Bracketology: 3/5/18

Championship Week has kicked off, and as we enter the busiest, most exciting week of the college basketball season, things are already crazy as ever!

Five teams have already punched their ticket to this year’s NCAA Tournament. Saturday night, Murray State defeated Belmont in the OVC Championship to become the first team officially into the field of 68. The Racers have reached the Dance for the first time since 2012 when they were a 6-seed.

Yesterday, four more automatic bids were earned. Radford’s Carlik Jones drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Highlanders a 55-52 victory over Liberty in the Big South title game. Radford is in the Tournament for the first time since 2009.

In the Arch Madness finale, Loyola-Chicago dominated Illinois State, winning 65-49 and punching their first ticket to the Tournament since 1985! The Ramblers will be a popular upset pick in the first weekend. Florida Gulf Coast was the team to beat in the Atlantic Sun all season, but the Lipscomb Bison were able to defeat them for the second time this season, taking the A-Sun crown with a 108-96 win over the Eagles. It will be the first NCAA Tournament appearance for Lipscomb.

In the marquee game of the day Sunday, it was the Michigan Wolverines finishing off an impressive run to win their second consecutive Big Ten Championship, knocking off Purdue 75-66. Isaac Haas scored 23 points in the loss, while Mo Wagner led the way for Michigan with 17 points. The Big Ten Tournament was held a week early this season, so the teams will have to sit around and watch everyone else play this week before finding out their fate. It will be interesting to see how the Big Ten fares in the Tournament after this layoff.

I have a new Bracket prediction as we kick off Championship Week, and you can view it by following the link below:

Jayson’s Bracketology 3-5-18

*Teams in color are projected auto-bids. Teams in red have clinched their spot in the Tournament.

Last Four Byes: Missouri, Arizona State, Syracuse, Texas

Last Four In: Louisville, Baylor, USC, Alabama

First Four Out: UCLA, St. Bonaventure, Penn State, Notre Dame

Next Four Out: Washington, Utah, Nebraska, Mississippi State

Notre Dame is going to be the most fascinating case for this year’s Selection Committee. With Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell in the lineup, the Irish were 12-4 this year, including a close loss at #1 Virginia to close the regular season. Without Colson, ND was 6-9. Without Colson and Farrell, they were 0-4. With those two guys healthy, they are very clearly a Tournament team, and they are healthy entering the ACC Tournament. I believe if the Irish can get to the quarterfinals, they have a chance. If they can reach the ACC semis, I think they should feel good about their chances, as that would mean wins over Virginia Tech and Duke to get there. If they find a way to reach the ACC title game, I think they’re a lock. I do not believe that they need to win the automatic bid.

Two more automatic bids will be earned tonight, first in the MAAC Championship Game, with 4-seed Iona taking on 6-seed Fairfield (7:00 pm, ESPN). This one could be a toss-up, with Iona the better team but Fairfield playing really well right now. I’ll take Iona and their postseason experience (they have reached the Tournament in four of the last six seasons) to pull out the victory and make it three straight Tourney appearances.

Then the Southern Conference will crown their champion when 1-seed UNC Greensboro takes on 2-seed East Tennessee State (9:00 pm, ESPN2). The Buccaneers are the defending SoCon champions, falling to Florida in the First Round of the Tournament last season. UNC Greensboro meanwhile has not reached the Dance since 2001. These two teams split their season series with the home team winning both. On a neutral floor, the better team has the advantage. I think that is ETSU, so I’ll pick them to make their second straight NCAA Tournament.

I’ll be back tomorrow with an extensive preview of the major conference tournaments that will kickoff tomorrow afternoon with the ACC Tournament, the rest starting either Wednesday or Thursday.

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CBB Weekend Preview: 3/2-3/4

IT’S MARCH! IT’S FINALLY MARCH! HALLELUJAH!!! Quite possibly my favorite month of the year is finally here, and it has started off with a bang! Even the last day in February was wild with Miami’s buzzer-beating victory in Chapel Hill over North Carolina.

March kicked off yesterday with the Second Round of the Big Ten Tournament, which saw Wisconsin outlast Maryland, Michigan survive in overtime against 12-seed Iowa, Penn State use a late run to take out Northwestern and in the finale, last place Rutgers won their second game in as many days, upsetting Indiana thanks to some unconscious shooting in the second half.

Also yesterday, Louisville was on their way to a massive win at home against #1 Virginia, leading by as many as 13 in the second half. But, a foul on a Ty Jerome 3-pointer with less than 2 seconds left and an inbounding violation on Deng Adel were followed by a DeAndre Hunter deep three at the buzzer to shock the Cardinals and give Virginia a crazy 67-66 comeback victory. How could you not love college basketball in March?

