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Chaos in the Big Ten

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Chaos in the Big Ten

By Zachery Bonzheim

 

The regular season is almost over, and no conference has seen a bigger shake-up than the Big Ten. The top teams have fallen, the historically good teams have risen, and the bottom of the barrel is still there.

Back in week 14, Wisconsin was #7 in the nation, Purdue was #16, Maryland was #21, and Northwestern just dropped from #25. Michigan State, Michigan, and Minnesota were on the outside looking in. Minnesota has dropped 5 in a row and Michigan State had gone off the deep end even with Miles Bridges back. Fast forward to present day, week 17. Wisconsin has plummeted to the 22nd ranking, Maryland and Northwestern have found themselves outside the rankings, and Minnesota, Michigan, and Michigan State are now receiving votes. The only teams that have maintained their playing levels are #16 Purdue and the bottom of the conference. As it stands now, Maryland sits tied for third in the conference with Michigan State when they were alone at the top not so long ago. Northwestern who had been stuck at the third and fourth spot all year suddenly trending down and tied at 6th with the Michigan Wolverines. Purdue, who now sits alone atop the conference was consistently sitting Wisconsin and Maryland. The conference has changed drastically in the last month.

How has the conference shifted in such a dramatic fashion? Purdue has rattled off an impressive 9-2 record in the last 11 maintaining peak for while others fell. Wisconsin started Big Ten play as 10-1, since going 1-4. Maryland started conference play at 8-1 but falling down the stretch at 2-5. Northwestern likewise started strong only to go 2-5 in its last 7.

Well, what about the risers? How could three teams crawl from the pits of the conference all the way into the national conversation receiving votes in the latest AP Poll? Michigan State started hot at 3-0, dropped quite a few in a stretch where the went 1-4, and now are at a point where they are 6-2 in the last 8 with 2 more very possible wins. Minnesota, like Michigan State, started hot at 3-1, dropped a staggering 5 in a row and now are on a 7 game tear with being favored in their 2 remaining games. Michigan started the conference slate at 4-6. Since their second meeting of Michigan State, the Wolverines have gone 5-1. All of these teams, regardless of how they are doing as of late, are more than likely in the tournament come March. There is perhaps one team that confused everyone a lot more with how their season changed.

The week 3 AP Poll had Indiana at #3 and receiving 2 first place votes. Indiana had a trio of OG Anunoby, Thomas Bryant, and James Blackmon Jr firing on all cylinders. IU was on most experts lists of teams with a real shot of winning it all. Fast forward to the Big Ten season and Indiana sits at 10-2 overall including impressive wins over #3 Kansas and #3 North Carolina. Two incredible wins to counter a respectable loss to Butler and an embarrassing loss to IPFW. How did this nationally ranked and respected team handle the conference play? They started at a 1-4 before a three-game win streak. Many thought this three-game win streak was where the season was finally going to be turned around. Instead, IU has gone 2-7 since. At 16-13 and being ranked 10th in the Big Ten, this year did not turn out as most of the nation believed for this Hoosier squad.

 

Going into the final week of Big Ten play how do the teams rack up?

Standings (As of Monday, February 27th, 2017)

  1. #16 Purdue 12-4 (23-6) 100% for the Tournament
  2. #22 Wisconsin 11-5 (22-7) 99% Chance for the Tournament
  3. RV Maryland 10-6 (22-7) 94% Chance for the Tournament
  4. RV Michigan State 10-6 (18-11) 93% Chance for the Tournament
  5. RV Minnesota 10-6 (22-7) 100% Chance for the Tournament
  6. Northwestern 9-7 (20-9) 45% Chance for the Tournament
  7. RV Michigan 9-7 (19-10) 75% Chance for the Tournament
  8. Iowa 8-8 (16-13) 2% Chance for the Tournament
  9. Illinois 7-9 (17-12) 7% Chance for the Tournament
  10. Nebraska 6-10 (12-16) 0% Chance for the Tournament
  11. Indiana 6-10 (16-13) 7% Chance for the Tournament
  12. Ohio State 6-10 (16-13) 3% Chance for the Tournament
  13. Penn State 6-10 (14-15) 0% Chance for the Tournament
  14. Rutgers 2-14 (13-16) 0% Chance for the Tournament

 

There are 5 teams that are basically locked (2 that are literally locked) for the big dance come March. There are really only 2 teams that are on the bubble, both in opposite positions. Michigan’s latest surge has shot them into the comfort of having a 75% chance of making it. Both Michigan and Michigan State saw their chances of making the tournament greatly increased by their recent play. Michigan State saw their percentage increased from 72.2% to 93.1. That 20.9% jump in one week was the third largest in all Division 1. Michigan saw their chance go from 57.7% to 75.2%. Their jump of 17.5% was the fifth-largest one week jump last week. Northwestern’s huge struggles down the line have lowered their chances to 45%. 4 teams are holding onto a thread for a shot at the big dance. A week ago, Northwestern had a 74,4% chance of making the tournament. Their one-week drop of 29.9% is the biggest drop of any team in all of Division 1. Of those teams, Indiana has the best shot at just 6.8%. Indiana who three weeks ago saw their chances to get in at 41.2% have dropped 34.3% to just a 6.8% chance of making it. Their three-week drop of 34.3% put them at fourth biggest three-week fall in the whole nation. And then there are the teams with no shot at the tournament, Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska. All three have the only losing records in the conference and have kissed their chances goodbye.

