Bubble Watch: Sunday, February 26th

Bubble teams, as usual, are in bold.

Sunday, February 26th:

Cincinnati @ South Florida (12PM ESPN3) – Huge, huge bubble game in the Big East. The Bearcats are in slightly better position but are still firmly on the bubble. South Florida is on the outside looking in and definitely need this win to improve their resume.

#24 Indiana @ Minnesota (1PM ESPN) – Minnesota has dropped four straight and are teetering on the outside of the bubble.  They surely need this win against a Top 25 team or they are likely NIT bound.

California @ Colorado (5:30PM) – California is hovering around an 8/9 seed right now but a loss would put them in the bubble conversation as the Pacific-12 is quite weak this season.

Iowa @ Illinois (6PM BTN) – Like Minnesota, Illinois is in a tailspin, dropping their last six. A must win game against an Iowa team which has done surprisingly well in conference play under third year skipper Fran McCaffery.

#16 Florida State @ Miami (FL) (6PM ESPNU) – Miami have lost three of their last four games but lost by just five @ Florida State earlier this month. For a team squarely on the bubble with state bragging rights on the line (for the 451 non-UF college basketball fans living in Florida), this is an important game.

Oregon @ Oregon State (7:30PM) – Oregon is hovering around the cut line with this being the most difficult of their three remaining games. Winning out and a Pacific 12 tournament run might just lock up a bid.

I’ll be doing daily Bubble Watches and other NCAA tournament related work until Selection Sunday (March 11th). Stay tuned.

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.

Brief Big East Tournament Predictions

Tournament Bracket

First Round:
UConn vs Depaul – Noon ESPN2
Seton Hall vs Rutgers – 2PM ESPN2
Villanova vs South Florida – 7PM ESPNU
Marquette vs Providence – 9PM ESPNU

Second Round:
UConn vs Georgetown – Noon ESPN
St. John’s vs Seton Hall – 2:30PM ESPN
Cincinnati vs Villanova -7PM ESPN
West Virginia vs Marquette – 930PM ESPN

Third Round:
Pittsburgh vs UConn – Noon ESPN
Syracuse vs St. John’s – 230PM ESPN
Notre Dame vs Cincinnati – 7PM ESPN
Louisville vs West Virginia – 930PM ESPN

Semi-Finals:
Pittsburgh vs Syracuse – 7PM ESPN
Cincinnati vs Louisville – 930PM ESPN

Finals:
Syracuse vs Louisville – 915PM ESPN

Darkhorse(s): Cincinnati & UConn

Freeman Wills Georgetown to Win

You could feel it in the air. Something was brewing in the Wells Fargo Center. The Villanova Wildcats erased a 10 point deficit with 6:37 to play by implementing a three-quarter court press, and then a full court press. Georgetown looked rattled. Fortunately for Hoya fans, star guard Austin Freeman was immune to it all.

Someone forgot to tell Mr. Freeman that the 19,000 howling fans, including hoards of raucous Villanova students, were supposed to be intimidating. Freeman tallied 30 points on 10-19 shooting, 6 assists and was perfect from the foul line (8 for 8). I’m no doctor, but I think the insulin that’s injected into Austin Freeman’s veins to treat his diabetes has a side-effect: cold-bloodedness.

Try to prove otherwise.

Georgetown's Austin Freeman celebrates after an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, in Philadelphia. Georgetown won 69-66. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Freeman scored 10 of Georgetown’s last twelve points. The other two? A visionary pass from a doubled Austin Freeman to a wide open Nate Lubick, who threw down a thunderous jam which left the backboard gyrating, and the crowd stunned.

Since that 6:37 mark, the Cats kept clawing. The lead was cut to 8, then 6 after an acrobatic Maalik Wayns shot in the lane. Austin Freeman fired back with two foul shots, extending the lead back to 8. A Maalik Wayns jumper, Corey Stokes three and two Maalik Wayns free throws later and the lead was suddenly just 1 point. The crowd was in a “Jump Around” type frenzy.

Austin Freeman would have none of it.

In the final 1:43, Freeman would go on to score 6 points and make a beautiful pass for the other two. After Nate Lubick’s slam that extended the lead to 3 with :25 to play, Wayns made yet another shot, imitating Austin Freeman. The Georgetown guard proved that an imitation is not quite as good as the original, by drawing a foul and sinking two free throws with :14 remaining to extend the lead back to three. This time, Villanova had no answer.

