Here we are again. It’s nice, isn’t it? The Final Four. Bask in it for a moment.

Okay, now reel yourself back in. It’s time to figure out who’s going to win.

This year, we are blessed to have four such storied programs vying for the title of NCAA Champions. All four contestants have a potent mix of strong tradition, interesting storylines, immense talent, and legendary coaches.

In terms of storylines, you have to start with Kentucky. Their run at the record books is nearing its boiling point, as the Wildcats sit a mere two wins away from achieving the first 40-0 season in NCAA history. Make no mistake, there is no easy road to that fortieth win, though. Making their 18th Final Four appearance in school history, Kentucky faces perhaps their tallest task in Wisconsin (more on them in a minute). However, John Calipari has put together quite an amazing – maybe perfect – team. From top to bottom, every player in the rotation has and knows his role. They’ve got the big men in Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Trey Lyles, not to mention Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee coming off the bench. They have the dangerous duo of backcourt brothers, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who are spelled by the more-than-capable Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. Calipari can play just about any combination of these players with little to no drop-off in performance. The Wildcats have held opponents to the fewest points in the nation this season. Meanwhile, they score about 20 points more than their foes, which means this is not a team built on eking out close victories in the 50s (looking your way, Virginia). Really, we’ve only seen Kentucky truly tested maybe four times all year. During the regular season, they needed some heroics to get past Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and LSU – and they got them. Last weekend, Notre Dame gave it everything they had down the stretch, punching back at Kentucky. When Jerian Grant’s desperation buzzer-beater from the corner missed by thatmuch, the Irish just barely missed their chance to KO the Floyd Mayweather of college basketball. Like they have all season long, Kentucky exhaled and celebrated a hard-fought victory. Now, they face a Badger team that looks like it might be poised to play spoiler to Kentucky’s Hollywood ending.

In any other season, the Badgers’ amazing performance this year would have garnered a lot more attention than it has. But when you’ve got another team going undefeated, you’re going to be overlooked a little more. That’s not to say that the Big Ten champions haven’t gotten their fair share of ink. Wisconsin’s gawky star Frank Kaminsky just won the AP Player of the Year award, for instance. It’s just that this whole tournament has been operating with a Kentucky-against-the-field air to it. Watching the Badgers in their first four games of the Big Dance, however, I believe that they truly might be the only team that could beat the Cats. You want to talk about inside presence? While Kaminsky might have some trouble inside against Cauley-Stein and Towns, there are other options for the Badgers. Sam Dekker, for one, has been on fire lately. He was the spark that ignited Wisconsin’s comeback against North Carolina, and he was one of the key factors in their win over Arizona. He presents a true challenge for the Wildcats, who don’t have a player who directly matches Dekker’s combination of size and quickness. He could be the X-factor in this game as well, especially if he gets hot from beyond the arc. Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, and Josh Gasser will have to shut down the Kentucky guards on defense. If the Badgers have a clear disadvantage against the Cats, it lies in its depth. John Calipari has the much deeper bench, but Bo Ryan’s squad has been logging serious minutes. Don’t discount the boost that they get from the return of Traevon Jackson, either. He and Zak Showalter will have to play some big minutes in order to keep Kentucky from tiring the Badgers out. One thing Wisconsin does very well is get to the line, where they shoot 76%. They will need to draw some fouls to make Kentucky go to its bench early and often. Even then, Wisconsin can ill afford to go cold from downtown. To beat a team like the Wildcats, you really need to be hitting on all cylinders. The Badgers have found ways to win in the tournament, and they will need to find more in order to keep Kentucky from their 39th victory.

Before these two titans square off, however, there is another game to be played. Two of the coaches who have defined the last 20 years of college basketball, Mike Krzyzewksi and Tom Izzo, go head-to-head. While John Calipari has often received some flak about the number of one-and-done players he brings into his program, Coach K has started trending this way, as well. He actually starts more freshmen than his Kentucky counterpart does. Led by All-American Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow, Duke has been one of the country’s best teams all year long. They faltered some at the beginning of ACC play, but two of their losses this season came against that Notre Dame team that was inches away from upsetting Kentucky. Like the Wildcats, Duke has a few non-freshmen that are pretty good, too. Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson have also played big roles for this team. While Okafor has been relatively quiet in the last few games, Winslow and Jones have been picking up that slack. Duke looked impressive in its ability to shut down Utah and Gonzaga. They are playing as well as any of the four teams remaining in the tournament. Along with Kentucky and Wisconsin, the Blue Devils are among the top three teams in the country right now. If they can get past the Spartans, the title game is going to be spectacular, regardless of who makes it from the other side of the bracket. Coach K needs his youngsters to play like seniors on Saturday, because they are facing a Michigan State team that far exceeds the experience of Duke.

Before we get into their roster, take a minute to look at what Tom Izzo’s team has done in this tournament. They got past a scrappy Georgia squad in the Round of 64, which set up their monster upset of Virginia. This was the second-straight season in which the Spartans bounced a highly-touted Cavaliers team. Virginia had looked like a one-seed for the entire season, but then they stumbled down the stretch after losing Justin Anderson for a month. They never fully recovered, ultimately falling to Michigan State. Then, the Spartans upset an underrated Oklahoma team, led by standout guard Buddy Hield. This paved the way for their Elite Eight matchup against Louisville, who looked to be regaining their form at just the right time. You just can’t bet against a Tom Izzo team in March, it seems. The Spartans clawed their way through the game, eventually toppling the Cardinals in overtime. The magical run of Michigan State has been championed by senior guard Travis Trice, who has broken out in a big way in the Big Dance. Trice has not been alone, however. Joining him are fellow senior Branden Dawson and guard Denzel Valentine. One of the reasons for the success of the Spartans has been their depth, rotating players like Matt Costello, Bryn Forbes, Gavin Schilling, Marvin Clark Jr., and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn into the game. These guys might not be as heralded as the other three teams in the Final Four, but the Spartans have the players – not to mention the momentum – to continue their special run of form. Trice and Valentine will need to match, and perhaps outplay, their backcourt counterparts of Jones and Cook. Dawson and Costello have to handle the interior strength of Okafor and Winslow. Michigan State has been able to beat some teams with one or two stars on their squads, but this Duke team has no fewer than four players who are legitimate options to take over a game. If Tom Izzo wants a shot at his second national championship, he must get every one of his players to play at their full potential. This is the seventh time that Izzo has been to the Final Four since 1999, but he has only made the title game twice. He is also 1-for-9 in games against Coach K. But you don’t play these games on paper. With the kind of momentum and experience that Michigan State has, you simply can’t count them out. Keep in mind: the 7-seed from the East won the tournament last year, led by six standout performances from a senior guard. Just saying.

If I had to play it safe, I would predict that Kentucky would beat Wisconsin and Duke would beat Michigan State, with the Wildcats topping the Blue Devils to complete their 40-0 season. But you know what? I don’t have to play it safe. That’s not in my job description. So, sorry Kentucky fans. I am throwing my eggs into the Badgers’ basket. Watching the Badgers in their last two games, I have seen them turn it up to 11 when they have needed to. Maybe I just don’t want to see a 40-0 team. I don’t know. Something in my gut tells me that we’re looking at 38-1 instead. On the other side, I do see Duke winning. I think Duke has been playing at a higher level than any of the teams that Michigan State has beaten. Their performance against Gonzaga sealed that for me. This would set up a Duke-Wisconsin final, in which I have the Badgers cutting down the nets. Bo Ryan has been immensely underrated in his time at Wisconsin, but I feel like this is the year that he makes his indelible mark on college basketball.


Wisconsin over Kentucky, 67-64

Duke over Michigan State, 80-73

Wisconsin over Duke, 71-67

Well, there you have it, folks. This has been an amazing season so far. No matter how the final three games go, the quality of the matchups will be top-notch. Now, we just have to sit back and watch.



Well, give some credit to North Carolina and Xavier. They made Los Angeles a far more exciting site than Cleveland was on Thursday. Over in The Cleve, Notre Dame knocked Wichita State around for almost all of the game, save for a few comeback attempts by the Shockers. Fred VanVleet and Darius Carter took way too long getting started, and unfortunately for Wichita, they were the only ones that ever did. The Shockers’ other three starters shot a combined 4-of-21 from the floor, while the Irish started hot and stayed that way. Later on, Kentucky simply massacred West Virginia, starting the game on an 18-2 run and never looking back on their way to a 78-39 embarrassment. Notre Dame will try their hand at spoiling Kentucky’s dream season, but the sheer depth of the Wildcats should be enough to power UK into the Final Four. Meanwhile, in the City of Angels, the Tar Heels and Musketeers looked intent on raising hell.

North Carolina came out swinging, trading blows with Wisconsin for the first half of this game. Then they turned the heat up, charging out to a seven-point lead with 11 minutes remaining. It was still a four-point advantage with seven to play. This time, it was the Badgers’ turn to twist the dial. In a 90-second span, Wisconsin went on a 9-0 run to lead 65-60. The Heels refused to go away, but fell just short. The Badgers did themselves a huge favor by knocking down all of their last nine free throw attempts, sealing their 79-72 victory and an Elite Eight rematch with Arizona.

The Wildcats had their own problems on Thursday. Matt Stainbrook and the Musketeers played a gritty game, giving Arizona a serious run for their money. In the second half, big man Kaleb Tarczewski played a vital role in getting the U of A points in the paint – and perhaps more importantly, getting Stainbrook into late foul trouble. Xavier gave it everything they had, but the shots just didn’t fall when they needed to, and the Cats survived. Arizona will have the crowd advantage against the Badgers, which might just be the difference. But make no mistake about it, the West regional final might be the best game of the entire tournament. Before we get to see that game, though, there are four more to be played tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at who will fill out the other half of the Elite Eight.