The Big Ten has had huge changes as of late. The middle of the pack has risen and taken back their NCAA tournament spots, the top has fallen, Purdue has been one of the most consistent in the nation, and Indiana not so much. With a final week of games and the conference tournament coming up, this will be one conference to keep an eye on.

 

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New Bracketology – 2/28/17

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One day away from March, the bubble has lost lots of air and the NCAA Tournament picture has become more clear.

In this latest edition of bracketology, here’s a look at the field as if the season were to end today.

Caution: The predicted field/seeding is highly likely to change from day to day or minute to minute.

*Automatic bids in italics.

1 SEEDS: Villanova; Kansas; North Carolina; Gonzaga.

2 SEEDS: Oregon; Baylor; Louisville; UCLA.

3 SEEDS: Kentucky; Duke; Butler; Florida State.

4 SEEDS: Florida; Arizona; West Virginia; Purdue.

5 SEEDS: Virginia; Wisconsin; Creighton; Cincinnati.

6 SEEDS: Notre Dame; SMU; Iowa State; Miami.

7 SEEDS: Minnesota; St. Mary’s; South Carolina; Maryland.

8 SEEDS: Oklahoma State; Dayton; Virginia Tech; Xavier.

9 SEEDS: Michigan; Michigan State; Northwestern; VCU.

10 SEEDS: Wichita State; USC; Arkansas; California.

11 SEEDS: Marquette; Seton Hall vs. Wake Forest; Syracuse vs. Vanderbilt; Middle Tennessee State.

12 SEEDS: Illinois State; North Carolina Wilmington; Nevada; Texas Arlington.

13 SEEDS: Akron; Vermont; Monmouth; New Mexico State.

14 SEEDS: Princeton; Belmont; UNC Asheville; Valparaiso.

15 SEEDS: East Tennessee State; Bucknell; Florida Gulf Coast; North Dakota State.

16 SEEDS: Texas Southern; Eastern Washington; UC Irvine vs. NC Central; New Orleans vs. Mount St. Mary’s.

LAST FOUR IN: Seton Hall; Syracuse; Wake Forest; Vanderbilt.

FIRST FOUR OUT: Providence; Rhode Island; Georgia; Kansas State.

NEXT FOUR OUT: Tennessee; TCU; Houston; Georgia Tech.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: ACC (10); Big Ten (7); Big East (6); Big 12 (5); Pac 12 (5); SEC (5); Atlantic 10 (2); AAC (2); Missouri Valley (2); West Coast (2).

Note: Automatic bids are determined by the highest RPI team in each conference.

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Weekend Bubble Wrap

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As we inch closer and closer to March, every game becomes almost monumental for bubble teams and as we witnessed this past week, a simple two-game losing streak can be the death knell for a few poor squads.

Here’s a look at the weekend’s survivors and casualties, by conference.

A-10

In my disgust for Rhode Island’s recent home loss to Fordham, I may have written off the Rams a bit early. Rhody put itself back in the mix with a 10-point win over VCU. The Rams are some damage in the A-10 tournament away from having a legit chance to dance.

AAC

Houston kept its slim, slim at-large hopes alive with a 72-71 win at Memphis, Sunday.

ACC

Syracuse seemingly got themselves in the tournament with last week’s huge win over Duke, but it would help their nerves to avoid blowouts on the road, like what happened to them at Louisville on Sunday. Cuse is guaranteed to be .500 in league play, which is big, but they still possess a very high R.P.I. in the 70’s and all of their big wins were in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome and they are 2-8 on the road.

Georgia Tech, very much on the outside looking in, had a chance to enhance its resume on Sunday, but fell to Notre Dame in a typical close game between the two. Tech finishes with Pittsburgh and at Syracuse and will likely have to win both to have any realistic chance at the NCAA Tournament.

BIG 12

Most of the weekend’s casualties came from this ultra-competitive conference, as its inhabitants continue to eat their own. One of those casualties was TCU, who had an opportunity to get a huge win, but just missed, losing at home to West Virginia by one. TCU drops to 6-10 in conference, which is no bueno, and they have two tough Big 12 contests remaining, so the N.I.T. looks to be in their future.

Kansas State, who I had as an 11 seed one week ago, suddenly is on the far outside looking in with binoculars. K State lost for the fifth time in six games, this time by thirty points at 10-18 Oklahoma. That’s not exactly what the selection committee likes to see. They also don’t like 6-10 conference records or R.P.I.’s approaching 70. The Wildcats will not be dancing this season.

