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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

Bubble wrap

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

 

 

 

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Bracketology 2017: Valentine’s Day Edition

Road to Bracketville

On Saturday, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee gave us a sneak peak at their thinking, as far as the top four seeding lines are concerned. It gave us a clue as to how they may be slightly overvaluing the Pac 12 conference, slightly undervaluing the Big East conference and, some would say, completely disrespecting the Big Ten conference.

That being said, the committee’s current rankings gave us lots to talk about and gives us the groundwork for this week’s look at the possible tournament field.

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, Baylor.

2 SEEDS: North Carolina; Florida State; Louisville, Oregon.

3 SEEDS: Arizona; Virginia; Florida; Kentucky.

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

5 SEEDS: Creighton; Wisconsin; Purdue; Cincinnati.

6 SEEDS: Notre Dame; South Carolina; Maryland; Xavier.

7 SEEDS: SMU; St. Mary’s; Minnesota; Northwestern.

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

9 SEEDS: Dayton; VCU; Michigan State; Kansas State.

10 SEEDS: Michigan; TCU; Tennessee; Miami.

11 SEEDS: Wake Forest; Wichita State vs. Seton Hall; California vs. Syracuse; Middle Tennessee State.

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

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

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

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

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

LAST FOUR IN: Wichita State; California; Syracuse; Seton Hall.

FIRST SIX OUT: Rhode Island; Arkansas; Marquette; Georgetown; Indiana; Clemson.

NEXT SIX OUT: Vanderbilt; Georgia; Georgia Tech; Ohio State; Houston; Mississippi.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: ACC (10); Big 12 (7); Big Ten (7); Big East (5); Pac 12 (5); SEC (4); Atlantic 10 (2); AAC (2); Missouri Valley (2); West Coast (2).

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

Follow Jamal Murphy on Twitter: @Blacketologist

 

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Big Ten Down Year? Think again.

BIG

By Bryan Mauro
@threecolorbeard

All of the so-called College Basketball experts say the Big Ten is having a down year. They have all said this this weakest and the worst the Big Ten has looked from top to bottom in years. Some have even described it as ‘Hot Garbage’ in terms of play and scheduling.

Seth Greenberg, Seth Davis and Jon Rothstein, I implore you to look at my perspective. The Big Ten is deeper and stronger this year than it has ever been in the past. Per KenPom the Big 10 has 7 schools ranked in the top 50 overall. That is second among major conferences behind the ACC. There are zero easy wins in the league this year, evidenced by the fact that Rutgers has kept most games close and has beaten two teams.

For the last couple of years there was a drastic difference between the teams at the top, the teams in the middle, and the teams bringing up the rear. This year the gap has closed significantly and those bottom tier teams like Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Rutgers are making you earn every single win, competing for all 40 minutes.

The bottom tier teams already have wins over Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, and Purdue. Maryland has played all of their games within 8 points. The league also seems to be beating up on itself, which is a product of the deeper leagues, and the best leagues.

Wisconsin lost to Purdue, Purdue lost to both Minnesota and Nebraska. Purdue beat Maryland, while Maryland also lost to Nebraska at home. Michigan State has done their fair share of losing as well. They got spanked by Penn State, but then have turned around and spanked Northwestern and Michigan. This has been one of the only years I can remember where the Big Ten seems to be this deep.

The Big Ten also boasts three of the top 10 schedules in the country.

Nebraska tested themselves early and often with the number 3 strength-of-schedule in the country. They played Kansas, UCLA, Dayton, Clemson, and Creighton in the Non-Conference portion of the season. The Huskers were able to beat Dayton and played UCLA to a 2-point game late in the second half, before succumbing to the Bruins.

Minnesota boasts the number 9 SOS in the country. They played Florida State, Arkansas, UT Arlington and Vanderbilt in the non-conference winning all of the games except Florida State.

Illinois comes in with the number 6 Strength of Schedule in the nation. Illinois played VCU, West Virginia, Florida State and NC State. They beat NC State and VCU. The Big Ten already boasts some of the best wins in the nation. Indiana beat both Kansas and North Carolina. Nebraska and Northwestern have beaten Dayton. Purdue has beaten Notre Dame. Michigan has beaten Marquette and SMU. Iowa has beaten Iowa State.

KenPom also shows that the Big Ten has two of the youngest teams in the country. Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa is the youngest team in the country. By having two of the youngest teams in the country you can project, if all of those kids stay at the school they currently play for, they will be one of the most experienced teams in the country in two years. Those teams usually win a lot of games and have learned how to all win together. That will only make the league stronger going forward.