Gonzaga over UCLA, 84-69

Say what you want about the soft schedule that the Zags play – this team is for real. They are one of a few teams in the nation who shot over 50% from the field for the entire season. Gonzaga is also great on defense, holding opponents to 39% shooting on the year. They rebound well, they pass the ball… they do just about everything you want out of a team. Except, of course, play in a major conference. Though a move to the PAC-12 would be interesting, the football side of things wouldn’t work. I think the Mountain West could be a good landing spot for the Zags, but I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon. Speaking of the PAC-12, Gonzaga’s opponent in the Sweet 16 is UCLA, a team that nobody believed would still be around this time of year. You have to give it to the Bruins, they have been making the most of their chance in the tournament. They were on the receiving end of a little luck (okay, maybe more than a little) when Yanick Moreira decided to bail out Bryce Alford for the first ever game-winning goaltend that I can remember seeing. It didn’t hurt that Iowa State, who came into the Big Dance as hot as anybody in the nation, fell to UAB in their first game. The Bruins didn’t have much trouble dispatching the Blazers, a team that looked like it finally ran out of gas after a miraculous run through the C-USA Tournament and their opening game against the Cyclones. Just like UAB, UCLA seems a likely candidate to run out of gas themselves. It has been a heck of a ride for the Bruins, but I don’t see them being able to stop all of the weapons that Gonzaga has. Instead, I expect Domantas Sabonis to dominate on the interior, while Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos give the defense fits from the outside.

Louisville over North Carolina State, 73-69

It was Valentine’s Day the last time that these ACC foes faced off. In that game, the Wolfpack traveled to Louisville and upended the Cardinals. That is what kicked off NC State’s good run of form that led to not only a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but an 8-seed. The Pack were almost out of it against LSU, but they stormed back from a huge deficit and slipped past the Tigers at the buzzer. Then, the real magic happened. NC State took down top-seeded Villanova in Pittsburgh. After going back and forth, the Wolfpack led at halftime. Their biggest lead was 12 points, which was cut to two with 36 seconds to play. A missed Dylan Ennis three was the Cats’ last real chance to salvage their season, but they didn’t deserve to win this game. NC State dominated in the paint, and they will have to do the same against Montrezl Harrell and the Cardinals. Rick Pitino’s squad knocked out Northern Iowa in impressive fashion, one game after nearly falling to UC Irvine. All of a sudden, Louisville looks like they could make a run behind Harrell and Terry Rozier. These two teams are actually very similar from a statistical standpoint. They score at about the same clip. They bang the boards on both ends. Louisville has the advantage on the defensive end, holding opponents to lower shooting percentages and forcing more turnovers. But given the way Mark Gottfried’s team is playing at the moment, this one might not be cut and dry for Lousiville. If I’m forced to choose, I think that Rick Pitino’s boys will prevail, but this one could really go either way. I just expect that Louisville is going to be out for vengeance after their Valentine’s Day loss. Plus, don’t we have to see an upset sometime? (More on that later.)

Duke over Utah, 82-72

Few teams looked as good as Duke on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. After flying past Robert Morris, the Blue Devils were supposed to be facing a much more difficult challenge in San Diego State. The result? A 68-49 drubbing in Charlotte, led by Jahlil Okafor’s 26-point performance. Duke held the Aztecs under 33% shooting and 2-for-15 from outside. Oddly, Duke only got to the foul line once in the entire game. They’ll probably want to draw some more fouls when they face Utah in the Sweet 16. The Utes have been consistently good-but-not-great all year long. When they put it together, they can hang with anyone. They haven’t been putting it all together lately, though. Delon Wright, one of the best players in the country, has yet to turn it on in the postseason, shooting 2-for-7 in both of Utah’s first two games. He has made some nice assists, but not as many as you might hope for if he isn’t going to be scoring much. Jakob Poeltl has been a big bright spot for the Utes, taking up space in the post and grinding out baskets and drawing fouls. But Poeltl, who is 12-for-13 in the Tournament, only grabbed one rebound against the Hoyas. If the Utes are going to stand a chance, they will need to do something they haven’t done against either Big Dance opponent: outrebound the other team. Utah shot the lights out against Georgetown, and they’ll have to do it again on Friday. Duke is no slouch on the offensive end, though. Coach K’s squad is fourth in the nation in scoring and third in field goal percentage. With Okafor playing like he is, and Delon Wright slumping a bit, I think that this is definitely Duke’s game to lose. This would set up a Duke-Gonzaga game that might rival Wisconsin-Arizona for the best game of the tournament. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Michigan State over Oklahoma, 65-62 (OT)

Hats off to Tom Izzo. He just knows how to win in March. This Spartans team is a really cohesive squad, and they can play with anybody in the nation. Just ask Virginia, who fell to Sparty last weekend in a defensive battle, losing 60-54. Now, the Cavaliers hadn’t been looking the same since Justin Anderson missed a stretch of time near the end of the season, but don’t let that take anything away from this win. Travis Trice and Michigan State came out of the gates sprinting, building a 15-4 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. They held the Cavs at bay for most of the game, although London Perrantes cut the lead to five with 1:33 to go. MSU hit enough of their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win, knocking Virginia out for the second straight season. Later on Sunday, Oklahoma took down Dayton to reach the Sweet 16. It looked for all the world that the Flyers were going to ride the home-state advantage past the Sooners after Kendall Pollard’s free throws put UD up 56-49 in Columbus with 10:23 to go. Little did anyone know that these would be Dayton’s last points for over nine minutes. Instead, a remarkable defensive clinic was put on by Oklahoma, who erased the deficit slowly but surely. In all, the Sooners went on a 13-0 run in those nine minutes, sparked by a two-minute span that saw three OU steals converted into baskets. By the time Scoochie Smith finally ended the drought for Dayton, it was already too late. Jordan Woodward went 7-of-8 from the line in the final minute to ensure the victory. Lon Kruger’s Sooners head to Syracuse to take on Izzo’s Michigan State in what should be a very gritty, hard-nosed game. The Spartans are talented enough that they probably should have earned a higher seeding, but lost an astonishing six overtime games throughout the course of the season, including in the Big Ten championship. The backcourt matchup of Trice and Denzel Valentine against Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins is going to be phenomenal. Both teams have solid frontcourts, as well. This one is a toss-up in my opinion, but my gut tells me that we’ll finally get one upset in the Sweet 16.

Okay, well… we went 4-for-4 yesterday. Let’s see if I can keep the magic alive!


Hey folks! We are really getting down to the last of it, aren’t we? There are only sixteen teams left vying for the National Championship. This year’s edition of the NCAA Tournament has been quite interesting — and very hard to predict.

Raise your hand if you didn’t pick any 12-over-5 upsets.

Or if you had Villanova and  Virginia losing before the Sweet 16.

Or if you had UCLA winning its first two games.

The Madness has simply taken a form that most people didn’t see coming. Not one of the four regions has gone chalk. Seven of the Sweet 16 finalists are seeded 5 or lower. With all the upsets and early exits that happen in the tournament, it would be interesting if the NCAA re-seeded the bracket after the first weekend of the tournament. I see the merit in playing the hand you’re dealt, but it just seems silly now that Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Arizona are all on the same side of the bracket. (And, of course, it would completely undermine the institution of filling out brackets.) That said, if I had to re-seed the remaining teams, it would look something like this:

1-seeds: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, Arizona

2-seeds: Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, North Carolina

3-seeds: Louisville, Utah, West Virginia, Wichita State

4-seeds: Xavier, Michigan State, NC State, UCLA

This way, you could send teams to the regions where they really belong, like so:

SOUTH: Kentucky-Xavier and Oklahoma-Louisville

MIDWEST: Wisconsin-Michigan State and Notre Dame-Wichita State

EAST: Duke-NC State and North Carolina-West Virginia

WEST: Arizona-UCLA and Gonzaga-Utah

Even though the committee tries to separate conference foes as much as possible, I think that having these regional rivalries at this stage of the season would make for fantastic basketball. You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t want to watch an Elite Eight that featured Kentucky-Louisville and Duke-North Carolina. Instead, we’re left with a bracket that precludes us from seeing both of those matchups, although either one could potentially be the National Championship game. But there’s simply no way that the NCAA would endanger its brand by reformatting the Big Dance in such a huge way. The sums of money to be made on bracket entries is just too enticing to give up. And if casual fans aren’t filling out brackets, they won’t be watching the Tournament games. In the end, reseeding the tournament makes for a fun game of hypotheticals, but it’s never going to happen. This is the Dark Knight of brackets — it’s the one we deserve, but not the one we need right now.

So, with that off the table, let’s look at the games that will actually be taking place on Thursday:

Kentucky over West Virginia

Yes, yes, we all know about the Quest for Perfection, or whatever people are calling it these days. But look at the actual box score of Kentucky’s win against Cincinnati. On the offensive end, it doesn’t immediately jump out at you. Kentucky shot 37% from the field, under 27% from the arc, and missed eight free throws. They got beat on the boards, giving up 21 offensive rebounds to the Bearcats. There’s a lot of discipline on this team, though, too. They only turned the ball over seven times on more than 80 possessions. Speaking of turnovers, West Virginia forced 23 against Maryland. The Mountaineers stole the ball 15 times in that game, which covered up the fact that they didn’t shoot the lights out. They also pounded the Terps on the offensive boards, so that could be an advantage for WVU against the Wildcats. Even if the Mountaineers manage to shut down one of UK’s stars, like they did with Maryland’s Dez Wells, the Wildcats have the size and depth to handle it all. Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are more than capable of coming in and taking things over for a while. The biggest factor in this game is that Kentucky holds its opponents to roughly 36% shooting, while West Virginia allows 46%. Juwan Staten will need to find his scoring touch, something that the Wildcats don’t let opponents do very often, if the Mountaineers are going to have a chance against Kentucky. In the end, I expect UK to move on to the Elite Eight. But, hey, that’s why you play the games.