The Big Ten Tournament continues today with the Quarterfinals, and here’s a look at how the bracket stacks up so far:

2018 Big Ten Tournament Quarters

My picks for today remain the same from the picks I originally made back on Monday. I’ll take Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue and Ohio State to advance today.

Arch Madness kicked off yesterday with the First Round in St. Louis, and with no Wichita State to dominate the conference this year, it’s much more wide open! Here is a look at the bracket:

2018 MVC Tournament for Blog

Loyola-Chicago is clearly the most talented team, and they scored a non-conference victory at Florida this season, so they could make some noise if they win Arch Madness and advance to the Big Dance. I believe that happens, and here’s how I see it playing out:

Jayson's MVC Tournament Prediction

Illinois State is a team that thought they should have gotten an at-large berth to the Tournament last season, but were left out of the field. That could motivate the holdovers in this year’s Arch Madness. I see them reaching the title game, but falling to a more talented Loyola-Chicago team.

Another big tournament will kick off today with the West Coast Conference in Las Vegas, where it’s expected that we’ll have Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s playing once again for the title on Tuesday night. Here’s the bracket:

2018 WCC Tournament for Blog

The Zags and Gaels are pretty much guaranteed to go to the NCAA Tournament, but every other team in this conference would need to win the automatic bid. BYU is talented, and San Francisco could certainly reach the title game, but we seem destined to see a third meeting between Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. Here’s how I see it shaking down:

Jayson's WCC Tournament Prediction

Gonzaga is without question the best team in this conference, and I think they’ll prove it here with an easy run through yet another conference tournament. I think they win all three games going away.

For most conferences, the regular season wraps up this weekend, while the first few automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament will be handed out as well. Here’s a preview of the biggest games coming up over the next few days.

Friday

#17 Rhode Island @ Davidson
8:00 pm, CBS Sports Network

The Rams are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 78-48 loss to Saint Joseph’s on Senior Night. It was an embarrassing effort from Dan Hurley’s club, and I think they’ll be motivated to get back on track in this one. That won’t be easy though, as they take on the Wildcats, who sit right behind Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 standings. These teams played a few weeks ago, with the Rams winning it 72-59. Davidson will be out for revenge. This should be a great game.

Ohio Valley Conference Semifinals:
#4 Jacksonville State @ #1 Murray State (8:00 pm, ESPNU)
#3 Austin Peay @ #2 Belmont (10:00 pm, ESPNU)

Once again, the OVC will be the first team to crown a champion and officially send a team to the NCAA Tournament, and I think any of these four teams could get it done. Murray State and Belmont are the two best teams, and they proved that throughout the regular season, but both Austin Peay and Jacksonville State have won the OVC Tournament in recent seasons, so they are experienced and they know what they have ahead of them. The Championship game will take place Saturday night at 8:00 on ESPN2.

Saturday

#23 Kentucky @ Florida
12:00 noon, CBS

It has been an up and down season for Florida, but they have an impressive resume and are well on their way to the Tournament. They could end their regular season in a great way with a win over the Wildcats. Kentucky is one of the hottest teams in the country, and they could stake their claim to a Top-4 seed in the Big Dance if they add a road win over Florida to their resume.

#18 Clemson @ Syracuse
2:00 pm, ESPN3/ACC Network

Clemson has struggled at times since losing Donte Grantham for the season, but they are still one of the best teams in the ACC, and a win over them would help any Tournament resume. That’s what Syracuse has to be thinking as they take the floor for Senior Day. The Orange are directly on the Bubble and a win in this game could go a long way. It probably doesn’t guarantee them a berth, but it certainly would help.

Notre Dame @ #1 Virginia
4:00 pm, ESPN3/ACC Network

Notre Dame is clinging to it’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but they have Bonzie Colson back, so they have a chance to make some noise in the ACC Tournament and get to the Big Dance. It certainly wouldn’t hurt them to add a road win over Virginia to their resume. The Cavaliers pulled off an improbable win last night over Louisville, and they will be mighty tough to beat on Senior Day.

Louisville @ NC State
6:00 pm, ESPN

The poor Louisville Cardinals. They had a win over Virginia and a likely berth to the NCAA Tournament right in their hands, and they let it slip away. They remain on the Bubble, and I really think it could go either way right now. That’s what makes this game in Raleigh so important. The Wolfpack have worked their way to the top of the Bubble over the last few weeks, so I don’t think a loss hurts them here. That being said, of course they want to win and continue their momentum into the ACC Tournament.

Arkansas @ Missouri
6:00 pm, ESPN2

These are two SEC Bubble teams, and I think if the season ended right now, they’d both be in. Arkansas is probably safer, but Missouri has a huge X-factor that could change everything for them. Superstar freshman Michael Porter Jr. could play on Saturday, and if the Tigers get him back for the postseason, they are going to be a dangerous team. They could end up as an 8 or 9-seed, and they’d be the last 8/9 that any 1-seed would want to see in the Second Round.

