Many pitfalls amongst many talented teams as The Race To Indy begins
Good evening, one and all:
To most of my longtime online friends, I bet you were all taking advantage of that four dollar Old Navy shirt sale on Saturday. Looking splendid as usual.
And yes, I broke out the multi-colored classic shirt, very cool look on me.
To the new fans of this blog, please be prepared for the journey of a lifetime. It can be both exhilarating, fun, happy, and sometimes strange and heartbreaking–and that all usually happens by the first weekend.
Looks like most of my online friends are here, they are doing well and staying healthy. There was one excused absence tonight, as Yasmin briefly informed the masses over the weekend that she would be shooting for some major pay TV project–but we don’t know what that project is as of this posting.
Tiffany briefly raises her hand and remarks shockingly, “Well, how lucky of her.”
Well Tiffany, sometimes you have to be more lucky than good. And that is exactly what the 2015 NCAA Tournament is going to be about.
Seeds 1 through 4 were pretty much givens, but seeds 5 through 11 were definite head scratchers across most of the board.
Before I confuse a few more ladies, um–I see way in the back our newest entry in Samantha. She has a comment as she hangs up her mobile phone:
“Sure thing…I’m not lying.”
Apparently, the Selection Committee was thinking way differently than in years past.
But first, I wish to get my brief rambling rant out of the way before I dive into the brackets and discuss at length which 12 seeds have a great shot at upsetting the 5’s this time around.
Unlike in years past, the bubble was very kind
In a nutshell, the Committee let too many bubble teams through the back door, whereas I felt a few other schools should have been the last teams in the field.
I cannot recall a year where there were so many arguments about which teams should not have been included in the field, as opposed to schools who were definitely deserving (case in point, SMU in 2014) and were not invited in the end.
I presented my cases against Texas, Indiana, and UCLA.
Texas went 20-13 overall, but their strength of schedule was a questionable 85.
Indiana lost a bunch of games to teams they should have beaten. In fact, they lost seven games against teams in the RPI’s Top 25. That should never happen, IMHO. Their strength of schedule was 74, I get that. But again, why did they get an invite and teams like Temple, Colorado State, and Murray State were forced to go to the NIT?
My final rant is against UCLA. If the Committee was going strictly by past history and their 11 national titles, so be it.
Bottom line is at this time of year, it is the overall body of work. You often hear Clark Kellogg on CBS say constantly the phrase, “they passed the eye test.” And UCLA had only one major win, ONE–and that was at home against Pac-12 foe Utah who also made the field. The Bruins had a very poor 110 RPI against non-conference teams, but made up for it in conference play.
Although they do enter the Big Dance winning 6 of their last 9 regular season games, I would have had Murray State in because of the simple fact that they won an incredible 25 straight games before that last second three which doomed their tournament hopes in the Ohio Valley title game to Belmont. Like Indiana, they also lost 7 of 8 against the RPI’s Top 25–doesn’t make any sense to me. Richmond was a similar case, but their 19-13 record did not warrant any major consideration in the final analysis.
And yes, the Committee earlier this evening did mention that if Wyoming had not beaten San Diego State for the Mountain West title, Temple would have been the last team in instead of Ole Miss.
Temple at times during the season played like a team on fire, but cooled off down the stretch losing both at SMU and at Tulsa. They had a 23-10 record, and an RPI that was actually higher than Davidson at 34 overall, and a very nice 44 in non-conference play.
Now that I have gotten my rant out of the way, I invite you to all play one song by Weird Al Yankovic and let us get all of this negativity out of our systems as soon as humanly possible.
If you want a simple suggestion, I would suggest “I Lost On Jeopardy”–definitely a funny song to wrap more than your head around. Please Google the song and I am sure you will have some instant fun.
When you come back from that little song break, let’s do what I said initially what I was going to for your blog reading pleasure.
It is time to dive head first into the brackets.
Besides, this time of year is supposed to be big time FUN!
(Big Z writes the letters, F, U, and N in big capital letters that nearly fills up the entire virtual blackboard).
That’s FUN, but I couldn’t afford enough to put the CAPS in neon and glittering lights for all of the ladies reading. I had to take care of some other, shall I say, business expenses for my other calling online (some of you already know that is in other social media circles, but I won’t go there).
Let’s go through the brackets and yes, I already know all of the tip times and which channels you can find each of the games. More on that in one of my next blogs.
The State of Indiana is getting a lot of love from CBS–four of their five tournament entrants will not need cable. Only Valparaiso will be seen on cable this Friday. More on that in an upcoming blog when I reveal the full list of tip times, pod sites, and announcer lists so you will have everything you need. I will highlight again the key games that would be worth checking out and not waste any space on schools that we know with almost 100 percent certainty that they will advance during their first game.
Kentucky’s pursuit to perfection will begin with the winner of the Opening Round game from Tuesday as Manhattan takes on Hampton, the lone school with an under .500 record.
Their depth is simply too strong and pound for pound, UK should have an easy path to the Sweet 16. But similar to stalls on pit lane during the Indianapolis 500, this road to Indy will have several roadblocks and a few yellow flags along the way.
Thursday also has a semi-intriguing 8/9 game with Cincinnati taking on Purdue. The Boilers were not too strong early dropping two games to teams with RPI’s in the 300’s. But Matt Painter and company righted the ship at the right time and finished in the Top 4 in a top heavy Big Ten Conference. Both teams can defend very well, but I think Purdue with their overall athleticism and physicality will have enough to beat out Cincy’s big men.
