Thank you once again for turning to The Sports Headquarters for some CBB material. You see, I grew up intrigued by many cop/lawyer shows, ala Law and Order, Matlock (to a lesser degree), CSI, Cold Case, you name it. Now, what the hell does that have to do with College Basketball? Great question, but the more you come to TSHQ to read our writeups, the more you’ll see when it comes to K.M, myself, and Gus, there’s always a method to our madness. I always wanted to be a lawyer when I was younger. I felt I was a pretty persuasive individual, don’t mind the audience, and I like to hear myself speak. Is there any other qualifications for being a lawyer? Well yes, that small thing called Law School so that’s where the train derailed on that career. Nonetheless, I thought “What better place to play lawyer then here at TSHQ?” So that’s what this one-time segment will be ladies and gents. My day in the court. I’m going to give to you 6 of my beliefs from the CBB season thus far, and judging the hearing will be none other than our main man on everything CBB, the honorable judge Gus “The Guru” Elvin. You should recognize him by now for his tremendous conference previews and work with K.M and myself in “Guru vs. Gamblers.” This one-time segment is relatively simple. I will make a case, present my evidence, and Judge Elvin will merely rule Smart or Stupid, and give you the readers, the reason for his judgment. There is no debate, rebuttal, etc. I either puff my chest out for a job well done, or sulk out of the courtroom. With all that said, here’s the cases…
Editors Note: All of these “Claims” were written on January 20th, so if something isn’t “updated” in terms of stats or resume’, make not of that
Claim #1: The Michigan State Spartans are still Final Four caliber
My Case:Listen, I know this team is going through its early season struggles. They’ve had most of their struggles away from home and 6 losses for this team before February is a rarity. But this team is ALWAYS a problem come March. For one, other than Coach K, there may not be a better March Madness coach in CBB than Tom Izzo. Of the 10 Final Fours last decade, Izzo was in half of them. They have just about every important player back from last year’s team that went to the Final Four. They have inside-out ability. They have a veteran cast that is led by 2 seniors and 3 juniors. I mean, yes I recognize right now they aren’t playing at the level we would expect them to. But why would you want to play this team? They were a 5 seed last year. If they get in, they’re a threat. The Big Ten is also one of the best conferences in America this year. The fact they could finish 3rd or 4th is not a knock. I wouldn’t want to see this team at all.
Judge Elvin’s Ruling: Bryan to start off this is a great question and to be honest, I don’t think we really know at this point in the season. I’m gonna say SMART because I think this team is just too talented and too well coached to continue to struggle like they have thus far this season. I think that Tom Izzo and this Michigan State program has earned the benefit of the doubt , and I would be very hesitant to pick against this veteran team and thei tremendous coach. Michigan State came in as one of the biggest threats to a Duke repeat but due to an extremely tough schedule and some close losses, Sparty has limped out to a 12-7 start. Michigan State does not look anything like a national title contender so far this season but I’m afraid to close the book on this team because of Tom Izzo. I think Izzo is the best coach in college basketball and this team does have the talent of a Final Four team if they can find their groove down the stretch. Tom Izzo seems to have the Spartans contending for a Final Four every season and with a senior laden team led by Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, I would not be surprised if Michigan State made a run towards their 7th Final Four under coach Izzo. I think your exactly right when you say as long as they can get in, they will be a tough out and a team that definitely can make a run in March. This team has all the elements of a Final Four team but if they want to have a chance to make it to Houston they need to get going and start winning games in the tough Big Ten. I know it seems unlikely at this point but I believe once again Tom Izzo will have his battle tested Spartans ready for a run in March and would not be shocked to see them in yes another Final Four.
