Wednesday, March 13, 2013

And we're Spent

I was going to write about everything that happened today, but I write the previews and stuff first and then go back and write the introduction and I'm really quite tired and I don't think that's something that I'm going to do.

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCEI still have fond memories of watching the ACC Tournament every March (on TV of course).  Those were the days of Randolph Childress and Dennis Scott and Curtis Staples when every ACC team, top-to-bottom, was awesome and the conference was head and shoulders above everyone else.  They're still a quality conference (kenpom ranks them 4th) but that's because they're strong at the top.  The bottom of the ACC is horrible, which makes the tournament much less fun since you can probably pencil in the top seeds to the semi-finals.  Except Duke.  Eff them.
FAVORITE:  Duke.  Of course it's Duke.  With Ryan Kelly back Duke is one of the top five teams in the country no matter how much you hate them (and you should).  It's easy to forget, but this team is 18-0 this year when Kelly is healthy (and 9-4 without him) with wins over Ohio State, Louisville, and Miami - all Final Four contenders.  Kelly kind of sucks at everything other than shooting but there's no doubt Duke is a much better team with him than without him.  Also did you know every single Duke basketball fan also roots for the Lakers, Cowboys, Yankees, and Notre Dame football?  It's science.
SLEEPER:  Virginia.  The Cavaliers probably need to do something here to secure at at-large bid, because despite their huge wins (Duke, NC State, Wisconsin) they've balanced them with some horrendous losses (George Mason, Delaware, and 5-25 Old Dominion) and an 11-7 conference record.  They're a bit of a Wisconsin clone with their style of play (BORING) but it can work, obviously, and they've beaten every other ACC Contender so far this year other than Miami, so they can certainly win this.
W's PICK:  Duke.  This is what Duke does.  They have a great regular season, win the ACC Tournament, and then lose in one of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.  And I love it every year.

Honestly I couldn't even tell you who is in the A-10 anymore.  And even if I could, it wouldn't matter because teams are leaving next year anyway.  And did you know there are actually 16 teams in the Atlantic-10?  So the Big 10 has 12 and is about to have 14, the Big 12 has 10 teams, and the Atlantic 10 has 16.  Gotta say, I think the whole idea of naming your conference after the number of teams is looking like a pretty crappy idea.  Hell at this point we can't even name them on their geographical region any more.  We're going to have to start naming conferences after things pretty soon, like the Lamp Conference.
FAVORITE:  St. Louis.  The Billikens are streaking.  They won 12 of their last 13 (with the loss being in overtime @ Xavier) with those wins including a win over VCU and a sweep of Butler, but even so they're sneaking up on everybody.  You watch, they're going to be anywhere from a 3-6 seed when the pairings come out and I'm betting nearly everybody will have them getting knock-off the first weekend.  They're a great defensive basketball team who spreads their scoring around with five guys averaging between 9.8 and 12.9 points per game- don't underrate them.
SLEEPER:  Xavier.  A rare down year for the Musketeers sees them tied for sixth in the A-10 with seven conference losses, but in a pretty wide open conference there are plenty of teams who could get hot and win the auto-bid.  Not only did Xavier just beat St. Louis in the second-to-last game of the season, they also beat Memphis a couple of weeks ago.
W's PICK:  VCU.  I can't help it, I love VCU.  They play the game like a bunch of crazy lunatics and, in the tradition of the old UNLV and Arkansas teams, it works.  They're a bit under the radar nationally this year since they have seven losses, but those seven are Duke and Missouri in the Bahamas, @ Richmond, LaSalle, @ St. Louis, and @ Temple.  That's a pretty good list.  It serves to give them a worse seeding, which will make them a genius pick to make the Final Four, although with all their recent success I'm sure plenty of others will feel the same so maybe the real genius pick will be to take them to lose in round one.

Big West teams always seem to grab a nice upset or two each year.  This year Cal Poly beat UCLA, Pacific beat Xavier and St. Mary's, and UC-Irvine beat USC.  The Big West lacks the big-time sleeper NCAA Tournament threat like they had the last couple of years with Santa Barbara and Long Beach, but there are a number of teams here who could get a victory if they get the right match-up.
FAVORITE:  Long Beach.  Say what you want about Dan Monson, and I have, but he knows how to build a program to dominate a terrible conference.  The 49ers are once again the #1 seed in the Big West, and even though they aren't as dangerous a team as they were last season they'll probably win this tournament.  Although things may be unraveling at the end of the season here a bit with LBSU losing three of their last four games.
SLEEPER: UC-Irvine.  The Anteaters were horrendous at the beginning of the year, starting out at 5-7 with ugly losses to Pepperdine and Sam Houston, but buttoned it up to close out the season, finishing out with a 10-5 swing which included wins over Long Beach, Pacific, and Cal-Poly - the top three Big West teams.  Plus they're the Anteaters - that's pretty sweet.
W's PICK:  Irvine.  There's nobody here who looks like they could run away with this thing, and with the Anteaters coming into the tournament as the hottest team I may as well pick them.  Plus they're Anteaters. 

