Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Clock Tolls Midnight for Davidson

For the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament, all four #1 seeds will be punching their tickets to the Final Four. The cinderfellas, Davidson, just lost to the powerhouse school, Kansas. Bill Self has finally reached the plateau that has seemed to escape him all these years. Stephen Curry had somewhat of a sub par game (25 points is sub par by his standards) but that is definitely not the reason they lost.

Everyone I know has a few pet peeves in their lives. I have many. My new one is these so-called college basketball experts running around saying that the first game Curry doesn't score 30+ points, Davidson will lose. Well, I don't care what you say but the whole tournament has been a team effort for the Wildcats.

Exhibit A: Jason Richards. He is the floor general for this team. Richards has averaged 13 points and 9 assists in the four tournament games, which includes a 20-point effort against #2-seeded Georgetown.

Exhibit B: Andrew Lovedale. The tough Nigerian has averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds for Davidson in the tournament and has played extremely well considering his size disadvantage against teams such as Georgetown.

Exhibit C: Bryant Barr. He kept Davidson in the game today when Curry wasn't shooting well. He scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting which included three key 3-pointers.

What's my point? Stephen Curry is possibly the best player in college basketball, but he is only one man (even though he looks as if he's 14). His teammates really stepped up and the effort they put forth should not be discounted.

Next, I would like to congratulate the fabulous defense the Jayhawks played on Curry. At all times, he had a guy right on him with more on the way as soon as he started to dribble. The game-changing play had to have been their defensive stand in the last 16 seconds of the game to prevent the Wildcats from scoring. Curry couldn't get a shot off to save his life. So kudos to the Kansas team, and also to Bill Self for finally getting over the hump and punching his ticket to San Antonio.

So, yes, the Final Four may be boring to some as it features all #1 seeds, but it will be home to some great basketball. I'll probably have a blog out sometime this week regarding the four teams and their players and also my predictions for the three games.

For all the Davidson fans, there is still hope for next year. I seriously doubt Curry will forego his last two college years and enter the draft as an undersized shooting guard, so expect him back for his junior and senior years. Paulhus Gosselin will also be returning to help Curry out in the backcourt. Barr and Lovedale, two of the key players for Davidson in their tournament run, will also be back to help Davidson's campaign for the first Final Four appearance in school history. I'm sure all your brand-new fans will be rooting for you.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

A Wild Tournament Weekend

For the first time in six years, three double-digit seeds have made the Sweet 16. 99% of all brackets are busted by now. In fact, of the 3.2 million people that submitted brackets on, a whole TWO of them have all sixteen teams correct for the third round of play. The past four days have been hectic so say the least, but isn't that why you love to watch?

Biggest Upset: It had to be #10 Davidson over #2 Georgetown. The undersized players from the small school in North Carolina took down one of the biggest teams the NCAA has ever featured. It truly was a David vs. Goliath upset. Stephen Curry was absolutely magnificent in the game as he dropped 25 of his 30 points in the second half, including his free throws to seal the victory for his team.

Best Game: Western Kentucky versus Drake was one of the most entertaining basketball games I have watched all season. It had everything you could ask for in a March Madness game: an overtime game that reached the 100s in scoring ending with a buzzer-beater that wins the game for the underdog. The shot was one hell of a shot (25-foot shot) but the pass to set it up was remarkable. The point guard for WKU set up his teammate with the game-winning shot beautifully.

Most Outstanding Player: Stephen Curry, no contest. He is averaging 35 points per game and 28 points IN THE SECOND HALF! He has truly stepped up big and his team is riding the nation's longest winning streak at 24 games. Curry hit big shot after big shot in both the Georgetown game and the Gonzaga game, and proved he could finish games as well. He hit 5 of his 6 free throws in the waning moments of the game against the Hoyas.

All-Tournament Team: Obviously, Curry (35 ppg, 4 ast, 4 stl) would be on there. Helping him out in the backcourt would be Scottie Reynolds of Villanova (23 ppg, 6 reb, 4 ast) and Alex Ruoff of West Virginia (19 ppg, 5 reb, 7-12 3pt). Down low would be Kansas State's Michael Beasley (23 pts, 12 reb, 15-17 FT) and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (19 ppg, 8 reb, 2 stl).

Biggest Cinderfellas: Western Kentucky. I want everyone who had WKU in the Sweet 16 to raise their hand. I'm pretty sure not many people gave this team a chance. After taking down 5th-seeded Drake in the first round, they responded by knocking out San Diego. Personally, I had Drake in the Sweet 16. But my bracket is pretty screwed up.

Best Sweet 16 Upset Possibility: In my opinion, there are two, but the biggest would be of the two would be Davidson over Wisconsin. You can't deny how great Davidson has been playing as of late. The only problem is if Stephen Curry has a bad game, they have a very slim chance of winning the game. Another upset that could happen is West Virginia over Xavier.

#1 Seed's Easiest Road to Final Four: No question it is UCLA. They get 12th-seeded Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and face the winner of Xavier/WVU. Also worth mentioning is that all of these games will be played in Phoenix, where the Bruins could draw quite a few fans. Anything less than a trip to San Antonio will be a disappointment for this team.

#1 Seed's Hardest Road to the Final Four: North Carolina. Their bracket is the only one that has the first four seeds still playing. They face off against a tough Washington State team before getting the winner of Louisville/Tennessee. All I can say is good luck to the Tar Heels. Their only advantage? Not leaving the state of North Carolina.

