Eating Crow: Michigan, UConn, Notre Dame

Its that time of the year, crow eating time. The time when the college basketball fans that had big enough cojones to make pre-season predictions look back at them and either pat themselves on the back, or just laugh. This will be the laughing edition.

It seems fitting to lead crow eating off with the biggest of all the crows: Kemba Walker and Connecticut. Who would have thought that the Huskies, who had to replace Gavin Edwards, Stanley Robinson and Jerome Dyson (42PPG~) would have won the Big East Tournament and make the Final 4? I didn’t, the AP/USA poll didn’t and even the coaches who had to face Connecticut this season didn’t think they’d be this good. Kemba Walker and a handful of unproven freshmen put Husky Nation on their back, all the way to the Final 4. Kemba Walker upped his PPG average by nearly 10 points and Jeremy Lamb has spearheaded the impressive freshman class with 11PPG.

The best news? Connecticut’s run isn’t even over.

Next up, the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan only garnered an eight seed and exited in the second round, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Coming off a sub .500 season while losing your two leading scorers (Manny Harris 18PPG, DeShawn Sims 16PPG) isn’t a recipe for a success anywhere but Ann Arbor. The Wolverines were picked to finish in the bottom third of the Big Ten by just about everyone. After stumbling out to a 1-6 start to Big Ten play (11-9 overall), these predictions looked spot on. However, a 9-4 finish, including wins over Michigan State (x2), Penn State and Illinois produced a 180 in Michigan’s season that would leave “experts” scratching their heads. The Wolverines capped off an impressive season by going down in honorable fashion in the NCAA tournament. They thrashed Tennessee in the first round and nearly knocked off #1 seeded Duke in the second round.

Michigan graduates no one and several of their contributors were just freshmen, including the impressive Tim Hardaway Jr. Its safe to say Michigan won’t be overlooked when next season’s batch of pre-season predictions are released.

The last plate of crow I will be eating has been shipped from South Bend. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish exceeded my expectations and then some. Once again, the Big East coaches also slipped up. Bubble team? More like a 2 seed.

I had some confidence in Mike Brey’s ability to replace Luke Harangody since Notre Dame played so well without him at the conclusion of last season. Did I think the team would get much better without him? Not a chance. But thats what they did. Throw out their early exit of the NCAA tournament against a Florida State team that was a huge matchup problem and the Fighting Irish surely exceeded expectations. Heck, I think any Irish fan would have taken a second round exit in the NCAA tournament in a heartbeat last September.

Will Mike Brey be able to conjure another miracle next season? The Irish lose four seniors that played major minutes (Hansbrough, Abromaitis, Scott, Nash).

Honorable mentions:

Penn State – After winning just 11 games last season, the Nittany Lions made the Big Ten Championship game for the first time in their history and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. Penn State seemed out of sorts after losing to Maine at home in December, but rebounded nicely by finishing 9-9 in the Big Ten and punched their ticket by winning three games in Indianapolis.

Arizona – In Sean Miller’s first season, the Wildcats missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1984. How did they respond? By losing the Pac-10 tournament in OT on this shot and losing to Connecticut by 2 in the Elite 8. Not bad.

La Salle transfer Aaric Murray favors Kentucky

As most people who are familiar with La Salle basketball were expecting, sophomore big man Aaric Murray has decided to transfer. According to most accounts, Murray has tons of talent, but his ability to stay focused on and off the court is his downfall. Now, the 6’10 talent from Philadelphia looks to take his inconsistent talent elsewhere.

Murray will finish up the spring semester at La Salle and if he decides to enroll at another school instead of playing professional ball, he will have to sit out the entire 2011-12 season.

If Murray can prove that he will be an asset to any team, he should have no trouble finding a new home. The big man was a ESPN Top 100 recruit out of high school and averaged 15PPG & 7RPG this season for La Salle. Per a source, Murray listed Florida, Rutgers, West Virginia and Kentucky as potential suitors. He added that he would go to Kentucky if they offered him. West Virginia was on Murray’s list of potential schools coming out of high school.