Antonio Pena was forced to attempt a 3PT shot with :05 remaining because of a stout Hoya defense. The shot was strong, and guard Dominic Cheek didn’t have time to grab the rebound, race to the arc, square his body, and get off a mechanically sound shot before the buzzer sounded. His fading away attempt was way short.

The Georgetown bench erupted and ran onto the court to celebrate with their teammates. The Wells Fargo Center was eerily silent, save the Georgetown players and their rowdy classmates who rose hell in the cheap seats all day. You could only hear one thing…

“Hoya, Saxa! Hoya, Saxa! Hoya, Saxa!”

Stacked Saturday: A Primer

Today’s slate of games is waaay too much to cover in a few 140 character tweets. Starting 30 minutes ago with Louisville at Marquette tipping at 11AM and ending with three 11PM West Coast tip offs, this Saturday has just about everything for the casual and die-hard college basketball fan.

The casual fan might lean towards the more televised match ups between the biggest name schools. Fair enough, there are plenty of those today. At noon, Cincinnati travels to the Carrier Dome to take on undefeated #4 Syracuse. The two teams are a combined 33-1 on the season, although Syracuse is a bit more tested. The Bearcats came up short in their first real test (72-61 @Villanova), they want to prove their worth today. This game will be on ESPN3 and probably SNY in the NY/NJ area.

An hour after the tip of Syracuse – Cincinnati, two ranked Big 12 teams collide. #12 Missouri travels to College Station to take of #13 Texas A/M. Missouri dropped their opener @ Colorado, but rebounded against Nebraska (77-69). The Aggies are fresh off a POUNDING of Oklahoma State (71-48). At the same time, Maryland will be playing in Philadelphia against the #7 ranked Villanova Wildcats on CBS. Maryland is in search of their first signature win – this one would be huge.

An hour later on the Big Ten Network, #16 Illinois has the tough task of playing at the Kohl Center. The #21 ranked Badgers are 164-16 at the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan. Talk about a home court advantage. I expect Bo Ryan’s team to be focused after losing uncharacteristically against Michigan State. The Badgers were 35-1 when tied or leading with 4 minutes to play — they lost.

The above are the four games the casual fan will not want to miss. But what about the more obscure games that the more astute fan is drooling over?

#22 ranked UCF is playing at Southern Miss (5PM). The Knights can’t afford to drop too many C-USA games if they want to hold on to an at-large bid. This is no knock of the Golden Eagles, who post a 13-3 (2-1) record and a very talented Gary Flowers.

At noon on ESPN, Vanderbilt and Tennessee go head to head in the SEC. Tennessee already has 6 losses and an 0-2 start in the SEC. Its safe to say that the Vols are hungry for a win.

Oklahoma State continues their road trip against the upstart Colorado Buffalo, who are off to a 2-0 start in the Big 12, including an upset of Missouri. This game tips at 1:30 on ESPN3.

There are two bubble battles in the weak ACC: NC State @ Florida State (4PM ESPN3) and Boston College @ Miami (6PM ESPNU). Florida State is looking to build off their signature upset of #1 Duke and Boston College wants to keep their 3-0 ACC record flawless.

There are always threats of upsets on these huge Saturdays (last Saturday had many upsets), here are my top 3:

1) Penn State @ #2 Ohio State – 530 PM BTN – Why not? Penn State has upset two ranked Big Ten teams in a row, and Ohio State has struggled to put away its last few opponents.

2) #6 San Diego State @ New Mexico – 6PM MWN – The Pit. The Pit. The Pit. Throw out the embarrassing loss to Wyoming, this is undefeated San Diego State on your home court.

3) #23 Temple @ Duquesne – Noon – Duquesne is one of the most underrated teams in the nation. I don’t think they mind that title as long as they are overlooked for at least one more day.

CBS Scoreboard

Bubble Games of the Week: Bye Bye Winter Break

College students all across the nation are flooding back onto campuses this week to start the second semester, but most importantly: cheer on their men’s basketball team. Some students have more cheering to do than others. If you’re a fan of one of the teams in bold below, losing your voice is mandatory.

Monday, January 10th:
#11 Notre Dame @ Marquette – 7PM ESPN2 – Notre Dame travels to Wisconsin to take on a Marquette team that really needs a signature win on their resume. Most of the nation will be watching the BCS National Championship, the die hards will be watching this Big East match-up.