#9 North Carolina @ #5 Duke
8:15 pm, ESPN

The most compelling rivalry in college basketball will add another chapter to close out the regular season on Saturday night. Duke had been rolling before falling to Virginia Tech earlier this week. North Carolina had also been playing really well, but were upset by Miami on Senior Night. This will be the last game at Cameron Indoor for Grayson Allen, so I expect him to go off. Whether that means a Duke win or not, we’ll just have to tune in and find out!

UCLA @ USC
10:15 pm, ESPN

A true Bubble battle. These teams are jockeying for position on the Bubble, and I think they could both be in, they could both be out, it’s really up in the air. USC started the season great, had a lull in the middle of the season, and are playing well again here down the stretch. UCLA has been up and down all season, and could use a road win over USC to enhance their resume. I’m sure Bill Walton will be on the call for this game, so that either means it’ll be lots of fun (if you enjoy him), or unwatchable (if you loathe him, as I do).

Sunday

#10 Cincinnati @ #11 Wichita State
12:00 noon, CBS

The top two teams in the American will do battle for the second time this season, the Bearcats looking for revenge after falling to Wichita at home in the first meeting this season. With a win here and a run through the conference tourney, I think either of these teams could potentially earn as high as a 2-seed in the Big Dance. The first step to that though is a win in this one to finish the regular season.

Big South Championship Game
Radford/Winthrop vs. Liberty/UNC Asheville
1:00 pm, ESPN

The second automatic bid will go to the winner of the Big South. UNC Asheville is the 1-seed, and they and 2-seed Winthrop are the best teams in the conference, and are likely to oppose each other in this title game. Winthrop won the Big South last season, and are looking to make it two trips to the Big Dance in a row, while UNC Asheville looks to make the Tournament for the first time since 2016, when they defeated Winthrop in this title game.

Atlantic Sun Championship Game
#2 Lipscomb @ #1 Florida Gulf Coast
3:00 pm, ESPN

The Atlantic Sun will award their auto-bid Sunday as well, with Florida Gulf Coast hosting Lipscomb, the winner heading to the Dance. The Eagles have won the A-Sun three of the last five years, and they look to head to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. Meanwhile, Lipscomb is looking to reach the Tournament for the first time in school history. These two teams just played at FGCU on February 17th with Lipscomb pulling off the 90-87 upset victory. That could give them the confidence they need to win this game and their first Atlantic Sun Championship.

Enjoy the last weekend of the regular season and the start of Championship Week! Selection Sunday is just over a week away! I’ll be back Monday with a new Bracketology and some other fun stuff.

 

CBB Round-Up: 2/26/18

The calendar turns to March this week, which means the greatest time of year is upon us! March Madness baby! Some conferences kick off their postseason tournaments this week, while the rest are now in the final week of the regular season. With the sports world focused on college basketball for the better part of the next month, I have a packed post for the start of this week!

I want to start off with my thoughts on the FBI scandal that is rocking the landscape of Division I college basketball. I may have an extended post about this coming soon, but it’s something that I feel should be addressed at least in short.

To sum it all up, a report was released last week tying several high profile programs and players to an FBI investigation into improper benefits and illegal recruiting tactics. The biggest reveal was that an FBI wiretap caught Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to current player DeAndre Ayton. Miller did not coach in Arizona’s loss to Oregon on Saturday, while Ayton was allowed to play.

Most people know that this kind of thing happens in college athletics, as it’s no secret that money rules everything. It is unfortunate that there is now a black eye on the sport this season. It seems like everybody has an opinion as to how the NCAA should fix this issue. I have always been of the thought that these players are being paid, in the form of a college education, something that most of us have to pay for. That being said, the best and easiest way to solve this problem is to allow the players to be paid.

There are a lot of factors in play here. You could just allow the schools to pay the players, but that would open up a huge can of worms. You could allow the players to have agents and accept money through sponsorships, but they would no longer be amateur athletes, something the NCAA wants to hold onto.

It’s a really difficult situation, but the quickest way to end it would be to allow the players to receive money. I don’t think a lot of people would be a fan of that, but coaches and programs are going to continue to break the rules and hope to get away with it if it doesn’t happen.

That’s just my two cents, but we’ll move on to the more exciting stuff now. We’ll start with a new feature here on We Love Sportz, Dan’s Betting Corner! My brother Dan is an avid sports better, and he expressed interest in sharing some of his thoughts on games as we near the end of the season! For today’s edition, Dan would like to share his picks for three big games taking place tonight, Monday February 26th.