BIG EAST

Seton Hall hangs on to its tenuous NCAA Tournament spot, after barely winning at DePaul on Saturday. The Hall is now 8-8 in conference play with dates versus Georgetown and at Butler remaining. 9-9 looks to be in the Pirates’ future.

Providence continued its surge with a monster home win versus fellow bubble mate, Marquette, on Saturday. The win puts the Friars right at the doorstep of the dance, at 8-8 in the Big East, with winnable games versus DePaul and at St. John’s remaining. Providence also brought its R.P.I. down to a respectable 52, which could do wonders.

Marquette, on the other hand, is suddenly in a dangerous position. The Golden Eagles are also 8-8 in conference, but they have tough games at Xavier and home versus Creighton on their schedule. They also have an R.P.I. of 72. It could be an uphill battle for Wojo and company.

BIG TEN

Michigan has played itself off of the bubble, after (or before) its impressive home win over Purdue on Saturday.

Indiana, way on the outside looking in, may have put Northwestern in a dangerous situation, handing the Wildcats its fifth loss in its last seven games and dropping its R.P.I. to 50. Northwestern is 9-7 in the league, but has two tough games remaining, versus Michigan and Purdue. They would be wise to win one of those.

Some may have thought Michigan State was on the bubble, but those thoughts should be no more, after the Spartans beat struggling Wisconsin, Sunday.

CONFERENCE USA

Middle Tennessee State kept its under-the-radar at-large chances alive with a come-from-behind road victory over UAB. The Blue Raiders are now 26-4, including a 23-point win over Vanderbilt, and an R.P.I. in the high 20’s. It is very rare that a team with that high of an R.P.I. gets left out of the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully, as far as the teams from major conferences are concerned, MTSU will take care of business in the conference tournament.

Missouri Valley

Wichita State is not likely on the bubble, after winning twelve straight MVC games by an average of 23 points. They easily got their twelfth at Missouri State on Saturday. The Shockers have no great wins, but they have no bad losses either and with a solid R.P.I. at 40, they should be fine.

Illinois State is a legitimate bubble team. The Redbirds, like Wichita State, are 17-1 in the MVC, they have a win versus the Shockers, but unlike their conference mates, they have a few bad losses on their resume. ISU’s win at Northern Iowa to end the regular season, keeps them with an outside chance at an NCAA bid.

PAC 12

California’s 30-point blowout of Oregon State keeps the Golden Bears in a relatively safe position inside the bubble. But, they have two tough road tests remaining and might want to win a couple games in the Pac 12 tournament to pad their light resume.

USC may have put itself in some danger by losing at lowly Arizona State on Sunday. The Trojans are .500 in conference with two relatively easy games left on the schedule. USC should be fine, barring a collapse.

SEC

Tennessee looks to be another casualty of the weekend, after losing their second straight and fourth out of five games, this time at South Carolina by 27 points. The Vols dropped to 7-9 in the SEC and saw their R.P.I. dip into the mid 60’s. Tennessee will need to do major damage in the SEC tournament.

Vanderbilt continued its strong push towards an NCAA tournament berth with a 29-point win over Mississippi State. The Commodores have come out of nowhere, but a fourth ranked strength of schedule and impressive wins over Florida, Iowa State, Arkansas and South Carolina, puts Vandy in a strong position down the stretch.

Georgia kept its slim hopes alive with a win over LSU, while Arkansas remains reasonably comfortable after its win at Auburn.

Follow Jamal Murphy on Twitter: @Blacketologist

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Can Gonzaga Win the National Championship?

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With just two regular season games left, the 28-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs are just 5 wins away from securing a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs have swept through the WCC including two easy wins over the other NCAA Tournament bound team, Saint Mary’s, which they won by a combined 33 points.

Before conference play, they had big wins over Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, and Iowa State, four teams currently in Jamal Murphy’s most recent bracketology, giving them six wins over teams in the field.

They currently have an BPI of 3 and an RPI of 8. But their strength of schedule, through no fault of their own, sits all the way down at 98.

The Zags have still done their part through the WCC season, blowing out every team by an average of 26.4 points per night, with only two games with a margin of 10.

They have an extremely talented starting five led by sure-to-be Wooden Award finalist Nigel Williams-Goss who leads the team in scoring as well as assists with 16.9 and 4.8 and also shoots 51.5 from the floor. They also have two dominant and completely different bigs in Przemek Karnowski and freshman Zach Collins that cause matchup nightmares for every opponent.

So this brings us back to the age-old question, can Mark Few’s team not only make their first Final Four, but win the whole damn thing?

The answer is an easy no.

