In the world of college basketball, rankings, records and standings are constantly changing and a lot has changed since my initial bracketology post. It’s time to update the field of 68 and see who has worked their way in, who has fallen out and just how your team’s seed has changed over the past couple of weeks. If you didn’t check out the previous installment I remind you that the field has been expanded this season to 68 teams, with the final four at large teams and the final four automatic qualifiers battling it out for a total of 4 tournament bids. There is still over a month until Selection Sunday but this is how the NCAA field would look if the brackets were released today. Lastly, for Mid-Major conferences the team that is currently in first in the conference will be chosen in this bracket because the majority of these are one bid leagues and we can only go on where teams stand right now. That’s enough rambling from me, here is your field of 68.
**Denotes Conference’s Automatic Bid (Current Conference Leader)
(As of February 21st)
(As of February 21st)
1.)*Duke- ACC (25-2)- The Blue Devils were the consensus #1 team this preseason after returning both Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith from last years National Championship squad and have done little to hurt that ranking with just two losses. The Dukies only on court defeats came at Florida State and St. Johns’s but the bigger loss may be the injury to freshman phenom Kyrie Irving who has missed the last 19 games and is out indefinitely with a severe right toe injury. Duke is still many’s favorite to repeat as National Champs so don’t sleep on the Blue Devils as Nolan Smith is playing as well as anyone in the country not named Jimmer, averaging 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for Coach K’s Blue Devils. This time last week Duke was a #2 seed but with everyone else losing this past week the Blue Devils have reclaimed the top overall spot even without the freshman Irving.
2.)*Texas-Big 12 (23-4)-Until Saturday’s upset loss at Nebraska, I had Texas as the top overall seed but even after their first conference loss the ‘Horns remain a #1 seed based on their full body of work. The Longhorns are one the hottest teams in the country having won 17 of their last 19, losing to Nebraska by 3 and UConn by 1 in overtime over that span. Texas lost its top 3 scorers from last years team including Damion James but Jordan Hamilton has become a star in his sophomore campaign. The second year player leads the Longhorns in scoring at 19 points a game, rebounding at 7.5 rebounds per game and also averages over 2 assists per contest. Hamilton has done it all this year for Texas who also rely on two key freshman Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph. The two Canadians have been terrific for Rick Barnes averaging a combined 25 points for the Horns. The Longhorns have played a murderous schedule and already boasts wins over Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas A&M(twice) and Kansas, with 2 of their 4 losses coming to teams ranked inside the top 10(Pitt and Uconn). Texas is still the top dog in the Big 12 at 12-1 in Big 12 play and remain in contention for the top overall seed.
3.)*Ohio State-Big 10 (25-2)- After starting out 24-0, Ohio State has lost 2 of their past 3 both on the road to Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Purdue. Losing 2 games in a little over a week might seem to be a big deal but OSU is still in great shape as both of these losses were on the road in tough environments to teams ranked in the top 11 in the country. Ohio State is led by freshman center Jared Sullinger, a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year who is averaging an unheard of 18 points and 10 rebounds as an 18 year old. Ohio State outside of Sullinger and freshman point guard Aaron Craft are a veteran team headlined by seniors David Lighty and Jon Diebler and deserve the distinction of a #1 seed even after recent road losses to Wisconsin and Purdue.
4.)*Pittsburgh-Big East (24-3)- The Panthers had won 4 straight before slipping up against St. John’s over the weekend but remain the unquestioned class of the Big East. Pitt is one of the best defensive teams in the nation and is a veteran team led by seniors Brad Wannemaker and Gilbert Brown and junior sharpshooter Ashton Gibbs. If Pitt could ever get some contributions inside from Nasir Robinson and Gary McGhee this could be the season the Panthers reach that elusive Final Four. Pitt right now even after this past weekends setback is the best team in the country’s toughest conference which merits them earning the fourth and final #1 seed.
1.)Kansas- (25-2)-The Jayhawks lost their top 3 players from last year to the NBA in Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry but have barely missed a beat as they stand at 25-2 on the season. The Jayhawks are led by the Morris twins out of Philadelphia who seem to get better every game as Kansas may have the best front court duo in the land. Kansas is right on Texas’s heels in the Big 12 and even though they lost to the Horns head to head, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks repeat in the Big 12 and earn another number 1 seed. Kansas drops down to the 2 line temporarily after last weeks loss at Kansas State but the Jayhawks were able to rebound with an impressive win over Colorado on Saturday and are still right in the thick of the Big 12 regular season race.
2.)San Diego State (27-1)-The Aztecs were the darlings of the college basketball world as they rose from outside of the polls to #4 in the country before finally losing at BYU. SDSU has played a solid schedule having already beaten Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, Wichita State,UNLV(x2) and Colorado State. The Aztecs are a great defensive team and definitely a team that we will hear from again later this year in the postseason. The Aztecs have a legendary coach in Steve Fisher, a tremendous athlete in Kawhi Leonard(16ppg and 11rpg, despite being only 6’7) and a floor general in D.J. Gay, all elements that will make them a tough out come March. Since the loss at BYU the Aztecs have ripped off 7 in a row and have been one of the most consistent teams in college basketball as the loss at BYU remains their only defeat this season.
