Now first, don't look at the date Blogger.Com says this was done. The one problem with this site is that when you post a message, it goes by when you first start that message. Had I did this when I first started, you would have seen that I did predict Morehead State to be the sacrificial lamb for Louisville. :-)
It's that time again. The Field of 65 is set and after Morehead State knocked (it was knocks) off Alabama State for the right to get beaten badly to a pulp by Louisville, we (it was we will) have 64 for Thursday. So it's time to pick all the rounds of the tournament and a winner of the tournament. I got Kansas right last year, let's see if I can make up for it this year. :-)
The key things to look at are this.
1) The teams that have the best Top 50 RPI records tend to be the best teams in the tourney.
2) Defense wins championships.
3) Look at how teams are on the road and neutral site.
Louisville beats Morehead State. Nothing more needs to be said.
Siena defeats Ohio State. As I started writing Part I of this preview, the Moody Blues "Steppin in a Slide Zone" was playing on Youtube (yes I am a HUGE Moody Blues fan). That's a relatively young Ohio State team going up against a veteran NCAA proven Saints team. Kenny Hasbrouck, Edwin Ubiles and friends are not a good matchup for the Buckeyes. Siena moves on.
Utah defeats Arizona. The Utes remind the committee that for the second year in a row, the Home Court Hero Wildcats had no business being in the NCAA Tournament (and after watching Patty Mills put up 17 of his 27 points in the first half against Washington State in the NIT, it burns even more). Utah has been one of the steadiest under the radar teams this season. They played a very solid non-conference schedule with a non-conference SOS of 10, including several PAC-10 teams and Gonzaga. The Wildcats frontcourt will be shrimp on the barbie for the Utes Australian Luke Nevil, a seven foot two force on the inside. By the way, the Utes are 5-0 on neutral sites.
Cleveland State defeats Wake Forest. A young undisciplined Demon Deacons team takes on Team Lockdown, an experienced group led by J'Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson, a team that has played some good competition during the season. Jeff Teague doesn't see too many defenses like this in the ACC. Remember, the Vikings beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome and beat Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse. They know what's it like to be on the road. Our first upset here.
Michigan State downs Robert Morris. The first of several wins for the Spartans, the team with the best record vs Top 50 RPI teams in the whole tournament.
Boston College defeats USC. What often happens is when a team like USC, with no hope for an at large bid, makes a run and wins their conference tournament, there is a letdown. Yes, the three wins over Cal, UCLA and ASU in the tourney were impressive. However, considering USC's only decent non-conference win was a four point win over North Dakota State (warning you now Kansas, you have a difficult first round game), not a good sign when facing Tyrese Rice and the always battle tested Eagles. Al Skinner's group marches on.
Kansas defeats North Dakota St...barely. This is the gauntlet bracket for the Jayhawks. The Bison are really experienced and really good. Not a good first test for a young Jayhawks team. Wouldn't be surprised by an upset but I think Sharron Collins gets them through ..barely.
West Virginia defeats Dayton. The Flyers limped at the end and were one of the last three at large teams in the NCAA tournament. They unfortunately face an emerging force in West Virginia who looked really impressive in beating Notre Dame and Pittsburgh before losing to the Cuse in OT. Da'Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff are a dynamic duo.
Louisville beats Siena. This will be a great game. I think Louisville's size with Earl Clark and Terrance Williams will be too much for the Saints at the end. It's close but the Cardinals move on.
Utah defeats Cleveland State. The Utes' size will be too much for the Vikings.
Michigan State defeats Boston College. Two physical teams. This is a scare game for me because Michigan State is 0-2 vs. ACC teams (Maryland and North Carolina). But I think Boston College struggles on road/neutral sites, going 7-7 on the season. Since I gave them the win in the first round, that means they should lose this one to a team that is 13-3 against the RPI Top 50, an impressive record.
Kansas defeats West Virginia. Originally I had the Mountaineers winning over the Jayhawks but in a battle of two teams that are pretty young, take the team that has a better winning record against Top 50 RPI teams. West Virginia is 2-7. Kansas is 6-3. Enough said.
Louisville defeats Utah. It will be interesting to see how Williams and Clark deal with Nevil. But the Cardinals defense will be too much for the Utes.
Michigan State defeats Kansas. The Spartans won at home over the Jayhawks 75-63. Nothing here changes my thought on this. Spartans win again.