Notre Dame over Wichita State

The Shockers’ not-so-shocking upset of Kansas sent them into the Sweet 16, putting them one win away from a potential rematch with Kentucky. After the Wildcats ended Wichita State’s run at perfection a year ago, how poetic would it be if the tables were turned this time around? Still, they have quite the obstacle in their path: Notre Dame. Though they haven’t had it easy in either of their first two games, the Irish are still standing. The heroics of Pat Connaughton – who has a perfect name to be playing for this team – at the end of the Butler game were remarkable. The mix of guts and discipline that it took to try swatting the potential game-winner and not foul made for one of the best plays of the tournament so far. After close calls against Northeastern and Butler, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Notre Dame come out swinging against Wichita. The Shockers have looked great in wins over Indiana and Kansas, but those were both teams on downswings. Forget the early turbulence – this is still a Notre Dame squad that hasn’t lost in a month, during which time they have beaten fellow Sweet 16ers Louisville, Duke, and North Carolina. All in all, these are two very well-matched teams and it is going to come down to the little things. Wichita State has a slight edge on defense, Notre Dame has a bit of advantage on the offensive end. The tipping point for this game may come at the free throw line. Wichita State averages 17 fouls per game (82nd in the nation) compared to 14 for the Irish (4th). Notre Dame also hits their foul shots at a more consistent pace, outshooting the Shockers 74.4% (25th in the nation) to 69.6% (157th). In a game where everything else is just about equal, the Fighting Irish may hold the all-important trump card.

Wisconsin over North Carolina

The Badgers have been one of the best teams in the nation all year long, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had to sweat out a few wins. Such was the case when Wisconsin took on Oregon over the weekend. The Ducks threw everything they had at UW, including a 30-point performance from Joe Young, but it still wasn’t enough. With under six minutes remaining, the game was tied at 52. Over the next five minutes, the Badgers shut down Oregon, going on a 10-2 run. At that point, it came down to free throws, where the Badgers are a top-10 team. Over in Jacksonville, North Carolina and Arkansas went head-to-head for a Sweet 16 berth. A Jabril Durham three-pointer put the Hogs up by a point with 11 minutes to play. Then, Marcus Paige took this game over, scoring 17 of his 22 total points after the Durham three. The Heels won the battle of the boards, forced 21 turnovers, got to the line for 37 free-throw attempts, and assisted on over half of their baskets. But don’t expect such undisciplined play from Wisconsin. When it comes to not fouling or turning the ball over, nobody is better than the Badgers. If Carolina has an edge in this matchup, it’s on the boards. Plus, Wisconsin doesn’t force many turnovers on defense. I still don’t think that’s going to be enough to keep one of the nation’s strongest starting fives from making it to the Elite Eight. Look for the Heels to hang for about 35 minutes, before the Badgers put the game away from the stripe.

Arizona over Xavier

I had the pleasure of watching both of Arizona’s first two tournament games in Portland. The Wildcats are really good. They’ve got shooters in TJ McConnell and Gabe York, each of whom scored 19 points in Arizona’s romp over Ohio State. They’ve got dangerous swingmen in Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. They’ve got size and power in big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski. Arizona dominated the glass against the Buckeyes, grabbing nearly half of their 40 missed shots on the offensive end. On the topic of missed shots, Xavier is a team that didn’t create many on their way to the Sweet 16. The Musketeers shot a crazy 68% from the field against Georgia State. The team’s marquee big man, Matt Stainbrook, is 12-of-15 in the Big Dance thus far. Myles Davis and Dee Davis (no relation) have combined to hit 11 threes in the two games. The Musketeers don’t really blow you away on paper, but this team is very efficient. They have assists on over 60% of their made field goals in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for Xavier, they are just running into the wrong team. Arizona matches up well against everybody, even Kentucky. Expect the Cats to attack Xavier from all angles, be it from downtown, in the paint, in the mid-range game, wherever. Arizona can play and they aren’t going to be beaten by a team like he Musketeers. The Wildcats are legitimate title contenders, but they have a very tough road if they get past Xavier. They would likely face Wisconsin in the Elite 8, Kentucky in the Final Four, and whichever team from the other side of the bracket makes it to the National Championship.

So, there you have it. I will post predictions for Friday’s games either later today or tomorrow morning.

Happy Sweet 16, y’all!


Meanwhile, in the NIT…

Posted: March 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

Remember one week ago, when names like Murray State and Temple were on everybody’s lips, clamoring about their exclusion from the Field of 68? Well, they’re not actually done yet. With all of the buzz surrounding March Madness and the NCAA Tournament, it’s easy to forget that the college basketball is still going on for more than just the Sweet 16. While we have been watching the Big Dance, three subordinate postseason tournaments – the NIT, the CBI, and the CIT – have been progressing in the shadows. Here’s a look at the eight teams that are left in the little-brother bracket of the NIT. I will follow up with a look at the CBI and CIT tomorrow, as well as a Sweet 16 preview.

Temple – Fran Dunphy’s team was one of the more notable snubs from the NCAA Tournament. I certainly had them in, and pretty far above the cut line. The Owls did almost everything asked of them. They beat Connecticut at home in a must-win game. They toppled Memphis in the AAC Tournament, before falling to eventual champion SMU. Apparently that last loss, coupled with Wyoming’s bid-stealing run through the Mountain West, was enough to keep Temple out of the Big Dance. Their prize for a 23-10 season and a huge win over Kansas? A top seed in the NIT. The Owls, led by an experienced backcourt of Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey, have made the most of their opportunity, slipping past Bucknell in their NIT opener and then beating former A-10 rival George Washington by 13. Cummings is shooting 60% from the field – not to mention a perfect 17-for-17 from the stripe – in these two games, scoring 30 and 21 respectively. The Owls will try to keep their postseason run going against Louisiana Tech.

Louisiana Tech – The Bulldogs won the C-USA regular season title, but were cast aside by UAB, who as you may have heard, won the automatic bid and beat Iowa State in the Big Dance. Tech was rewarded with an automatic berth in the NIT. In their first game, Raheem Appleby and Jacobi Boykins led the charge against Central Michigan. Despite getting outrebounded in the second round against Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech toppled the Aggies, 84-72, to reach the NIT quarterfinals. Getting beaten on the boards isn’t quite so bad when you hit over 54% of your shots. The Bulldogs are going to need to keep shooting this well if they want to beat the Owls, but Temple is holding NIT teams to under 39% shooting. Will offense or defense prevail when Tech heads to the Palestra?

Richmond – The Spiders tried to claw their way into the Tournament field, putting together a six-game winning streak heading into the A10 tournament, but couldn’t get past a determined VCU squad. Richmond did put together a pretty good season, though, going 19-13 overall and winning 12 games in the Atlantic 10. Their first-round draw in the NIT was NEC champions St. Francis Brooklyn, whom they downed 84-74. Despite a big disparity on paper in terms rebounding – the Terriers ranked 14th in rebounds per game, while the Spiders came in 343rd – Richmond held their own on the boards and shot nearly 54%. Six of eight players that saw the floor for the Spiders scored in double figures, including Terry Allen and his 21-point, 11-rebound performance. In the second round, Richmond’s inability to rebound was an issue, as Arizona State outrebounded them 46-30. It almost cost the Spiders, too, but ASU’s Savon Goodman couldn’t convert on a second-chance opportunity late in the game that may have ended the game in regulation. Instead, Allen, who had another double-double against the Devils, hit four crucial free throws for Richmond that sealed the deal and sent them to the quarterfinals to face Miami.

Miami – The Canes were another team that I had in the tournament, but alas, they were not selected. I was actually pretty surprised that Richmond was ahead of them. Miami will have the chance to beat those Spiders today in the NIT quarterfinals. Miami finished the regular season with a 21-12 record and a 10-8 mark in the ACC. Not too shabby. Losses to Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky, and Wake Forest are what sealed the Hurricane’s fate. In the first round of the NIT, they drew NC Central, who won the MEAC title outright after a 16-0 conference campaign, before falling to Delaware State in their league tournament. The Eagles proved a difficult matchup for Miami, but the Canes prevailed 75-71, despite letting Central cut an eight-point lead to two in the last two minutes of the game. Miami hit their free throws and moved on. In the second round, they trailed Alabama at the half, but used a 33-12 run in the second half to turn a seven-point deficit into a 14-point advantage. From there, the Canes held on for a 73-66 victory over the Crimson Tide. Miami won the battle of the boards in their first two games, while also knocking down 17 threes. If they can keep it up on the glass, they might have a big advantage against the Spiders.

Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings’ team may not be the best in the nation, but they are still fighting to keep their season alive. The Commodores never really sniffed an NCAA Tournament bid, but they have made the most of their invite to the NIT. They’ve also had a little luck along the way. After holding Saint Mary’s to under 40% from the field and under 20% from beyond the arc, Vandy moved on to the second round of the NIT. Rather than top-seeded Colorado State, the Commodores faced South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits pulled off the upset of CSU in the first round, sending the Rams – yes, the same Rams that I had safely in the Field of 68 – tumbling out of the bracket early. Vanderbilt had no such problems against South Dakota State, shooting nearly 60% from the field and from the arc. Wade Baldwin IV missed a triple-double by one assist. The Commodores, one of two SEC teams still playing (you may have heard some things about the other one over past couple months), head to Palo Alto today to face Stanford in the NIT quarterfinals. Will two SEC teams be hoisting crowns this year?

Stanford – Chasson Randle and the Cardinal played their way out of the Big Dance, but they are still a pretty good team. Stanford knocked out Big West champions UC Davis in the first round of the NIT. The Cardinal gave Corey Hawkins, the Aggies’ sharpshooter, everything he wanted, but they shut down the rest of their team. Hawkins shot 12-for-22, while the other eight Aggies went 10-for-37. Stanford rolled, 77-64, behind Randle and Marcus Allen. This win sent them to play Rhode Island, where Randle went nuts. He scored a career-high 35 points against the Rams, getting to the line for an absurd 19 free throw attempts. The Cardinal only shot 34% from the field against URI, and only assisted on three of their 18 baskets, but shot a ridiculous 49 free throws. Stanford won’t be able to rely on getting fouled 35 times against Vanderbilt, who foul quite a bit less than Rhode Island (four fewer per game). Without the benefit of a million trips to the line, will the Cardinal be able to get back on track on the offensive side of the ball?