3.)*BYU- Mountain West (25-2)-The Cougars are 25-2 and may have the best player in the country in guard Jimmer Fredette who has shown the nation timelessly how good he is most notably with a 43 point masterpiece in a win over SDSU. Fredette had three 40 point games in the month of January including back to back 40 point efforts in games against Colorado State and San Diego State. BYU had some solid wins against Utah State, Saint Mary’s, UNLV and UTEP and a marquee win over #4 SDSU. I think BYU is for real and although only one other player scored in double figures against the Aztecs, I like the Cougars to go toe to toe with SDSU for the regular season title. Jackson Emery is an underrated compliment to Fredette and could be the key to how far BYU can go this season. Huge week for the Cougs as they host bubble team CSU midweek and then play at SDSU this weekend in a rematch between the top 2 teams in the Mountain West.
4.)Purdue-(22-5)- Many thought the Boilermaker’s ceiling would be limited without injured star Robbie Hummell but thanks to E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, Purdue is right where we thought they would be around the 1 or 2 seed line. Johnson has been one of the best players in the country all season long averaging 21 points a game while Moore(19ppg) has picked it up of late, most notably in a 38 point output against Ohio State. For the Boilermaker’s its simple they need Moore to score as in all 5 of their losses Moore has had poor shooting nights which this team can’t afford considering they don’t have Hummell. Purdue has nice wins against Virginia Tech, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio State and truly doesn’t have a bad loss to date. Purdue is not the same team they would have been this season if they had stayed healthy but regardless of injury they are team on the rise and a team to look out for. The Boilermakers moved themselves up a couple of lines after a huge week with impressive wins over #10 Wisconsin and #3 Ohio State.
1.) Notre Dame (21-5)-The Irish are another one of the biggest surprises this year as many figured the Irish would finish in the middle of the pack in the Big East but they have out performed expectations. Heading into the weekend the Irish had been one of the hotter teams in the country having won 7 in a row before losing at West Virginia. For Notre Dame Ben Hansbrough has been the key player all season averaging 17 points to help fill the scoring void vacated by Luke Harangody. Tyler’s younger brother who played his fist two seasons at Mississippi State is quickly becoming a fan favorite in South Bend as the fiery guard leads the Irish in scoring and assists. The recent loss at Morgantown drops Notre Dame down a line but you would have to figure Mike Brey and the Irish would be thrilled to receive a #3 seed considering where they were ranked in the Big East to start the season.
2.)Georgetown (21-6)-The Hoyas are another team that seem to be sliding under the radar because of the play of some of the other teams in the Big East but have ripped off 8 of their last past 9 after starting conference play 1-4. Georgetown has some nice non-conference victories as they have beaten Missouri, Old Dominion, Memphis, and Utah State as well conference foes Villanova, Syracuse and Louisville. The Hoyas are a veteran team with three guards Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark leading the way for coach John Thompson III. Georgetown has a lot of talent even without a true offensive post presence and has played well of late but still has 2 games with Cincinnati and a game with Syracuse remaining in the regular season. Austin Freeman has had an outstanding season shooting the ball averaging 18 points a game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from down town, two statistics that will need to continue if Georgetown wants to continue their winning ways.
3.)*Florida-SEC (21-5)- The Gators returned almost everything from last years team and came into the season with high expectations before losing 3 non-conference games 2 of those to in state opponents Jacksonville and UCF. UCF has since cooled off so the Gators are looking at two bad non-conference losses but have started 10-2 in SEC play. Florida is a very balanced team as five players average about 10 points a game led by speedy guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton who average a combined 28 points out of the Florida back court. The Gators have wins over Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Kentucky, Tennessee (twice) and at Xavier so their resume has plenty of weight to it, something that has hurt the Gators on Selection Sunday the past few seasons. The Gator’s have a 2 game lead in the SEC East but finish the season with games against Georgia, at Kentucky, home against Alabama and at Vanderbilt, a slate that should really test the experienced Gators.
4.)Wisconsin (20-6)- There is never anything too pretty or clever about Wisconsin basketball but yet year in and year out they win with the same formula, tough defense, protecting their home court and timely shot making. This year is no different as the Badgers rank 3rd in the nation in scoring defense and are undefeated at the Kohl Center once again under Bo Ryan. The Badgers offensively rely on two players, forward Jon Leuer who averages 19 points a contest and guard Jordan Taylor who chips in over 18 a game. Last weekend, the Badgers made their mark on the college basketball season with a furious rally to pull off a win over the undefeated and top ranked Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Badgers resume this season also includes wins over Boston College, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois. The Badgers just seem to be there every season and I wouldn’t pick against the Badgers in round 1 of this year’s dance. After a loss to Penn State at the end of January the Badgers have won 5 of 6 are currently 3rd in the Big 10 at 10-4.
1.)Connecticut (20-6)-To me maybe the biggest surprise in college basketball the Huskies have built off their tremendous Maui Classic run and are currently ranked #14 in the country, in large part to Nation POY candidate Kemba Walker. Walker has been outstanding averaging almost 1/3 of Connecticut’s points, ranking 2nd in the Big East in scoring at 23 points a game. Recently though Walker has cooled off which may be a good thing for UConn as freshmen Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb have had to step up in order to keep UConn afloat. Add in Alex Oriakhi one of the most improved players in the Big East and Connecticut looks to have a team capable of making a run at in the NCAA’s. I keep waiting for the Huskies to lose a few games because of their dependence on Walker but so far they have proved me wrong and will be back in the NCAA’s after missing the Dance a season ago. The Huskies have been up and down of late as they were thrashed by St.John’s, beat a hot Georgetown team and then lost at Louisville. The Huskies face 2 Big East bubble teams this week as they host Marquette and then play at Cincinnati.
