Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gophers play Northwestern. I'm trying to care.

I suppose I should care that the Gophers play Northwestern tonight, but I just can't quite bring myself to do it.  My heart has already been ripped out and stomped on, and at this point I'm terrified that they'll win their last two and a first round game in the Big Ten Tournament, doing just enough to put themselves back on the bubble and making Selection Sunday a stressful, painful day.  Luckily, I'm thinking they'll probably end the misery tonight.  PREDICTION:  Northwestern 69, Minnesota 62.

As far as what's going on around college ball, the biggest story isn't bubble related, but instead has to do with some damage done to a potential #1 seed.  BYU, the #3 team in the country at 27-2 who has already swept San Diego State, has suspended PF Brandon Davies for the rest of the season for violating the school's honor code.  That could mean cheating in school, drugs, or some sort of run in with the law - the sort of thing that would get a player suspended at a normal school - or it could be something as benign as having a girl in his room, drinking coffee, or playing cards for money.  Either way, this hurts the Cougars big time because Davies was their third leading scorer, leading rebounded, and the guy they relied on to give them some muscle on defense against bigger teams.  I get BYU plays by stricter rules and the players know this, but taking this route really damages their chances in the tournament.  Better for everybody else, I guess.

 Today's tourneys: 

PATRIOT LEAGUE:  The Patriot is not a very good conference and is mostly kind of boring, but I like it because I read John Feinstein's book about it (The Last Amateurs) a few years ago, which highlighted that this is the kind of conference where a star player has to drop off the team because he needs more time to work on his Biochem Doctorate.  I don't condone that kind of quitting or having your priorities that out of whack, but it was a fun book.
FAVORITE:  Bucknell.  A 13-1 conference record is a pretty clear indication they might be the favorite here.  They also beat Richmond, who beat Purdue, who beat Ohio State, who might be the best team in the country.  It's nice how things work out like that.  The Buckeyes better hope they don't get Bucknell in round one.
SLEEPER:  Lehigh.  It's tough to find a sleeper team here because the only squad to knock off Bucknell was Army, who finished dead last in the Patriot with only three wins.  I'm going with Lehigh because they have the league's best player in C.J. McCollum.
W's PICK:  Bucknell.  Other than that loss to Army, and OT win at Lafayette and a squeaker over Holy Cross they've crushed everybody.

OHIO VALLEY:  Pretty disappointing year for the OVC, and especially for Murray State considering they basically have the same team back from a near Sweet 16 appearance last season.  Unfortunately a 14-4 OVC record and a 1-3 record in non-conference resume builders (only win was vs. Stanford) means a team that could do some damage in the big dance will have to survive their little one.
FAVORITE:  Murray State.  They're still the same basic team that beat Vandy and took Butler to the wire, which means they're still very good.
SLEEPER:  Morehead State.  They finished second in the conference, beat Murray State once this year, and they have future NBA second-round pick Kenneth Faried.
W's PICK:  Morehead State.  Faried, who averaged 17.6 points and 14.3 rebounds per game this year (both led the league) and just broke the record for career rebounds in D-I, is just a complete beast.  Since this is his senior year I think he's going to be a bit fired up, and I'm not sure anybody in this league can stop him.

ATLANTIC SUN:  If you want to see something interesting in the NCAA Tournament, hope and pray Belmont gets through here.  See below.
FAVORITE:  Belmont.  Guess which team is ranked as the 21st best team in the country at  You're probably smart enough to figure out it's Belmont.  Now, they haven't really beaten anybody meaningful, but they're 27-4 overall, their four losses are to Vanderbilt, Tennesee twice (including once by 1), and a decent Lipscomb team, and they're just crushing fools, usually winning by around 30.  This, I think, exposes a flaw in the statistical analysis Pomeroy does, but wouldn't you like to see how this plays out in the tournament?
SLEEPER: East Tennessee State.  There really isn't one, but ETSU finished second and managed to only lose by 10 both times they played Belmont - the only school in the conference who can say that.
W's PICK: Belmont.  Not only was ETSU the only team to be within 10 in both games vs. the Bruins, but they were the only team to be within 17 in both games.  Belmont is dominating.  I'm very curious to see how they do in the NCAA Tourney.  Which probably means they won't make it.

As far as last night's action, there weren't any upsets in the conference tournaments, with the chalk holding true throughout, but there were some interesting developments for bubble teams.  Alabama, who has a gaudy conference record but that's about it, definitely isn't going to leave any committee members who watched their game against Florida with a good impression as they got rolled and may have booted their at-large chances away in the process.  Similarly, Baylor had almost zero margin for error, but lost at Oklahoma State and may be dead as well.  Penn State and Illinois also failed to get wins, killing Penn State's chances.  Illinois is probably still ok - a loss at Purdue doesn't damage anyone - but it makes their final regular season game vs. Indiana an absolute must win, which I suppose it was anyway.

Two teams did get big wins last night - Boston College on the road vs. Virginia Tech and Nebraska at home versus Missouri.  Both teams are still squarely on the bubble, although that's a pretty huge victory for the Cornhuskers, but the BC win came with an extra bonus in knocking Va Tech down a rung.  Despite the Hokies win over Duke they're still shaky and probably on par with BC at this point - meaning both need to win and win now.


Clemson @ Duke - Winning in Cameron is damn near impossible, but the Tigers need to win, not just for the marquee scalp beating the Blue Devils would give them, but because they simply need wins.

UNC @ Florida State - At this point the Seminoles likely need just one more victory, whether it comes here, at NC State in the season finale, or in the ACC Tournament.  As long as they win one, they should be ok.

Utah State @ New Mexico State - It's simple for the Aggies, finish out 2-0 (also @ La Tech) and get to the WAC Tournament final.  Do that and they can probably feel safe.  Anything short and they're in big trouble.

Iowa @ Michigan State -The Spartans have come back to life and are starting look like they'll end up grabbing a bid, but a loss to Iowa would kill that in a hurry.

Maryland @ Miami - Terps can't lose another game, but Miami's a tough place to play.  Expecting Maryland's bubble to pop right here.

UAB @ Southern Miss - The Blazers are C-USA's lone chance at an at large bid, and they face a tough task going into Southern Miss.  Could chance another bubble goes poof in this one.

Richmond @ St. Joe's - The Spiders have probably done enough to get a bid at this point, but losing to the Hawks would damage an already so-so profile, and would be enough to knock them down to "probably not" status.

LSU @ Georgia -  The Bulldogs are in good shape here, and probably just need one more win out of their last two (also at Alabama) to feel safe.  Of course, this is certainly the easier game of the two, so they might want to go ahead and get this taken care of.

Colorado @ Iowa State - The Buffaloes are doing an excellent job of playing their way into a bid.  A loss in Ames erases everything good they've done.

And I guess that Gopher game is sort of a bubble game, but really it's more of a possible NIT Final Four preview.  And that's not depressing at all.  For either fan base.


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