Louisville defeats Michigan State. This is going to be a very good game. I could see either team winning. Two of the best defenses in the country. Both road/neutral site warriors. Cards are 12-3. Spartans 14-4. The Cardinals are 7-1 vs. the RPI Top 25. Spartans 13-3 vs RPI Top 50. I think Louisville is a little more athletic and that will be the difference.
UConn rolls Chattanooga.
BYU over Texas A&M. A&M is one of the trendy teams people take because they have won eight of their last twelve. A deeper look though shows some flaws. A somewhat weak non-conference SOS of 145 for a Big 12 team and a 7-7 road and neutral site record. In fact if you take a look at their non-conference record, what is A&M's best win. Well they lost to Tulsa at home, that doesn't help. Give up? It's an eight point win at Alabama. In fact in non conference, A&M only had TWO of their fifteen non-conference games on the road or neutral site. UGH!. BYU on the other hand as a neutral site win vs. Utah State AND a road win over TULSA, a team A&M lost at home too. Enough for me. Cougars move on.
Purdue over Northern Iowa. First, I really like Purdue, a nice under the radar team until they won the Big Ten Tournament. Big fan of Robbie Hummel and Eitan Moore, both of whom I saw at the Preseason NIT at the MSG. The peripherals aren't the best. A non-conference SOS of 191 and 2-5 record vs. Top 25 RPI. The road/neutral site is an ok 9-6. What I like about them is they play TERRIFIC defense. Only allow 59 points per game and they absolutely shut down Stephen Curry in their game won by Purdue 76-58. Curry was 5 of 26 from the field for 13 points in that game. They also shut down Tyrese Rice at the preseason NIT game that I saw at the Garden. Rice was only 4 of 12 from the field in the Boilermakers win.
Northern Iowa has had a nice season and have played well on the road/neutral site going 12-6. But they struggled in non-conference games with their only solid win a neutral site win over Auburn. They got smoked by both Marquette losing by 30 and to Siena, in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score. The Boilermakers clamp down on the Panthers and move on.
Washington over Mississippi State. The Huskies had a very solid season winning the PAC-10 regular season championship. Washington played a very strong non conference schedule as shown by their non-conference SOS of 23 with a win over Oklahoma State being their best win.
Mississippi State on the other hand had a non-conference SOS of 173 and really struggled non-conference. They only had four non-conference road or neutral site games and were 1-3 with their best win a five point win at St Bonaventure (the only A10 team to lose to the horrible Fordham Rams this season). Not good. If that wasn't enough evidence, South Carolina losing at home to Davidson last night in the first round of the NIT should show you how bad the SEC is. In a battle of the dogs, the Huskies easily down the Bulldogs.
Memphis clamps down and clocks Cal St. Northridge.
Maryland over California. Cal has struggled down the stretch losing four of their last six including a quick first round exit by USC. The Golden Bears also struggle on road/neutral sites with a 6-8 record. Maryland had lost three of five prior to their two wins in the ACC Tournament which saved them from being out of the tournament. The peripherals are pretty close. But I am going to take the human stat machine Greivis Vasquez (17 ppg, 5 rebounds per game, 5 assists per game) and the Twerps 4-3 neutral site record over Cal's 0-2 neutral site record.
Missouri rolls over the big red of Cornell.
Utah State over Marquette. This is the second upset I see in the tourney.
Marquette is first without Dominic James and it showed as they went 5-7 down the stretch. Second, the Golden Eagles struggle on the road and neutral site, only going 8-7. Their non-conference SOS is a bad 141 and it shows as their best neutral site win is a win over Northern Iowa. They lost to both Dayton and Tennessee on neutral sites.
Utah State has a very solid neutral and road site record of 13-5. Plus they way they handle the ball and their offensive style is perfect for a game like this. Plus here's a key stat, Marquette is 2-7 against the RPI Top 25. Utah State RPI...23. Uh oh. This is a game where you need all the good ball handling you can get and not having James will really hurt here. Aggies upset Golden Eagles.
UConn beats BYU - Huskies are too strong for the Cougars
Purdue beats Washington - Washington had a problem beating good non-conference teams. Their best win was over Oklahoma State at home. They lost all their other games. Good enough for me.
Memphis beats Maryland - The Tigers clamp down on a turnover prone Twerps team.
Utah State beats Missouri - Our first mid major makes the Sweet 16. Aggies game again matches up well with Missouri.
Purdue beats UConn - Yup, the first #1 seed to go down. The loss of Jerome Dyson hurts here.
Memphis beats Utah State - The Aggies run ends here
Memphis beats Purdue - Tigers are a little more athletic than the Boilermakers. That makes the difference here.