2.) North Carolina (20-6)-After a tough early season start the Tar Heels have gone 16-3 since losing at Illinois, including a 10-2 start in ACC play under Roy Williams. The Heels who did not make last years NCAA tournament look to be headed back to the big dance behind the play of forwards Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes. Barnes a freshman who was picked as an AP All American has struggled in his first season in Chapel Hill but has recently started to improve his play coming up with clutch shots against Virginia Tech and Miami and a 26 point outburst against Boston College. The Heels have only one bad loss coming last weekend against Georgia Tech but they also only have one marquee win, a win over Kentucky. UNC has picked up other mediocre wins against Boston College (twice), Clemson(twice) and Virginia Tech but need to continue to play well in conference as their schedule gets tougher to continue to improve their seeding.
3.)Louisville (20-7)- It’s time I give this Cardinals team some credit, as they have done well so far in Big East play and have exceeded all my personal expectations. The Cardinals have beaten UNLV, Butler, Marquette, Syracuse, Connecticut(twice) and WV but also have losses to Drexel and Providence. Recently the Cards have shown me more and I am starting to think they are better than I want to believe as they force turnovers(5th in steals) and have multiple guys capable of knocking down the three point shot. Preston Knowles has been the main man for Louisville this season averaging 15 ppg to lead a group of 8 who average 7 points or more. Alongside Knowles a good long range shooter, sophomore Peyton Siva has emerged as one of the best penetrators in the Big East and has shown a flair for late game heroics in games against West Virginia and the first match-up with Connecticut.
4.)*Arizona-PAC-10 (23-4) -The Wildcats have had a nice year under 2nd year Sean Miller but lacked any true good wins until Saturday when they held off Washington thanks to the long arms of Derrick Williams. Arizona is in this position partially due to a weak schedule in which their best wins before Washington were UCLA and Washington State. ‘Zona has played 3 ranked teams all year and lost all three of them, with their other loss came at the hands at lowly Oregon State. As bad as their schedule is Arizona has been impressive of late winning 8 straight and 11 of their past 12 with their only loss over that span coming at Washington. Arizona has one of the best kept secrets in America in forward Derrick Williams who averages 20 points and 8 rebounds to pace the Cats but are still searching for that consistent 2nd scoring option. The Wildcats are a good team but it will be interesting how they fare in March when they take a step up in competition from what they face in the Pac-10. Lamont Jones has come on of late scoring in double figures in 8 of the past 9 games and if he can continue this production and Derrick Williams can manage to stay out of foul trouble the Wildcats could be a serious player come Selection Sunday.
1.)Villanova (21-6)-Since beating Syracuse on the road Villanova has struggled going 4-4 with losses to Big East bottom dwellers Providence and Rutgers. All that being said they are still 21-6 and have a nice resume with wins over Temple,Syracuse, Maryland and Louisville already under their belt. This team is largely guard oriented led by seniors Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes but also rank just outside the top 25 in rebounding, largely due to the improvement of Mouphtaou Yarou and Antonio Pena. After losing to Pitt last weekend Villanova rebounded by escaping with 2 tight roads wins over Seton Hall(3 pts) and DePaul(2pts in OT).
2.)Syracuse (22-6)- After starting out 18-0, the Orange have fallen upon hard times as they have lost 6 of their last 10 games and stand at 9-6 in the Big East. Jim Boeheim thought his Syracuse team was overrated and recently its looked that way as the Orange have struggled to defend the 3 and find any offensive consistency. One of the problems with Syracuse has been 3 point shooting as the Orange are shooting just 34 percent from 3(164th in the nation) down from almost 40 percent a year ago. The losses of Andy Rautins and Wesley Johnson have been apparent in Big East play as the Orange lack a true lights out shooter as Kris Joseph is the teams best option, shooting at a decent 37 percent clip. Syracuse is extremely talented and if Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson continue to play like they have Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche should soon follow suit. Jardine is the key to the teams success as he has struggled to find the consistency he showed last season coming off the bench that earned him National Sixth Man of the Year according to the Sporting News. The ‘Cuse need to get Jardine going if they want to make a serious run at the Final Four and that needs to start Monday against Villanova. When Jardine plays well Syracuse can beat anyone in the country but without him and necessary contributions from freshmen C.J. Fair and Dion Waters, Syracuse is a middle of the pack Big East team at best. Syracuse grabbed some much needed wins last week with victories over West Virginia and Rutgers as the Orange look to earn a top 4 finish in the Big East which would give them a double bye in the Big East Tournament.
3.) Vanderbilt (20-6)- Vanderbilt seems to be hitting their stride at the right time as the ‘Dores have won 5 straight heading into a rivalry game at home against Tennessee. The Commodores have a pretty solid resume with wins over UNC, Marquette, Kentucky, Saint Mary’s and Georgia but also have a bad loss at South Carolina. This team has been in every game as 4 of their 6 losses are by 4 points or fewer with another coming in overtime to South Carolina. The Commodores are led by John Jenkins(20 ppg, 42% 3PT%) who has become more than just a shooter in year 2 and has developed his all around game enough to maybe earn All-SEC recognition. Alongside Jenkins, Vandy returns one of the best all around wing players in America in Jeffrey Taylor(15ppg), a solid point guard in Brad Tinsley(4.6apg) and maybe the most improved player in the SEC in Festus Ezeli. Ezeli who is from Nigeria averaged just 3 points and 3 rebounds last season but has increased those totals to 13 points and 6 rebounds in his junior campaign. Vandy like I said is one of a handful of teams who have been every game this season and could be a dangerous team as a 5 or 6seed with the right match ups.
