Welcome back! Last year's game was such a success we've drafted up a new version for the Conference Finals and beyond. We've kept the fan favorites but added some 2013 flare. As always, enjoy your drinks responsibly.
The Basics: Take a shot of beer every time one of a team’s Big 3 makes a basket. Field goals, three pointers, and free throws all count the same for this game.
Each team's Big 3:
Pacers - Paul George, George Hill, David West
Heat – Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh
Spurs – Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili
Grizzlies – Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley
For those of you looking to add more flavor, other potential rules you may want to use are:
- Shotgun a beer every time Eric Spoelstra makes an excellent coaching maneuver
- Take a sip every time the refs don’t call a travel
- Take a shot every time someone flops
- Finish half your drink anytime someone other than Lebron gets an MVP chant
- Take a shot every time you see an ad featuring your brand of beer
- Every time you see a truck commercial with it doing something you'd never do in real life, take a sip
- Take a sip if you ever see JA Adande use #podiumgame in a tweet
- Drink continuously while Juwan Howard is featured on screen
- Take a sip every time you hear "And 1"
- If another superstar gets hurt, finish your drink
- Take a sip if Pau or Phil Jackson are mentioned
- Finish your drink if Charles Barkley mentions the San Antonio River Walk
- Take a sip every time you see Craig Sager and think "that outfit isn't too bad" and then reconsider
- If Lebron James makes a game winning shot, take not 1.... not 2.... not 3..... not 4.....not 5 ..... not 6.....
- Once the game ends, keep drinking
We'll update this as frequently as possible while we fine tune it. Leave other rule suggestions in the comments below and I'll add some. Always enjoy your drinks responsibly.
We're launching another new segment on the WB. Top Tweets is dedicated to some of our favorite or noteworthy tweets that we've seen since last we met. We'll embed them in our article, break them down or build upon them a bit, and then just move on. Simple, right? If you have a tweet that you think is TT worthy, use the hashtag #TopTweet or @ArmchairA11Star
in it. Enjoy!
I mean seriously, c'mon kid. I know ACL injuries are tough. I tore my left ACL and two surrounding menisci in September of 2011. It took a long while to feel confident on it again, and I'm not asking it to do the things that DRose would be asking of his knee. But, he has the best care in the world, find your back bone, a grasp of the English language, say "I'm playing tonight," and go seize your slice of greatness.
Don't worry, Kyle. In life it's all about finding and catering to your target market.....
Did the scene in Big Daddy
not get the point across? When I need a sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle at 10:35am and I can't get one....look out. On a happier note, Hangover 3 comes out this summer. I'm looking forward to following this Twitter account leading up to the release.
If you haven't heard, Phil Jackson is on Twitter and it is PHENOMENAL. As you can see above, he is trying to congratulate George Karl on his CoY honors, only he gets the handle wrong and blames Pau
! Awesome. Very Zen.
Think you have some Top Tweets? Send them to us! Get at us on Twitter or email email@example.com
It's one of my favorite times of the year. Round 1 of the NBA playoffs is always fun. Let's make some predictions: THE EAST #1 Miami Heat v #8 Milwaukee
(Heat in 4)
Pretty cut and dry here. Miami in four. Unless of course Brandon Jennings is right, and Milwaukee wins in 6
#2 New York Knicks v #7 Boston Celtics (Knicks in 6)
This one should actually be an interesting battle. There is a lot of bad blood in this series. Since 1996, the Celtics have won nearly 20 more games between the teams, holding a 45-26 SU record in that span. This season, the Knicks are 3-1 against the Celtics (winning both games in Boston and splitting at home). I think the Knicks win this series in 6 games. Melo, Pierce, and dare I say Jeff Green can light it up in this series. Plain and simple, no matter how tough and gritty the Celtics are, Melo can't afford to lose this series.
#3 Indiana Pacers v #6 Atlanta Hawks (Pacers in 5)
About a month ago, I thought the Pacers were the only team that could challenge the Heat. Since then they have underwhelmed. The Pacers lost 6 of their L10 games and have strayed away from the good brand of defense they had throughout the season (letting up 105 ppg). They really aren't coming into the playoffs with any sort of momentum. Neither is Atlanta though, losing 3 of the L5 and 5 of L10. All of that aside, the Pacers match up well against Atlanta and hopefully get back to mid-season form to make the East a little more interesting.
#4 Brooklyn Nets v #5 Chicago Bulls (Nets in 5)
Derrick? Hello, are you there? No? Okay. The Bulls won't win this series without him and since he doesn't seem to be coming back anytime soon go ahead and pencil the Nets into the 2nd round. Chicago actually holds a 3-1 advantage in the four games against the Nets this year, but I just don't think the Bulls can contend with the Nets in a series setting. I love the way the Nets finished the year, winning 11 of 16 games while having 11 away contests in those 16 games.
I think the East should go fairly by the book, with Miami winning the conference in 5 games over the Knicks. I hate to pick so much chalk but the East has been so underwhelming this season that the only team you can pick is Miami.
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder v #8 Houston Rockets (Thunder in 6)
Man, do I WANT to pick the Rockets here. In fact, I think that Houston stands a good chance of winning the first game of this series based on drive alone. However, in the end, the talent will prevail. Russell Westbrook could still screw this series up though. One thing is for certain, there should be a lot of points.
#2 San Antonio Spurs v #7 Los Angeles Lakers (Spurs in 5)
I've said all along that the Lakers would get waxed in the playoffs by either the Spurs or the Thunder. Now that Kobe is gone, I almost want to change my mind. Dwight will have to play like the super star he can be for it to happen. They have the height to do it but their defense is very suspect. I think San Antonio just knocks down too many shots in the end and the Spurs win in five very tight games (think Lakers-Thunder last year).
#3 Denver Nuggets v #6 Golden State Warriors (Warriors in 7)
I really didn't want these two teams to play each other. They are my two favorite teams from the West this year (not as far as winning goes). Denver has a few late injuries that will hurt them against this feisty and potent GSW team. They do hold the best home court advantage in the NBA, but when Golden State is on, it's over. Maybe this is wishful thinking but I like GSW.
#4 Los Angeles Clippers v #5 Memphis Grizzlies (Grizzlies in 7)
You conspiracy theorists won't like that I have both LA teams out in the first round, but that's what I see happening. Lob City is fun to watch but they are a much softer team than Memphis. In the end, I like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to get the Grizzlies through this series. They will have to endure a very deep Clippers bench. The short of it is, I've been off the Clippers band wagon for too long. I just can't jump back on it now.
The West is by far going to be the much more exciting side to watch. Every one of these story lines is entertaining. About the only thing I'm confident on is the Spurs (and OKC) moving out of the first round. Beyond that, it's gonna be a fun ride. I am however going to pencil in the Spurs as the conference champions but could see them getting knocked out by almost any of the other teams.
But wait, I haven't picked the League Champion yet?.....Do I even need to say it?.. It's going to be Miami.
Since last I've checked in, we've seen a lot of moves in the NFL, some gut wrenching injuries in basketball, and MLB play has started up. All of that may seem far from our minds right now as we look at the events in Boston from yesterday. As I said in the book it tab
, take heart in the fact that many rushed towards the danger created by a few.