Tuesday, January 11th:
North Carolina State @ Boston College – 9PM ESPNU – Boston College can’t afford many slip ups in the ACC. North Carolina State is hanging on to the bubble picture by their finger nails.
Florida @ Tennessee – 9PM ESPN – Both teams are bubble-IN, but Tennessee can really use a win. They have been all over the place this season. Its time to buckle down in SEC play.

Wednesday, January 12th:
#1 Duke @ Florida State – 9PM ESPN – Florida State has a poor resume. No better way to improve it than a win against the #1 team in the land.
#4 Syracuse @ St. John’s – 7PM ESPNU – The Johnnies have quickly propelled their way into the field of 68. Will they solidify their spot?
Nebraska @ #12 Missouri – 7PM ESPN3 – Nebraska is an outsider, just like Colorado. Will they play as well as Colorado did against Mizzou? They hope so.
Georgia @ Vanderbilt – 8PM ESPN3 – Both teams are in – a Georgia win would prove Kentucky wasn’t a fluke.
Oklahoma State @ #13 Texas A/M – 8PM ESPN3 – Oklahoma State is bubble-IN, but a win would really help give them a single digit seed.

Thursday, January 13th:
Old Dominion @ Drexel – 7PM ESPNU – Drexel’s stock has plummeted. A big opportunity here.

Friday, January 14th:
No Bubble Games.

Saturday, January 15th:
Marquette @ #23 Louisville – 11AM ESPN2 – Second big chance of the week for Marquette, this time, on the road.
Maryland @ Villanova – 1PM CBS – Maryland has come up short in their big games this season. They travel to Philadelphia to take on their second opponent from the City of Brotherly Love. They hope to fair better than they did against Temple.
Nebraska @ #3 Kansas – 2PM ESPNU – Like Marquette, second opportunity of the week for Nebraska. Another huge road game.
Oklahoma State @ Colorado – 130PM ESPN3 – Oklahoma State has the chance to solidify their spot, or Colorado can attract more attention via a win.
North Carolina State @ Florida State – 4PM – Two ACC outsiders. Must win for both.
Georgia @ Ole Miss – 5PM ESPN3 – Important SEC bubble clash. More important for Ole Miss, who doesn’t have any good wins.
Baylor @ Iowa State – 6PM ESPN3 – Iowa State has dropped from my LockBox, but Baylor needs this win to stay in the hunt.
Boston College @ Miami – 6PM ESPNU – Yet another ACC bubble match-up. These teams are in better shape then the rest, but still a must win.
Dayton @ Xavier – 8PM CBS-CS – Xavier is in worse position than Dayton.

Sunday, January 16th:
#11 Notre Dame @ St. John’s – Noon ESPN3 – Huge noon showdown in the Garden.

Resume Rundown: January 5th

I just completed the first “Resume Rundown” for the 2010-11 College Basketball season. There are a few things to keep in mind when viewing it:

– The teams listed are all teams vying for at-large bids. No 1-bid league leaders, or other league leaders are included. Ex: Duke, Syracuse, etc. I included Butler at the bottom for fun – I assume they lead the Horizon in this Rundown (even though they current are not).
– There are 18 one-bid leagues, 13 other conference winners (31 auto-bids). This leaves 37 at-large bids. I have it divided in 19 “Lock” teams and 18 “bubble-IN” teams. The rest are “bubble-OUT”.
– If there is a question mark after a team’s Good Win / Bad Loss team, that means it is potentially a GW or BL. Ex: Virginia. They can tank in the ACC or prove to be a solid mid 100 RPI team.
– RPI and SOS are taken from the beginning of this week (Jan 3rd).
– Top 100 wins aren’t very reliable right now. There are a bunch of mid-majors that played tough teams that won’t finish Top 100. This pads the Top 100 win stats of some teams.
– I haven’t done extensive resume comparisons, I’m merely just laying everything out. The actual order of the bubble-IN and OUT teams will be more accurate as the season progresses.
– I will release a Rundown every week, with everything updated. I will be releasing the Lockbox either later today or tomorrow. Stay tuned for that.

Please be sure to contact me if you see any Good Win / Bad Losses that I forgot to add. Any mistakes in record (there will be some, as RPI vs Overall records differ), etc.

Feel free to edit my Rundown and update one for yourself.

Resume Rundown download