Some thoughts on an exciting Championship Week Saturday.. with an eye on the Big Dance:
- Tulsa learned in a big way this morning that Memphis owns the CUSA. Having won 10 of 13 games, and with 20 overall, the Golden Hurricanes are hoping they've done enough to impress the NIT selection committee. Regardless, the emergence of 7-0 big man Jerome Jordan is a great sign for the future.
- Give Va Tech credit for taking UNC down to the wire.. but don't give them too much credit. The Hokies overall resume is virtually identical to Creighton, but they're only getting a look because of their ACC affiliation. Creighton has one more overall win, the same 1-6 record against Top 50 teams, and both finished 7-5 in their last 12. Yet you don't hear anyone claiming the Jays should be dancing..
- Bo Ryan is a coaching genius. With Indiana and MSU expected to be the top dogs in the Big Ten, it is Ryan's unheralded Badgers that will most likely walk away with the title. Wisconsin's been to the title game 4 of the last 5 years, and this year's team features no one that the average sports fan has the slightest clue about.
- The real question though is whether any Big Ten team can get past the Sweet Sixteen?
- If Illinois wins the Big Ten, they should immediately change the rule giving automatic bids to conference champions.
- Duke proved what we already knew about them.. that they're going to live and die by the three. 6 for 26 won't cut it for a team with no inside presence.. and you have to figure they're going to run into a similar rut in week two of the tourney that will be damning.
- As soon as you get your bracket, just mark down UCLA in the Final Four and realize you have at least one guaranteed lock. The Bruins just find ways to win. Today, it was Darren Collison (taking a career high 22 shots) and offensive rebounds that pushed them over Stanford. Tomorrow, it could just as easily be another formula.
- Early on, it looked like St. Joseph's was going to run away with the A10 title. But Temple's two leaders, Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas, kept on fighting and ultimately the tides turned. St. Joe's (particularly Pat Calathes) ran out of gas and they foolishy stopped getting the ball in Ahmad Nivins' hands. Now Temple has secured a spot in the field for the first time since 2001, while the the Hawks will be sweating it out tomorrow. It would be fitting, after all the ups and downs in the A10 (teams like Dayton, URI, and UMASS rising and falling all year), that the league whose numbers are right there with the Big Six still ended up with 3 bids.
- Good to see Kent State taking care of business in the MAC, ensuring that an undeserving Akron team doesn't steal a bid. I've been admittedly slow to jump on Kent State's bandwagon, but you can't argue with a 28-6 record.
- Wink Adams completed an impressive MWC tournament by scoring 23 in UNLV's championship win over BYU. Adams averaged 24 ppg as the Rebels won their second straight conference crown. I'm not a huge fan of UNLV or BYU, but both have top 30 RPI's and will get Top 10 seeds in the tourney. I just wouldn't expect anything more than a win out of either.
- Georgia's currently up on Mississippi State as I write this. Perhaps there would be no greater proof of the SEC's mediocrity this year than one of Georgia or Arkansas being the title holder. Tennessee's loss to Arkansas perhaps opens the door for an outsider to steal a #1 seed.. but UNC, Memphis, UNC, and Tennessee are still my choices.
- I have nothing against NMSU.. but thank God Boise State won the WAC title. If you get lucky enough to host the conference championship for no reason, and you get lucky enough to get into a 3rd OT despite getting outplayed most of the night.. and you still lose.. then you don't belong anywhere near the Big Dance.
- Houston has apparently accepted a bid into the new College Basketball Invitational.. the first of what should be many interesting twists and turns in the life of this new tournament's rivalry with the NIT.
- I have to own up to my mistakes.. and underestimating Pittsburgh is one of my biggest. Before the season, I didn't even think this team would make the Big Dance.. and we ranked them pretty low in our preseason rankings. Even coming into tonight, I favored Georgetown heavily.. and was wrong again. Like Bo Ryan above, it's becoming clear you don't mess with Coach Dixon.