Let's turn back to the joyous portions of sports and see what's trending for me:
The NBA Playoffs
- The stage is all but set, with the Lakers and Jazz still battling for that last spot. As I mentioned in the last bulletin
, I think the Lakers clinch the spot and get run over by the Spurs or Thunder. Kobe's injury is unfortunate but his note
was inspiring and I'm sure NBA fans across the world can't wait for his return. However, enough about the bottom feeders. This race comes down to three teams; the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs, and the New York Knicks. The Thunder are essentially a lesser version of the Heat and might not even get past the Spurs. Should the Knicks manage to unseat the Heat, the Spurs would take them down in the finals. Plain and simple, coaching beats Melo-ball and Greg Pop would run them out in 5 games or less. However, if you've paid any attention to this season of pro basketball, you shouldn't expect anything other than a Miami Heat championship and zero 7 game series for them. Book it in now.
| | The Royals
- Being from Kansas City and only being the wonderful age of 23 (I know, no one likes me
), I don't have much love for baseball. I barely know what a post season win feels like (in any sport). So, it's difficult for me to get very psyched for this season. However, the Royals do happen to be tied for first place in the AL Central and this town has more hope in April than it has had in a long time. I'm looking to you readers to help make me a better baseball fan.
- I was looking for another sport to include in this write up and when I couldn't come up with anything my friend suggested Golf might be a nice substitute. In case you missed it, the PGA Tour amended the rules and catered to its two most drawing players at this past Masters weekend. Tiger Woods should have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard while 14-year old sensation Tianlang Guan had many penalties, warnings, and times called on him during the rounds. Personally, I'm glad that both players weekends got to play out like they did. It made it more interesting for a guy that only watches golf on four different Sundays each year. Congrats to the Aussies and Adam Scott for the Green Jacket. If you are a golf buff, check out Golf.com's recap
of the tourney.
However, while looking into the weekend of Golf, my buddy Kyle and I were chatting we couldn't help but feel uneasy. We found it ironic that the movie 42 commemorating the breakthrough of racial integration into professional American sports was released the same weekend as the Masters took place at Augusta National Golf Club. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. The first African American member of Augusta National? 1990. The only minorites allowed at Augusta for the longest time were caddies, keeping in line with the Jim Crow Laws rampant in the South. The club's first ever chairman, Clifford Roberts, was once quoted saying "As long as I'm alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black." In fact, only in August of last year were the first two women allowed as members of Augusta. Yet we continue to hold this golf course in the highest regard and place it on a pedestal above all else. Would you admire a country club near you with such requirements? Pretty grass and tradition doesn't supercede bigotry. Step it up, Golf.
Winter is coming
with the return of Game of Thrones! Having read the 3rd book, I can tell you that though this season is starting slow, it will definitely be worth the build up. The unsung highlight from Season 3 so far comes from an off-hand quip made by Tyrion
and Bron to Podrick. However, Season 3 Ep 4 contains some huge moves that I won't spoil for you here. Get at me on Twitter, @BLoch12
, for any more discussions about GoT.
I'm also looking forward to checking out Oblivion
, the Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman movie about the end of the world. Though, that pails in comparison to the Man of Steel trailer that Kyle Kamerbeek sent me which he aptly described as a "Nerdgasm
That's it. Thanks for checking in. As always, leave your comments and more importantly your complaints in the comments section below. Stay tuned.
By: Bob Lang
Hello, sports fans. I know I know, I’ve been gone a while. Has your life been empty without me? Did you miss my ramblings and nonsensical witticisms over the last month and a half? Did you wonder when I was going to come back and contribute again? If you answered any of those questions with a “yes” I am begging you to reexamine your life.
What have I been doing? Where have I been? Well, I have been watching a lot of college basketball. Recording games I couldn’t watch live. Breaking down film and match-ups. Scientifically evaluating each and every team that made the tournament.
Actually, I took some time off from this because I work for a living and I needed some time to recharge my creative batteries. Try that line in a bar sometime, it works fantastic on the ladies. I promise.
Here we are for the start of the best three weeks of the sports calendar when taken collectively. Yes, I do enjoy the first day in September that I can drag my ass out of bed at 7am on a Saturday so I can go down to Ohio Stadium, find a parking spot by 9, have a beer in my hand by 9:15 and continue to watch Ohio State beat up on Alabama (OK, Alabama A&T, but still) with 100,000 of my closest, drunkest friends. But, and this a big but, that doesn’t even come close to the joy the next three weeks brings to my inner sports fan.
Combine the utter joy that Selection Sunday and the entire tournament (but especially the first weekend) brings to me with the start of Spring, nicer weather in my part of the world, and then throw in baseball opening day as a cherry on top and you have the ingredients for three weeks of perfection.
That is more than enough to bring me out of my February hibernation and let you, my loyal (or accidental) readers know what I think about things going on. Without further ado, let me tell you what you can expect from the 2013 NCAA Men’s Championship.
First a question that I’m sure so many people are asking: Why are the games on Thursday and Friday called the “Second Round”? I thought that was the First round? Well, that’s easy to answer. The NCAA is run by a bunch of twits. OK, “twits” might be too much. “People what have no idea what anything means unless it is preceded by a dollar sign” would probably be more accurate. These people a few years ago decided that 64 (actually 65) wasn’t good enough, so they expanded to 68 creating 4 play-in games. These games are played Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton. But, they need people to watch these games, so calling them what they are -- play in games -- wont fly, so they decided to call them the opening round games and Thursday/Friday games the second round.
Please, feel free to ignore this idiocy and refer to Thursday/Friday as the first round. I’m on your side. So is common sense.
I've also started a group on Facebook for people that want to talk about the tournament live as it happens. All that ask to be a part will be approved, I only ask that you keep things relatively clean and play nice with others. You know, things the internet is known for. Here is the link THE EAST REGION: Top Heavy
Top Seeds: Indiana (1), Miami (2), Marquette (3), Syracuse (4) What higher seeds could make some noise in this region?
When I say “higher seeds” in this preview, I mean seeds over number 6 with special attention to double digit seeds. Looking over the bracket this year, while everyone has been talking about how “flat” college basketball is (a product of more and more top talent players leaving after one year, two at the most… see: Wildcats, Kentucky), the truth is that the top echelon is very very good, and there is a giant gap between the top teams and the next level. If you twist my arm and make me pick a couple to look for here I would pay attention to Illinois and Cal. Illinois has beaten two of the number one seeds in this tournament and Cal has some very long, athletic guards that can cause problems for some teams. They do have trouble shooting, and they come from the PAC 12, so take that into consideration. Illinois could go deep if they get on a roll. They are also coached by John Groce. He who took Ohio University to the brink of one of the all time ever upsets in sports when they lost in the regional semi-finals to North Carolina in overtime. I’d say he can coach in the tournament. What games are ripe for first round upsets?
Of course you mean “second round” upsets. Cal over UNLV would be my favorite one here. I just don’t believe in the power of MWC. I’m not huge on the PAC 12 either, but I think Cal might be just a little under seeded. Another one to look at is Davidson over Marquette. Davidson has a 17 game winning streak (yes, I know, it’s in the Southern Conference) but they are a very balanced team and Marquette has had some games this year where they looked… uninspired. Who will represent this region in Atlanta?