Gonzaga has the unfair distinction of playing in the West Coast Conference, which plain and simple does not present enough challenges for the Zags to battle in late-game situations, something that helps you prepare for the NCAA Tournament and something the Bulldogs haven’t done since the Arizona win on December 3. That means when the NCAA Tournament starts for Gonzaga on either March 16 or 17, they won’t have had a close game in 103 or 104 days.

Gonzaga is looking like they will cruise to that number 1 seed unless Saint Mary’s somehow upsets them in the WCC Tournament, and yes that would be a monstrous upset at this point. But do they really even deserve that?

Of the top 16 teams that the selection committee released a few weeks ago, 15 of them had a Strength of Schedule in the top 75. And as you already know, Gonzaga was 98.

When the committee had Gonzaga as their fourth overall number one seed, many were outraged. But when it comes down to it, they have no choice but to put them there. While the five ACC teams (North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia), three Pac-12 teams (Arizona, UCLA, Oregon), three Big 12 teams (Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia) and the rest of the 15 teams are all fighting against each other and other teams of quality on a nightly basis, Gonzaga is playing San Francisco and Pepperdine.

Gonzaga really needs to try whatever it takes to find themselves in the Pac-12 and until they do that, they won’t have the experience necessary to win the National Championship.

It is unfortunate that a team that is this talented can not make the Final Four, but my guess is they get knocked out in the Elite Eight or Sweet Sixteen.

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Wednesday Night Bubble Wrap

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It was a busy Wednesday night in college basketball, as it seemed like the entire bubble universe was in action. Some teams played as if they wanted to be a part of the NCAA Tournament, while others succumbed under the pressure.


ACC


Syracuse likely punched its ticket with a buzzer-beating win over Duke. The Orange still have a high R.P.I. in the 70’s, but it is hard to see the Committee leaving Boeheim and company out with three top 25 wins and at least a .500 record in the best conference in the nation.


Wake Forest kept its hopes alive and hang on to their current spot (the last team in in my latest bracketology). Wake came from behind to beat a game Pittsburgh squad and moved within two games of .500 in conference play. They will need to win at least one of their two remaining regular season games versus Louisville or at Virginia Tech in order to have a realistic shot at the big dance.


BIG 12


TCU and Kansas State continued to trend downward and outward of the tournament. TCU’s loss at Kansas drops them to 6-9 in conference play with tough games versus West Virginia and Kansas State remaining. K State is now 6-9 as well, but with an easier road to .500 in the Big 12 than TCU. Still, both teams will need to finish strong in order to hear their names called on Selection Sunday.


BIG EAST


Providence got a huge win at Creighton, thanks to a huge shot by Kyron Cartwright. The Friars are now 7-8 in the Big East with three winnable conference games remaining. Thus, they have officially put themselves in the NCAA Tournament discussion and are trending in the right direction.


Seton Hall kept their heads above the proverbial bubble with a solid win over Xavier in Newark. They, too, move to 7-8 in conference, but more importantly, pick up their second top 25 win.


Georgetown successfully ended all hopes of an at-large bid by losing at home to lowly DePaul. For the Hoyas, it was a slow death, but at least it’s over now. JTIII suffers his second straight extremely disappointing season.


BIG TEN


Michigan avoided disaster by holding on to beat an improved, but still bad loss if it happens, Rutgers team. The wolverines remain relatively comfortable big dance participants at the moment.


MVC


Illinois State avoided a bad loss to Southern Illinois, but just barely. The Redbirds still have an impressive R.P.I., but they may need to win the conference tournament to get an NCAA berth and will surely have to avoid a loss to anyone other than Wichita State.


PAC 12


California, a 10 seed in my latest bracket, had a golden bear opportunity (sorry) to cement their spot in the NCAA Tournament with a home win versus Oregon. However, despite leading for most of the game, Cal was unable to finish the job, thanks to a Dylan Brooks three-point dagger. The Bears are likely to get in, but should still be a bit nervous unless they do some damage in the Pac 12 tournament.


SEC
In a game that was played inside the bubble, Vanderbilt won at Tennessee, as both teams continue to move in opposite directions. Vandy, one of my “first four out,” and Tennessee, one of my “last four in,” may have just traded places. Both are 15-13 overall, with Vanderbilt a game over .500 in conference, while the Vols are now a game under.


Arkansas continued its hot play with a 86-77 win over Texas A&M. The Hogs are looking to inch up from their current 10 seed projection.



Follow Jamal Murphy on Twitter: @Blacketologist

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New Bracketology – 2/21/17

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Remember a couple of weeks ago when people were in awe of the size and scope of the bubble? Well, as is normally the case, the bubble is deflating as we get closer to March. In fact, this season’s bubble looks as lean as it’s been in a long time.

In this latest edition of bracketology, here’s a look at the field if the season were to end today.

Caution: The predicted field/seeding is highly likely to change from day to day or minute to minute.

*Automatic bids in italics.

