Duke and SDSU potentially, but the wear and tear of the Big East season and tourney will affect them after the Bucknell game.

 

How does Mizzou feel about playing a Cincinnati team that’s playing it’s best ball of the year while they’re playing their worst? Mike Anderson’s team has had a miserable second half and should be a quick exit.

 

Oakland scares me as a dark horse sweet 16 team. They played a tough non-conference schedule, which included a win at Tennessee. Texas, Arizona or Memphis doesn’t have an answer for Keith Benson in the middle and he should put up big numbers.

 

This bracket has San Diego State’s name written all over it. Their athleticism should get them through the 2nd and 3rd rounds easily and they have the bodies to match up with UCONN in the sweet 16.

Don't be shocked if the Aztecs make a run.

If they play Duke though how will they respond? Duke’s defense and rotation of about 9 players will frustrate the Aztecs and the Devils experience outweighs their athleticism. Also with the way Nolan Smith has played all year I don’t see a guard in this tourney stopping him. Even Kemba Walker.

 

FINAL 4: DUKE

SOUTHWEST REGIONAL

BEST TEAM: KANSAS

BEST PLAYERS: BEN HANSBROUGH, MARKIEFF AND MARCUS MORRIS

DARKHORSE: LOUISVILLE

UPSET SPECIAL: RICHMOND OVER VANDERBILT

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: VANDY0RICHMOND. DOWN THE ROAD: KANSAS-LOUISVILLE, NOTRE DAME-PURDUE, NOTRE DAME-LOUISVILLE, PUDRDUE-KANSAS

At first I thought that the Southeast region was the lightest. Then I looked at this region and though, “are there any good teams besides Kansas, Louisville or Notre Dame?” no.

 

This region has all the excitement of the Wisconsin-Penn State game on Friday.

 

Vanderbilt wont handle Justin Harper or Kevin Anderson and the inside out game that Richmond plays. Georgetown doesn’t know if Chris Wright will even contribute once he returns from his hand injury. And vastly superior competition next round will roast TAMU, FSU and UNLV.

 

Purdue however intrigues me. Etwan Moore and JaJuan Johnson pose a sizeable threat to the bracket with their experience but they lost to Richmond on neutral soil by 11 back in November and they were 0-3 on the road versus ranked teams this year. Plus they just lost by 18 to Michigan State in Indianapolis and they scares me more than any other stat.

If this man keeps his head, then the Irish can go far.

I like Louisville because they can score and defend and they get clutch performances from Kyle Kuric and Preston Knowles when needed. Also there aren’t better guards in this region than Knowles and Peyton Siva. They can take over a game and cause headaches for whoever plays them.

 

Kansas is Kansas. Arguably the most complete team in the nation, as they are athletic at all positions and deep. The Morris Twins are absolute monsters in the paint or on the wing and the team as a whole is an offensive juggernaut.

 

The problem with them is their consistency at all positions. I don’t trust Tyshawn Taylor at all and Josh Selby is still trying to fit into the offense. Plus in their two losses their lack of focus and execution murdered them and almost cost them against Nebraska, Iowa State and Michigan.

So I’m taking Notre Dame. Why? The fight in this team runs from top to bottom. They back down from no one in any situation. Look at the UCONN game two weeks ago when Ben Hansbrough fouled out of the game with 8 minutes left. They weathered the Kemba Walker hurricane and a raucous crowd to pull themselves together and pull out a huge win.

 

They can shoot anyone’s lights out and can overcome their lack of athleticism with their experience and hustle.

 

(Side note: this is all pending on whether or not Hansbrough can keep is head in check. He almost cost them the UCONN game and did cost them against Louisville at the Garden. When he’s on he’s the best shooter in the country, when he’s off his volatile nature becomes a huge detriment to the team. )

 

FINAL 4: NOTRE DAME

SOUTHEAST REGION

BEST TEAM: PITTSBURGH

BEST PLAYERS: JIMMER FREDETTE, JACOB PULLEN AND DWIGHT HARDY

DARKHORSE: ST. JOHN’S

UPSET SPECIALS: UTAH STATE OVER KANSAS STATE, BELMONT OVER WISCONSIN, GONZAGA OVER ST. JOHN’S AND WOFFORD OVER BYU

BEST GAMES: 1ST ROUND: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS GONZAGA. DOWN THE ROAD: ST. JOHN’S VERSUS KANSAS STATE, PITTSBURGH VERSUS ST. JOHN’S, KANSAS STATE VERSUS BYU

Um… yeah… this region is a cluster****.

 

The committee must’ve wanted to play head games with everyone with this region.

 

It’s technically a bunch of guard dependent teams who wouldn’t make the sweet 16 in any other region.

 

The top 4 seeds could either maker final four runs or be done before week 2. By the way, how in the blue hell did Florida get a 2 seed? Did the committee realize that they lost to UCF, Jacksonville, South Carolina, Mississippi State and got drilled by Kentucky on Sunday? Just saying.

 

The bottom line is that this will be he most fun region of the four. You’ll see Jimmer drop 40. Belmont rain three’s and Pitt bludgeon their teams to death.

 

However, I’m beyond interested to see how St. john’s does. Before D.J. Kennedy went down with a torn ACL I thought that they were a real final 4 contender. Then that happened and I backtracked. Now? I don’t know.

How far can the Johnnies go? This man holds the key.

I know that they depend on Dwight Hardy just as much as BYU depends on Jimmer, and that they struggle to find offense in some areas at times. But looking at this region I feel that it’s theirs for the taking. Except for their opening game against a peaking Gonzaga, the Johnnies can beat anyone in the bottom half of their bracket and for one game they can take out Pitt, K-State or Wisconsin.

 

But I’m taking K-State because Jacob Pullen pulled himself together and brought this team back from the dead. A month ago the Wildcats were NIT bound when Pullen stopped caring about the NBA and put the team on his back. Even with Wally Judge gone the Wildcats rallied behind Pullen and the inside tandem of Curtis Kelly and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and ran through Kansas, Missouri, and Texas on their way to this 5 seed.  Why stop now? Besides, Colorado aint playing so they don’t have to worry about playing a team they cant beat.

 

FINAL 4: KANSAS STATE

Yeah I know my final 4 is the same as the beginning of the year (except for Syracuse, stupid East regional.) but why turn away now? OSU, K-State and Duke are playing their best ball of the year and Notre Dame fulfills my Big East obligation. So you know that means that I’m sticking with the Buckeyes to win it all.

 

Ok enough talking, Thursday get here already (Tuesday for those interested in the “first round.”), let the games begin!