Last time we went over the top 25, but NCAA basketball’s excitement does not come from the powerhouses, it is the small schools, the bubble teams and the little engines that can. So by that logic, this column should be some of the best of NCAA basketball because it is about those teams, right? We will see.
What up Golden Eagles? Yeah, I am a bit of a homer to write about my home school, but they are squarely on the bubble with a chance to hurt someone if they make the tournament. Lazar Hayward is still underappreciated, Jimmy Butler has come on strong, Darius Johnson-Odom (DJO) has been an impact player from the start. They may lack a real big man, but they do an outstanding job rebounding the basketball and play tough with well above-average athleticism. I like their chances to make the tournament (naturally, being a student), but they cannot afford to drop games too early in the Big East Tournament or losses to the likes of Seton Hall, St. John’s, Cincinnati, or Notre Dame.
Losing to Marquette was big, but the Bulls have a heartbeat. They will probably have to win a couple games in the Big East Tournament to really be in safely, but there is little doubt in my mind that they are one of the 65 best teams in the country. They cannot afford to slip up much more if they want to keep their bubble in tact. A road win over Villanova would do wonders for their chances, obviously.
The owners of the nation’s longest winning streak show no signs of letting up on their way to March Madness. Sadly for the Bears, they will likely end up a 15 seed (according to Lord of All Things Bracket, Joe Lunardi), but that does not mean that their brand of ball is not worth watching. They may not be a George Mason candidate, but they are a very solid team and if they ever make it on TV before the tournament (less than likely), keep an eye on them.
Would you believe they were a 9 seed if I told you that right now? I didn’t think so, but again Lord of Brackets Joe Lunardi has them there, and they really are not a fluke. They are tied for first in the Colonial, and have played a lot of good teams very close when they did lose. We will know A LOT more after they play Northern Iowa this week. Do not be surprised if you hear more from the Monarchs this March.
Unruly fans aside, the bulldogs just played the #2 team in the country damn well and did so without their #1 scorer. The fans were clearly out of line and they should be punished somehow, but they are a pretty good basketball team right not and you would rather not face shot-blocking menace Jarvis Varnado and the Bulldogs. They live and die by the 3, and that is very dangerous come tournament time. Catch them on the wrong day and you will be catching a flight back to campus.
The 2nd place team in the ACC has a lot of work to do if they would like to stay off the bubble, but it looks like work they are capable of doing. They have 3 lock tournament teams left on their schedule in Duke, GT, and Maryland and if they can win 2 they are in with ease. If they only win 1, then they will need to make a run in the ACC tournament. I have a bad feeling for Seth Greenberg’s men that on Selection Sunday, they will be left without a partner for the big dance.
The Atlantic 10
Six teams for the A-10?!?!?! It is looking more and more like it every day. We all know about Xavier being a perennial tournament team, but for those of you who have not been watching, Richmond is slated for a 7 seed, Dayton is slated for a 10 seed, Rhode Island is slated for a 10 seed, Temple for a 5 seed, and Charlotte is on the bubble, but in. None of them is a title contender really, but all of them have a shot at knocking off a big team in the second round. However, I do have some suspicions about the conference. Often when we see a conference like this that is suddenly getting a lot of teams in it either turns out that many of them are studs, or all of them are a bit over-inflated. I feel like Temple and Richmond are the most likely to make the sweet 16, but I would not get too crazy on the A-10 when filling out your bracket.
Lord Lunardi says they are in right now, but I would not jump to any conclusions about them. I do not have any reason for thinking this, as I have not seen them this season, but I would bet on them flopping in the Big XII Tournament. Once you take away James Anderson, an absolute stud, they do not have a ton, so I would not be too confident picking them.
Allow me to briefly address the whole “expanding the tournament” issue. I hate the idea. Put a little emphasis on the regular season and keep it the way it is. We do not want to see a 16 win team sitting nervously seeing if they will make it. If you only win 16 games, you have not done enough to make the tournament. I can only think of a few reasons people want to expand and they all are insufficient:
- More teams = More upsets = More excitement
- More teams = More games = More revenue
- If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway?
The first is not a good idea. See, this works in theory, but when you start getting so many teams there will be fewer games that are thought of as upsets. When you get two mediocre teams in the same building, the only upset things are the fans watching who are not fans of either team. The problem with the second one is that it is just a weak excuse. I mean I guess it is technically true, but this whole reform process is supposed to make the tournament (a basketball tournament, not a business tournament) a more compelling and better event. The only thing the second item does is lines the coffers of NCAA brass. The last one is pretty self-explanatory. March Madness is the single best postseason tournament in sports, so why are we trying to change it? It is just about perfect as it is.
Not to mention, if they expand the field, then every single one of the teams discussed above will be in the tournament without any suspense, making this article very difficult to write. Please and thank you.
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