I think this one will come down to the top two seeds: Indiana and Miami. I went back and forth a lot when deciding this one (and in different pools I have a different team coming out of this region, with the winner winning the title). My best guess is that Indiana is the most complete team in this region with the least question marks. They faltered some at the end, but that might be more a measure of who they were playing, and not how. Go with the Hoosiers here. The South Region: Blue Blood CentralTop Seeds: Kansas (1), Georgetown (2), Florida (3), Michigan (4) Is this a region or a history lesson?
That is a valid question. Look at the names in this region: Kansas, North Carolina, Villanova, Michigan, UCLA, Georgetown, Akron. OK, I got carried away with the last one, but can you blame me? That is a list of some of the most successful programs in the history of the sport. All in the same region. I mean if you were Kansas and you saw that you might have to face North Carolina in the SECOND ROUND (sorry, crap, third round. Fuck you, NCAA), would you feel comfortable? Frankly, this is the region I can’t wait to watch the most. OK, what about the lower seeded teams? Who could break up this history love fest?
I’ll give you two teams here as well: I’ll start with Minnesota over UCLA. The Bruins are playing without their second leading scorer who broke his foot at the end of the season, and their all world freshman Shabazz (that’s 2 “z’s”) Muhammed sometimes looks as if he is more interested in his draft status this Summer than the game he is in. I’ll also throw out Oklahoma because I still don’t believe in San Diego State and the Mountain West. (Side note: if the Mountain West craps the bed this year, does that hurt their chances of getting this many teams in next season?) Does Florida coach Billy Donovan ever smile?
If your team played like his team did outside of Gainesville, you would be grumpy too. Who moves onto Atlanta out of this region?
I’ve got to be perfectly honest here: each of these teams in this region have a flaw that can’t be overlooked. Whether it is a hurt key player (UCLA), an inability to put teams away (Florida), an offense that can suddenly just disappear (Georgetown), or they play as hard as a wet sponge (Michigan); each top team has something that makes me take a step back and think, “Do I REALLY think they can win four games in a row? For me it comes down to Georgetown and Kansas. And as much as I hate picking against Elijah Johnson, I just can't get that stretch of basketball that Kansas played against TCU, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. Also, they have a tendency to underwhelm in the tournament. I don’t think last year’s final four run takes the stink off of that history. My pick here is with the Hoyas of Georgetown. The Midwest Region: Revenge of Last Year’s Fallen Twos
Top Seeds: Louisville (1), Duke (2), Michigan State (3), St. Louis (4) It’s complete coincidence that both of last years two seeds that lost in the first round are in the same region, right?
Normally, I would say that the NCAA couldn’t plan that to happen if they had thought of it, but it does seem kind of fitting. Duke and Missouri tag teamed the crap out of my bracket last year when they both lost in the first round. (Although in fairness I had Duke out in the Sweet 16. A quote from last year’s preview, “Shouldn’t I just pick Duke? No; they suck.”)
It was a gambling tragedy that some people may not have forgiven yet. Present company included. The bad news: these teams could only meet if they make the Elite Eight. Will this be the bracket that a double digit seed makes a deep run?
Oh, you wanted, like reasons and shit? I’ll give you three: Izzo, Pitino, and a whole lot of vowels that end in ski. (Seriously, only two vowels in Coach K’s name? Really? I think it might be worse that I just noticed this.) This is the group of death if you aren’t a top seed. I like St. Louis. It’s a great town. Some really great people. My cousin is a pastry chef there. Went there for her wedding and had an amazing time. But the NCAA did them no favors in this group. I will be absolutely stunned if the winner of this region is not one of MSU, Louisville or Duke. C’mon, there has to be SOMEONE in this region that can make Charles Barkley’s head spin, right?
OK, you are a stubborn one, so I will throw out a name. Oregon. I think they are underseeded at twelve (In fact I would have switched them with Memphis) and they are on a roll having won the PAC 12 tournament. Even if that is the same as being the fastest snail in the race. You asked for one, I give you Oregon. This region has more chalk written all over it in the early rounds than an elementary school playground. Another small upset could be Cinci over Creighton in a 10/7 game. Creighton has had a few chances to impress me this year (read: Games I bet on them to cover and they failed) and has yet to do so. So, which one of those three do you see getting out of this region?
I think that both Duke and MSU are better than Louisville top to bottom. And if MSU and Duke play in the semis, you can be damned sure I will not miss that for anything at all, but I like the way Duke has been playing since Kelly came back a few weeks ago. I have no idea why they have such a hard time with Maryland, but they should survive this region and move on to Atlanta. The West Region: The Leftovers
Top Seeds: Gonzaga (1), Ohio State (2), New Mexico (3), Kansas State (4) Leftovers? You don’t think these teams are as good as the others?
There are some very high quality teams in this region, but top to bottom it is the rest of what was leftover of each seed. The lowest graded top seed and two seed among them. And remember, I am a complete, total and unapologetic Ohio State homer. And I thought after the way they played down the stretch run that they should be a two seed in the East. But when I saw this I thought, “This works.” Alright, now we’re talking. THIS is going to be the bracket where double seeded teams rule, right?
Lets not get too carried away here. I can name more in this region that have a chance than others. Iowa State could be a match up nightmare for Notre Dame, but be a match up dream for Ohio State on the weekend. Belmont could most definitely give Arizona an early exit and if Mississippi were playing anyone other than Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin team I would give them a shot in their opening game. OK, but will Gonzaga be the first top seed to lose?
I think so. And it might be in the first weekend if Pitt can get past Wichita State. Pitt can defend big and has athletic guards. Two things that have given Gonzaga trouble. If they get past that, I think Wisconsin can wrap them up in the regionals. Is New Mexico that good?
Nope. I don’t think so. Their best wins are against UConn, Colorado State and UNLV. Ummmm, really? And they are a three seed? And Wisconsin beat Indiana (twice), Michigan (twice) and Ohio State and they are a five seed? Feel free to ride the Lobos, but I wouldn’t hold on too tight. I sense a total homer pick coming here, am I right?
Absolutely. I can’t remember the last time Ohio State got a draw this favorable. Even last year they had a tougher road and they made the Final Four. Of course, last time they played in Dayton they got bounced pretty quickly, so there is always the possibility that they lay an egg. They seem to have found what works for them, their young players are coming around and they have improved week to week more than any other team in the field with the possible exception of Louisville (Who just dismantled Syracuse in the Big East title game). I’m riding my home team in this region though.
Duke vs OSU: Duke
Indiana vs. G’town: Indiana
National Champion: Indiana
And it pains me more than you can imagine to write those words. Am I hoping this is a reverse jinx? Absolutely.
So we’ve analyzed the number 1 seeds
in this year’s bracket, but let’s be honest: the first weekend of the tournament is all about the unforeseen upsets. Last year when Duke and Missouri both lost on the same day as 2 seeds?? I have never been so happy to throw away my bracket. Until, you know, I realized I wasn’t going to win.