4.)Texas A&M (21-5)- The Aggies were thought to be a middle of the conference team heading into the season but have surprised everyone and risen as high as #10 in the AP poll thanks in large part to big wins over Missouri, Washington and Temple. The Aggies had a solid team on paper coming into the year but now that Khris Middleton has developed into that #1 scoring option, A&M has a legitimate Sweet 16 team. No one individual on this team wows you but as a collective unit they play great defense and share the basketball which have been two of their biggest reasons for this seasons tremendous success. With Middleton and David Lobeau inside and B.J. Holmes and Dash Harris running the offense from the perimeter Texas A&M has a capable team that plays very hard on both ends of the floor and seems to have the mental and physical toughness to scrape out close games. After losing 4 of 5 games, A&M has rallied to win 4 straight including a 1 pt win at Oklahoma State over the weekend.
1.) Kentucky (19-7) – John Calipari is proving once again that you can win with freshmen as his Wildcats alongside Florida look like the class of the SEC, led by three terrific freshmen. After losing 3 freshmen to the NBA in John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, Calipari brought in the top ranked recruiting class headlined by another highly touted trio of rookies. This years group ranks as the Wildcats top 3 scorers led by Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight who both average 18 points a game. Calipari has proven a young team can go through the regular season with a gaudy record but it will be interesting to see how this team does in March. Kentucky has wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville but have yet to beat anyone of note in the SEC outside of mediocre wins against Tennessee and Georgia. After losing 3 of 4 Kentucky took care of business last week with wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina and play at Arkansas midweek before hosting #13 Florida.
2.)Missouri (21-6) - The Tigers have quietly won 54 games the past two seasons under coach Mike Anderson and his adaptation of Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” pressure scheme. This tempo separates Mizzou from other teams in the land and allows them to play at a frantic pace that usually results in lots of opponent turnovers. This year the Tigers have ran that system to a tee as Missouri ranks 4th in the nation in steals, 20th in blocks and 7th in scoring, 3 important statistics for a team that applies full court pressure. Missouri has beaten Vanderbilt, Illinois, Old Dominion and Kansas State and have so so losses at Oklahoma State and at Colorado.The Tigers offensively are very balanced with 5 players averaging double figures headlined by Marcus Denmon at 17 ppg. Alongside Denmon on the perimeter, Mizzou has versatile scorer Kim English(11ppg), sophomore point guard Michael Dixon (11ppg, 5apg) and highly touted freshman Phil Pressey who has come on of late. In the paint the Tigers also have some bulk as juco player of the year Ricardo Ratliffe has stepped in nicely averaging 11 points a a game alongside junior forwards Justin Safford and Laurence Bowers. Missouri’s next three games are against NCAA bubble teams so the Tigers should be capable of winning a few in a row before hosting Kansas in a rematch of the “Border War” to conclude the season.
3.) St. John’s (17-9)- How do you top a week where you defeat #9 Connecticut and win at Cincinnati? Easy of course, win at Marquette and knock off the 4th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers at the buzzer. Before this recent run St. John’s was firmly on the bubble but four straight huge wins and now the Red Storm look more and more like a tournament team. St. John’s has been up and down all season long with resume killing losses to St. Bonaventure and Fordham but huge wins over Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke,Connecticut and now Pittsburgh. The Johnnies have a balanced team led by Dwight Hardy and D.J. Kennedy and with a senior laden team, this years version of the Red Storm is playing with an edge for first year coach Steve Lavin. St. Johns is all the way up to a 6 seed this week as the Johnnies have climbed back into the Top 25 for the first time since 2000.
4.)*Xavier -Atlantic 10 (20-6)-A month ago when I made my Mid-Major picks I left Xavier out because they were scuffling at the time but since then the Musketeers have been surging starting out 11-1 in A-10 play. The Musketeers have beaten Temple, Richmond and Duquesne in conference play and have non-conference wins over Butler and Georgia in their back pocket. Xavier is led by Tu Holloway who is averaging 21 points and 5 assists a game as the Musketeers after defeating Duquesne have moved into sole position of first place in the A-10 and still have chances to improve their seeding with 4 Atlantic 10 games remaining.
1.)West Virginia (17-9) - The Mountaineers have a solid resume headlined by wins over Georgetown, Purdue, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame but recently have struggled with losses to Marshall and Louisville. Casey Mitchell who leads the Mountaineers in scoring at just under 15 points a game, has been reinstated for the Mountaineers and they will need him down the stretch to score the ball. Alongside Mitchell, WV needs Kevin Jones and “Truck” Bryant to step up just like they did over the weekend when the two combined for 34 points in a win over Notre Dame. The Mountaineers could not have afforded to lose both of their games last week but after losing to Syracuse they grabbed a much needed and marquee win over Notre Dame. West Virginia plays 3 of their 4 remaining games against ranked opponents and have a huge week with games at Pittsburgh and at Rutgers. WV still faces Connecticut and Louisville and will probably need to win 1 of these 2 and beat Rutgers to feel they’re comfortably in the NCAA field.