1 SEEDS: Villanova; Kansas; Gonzaga; North Carolina.

2 SEEDS: Baylor; Louisville; Oregon; Duke.

3 SEEDS: Florida State; Arizona; Florida; Kentucky.

4 SEEDS: West Virginia; Butler; UCLA; Purdue.

5 SEEDS: Wisconsin; Creighton; Cincinnati; Virginia.

6 SEEDS: Maryland; Notre Dame; SMU; St. Mary’s.

7 SEEDS: South Carolina; Xavier; Minnesota; Northwestern.

8 SEEDS: Iowa State; Oklahoma State; Miami; Virginia Tech.

9 SEEDS: Dayton; VCU; Michigan; USC.

10 SEEDS: Michigan State; Wichita State; Arkansas; California.

11 SEEDS: Kansas State; Marquette vs. Wake Forest; Tennessee vs. Seton Hall; Middle Tennessee State.
12 SEEDS: Illinois State; North Carolina Wilmington; Nevada; Texas Arlington.
13 SEEDS: Akron; Vermont; Monmouth; New Mexico State.
14 SEEDS: Princeton; Belmont; UNC Asheville; Valparaiso.
15 SEEDS: East Tennessee State; Bucknell; Florida Gulf Coast; North Dakota State.
16 SEEDS: Texas Southern; Eastern Washington; UC Irvine vs. NC Central; New Orleans vs. Mount St. Mary’s.




LAST FOUR IN: Marquette; Tennessee; Seton Hall; Wake Forest.

FIRST SIX OUT: TCU; Syracuse; Georgetown; Vanderbilt; Rhode Island; Georgia.

NEXT SIX OUT: Georgia Tech; Indiana; Providence; Clemson; Houston; Alabama.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: ACC (9); Big Ten (7); Big East (6); Big 12 (6); Pac 12 (5); SEC (5); Atlantic 10 (2); AAC (2); Missouri Valley (2); West Coast (2).


Note: Automatic bids are determined by the highest RPI team in each conference.

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Bubble Wrap – Thursday Edition

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Wednesday night was typically busy as far as mid-February bubble activity is concerned. Here’s what you need to know about the night’s action.

ACC

Miami continued its hot play, winning a must-win home game against upstart Georgia Tech that is on the periphery of the bubble, looking in. The Hurricanes are in the midst of solidifying their spot in the big dance, edging away from the dreaded play-in games.

Atlantic 10

Rhode Island, who I had as my first team out on Tuesday, received a devastating blow to their tourney chances last night by doing the unthinkable: losing to Fordham. Yes, Fordham. Wait, there’s more, they lost to Fordham at home. The Rams respectable R.P.I. will take a huge hit, as will their tournament hopes.

Big 12

Kansas State looked to be in decent shape a couple days ago, but an 87-79 home loss to Iowa State drops the Wildcats to 5-8 in league play and suddenly they have a lot more work to do. The Cyclones, meanwhile, are entering borderline lock territory.

Speaking of home losses, TCU and Jamie Dixon suffered a tough one at the hands of Oklahoma State, which puts the Horned Frogs’ tournament hopes in peril. Conversely, the Cowboys move to within a game of .500 in league play and likely improve on their current 8-seed projection.

Big East

The Big East is one of the most interesting leagues when talking bubble, because four of its teams are on it and there is little separation between them. Providence got a big home win versus Xavier, keeping the Friars in the hunt. However, it will be an uphill battle for Providence thanks to a slew of bad losses, including at BC and at DePaul.

Seton Hall needed 41 points from Khadeen Carrington in order to secure a big-time home victory over Creighton. The win should push the Hall further into the tournament field, after being my last team in, as of Tuesday.

Big Ten

Indiana just can’t buy one. Last night’s game versus Minnesota was basically a must-win for the reeling Hoosiers. It looked like they might pull it out, after taking a five-point lead with just over two minutes to play. But, as has been the case for most of the season, Indiana could not finish the job and dropped their fourth straight game and sixth out of their last seven. Things are looking quite bleak for Tom Crean and company.

Missouri Valley

Illinois State sneaked by Missouri State and moved to 14-1 in conference and more importantly, kept their R.P.I. in the low 30s. The Redbirds are currently on the outside looking in and likely need to win the MVC tournament in order to go dancing.

Wichita State won at Southern Illinois and likely stay put in the last-four-in range. The Shockers, too, will need to win the conference tournament in order to feel safe.

SEC

Arkansas, one of my last four out, got their biggest win of the season, last night at South Carolina. The win does wonders for their resume, taking some of the stink off of their horrible loss at lowly Missouri, twelve days ago.

Alabama kept its long, long shot odds intact by squeaking past aforementioned Missouri, 57-54. Bama is actually 8-5 in league play, but has a high R.P.I. and just one top 50 win.