For all of you true competitors out there who want to prove that you know basketball better than any of your friends, this installment of Tourney Time is all about the little guys nobody else has heard of. So you didn’t get to catch any of the Patriot League games this year? You had to work during the OVC Championship thriller? No worries, we’ve got you covered here at AAS.
| || |
Before I break down a couple of the quieter teams that could make big noise in the coming weeks, let’s look at some background statistics for opening weekend. As you very well know, no 16 seed has ever beaten a top seeded team. And while yes, we saw two 15 seeds advance last year, that’s what you call a statistical anomaly – only six 15 seeds have ever beaten a 2 seed in 112 attempts. 14th seeded teams have only won 16 games over 3 seeds. Number 13 seeds have won 24 games, or about 21% of the games they play. 12 seeds have
won the same amount of opening round games as 11 seeds, with each pulling off the upset about 34% of the time. Surprisingly, 11 seeds are actually 7-5 against 6 seeds the past 3 years. 10 seeds have won about 40% of their games against 7 seeds, although more recently (in the last 17 years) that number jumps up to 47%. Finally, and perhaps this is unsurprising given the similar caliber of these teams, 9 seeds actually have an all-time winning record over 8 seeds at 58-54.
More upset statistics: Only four times since the field has expanded to at least 64 teams have the top 4 seeds in each region avoided upset. Only twice has the top 5 in each region all survived upset. The average number of first round upsets is 8. However, in the past four tournaments, there have 10 upsets in each round, a possible result of overall increasing talent levels. In 2001 a record 13 teams were upset in the first round, only one year after a record few 3 teams suffered first round upsets.
A final key to remember – while upsets tend to happen in the first round, it’s pretty rare that a low seed makes it to the Sweet 16 or beyond. A 14 seed is the lowest seed to ever make the Sweet 16, and that has only happened twice ever. Only one 12 seed has ever reached the Elite 8. And while three 11 seeds have made the Final Four (most recently VCU), the lowest seed to ever to win the whole tournament was 8th seeded Villanova in 1985.
So, while I advise you to consider the following upset specials for the first round, don’t go too crazy with any/all of them. Pick and choose wisely, my friends. That said, indulge your imaginations in the possibilities.
(Note: To be considered a sleeper, you typically have to be at least a 9 seed. I will however look at a few higher seeds if they come from smaller conferences and thus pose a chance to fly under the popular radar) Midwest Sleepers: (4) SLU, (11) Saint Mary’s/Middle Tennessee State Winner, (12) Oregon
There really isn’t much sleeper potential in the Midwest region, primarily because the good teams in this bracket really are that good. This region is stacked with quality teams from 1-9. I listed SLU as a sleeper even at a number 4 seed mainly because I think they are likely to get lost among the other bigger name teams in this region. Make no mistake, this team has earned their spot in the tournament. They have plenty of experience (8 combined Juniors and Seniors), 6 legitimate scoring threats on any given night, a tough-nosed defensive mentality, and the motivation of playing in memory of former coach Rick Majerus. This team returns a lot of core players from its tournament appearance last year and has been playing great (although not necessarily pretty) basketball this year. They’re 5-1 against top 25 teams this year. They’ve beaten tournament darlings Butler twice and VCU three times. They played undermanned against Kansas in an early season tourney and, despite the loss, walked away feeling as though they should have won. The A-10 champs are confident but will still be playing with a chip on their shoulders, as many consider Butler and VCU the more dangerous tournament teams. I really can’t write enough about these guys. In another region, they’re legitimate Final Four threats. I think Louisville’s defense will prove to be too much, but look for it to be a close game if the Cardinals’ shots aren’t falling.
As for the two 11 seeds, I like either winner to upset Memphis. It won’t be easy, as Memphis has won 30 games already this season. But these are quality mid-major teams and the winner will have the benefit of getting early tournament jitters out of their system before facing a Memphis squad that has yet to win an NCAA tourney game under coach Josh Pastner. St. Mary’s is familiar with March Madness, while MTSU hadn’t lost a game since January 3 before a disappointing loss to Florida International in the Sun Belt championship game (a team they had already beaten twice in the regular season). My expectation is for MTSU to beat St. Mary’s and Memphis, although getting passed Michigan State in the next round will be a tough task.
I’m not going to write much on Oregon’s matchup with Oklahoma State, as I already explained why I’m picking the Cowboys to beat them in a previous write-up
. However, this is a team that won the PAC-12 tourney and should have been ranked higher than a 12 seed. If you think they’ll get past the Cowboys, they just might be scrappy enough to hang close with SLU.South Sleepers: (5) VCU, (11) Minnesota, (12) Akron, (13) South Dakota State
There are a few “experts” trying to convince you that 15th seeded Florida Gulf is a threat to take down Georgetown, seeing as they beat Miami early in the season. I’m not putting a lot of stock into it for a couple of reasons. One, that win over Miami was too early in the season (the second game) well before Miami established their identity and developed the swagger that has led them to becoming one of the most dangerous teams in this tournament. Florida Gulf meanwhile lost 5 games in the Atlantic Sun conference and can’t hold a candle to Georgetown. Their only hope is for Georgetown to show up unready to play, but you shouldn’t rely on that.
I listed both VCU and Akron as sleepers, for completely different reasons. Although I’m confident enough in VCU’s ability to win and advise against picking Akron, I’m not going to be surprised if the upset happens. Shaka Smart actually coached with and under Keith Dambrot at Akron before coming to VCU, and this Akron team could match up well with the Rams. The main reason I’m picking VCU and the reason I’m listing them as a sleeper is that I see VCU potentially going deep in the tournament once again this year. If Akron upsets VCU, that will be their only win of the tournament. If VCU wins, they match up well with everyone else in the region except for possibly Georgetown. VCU’s defensive intensity and pressure is the reason they lead the nation in turnover margin. Both Michigan and Kansas (especially Kansas) could succumb to this team’s perimeter pressure. The biggest strength VCU has is that they’re style of play is just so unique that it’s impossible to prepare for them well in a day’s notice. In a setting where you HAVE to take everything one game at a time, VCU’s style of play gives this team an advantage over others in their region.
Minnesota is a team I’m listing for a first round upset only due to their fortunate match up. This team was rolling through teams in the first half of the season before unraveling during Big Ten play. Luckily, UCLA isn’t Big Ten caliber especially
without injured Jordan Adams. But the key match up difference here is in rebounding ability. Minnesota is one of the best rebounding teams in the country on both ends of the court, while UCLA struggles to gather many boards. When you can dominate control of the glass, you have a good chance to win.
If South Dakota State upsets Michigan in the first round, it’s going to shock a lot of people. Michigan was the number one team in the country a few weeks ago and has one of the most imposing lineups in the country, starting with Big Ten POY Trey Burke. But Michigan has been playing inconsistently as of late and faces a dynamic player in Nate Wolters, who boasts a better statline (22.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 5.8 apg) than Burke (19.2, 3.1, 6.7). Neither of these teams turn the ball over, so we could be in for an offensive battle. If Michigan shows up to play, they should take care of South Dakota State. But with a 6-6 record since January, including an embarrassing loss to Penn State, this will be no gimme game. The wildcard here is Wolters, who has topped 30 points in a game three times already this year (including one 53-point outburst). If Michigan doesn’t stop him, we could have an upset on our hands. West Sleepers: (8) Pittsburgh, (10) Iowa State, (11) Belmont, (12) Ole Miss
Pitt should crush Wichita State in the first round. And although I have a hard time putting it down on my bracket, if you aren’t a believer in Gonzaga, this could be the game they go down in. Gonzaga has yet to play a defense as tough and as stingy as Pitt’s is (except for maybe Butler, who they lost to by a point). The true key for Pitt in this game will be the play of big man Steven Adams. So much of the Zags success starts with POY candidate Kelly Olynyk, and Adams has the size and the defensive presence to frustrate him. If Adams can avoid foul trouble (or better yet, force Olynyk into foul trouble) then Pitt has a chance to dominate the paint in this game. Another key will be to see how Olynyk holds up if he has to bump and grind for the full 40 minutes with the banger like Adams. Due to Gonzaga’s smooth sailing all season, Olynyk is used to playing only 25 minutes per game. Even if they come away with the win, Gonzaga will find its first true test of the season in Pitt.