I will be updating Murray’s transfer process if more information arises.

Selection Sunday Reaction – Eye Test!?, Shut up Vitale!

If I hear the phrase “eye test” one more time, I might just have to shoot someone. What does it even mean? Someone thinks a team is good without any real quantitative data. So does Maryland pass the “eye test”? They played a lot of teams close, but didn’t win them. It just seems like a real general term to dis-credit mid-majors or teams that you can’t really argue against. Lets continue.

I have major issues with Clemson and UAB being selected over Colorado. I can understand why Virginia Tech wasn’t selected, but Colorado HAS to be in over at least one of these teams. Colorado has 6 Top 50 wins whereas Clemson and UAB only have 1, COMBINED. That one win is over VCU (49), at home. Clemson went 9-7 in a mediocre ACC and has zero Top 50 wins. Committee, you done screwed up.

I have been a major defender of VCU, and I’ll continue it here. vs UCLA, at ODU, vs George Mason, at Wichita State. All very impressive wins away from home. Sure they have three bad losses and a bunch of losses, but which bubble team doesn’t? I can see arguments for VCU being out, but there is definitely a strong argument for them to be in. If someone says otherwise, they are dead wrong.

Dick Vitale needs to shut up. Your passion and ranting has nothing to do how much a team should deserve a bid. Virginia Tech beat your Dukies, BIG WHOOP. They did little outside of that, including a very mediocre OOC and a 2-6 record against the Top 50. The argument for them to be OUT is definitely there. He must feel a little dumb after claiming Virginia Tech had locked up a bid after beating Duke a few weeks ago. So biased.

On the flipside, major props to Doug Gottlieb for ripping UAB and Clemson to shreds. Not just because he agrees with me and because he is one my favorite college basketball analysists, but because he doesn’t use the phrase “eye test”. Okay, maybe because he agrees with me.

Joe Lunardi fails again. Lunardi got 65/68 teams correct and royally screwed up with Saint Mary’s. He had the Gaels 9 spots ahead of of VCU. The guy who gets the most plugs tanks again on Selection Sunday. Good job ESPN!

I find it a bit odd that no one is really arguing against USC, everyone is picking on VCU instead. You can guess which team is from a BCS conference and which is a mid-major. USC can be argued either way, they are deserving of a bid, but have also slipped up in a ton of games.

In conclusion, I think there is an argument for Colorado to be left out, but their ability to beat top teams when compared to Clemson and UAB is their ticket IN. As for Virginia Tech, I thought they should be in over UAB/Clemson, but I can definitely understand why they aren’t. Not so much for Colorado.

Additionally, I probably shouldn’t have had Colorado in as a LOCK when I saw that Jerry Palm didn’t even have them in. Never go against Jerry! Also pretty surprised that Georgia is such a high seed, I had them as my last team in.

Hopefully that rant wasn’t too all over the place. This has surely been a wild Championship Week followed by a wild Selection Sunday. Good luck to all of you in your brackets. March Madness is upon us.

Final Field of 68 Prediction

Auto Bids:
1. ACC – Duke
2. American East – Boston U
3. Atlantic 10 – Richmond
4. Atlantic Sun – Belmont
5. Big 12 – Kansas
6. Big East – UConn
7. Big Sky – No. Colorado
8. Big South – UNC-Ashville
9. Big Ten – Ohio State
10. Big West – UC Santa Barbara
11. Colonial – Old Dominion
12. Conference USA – Memphis
13. Horizon – Butler
14. Ivy – Princeton
15. MAAC – SPC
16. MAC – Akron
17. MEAC – Hampton
18. Missouri Valley – Indiana State
19. Mountain West – San Diego State
20. Northeast – Long Island
21. Ohio Valley – Morehead St
22. Pac 10 – Washington
23. Patriot – Bucknell
24. SEC – Kentucky
25. Southern – Wofford
26. Southland – TX San Antonio
27. Summit – Oakland
28. Sun Belt -AR Little Rock
29. SWAC – Alabama State
30. WAC – Utah St.
31. West Coast – Gonzaga

