Saturday, 03/22/08

Do You Still Have Hair?

NCAA Tournament Second Round

2:10 PM ET
(7) West Virginia (25-10, 11-7 Big East)
(2) Duke (28-5, 13-3 ACC)

Notes: Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers WVU are really going to push Duke after the Blue Devils lackluster performance against Belmont. Could Coach K's boys be the first No. 2 seed to bow out of the tourney?

4:20 PM ET
(11) Kansas State (21-11, 10-6 Big 12)
(3) Wisconsin (30-4, 16-2 Big Ten)

Notes: Bill Walkers inspired first half performance helped set the tone of these young cats against the men of Troy. Beasley is a pro, he brings it every game, inside, outside, it doesn't matter he will gets his points every game. Walker needs to show up early, against a better defensive team making them honest early will be the key. Stewart and Pullen should combine for 18 points. The difference in the game may be a forgotten name in the Wildcat rotation highly touted G Blake Young who has been silent from downtown. Left unmolested on the perimeter he wasn't taking wide open three point looks against USC. He finished the game with 0 points. Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers don't have a lot of razzel dazzel but get the job done, they are the Big 10 champ for a reason.

4:40 PM ET
(6) Purdue (25-8, 15-3 Big Ten)
(3) Xavier (28-6, 14-2 A 10)

Notes: Xavier is just too strong. Purdue is a young team they'll be back again.

6:40 PM ET
(5) Notre Dame (25-7, 14-4 Big East)
(4) Washington State (25-8, 11-7 Pac-10)

Notes: Washington State may be one of the ugliest teams in the tournament. Winthrop had them tied at half before they couldn't hit wide open looks and got blown out by the Cougs in the second half. Washington State will try and slow down the Irish attack but the Irish should have no problems advancing on.

6:45 PM ET
(6)Marquette (25-9, 11-7 Big East)
(3)Stanford (27-7, 13-5 Pac-10)

Notes: Stanford is on a collision course with the big boys Marquette will be just another bump in the road.

6:50 PM ET
(8) UNLV (27-7, 12-4 MWC)
(1) Kansas (32-3, 13-3 Big 12)

Notes: If UNLV thinks it can get away with the kind of game they played against Kent State, the Rebs will be in a world of hurt against the Jayhawks. Vegas says the jayhawks are 7 better. I think they will crush Lon Kruger's bunch and give him flashbacks to his K-state days. I expect a close game for 7 minutes before KU wins in a walk.

9:10 PM ET
(5) Michigan State (26-8, 12-6 Big Ten)
(4) Pittsburgh (27-9, 10-8 Big East)

Notes: The winner has a great chance to make the Final Four.

9:15 PM ET
(9)Texas A&M (25-10, 8-8 Big 12)
(1)UCLA (32-3, 16-2 Pac-10)

Notes: Since BYU can't seem to get out of the first round, the Aggies will have their hands full with the Bruins. Good luck.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 11:33 AM | Comment

Thursday, 03/20/08

What We've All Been Waiting For

NCAA Tournament First Round

12:20 PM ET
(14) Georgia (17-16, 4-12 SEC)
(3) Xavier (27-6, 14-2 A 10)

Notes: Georgia isn't your typical 14 seed. Tornadoes and magical SEC championship runs have a way of catching people's attention. I had yet to see them play this year and watched them beat Arkansas in the SEC title game. I was impressed with the starting five for the Bulldogs. If I didn't know about their sub-par conference record, I would have thought they were a top-level SEC team. How much gas is left in the Bulldog tank? Their season is already a success, anything more would just be icing on the cake. After jumping out to an early lead on the Razorbacks in the SEC title game, the Bulldogs had some prolonged periods of sloppy play, bad passing and let Arkansas rally. I think Xavier is going to have their hands full and may even be down at half before they storm back. Georgia becomes its own worst enemy with turnovers and a scoring drought to end the game. A win could make the Bulldogs the tournament's first Cinderella.

12:30 PM ET
(12) Temple (21-12, 11-5 A 10)
(5) Michigan State (25-8, 12-6 Big Ten)

Notes: When George Mason went on their 2006 final four run, the first team they beat was Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans. Could the Spartans fall again to another mid major on a magical run? The Owls have been hot recently. They are on a seven-game winning streak culminating with an A-10 championship. A win could setup a potential showdown with in-state rival Pittsburgh with state bragging rights on the line and a sweet sixteen berth to boot. This game will be decided in the trenches. Whoever plays more physically and controls the boards, will win.

2:55 PM ET
(9) Kent State (28-6, 13-3 MAC)
(8) UNLV (26-7, 12-4 MWC)

Notes: Lon Kruger's Rebels have really over achieved this year as they return to the big dance. Kent State has some talented athletes and I don't think UNLV will keep up. The Flashes have a great shot to upset Kansas in the second round. That could be one of the tourneys best games. Well, I was wrong, flat out wrong. This wasn't the same Kent State team that showed up today. So many unforced turnovers early, not many teams could dig out of that hole. If UNLV wants to play with Kansas they can't turn the ball over.