Iowa State hasn’t beaten a lot of great teams this year, but they’ve certainly kept opposing coaches awake with nightmares of their offensive potential. This is a team that scores 80 points per game and sinks more three-balls than anyone in the nation. They don’t play great defense, but if they get on a hot streak from downtown, Notre Dame (and maybe even Ohio State) needs to watch out.
Last year, I wrote an in-depth analysis on why Belmont was my best pick for Cinderella of the year. The results weren’t there (they couldn’t hang with Georgetown’s size down low) but my analysis of them honestly hasn’t changed: this team can do some damage. They’re still an undersized bunch, but they shoot absolute lights out on offense at 49% from the floor and 39% from deep. A lot of that starts with Ian Clark, a player I singled out last year, who has improved across the board in his senior year – Clark’s FG/3PT/FT shooting percentages are 54/46/84. Those percentages produce an insanely efficient 18.1 ppg. Kerron Johnson leads them from the point guard position and puts up solid scoring and assist numbers as well. Luckily for the Bruins, they are paired against an Arizona team which has struggled to defend the perimeter en route to losing five of their last ten games. This sort of matchup reeks of upset potential. If they can get past Arizona, Belmont will likely face a New Mexico team that is good, but not unbeatable. The Bruins would have to step up their defense to beat the Lobos, but New Mexico has already lost to teams this season that haven’t had anything near Belmont’s offensive efficiency. Now comes a little candy for your imagination – AKA DO NOT PUT THIS IN YOUR BRACKET – but the potential exists for Belmont to face Iowa State in the Sweet 16. I think Vegas would put the total 3PT shots made O/U at about 70. This matchup won’t happen mainly because it will take a miracle for Iowa State to actually beat Notre Dame AND Ohio State, but hey, a man can dream.
My final sleeper team from the West is Ole Miss, whom I singled out in my 5/12 matchup
article as a team that can beat Wisconsin. Because I already covered this game once, I won’t do it again here. Just know one name: Marshall Henderson. That punk did the Gator Chomp as he was beating Florida. You need balls to win in March and this kid’s got them. East Sleepers: (6) Butler, (10) Colorado, (11) Bucknell, (14) Davidson
You may have noticed by now that the three higher seeds that I’ve listed as “sleepers” are SLU, VCU, and Butler (seeded 4,5, and 6, respectively). Normally, you shouldn’t consider a team with that high of a seed to be a sleeper. Yet for some reason (…because they play in the A10 and that conference doesn’t get enough fan respect) I promise you that people will doubt that these teams can keep winning in March. I’ll remind you that Butler was a 6 seed the last time they played in the championship game just two years ago, and no one believed then that they could actually do it again. I myself am a little worried this year, only because I don’t like their first round matchup one bit (see below). But if this team makes another run to the Final Four, do me a favor and don’t act surprised.
Colorado gets the sleeper nod mainly because Illinois isn’t good (consistent) enough to beat many of these tournament teams. Yes, they’ve beaten Gonzaga, Indiana, and Butler, among other tournament teams. But in the second half of their schedule, save a few explosive performances from Brandon Paul, this team has been a disappointment. The thing about Illinois is that, when Paul goes off, they can beat anyone in this bracket. I just don’t think they’ll show up ready to respect Colorado, especially playing so far away from Assembly Hall, and they’ll be caught looking ahead to Miami. I also like the fact that Colorado is 10-2 in their last 12 neutral site games. Colorado can pull of this first round upset, but anything more than that would be a miracle.
Bucknell might have been my favorite sleeper team in this year’s tournament, but it’s never a wise decision to bet against Brad Stevens in March. I’m buying into the Mike Muscula hype though. This is a 6-11 senior who could be playing center in the NBA next year. He averages 19 points on 52% shooting, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, and he shoots 79% from free throw range so you can’t exactly hack him on every shot. I don’t know that Butler can handle his inside presence well enough, even with Andrew Smith and his 2 national championship games worth of experience in this post. Bucknell’s supporting cast is solid, but it’s apparent to me that Bucknell’s success depends on Muscula taking over and bullying his way through this tournament. Another key for Bucknell is finding a way to win if the game is close, as you can expect it will be. The Bison are 4-4 in games decided by 5 points or less, while the Bulldogs are 6-2. Whichever way it goes, this will be a fun game to watch.
Davidson, home of Mr. Cinderella Stephen Curry, is back in the dance. Like their miracle run back in the day, the Wildcats are riding quite a long winning streak into the tournament. They’ve won 17 straight games, and while they don’t have a player the caliber of Curry, they’re a balanced team with many 3-point weapons on the perimeter. This bodes well for them against Marquette, as Marquette can’t match their 3-point scoring potential. If Marquette gets up early, Davidson can fire back in a hurry. But if Davidson gets up early, Marquette is going to have a difficult time getting back into this one. I don’t see this as a true Cinderella team a la 2008 (when I nailed their run to the Elite 8 on my bracket) but I do think they have enough shooters to pull off an early upset.
What to take from this article? I’ve given you twelve teams as potential sleepers (11 if you only count MTSU and St Mary’s as one, seeing as you don’t usually pick the play in games). I certainly wouldn’t take all of them to win their first round matchups, seeing as the average number of first round upsets is 8. But hopefully this will get you to take a closer look at some of the lower seeds in the bracket and make more educated upset picks.
Be sure to let me know which team you think will make a Cinderella run in the comments below!
Yesterday, I broke down the four 5/12 matchups
for you in this year’s tournament and gave you my picks for each game. Before I get into today’s area of analysis, I want to add one comment about the Oregon/Oklahoma State matchup. Many people are pointing at this game as the most likely matchup for the 12 seed to win, mainly because Oregon probably deserved higher than a 12 seed. I won’t debate that – Oregon does
deserve better than a 12 seed. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they are better than Oklahoma State, who rightfully earned their 5th seed. Expect Oklahoma State to take offense to all of the talk about them being the upset special and come out of the gates with incredible energy and motivation to shut up the haters.
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On to today’s agenda – let’s take a look the four number 1 seeds in this year’s bracket and break down what to expect from each. Keep in mind, each of these teams earned their respective positions atop the 4 regions for their impressive regular seasons. They each enter this postseason with loads of talent, great coaching, and momentum. But they each also enter with their own sets of flaws and weaknesses which, if exploited by the right team, could mean an early exit from the tournament. There have actually been more times in the history
tournament that NO number 1 seeds have reached the Final Four (3) than the number of times that the Final Four featured all number 1 seeds (once, in 2008). There have only been 6 times that the championship game featured two top seeds facing off (although it has happened three times in the last 7 tournaments). So while the number 1 seeds may have been the most impressive in the regular season, this in no way makes them a guarantee or a lock for anything.