The league this year has many high profile players showing their stuff for NBA scouts each and every night. The likes of Biggie Swanigan, Tai Webster, Peter Jok, Corey Sanders. This league has a player for every team and every style. Maybe the records and the standings in the Big 10 this year reflect that it is in fact the deepest it has ever been, as opposed to it being the worst it has been in years. Its some food for thought, and the finish in this league will for sure be one for the history books.

So while the so called “experts” say this is worst year in quite some time for the Big Ten, I say it may in fact be one of the best.

The Big Ten may not get their usual allotment of tourney teams this year, not because they don’t have better deep teams, but these teams have spent so much time beating up on each other all year, that they just have too many losses.

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Tonight Should Be Fun

dukeunc

There are always a few nights each season before the conference tournaments get underway that just have a special feel to them and tonight is one of them. What a slate of games, two monster games and an another that warrants significant viewing time. The two marquee games should be extremely high-scoring and entertaining from start to finish.

First at 8pm on ESPN we have #8 North Carolina trekking across town to #18 Duke. It is Coach K’s second game back and the single most important game of the season for Duke. Things have been relatively quiet for the Blue Devils in terms of media overblown issues the past few games and they have been able to just play basketball. Sure Grayson Allen has been bullied around a few times, but really during Duke’s three game win streak, they have started to finally click. That plays a big role in the reason tonight’s game is the most important for Duke because it is the home game for them. If things were switched and the first game was in Chapel Hill, it would turn into a game about Grayson Allen. The crowd in Chapel Hill will be the toughest he’ll face all year, but tonight he gets to focus just on basketball and North Carolina, the team.

The Tar Heels haven’t played in four days after beating Notre Dame at home and will be well rested coming into Cameron Indoor Stadium and more importantly, healthy. Theo Pinson has struggled to stay on the floor this season and has only played in six games. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, it appears he will play tonight for the first time in 3 games and he is much needed by UNC specifically tonight. If he plays, he will most likely be the primary defender against the ACC’s best player, Luke Kennard. He is athletic and quick enough to shut down Kennard, something that no team has been able to do all season because he is too versatile. When UNC has the ball, Joel Berry is the guy to watch. Berry struggled mightily in the two games against Duke last season, scoring just 20 points on 5 of 23 shooting. The Tar Heels will need a much better performance from him tonight if they want to leave Cameron with a win.

And how about this for a stat courtesy of ESPN to show just how special this game is, over the last 96 games both teams have won 48 and scored exactly 7,437 points, kudos to who ever figured that one out.

What a tough act to follow right? But #5 Oregon at #10 UCLA is like having The Rolling Stones follow Led Zeppelin. This one should be even higher scoring than the ACC showdown, which should see both teams in the 80s because this one could see both in the 90s. These are two teams heading in difference directions as Oregon struggled during the non-conference schedule and has been a force to be reckoned with in Pac-12 play, including the 89-87 win over UCLA in their conference opener. And who will forget for the rest of the season the whooping they just put on Arizona this week when they shot over 65 percent from the floor.

UCLA was untouchable in the non-conference slate, but has struggled a bit the past few weeks. They lost two straight games by more points than they had held a deficit all season. The home game tonight ends a three game road trip and they will be the beneficiary of a rocking Pauley Pavilion tonight. This one has matchups galore to look out for starting with Lonzo Ball against Dillon Brooks, I mean what more can you ask for than the two best players in the conference going head-to-head all night. Ball has been playing his best basketball the past few weeks, but Brooks got the better of him in Eugene on December 28. It is impossible to tell who will have the edge tonight, but both should have some electric plays.

Next we have the battle of the UCLA freshman TJ Leaf and Oregon senior Chris Boucher, both standing 6’10 with complete different styles of play. I give a slight edge to Boucher because of athleticism and experience, but Leaf kept Boucher quiet in Oregon’s December win.

The final excellent head-to-head matchup is Bryce Alford against Tyler Dorsey. Alford is heart and soul of UCLA and this will be his last huge game at Pauley after four incredible seasons. Dorsey is coming off the best game of his career in the Arizona win as he scored 23 and knocked down all six of his three point attempts. I can easily see these two sharp shooters combining for close to 15 three pointers tonight.

If those two games aren’t enough for you on your Thursday night, you can tune into the 7pm Big Ten showdown between #16 Purdue and Indiana in Bloomington. If Indiana had James Blackmon and OG Anunoby, ESPN would have had to shift their scheduling around so that all three games were on ESPN, but this one gets ESPN2. This is a must win game for Indiana if they want to keep themselves out of bubble talk, but Purdue comes in hot after beating Maryland and Northwestern. Consider this one Rush opening for Zeppelin and the Stones. Enjoy!