Old Dominion – The Monarchs were one of the more interesting bubble teams this season. After a 24-win campaign, ODU still found itself tied for second-place behind Louisiana Tech in the C-USA. Then, the Monarchs ended all doubt by losing to Middle Tennessee in their conference tournament. But this team is pretty good. They are around the Top 100 in rebounding and assists. In the first round, Old Dominion moved past Big South champions Charleston Southern. Then, they took on Missouri Valley upstart Illinois State, who were coming off the upset over Wichita State. In a hotly-contested matchup, the Monarchs prevailed 50-49 behind a late Jonathan Alredge layup. The Monarchs have won both games, but they are shooting roughly 37% from the field, under 30% from downtown, and just over 50% from the free throw line. Will they find their shooting touch against Murray State in the NIT quarterfinals?

Murray State – The Racers were a really hard team to keep out of the tournament. The 27-5 (16-0) regular-season mark just looks so good on paper. But with that resume? It’s not that hard to fathom leaving Murray State out of the Field of 68. Cam Payne and the rest of the Racers score nearly 80 points per game, while holding opponents to under 70. Murray State ran past UTEP in the first round of the NIT, 81-66. Behind Payne’s near-triple-double, Jarvis Williams’ 25 and 14, and 21 points from T.J. Sapp, the Racers dominated the Miners. In the second round, Murray State took on AAC foes Tulsa. Payne again helped lead the way for the Racers to blow out the Hurricanes. His 20 points and seven assists paced Murray to an 83-62 victory and a date with Old Dominion in the NIT quarterfinals. This team is playing with a big chip on its shoulder after missing out on a ticket to the Big Dance. Could an NIT championship change the perception of small-conference teams everywhere?


Temple over Louisiana Tech

Miami over Richmond

Vanderbilt over Stanford

Murray State over Old Dominion

Temple over Miami

Murray State over Vanderbilt

Murray State over Temple


Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had the pleasure of attending the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This is something that I have wanted to do since my childhood. Growing up, Portland – the only place in Oregon capable of hosting, really – was prohibited from having the Big Dance because of the sports betting that the state was engaged in. Nearly a decade ago, SportsAction was deep-sixed, opening the door for me to the possibility of seeing the Tournament. This year, all of the chips fell into place for that possibility to become a reality. In the afterglow of my first NCAA Tourney, my gut reaction is: “Meh.”

Blasphemy, right? As someone for whom college basketball plays a daily role in life, I can hardly believe the words coming out of my mouth. It’s entirely possible that I simply did it wrong. I had cheap seats by myself in a sparsely-occupied area. None of the eight teams playing were particular favorites of mine. The Moda Center and the NCAA didn’t really help, either. The fanfare was somewhat lackluster, perhaps due to the fact that most of the teams were not really from the region. In fact, the team with the biggest fan base was Eastern Washington. Having sites in Portland and Seattle in the same year is slightly redundant, since there aren’t that many good teams in the Pacific Northwest. It would be nice if they could alternate hosting in these two cities. On the flip side, it was pretty cool to see teams that normally don’t come out West, such as Georgetown, VCU, and Ohio State.

In the end, it’s probably not anyone’s fault that the first Thursday of March Madness didn’t live up to my expectations. I think the real problem is that I have become so accustomed to the frantic channel-flipping and stream-switching that comes with being able to watch four games at once ALL DAY LONG. By being glued to one game at a time, and being teased with intermittent updates on all of the upsets and near-misses, I felt a little robbed. I was supposed to see that. Perhaps this feeling is so strong because yesterday was historically crazy.

Seriously, let’s look at what actually happened. The day started off with Notre Dame, who was looking like a title contender after beating Duke and winning the ACC Tournament, scratching out a tight victory over Northeastern. Meanwhile, another 3-seed was in trouble. Iowa State, on a similar trajectory to the Irish after their own tournament championship, couldn’t get going against UAB. The Blazers just never went away, even when the Cyclones went up four points with three minutes to play. With 52 second left, Robert Brown knocked down a go-ahead 3 for UAB. Then the teams traded baskets, with William Lee’s jumper at 0:26 tilting the lead back to the Blazers. George Niang hadn’t been able to get the ball in the basket all game, but ISU went to him when it needed two points. UAB shut him down once again, and a few free throws and a missed three-pointer later, the Blazers had pulled the upset.

Really, UAB? Pretty eary for bracket-busting isn’t it? And yet, before we could do the math of how terrible that loss was for our brackets, Baylor was struggling against Georgia State. Another 3-seed? What was going on? One crazy upset is okay. It hurts everyone relatively equally. It’s fun. But two 14 seeds moving on? No, that’s too much. Then R.J. Hunter hit the shot that sent his head coach and father Ron to floor. 57-56. Georgia Sate did it. Baylor is out of the tournament. Brackets across the nation start hitting office trashcans.

While all of this was happening, I was at the Arizona-Texas Southern snoozer. Okay, so maybe I’m just a little bitter.

In one of the days more nondescript games, Butler moved past Texas. This game was close, but it got lost in the excitement of the rest of the day. Another 6-11 game was going to steal the spotlight in a few minutes. SMU-UCLA. The Goaltend. Yanick Moreira’s inexplicably silly decision to bat away a ball near the rim cost the Mustangs the game. Without getting into whether the ball would’ve gone in or not, you simply have to be smart enough to not go anywhere near the ball when it’s coming down near the rim. Position yourself for the rebound, but stealing the ball out of the air is just too dangerous a play at that juncture of the game. And now SMU goes home. UCLA, a team who many thought shouldn’t be here in the first place, is suddenly moving on to play UAB.

One of those teams is going to the Sweet 16. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Well, then Xavier dispatched of Ole Miss easily behind Matt Stainbrook’s standout performance. Villanova crushed Lafayette. At the same time, the best game of the Portland pod was happening. VCU an Ohio State were trading punches all game. Doug Brooks was hitting shots for the Rams and DeAngelo Russell was answering back for Ohio State. This game went to overtime, but VCU could have won the game at the regulation buzzer. An uninspired drive to the basket led to a missed layup, and the Buckeyes fought off the Rams for the upset. I have to imagine Briante Weber would have made a pretty big difference for VCU in the game, but kudos to Ohio State for advancing. Meanwhile, Cincinnati and Purdue were in their own overtime. The Boilermakers held a slight edge for most of the game, including a seven-point lead with 48 seconds to go. Then Cincinnati hit a 3. And then Troy Caupain stole the ball and converted an and-one. One-point game. With seven seconds left, Jon Octeus made only one of two free throws, and Caupain hit the layup that tied the game and sent it to OT. Purdue also missed two key free throws in overtime, as well as most of their shots. The Bearcats made more and stole a victory from the jaws of defeat.

Then Harvard almost knocked off North Carolina. The Tar Heels were one of the lucky few who made it out alive from an upset bid. Another such team was Utah, whom I watched beat Stephen F. Austin. Utah is a great team, but they are a little boring to watch live. The 57-50 score is an indicator of the pace of the game. It was a hard-fought victory, but Delon Wright didn’t look quite right. He’s going to have to turn it on in the next round. Around this time, LSU was building a 16-point second-half lead on NC State. The Wolfpack cut it to 12 with 10:25 to play, and that’s when the Tigers became unable to score. They managed only five more points, all free throws, and ended up losing 66-65 on an NC State buzzer-beater. LSU shot 0-for-12 from the field and 5-for-12 at the line. They gave this game away in pretty unbelievable fashion.

In some of the last games of the night, Arkansas was fighting off a valiant upset bid from Wofford and Kentucky was killing Hampton. Things were winding down elsewhere, but they were just heating up in Portland. Like I said before, Eastern Washington had the biggest fan following in Portland. The Eagles seemed poised, given the events of the day, to take down an overseeded Georgetown team. They had the nation’s leading scorer in Tyler Harvey. They have a grinding big man in Venky Jois. They can score in bunches. The crowd was behind them. Everything was pointing to the upset.

In the first 12 minutes of the game, Harvey had ten points. Four Eagles had hit three-pointers. Eastern Washington held a 24-17 lead over Georgetown. Here we go again. Another upset. Or maybe not. Georgetown surged back and went on a 26-9 run to lead by ten at the half. The crowd was deflated. Was David really not going to beat Goliath? The second half started, and we had our answer. The Hoyas went on a 15-2 run to start the half, leading by 23 with 13:25 to play. If the crowd was deflated before, it was just dead at this point. The Eagles went on a little run to cut the lead to as little as seven, but they never really threatened Georgetown after the Hoyas outscored them 41-11 in a 21-minute span. Instead of what could have been a potentially amazing nightcap, the game went chalk and the Hoyas will face Utah on Saturday. I’m excited to see that game (and Arizona-Ohio State), but I wanted to see some upsets in person. Unfortunately, neither Stephen F. Austin nor Eastern Washington could pull them off.

And so it was, that I spent one of the craziest days of NCAA Tournament history at four of the more relatively tame games. That’s the problem. Relatively tame. They were all actually very enjoyable games. But compared with what went on across the rest of the country, there was no singular, signature moment in Portland. And you can’t blame that on anybody. It simply is what it is. So, really, I am really glad that I went to the NCAA Tournament, but the wall-to-wall action of March Madness is perhaps more enjoyable when you can see all of it happen. Speaking of which, I get to watch all of the games on TV today. All is well with the cosmos.

Here’s to having your cake and eating it, too.

(Oh, and sorry about those bracket predictions.)