5:00 PM ET
(14) Cornell (22-5, 14-0 Ivy)
(3) Stanford (26-7, 13-5 Pac-10)

Notes: This was the worst draw the Big Red could have pulled. A 14 seed is too low for Cornell and getting a team like Stanford negates the size the Big Red has. It will take a great rebounding and three point shooting effort to down the Cardinal. I just don't see it happening. But it has potential.

7:10 PM ET
(11) Kansas State (20-11, 10-6 Big 12)
(6) USC (21-11, 11-7 Pac-10)

Notes: Can the Wildcats with freshman sensation Michael Beasley be considered a Cindy as an 11 seed? This was the second best draw for K-state as only WVU and Bob Huggins could have the Cats more motivated. The game is in K-state's backyard, Omaha, Neb. I find it hard to believe there will be a lot of people rooting for the Trojans. Mayo was Bill Walkers high school teammate, Mayo was suppose to play at K-state, Walker should be pumped up to play him. With Walker as a scoring threat it could alleviate pressure on Beasley and open up shooting for either Pullen or Stewart. This is the game everybody is talking about. They should pass out bibs to the scouts before the game.

7:20 PM ET
(13) Winthrop (22-11, 10-4 B. South)
(4) Washington State (24-8, 11-7 Pac-10)

Notes: I am going to go out on a limb and say the Eagles have a good shot to gut out a victory over the Cougars. They're experienced, they play good defense and they can score. Washington State may have a hard time scoring and will need a big game from their front court to win this one. If WSU controls the boards they should win the game. A Winthrop win could setup a rematch of last years thrilling Eagle win over Notre Dame in the second round. That could be a dandy of a game.

7:25 PM ET
(9) Texas A&M (24-10, 8-8 Big 12)
(8) Brigham Young (27-7, 14-2 MWC)


Notes: I don't think A&M can keep up with BYU. The Cougs have too much scoring punch. A second round game against UCLA most likely awaits the winner. This one should be close the whole way.

9:50 PM ET
(12) George Mason (23-10, 12-6 CAA)
(5) Notre Dame (24-7, 14-4 Big East)

Notes: The Irish won't get bounced in the first round this year. Mason doesn't have the guns to keep pace with Notre Dame. The Irish will win by 8-10. If Winthrop can deliver their end of the bargain, I'm sure the Irish would love a rematch.

3:00 PM ET
(13) Oral Roberts (24-8, 16-2 Summit)
(4) Pittsburgh (26-9, 10-8 Big East)

Notes: Pitt will win this game but it will be a battle at times. The Panthers are just playing too well right now to fall victim to a first round upset. Coach Sutton may be a hot commodity on the coach market in the offseason. Could this be his last game as coach of Oral Roberts?

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 04:45 AM | Comment

Tuesday, 03/18/08

Upset Potential

The Saints of Siena are a strong call to upend SEC foe Vanderbilt. The Saints have already downed Stanford this season on route to their first tourney appearance since 2002. This is a young team with only one senior, G Tay Fischer, on the 13 man roster. This could be the first of game of what could become an annual trip to the dance for these young pups in the next few years. The Saint's are led by a scoring threesome of quick and athletic guards. Sophomore G/F 6-6 197 Edwin Ubiles (17.3 ppg), Junior G 6-3 192 Kenny Hasbrouck (15.6 ppg), and Sophomore G/F 6-5 228 Alex Franklin (15.2 ppg) form a lethal offensive trio. Ubiles was a preseason First Team All-MAAC Selection. Last year he was the MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year and a MAAC All-Rookie team selection. Tip is set for 7:20 p.m. Friday night at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 12:03 PM | Comment

Saturday, 03/15/08

Another Bid Up For Grabs

America East Championship
12:00 PM ET ESPN2
Hartford (18-15, 10-6 Am. East)
UMBC (23-8, 13-3 Am. East)

Notes: Neither team has ever advanced to the NCAAs. The America East Championship Game? That would be a first for both as well. Going into their semifinals game Hartford was 0-9 in conference semifinal play, UMBC was 0-8 in Division I conference semifinal games. The Hawks set a school record for Division I wins this season and come in winners of three straight. The Hawks got here by defeating New Hampshire 68-65 and then with a 59-52 victory over Boston University in the semifinals. Could this be the Banner year the Hartford faithful have been waiting for? UMBC tied a school mark for wins with 23 and a win over Hartford would cement their place, as perhaps the best UMBC team ever? A school record 24 wins and a tournament appearance would be huge feathers in that cap.