Dan’s Betting Corner

Duke (-5.5) @ Virginia Tech
7:00 pm, ESPN

This line interests me because in their previous game this season, Duke beat the Hokies by 22 at Cameron Indoor. Virginia Tech is better at home but they are a tough team to bet because they have been up and down all year. The line seems a bit low based on the previous result, so for that reason, I would lean towards Virginia Tech +5.5.

Texas Tech @ West Virginia (-7)
9:00 pm, ESPN2

This could go down as the most competitive game of the night but a tough one to bet on. Texas Tech is coming off a heartbreaking home loss to Kansas and West Virginia is riding a two game winning streak. Texas Tech secured a one point win in the previous meeting between these two. I would take the Mountaineers to win this one outright, but the line is inviting you to take Texas Tech. I see the game staying close the whole way, so I would lean towards the Red Raiders +7.

Texas @ Kansas (-10.5)
9:00 pm, ESPN

This line has already moved from where it started at Kansas -9.5. While the line is fairly high, everything points to Kansas winning with ease. They would secure the outright Big 12 regular season title with a victory, they rarely lose at home and superstar Texas freshman Mo Bamba may be out with a toe injury he suffered Saturday against Oklahoma State. Bamba was dominant in their previous meeting and the Jayhawks still won going away. If Bamba is ruled out I would definitely go with Kansas -10.5. If Bamba ends up playing I would still lean towards Kansas but it would certainly be a bit tougher.

Jayson’s Bracketology

One more week and March Madness will be in full swing. Our first automatic Tournament bids will be handed out this weekend, with the Ohio Valley title game on Saturday and the Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valley, and Big Ten title games on Sunday.

My #1 seeds remain unchanged from last week, with Kansas moving ahead of Xavier for the #3 overall seed. There was a lot of movement elsewhere though. Follow the link below to view this week’s Bracketology (teams in color are projected auto-bids):

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-26-18

Last Four Byes: Virginia Tech, Missouri, Louisville, Kansas State

Last Four In: Syracuse, Baylor, USC, Texas

First Four Out: Nebraska, St. Bonaventure, Washington, UCLA

Next Four Out: Mississippi State, Temple, Boise State, Notre Dame

Big Ten Tournament Predictions

Last but not least today, Dan and I have filled out our first brackets of the year! Yes, we realize the NCAA Tournament doesn’t start for a couple more weeks, but in order to hold the event at Madison Square Garden in NYC, the Big Ten has played a compressed regular season schedule and moved their conference tournament up a week this year. The Big Ten Tournament will kickoff on Wednesday evening, and here is the bracket:

2018 Big Ten Tournament for Blog

The Big Ten always has one of the more exciting tournaments of the college basketball postseason, and we get it a week early this year! Michigan is looking to repeat as champions, but they have a tough road, losing the tiebreaker with Nebraska for the last double-bye into the quarterfinals, meaning they’ll have to win four games instead of three in order to defend their crown.

Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and the aforementioned Wolverines are safely into the NCAA Tournament, while a number of teams in this conference are on the Bubble, and might need a deep run here to reach the Big Dance. That includes Nebraska, Penn State, Indiana and Maryland. The rest of the field will need an unlikely run to earn the Big Ten’s automatic bid.

Here is how Dan and I see the Big Ten Tournament playing out:

Dan's Big Ten Bracket Prediction

Jayson's Big Ten Bracket Prediction

Dan and I both believe that Purdue will end up winning the Big Ten Tournament, we just disagree on who they’ll beat in the Championship game. Purdue’s seniors have failed to win the Big Ten Tournament their first three years, including a quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Michigan last season. The leadership of those seniors is what I believe will lead the Boilermakers to a Big Ten title this year, getting revenge on Michigan in the title game. Dan likes them to triumph over regular season champs Michigan State in the championship game.

I’ll hopefully be back with another post around the end of the week, but in the meantime, enjoy the action! It’s time for some March Madness!!!

CBB Weekend Preview: 2/24-2/25

There’s less than a week left in February, which means March is right around the corner! Can you believe it? Me either.

This college basketball season has been, well, I’m not sure if there’s a word to describe it, but if I had to pick one, I’d probably choose “crazy.” There’s been tons of parity, the top teams have lost to teams with losing records, and a report was released just this morning tying some of the top programs in the nation with illegal recruiting tactics, including Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State.

That situation could put a little damper on the March Madness that we know and love, but despite that, we could be in for one of the more exciting postseasons in recent memory!

A number of mid-major conferences will finish up their regular seasons this weekend, including the West Coast Conference with likely Tournament teams Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. The Big Ten will also finish up this weekend, with their tournament taking place a week earlier this year so that they could hold it at Madison Square Garden in NYC. I do not understand why the Big Ten Tournament would be in New York, but it will take place there next week, with the Championship Game next Sunday, March 4th, in essence kicking off this year’s Championship Week.