Need help filling out your last-minute bracket? Well, here’s how the DPI gets it done. Sorry for the lack of volume here, but I’m getting ready to go to the Moda Center for Arizona-Texas Southern, VCU-Ohio State, Utah-Stephen F. Austin, and Georgetown-Eastern Washington. Without further adieu…


Kentucky over Hampton

Purdue over Cincinnati

West Virginia over Buffalo

Maryland over Valparaiso

Notre Dame over Northeastern

Texas over Butler

Wichita State over Indiana

Kansas over New Mexico State

Kentucky over Purdue

Maryland over West Virginia

Notre Dame over Texas

Wichita State over Kansas

Kentucky over Maryland

Wichita State over Notre Dame

Kentucky over Wichita State


Wisconsin over Coastal Carolina

Oklahoma State over Oregon

Wofford over Arkansas

North Carolina over Harvard

Baylor over Georgia State

Ole Miss over Xavier

Ohio State over VCU

Arizona over Texas Southern

Wisconsin over Oklahoma State

North Carolina over Wofford

Baylor over Ole Miss

Arizona over Ohio State

Wisconsin over North Carolina

Arizona over Baylor

Wisconsin over Arizona


Villanova over Lafayette

NC State over LSU

Northern Iowa over Wyoming

Louisville over UC Irvine

Oklahoma over Albany

Providence over Dayton

Michigan State over Georgia

Virginia over Belmont

Villanova over NC State

Northern Iowa over Louisville

Providence over Oklahoma

Virginia over Michigan State

Northern Iowa over Villanova

Virginia over Providence

Virginia over Northern Iowa


Duke over Robert Morris

San Diego State over St. John’s

Utah over Stephen F. Austin

Eastern Washington over Georgetown

Iowa State over UAB


Davidson over Iowa

Gonzaga over North Dakota State

Duke over San Diego State

Utah over Eastern Washington

Iowa State over SMU

Gonzaga over Davidson

Duke over Utah

Gonzaga over Iowa State

Gonzaga over Duke


Kentucky over Wisconsin

Virginia over Gonzaga

Kentucky over Virginia, 67-60

Okay, that’s it for now, folks! Good luck and merry March Madness!


FINAL Bracket Prediction

Posted: March 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

UPDATE: The results of the morning games have been entered into the DPI and there are a few changes to the bracket. Butler and Utah switch spots in the South. Dayton moved slightly ahead of Davidson, but both stay on the 10-line. Ole Miss actually moves ahead of Boise State for the moment, so the Broncos are the last team in. This doesn’t change their matchup, though. Georgia actually moved ahead of Indiana, as well, with the Kentucky win. We’ll see how the AAC Championship goes and whether a Wisconsin win boosts the resumes of Boise State and Indiana, which could push the Rebels out after all.

UPDATE (2:42 PM): The bubble can breathe a little easier right now. SMU quashed the UConn uprising, relegating the Huskies to the NIT. Wisconsin and Michigan State went to overtime for the first time in Big Ten title game history, and the Badgers made it memorable, shutting Sparty out on their way to a 80-69 victory. Does it earn them the 1-seed? I say yes. On the other end of the bracket, Indiana moves past Georgia, but is still one spot shy of the Field of 68. Boise State stays just above the Hoosiers as the final team in the NCAA Tournament. We’ll see if I’m right in a few minutes.

1 Kentucky Duke Virginia Wisconsin
2 Notre Dame Kansas Villanova Arizona
3 Iowa State North Carolina Baylor Gonzaga
4 Louisville Wichita State West Virginia Oklahoma
5 Providence Arkansas Maryland SMU
6 Michigan State Butler VCU Northern Iowa
7 Georgetown Utah Ohio State Iowa
8 NC State Colorado State Xavier San Diego State
9 Purdue Cincinnati Temple Texas
10 Oregon Davidson St. John’s Dayton
11 LSU Miami/Ole Miss Buffalo UCLA
12 Stephen F. Austin Wyoming Valparaiso Boise State/BYU
13 Wofford Georgia State Albany Harvard
14 UAB New Mexico State Northeastern Eastern Washington
15 North Dakota State Belmont Coastal Carolina UC Irvine
16 Lafayette/Robert Morris North Florida/Hampton Manhattan Texas Southern

LAST FOUR BYES: Davidson, St. John’s (NY), LSU, UCLA

LAST FOUR IN: Miami (FL), BYU, Ole Miss, Boise State

FIRST FOUR OUT: Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Old Dominion

NEXT FOUR OUT: Tulsa, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Richmond

Sunday’s Outlook

Posted: March 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

On Saturday, we were spoiled. From Peter Hooley’s game-winner in the morning game to Steve Mondou-Missi putting Harvard through, from the resilience of Wyoming to the resurgence of Connecticut, from coast to coast and court to court, the level of basketball reached an apex. We’ll see if the conference championships that remain can live up to yesterday. I will post a bracket prediction after all of the games have finished. In the meantime, here’s what’s at stake in the five championship games on Sunday:

(#1) Kentucky vs. (#18) Arkansas – not a whole lot, other than Kentucky’s perfect record. The Wildcats will be the top overall seed, no matter what. The Razorbacks will likely be a 4 or 5 seed. Bobby Portis and the rest of Arkansas will be a dangerous team in the tournament, as they are a little underrated. But as far as this game goes, it’s just a formality.

(#22) VCU vs. (#40) Dayton – again, not that much. Virginia Commonwealth can make up for a lot of their late-season slippage if they finish with an A-10 title. Much the same way, Dayton is playing for a better seed, but they’re in either way. I don’t expect much out of either of these two teams in the postseason, but that doesn’t change anything.

(#78) Georgia State vs. (#132) Georgia Southern – The top-seeded Panthers will look to run past the Eagles in order to grab the Sun Belt bid. The ramifications for this game are limited to the Sun Belt. There is no effect on any at-large movement.

(#2) Wisconsin vs. (#23) Michigan State – The Spartans looked impressive in their win over Maryland on Saturday. They should have a favorable seed around the 6-8 range. Wisconsin can solidify a 1-seed, although they won’t lose the 1, even if they lose this game.

(#19) SMU vs. (#73) Connecticut

This is probably the most important game on Sunday. If Ryan Boatright and the Huskies are able to take down the Mustangs in Hartford, they will shrink the bubble even further than it already is. Boatright is drawing favorable comparisons to former UConn guards Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier. I don’t know if this team is talented enough to win the national championship, but I fully believe they will get a shot at it. Here’s what the Bubble will look like depending on the outcome of this game:

If Connecticut wins the AAC:


Davidson, Dayton, St. John’s, LSU


UCLA, Miami, BYU, Ole Miss


Boise State, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois


Old Dominion, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M

If SMU wins the AAC:


Dayton, St. John’s, LSU, UCLA


Miami, BYU, Boise State, Ole Miss


Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Old Dominion


Tulsa, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Richmond


DPI Predictions 3/14

Posted: March 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s that time of year again! Here are the current conference outlooks for all 32 leagues, in alphabetical order. Rankings are the DPI rankings current as of 9 PM Saturday. The last game included in the analysis is Stephen F. Austin-Sam Houston State. I will update again later tonight after some more results.

America East

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#75) Albany def. (#105) Stony Brook, 51-50

Oh, boy. Stony Brook was *this close* to securing their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, but Peter Hooley and Albany had other plans. The Aussie sharpshooter knocked down a three after a rebound was batted back to him, giving the Danes a one-point lead with 1.1 seconds to play. Major props to Carson Puriefoy and the Seawolves, but Albany was simply the class of the America East this year. As good a story as Stony Brook would have been, the team from upstate New York really deserved this win. They could cause problems for somebody next week.

Champion: (#75) Albany

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#20) SMU def. (#36) Temple, 69-56

(#73) Connecticut def. (#54) Tulsa, 47-42

Now, I’m not saying that Ryan Boatright is going to be able to recreate all of last year’s magic, but God knows he’s trying. After Boatright sank the buzzer-beater that knocked (#33) Cincinnati out of the AAC tournament, it was Rodney Purvis that nocked down the big shot that put the Huskies past Tulsa.Kevin Ollie has shown that he can coach in March. Honestly, watching Boatright and his crew, and all the buzz around the Huskies at the moment, it’s easy to believe that they might actually pull off the upset. Larry Brown’s Mustangs are a certain lock for the tournament, but I don’t think they will stop Connecticut. Temple is near the fringe, but I think they’ve been good enough to warrant an at-large bid, even with the loss to SMU. Tulsa, on the other hand, needed the win over UConn, and may have actually needed to win the whole shebang in order to get to the NCAAs. Right now, I see them a being one of the first teams out.

Predicted Champion: (#73) Connecticut

At-Large: (#20) SMU, (#33) Cincinnati, (#36) Temple

NIT Teams: (#54) Tulsa, (#79) Memphis

Atlantic 10

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#22) VCU def. (#39) Davidson, 93-73

(#40) Dayton def. (#58) Rhode Island, 56-52

Okay, I’ll admit that the DPI has a bit of a blind spot in that it doesn’t account for individual players. VCU has been slipping like crazy since losing Briante Weber. That said, the Rams played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation and fared admirably. I think they are a lock, especially after their win on Saturday against Davidson. Speaking of the Wildcats, this is a team that has really turned it on of late. Even though they lost to VCU, Davidson should be safely in the tournament. On the other side of the A-10 bracket, Dayton and Rhode Island faced off. The Flyers are far enough from the cut line that I don’t think a loss to URI would have killed their tournament chances, but the win was a good buffer. Rhode Island, however, is almost assuredly out of the tournament, as is (#58) Richmond.

Predicted Champion: (#22) VCU

At-Large: (#39) Davidson, (#40) Dayton

NIT Teams: (#57) Richmond, (#58) Rhode Island, (#69) St. Bonaventure, (#77) George Washington, (#80) Massachusetts

Atlantic Coast

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#8) Notre Dame def. (#12) North Carolina, 90-82

Well, then. After all that dogfighting up at the top of the rankings, neither (#3) Virginia nor (#4) Duke played in the ACC Championship game. Give a lot of credit to the Tar Heels and Irish for pulling those upsets. All four of these teams have legitimate chances to make it to Indianapolis. Notre Dame really impressed me over the last two days. In my estimation, the Irish have not only won an ACC Tournament title, but also a 2-seed. This team is playing as well as any in the country. Above them, Virginia and Duke have done just enough to keep their 1-seeds for the moment. (#13) Louisville has come back to life after a puzzling slump a few weeks ago. (#31) North Carolina State has been playing well ever since their Valentine’s Day massacre of the Cardinals. (It was actually a very close game, but I couldn’t resist the wordplay.) The Wolfpack have locked in their bid. (#44) Miami is a perplexing team. Those losses to (#87) Green Bay and (#144) Eastern Kentucky are ugly, as are conference slipups against (#110) Georgia Tech and (#100) Wake Forest. But that win over Duke and a couple decent ones over NC State, (#35) Syracuse (who is ineligible for postseason play), and (#60) Pittsburgh bolster their resume. Right now, I have Miami as one of the last teams in.