At-large locks (32-61):
Atlantic 10: Temple, Xavier
Big 12: Texas, Texas A/M, Kansas State, Missouri, Colorado
Big Ten: Purdue, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan
Big East: Villanova, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, St. John’s, Syracuse, WVU, Cincinnati, Marquette
CAA: George Mason
Moutain West: BYU, UNLV
Pac-10: UCLA, Arizona, Florida
SEC: Vanderbilt, Tennessee

Bubble teams:
62. Michigan St. (18-14 (11-10) RPI: 47 SOS: 10 vsTop50: 5-13 vsTop100: 10-13 GW: Wisky, Wash, Illinois, Purdue BL: Iowa)
63. Illinois (19-13 (9-10) RPI: 46 SOS: 18 vsTop50: 5-10 vsTop100: 11-11 GW: UNC, Zaga, Wisky, MSU BL: UIC, Indiana )
64. Florida St. (21-10 (11-6) RPI: 54 SOS: 81 vsTop50: 1-5 vsTop100: 6-9 GW: Duke BL: Auburn)
65. VCU (23-11 (14-7) RPI: 50 SOS: 87 vsTop50: 3-5 vsTop100: 8-8 GW: UCLA, ODU, GMason BL: Georgia St, USF, NEastern)
66. Virginia Tech (21-11 (11-8) RPI: 60 SOS: 75 vsTop50: 2-6 vsTop100: 7-8 GW: PSU, Duke FSUx2 BL: Virginiax2, GT)
67. USC (19-14 (11-9) RPI: 67 SOS: 39 vsTop50: 5-5 vsTop100: 8-8 GW: Texas, Tenn, UCLA, Arizona, Wash BL: Rider, TCU, Bradley, Oregon St, Oregon )
68. Georgia (21-11 (10-8) RPI: 48 SOS: 40 vsTop50: 3-9 vsTop100: 5-11 GW: UK, Tenn, UAB, CU BL: None)
—Bubble Bursts Here—
Clemson (21-11 (10-8) RPI: 56 SOS: 59 vsTop50: 0-6 vsTop100: 9-8 GW:BC x2, VT BL: Virginia, NCSt, S. Carolina)
Alabama (21-11 (13-5) RPI:82 SOS: 115 vsTop50:4-4 vsTop100:5-7 GW: UK, Georgia x2, Tenn BL: SHU, Iowa, Prov, Arkansas)
Saint Mary’s (23-8 (12-4) RPI: 45 SOS: 100 vsTop50: 1-4 vsTop100: 3-6 GW: SJU, Zaga BL: Portland, San Diego)
UAB (22-8 (12-5) RPI: 31 SOS: 79 vsTop50: 0-4 vsTop100: 10-7 GW: VCU BL: Arizona State)
Boston College (20-12 (10-8) RPI: 58 SOS: 38 vsTop50: 1-6 vsTop100: 7-9 GW: A&M, VT x2 BL: Yale, Rhodie)
Harvard (21-6 (12-3) RPI: 35 SOS: 141 vsTop50: 1-5 vsTop100: 3-5 GW: BC, CU, Princeton BL: Yale)
Missouri St. (25-8 (17-4) RPI: 42 SOS: 126 vsTop50: 0-1 vsTop100: 3-6 GW: WSU x2 BL:Northern Iowa, Evansville)

Teams on the outside of the asterisks are teams that I would be surprised if they were left out, or included in the field – respectively. Ex: If Boston College makes the field, I will be surprised. Teams that are on the insides of the asterisks are all teams that I can see go either way.