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The Mid-Major Awards (Little Too Early Predictions)

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The Mid-Major Awards (Little Too Early Predictions)

By Zac Bonzheim

NCAA Men’s Basketball has been seeing a large parity between major college basketball schools and what are considered mid-majors. What is a mid-major? Generally speaking, it is any of the non-BCS football schools, with the exception of the Big East. So what conferences are mid-major?

  • American East
  • Atlantic 10
  • Atlantic Sun
  • Big Sky
  • Big South
  • Big West
  • Colonial
  • Conference USA
  • Horizon
  • Ivy
  • Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC)
  • Mid-American Conference (MAC)
  • Mid-Eastern Conference (MEAC)
  • Missouri Valley
  • Mountain West
  • North East
  • Ohio Valley
  • Patriot
  • Southern (SoCon)
  • Southland
  • South West Athletic Conference (SWAC)
  • Summit
  • Sun Belt
  • West Coast
  • Western Athletic Conference (WAC)

 

Mid-Majors National Awards

 

National Mid-Major Player of the Year: Nigel Williams-Goss, Junior, Gonzaga, Guard

This award is toughest to decide. Picking between the leader of arguably the best team in basketball, Nigel-Williams Goss, and one of the most dominant players in the NCAA, Alec Peters, was tough. At the end of the day, I went with Nigel Williams-Goss as the National Mid-Major Player of the Year. Williams-Goss is averaging 15.7 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game, shooting .505, around 2 steals per game, and a player efficiency rating of 26.58.  Peters is averaging more points (23.1 ppg),  more rebounds (10.7 rpg), fewer assists (2.2 apg),  shooting at .463, .9 steals per game, and a player efficacy of 28.18. The stats give an edge to Peters. I say leading Gonzaga to an undefeated season against a much harder schedule gives Williams-Goss the edge. 21-5 is a good record for Valparaiso, but in a moderate conference, it is expected.

 

Defensive Player of the Year: James Thompson IV, Sophomore, Eastern Michigan, Forward

 

Freshman of the Year: Keith Braxton, Freshman, St. Francis (PA), Guard

Another hotly contested award will be the Mid-Major National Freshman of the Year. Keith Braxton, a guard out of St. Francis and Zach Collins, the big man from Gonzaga are the best options for this one. Zach Collins will likely win a conference title, finish the season undefeated, and win a tournament title this year. Braxton is the best player on an average team. Braxton leads his team in points (12.8), minutes (33.5), rebounds (8.6), steals (1.6), and is second in three-point percentage (.424), field goal percentage (.518), and blocks (.4). This kid has been carrying his team all year and they still sit at fourth in the conference. Don’t forget, Zach Collins has stats too. Collins has to boast third in minutes (17.2), third in points (10.6), tied with most rebounds (5.8), and the most blocks (1.5). Collins is by no means carrying the load with predicted All-American Nigel Williams-Goss running the show. Sure, Collins’ team is a lot better than Braxton’s mediocre St. Francis squad, but Braxton has something no one else has. Braxton has the highest player efficiency rating of any mid-major freshman in the nation (18.76). He is 78th overall in the nation meaning that he could fit in with many of the best squads. Collins is not even within the top 100. The edge goes to Keith Braxton.

 

First Team:

– Nigel-Williams Goss, Junior, Gonzaga, Guard

– Marcus Keene, Junior, Central Michigan, Guard

– Alec Peters, Senior, Valparaiso, Forward

– James Thompson IV, Sophomore, Eastern Michigan, Forward

– Jock Landale, Junior, St. Mary’s, Center

 

Second Team:

– John Konchar, Sophomore, IPFW, Guard

– Jacob Wiley, Senior, Eastern Washington, Forward

– Cameron Oliver, Sophomore, Nevada, Forward

– TJ Cline, Senior, Richmond, Forward

– Justin Tuoyo, Senior, Chattanooga, Forward

 

Third Team

-Keith Braxton, Freshman, St. Francis (PA), Guard

– Evan Bradds, Senior, Belmont, Forward

– Mike Daum, Sophomore, South Dakota State, Forward

– Eric Mika, Sophomore, BYU, Forward

– Zach Collins, Freshman, Gonzaga, Center

 

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical)

– Peyton Aldridge, Junior, Davidson, Forward

– Brandon Clarke, Sophomore, San Jose State, Forward

-Tim Kempton, Senior, Lehigh, Center

-Tiwian Kendley, Junior, Morgan State, Guard

– EC Matthews, Junior, Rhode Island, Guard

– Marquise Moore, Senior, George Mason, Guard

– Sa’eed Nelson, Freshman, American, Guard

– Erik Thomas, Senior, New Orleans, Forward

– Rashawn Thomas, Senior, Texas A&M CC, Forward

 

 

All Freshman Team

– Keith Braxton, Freshman, St. Francis (PA), Guard

– Sa’eed Nelson, Freshman, American, Guard

– Adam Grant, Freshman, Bryant, Guard

– Yoeli Childs, Freshman, BYU, Forward

– Zach Collins, Freshman, Gonzaga, Center

 