Champion: (#8) Notre Dame

At-Large: (#3) Virginia, (#4) Duke, (#12) North Carolina, (#13) Louisville, (#30) NC State, (#44) Miami

NIT Teams: (#60) Pittsburgh, (#64) Clemson, (#83) Florida State

Atlantic Sun

Saturday’s Game(s):


The Ospreys of (#135) North Florida secured their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth after toppling (#149) USC Upstate in the A-Sun title game. The Spartans actually held the season sweep over UNF before the championship game. North Florida has won eight straight games. The Ospreys also own a 3-70 win over (#37) Purdue. Dallas Moore and Beau Beech will try to make the most of UNF’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Champion: (#135) North Florida

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none

Big 12

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#10) Iowa State def. (#7) Kansas, 70-66

This is the Big XII championship that I was been waiting for. The Jayhawks have had the Cyclones’ number this season, but with the league title on the line, Georges Niang and company battled tooth and nail to score a victory. Even though KU has faltered recently, I think a Big XII title game appearance solidifies their two-seed. They simply played a tougher schedule than any other team in the nation. They ought to be rewarded for that. The Cyclones will likely pick up a 3-seed. Elsewhere in the conference, (#11) Baylor and (#14) Oklahoma are going to be top-4 seeds, which means they should get to play relatively close to home. (#16) West Virginia has also been dangerous. The real story here revolves around (#34) Texas and (#55) Oklahoma State. Even though the Cowboys actually did better in the Big XII than the Longhorns, not to mention holding a season sweep of them, I just can’t justify putting OSU in the tournament right now. Yes, Oklahoma State swept Texas and owns wins over Kansas and Baylor. They also lost to (#140) Texas Tech, (#92) TCU (by 15), and (#103) South Carolina (by 26!). The body of work just leaves a little to be desired. Texas benefits from a tough nonconference schedule, where they racked up wins over (#28) Iowa and (#73) Connecticut. Losing to (#62) Stanford wasn’t great, but that’s really their worst loss. That lack of a really glaring blemish, coupled with wins over Baylor, West Virginia, and Iowa, makes the difference.

Champion: (#10) Iowa State

At-Large: (#7) Kansas, (#10) Baylor, (#14) Oklahoma, (#15) West Virginia, (#34) Texas

NIT Teams: (#55) Oklahoma State, (#67) Kansas State

Big East

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#5) Villanova def. (#29) Xavier, 69-52

What more does Villanova have to do to secure a 1-seed? Well, beating Xavier for the Big East title is certainly a start. The Wildcats are still just a little short of supplanting Duke as the final 1-seed. No matter what, Villanova is one of the top five teams in the nation. They have a legitimate shot at the national championship, behind the great backcourt of Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard. After Nova, the Big East has a slew of middle-seeds in (#19) Providence, (#27) Georgetown, and (#24) Butler. Xavier and (#41) St. John’s are also pretty much locked in. The only thing left to figure out that final 1-seed. At the moment, I have the Cats as the best 2-seed, but that could leave them matched up a with a stumbling (#3) Virginia team in the East bracket.

Champion: (#5) Villanova

At-Large: (#19) Providence, (#27) Georgetown, (#24) Butler, (#29) Xavier, (#41) St. John’s

NIT Teams: (#90) Seton Hall

Big Sky

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#96) Eastern Washington def. (#154) Montana, 69-65

Tyler Harvey is one of the top scorers in the nation, so it didn’t come as much surprise when he took the game over in the Big Sky final. Harvey and the Eagles rallied from 11 down to hold off Montana. The Eagles actually have a chance to pull off an upset in the NCAA tournament, although I wouldn’t bet the house on it. They did beat Indiana in November, though. So you never know. If Harvey can get hot like he did today, Eastern Washington could sneak up on a top seed.

Champion: (#96) Eastern Washington

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none

Big South

Saturday’s Game(s):


(#113) Coastal Carolina won the league without having to play either of the top two seeds, benefitting from earlier upsets. While (#139) Charleston Southern gets a free NIT bid, (#137) High Point will likely be staying home from both tournaments in March. The Chants have a solid guard in Warren Gillis, but this team is not as strong an upset candidate as they were a few years ago. This bid is the product of two conference tournament upsets that Coastal Carolina played no part in.

Champion: (#113) Coastal Carolina

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#139) Charleston Southern

Big Ten

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#2) Wisconsin def. (#37) Purdue, 71-51

(#23) Michigan State def. (#17) Maryland, 62-58

Wisconsin was essentially a known quantity coming into the season. We knew that Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker would have the Badgers up near the top of the standings. The big surprise in this conference is Maryland. The Terps have excelled behind Dez Wells and Melo Trimble. Losses to (#49) Indiana and (#51) Illinois look worse now than they did a month ago, which is part of the reason they have been dragged down a little in the DPI. Maryland will have a top-four see in the tournament, despite losing to Michigan State. The Spartans are a lock for the tournament, as are the Boilermakers. Purdue was a shaky bubble team for a while, but they have won 10 of 13 since January 24th. In that time, they picked up a sweep of Indiana (more on the Hoosiers in a moment), beat (#28) Iowa and (#25) Ohio State, and lost all three games on the road. Purdue also owns wins over NC State and BYU. Indiana, on the other hand, was really hurt by the Purdue sweep. The Hoosiers have lost nine of their last 14 games, including one to Northwestern. Don’t forget about that loss to (#96) Eastern Washington, either. That loss may be what put the Hoosiers in the position to be squeezed out of the tournament field when (#67) Wyoming stole the Mountain West bid.

Predicted Champion: (#2) Wisconsin

At-Large: (#17) Maryland, (#23) Michigan State, (#25) Ohio State, (#28) Iowa, (#37) Purdue

NIT Teams: (#49) Indiana, (#51) Illinois, (#81) Michigan (#82) Minnesota

Big West

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#129) UC Irvine def. (#163) Hawai’i, 67-58

After cruising to a 14-2 conference record, (#114) UC Davis slipped up in the semis against Hawaii. Later, Irvine downed Alan Williams and (#123) UCSB in Friday’s last game. The Anteaters slipped past Hawai’i in the final behind some strong performances from Mamadou Ndiaye and Luke Nelson. This is the first-ever bid for UC Irvine, who have a pair of 7-footers, Depending on who they draw in the Big Dance next week, the Anteaters could pose a problem.

Champion: (#129) UC Irvine

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#114) UC Davis


Saturday’s Game(s):


Though (#126) William & Mary was the league champion, the best team in the Colonial is (#95) Northeastern. That’s why the Huskies beat the Tribe twice this year, including the CAA title game. But William & Mary earned an NIT bid out of the whole thing, which is probably an immeasurably small comfort. As for Northeastern, the Huskies won’t be an easy out next week. This team shoots very well. They beat (#83) Florida State and (#57) Richmond. Something to consider when you’re filling out your bracket.

Champion: (#95) Northeastern

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#126) William & Mary

Conference USA

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#106) Alabama-Birmingham def. (#159) Middle Tennessee, 73-60

The Conference USA tournament saw two upsets that just about guarantee that this will be a one-bid league. UAB’s upset of (#63) Louisiana Tech sent the Bulldogs flying from the Big Dance, and they don’t have the resume to get in as an at-large. (#52) Old Dominion was so, so close to being in the tournament. Even with a loss in the C-USA championship, the Monarchs may have had a chance to make the tournament. But dropping their quarterfinal contest with Middle Tennessee puts just one more bad loss on their resume. I think there were a lot of people who wanted to give the mid-major team the benefit of the doubt, but the loss to the Blue Raiders makes that really difficult now. This is going to be a one-bid conference, with none of its three best teams getting the nod. It’s a shame, but that’s life in this league. The last time UAB and Middle Tennessee met, the Blazers triumphed in a three-overtime contest. This time, the Blazers coasted to an easy victory and an unexpected automatic bid.

 Champion: (#106) Alabama-Birmingham

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#52) Old Dominion, (#63) Louisiana Tech, (#89) Texas-El Paso



Saturday’s Game(s):


This league has two solid teams in (#59) Valparaiso and (#87) Green Bay, but alas, the Horizon league is ever a one-bid league. When Valpo kept the Phoenix at bay, they secured that bid. I hope that Keifer Sykes and Green Bay get a shot at the NIT, but the Horizon is definitely sending its best to the NCAAs. Alec Peters can score and rebound. The Crusaders beat (#61) Murray State by 35 points. They have talent and could make life difficult for some unlucky teams next weekend.

Champion: (#59) Valparaiso

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#87) Green Bay



Saturday’s Game(s):

(#71) Harvard def. (#84) Yale, 53-51

Well, that was exciting! Usually we don’t hear from the Ivy on the last weekend of the regular season. But today, Harvard and Yale went head to head to see who would represent the smart kids in the Big Dance. Steve Mondou-Missi’s jumper with 7 seconds remaining gave the Crimson the victory after a Javier Duren layup rimmed out. This was a dogfight, but at the end of the day, Harvard didn’t squander their second chance. In case you forgot, Dartmouth’s buzzer beater against Yale kept the Elis from clinching the Ivy League last weekend. Harvard got lucky a week ago. And their luck continued today. This was an amazing back-and-forth game, but I think the best team won. This is the same Harvard team that pulled off upsets a year ago, so I feel bad for whichever team draws them. This Crimson team looks reenergized after saving their season from the brink of destruction.

Champion: (#71) Harvard

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#84) Yale

Metro Atlantic

Saturday’s Game(s):


That’s why you play the games, I suppose. (#66) Iona looked like a lock to run through the MAAC Tournament, behind prolific scorer David Laury. The Gaels fell short against (#169) Manhattan, however, costing themselves the automatic bid. Despite a gaudy record, the resume really isn’t there to give Iona serious consideration for an at-large. They’re going to have to settle for the NIT this season, which is a shame, because Laury and the Gaels could have been a force in the tournament. The Jaspers are a team that go hot at the right time, but I’m really not expecting much out of them in the Big Dance.