Claim #2: There could be Multiple Mid-Majors in the Elite Eight
My Case:Am I reaching here perhaps? Sure. But why not? Who in the major conferences do you look at as Elite Eight material. I’m an Arizona fan and I see zero in the PAC-10. ACC other than Duke there’s none I would bet on. SEC? Maybe one with Kentucky. So unless the Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East put multiple teams in, then I could certainly see 2 mid-majors sneak into the Elite Eight. The Big East has a bunch of quality teams that could make a run. As does the Big Ten. But how many will? Some will be stuck with lower seeds that make their run tougher. Plus, the Mid-Major field is pretty deep this year. Between SDST, BYU, Temple, Butler, St. Mary’s, though not all are teams I would feel comfortable betting to make it that far, I wouldn’t be shocked in the least to see two from the Mid-Major field make a deep run.
Judge Elvin’s Ruling: Again I agree with you here and am going to say SMART once again as your right when you consider the lack of serious contenders in a few of the major conferences and the quality of some of the mid-majors this year like SDSU and BYU. Every year 2 or 3 mid-majors reach the Sweet 16 and I think this year a few have the potential to go one round farther and reach the Elite 8 and maybe the Final Four. To start off I think both the Pac-10 and the SEC lack any serious contenders and see the Big East, Big 12 and Big 10 as the conferences with the most Elite 8 caliber teams. Obviously you never know until the brackets and match-ups come out but I think this year should be a wide open tournament where I expect mid-majors to leave a visible imprint. As far as which teams I would pick I would look at the top 3 from the Mountain West , SDSU, BYU and even UNLV as teams built to make a run. I also like Temple and Richmond out of the A-10, Memphis out of Conference USA and both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s out of the WCC. In conclusion, I definitely agree that 2 or 3 mid-majors could reach the elite 8 this season and think SDSU and BYU should have a good chance, granted they get a favorable route with the brackets.
Claim #3: Kansas is the biggest threat to Duke repeating
My Case:Even with the loss to FSU, it seems to be a popular belief that Duke is still the favorite to win it all. So who is the most likely team to dethrone them. Give me Kansas and you can keep your Ohio St.’s, Syracuses, Pittsburghs, etc. Why do I like Kansas? Size. I love the Morris twins down low. Duke has had it’s issues with size in recent tournaments as teams like LSU, Villanova, with athletic big men have given them trouble. Since really Boozer, they haven’t had the best post big men and that’s something I feel confident Kansas could exploit. Kansas isn’t short at talent at guard either which is always a necessity when playing Duke teams who generally have good floor generals and outside shooting. I’m not sold Ohio St. is fully legit yet. They had a pretty weak early season schedule, only one or two challenges. Syracuse is talented. Also have some good frontcourt play, but I’m not sold on their guards against Nolan Smith, etc. Pitt until I see them make a Final Four I just can’t buy. They’ve had endless top teams not make it. Tell me I’m wrong Guru.
Judge Elvin’s Ruling: Although, Kansas is a threat and the Morris twins have been tremendous all season I am gonna disagree with you and argue that Ohio State is the biggest threat to a Duke repeat. I am not gonna say choosing Kansas is STUPID but I think the Buckeyes are the bigger threat with seniors Jon Diebler and David Lighty on the outside and the freshman Sullinger in the post is one of the best freshman big men I’ve ever seen and would be a serious candidate for National Player of the Year if the season ended today. Sullinger has scored in double figures in 18 of the the Buckeyes 20 games, averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the floor. Alongside Sullinger the Buckeyes have a solid freshman point guard in Aaron Craft, 2 senior leaders in Diebler and Lighty, and an electric scorer in William Buford. The Buckeyes have played a better schedule then your giving them credit for with wins over FSU, Florida, Minnesota and Illinois, some in convincing fashion. It might just be me but I’m sold on the Buckeyes and I’ve been very impressed with Jared Sullinger and don’t think anyone on Duke could stop this guy once he gets position down on the block. Sullinger has had his best games against the steepest competition and if you watched his performance on Saturday against Illinois you would see he is the real deal. I agree Kansas is a good team and the Morris twins are great players butI personally think Ohio States a deeper and more veteran team, thats built to handle the Blue Devils who lack a formidable post presence.