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical)

– DaQuan Bracey, Freshman, Louisiana Tech, Guard

– Kurk Lee, Freshman, Drexel, Guard

 

Conclusion: The mid-majors are dominated by forwards and the freshmen class is heavy in good guards. There are only five total guards who made the All American teams and honorable mentions. For the freshmen class, all but two players were guards. What does this mean? Weak guard recruiting classes for a few years in a row placed a huge emphasis on the forwards for the mid-majors. With more and more mid-majors playing fast paced small ball and a guard heavy freshmen class, these mid-majors are creating more and more players capable of putting up NBA numbers as freshmen. We could see some of these players becoming the next Damian Lilliard or we could see the transfer market blowing up in the next few seasons. Many of these players who were under recruited in high school have now proved themselves at the college level. Would major programs invest in these player who are proven but older over the NBA talent of top-tier high school recruits? Some major programs like Iowa State (5 current transfers) and Gonzaga (4 current transfers rostered) have already used the transfer market to their advantage. Michigan State received Bryn Forbes from Cleveland State and now sees himself as a member of the Spurs. Will more players to follow this route or will they build a program like Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, and Fred VanVleet did at Wichita State? Only time will tell.

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Bubble Wrap

Bubble Wrap

It is the middle of February, the dog days of the college basketball season are here, and despite popular opinion, every game now matters. That goes double for teams in or around the infamous NCAA Tournament bubble.

I say that to say this: Bubble Wrap is back. This column will wrap up the previous day/night’s games and discuss the all-important bubble ramifications of them.

Tuesday brought a relatively light slate of consequential games, but some important results did take place.

VCU and Michigan State, a couple of teams in – for now – as 9 seeds, took care of business against lesser teams. VCU beat lowly St. Joe’s, which does nothing for their resume. The same is basically true for the Spartans, who handled Ohio State in Lansing. The Buckeyes are on Tourney life support and they missed an opportunity to dream.

In probably the most bubblicious game of the night, Clemson defeated Wake Forest in a battle to see who can get the ACC to double-digit tournament bids. Wake has a high R.P.I., but no impressive wins, while the Tigers have a couple good wins (at South Carolina and at Wake), but are 4-9 in league play. I have seen Clemson included in some bracketologists’ brackets, but if we are trying to tell you who would make the tournament if the season ended today, you’re not going to tell me that 4-9 in any league would make it happen.

Clemson would likely need to run the table in the regular season (not gonna happen), or get very close to .500 in ACC play, including games in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. So, for all intents and purposes, the Tigers played spoiler here by severely puncturing Wake’s chances. Wake, currently an 11 seed in my bracket (http://www.collegehoopsdaily.com/bracketology-feb-14/), thanks to an R.P.I. in the low 30s, drops to 15-11 (6-8) and that R.P.I. drops a bit too. My prediction is that neither of these two teams will hear their name called on Selection Sunday, but as of right now, Wake is hanging by a thread.

In the SEC, Tennessee, currently a 10 seed, did itself no favors by being blown out by Kentucky in Lexington. Yes, a loss to big blue is not a bad loss, but a 25-point drubbing is never a good look.

Georgia and Ole Miss kept their very slim tournament hopes alive by taking care of lowly Mississippi State and LSU, respectively.

Virginia Tech, coming off maybe a berth clinching win versus Virginia on Sunday, pulled off a gritty, no-frills win at Pittsburgh to further solidify their spot, currently an 8 seed. I have seen Pittsburgh in some brackets, but the Panthers are 3-10 in the ACC (see Clemson).

 

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Handing out the Hardware: An Early Look at 2017 Post Season Awards

Basketball To The Hoop

It’s almost March!!! Sure, go ahead and read the millions of articles out there about bracketology (Ed Note:  one of those millions of articles is here – read @blacketologist article for CHD here) , this one focuses on the hardware. The season is in full swing and coming down the home stretch. Players all over the country have been carrying their respective teams and deserve recognition. This article aims to predict these awards a little early.

 

American Athletic

Most Valuable Player: Kyle Washington, Junior, Cincinnati, Forward

Defensive Player of the Year: Tacko Fall, Sophomore, Central Florida, Center

Freshman of the Year: Tulio Da Silva, Freshman, South Florida, Forward

First Team: – Jalen Adams, Sophomore, UCONN, Guard

– Rob Gray Jr, Junior, Houston, Guard

– Dedric Lawson, Sophomore, Memphis, Guard

– Kyle Washington, Junior, Cincinnati, Forward

– Tacko Fall, Sophomore, Central Florida, Center

 

ACC

Most Valuable Player: Luke Kennard, Sophomore, Duke, Guard

Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Lammers, Junior, Georgia Tech, Center

Freshman of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr, Freshman, NC State, Guard