Champion: (#169) Manhattan

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#66) Iona


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#43) Buffalo def. (#76) Central Michigan, 89-84

The Bulls downed the Chippewas in the Mid-American final today behind strong performances from Justin Moss and Shannon Evans. The MAC is an interesting league. There are eight – count ‘em, eight – 20-win teams in this conference. Five are in the DPI top 100. The top two teams in the MAC squared off on Saturday, and Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo came away with their first NCAA Tournament bid in the history of their programs. Hats off to the Bulls. Welcome to the Dance!

Champion: (#43) Buffalo

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#76) Central Michigan


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#256) Hampton def. (#247) Delaware State, 82-61

Ladies and gentlemen, your annual sub-.500 tournament team, the Hampton Pirates! In what has become commonplace, a team that has lost more games than it has won will be representing its conference in the Big Dance. The Pirates drilled Delaware State, who did the heavy lifting by beating (#108) North Carolina Central. The Eagles cruised to an unblemished 16-0 conference record, but faltered in the semis against the Hornets and will miss out on the NCAA Tournament. Hampton will invariably have to beat another 16-seed to make it to the Round of 64, but hey, they’ve made it this far.

Champion: (#256) Hampton

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#108) North Carolina Central

Missouri Valley

Saturday’s Game(s):


(#15) Wichita State and (#21) Northern Iowa battled each other all season long. I think everyone was a little disappointed when the Shockers were upended by (#74) Illinois State in the semifinals. The MVC Championship would have been Round 3 of this heavyweight clash, the rubber match that would have broken the tie between these two. Instead, the Redbirds spoiled all of that. The Panthers did their part by winning the MVC and keeping Illinois State from shrinking the bubble. Both the Shockers and UNI will be tough outs in the tournament, with great players like Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker for Wichita State and Seth Tuttle for Northern Iowa.

Champion: (#21) Northern Iowa

At-Large: (#15) Wichita State

NIT Teams: (#74) Illinois State

Mountain West
Saturday’s Game(s):

(#67) Wyoming def. (#32) San Diego State, 45-43

Wow. Wyoming came out of nowhere and stole the Mountain West bid from the San Diego State Aztecs. This shrank the bubble so that (#47) Boise State, who had been cruising for the past week or so,  comes under scrutiny. That regular-season sweep of the Aztecs is going to come in handy for them, though. I currently have Boise State as the last team in the tournament if Connecticut steals the AAC bid. (#30) Colorado State is another team from the Mountain West that will make the tournament. In fact, the statistical measures of the Rams place them a tick above the Aztecs in the standings.

Champion: (#67) Wyoming

At-Large: (#30) Colorado State, (#32) San Diego State, (#47) Boise State

NIT Teams: none


Saturday’s Game(s):


The heartache on Long Island didn’t start when (#105) Stony Brook was buzzer-beaten by (#75) Albany on Saturday morning. On Tuesday, (#160) Robert Morris traveled to Brooklyn to take on first-place (#93) St. Francis (NY). The Terriers were poised to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid on their home floor. Then, before they knew it, the Colonials had stolen the bid and dashed all of those hopes. Robert Morris is a pretty good First Four candidate, with zero good wins and a handful of bad losses.

Champion: (#160) Robert Morris

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#93) St. Francis (NY)

Ohio Valley

Saturday’s Game(s):


Poor (#61) Murray State. The Racers did just about everything asked of them for all but 2 seconds. But that Taylor Barnett game-winner for (#130) Belmont was enough to push Murray State out of the NCAA Tournament. They’re still technically on the bubble, but I don’t see the committee being able to justify putting the Racers in with their lackluster (to put it kindly) schedule. It’s too bad, too, because Cam Payne could have made some noise in the tournament. Belmont, for what it’s worth, is a very talented team that could very well cause some trouble of their own. In the end, though, this was always going to be a one-bid conference.

Champion: (#130) Belmont

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#61) Murray State

Pacific 12

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#6) Arizona def. (#38) Oregon, 80-52

Joe Young’s last-second shot against (#26) Utah put the Ducks into the title game against Arizona, where Oregon got smashed by a great Wildcats team. Oregon is definitely a lock for the tournament, although I still don’t see their resume as being overwhelming. A pair of wins over Utah is certainly nice (although only one came in conference play), but losing games to (#121) Washington and (#153) Washington State is a bad play. Outside of the Pac-12, Oregon’s best win is against (#51) Illinois. This team needed overtime against (#122) UCSB and (#209) Cal Poly and lost to (#48) Ole Miss in Eugene. They’re in, but I’m not in love with their resume. The same can be said for (#45) UCLA. A lot of pundits are writing the Bruins off, and it’s not without cause. They have a couple not-so-great conference losses against (#118) Colorado, (#116) Oregon State, (#115) California, and (#91) Arizona State, and another not-so-great non-conference loss to (#98) Alabama (all on the road). If you’re looking for marquee wins, well, you won’t find many. They beat Utah and Oregon at home. They own a season sweep of (#62) Stanford. That’s about it. But what keeps UCLA afloat is their strength of schedule. They faced (#1) Kentucky, (#9) Gonzaga, (#12) North Carolina, and (#14) Oklahoma in the early season. Yes, they lost all of those games. But, hey, that’s why those teams are ranked so high. They’re good. Anyway, I like their resume enough to keep them in the tournament, though they may end up in the First Four round.

Champion: (#6) Arizona

At-Large: (#26) Utah, (#38) Oregon, (#45) UCLA

NIT Teams: (#62) Stanford


Saturday’s Game(s):


(#148) Bucknell was never going to be a very dangerous team in the NCAA tournament, but they were definitely the best regular-season squad in the Patriot. In the end, it was (#179) Lafayette that prevailed in the league tournament. The Leopards will leap into the First Four, more than likely. A 9-9 mark in the weak Patriot League is the stuff of 16-seeds. I wouldn’t expect to see too much out of these guys, although they could very well rack up a win against whichever 16-seed they draw in the opening round.

Champion: (#179) Lafayette

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#148) Bucknell


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#1) Kentucky def. (#165) Auburn, 91-67

(#18) Arkansas def. (#50) Georgia, 60-49

The SEC has been a one-horse town all season long. Kentucky has simply outplayed everybody in the nation all year long. It’s hard to foresee that dominance ending any time soon. Especially in the SEC Tournament. Yeah, Arkansas and Georgia are both pretty good teams, but Kentucky will roll through either of them on Sunday. The big question for the Cats is whether they can stay perfect and join the ranks of the best all-time teams. Outside of Kentucky (yes, apparently there are some other teams in the SEC), Arkansas is definitely the second best team in this league. After that, there are three teams that are pretty logjammed in (#42) LSU, (#48) Mississippi, and Georgia. Here’s how I see it playing out for these three teams: LSU and Ole Miss are barely in; Georgia is barely out. I’ve seen Georgia listed as a tournament lock, but I am really not impressed by their resume. They do have the sweep over Ole Miss, but being swept by (#103) South Carolina is ugly. They lost to (#110) Georgia Tech in their season opener and Auburn on Valentine’s Day. They lost to LSU and Arkansas in their only games against them in conference play. Those wins against Mississippi are the only ones they have against Top 50 opponents in the DPI. They needed the win against Arkansas to get in, but they came up short. Ole Miss has their own bad losses, too. I wrote about their loss to (#139) Charleston Southern in November, wondering if it could come back to cost them a trip to the Dance. Well, it might. Especially when you consider the missteps against (#92) TCU and (#134) Western Kentucky. Wins over Oregon and Cincinnati give the Rebels the slight edge over Georgia, but if Connecticut steals the American bid, Ole Miss is likely going to be the team that gets squeezed out.

Predicted Champion: (#1) Kentucky

At-Large: (#18) Arkansas, (#42) LSU

NIT Teams: (#48) Ole Miss, (#50) Georgia, (#56) Texas A&M, (#65) Florida, (#88) Vanderbilt


Saturday’s Game(s):


It almost seems rare now, but the SoCon is one one-bid league that will be sending its best squad to the NCAA Tournament. (#72) Wofford dominated the conference all year long and didn’t lose pace in the conference tournament. The Terriers have caused problems in the NCAA Tournament before, so don’t be surprised if Karl Cochran and company make a little more noise. I would not want to be the 4- or 5-seed that has to match up with Wofford. This is a good team.

Champion: (#72) Wofford

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#53) Stephen F. Austin vs. (#97) Sam Houston State

The two heavyweights of the Southland go toe-to-toe on Saturday. The Lumberjacks of SFA have put together a 28-win season, but that could all be lost if they fall to the Bearkats. SHSU is no slouch, either. They have 25 wins of their own. If Stephen F. Austin loses, they will not be good enough to squeeze into the bubble. The Bearkats are even farther off the bubble. The Southland comes down to one game. As expected, Thomas Walkup and the Lumberjacks brought it home. Next, they will become everyone’s favorite office pool sleeper team. We’ll see if they can pull off an upset.

Predicted Champion: (#53) Stephen F. Austin

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#155) Texas Southern def. (#244) Southern, 62-58

Ugh, what a mess. Because of various NCAA violations, the SWAC didn’t have enough teams to field their conference tournament. Therefore, two teams who were ineligible for the postseason were allowed to compete, (#195) Alabama State and Southern. Because both schools won in the quarterfinals, the semifinal matchup between Texas Southern and (#286) Prairie View was the de facto championship game. Texas Southern prevailed in an embarrassing tournament. The SWAC, which has long been among the weakest conferences in America, has sunk to a new low. For its part, the Bobcats did score a win over (#28) Michigan State earlier this year. But they will likely be a First Four team, and could well be facing (#1) Kentucky or (#2) Wisconsin if they make it out alive. Something tells me they won’t win against either of them.

Champion: (#155) Texas Southern

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none


Saturday’s Game(s):


The Summit league saw its best two teams go head-to-head in an interstate rivalry that has become the marquee matchup in this conference. In the end, the (#107) North Dakota State topped (#112) South Dakota State, sending the Bison to the tournament for the second straight year. NDSU can play, so whichever team they draw in the Round of 64 better be ready for a battle.