But before that, we have another action-packed weekend of regular season play, and today, I have a little preview of the action to come this Saturday and Sunday.

Also, a special Friday night pick for all of you gamblers out there. My brother Dan (an avid sports bettor), says that Indiana will cover the spread against Ohio State tonight. They are the home team, and they are 2-point underdogs. The Buckeyes won by 15 when the two teams played in Columbus earlier this season, so Dan believes that makes this a sucker bet with the close line. So, you might want to put some money on the Hoosiers tonight (I’ll stick to just watching the games myself).

Saturday

Baylor (17-11, 7-8 B12) @ TCU (19-9, 7-8 B12)
12:00 noon, ESPN2
First Meeting: Tuesday Jan. 2, TCU 81 Baylor 78 (OT) at Baylor
This is a big game in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, with these two teams currently tied for 5th. Baylor has been one of the hotter teams in the country, having just had a five-game win streak snapped on Tuesday night at home against West Virginia. This late season run has gotten the Bears back onto the Bubble and into the Tournament conversation. TCU has traded wins and losses in conference play after starting the season 12-0 in non-conference play with wins over SMU and Nevada.
Tournament Implications: A road win against a likely Tourney team would be big for Baylor’s chances of reaching the Big Dance. I don’t think a loss hurts TCU’s chances all that much, while a win would make them feel at least a little bit better heading into the home stretch of the regular season.

Louisville (18-10, 8-7 ACC) @ Virginia Tech (20-8, 9-6 ACC)
1:00 pm, CBS
First Meeting: Saturday Jan. 13, Louisville 94 Virginia Tech 86 at Louisville
Like the middle of the Big 12, the ACC is all sorts of bunched up, and both of these teams still have a chance at a double-bye in the ACC Tournament, being held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY this year. Deng Adel scored 27 points to lead Louisville to a victory the first time these teams met, but the situation is much different this time around. Back then in mid-January, Louisville was looking like a Tournament team, and the Hokies were likely on the outside, looking in. The script has now been flipped, with Virginia Tech having won at Virginia, and Louisville having lost six of their last nine games.
Tournament Implications: Louisville is squarely on the Bubble, and while a win at Virginia Tech wouldn’t clinch a berth for them, it would move definitely move them in the right direction. A loss here for Virginia Tech would not be awful, but a win would have them feeling pretty good.

#3 Villanova (25-3, 12-3 BE) @ Creighton (19-9, 8-7 BE)
2:30 pm, FOX
First Meeting: Thursday Feb. 1, Villanova 98 Creighton 78 at Villanova
If I had to put money on one team right now to win the National Championship, I’d choose Villanova. Despite a few losses, including a bad one at home to St. John’s, when healthy and playing their best, nobody can touch this team. Phil Booth just returned from injury, so they are at full strength at the best time. Creighton was humbled by the Wildcats in their first meeting, and that loss was the first of four the Bluejays have suffered in their last six games, with the only wins in that stretch coming over DePaul and Bemidji State (yes, they played a D-II team this late in the season).
Tournament Implications: Nova looks well on their way to a 1-seed, and could be the overall #1 seed if Virginia slips up. Meanwhile, Creighton is in no danger of missing the Tournament, but they are sliding down the seeds, and a win over Villanova could halt that slide immediately.

#8 Kansas (22-6, 11-4 B12) @ #6 Texas Tech (22-6, 10-5 B12)
4:15 pm, ESPN
First Meeting: Tuesday Jan. 2, Texas Tech 85 Kansas 73 at Kansas
Revenge will be a factor in this game between the top two teams in the Big 12. Kansas is looking to extend it’s historic conference championship streak, and they have been helped in that quest by Texas Tech losing two straight games, to Baylor and Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have yet to lose at home this year though, and they easily defeated the Jayhawks in Lawrence back in early January. The key to this game could be the health of Texas Tech star Keenan Evans. He was hurt in the loss to Baylor, and was ineffective at best against Oklahoma State.
Tournament Implications: A 1-seed is likely still in play for both of these teams, but Kansas looks to be in a better position for that. A road win over Texas Tech would make their chances all the better, while a season sweep of Kansas would look great on the Red Raiders’ resume.

Syracuse (18-10, 7-8 ACC) @ #5 Duke (23-5, 11-4 ACC)
6:00 pm, ESPN
First Meeting: None
It’s been a fascinating season for the Duke Blue Devils. They started 11-0 with wins over Michigan State, Texas and Florida, but then lost their conference opener to Boston College. They also have losses to NC State and St. John’s. They have won four in a row, all without star freshman Marvin Bagley, leading people to question if they might be better without him. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it certainly can be argued. Syracuse is squarely on the Bubble yet again, and they just missed a huge opportunity at home against North Carolina, falling 78-74. Even bigger would be a road victory over Duke, and I’m sure Coach Boeheim will have his guys motivated.
Tournament Implications: Duke is still in play for a 1-seed, but they cannot afford to lose at home to Syracuse. Meanwhile, the Orange could get themselves definitely onto the right side of the Bubble with a win in this game. If they fail, they may need to win their last two regular season games, at Boston College and at home against Clemson.

Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 SEC) @ Alabama (17-11, 8-7 SEC)
6:00 pm, SEC Network
First Meeting: None
And would you look at that, another super tight pack in the middle of a major conference. At 8-7, these two teams are among six that are tied for 3rd in the SEC behind Auburn and Tennessee. That means the winner of this game could earn a double-bye in the conference tournament. Arkansas just had a four-game winning streak snapped at home by Kentucky, and they’ll need to get back on track with a home game against Auburn coming up next week. Alabama has had an up and down season, and they’ll be looking to avoid a three-game losing streak in this one.
Tournament Implications: Both of these teams would likely be in if the season ended today, but I think Alabama could use this win more. A road loss in this one wouldn’t hurt the Razorbacks all that much.

Kansas State (20-8, 9-6 B12) @ Oklahoma (16-11, 6-9 B12)
6:00 pm, ESPN2
First Meeting: Tuesday Jan. 16, Kansas State 87 Oklahoma 69 at Kansas State
Has there been a more confusing team in college basketball this season than Oklahoma? Freshman Trae Young is probably the most talented player in the country, but his team has relied on him way too much down the stretch. The Sooners were ranked in the Top-10 not too long ago, but they are currently on a six-game losing streak and have lost nine of their last 11, putting them in danger of missing the Tournament altogether if the slide continues. On the other side, Kansas State is right smack dab in the middle of the Bubble, and while a road win over Oklahoma doesn’t look as good now as it would have weeks ago, it would still be a nice addition to the Wildcats’ resume.
Tournament Implications: Just two weeks ago, the Selection Committee had Oklahoma as a 4-seed, but I cannot imagine they have them even close to that right now. The Sooners really could be in danger of missing the Big Dance, so they need a win. Kansas State would move further onto the right side of the Bubble with a win in this one.

Missouri (18-10, 8-7 SEC) @ Kentucky (19-9, 8-7 SEC)
8:15 pm, ESPN
First Meeting: Saturday Feb. 3, Missouri 69 Kentucky 60 at Missouri
Look at this, two more of the teams tied for 3rd in the SEC standings. Kentucky may be finally reaching it’s potential, scoring back-to-back wins over Alabama and Arkansas following a four-game losing streak, the longest in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky. They will be a scary team in March if they continue playing like this. Missouri has done nearly the exact opposite, losing their last two games to LSU and Mississippi after a five-game winning streak. They may have just gotten a boost though, as their superstar freshman Michael Porter Jr. was just cleared for all basketball activities. They’re still not sure if he’ll play this season, but if he does, this will be a team nobody wants to see in the Tournament.
Tournament Implications: Both these teams should be safe, but a road win and season sweep of Kentucky would look really good on Missouri’s resume. Kentucky meanwhile can continue to improve their seed with a win in this one.

Sunday

Penn State (19-11, 9-8 B10) @ Nebraska (21-9, 12-5 B10)
5:15 pm, Big Ten Network
First Meeting: Friday Jan. 12, Penn State 76 Nebraska 74 (OT) at Penn State
A battle between two true Bubble teams this late in the season always carries a ton of significance. This game could have an impact on the seeding in the Big Ten Tournament as well. The Cornhuskers are currently tied for 4th with Michigan, so with a win here and a Michigan loss, Nebraska would clinch a double-bye in NYC. Penn State is currently tied for 6th in the conference with Indiana, but this game is much bigger for their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Nittany Lions are ranked as the 27th best team in the nation by KenPom, but their resume as a whole isn’t as strong.
Tournament Implications: I believe that neither of these teams are currently in the field, but depending on other results, the winner of this one could sneak into the field. I think a win would mean more for Penn State given that they are the road team, but a loss will hurt both.