2.)Washington (18-8)- Here’s the skinny on Washington, the Huskies haven’t beaten anyone out of conference with their best wins coming against Portland and UVA. In conference they have 3 bad losses to Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State. In other words the Huskies resume is based almost solely on their conference performance and that has been up and down as they have split with Arizona, beaten UCLA and lost at Washington State. The Huskies have lost 4 of their past 7 including getting swept by the Oregon teams two weekends ago. Washington has one of the best players on the West Coast in Isaiah Thomas (17pts, 6 assists) and have two budding big men in Mathew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday at the forward position, who have done a solid job replacing Quincy Pondexter. Washington had a huge chance to get back into the Pac-10 race, Saturday in Tucson but the Huskies came up just short and now have to be careful the rest of the way as they still play WSU, UCLA and unpredictable USC.
3.)Temple (21-5)- The Owls are one of the more talented Mid-Major teams in the country but have taken a step back offensively this season without Ryan Brooks. Temple is one of the better defensive teams in the nation giving up only 61 points a game but need to get more offensive production from point guard Juan Fernandez and forward Lavoy Allen. Allen who averaged a double-double last season hasn’t been quite the player people expected hm to be this season averaging only 11 points and 7 rebounds for the Owls. Temple has played a challenging non-conference schedule and have wins over Georgetown, Maryland and Georgia and play #1 Duke at Cameroon Indoor this week. The Owls are a team I would keep an eye on because they are extremely talented and just need to play to their potential on the offensive end to become an elite team. This team has won 8 straight since losing at Xavier on January 22nd and is just a a game in the loss column behind the Musketeers in A-10 play. The Owls have a huge chance to make some noise at Duke but regardless of the outcome this team is going dancing out of the Atlantic 10.
4.)UNLV (20-7)- The Runnin’ Rebels played a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule beating Wisconsin, winning the 76 classic with wins over Tulsa, Murray State and Virginia Tech, beating Kansas State on the road and playing Louisville close in Louisville. This is a team that people are forgetting about because of the other two powers in the Mountain West but this team did just as much as those two did during the non- conference season. In Mountain West play UNLV has gotten off to a 8-5 start with all five losses coming to good teams(SDSU x2, BYU x2 and CSU). The Runnin’ Rebels are an extremely balanced team as 4 players average double figures on Lon Kruger’s squad. The key for me when talking about UNLV is offense as the Rebels defend well but struggle o shoot the ball, particularly from 3 pt range where they shoot just a hair over 30 percent. Junior Chace Stanback leads UNLV in scoring at 13 ppg but their emotional and vocal leader is senior Tre’Von Willis who averages 13 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in addition to being a great on the ball defender. The Rebels have just one bad loss this season versus UC- Santa Barbara and after beating CSU over the weekend play at New Mexico on Wednesday night. UNLV’s computer numbers back up what they did this season as their Top 30 RPI and SOS will go a long way in the minds of the Selection Committee.
1.)*George Mason-Colonial (23-5)- The Patriots have ripped off 13 straight wins and moved into first in the CAA at 14-2. The Colonial may be the best under the radar conference in the country this year as the top 5 teams in the league all have solid resumes and big non-conference wins. The Patriots have an almost spotless resume as they have no bad losses and nice wins over Duquesne, Harvard, VCU, Northern Iowa and Old Dominion all teams in contention for the NCAA Tournament. GMU is led by a trio of scorers Cam Long, Ryan Pearson and Luke Hancock who account for 60 percent of the Patriots’ points. The Patriots are also one of the best shooting teams in the nation ranking 15th in field goal percentage and 13th in 3 point shooting both factors that could lead them to an upset win in the opening round. The Patriots had a huge week blowing out CAA rival VCU by 20 and then winning their Bracket Buster match-up on the road at Northern Iowa. The Patriots continue to rise up the charts and appear to be one of the best Mid-Major’s across the land.
2.)Florida State (19-7) -The Noles might have pulled off the biggest win this year in college basketball knocking off the defending National Champion and top ranked Duke Blue Devils on January 12th. That win catapulted the Seminoles to 4 straight wins in the ACC before a drubbing at Clemson last weekend. FSU in the non-conference came up empty in their their three big games against Ohio State and Florida and in the Diamond Head Classic against Butler but did grab a decent win over Baylor in that same tournament. The Seminoles are currently just off the pace in the ACC at 9-3 and have just one completely puzzling result a loss against lowly Auburn but overall they are in good shape for an 8 or 9 seed. Florida State plays defense as well as anyone in the country and has tremendous team size but seems to struggle to score the ball at a consistent rate ranking 210th in the country in field goal percentage. Chris Singleton (14ppg, 7rpg) is FSU’s best player but the forward’s status is uncertain after he had surgery on a broken right foot earlier in the week. The ‘Noles have a manageable schedule the rest of the way in the ACC but need Singleton back if they want to win a few games in the NCAA’s. FSU has won three straight against the bottom feeders of the ACC and have upcoming games with Maryland, Miami, North Carolina and NC State.
3.)Cincinnati (21-6)- The Bearcats have jumped out to an 21-6 start and 8-6 in the Big East but have a pretty empty non-conference resume. Cincinnati has a gaudy record but their best wins are against Xavier, St. John’s and Dayton all solid teams but none a marquee win. The Bearcats still have a lot of meat remaining on their conference schedule as they still play Connecticut, Georgetown(twice), and Marquette The Bearcats right now are comfortably in the tournament field but during the next few weeks we’ll find out if Cincy is for real. The Bearcats are a tremendous defensive team ranked 9th in scoring defense and have one of the best forwards in the Big East in Yancy Gates who averages 11 points and 7 rebounds. Cincy has over achieved this season and if they are able to win 2 of their remaining 4 games you’d have to like their chances of having their name called on Selection Sunday.