There are dozens of arguments for the teams within the asterisks to go either way – I’ve heard just about all of them. It will really be up to the committee to see how they handle resumes like Virginia Tech’s, Alabama’s, USC’s, Clemson’s and Saint Mary’s. Each team has their faults, its all about how the committee weighs the pros and cons of each resume.

The team that I’ve been high on for the past few days is Virginia Commonwealth. I am really impressed with their high Top 100 win total for a mid-major as well as their Top 50 wins which are all away from home.

A team that I am specifically not impressed with is Saint Mary’s. 2-6 against the Top 75 is not getting it done for me. They have a “cleaner” looking resume than USC and Alabama, but I’m just not buying it.

Overall, I think it is ultimately down to Georgia, USC, Alabama, Clemson and Saint Mary’s for the last two bids. I took Georgia and USC, but I can really any of those teams making the field of 68.

We’ll check back after the Selection Show to see how I did, hopefully better than last year (64/65)!

Brief Pac-10 Tournament Predictions

Tournament Bracket

Times are local

First Round:
Stanford vs Oregon State – 3/9 6:10PM – FSN
Oregon vs Arizona State – 3/9 8:40PM – FSN

Second Round:
USC vs California – 3/10 12:10PM – FSN
Arizona vs Stanford – 3/10 2:40PM – FSN
UCLA vs Oregon – 3/10 6:10PM – FSN
Washington vs Washington State – 3/10 8:40PM – FSN

USC vs Arizona – 3/11 6:10PM – FSN
UCLA vs Washington State – 3/11 8:40PM – FSN

Arizona vs UCLA – 3/12 3:15PM – CBS

Went a little outside the box with these predictions. Washington won’t have Venoy Overton for their game against Washington State, while Klay Thompson will be in uniform for the Cougars.

Dark horse: USC

Brief Big 12 Tournament Predictions

Tournament Bracket

Times are local

First Round:
Nebraska vs Oklahoma State – 3/9 11:30AM – Big 12 Network
Colorado vs Iowa State – 3/9 2PM – Big 12 Network
Baylor vs Oklahoma – 3/9 6PM – Big 12 Network
Missouri vs Texas Tech – 3/9 8:30PM – Big 12 Network

Second Round:
Kansas vs Nebraska – 3/10 11:30AM – Big 12 Network
Kansas State vs Colorado – 3/10 2PM – Big 12 Network
Texas vs Baylor – 3/10 6PM – Big 12 Network
Texas A/M vs Missouri – 3/10 8:30PM – ESPN2

Kansas vs Kansas State – 3/11 6PM – Big 12 Network
Texas vs Missouri – 3/11 8:30PM – Big 12 Network

Kansas vs Texas – 3/12 5PM – ESPN

Call me boring but no real surprises here besides Missouri over the Aggies in the second round. Expect a Kansas – Texas championship game.

Darkhorse: Kansas State

Brief Big Ten Tournament Predictions

Tournament Bracket

First Round:
Northwestern vs Minnesota – 3/10 2:30PM – ESPN2
Michigan State vs Iowa – 3/10, 25 minutes after NW/Minny – ESPN2
Penn State vs Indiana – 3/10 7:30PM – Big Ten Network

Second Round:
Ohio State vs Northwestern – 3/11 Noon – ESPN
Michigan vs Illinois – 3/11, 25 after OSU/NW – ESPN
Purdue vs Michigan State – 3/11 630PM – Big Ten Network
Penn State vs Wisconsin – 3/11, 25 minutes after Purdue/MSU – Big Ten Nework

Ohio State vs Michigan – 3/12 1:40PM – CBS
Purdue vs Penn State – 3/12, 25 minutes after OSU/UM – CBS

Ohio State vs Purdue – 3/13 3:30PM – CBS

Not many surprises here. Penn State can make a run to the semi-finals since Wisconsin isn’t the same team away from home. Don’t think they will, but I took them to spice up the predictions a little bit.