Bracketology: 2/19/18

It’s almost March, and if you paid attention to the college basketball landscape this past weekend, you would not be shocked by that. Here is a list of things that occurred Saturday and Sunday:

  • Oklahoma lost it’s fifth straight game and eighth in their last 10 in a home defeat to Texas 77-66. The Sooners are scuffling at the wrong time.
  • Providence backed up a big home win over Villanova by being outscored 36-19 in the second half en route to a 69-54 loss to Butler.
  • Miami had one of its worst shooting performances of the season (7-31 from 3PT range) in a 57-50 home loss to Syracuse, moving the Orange potentially to the right side of the Bubble.
  • #2 Michigan State trailed unranked Northwestern (who was 15-12 entering the game) by 27 points in the first half. The Spartans proceeded to outscore the Wildcats 38-11 in the second half, avoiding disaster with a 65-60 victory.
  • Some likely tournament teams out of the SEC suffered setbacks. Missouri fell to LSU 64-63, Arkansas dominated Texas A&M 94-75, 11-16 Vanderbilt shocked Florida 71-68, Tennessee was upset by Georgia 73-62 and Auburn lost just their third conference game 84-75 at South Carolina. They also lost key contributor Anfernee McLemore to a gruesome ankle injury.
  • The one SEC team that was able to get back on track was Kentucky, snapping a four-game losing streak with an 81-71 triumph over Alabama.
  • Villanova rebounded from the loss to Providence with a massive road victory over #4 Xavier 95-79. Donte DiVincenzo continued his smoldering hot play with a near triple-double, tallying 21 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists.
  • Baylor continued their late-season run at a tournament bid, holding off several late chances and securing a huge 59-57 win over #7 Texas Tech.
  • For the second time this season, West Virginia squandered a late lead to Kansas, losing this one at the Phog 77-69. Bob Huggins was tossed at the end, and I can’t really blame him. The free throw differential in this game was 35-2, and there’s just no way that should ever happen.
  • #8 Ohio State lost their second straight, falling 74-62 at #22 Michigan, a huge win for the Wolverines. The Buckeyes have lost their lead in the Big Ten standings as a result of this loss.
  • Duke got a big victory with a 66-57 road win over Clemson. The confidence Duke should get from a win like this could be massive as they enter the home stretch of the regular season.
  • #5 Cincinnati has now suffered back-to-back losses, falling 76-72 at home to Wichita State. The Shockers get a major win for their resume, while the loss could hurt Cincinnati when it comes to their seed in the Tournament.
  • Purdue halted a three-game skid (barely) with a 76-73 win over Penn State. They were missing their second-leading scorer Vince Edwards (14.9 PPG) in this one. Word is he is questionable for the remainder of the regular season. The Boilermakers might be best served letting him fully heal, because they’ll need him in the postseason.

So yeah, a lot happened this weekend. That has led to some changes in my bracket preview for this week, which you can see by clicking the link below (teams in color are current conference leaders):

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-19-18

Last Four Byes: Virginia Tech, Baylor, NC State, Kansas State

Last Four In: Louisville, Texas, Syracuse, St. Bonaventure

First Four Out: USC, UCLA, Washington, Penn State

Next Four Out: Nebraska, Utah, Temple, Boise State

There are a couple big games tonight, the first of which being Notre Dame versus Miami in South Bend (7:00 pm, ESPN). The Irish have struggled in ACC play without Bonzie Colson, and also missing Matt Farrell for a number of games. They sit at 16-11, and need every win they can get if they hope to make the Tournament. Farrell is back, so they need to beat a struggling Miami team at home. The selection committee will take into account the fact that Colson has not played, meaning that if this team can make a run down the stretch and in the ACC Tournament, I could see them sneaking into the field.

Following that game, Oklahoma will look to snap their five-game skid when they head to the Phog to take on Kansas (9:00 pm, ESPN). Trae Young is a fantastic player, and he’ll be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft, but the Sooners have been way too reliant on him as of late, and he has been struggling. That has led to them losing eight of their last ten games. I don’t think they are in any danger of missing the Tournament given the amount of big wins they’ve collected, but I think they should be sweating. We’ll see if they have any sense of urgency, because a win at Kansas would be massive.

 

Bracketology: 2/16/18

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee revealed their Top-16 teams on Sunday, the second year doing a reveal like this a month before Selection Sunday. It provides everybody an idea how the committee views some of these teams with just three weeks to go until conference tournaments begin.

Here is how the committee placed their top-16 teams (committee ranking in parentheses):

South Region – 1 Virginia (1), 2 Cincinnati (8), 3 Michigan State (11), 4 Tennessee (13)

East Region – 1 Villanova (2), 2 Duke (7), 3 Texas Tech (10), 4 Ohio State (14)

Midwest Region – 1 Xavier (3), 2 Auburn (5), 3 Clemson (9), 4 Oklahoma (16)

West Region – 1 Purdue (4), 2 Kansas (6), 3 North Carolina (12), 4 Arizona (15)

Some thoughts I have on this bracket preview…

  • I was prepared to get really angry at where some teams were seeded, but overall, I think they did a pretty good job considering how rushed the process was (the committee did a conference call the night prior to build this. That is not nearly enough time to properly seed the teams)
  • My biggest gripe was Oklahoma being among the top 16 teams. They have some great wins this season (at Wichita State, Texas Tech, Kansas), but they also had lost six of eight games heading into this bracket preview. I do not believe they are one of the 16 best teams, nor do they have a resume that belongs among the top 16 teams.
  • I also think North Carolina is a little high at #12 overall. They are playing well as of late, and I definitely think recency bias played a role in them being a 3-seed. They have some bad losses (Wofford and NC State, both at home), and I think a 4-seed makes more sense.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see Michigan State on the 3-line. They pass the eye test, and are likely one of the four best teams in the country, but their resume just doesn’t stack up. They played a mediocre non-conference schedule, and were punished for it on the seed-list. If they play well down the stretch, they can still earn a 1-seed, but a 3 is exactly where they should be right now.