Champion: (#107) North Dakota State

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: (#112) South Dakota State

Sun Belt

Saturday’s Game(s):

(#78) Georgia State def. (#141) Louisiana-Lafayette, 83-79

(#127) Georgia Southern def. (#171) Louisiana-Monroe. 44-43

Georgia State slipped past upset-minded Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, clinching their spot in the Sun Belt Championship tomorrow. The Panthers are the best team in this one-bid league. Georgia Southern could certainly give them a run for their money after getting past Louisiana-Monroe. The intrastate rivals split their season series, so Sunday will feature a rubber match between the Panthers and Eagles. Georgia State packs a better scoring punch than Georgia Southern, so we’ll see if Ryan Harrow and RJ Hunter can take the Panthers to the Big Dance. I think that they will.

Predicted Champion: (#78) Georgia State

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none

West Coast

Saturday’s Game(s):


Aside from losing to (#46) BYU, (#9) Gonzaga has been excellent all year long. It was only after the Cougars toppled them that they lost out on a 1-seed. With Notre Dame’s surge through the ACC Tournament, I feel that the Irish have taken away the 2-seed from Gonzaga, too. The plus side of the Zags’ resume is that their only other loss besides BYU was a three-point overtime defeat at (#6) Arizona. Three points. Overtime. In Tucson. Yeah, that’s pretty forgivable. For their part, BYU pretty much did everything it needed to in order to skate into the NCAA Tournament at the last second. As noted, they beat Gonzaga in Spokane. They reached the WCC Tournament final and put up a decent fight against the Zags. This team is loaded, headlined by Taylor Haws and Kyle Collinsworth. They don’t really have any marquee wins outside of Gonzaga, with (#62) Stanford and (#80) Massachusetts being the closest. But they took (#32) San Diego State and (#37) Purdue to overtime and played Utah very close. Being swept by (#131) Pepperdine and losing to (#157) San Diego are what really call BYU into question, along with its relatively weak conference affiliation. In the end, I think this is too good a team to leave behind, so the Cougars make it in right above the cut line.

Champion: (#9) Gonzaga

At-Large: (#46) Brigham Young

NIT Teams: (#70) St. Mary’s


Saturday’s Game(s):

(#101) New Mexico State def. (#260) Seattle, 80-61

Another WAC season, another dominant performance from the Aggies. New Mexico State lost only one game in conference play and has a 22-10 record. The WAC is a comical mishmash of teams that passes for a conference, but there’s only one really solid program in there. Seattle is getting a little better, though, as evidenced by their presence in the WAC final. But the Aggies dominated this game. remember that one conference game they lost? Well, it was to this very Seattle team. However, NMSU crushed the Redhawks in their two meetings since that loss. Remy Barry and the Aggies could challenge some teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Predicted Champion: (#101) New Mexico State

At-Large: none

NIT Teams: none


Kentucky, Wisconsin, Virginia, Duke


Villanova, Arizona, Kansas, Notre Dame


Gonzaga, Iowa State, Baylor, North Carolina


Louisville, Oklahoma, Wichita State, West Virginia

If Connecticut wins the AAC:


Davidson, Dayton, St. John’s, LSU


UCLA, Miami, BYU, Ole Miss


Boise State, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois


Old Dominion, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M

If SMU wins the AAC:


Dayton, St. John’s, LSU, UCLA


Miami, BYU, Boise State, Ole Miss


Indiana, Georgia, Illinois, Old Dominion


Tulsa, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Richmond


The Ghosts of November

Posted: November 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

This is a look at ten potential bubble teams that lost games in the first ten days of the season that may come back to haunt them when it comes time for the Selection Committee to make their choices for at-large bids. To adapt an old adage, “You can’t win a bid in November, but you sure can lose one.” Each of these teams will have some work ahead of them to avoid watching March Madness from the comfort of their respective homes.

(Note: You might notice that none of these teams have ranks assigned to them. This is because the first DPI Rankings will not be released until December 1st in order to avoid outliers in the data. Thanks for understanding.)

Ole Miss – For fans of the SEC clamoring that their conference deserved more preseason love outside of Kentucky and Florida, this one had to hurt. An Ole Miss team that has been dancing recently opened up the season by falling in overtime to Charleston Southern at home, 66-65. The Rebels were outdone by a last-second Cedrick Bowen dunk, but games don’t get to overtime by accident. This was an unimpressive opener, to be sure, and although Mississippi did recover to win its second game, a win over Troy does not make up for much. The Rebs have some considerable work to do to make up for this early-season blemish.

Missouri – Oh, SEC. Losing to UMKC is an upset that is going to make life difficult for the Tigers, as it severely reduces its margin of error from here on out. This is especially considering the relatively weak conference schedule that Missouri will face. Yes, the Kangaroos might be a little better than originally thought (after toppling Mizzou, they went on to give Kansas State a good run for its money), but that hardly forgives the Tigers getting beat on their home court. UMKC took a 7-5 lead with 14:13 left in the first half and never gave the lead back. Eight missed free throws hurt Missouri quite a bit, especially considering they lost by, wait for it, eight points.

St. Joseph’s – Sure, the Hawks were never really a lock to make the tournament, anyway, but this home loss to Fairleigh Dickinson is going to look awfully suspect come March. Even if St. Joe’s is able to put together a nice season in the Atlantic 10, this will be a tough game to live down. Fairleigh Dickinson’s Mustafaa Jones hit a three-pointer with four seconds remaining to put the Knights ahead 58-57. In their next game, the Hawks rebounded by (barely) getting past Philly rival Drexel. Still, it was always going to be an uphill battle for St. Joseph’s to get into the Big Dance – but losing to the Knights, even by a point, certainly made it a steeper climb. A 52-point loss to Gonzaga in Spokane doesn’t help, either.

USC – Led by Tiegbe Bamba’s 19 points, Portland State pulled off an impressive upset of the Trojans in Los Angeles. While the postseason fate of Tim Floyd’s USC squad has always been in question, a loss like this is going to do them exactly zero favors. If you’re a major-conference team and you are going to slip up early in the year, at least try to avoid doing it in your own backyard. The odd thing about this game is that the Trojans shot 53% from the field and outrebounded PSU 43-25; however, a whopping 23 turnovers – yes, 23 turnovers – for USC, compared to Portland State’s four is all you need to see to understand how this loss happened. Combine this misstep with the 20-point drubbing that Akron handed USC and you will understand that the Trojans have to tighten things up on offense if they want to be relevant this season.

Tulsa – In this battle of cross-city rivals, the Golden Hurricanes found themselves wanting when the final buzzer rang against Oral Roberts. It was a sloppy game, with 60 combined fouls, 70 missed shots, and 22 missed free throws. However, it was Tulsa’s futility from downtown, where they shot 2-for-19 (10.5%), that really did them in. They also put ORU on the line for a ridiculous 44 free throw attempts. They will need to shore things up on both sides of the game if they want to challenge for an at-large bid in the American. One positive for Tulsa is that they corralled 19 offensive rebounds against the Eagles, but their lack of discipline and accuracy leave them with a blemish that might come back to bite them four months from now.

Clemson – With losses to two Big South schools in the first week of the season, the Tigers really shot themselves in the foot. They already have the odds stacked against them being in the ridiculously logjammed ACC, so an impressive non-conference record was probably necessary for reaching the NCAA Tournament. Losses to Winthrop (at home) and Gardner-Webb (in Puerto Rico) do not an impressive non-conference campaign make. Sure, they only lost by a combined five points, but these are still games that Clemson needed to win. They are going to have to pull some mighty upsets of their own in conference play to make up for these gaffes.

Florida State – The Seminoles started things out nicely enough with a win over Manhattan, but then inexplicably slipped against Northeastern at home in their next game. Like Clemson, Florida State never had much of a margin of error, so this one hurt quite a bit, especially given Miami’s impressive start to the year. The Hurricanes beat Florida and look like they could be a solid at-large contender. FSU, on the other hand, followed up their loss to the Huskies with an embarrassing 80-54 loss to Providence and a 75-69 loss to Massachusetts at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. Leonard Hamilton is going to have some work ahead of him to make up for this early-season stumbling – and he may well need some luck from other teams, as well. As it stands, if the Seminoles don’t clean up their act, they’ll be watching the Big Dance from home this year.

Kansas State – Unlike Missouri, the Wildcats did avoid losing to UMKC; however, they couldn’t make it past Long Beach State. Don’t get me wrong, these 49ers are a really good club and Mike Caffey could take them dancing this year, but if you’re Kansas State, you simply have to win this game. Yes, it was an away game, but again, this Wildcat squad is not a lock for the NCAA Tournament, so losses like this one will not be doing them any favors in March. This loss is not as egregious as most of the others on this list, but it is definitely a bit of a head-scratcher for the folks in Manhattan. They’ll need to bounce back and make some noise in the Big XII to live this one down.

Marquette – Losing to Ohio State on the road is nothing to be ashamed of. Losing to Omaha at home, however, is more worrisome. The Eagles shot well enough, but put Omaha on the line too often. The Mavericks converted 26 of 30 free throws, which is one of the main reasons that they pulled this upset. Now that Marquette plays in a weaker Big East than in years past, they won’t have as many opportunities in conference play to make up for this kind of loss. As noted for some of the other teams on this list, the fact that the loss came at home is going to be especially troublesome come mid-March. Marquette will need to add some good-looking wins to its résumé to cover up this blemish.

Colorado – A loss to Mountain West opponent Wyoming isn’t the worst possible item to put on your resume, but when you lose by 23 points and only score 33… that’s not good. These Buffs did clobber Auburn, but this loss in Laramie was very peculiar. They shot only 28% while turning the ball over 13 times. This is probably the least detrimental loss of the ones mentioned on this list, but it should give fans in Boulder pause. If Colorado ends up on the at-large chopping block, a stinker like this one could be the difference between the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.

Again, all of these teams still have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, but losses like these are the kind that the Selection Committee will point to when they pass over certain teams for at-large bids. Since all of these teams come from major or high mid-major conferences, they will all get a few chances to score big wins that might erase the damage done in the early weeks. For now, though, these teams look to be on the wrong side of fortune.