4.)*Utah State-WAC (25-3)-Stew Morril’s Aggies have only 3 losses this season but have only recently climbed into the top 25. Utah State lost their first 2 tests of the season losing a close game at BYU and getting blown out at Utah State before grabbing a huge win at Bracket Busters. The Aggies got 22 points and 11 boards from WAC Player of the Year favorite Tai Wesley as they pulled away from Saint Mary’s on the road. The Aggies are 12-1 in WAC play and will be favored to win out the rest of the year in a weak WAC conference. USU is a very balanced team but are led by Tai Wesley who averages 15 points and 8 boards to lead the Aggies. Even with such a gaudy record, USU may need to win their Conference Tournament but the win at Saint Mary’s gives the Aggies a little more hope for an at large bid if they were to falter as the committee surely took note of the big road win.
1.) Illinois (17-10)-The Illini have 10 losses at this point in the season but most of them are due to a rigorous schedule in which they’ve dropped 5 games to ranked opponents. Illinois has wins over North Carolina and Maryland, and has split with Michigan State and Wisconsin but also has two terrible losses against 5-15 UIC and lowly Indiana. Illinois is another very deep team as 6 players average over 8 points a game led by point guard Demetri McCamey at just under 16 points a contest. The Illini have been inconsistent but Illinois deserves some credit for the schedule they went out and played and although they have lost 7 of 11 games the Illini are still in good tournament position at the moment. After losing at Michigan State over the weekend the Illini keep getting closer and closer to that bubble and Illinois better be careful down the stretch. Illinois might need to win either at Ohio State on Feb 22nd or at Purdue on March 1st to feel comfortable about their tournament position but as of right now they are in but not as comfortably as they were a few weeks ago.
2.)Tennessee (16-11)- Read the Illinois post and apply that to the Volunteers. Just like Illinois, UT got off to a great start and has very good computer numbers but of late they have been scuffling and are trying to back their way into the NCAA field. The Volunteers have been an enigma all season with big wins and terrible losses. The Vols resume is tough to read as Tennessee has the #1 ranked SOS and is 24th in the RPI with resume building wins over Villanova, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Vanderbilt and Missouri State. On the other hand, Tennessee has lost games to Oakland, Charlotte and USC, but for now they stand as a 9 seed and a team that has some winnable games coming up against Auburn and Alabama. The Vols have a great scoring duo in Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris and if Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum can continue to contribute like they have the Vols could be a dangerous out. After losing at home to Georgia on Saturday, the Vols need to win probably 2 of their last 4 as they still face Vandy and South Carolina on the road and host Mississippi State and Kentucky.
3.)Kansas State (18-9)- The Wildcats were a preseason favorite to knock off Kansas for the Big 12 regular season title but struggled mightily to start Big 12 play limping out to a 1-4 mark. K-State had some nice wins Gonzaga, Virginia Tech and Washington State but needed a marquee conference win which they grabbed last Monday against #1 Kansas. Kansas State still has more opportunities against Texas and Missouri and have good computer numbers 30th in the RPI and the 5th ranked schedule. Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly and Rodney McGruder give Frank Martin three capable scorers who could help this team turn it around in a hurry. Monday’s win over Kansas may be the turning point the Wildcats needed as K-State grabbed a huge resume building win and improved to 6-6 in conference. over the weekend. The Wildcats may have endured some tough times during the middle of the season but if they can turn it around they possess the talent to make a serious tournament run.
4.) UCLA(19-8) The Bruins after a year away from the NCAA’s look to have a good chance to return to the big Dance as they are currently 2nd in the Pac-10 at 10-4. The Bruins have big non-conference wins against BYU and St.John’s and one noteworthy loss at home against Montana. UCLA is not a lock by any means of the imagination but at this point I have them in behind the tandem of Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt who average a combined 28 points. The Bruins have won 10 of their past 12 games and are starting to look like a solid NCAA team. A recent setback against California makes UCLA less of a lock when you consider that they still play Arizona, Washington and Washington State in the regular season but for now the Bruins have a ticket to the dance.
1.)Georgia (18-8)- The Bulldogs have no bad losses as all 8 of their defeats have come to teams ranked in the top 40 of the RPI. In terms of resume wins Georgia has beaten Kentucky, UAB, Tennessee and Colorado and their 8 losses have come close to good opponents(ND-2OT’s, Kentucky, Temple, Tennessee, Florida-2OT’s, Vanderbilt(twice) and Xavier). The Bulldogs have two standout players in Trey Thompkins(17ppg) and Travis Leslie(14ppg) and are still in good position to make the NCAA’s with upcoming games against Florida, and Vanderbilt. Right now I have them as a 10 seed but how the Dawgs fare over the next 12 days will go along way in decided their post season fate. If Georgia can win against Florida or Alabama and take care of games against South Carolina and LSU, Georgia
should be back in the NCAA Tournament.
should be back in the NCAA Tournament.