*Though I appreciate the Judge’s humility, the options after all are called Smart or Stupid. So there’s no suger-coating it. We’re going all out here people. Not “wrong, but not too wrong.” The ruling here: STUPID.
Claim #4: The ACC won’t get 3 teams in the 2nd round of March Madness this year.
My Case:Honestly, I tried doing some homework to see the last time this happened and I couldn’t come across it. That’s right, I think the best the ACC can hope for is 2 teams to win a tourney game. Am I crazy? Maybe. Show me where I’m wrong. I look at the ACC and I see a league with one dominant team. Duke’s a given to win their first game. So really all I’m asking is what 2 other teams win a game? First off, lets start with something right off the bat. I wouldn’t give this conference more than 4 bids, 5 at the most. And it would take a lot for me to go to 5. I think you have a few bubble teams (BC, FSU, UNC, VT) who could go but none I’m sold on. Odds are one of them will be in the play-in (last at-large game) game, meaning they need to win 2 to get to the “2nd round.” Again, I’m not seeing it. BC better pray they don’t see an Ivy school. VT is up and down. UNC seems to be picking it up. They’d probably be my most likely 2nd team right now, but I’m still not completely sold on them. FSU? Ehh…I wouldn’t put my life on them to win a game. I think for all the crap my PAC-10 takes (and it’s a pretty bad conference), I don’t think beyond Duke that the ACC is much better. And I’ll admit I haven’t looked at conference RPI’s, all that. I’m going strictly eye-test here. As a Clemson student, I’ve seen quite a few ACC games whether we’re involved or whether its just on ESPN, and well, I’m just not that impressed.
Judge Elvin’s Ruling: Bryan, I’m gonna disagree with you and say STUPID here. The ACC is mediocre after Duke I’d agree but teams 2-8 in that league are all solid teams and I expect 6 maybe 7 of them to make it to the “Big Dance when all is said and done. That being said with 6, or maybe 7 teams going I think the ACC would have a pretty good shot to get 3 or maybe 4 or more into the 2nd round depending on the match-ups. Once again, its extremely hard to speculate until you see the match-ups and the brackets but I think the ACC is a lot better than you are giving credit for, and could see any of these 2-7 teams making a Sweet 16 run. The ACC will not have 4 or 5 teams competing for the Final Four like the Big East or Big 12 but I think almost any of these 2nd tier teams is good enough to survive the first weekend, provided they don’t get squeezed by the match-ups. I think Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State are all tournament teams as of now and Boston College and Maryland would most likely be tournament teams, and Miami and NC State still in consideration. Maryland is a team that with Jordan Williams could win a game or two, BC is always in the game with their 3 point shooting, NC is athletic and could make a run if Harrison Barnes ever got going and Florida State is one of the stingiest defensive teams in the nation and has already beaten Duke. I see Duke as an automatic win in the first round and think all the other ACC teams would have middle of the pack seeds that would mean they could be going up against middle seeded teams in other leagues like the SEC, Pac-10 or even Mid Major conferences. This is tough to predict but I think the ACC is a lot better from teams 2-7 than people give them credit for and definitely think 2 or 3 of these teams can win 1 or maybe 2 tournament teams. There maybe no bona fide #2 team in the ACC but there are definitely 4 or 5 other teams outside of Duke who could realistically reach the Sweet 16.
Claim #5: Jared Sullinger is more a product of his schedule than talent
My Case:Look I know I’m probably going to get killed for this one. I’m sure this is harsh. But I’ve seen nothing that’s impressed me. Listen I know he dominated Florida. Played pretty well against FSU. I go through the rest of their schedule and really only game that even registers to me is Minnesota. And he had 15/12 there. I’m NOT SAYING this kid isn’t very good. I’m saying he’s not POY good. Im already eyeing a 4-game stretch from Feb. 6th-20th where Ohio St. will play games @Minnesota, @Wisconsin, vs. Michigan St., @Purdue. You want me to shut-up Jared Sullinger (as if he reads this), dominate that stretch. I have Nolan Smith, Jimmer Fredette, and Kemba Walker all ahead of you. I’m sure your legit. I’m sure your probably a Top 5-10 player in the country, but I don’t get impressed by dominating the Orphan Annie’s of the CBB world. OSU’s schedule has been soft as tissue paper and I think once he gets into the bulk of the Big Ten schedule, Ohio St. and Jared Sullinger will run into some speed bumps.