The Big Sky has always been one of my favorite conferences, mainly because my wife and her entire family attended school there (for at least a semester) and I've been on their campus a bunch of times and have some hats and shirts and such and since they're the dominant program they're always relevant, at least for a low-major.  And this is a low major, at least this year.  Weber (24-5) and Montana (23-6) took care of business, but there isn't a single other school in the conference that finished better than .500.
FAVORITE:  Weber State.  Technically Montana is actually the #1 seed but they lost their leading scorer to a foot injury and although they've gone 4-1 without him (the loss was in overtime to Davidson) Weber State is probably the better team now.  The Wildcats have won eleven straight, including a 14-point victory over Montana and really they haven't missed Damian Lillard much at all this season thanks to three double-digit per game scorers and the nation's #1 three-point shooting team at 42%.
SLEEPER: Montana State.  Weber and Montana are much better than the rest of the field here, but if anybody is going to crash the party it will probably be Montana State.  While the majority of the conference was just getting beat up by the two top teams, the Bobcats were able to hang tough, actually beating Weber State at home and losing by just 8 on the road, and although they were swept by Montana the Grizzlies only beat them by 3 and 5 (in overtime). 
W's PICK:   Weber State.  It feels like the Wildcats have dominated this conference, but they actually haven't been to the NCAAs since 2007 since they can't get over the hump and actually win the conference tournament.  This year should be different, and hopefully Harold Arceneaux's ghost will come back and bring them to a first round upset.  Also, for your education, it's pronounced WEE-BER.  Don't you feel like a dummy?

BIG 12 CONFERENCE[NOTE: This apparently started Wednesday night.  I had no idea]
The Big 12 is actually shockingly deep this year.  With only ten teams they have six ranked in the Top 50 according to kenpom, which is awfully damn good for a conference I thought was pretty crappy.  Of course, the teams in the top 50 include Baylor, who sucks, and Oklahoma, who sucks, so maybe the ratings aren't exactly accurate.  Besides, games are played by real players on the court, not in your mom's basement using a computer, nerd.
FAVORITE:  Kansas.  The Jayhawks won the Big 12 for the ninth straight year and are the favorite once again, but unlike previous years they aren't a prohibitive favorite as the B12 is pretty wide open this year at the top.  Kansas had losses to Oklahoma, Baylor,  and Oklahoma State this year, should have had two losses to Iowa State, and lost to the worst team in the conference TCU.  They have one of the best guards in the country in Ben McLemore, one of the best centers in the country in Jeff Withey, and very little else.  KU is very vulnerable, and that goes for the NCAA Tournament as well.
SLEEPER:  Iowa State.  The Cyclones finished with the 5 seed and will probably be in the NCAAs as a 10 or 11, but it really should have been so much better.  They lost to Kansas once on a banked in KU three-pointer and once thanks to the worst call of the season (which even B12 officials said it was a blown call), and both at Texas and Oklahoma State on last second plays.  The shoot a ton of threes, make a ton of threes, and play at a fast pace - a really fun team to watch.
W's PICK:   Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys have gone ahead and transformed themselves into a dark horse Final Four contender.  They've won 11 of their last 13, the two losses were @ Iowa State (can't fight Hilton Magic) and a double-OT loss to Kansas, and included in those eleven wins were victories over Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State.  All you really need to know is that OK State's third best player is LeBryan Nash and he'd probably be the best player on 90% of NCAA teams (when he's engaged and paying attention, sort of has a disappearing thing going on). 

Well here's the biggie, and I mean that not only because the stupid Gophers are in it, but because in reality I think it's hard to argue against this as the best conference in basketball.  I mentioned the Big 12 having a bunch of well rated teams at kenpom, but the Big Ten has nine of their twelve ranked in the top 62 and nobody worse than #146.  Add in that outside of Northwestern anybody can beat anybody else on any given day and this could really be wild.  The Gophers and Michigan are fading, while Iowa and Purdue are rising which bunches the teams together even further.  There are 8 teams who wouldn't shock me if they won this.
FAVORITE:  Indiana.  It's interesting to me that Indiana started as the big favorite in the conference, we spent the entire conference season wondering who was really number one and trying to figure out how good Indiana actually was, and now that we're done the Hoosiers come out as looking like pretty clearly the best team in the Big 10, don't they?  I don't know, for my money they're clearly the top team in the conference.
SLEEPER: Illinois.  If I wasn't a Minnesota fan I'd say the Gophers since they still have a really impressive list of good wins and have played well on neutral courts, but since I am a Gopher fan I know how freaking awful they've been so I refuse to support them in any way.  I also think Illinois really sucks, but Iowa sucks worse, and everybody else is either too good to be a sleeper or too crappy to have a prayer.  Illinois shoots so many stupid three-pointers they could conceivably get hot enough to win a couple of games, even if they don't have a chance of winning this thing.  The Gophers, on the other hand, actually do have a chance to win the B10 Tournament, but I refuse to care enough to care.   That's not a typo.
W's PICK:  Michigan.  Maybe this goes back to the old Steve Fisher days, but Michigan always strikes me as a damn good tournament type team.  The Fab Five never flamed out early and made two Final Fours when they were all together, they won the first ever Big Ten Tournament, and other than last year I can't remember them ever losing early in the NCAAs.  By the way, now that I look it up to try to avoid looking like an idiot, it turns out the reason I don't remember them flaming out early is because Michigan didn't make a single NCAA Tournament between 1998 and 2009.  For serious.  That is ridiculous.

Sorry if you were looking for more Gopher specific stuff, but I don't know what to write anymore.  They're good enough to beat anybody in the Big Ten and bad enough to lose to anybody in the Big Ten.  Illinois chucks a shitload of threes, and if they're making them the Gophers are screwed.  If not, the Gophers have to execute their half court offense to win.  Does any of that sound manageable?  I just don't even know anymore.  Here are my last thoughts on the Gophers.  This is all I got, bro.  At least until I see how they play against Illinois.

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