2.)Old Dominion (22-6)- The Monarchs have one of the best resumes of a Mid Major in the country as they have wins over Richmond, Xavier, Dayton, George Mason and Clemson and 2 of their 6 losses are to top 20 teams Georgetown by 3 and a blowout loss at Missouri. ODU also has a good RPI (32) and should be in good shape for an at large bid as long as they finish strong in CAA play. The Monarchs play a slow tempo style under coach Blaine Taylor but are one of the best defensive(7th in scoring defense) and top rebounding teams (6th) in the country. ODU offensively is led by Frank Hassell and Kent Bazemore who combine for 26 points and 14 rebounds a game. The Monarchs had a big week last week solidifying their at large resume with a win over VCU and a Bracket Buster win over Cleveland State so ODU looks pretty solid for an at large bid out of the CAA at this point.
3.) *Saint Mary’s-WCC (22-6)- Saint Mary’s was cruising along at 22-4 but has suddenly lost 2 straight and now are more of a question mark than an at large lock. The Gaels have wins over St. Johns, Mississippi State, and at Gonzaga which should be good enough for a bid if they finish in the top 2 of the WCC. The Gaels are led by guards Mickey McConnell and Mathew Dellavedova who both can shoot the lights out and also are great distributors of the basketball both averaging 6 assists. Inside San Diego transfer Rob Jones has been a key addition for coach Randy Bennett as Jones is averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds filling the void left by the graduation of Omar Samhan. The Gaels look to have control of the WCC at 10-2 and could improve their seed by winning out in WCC play and winning at home against rival Gonzaga. If I were Saint Mary’s I would make sure I win the regular season WCC title and reach the finals of the WCC because their computer numbers are not very good a decent 42nd in the RPI and a woeful 167th in SOS. The good news for the Gaels is that they control their own destiny and still have an opportunity to win their conference tournament for an automatic bid or just win out the regular season and if they lose hope they have done enough for a bid.
4.) Michigan State (15-11)- This is not a misprint, I have the Spartans in as an 10 seed but MSU is dangerously close to not making the NCAA field. Do I think the Spartans are a little high here with 11 losses? Absolutely, but considering their computer numbers(46th RPI and and 8th SOS) and how weak the overall bubble is. Other teams like Virginia Tech, BC, Minnesota and Marquette are in the conversation but their computer numbers are just not as strong as Izzo’s Spartans. MSU has quality wins over Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin and most recently Illinois. On the other hand Sparty has also lost to Penn State, Michigan and Iowa and has an extremely high total of 11 losses with still 4 game remaining. I am not ready to count Tom Izzo, Kalin Lucas and the rest of the Spartans out just yet as this team was able to grab a huge win over Illinois this past weekend and has a chance to put Minnesota into even more bubble trouble on Wednesday night. MSU has winnable games against Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota and if they could steal one from Purdue at home it would go along way in not just getting the Spartans in but help their seeding.
1.)Virginia Tech (17-8)- The Hokies are always one of the last few teams in or out of the NCAA tournament but with the field expanded to 68 and a veteran team led by Malcolm Delaney(19ppg) this year many figured the Hokies wouldn’t have to sweat it out on selection Sunday. They were wrong. The Hokies are back in their usual position on the bubble as they stand at 17-8 overall and 7-5 in ACC play, with their best non-conference wins coming against Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. The Hokies have a lot of winnable games on the horizon in the ACC and will need to take care of business down the stretch if they want their name called on Selection Sunday. After a tough loss to lowly UVA, Tech still has key bubble games against BC and Clemson, a winnable game against Wake and a great opportunity at home against #1 Duke.
2.) Marquette (16-11)-The Golden Eagles have 11 losses but 10 of those losses have been to ranked teams and 10 of 11 of these L’s were within 8 points. Marquette has no real non-conference wins to speak of but has pulled of some nice wins in the Big East beating West Virginia, Notre Dame and most recently Syracuse. Marquette has 4 players who average double figures led by Darius Johnson-Odom(16.5ppg) and Jimmy Butler (15.5ppg). The Golden Eagles are one of the more battle tested teams in the country because of of their schedule and should be ready to make a run in March as long as they can win three winnable games against Seton Hall, Cincinnati and Providence and maybe steal one against Connecticut. This is going to be one of the closer calls come Selection Sunday but their decent computer numbers (66 RPI and 31 SOS) and Big East wins should be enough for them to squeeze in.
3.)Minnesota (17-9) -The Golden Gophers who surprised many by winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off earlier this season were pretty consistent early on earning wins over WV, UNC and Purdue, while just losing one non-conference game to Virginia in the ACC/BIG 10 Challenge. The problem for Minnesota is key losses, the Gophers lost Devoe Joseph earlier in the year after he decided to leave the program and recently lost point guard and leader Al Nolen to a foot injury. On the court the Gophers are falling fast losing 5 of the past 6 but their remaining schedule is favorable so Minny should be able to get back on track with games against Michigan, Penn State, Northwestern and home against Michigan State. Blake Hoffarber has had a tremendous senior season and when you factor in Minnesota’s post play from Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers seem like a team that could make some noise if Al Nolen gets back healthy. Mbakwe has had a few disciplinary issues so far this season but if he can stay on the court he is a hand full down low averaging a double-double for Tubby Smith’s Gophers. Gophers are vulnerable at 6-8 in the conference but with their schedule they should be able to finish .500 which should be enough for them to make the field of 68.
