If there was any remaining doubt that this was the best NCAA Tournament ever, last night’s Xavier-KSU game (which I declared would not be close) should have cemented that status. Anyway, here are some more picks you can take to the bank….
2 Ohio State vs. 6 Tennessee
Original Pick: Georgetown over Ohio State
What I’ve Learned: Obviously, if the Volunteers are going to win this game, they are going to have to shut down Ohio State’s leading scorer in this Tournament: Jon Diebler. Diebler tore up UC-Santa Barbara in the First Round, dropping 23 points, and everyone knows that as goes Diebler, so go the Buckeyes. In all seriousness, Evan Turner has been the best player in college basketball this year and—notwithstanding what Denis Clemente, Terrell, Holloway, Jordan Crawford and Jacob Pullen all did at various points last night—the player who can most take over a game in this Tournament. Thanks to Georgetown’s early loss, Tennessee got to face Ohio in Round 2 and dispatched them fairly easilyafter struggling against San Diego State. But the fact that the Volunteers haven’t played a good team yet should make anyone wary of their ability to contain Turner.
The Pick: Ohio State Continue reading »
Three-for-four. Three-for-four. Man, I churn out three-for-four nights like a Little League All-Star. Of course, I knew I was going to get ONE game wrong last night; I didn’t know which. It turned out to be the game I was most confident in with my pick, as Syracuse (my national champion) looked listless early and panicked late. A disappointing showing by the Orange, although it keeps alive the Butler storyline, which I’ve been harping all year.
So again, with a 39-13 record in this Tournament, you know I’ve got three of these right. But which one isn’t?
5. Michigan State vs. 9. Northern Iowa
Original: Kansas over Maryland
What I’ve Learned: I was pretty confident that KU would lose eventually and that when it did, it would likely be because Sherron Collins tried to do too much. Of course, I didn’t think it would happen in the second round, and even then, I had UNLV in the second round. But to say that Northern Iowa’s win over the Jayhawks is one of the biggest upsets in Tournament history ignores the fact that the Panthers are a very good team that has lost only four times all season—and one of those was without Jordan Eglseder. UNI is like Cornell in that it can beat you inside and out on the offensive end; the Panthers, however, are one of the nation’s best defensive teams and capable of forcing any team into playing their tempo.
Michigan State’s win over Maryland—without Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen—only proved Tom Izzo’s coaching wizardry once more. The Spartans had no business winning that game, but they did. There are two reasons to pick State in this one: Izzo and the idea that UNI might be overwhelmed by the media attention in the last week. There are more reasons, however, to pick the Panthers: Their win over Kansas wasn’t as big a fluke as portrayed and their defense will certainly dictate tempo to a team playing without its point guard and leader.
The Pick: Northern Iowa Continue reading »
I’m still doing terribly. At this point, showcasing my picks next to Tim’s is starting to get ridiculous. His picks have been almost as good as mine have been bad. In fact, don’t even read this post. STOP! Go read Tim’s picks! These are completely, utterly useless!
8 Gonzaga vs. 1 Syracuse
Original Pick: Syracuse over Gonzaga
What I’ve Learned: Now that Kansas is gone (fittingly, my pick to win the whole thing was the first 1-seed knocked out), Syracuse is probably the favorite to win it all. Kentucky has been playing well, but Syracuse is a more mature team. Unlike Tim, I don’t think this game will be very close—which probably means it will go into several OTs.
The Pick: Syracuse Continue reading »
With losses this week by the top two teams in the country, as well as Purdue’s loss of its best player for the whole year and Villanova getting its fourth loss in seven games, a popular refrain has settled in among the college basketball punditry: There are no elite teams this year! The front line is weak! No team is unbeatable!
Well, obvs. College basketball is not like college football, where dominant teams often do seem unbeatable. College basketball teams don’t go undefeated—not anymore—and therefore, they are all beatable. No. 1 seeds are going to lose at some point during the season, but that doesn’t mean the sky is falling.
It’s popular to compare this season’s probable No. 1 seeds with UNC from last year, the preseason favorite that coasted to a National Championship. But the idea that last year’s Tar Heels were unbeatable or invulnerable is revisionist history, stemming largely from the fact that UNC did not face a significant challenge in the NCAA Tournament.
At this point last season, though, UNC was the #4 team in the country, behind Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, and UConn. They started out 0-2 in ACC play, including a loss at home to an unimpressive Boston College team, and at this point in the season had three total losses—one more than Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse have this year. It’s true that the ACC was a stronger conference last year, and that the Tar Heels were generally considered the favorites throughout the year, but they were by no means an unstoppable behemoth, surviving close calls at Florida State and at Miami. Continue reading »
The Double Bonus brings together two of our great traditions here at NPI: The intrepid sports analysis of Tim’s Unabated to the Quarterback joins forces with the weekly Thursday slot of John’s Real World/Road Rules Ruins Rankings posts. Luckily for you, both writers are on board. Tim’s comments are in black while John’s are in a condemnatory red.
On Monday, DePaul fired head coach Jerry Wainwright, a likable basketball lifer who generally seems to have been in over his head in Chicago and in the Big East. As of Wainwright’s firing, DePaul had lost 22 consecutive Big East regular-season games (the Blue Demons did snag one as the 16-seed in the conference Tourney last season) and remained mired at the bottom of the bloated conference. In the wake of the coaching move, the Chicago Tribune asked whether or not the University was truly committed to the basketball program, and whether long-term success in the Big East were really a sustainable goal:
Finances and resources “are not a deterrent to DePaul’s success” according to Ponsetto — and yet swaths of seats go unfilled at Allstate Arena while data shows that men’s basketball expenditures lag behind even fellow urban Catholic schools.
Then there’s the matter of competing in a Big East that’s deeper than an ocean trench and bewilderingly competitive, with six teams ranked in the top 16 in the latest Associated Press poll. Resuscitating the program is not necessarily mission impossible, but that also depends on the definition of the mission.
The decline of DePaul Basketball—a decades-proud institution under Ray Meyer that twice seemed on the verge of rejuvenation in the last decade as a member of Conference-USA—isn’t an isolated phenomenon, even among big-city schools in the Big East. In the New York area, St. John’s and Seton Hall—one a perennial power in the ‘80s, the other a one-time Finalist and many-time contender—have been dormant for much of the decade. They’ve combined for three Tournament berths and one win since 2000—the year the second-seeded Johnnies were upset by Gonzaga and Tommy Amaker and No. 7 Seton Hall rode reserve Ty Shine to the Sweet Sixteen.
Continue reading »