Most Intriguing Sweet 16 Matchup: For me, there are two. The first would be Louisville/Tennessee. Both are playing fantastic ball right now and both have a good chance at getting to the Final Four. The winner of this game is my pick to upset UNC in the Elite 8. The other game I am referring to is Stanford/Texas. The Cardinals rely on their two big guys, Brook and Robin Lopez, while the Longhorns depend on their two guards, DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams. A contrast of styles is always interesting.

Pick To Cut Down the Nets: UCLA. This team just played a great game against Texas A&M and have the easiest road to San Antonio. They will gear up and most likely get the winner of Texas and Memphis from the Houston Regional. Darren Collison and Kevin Love are both playing great, and that is why they are both currently in my list of the top 15 players in the country. (That list will be published after the tournament.)

Okay, that is all. I hope you enjoy the rest of the tournament and, for the very few of you who still have a somewhat decent bracket, good luck to you. Have a nice week and I'm sure some will be enjoying their Spring Break. I, sadly, go back to school tomorrow.

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Poll Results- I asked which team will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. 83% of voters think it will be the Lakers, while 16% believe the Hornets will make it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm Sure...

For the NCAA Tournament, I've decided to try out something new. Here are a few things I'm sure of heading into the tournament and things that you should pay attention to when filling out your bracket in hopes of finally winning the office pool this year.

...all four #1 seeds will make the Elite Eight. The toughest competition faced by any #1 seed this year will be by North Carolina. They would be facing the winner of Indiana/Arkansas and possibly Winthrop, Notre Dame, or Washington State. Nonetheless, there is a very slim chance that they will lose to any of those teams. In your bracket, I suggest placing every team seeded #1 in the quarterfinals.

...there will be more 6-11 upsets than there will be 5-12 upsets. Surprisingly, for the first time ever, I did not pick one 12 seed to advance past the first round. Led by Luke Harangody, Notre Dame is a fairly safe bet to advance past George Mason. Villanova doesn't have much of a chance against Clemson, in my opinion, either. The Tigers are more like a 4 seed than a 5 to me. In the next, Michigan State has an experienced coach who knows how to win in March. Finally, underrated Drake is playing a not-so-talented team in Western Kentucky.

On the other hand, the 6-11 upsets are plentiful this year. In the East, I'm picking St. Joe's, a team that just upset #3-seeded Xavier, over Oklahoma. In the Midwest, I'll take Kansas State over USC any day. Michael Beasley will get at least one NCAA tournament victory before the NBA. Lastly, in the West I took Baylor over Purdue. The Bears have been very streaky this year and I think they have this one against the Boilermakers.

...neither Washington State nor Vanderbilt will make it to the Sweet 16. WSU is usually a tough matchup for teams who cannot adapt to their style of play. Their first round opponent, Winthrop, plays a similar style and will have no trouble giving them a run for their money. Suppose they do pull out a win over Winthrop, Wazzou State will then most likely face Notre Dame. Two tough games in three days? I doubt they win both.

Next, I am confused as to why people think Vanderbilt will do well in the tournament. Look at all their marquee wins and everything; it was all done at home. They CANNOT win on the road. Yes, they are 19-0 at home. However, they are 5-7 on the road. Memorial Gym is obviously quite the advantage for the Commodores. Too bad they can't play their tournament games there.

...neither Duke nor North Carolina will make the National Championship game. I have both teams bowing out in the Elite Eight, but neither will even make it to the title game for a couple reasons. For the Blue Devils, they rely too heavily on the three-point shot. The Clemson game proved they won't win if they don't shoot well from deep. "Live by the three; die by the three." UNC, however, has too much hype and is in an extremely tough bracket. Games against Indiana, Winthrop/Notre Dame, and Louisville/Tennessee make it nearly impossible for the Heels to survive it all.

...Big East teams will contribute to AT LEAST 1/4 of all the teams in the Sweet 16. In my bracket, I have Louisville, Georgetown, Pitt, and Marquette making it to the second weekend of play. Some would argue having Notre Dame or UConn in there as well. My advice is this: if you're filling out a bracket, make sure you have at least 4 Big East teams in the Sweet 16. It will happen. Mark my words.

...the Pac-10 will not have more than one team represented in the Sweet 16. That one team I am referring to is UCLA. Washington State, USC, Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona will all get knocked out in the first two rounds. Of those five teams, I only have Stanford and Oregon winning in the first round. The Pac-10 is strong, but the matchups they got for the tournament weren't the best. All five of those teams excluding Stanford have tough first round opponents.

...UCLA will win the West. In the weakest region, the best team in the tournament will win it. Their second round game may be their toughest as they play a resilient BYU squad that gave North Carolina a good game earlier in the year. However, after that the Bruins face either Drake or UConn and either Xavier or Duke. I don't see any of those teams winning against them. Add to all of that the fact that they won't have to leave their home state of California until the Final Four and it seems as if you can't pick against them.

Anyway, I think I've had enough of making predictions that will undoubtedly help you win the pool so I'll move on to MY bracket.

Elite Eight Picks-
East: #2 Tennessee over #1 North Carolina
Midwest: #3 Wisconsin over #1 Kansas
South: #1 Memphis over #2 Texas
West: #1 UCLA over #2 Duke

Final Four Picks-
#2 Tennessee over #3 Wisconsin
#1 UCLA over #1 Memphis

National Championship Pick-
UCLA 67, Tennessee 60

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and I hope that it helps you when you're filling out your bracket. Also, it helps to not be a homer at all. If you're not, it only betters your chance of taking home the big money. Have a good time watching the games tomorrow!

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