Judge Elvin’s Ruling: STUPID, thats all there is too it. Jared Sullinger has been the most dominant presence in the paint throughout all of college basketball and he is just a freshman. Sullinger is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds a game and has had his best games against the Buckeyes toughest competition. The Buckeyes are the top ranked team in the country and would not be where they are at this point without the bigman down low. Sullinger has had games of 26 and 10 against Florida, 40 and 13 against IUPUI, 30 and 19 against a decent South Carolina team, 15 and 12 against Minnesota, 27 and 16 against Illinois and 16 and 9 against Oakland and their star center Keith Benson who Sullinger held to 8 points. This guy has done everything and more and I don’t know how you can’t be sold on this young man thus far this season. The other three players you mentioned are tremendous players but they are upperclassmen and you have to consider this guy is more than just in the conversation and he is only 18. This guy has had his best games against the toughest competition so I disagree 100 percent with you and will make a case Jared Sullinger has been the Most Valuable Player in college basketball anyday.
Claim #6: The best Conference Tournament for tourney bids will be the Big XII
My Case:As I’ve stated before, I think the ACC and PAC-10 are pretty bad. You can even throw the SEC in there. I don’t think any of those leagues deserve more than 3-4 bids. The Big East is going to get about 8-9 teams so really unless your a St. John’s fan or something, that tournament will be great (it always is) but it doesn’t matter much. The Big Ten has it’s top 4 almost locked in. Then I expect 1-2 other teams to compete. Of the Mid-Majors, some conferences will get multiple bids as a result of some BCS conferences being down. Now, the Big XII. In my opinion, your looking at a league that has about 8-9 teams competing for 5-6 spots. Right now I have Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, and Missouri as locks. If I’m wrong on any of those, let me know. Now look at the talent left: Kansas St., Baylor, Oklahoma St., Nebraska, Colorado. I think right there you have about 2 bids up for grabs between those teams so the first round could almost see some de-facto “elimination games”. The 2nd round your going to have IMO, games with teams like Kansas, Texas, etc. playing for seed while their opponent is playing for a tourney at-large bid. I’m talking the possibility of Kentucky-Miss St. type games from last year’s SEC tourney final. That much drama. And there could be about 2-3 of these games. It’s gonna be without question to me the most important tournament of all the conferences.
Judge Elvin’s Ruling: Bryan, for this one I think it comes down to the Big 12 and the ACC which like I said earlier has a lot of teams in contention for an NCAA bid. I think this is too tough to call as both of these conferences could have 4 or 5 teams on the NCAA fence come conference tournament time. The BIG 12 like you said should have Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Colorado or Nebraska all with work left to do at the start of the tournament. In the ACC no one is a lock other than Duke and like I said earlier I think 7 other teams have a real chance to make the dance with still half a season to play. North Carolina, BC, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State and even NC State and Miami should be either in the dance or have an opportunity at the start of ACC to qualify for the new expanded NCAA tournament. So I think this claim in neither smart nor stupid as all conference tournaments should be excited with these two being extra meaningful.
Alright so my day in the court wasn’t perfect but it went well. A few wins, a couple losses, and a dismissed case that may have to be brought back to court in a few weeks. Nonetheless, like I said, this was a one-time piece just to change things up a little bit here at TSHQ. I would like to thank the honorable Judge Elvin for helping me with this and taking the time out of his busy schedule. I hope you all enjoy it and check back later this week for the latest edition of Gamblers vs. Guru. Take care and as always, suggestions or comments beyond blogger can be sent via email or our Facebook fanpage….
Bryan Doherty + Gus Elvin
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