This year’s top seeds are Louisville, Kansas, Gonzaga, and Indiana. Before I break these teams down, let’s quickly look at two other teams that could have made a viable argument for a number 1 seed – Duke and Miami. After an incredibly impressive start to the season (wins over Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State, Temple, Davidson – all tournament teams except for Kentucky, which would have been if not for the loss of Nerlens Noel), Duke “stumbled” a bit losing 4 ACC conference regular season games. I say stumbled because they were still beating the shit out of teams despite losing one of their best players in Ryan Kelly. If he had been healthy all year, they could have possibly been the number 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament. One of the teams Duke lost to in the ACC was Miami, another 2 seed in this bracket who could have been seeded at a 1 without much room for argument. They were the ACC regular season and conference tournament champions – this is the first year that any team who won both ACC titles is not being seeded number 1. This might have to do with the fact that they lost 3 out of 4 games during one stretch in the conference season. However, this team is one of the most athletic and defensive minded squads in the country, well coached (Jim Larranaga masterminded George Mason’s improbable run to the 2006 Final Four), and is a legitimate threat to win it all. There are certainly a variety of other teams in this year’s tournament who are legitimate threats to win it all, which means bad news for this year’s number 1 seeds.
Louisville is the overall number 1 seed in the tournament, and after watching them impose their will in every sense of the phrase against Syracuse in the second half of the Big East conference championship game, they just might be my favorite to win it all. Louisville is, in my opinion, the most complete team in the bracket. They play great defense - they’ve held teams to under 60 points 21 times this season, and held Syracuse without a FG for 12 straight minutes their last time out. They play great offense – led by scorer Russ Smith, double-double man Gorgui Dieng, and lighting-quick set up man Peyton Siva. They are coached by one of the 15 best coaches to ever step on a basketball court in Rick Pitino. They really have no bad losses on the season, and they’ve been on fire recently, having not lost a game since January excluding a ridiculous 5 (5!) overtime, 3-point loss to Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the selection committee rewarded Louisville by loading their region of the bracket with incredibly tough teams. Duke, Michigan State, St. Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton, and Colorado St. round out seeds 2-8, and those 7 teams have won a collective 80% of their games on the season. Duke could be a number 1 seed. You never want to face Michigan State in March. SLU is one of my favorite sleeper picks in this tournament to make a deep run. Oklahoma State beat Kansas AT KANSAS! Memphis went 30-4 on the season. Creighton’s Doug McDermott could drop 60 on you on 85% shooting and I wouldn’t be that surprised. Colorado State might be the best rebounding team in the country. This will be the most fun region to watch, but the least fun region to play in. If Louisville can make it to the Final Four, I think they’ll win it all. But making it there will be a bumpy road.
Kansas is, on paper, a great team. Few players have Jeff Withey’s post presence (he actually had a higher shot block percentage than Anthony Davis last year) and few players have the natural scoring ability of future lottery pick Ben McLemore. Despite losing the stars of last year’s run to the national championship game, this roster retains plenty of experience of players who have been there before. Kansas has been hot lately after some mid-season struggles (TCU anyone?). But if there’s anything I know about Kansas come March Madness, their regular season momentum doesn’t always carry over. Kansas will make it into at least the Sweet 16 because they are essentially playing at home these first two rounds. A matchup against UNC or Villanova could be tough if their shots don’t fall – and they have a tendency not to from time to time – but I expect them to be on fire playing in front of a packed house at the Sprint Center. After that, they would be playing either VCU or Michigan, and that’s a definite upset alert. VCU is a quality team that will be putting the pressure all over Kansas’s occasionally turnover prone guards. They also knocked KU out of the tournament just 2 years ago. Michigan meanwhile has the talent to play with any team in the country for any given game. IF the Jayhawks can make it to the Elite Eight, they will probably match up with either Florida or Georgetown. This might seem counter intuitive, but this matchup wouldn’t scare me as much. Kansas has a tendency to show up to play in big games, only losing one of their seven top 25 matchups this year (a 3 point, late game collapse at the beginning of the season to Michigan State). A VCU/Michigan matchup scares me because I think they could get cocky and decide not to show up. To sum up my thoughts – Kansas should make the Final Four, but I’m just not sure how confident I am that they actually will.
Indiana seemingly got screwed by the selection committee, who decided to put them all the way in the East bracket. The Hoosiers spent more time atop the regular season rankings than anyone, and only lost 6 games all season despite playing in the rugged Big Ten. What might be most impressive is the fact that they averaged 80 ppg despite playing in a conference typically known for it’s defensive intensity. They did this by playing incredibly efficient offensive basketball, boasting the 7th best FG% in the country. They’re led by Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo – one of whom was the preseason All-American POY and one of whom likely deserves to be the actual All-American POY. That’s some serious star power to contend with. Like Louisville, they really don’t have any bad losses on their record, but the way their season ended concerns me. Half of their losses have come in their last 6 games, going .500 over that stretch. In March, it’s all about what you’ve done for me lately, and Indiana just hasn’t done enough. Luckily for them, the East region isn’t nearly as tough as the Midwest. The only other teams here that I consider a legitimate threat to reach the Final Four are Syracuse, Butler, and Miami. However, the Hoosiers match up well with Syracuse, and Butler (who beat them during the regular season) probably won’t make it far enough to match up with them. Indiana should be scared to play Miami though. The Hurricanes have the athleticism to match Indiana, the defensive pressure to contain Indiana’s offense, and the size inside to man up with Zeller. This may be one of the only teams in the country that can shut down Oladipo and Zeller on the same night. I see Indiana reaching the Elite 8 but falling short to the Hurricanes.
That leaves us with Gonzaga, who despite their 31-2 record are still seen as a bit of a wildcard in this tournament. They aren't. Gonzaga could very feasibly be undefeated if it weren’t for an insane shooting performance from Illinois’ Brandon Paul and an incredulous series of events at the end of the Butler game that led to a barely-buzzer-beating loss. As is, they steamrolled through their conference with an undefeated record. Most people are disrespecting them for playing in the WCC, and I get that this isn’t a power conference. But when you win 16 games in ANY Div. 1 conference by an average of 19.1 points, you’re an absolute force to be reckoned with. On the season, they have a +18.2 scoring differential and a + 7.4 rebounding margin. They shoot 50.4% from the field while holding teams to 38%. This is a complete and dangerous team, and they are likely entering this tournament with the biggest chip on their shoulder of any team who has ever finished the regular reason ranked number 1 in the country. They will steamroll their way into the Elite 8 until they will finally be pushed by (likely) Ohio State, which I’m probably unfairly labeling as a toss-up, only because Ohio State has been playing great basketball towards the end of the season. Whatever you do, just don’t pen Gonzaga down as an early round upset. You will regret it.
Well there you have it – my analysis of the four number 1 seeds and what to expect of them come tip-off. Agree? Disagree? Let me hear about it in the comments section, and check back for more Tourney Time analysis as we near the craziest tournament in sports.
With the brackets being announced this afternoon, there’s a good chance you’ve already filled out your fair share of practice brackets while prepping for the official Armchair All Stars March Madness Competition
This year’s regular season has seen plenty of madness already, so who knows what kind of anarchy we will see in this year’s tournament. Is this the year a 16 seed knocks off a 1? Which sleeper teams will get hot at the right time? Which big names are poised to stumble? Here at Armchair All Stars, we’ll try to give you some great advice so you can take your office pools to the bank.
First up on my list of topics for the week is everyone’s favorite upset alert: the 5/12 matchups.