By winning the regular season crown UMBC is assured an NIT bid even if they lose, a loss would have Hartford waiting for next season. The Retrievers dropped Stony Brook 76-60 and then defeated Vermont 73-64 in the semis to set up this match-up. UMBC leads the conference in scoring (74.9) and Hartford ranks third (71.0). UMBC PG Jay Greene is second in the nation in assists averaging more than seven a game. UMBC has too much firepower for Am-East foes, they had only three conference losses all by three points or less. Shootouts favor the Retrievers. SG Ray Barbosa has been on fire lately picking up the slack for an injured Brain Hodges. Hodges suffered an ankle injury and has shown some rust in his return. Is he due for a solid outing? Darryl Proctor is a great defender and has a knack for grabbing caroms, in addition to being able to score. Cavell Johnson will come off the bench for the Retrievers and always seems to make good things happen. It's a testament to his team play, he could easily be a starter but told me the game unfolds before his eyes when he comes off the bench and he can come in and contribute immediately. I agree wholeheartedly. I was impressed with his all around game offense, defense, rebounding and ball handling. Matt Spadafora and Justin Fry know their roles and are solid defenders. I expect Fry to shut down whomever he is guarding.

RAC Arena is sold out. I have been to a couple of UMBC games at the RAC this season. The crowds have been getting progressively larger and the atmosphere more intense. This game will be the culmination of Retriever success. Unlike the Sacred Heart game I attended earlier in the week, this UMBC squad will not beat themselves. It's not a fluke that they are here. Coach Randy Monroe has these guys playing well and Mr. Intensity on the sidelines won't allow his to team to come out lackadaisical. The Retrievers don't turn the ball over, they play extremely well as a team and contrary to popular belief they can play defense. Hartford is going to give them all they've got but UMBC pulls away late and cuts down the nets at home. 73-65 UMBC. UMBC will be a 15 seed on Selection Sunday.

Bob Wischusen and Mike Kelley will call the game for ESPN2.

Don't be surprised to see UMBC draw Duke in their opening round game.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 02:36 AM | Comment

Thursday, 03/13/08

Madness

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Sacred Heart chose a bad night to lay an egg like this. On a night when they shoot 16-55, a whopping 29%, the Pioneers behind Brice Brooks scratched and clawed back into the game only to watch it slip away late with back-to-back turnovers by Drew Shubik.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 03:31 AM | Comment

Wednesday, 03/12/08

Conference Break Down

These teams have already punched their ticket to this year's NCAA Tournament:

Belmont, Atlantic Sun Champ 25-8 (AS 14-2) Last Tournament appearance 2007. Two prior appearances. Potential 15/16 seed.

Drake, Missouri Valley Champ 28-4 (MVC 15-3) Last Tournament appearance 1971. Three prior appearances. Potential 4/5 seed.

Winthrop, Big South Champ 22-11 (BS 10-4) Last Tournament appearance 2007. Eight prior appearances. Potential 14/15.

Cornell, Ivy League Champ 22-5 (Ivy 14-0) Last Tournament appearance 1988. Four prior appearances. Potential 13/14 seed.

Austin Peay, Ohio Valley Champ 24-10 (OVC 16-4) Last Tournament appearance 2003. Five prior appearances. Potential 15/16 seed.

George Mason, Colonial Athletic Champ 23-10 (CAA 12-6) Last Tournament appearance 2006. Four prior appearances. Potential 13/14 seed.

Siena, Metro Atlantic Athletic Champ 22-10 (MAAC 13-5) Last Tournament appearance 2002. Three prior appearances. Potential 13/14 seed.

Davidson, Southern Champ 26-6 (SoCon 20-0) Last Tournament appearance 2007. Nine prior appearances. Potential 8-11 seed.

San Diego, West Coast Conference Champ 21-13 (WCC 11-3) Last Tournament appearance 2003. Three prior appearances. Potential 13-15 seed.

Butler, Horizon League Champ 29-3 (Horizon 17-2) Last Tournament appearance 2007. Seven prior appearances. Potential 3/4 seed.

Oral Roberts, Summit League Champ 24-8 (SL 17-2) Last Tournament appearance 2007. Four prior appearances. Potential 13/14 seed.

Western Kentucky, Sun Belt Champ 26-6 (SB 17-2) Last Tournament appearance 2003. Nineteen prior appearances. Potential 12/13 seed.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 02:22 AM | Comment

Wednesday, 03/12/08

On Deck

Northeast Championship Game
7:00 PM ET ESPN2
Mount St. Mary's (17-14, 11-7 NEC)
Sacred Heart (18-13, 13-5 NEC)

Notes: After beating Quinnipiac in the first round of the NEC tourney, four seed Mount Saint Mary's knocked off top-seeded Robert Morris, snapping a fourteen-game win streak for the NIT bound Colonials. The Mountaineers have won four straight games on route to the NEC championship game, their first since 1999 under the direction of then coach Jim Phelan. Phelan holds the NCAA record for most seasons coached at one institution. He retired after 49 years of coaching the Mount in 2003. He may be best known for his bow ties. Fashion statements aside, he guided the Mountaineers to two tournament berths, the last being in 1999.