Since the reveal on Sunday, we’ve had nearly a week’s worth of games, and some results certainly would have an impact on the seeding. For my bracketology this week, I used the committee’s Top-16 as a starting point, and made adjustments as I felt necessary given this past week’s results.

Click the link below to view my bracket for this week (teams with color backgrounds are current conference leaders, which would give them automatic bids to the Tournament).

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-16-18

Some notes…

  • Last Four Byes – Arkansas, TCU, Louisville, USC
  • Last Four In – Kansas State, Washington, Baylor, Temple
  • First Four Out – Texas, Boise State, St. Bonaventure, UCLA
  • Next Four Out – Penn State, Nebraska, Syracuse, Western Kentucky
  • Purdue’s loss to Wisconsin last night drops them to the 2-line, moving Auburn up to the final 1-seed following their win over Kentucky on Wednesday.
  • Arizona’s win at Arizona State last night did not move them up a seed-line, but they are my top 4-seed. A loss by a 3-seed or another big win for them could move them up.
  • Oklahoma has now lost seven of their last nine games after losing to Texas Tech on Tuesday, dropping them to a 5-seed. I think they should be lower than that, but that’s where I believe the committee would have them. It’s not going to get any easier for them either, as their next four games include hosting bubble teams Texas and Kansas State and hitting the road to face Kansas and Baylor.
  • I built my bracket prior to the conclusion of Saint Mary’s loss to San Francisco last night. That loss would drop them to a 6-seed for me, moving Creighton up to the 5-line.

I am off to the Jersey Shore this weekend, but enjoy the great action, highlighted by Villanova/Xavier on Saturday afternoon!

Bracketology: 2/7/18

I’m going to be pretty busy at work after today with high school basketball playoffs kicking off on Friday, so I have an early Bracketology this week.

A few notes from last night’s games:

  • Tennessee outlasted Kentucky at Rupp Arena in a 61-59 victory, sweeping the season series against the Wildcats for the first time since the late 1990s. The Volunteers are, in my opinion, one of the 10 best teams in the nation, and that is reflected in today’s bracket, as I have them up to a 3-seed. Kentucky stays on the 5-line despite the loss.
  • Butler threw everything they had at Xavier, overcoming a big deficit late with a barrage of three-pointers to send the game to overtime, but they came up just short, the Musketeers winning 98-93, their second consecutive OT victory. Xavier, as a result of the win, is my final 1-seed this week, thanks to losses by Kansas and Duke over the weekend. They enter their toughest stretch of the season now though, traveling to Creighton Saturday, then hosting Seton Hall and Villanova next week.
  • TCU gave Kansas a battle, but the Jayhawks were able to avoid losing consecutive home games, securing a 71-64 victory. Kansas is in the conversation for a 1-seed, but I have them on the 2-line after suffering that awful home loss to Oklahoma State over the weekend. TCU meanwhile is now just 4-7 in Big 12 play, and they could use a big win to enhance their resume. They have road games against West Virginia and Texas Tech remaining, and a win in one of those with no more bad losses should be enough to get them in.

With that, please follow the link below to view my bracket projection for this week:

Jayson’s Bracketology 2-7-18

Some things that didn’t make it into the document with my bracket…

Last Four Byes: Washington, Houston, NC State, Kansas State

Last Four In: Missouri, USC, Boise State, Nebraska

First Four Out: Marquette, Virginia Tech, SMU, Syracuse

Next Four Out: Western Kentucky, UCLA, Temple, Maryland

Here is a list of my top four seeds in each region, with how I have them ranked on the S-Curve I use to build my bracket…

East: 1 – Villanova (1); 2 – Michigan State (8); 3 – Cincinnati (9); 4 – North Carolina (16)
South: 1 – Virginia (2); 2 – Auburn (6); 3 – Ohio State (11); 4 – Texas Tech (14)
Midwest: 1 – Purdue (3); 2 – Kansas (5); 3 – Tennessee (12); 4 – Clemson (13)
West: 1 – Xavier (4); 2 – Duke (7); 3 – Arizona (10); 4 – Oklahoma (15)

Enjoy the games this weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more great content. Thanks for reading!