A little history on upset trends, including a brief look at last year’s tourney when eleven underdogs created some early round mania with unforeseen upsets. Two number 2 seeds were knocked off by 15’s, while Syracuse came sweatingly close to becoming the first number 1 seed to ever lose to a 16. Of the four 5/12 matchups, two 12 seeds won (VCU and South Florida) while the remaining two, Harvard and Long Beach State, each kept their respective games within single digits.
| |Sports Illustrated
did a good article on the peculiarity of the 5/12 matchup back in 2011, and some of the key points I’ll highlight here. First, you have to think of the mentality of the 12th seeded team going into the tournament. Any team that received a 12 seed will feel insulted and (often) rightfully so. That team is either a middle of the pack power conference team (Ole Miss, Oregon, California) or a good team from a disrespected, smaller conference (Akron). The bigger schools are going
to come away from Selection Sunday with bruised egos, believing that their strength of schedule should have earned them at least a 10. The smaller schools will come out of Selection Sunday with a chip on their shoulder, feeling that their entire body of work proves that they would be recognized as one of the better teams in the country, if only people had watched them play.
For the big schools, they’ve probably already played (and beaten) teams that are seeded above them. So when they face a 5 seed, there isn’t an underdog mentality so much as there is a “we’ve beaten you before, and we'll do it again” confidence. For the small schools, there are probably very few teams they’ve played and haven’t beaten. They expect to win every night that they take the court, and tourney time is no exception.
History backs up this mentality. 22 of the last 24 tournaments have seen at least one 5 seed upset by a 12 seed. Overall, 38 12 seeds have won their opening round matchup since the field was expanded to at least 64 teams. That means that about once every three games between a 5 and a 12 seed, the 12 seed wins. In other words, you can reasonably expect one or two 5/12 upsets a year, so with all of this being said do NOT go picking all four to be upsets. Instead, here is MY advice on which upsets to pick in the 5/12 match ups.
Midwest: (5) OK State
vs (12) Oregon.
While I expect Oklahoma State to win, this matchup scares me. Oklahoma State and Oregon are a lot more evenly matched than a lot of people might realize. On the season, they both have 8 losses, and Oregon has actually won more games (26) than Oklahoma State (24). Oklahoma State gets props for playing in a harder conference and having some respectable wins (vs K-State, vs Iowa State, AT KANSAS!) and only losing to Gonzaga by 1. Despite this, they’re only actually 2-4 vs the AP top 25. Meanwhile Oregon is 2-0 vs the top 25, with respectable wins over Arizona, UCLA (twice) and UNLV. Oklahoma State outscores its opponents by 9.5 points, while Oregon outscores opponents by 8.1. Looking at weaknesses, neither team shoots particularly well from 3. Oklahoma State tries to do too much on their own, only averaging 12.1 apg as a team. Oregon meanwhile turns the ball over a worryingly 14.9 times per game.
So why Oklahoma State? If you follow college basketball, you know that the Cowboys have one of the most mature and insanely well-rounded floor leaders in the country in Marcus Smart. Completely ignore the fact that he’s a freshman. When you lead your team to a win against Kansas AT KANSAS!
you can play on any stage. Along with Smart, the Cowboys have two other guys with an affinity for scoring which is what truly separates them from Oregon. Oregon is the definition of a hard-working, team-oriented group of average players. They can hang with the big boys and I expect them to keep this close. But when it’s close, you know that Smart will take his team under his control. Unless Oregon can find a clearly defined floor leader, their turnover proficiency will be their downfall.
South: (5) VCU
vs (12) Akron
If it wasn’t for the loss of their floor leader Alex Abreu due to suspension at the end of the regular season, I would be more tempted to take Akron in this matchup. They still have plenty of size and talent, primarily in big man Zeke Marshall. Expect Marshall to dominate in the post on offense, with VCU’s tallest contributor only standing 6-9. Also, expect him to lock down the lane defensively with his shot blocking abilities.
Luckily for VCU, they don’t rely on an inside game. They are all about speed, tempo, defense, and 3 point shots. They were in the Final Four just 2 years ago and have been a proven winner under Shaka Smart, one of the two best young coaches in the game alongside Butler’s Brad Stevens. And let’s not forget, they smoked a very good Butler team earlier this year by 32 points.
One concern of mine is that VCU has already lost to SLU twice this season, and Akron reminds me of SLU lite with their style of play. If VCU goes cold from deep, they could be in trouble. Under a different coach, I could see VCU looking ahead to a matchup with Michigan and stumbling here. However, Shaka Smart will have them focused and hungry. Ride VCU.
West: (5) Wisc vs (12) Ole Miss
Ignore the fact that Wisconsin played in the conference championship for the best conference in the country this weekend. Forget that they have beaten Indiana, a number 1 seed, twice this season, along with two wins over a very dangerous Michigan squad. And if you can, don’t worry about the fact that Bo Ryan, who consistently puts together a winning team out of underwhelming talent, coaches them. There’s a better chance than you might expect that this game won’t go their way.
Wisconsin is an ugly basketball team. And yes, I’ll admit, they have always thrived under this style. They don’t score a lot of points, because they take the entire shot clock on almost every possession. They don’t even shoot particularly well and don’t have an individual offensive talent to be truly scared of. They win because they rebound their own misses, don’t turn the ball over, and play solid enough defense to keep the game at their own pace.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, plays in the SEC which really doesn’t mean THAT much this year. They’ve only played one top 25 team (whom they lost to) compared to Wisconsin’s 11 games against top 25 teams. They finished with an identical conference record in the SEC that Wisconsin had in the much better Big Ten (12-6). So why the Rebels?
For one, they just won their conference tourney, knocking off 13th ranked Florida. You should check out Ethan Wolf’s article
on why you should roll with teams that win their conference tournament. Another reason is that Ole Miss has the rebounding presence to hang with Wisconsin on the boards and limit their second chance opportunities. Keeping Wisconsin to one shot per possession means more possessions for Ole Miss on the opposite end of the court, where this team knows how to score in bunches. They average nearly 78 points per game (compared with Wisconsin’s 65.5) and can shoot lights out from 3. *Correction: Marshall Henderson can shoot lights out from 3. Every year it seems like, some sleeper team goes on a streak in March behind one player’s insane sharp shooting (see: Stephen Curry) Unless Wisconsin can consistently get in his face and force him to get out of rhythm, expect Henderson to shoot this underdog past the Badgers. (5) UNLV
vs (12) California
UNLV has proven it can beat tournament teams. Unfortunately, it has also demonstrated that it will lose to non-tournament teams. Inconsistency is an issue for this team, and inconsistency should always raise red flags come tournament time. However, I think it’s going to be safe to role with the Runnin’ Rebels this weekend.
What are they facing in a 20-11 California squad? Defensively, they’ll have to contain the Pac-12 POY in Allen Crabbe, who scores nearly 19 a game. Offensively, they’ll have to score against a defense holding teams to a staggeringly low 39.6 FG%. That being said, California doesn’t have too many other scoring options, doesn’t have a three point offense, and only score about 67 per game.
UNLV’s dynamic duo of Anthony’s Bennett and Marshall should be able to ignite a solid offensive performance, and if they can shut down every one else on California’s team, I just don’t see Crabbe sparking the upset.