Current coach Milan Brown who was an assistant under Phelan during the 1999 season, has a 41-76 record with the Mount. A win over Sacred Heart would do wonders for him stepping out of Phelan's shadow and establishing his own program. The Mount located in Emmitsburg, Md. is an hour drive from Baltimore. The Mount is one of the smallest schools in D-1 with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,500. Established in 1808, it is the oldest independent Catholic university in the country.

Sacred Heart is making back-to-back NEC title game appearances. The Pioneers lost to Central Connecticut State 74-70 in the championship game last year. Sacred Heart took care of Central Connecticut State in the first round and then knocked off two seed Wagner to get here. The Mount is a very solid defensive team and will give Sacred Heart all they can handle, but home court with a packed house will put Sacred Heart over the top. I would expect a close game with Pioneers pulling away late. The Pioneers started the season 0-6 but have since turned things around going 18-7 since then. Whoever wins this game will play Alabama State in the play in game.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 02:21 AM | Comments (5)

Tuesday, 03/11/08

Wench To Wonderful

With conference tourneys about to begin, these teams could go on a magic carpet ride into the tournament and help erase their less than memorable regular seasons. The teams were chosen because if today were Selection Sunday their names would not be heard. They have only one shot, their conference tournament.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 01:09 PM | Comment

Saturday, 03/08/08

Saturday Recap

Winthrop 66, North Carolina-Asheville 48
I was riding the Eagle train all month until I decided to jump off and board the Bulldog express. With the home gym and a healthy team the Bulldogs were my pick, bad move. Experience is something talent can't buy. Nothing wrong with me. It's now four straight Big South Titles for the Eagles and twelve consecutive victories in the Big South Tournament. I'd say that's a league dynasty, after last year's signature tourney win over Notre Dame, will we see a repeat this year? This is a very athletic team whose best win is over Miami, Fl. It's hard to say were they'll be seeded, no higher than 14 for sure.

UMBC 76, Stony Brook 60
The Retrievers take care of Stony Brook in the America East quarterfinals. UMBC advances to Saturday's semifinal against the winner of the game between No. 4 Vermont and No. 5 and host Binghamton. This team has a legit claim to a 14 seed but will probably have to settle for a 15.

VCU 57, Towson 46
The Rams down the Tigers in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. VCU has now won five straight games heading into Sunday's semifinals against either Old Dominion or William & Mary.

No. 3 Memphis 94, UAB 56
This won't help the Blazers at large hopes. They will need a strong showing in the Conference USA tourney. Houston could have a slight edge after this loss.

No. 25 Davidson 82, Wofford 49
The Wildcats now have the nation's longest winning, 20 games, to go along with a perfect league record and a top 25 ranking as well. With the win Davidson will advance to the Southern Conference tournament semifinals.

No. 21 Drake 75, Creighton 67
The Bulldogs continue a banner year and will advance to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final for the first time.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 06:11 PM | Comment

Saturday, 03/08/08

Friday Recap

No. 21 Drake 68, Indiana State 46
Drake rolls into the semis of the Valley with a tournament quarterfinal victory over Indiana State. Drake tied a school record for victories and ended an eight-game quarterfinal losing streak in the process. The Bulldogs are looking at a five seed. Led by Adam Emmenecker, the Valley player of the year, Drake is seeking its first NCAA tournament berth since 1971.

Valparaiso 72, Wright St. 67
Valpo is on fire right now. The Crusaders will face Cleveland State in Saturday's semifinals. The Horizon could be a two-bid league if the winner of Saturdays semis can land the upset of Butler.

Austin Peay 78, Tenn.-Martin 77
The Governors need free throws with 2.2 seconds to get past Skyhawks. One more win gets them dancing, only Tennessee State stands in their way.

Illinois St. 63, Missouri St. 58
The Redbirds are now a lock to go dancing even if they don't win the Valley.

Cornell 94, Penn 92
The Big Red is already in the field of 65, anything else is just gravy. A perfect Ivy record is nothing to scoff at. A very dangerous 13 seed.

N. Iowa 54, S. Illinois 49
I was never under the impression the Salukis were at large material but I did believe they could win the Valley tournament. The NIT awaits.

Belmont 69, ETSU 65
The Belmont marches onto the finals on the Atlantic Sun, albeit not without controversy. The Bruins (24-8) will face Jacksonville on Saturday night in the championship game with an automatic NCAA tournament bid on the line.

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Posted by Ali Karimi at 05:39 PM | Comment