Come Saturday, however–if Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson comes out of retirement, they would have a chance but I just don’t see Kentucky breaking much of a sweat en route to their Sweet 16 encounter in Cleveland against the Terps from Maryland.
The other side of that bracket has West Virginia taking on Buffalo, in Bobby Hurley’s return to the Big Dance after a 22 year absence. Some people are picking this game as a possible 12/5 upset, but I think the Bulls will hang with the Mountaineers for a half before simple ticky-tack foul tactics will catch up with them. Maryland and Valparaiso is the same matchup as we saw way back in 1999 from Orlando. That day, little Steve Francis was a big man for the Terps in halting Homer Drew’s Mid-Continent Conference title winners. This year, Dez Wells will wear that honor very proudly for all representing Turtle Power.
(The ladies briefly giggle like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)
The Pittsburgh pod has a few cool matchups, but I think Butler and Notre Dame are on a collision course to meet in the Third Round. Likewise, the same goes with Wichita State and Kansas. Consider also that Bill Self refused to schedule the Shockers each of the last two years because KU hates to play many mid-major schools. Well, hello Rock Chalk Jayhawk.
Wake up and smell the coffee! Unlike last year when Kansas lost one of their star players to injury, they are healthy this time around and I think they might be able to hold down Tekele Cotton and Fred VanVleet well below their scoring average.
Wisconsin wrapped up the Big Ten on Sunday in Chicago by pitching a shutout against Michigan State in overtime. They definitely deserved the final Number 1 seed because of their style of play and that their defense largely dictates their play. Plus, the Badgers don’t commit too many fouls. They limit teams to under 40 possessions per game and that really says something, considering most teams like to treat a 40 minute game like it is both a track meet inside a video game.
But I like Wisconsin to win both games against Coastal Carolina and Oregon. North Carolina barely squeaked in as a 4 seed, but I think overall Harvard got a bad draw. There might be a good chance for a 12/5 upset here if Wofford can get past Arkansas. At times, the Hogs play great–but they have not been themselves in the last 3 weeks. You might recall a few years back, Wofford upset Notre Dame in the first round so this is where I think a possible upset could happen.
On the bottom end of that bracket, I have Xavier toppling BYU, who will get past Ole Miss in Dayton. Baylor has a good path to the Sweet 16 as they should easily get rid of Georgia State (depending on the ACL injury suffered by Head Coach Ron Hunter in the Sun Belt postgame celebration, very bizarre situation on Sunday afternoon) and they will more than likely meet Arizona in Los Angeles for the Sweet 16.
Arizona has Texas Southern and probably VCU to contend with. Ohio State has not impressed me this year, so I won’t spend much time talking about them.
Probably the easiest region to pick from, as it sets up to be a Villanova vs. Virginia Regional Final in Syracuse. As long as the Cavs have their full compliment of players since Justin Anderson has been hurt for a stretch of time and the fact that their doberman defense can wreak havoc on opposing offenses, they might reach Indianapolis but it won’t be easy getting there.
Among the early matchups, LSU and North Carolina State might be interesting but I like the way LSU has been playing over the last two plus months. Northern Iowa has Seth Tuttle and the Panthers should utilize him every time he touches the ball. Northern Iowa should drop Wyoming with relative ease before being bounced by Louisville–even though Chris Jones is no longer with the team (please see my earlier blog on why he was suspended for the remainder of the season). UNI is my definite sleeper pick to get to the Sweet 16.
Personally, a few teams were seeded a bit differently than what I expected:
North Carolina should have been a 5 or 6, instead they were a 4.
Northern Iowa should have been a 4, instead they were placed as a 5 seed.
Wichita State should have at least been a 5 or a 6, but instead they are a 7.
St. John’s should have been an 11 or 12, certainly not a 9.
Cindy looks a bit confused as she goes through her copy of the bracket.
Let’s focus on the bottom half of that bracket, we’re in the upper right for those of you scoring at home:
Last year, one of the Opening Round winners did advance past the Round of 64. Dayton has that extra home game on Wednesday and they will use their crowd as fuel to help them beat Boise State and drop Providence in a close game on Friday.
Oklahoma drew Albany, but again–the Great Danes will be lacking depth against a very skilled Sooners squad. The other two games should be relative walks in the park for Virginia and Michigan State, respectively.
Another version of the Duke Invitational at Charlotte, with their first opponent being either North Florida or Robert Morris. No contest, Duke will win by 40.
San Diego State should get by St. John’s largely because the Johnnies’ starting center Chris Obekpa has been suspended for two weeks due to violating unspecified team rules. From there, the Aztecs will lose promptly to Duke, but it should be a good chess match between two coaching masters: Steve Fisher and Mike Krzyzewski.
Probably the best chance for a 12/5 upset will happen here with Stephen F. Austin beating Utah in an up-and-down affair. The other games in that bracket will have Georgetown creaming Eastern Washington, while in Seattle–Davidson squeaking just past Iowa and Gonzaga as a 2 seed using their home crowd to easily get past North Dakota State.
I will have my full bracket picks up sometime either on Monday or Tuesday afternoon. And please make sure to stock your goody bags with lots of Reese’s Pieces, energy bars, and some peanut butter cups–because you are more than likely going to need them before the 6:50 Eastern time tips on TBS.
See you then. Have a good night.