There you have it: My advice on how to pick apart the 5/12 matchup’s this year. Feel free to agree or disagree – it doesn’t matter to me because my bracket is going to beat yours in the long run. Leave your comments below and check back for more analysis and breakdowns before the brackets are due!
Welcome to the first installation of Bryce's Bulletin. In each segment I'll do my best to compile what I've been harping on around the water cooler. Mostly I'll talk sports but not always. I hope you enjoy it but won't be upset if you don't.
Big XII Coach of the Year: The Coach of the Year award is a seasonal thing, not a declaration of who is the best coach of all time. It's an award for whoever did the best coaching in that given year. Recruitment shouldn't play a role in CoY decisions. Bill Self shouldn't be rewarded for being a great recruiter, nor should he be penalized for having better players. It's all about X's and O's. Coaching is about getting consistency from your players across the entire season (or continually improving). It's about getting more out of any player than he could get out of himself. That is the criteria that should be used for the CoY awards. Along those lines, expectations must play a role in evaluating a coach's year. They aren't the end all be all, but they certainly are a factor. The Coach of the Year for the Big XII should be (and is now) Bruce Weber for KSU. His team was picked to finish fifth in the Big XII and ended up winning a share of first place. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat and challenged teams better than them. That, as a coach, is what you want out of your team. I'd written the above before the outcome of the
Kansas-Baylor game so I feel like this topic has been put to rest. I'm very glad that the Awards Committee got this one right.
Nine Straight For KU: How is this not a bigger story? I absolutely DESPISE KU. Really, I challenge you to find someone who hates them as much as me. But they deserve way more coverage for this Regular Season Conference Title streak. The Big XII is constantly disrespected, a contributing factor to the departure of a chunk of their former teams. The closest contemporary streak is OSU with three straight Big Ten titles. The only streak longer than KU's? UCLA with twelve (one of the best dynasties ever). Tip of the cap to KU for their efforts, even if some of it's shared. PS. Don't try and say the Round Robin format means KU has this ninth one outright. There are no tiebreakers. That isn't how the rules work. Both teams get banners and trophies and accolades. If we applied that same logic to earlier years then OU (05), Texas (06), and Texas (08) also get the outright because they beat KU every time they could in the regular season. You can't tweak the rules or make assertions one way and not the other. That right is reserved for me, and me alone (It's a term my friends call "Bryce-ing"). Nevertheless, congrats to KU for another banner in the rafters.
The Lake Show
#1: Wow, did you see Kobe last night?
#2: Yeah, man. The Mamba !! Championship
#Me: You realize it was the Hornets, Raptors, and decrepit Bulls?
#1 & #2: .......I told you
when the Lakers got Howard that this team wasn't going to walk into their 18th championship. Then, I told you
to bet the house on the 50-50 bet for the Lakers to make the playoffs. Utah has a horrible home stretch while LA gets a chunk of home games against a slightly softer schedule. Now, I'm telling you
to enjoy Kobe and Co while it lasts. Come playoff time, HE. IS. DONE. Lakers are out of the first round in five, MAYBE six when they play either the Spurs or Thunder (they stand a chance if they end up facing the Clippers). Sorry in advance to Laker Lovers. Big Ten
: Go against these guys come tourney time. I see their overall tourney performance playing out a lot like the Big East in 2010 (Yes, UCONN won that year). As far as brackets go, you should have written off almost all your Big Ten teams by the end of the Sweet 16 (maybe earlier). I think Indiana is the best of them but they have shown a good amount of weakness this season. Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming Bracketology posts for specifics.
The Walking Dead
: I think I enjoy watching this show and telling the characters what to do about as much as I enjoy watching sports franchises and pretending I know better than the GM. I started watching the show in an effort to kill time before Game of Thrones returns on March 31st and am now hooked. The show has everything you want in it: A reckless and strong headed cowboy leader, hill-billies with creative weapons, terrible parenting
, a blonde girl making bad decisions
, and an old wise man with one leg (not to mention the snarling dead bodies). I don't want to play spoiler so I'll give all two of my readers a week or so to get familiar with the show before bringing it up again.
That's it. That's all I've got for now. Our writers love to talk sports as much as you do. If you feel a topic isn't getting enough coverage, let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page
. Thanks for reading; stay tuned.
BY: Ethan Wolf
Finally! March is upon us and the madness is here. Everyone is always looking for an advantage when making his or her picks during the NCAA tournament. Lucky for you, to get started you don’t have to look any further than the conference tournaments beginning this week. A 9-year meta-analysis
of conference tournament and NCAA tournament results reveal clear cut correlations that will provide you with a significant advantage when making your picks and filling out your bracket. For those of you that don’t want to Google those words, let me break it down for you.
First let's look at picking your first round upsets. Everyone likes to say they were the smartest and picked the most elusive upsets. For the sake of this article, we will consider an upset as the games in which a seed of 13 or worse won. I’ll have another article in the near future with an entire breakdown on first round upsets, but for the time being I’ll leave you with this: In the past 9 years there have been 15 first round upsets, and of those 15 top 4 seeds to lose, eleven (73%) lost their conference tournament. So if you are picking a top 4 seed to lose in the first round, you should make sure they didn’t cut the nets down during their conference tournament.
Let’s dive deeper. This year, more so than ever, people don’t know who to pick to go to the Final Four. When in doubt, people tend to go with the number 1 seeds to go to the Final Four. However, just because you get a number 1 seed doesn’t mean you are destined for the Final Four. Of the 13 teams to get a number one seed without winning their conference tournament, only three (Duke in 04, UNC in 05, and Kentucky 2012) made the Final Four (23%). So before blindly picking a 1 seed to go to the Final Four it would be wise to check out their conference tournament results.
In general, people who win their conference tournament fair pretty well throughout the tournament. They should always be given careful consideration when you are making your picks. I don’t have to go back very far to illustrate this point. People were surprised when giant killer Butler made back-to-back Final Fours in 2010 and 2011 as a 5 and 8 seed, respectively. However, if you dig into the history books a bit it isn’t that shocking. In both years, even as the 8 seed, Butler was the highest seed in its bracket to win its conference tournament. To sum it up, look out for conference tournament winners when picking.
However, we can take it one step further. Conference tournaments are a huge indicator of who gets to and wins the Championship. If you were thinking about taking a 1 seed conference tournament winner to go to the Finals, the eight number 1 seeds to win their conference tournament and make the Final Four faired exceptionally well once they got there. Every single one of these teams made it to the Finals, with the exception of 2008 when all four teams in the Final Four were 1 seeds that won their conference tournament, and thus two teams had to lose.
You might be wondering how the 16 teams that did not win their conference tournament but reached the Final Four performed in the past 9 Final Fours. Putting it nicely…not too well. Eight of these teams played each other and thus cannot be used for this data. That leaves us with the other eight teams. These teams are only 2-6 against conference tournament winners in the Final Four, with Georgia Tech in 2004 and Kentucky in 2012 being the lone National Championship winner. So it would be unwise to pick a conference tournament loser to beat a conference tournament winner.
Finally, the effects of winning a conference tournament are most apparent when it comes to the National Championship. Of the past nine National Champions, six of them have been teams that won their conference tournament (67%), and in only one of the nine years did a team that did not win their conference tournament beat a team that did (UNC in 05).
If you are trying to make money in March, NOW is the time to start paying attention.