First Team: – Dwayne Bacon, Sophomore, Florida State, Guard

– Joel Berry, Junior, North Carolina, Guard

– Luke Kennard, Sophomore, Duke, Guard

– Bonzie Colson, Junior, Notre Dame, Forward

– Amile Jefferson, Senior, Duke, Forward

 

Big 12

Most Valuable Player: Frank Mason III, Senior, Kansas, Guard

Defensive Player of the Year: Johnathan Motley, Junior, Baylor, Forward

Freshman of the Year: Josh Jackson, Freshman, Kansas, Forward

First Team: – Frank Mason III, Senior, Kansas, Guard

– Jawun Evans, Sophomore, Oklahoma State, Guard

– Monte Morris, Senior, Iowa State, Guard

– Josh Jackson, Freshman, Kansas, Forward

– Johnathan Motley, Junior, Baylor, Forward

 

Big East

Most Valuable Player: Josh Hart, Senior, Villanova, Guard

Defensive Player of the Year: Angel Delgado, Junior, Seton Hall, Forward

Freshman of the Year: Marcus LoVett, Freshman, St. John’s, Guard

First Team: – Maurice Watson, Senior, Creighton, Point Guard

–  Josh Hart, Senior, Villanova, Guard

– Marcus Foster, Junior, Creighton, Guard

– Trevon Bluiett, Junior, Xavier, Guard

– Kelan Martin, Junior, Butler, Forward

 

Big Ten

Most Valuable Player: Caleb Swanigan, Sophomore, Purdue, Forward

Defensive Player of the Year: Ethan Happ, Sophomore, Wisconsin, Center

Freshman of the Year: Miles Bridges, Freshman, Michigan State, Forward

First Team: – Melo Trimble, Junior, Maryland, Point Guard

– Peter Jok, Senior, Iowa, Guard

-Miles Bridges, Freshman, Michigan State, Forward

– Caleb Swanigan, Sophomore, Purdue, Forward

– Ethan Happ, Sophomore, Wisconsin, Center

SEC

Most Valuable Player: Malik Monk, Freshman, Kentucky, Guard

Defensive Player of the Year: Moses Kingsley, Senior, Arkansas, Forward

Freshman of the Year: Malik Monk, Freshman, Kentucky, Guard

First Team: – Malik Monk, Freshman, Kentucky, Guard

– De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, Kentucky, Guard

– Sindarius Thornwell, Senior, South Carolina, Guard

– Yante Maten, Junior, Georgia, Forward

– Moses Kingsley, Senior, Arkansas, Forward

 

PAC 12

Most Valuable Player: Lonzo Ball, Freshman, UCLA, Guard

Defensive Player of the Year: Ivan Rabb, Sophomore, California, Forward

Freshman of the Year: Lonzo Ball, Freshman, UCLA, Guard

First Team: – Lonzo Ball, Freshman, UCLA, Guard

– Markelle Fultz, Freshman, Washington, Guard

– Dillion Brooks, Junior, Oregon, Forward

– Lauri Markkanen, Freshman, Arizona, Forward

– TJ Leaf, Freshman, UCLA, Forward

 

National Awards

Most Valuable Player: Josh Hart, Senior, Villanova, Guard / Frank Mason III, Senior, Kansas, Guard  (TOO CLOSE TO CALL)

Defensive Player of the Year: Tacko Fall, Sophomore, Central Florida, Center

Freshman of the Year: Lonzo Ball, Freshman, UCLA, Guard

 

First Team:

– Josh Hart, Senior, Villanova, Guard

– Frank Mason III, Senior, Kansas, Guard

– Lonzo Ball, Freshman, UCLA, Guard

– Caleb Swanigan, Sophomore, Purdue, Forward

– Johnathan Motley, Junior, Baylor, Forward

 

Second Team:

– Nigel-Williams Goss, Junior, Gonzaga, Guard

– Malik Monk, Freshman, Kentucky, Guard

– Luke Kennard, Sophomore, Duke, Guard

– Lauri Markkanen, Freshman, Arizona, Forward

– Ethan Happ, Sophomore, Wisconsin, Center

 

Third Team:

– De’Aaron Fox, Freshman, Kentucky, Guard

– Josh Jackson, Freshman, Kansas, Forward

– Miles Bridges, Freshman, Michigan State, Forward

– Dillion Brooks, Junior, Oregon, Forward

– TJ Leaf, Freshman, UCLA, Forward

 

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical)

  • Dwayne Bacon, Sophomore, Florida State, Guard
  • Joel Berry, Junior, North Carolina, Guard
  • Bonzie Colson, Junior, Notre Dame, Forward
  • Jawun Evans, Sophomore, Oklahoma State, Guard
  • Markelle Fultz, Freshman, Washington, Guard
  • Amile Jefferson, Senior, Duke, Forward
  • Dedric Lawson, Sophomore, Memphis, Guard
  • Melo Trimble, Junior, Maryland, Point Guard
  • Kyle Washington, Junior, Cincinnati, Forward