4.)Memphis (20-7)- The Tigers always play a rigorous non-conference schedule and this year was no different as Memphis took on Georgetown, Kansas and Tennessee but came away with no marquee quality non-conference wins(best win Gonzaga). In Conference USA the Tigers are 8-4 but they have swept the co-conference leaders UAB and Southern Mississippi. The Tigers have so-so losses at SMU and Rice but overall their computer profile is pretty solid, RPI #36 and the 54th ranked SOS. The Tigers were led most of this season by freshman Will Barton(13ppg) but recently their best player Wesley Witherspoon returned from injury giving Memphis a much needed boost. The Tigers are far from a lock this season but because of their computer numbers and their conference wins the Tigers right now would be just inside the tournament field.
Boston College vs Richmond
Butler vs Wichita State
Boston College vs Richmond
Butler vs Wichita State
1.)*Belmont-Atlantic Sun (25-4)- The Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the nation having won 19 of 21 games since a 9 point loss at Vanderbilt on Dec 4th. Belmont’s 4 losses are nothing to be ashamed of as they have lost two close games to Tennessee, by 9 at Vanderbilt and at Lipscomb a solid Atlantic Sun opponent. Belmont is the 11th highest scoring team in the nation averaging 82 points a game because of a balanced attack in which 7 players average between 12 and 7 points a game. Look out for Belmont who is 17-1 in the Atlantic Sun led by leading scorers Ian Clark and Scott Saunders. Belmont is 0-3 all-time in the NCAA Tournament but this season they should be ranked higher than the #15 seed they received in ’08 when they lost by just a point to mighty Duke.
2.)*Cleveland State-Horizon (23-6)- The Vikings under Gary Waters have been a pleasant surprise this season, leading the Horizon league by a game at 12-4. The Vikings who made the Sweet 16 two seasons ago have an NBA prospect in Norris Cole who leads the team in scoring (21 ppg), assists(5.6apg), steals(2.2spg) and ranks 2nd on the team in rebounding(6 rpg). The do everything guard is one of the best players in the country that most people don’t know about and if the Vikings reach the NCAA Dance, that will all change. Cole recently had one of the best performances of recent memory as he scored 41 points, grabbed 20 rebounds and dished out 9 assists in a win over Youngstown State. Cole is not a one man team for CSU though as fellow guards Trevon Harmon and Jeremy Montgomery both chip in over 12 points a game. The Vikings final 2 games are at home as CSU plays Milwaukee (11-5 Horizon) and finishes the year with Greenbay (7-9 Horizon).
3.)First Four Game: Boston College vs Richmond
Boston College (16-10)- The Eagles have exceeded expectations in year one under Steve Donahue but recently have hit a tail spin losing 5 of their last 7 in the ACC. BC has one of the most interesting resumes in the country as they have wins over Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and Maryland but also have losses against Harvard, Yale and URI. Quite frankly its tough to get a good read on this team as they live and die by the three point shot and play little defense evident in the 106 points they surrendered to North Carolina on Feb 1st. The Eagles have one of the better all around players in the country in Reggie Jackson who averages 18 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds to lead BC. The Eagles if they want to make this years NCAA field, are going to have to show more of an effort on the defensive end and rebound the basketball better, as they currently rank 297th in the nation in rebounding at only 32 rebounds a game. The Eagles have won 2 of 3 recent Bubble games against Virginia Tech and Maryland, losing at Clemson but came up just short of a marquee win losing by 2 at North Carolina. BC has 4 very winnable games remaining with the toughest test being at Blacksburg on March 1st, so if the Eagles can go 3-1 or 4-0 down the stretch it would go a long way into helping them earn an at large bid.
Richmond (21-7)-The Spiders this year have been tough to figure out as they have scored big wins over 8th ranked Purdue and a good VCU team but also have lost to Iona. Richmond has 2 of the best players in the Atlantic 10 Conference in reigning A-10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson and forward Justin Harper. The two combine for 34 points and are the main reason Richmond is still in position to contend for an at large birth. The Spiders right now are firmly on the bubble but at 10-3 in the conference with a huge win over Purdue I have the Spiders sneaking in if the season ended today. Blowout losses against conference powers Xavier and Temple do no help the Spiders resume but wins over Purdue and VCU keep looking better and better and a strong overall conference record may be enough for Chris Mooney’s team.
4.) First Four Game: Butler vs Wichita State
Butler (20-9)- Last year’s NCAA darling returned Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack from a team that was the National Runner-Up and were ranked to start the season but the Bulldogs have scuffled in Horizon League play. Butler is 12-5 in conference play and is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. The Bulldogs are still in the field as of today because of wins over FSU, Mississippi State and Cleveland State (twice) and solid computer rankings 46th in RPI and 22nd in terms of SOS. Butler does have some bad losses, 6 to teams ranked lower than 150 in the RPI including a loss to Youngstown State(272 in the RPI). Only a game back in the Horizon the Bulldogs are not going away just yet as Shelvin Mack, 15 ppg and Matt Howard 17 ppg and 8rpg have been on the big stage before and are not ready to quietly fade into the sunset.
Wichita State (22-6)-The Shockers are currently tied atop the Missouri Valley and remain one of the best Mid-Major’s in America. The Shockers have only 6 losses this season, all to good opponents(SDSU, UConn, Missouri State,UNI, VCU) except for a recent slip up against SIU. The Shockers rebounded with a big win over Northern Iowa but came up just short against a good VCU team at home in Bracket Busters.The Shockers have one of the most balanced teams in America as their leading scorer J.T. Durley averages just under 12 points a game. WSU is an early favorite as a tournament Cinderella as the Shockers rank in the top 30 in the country in both field goal percentage (18th ) and assists (34th) but may have to win either the league or conference tournament to advance to the Big Dance.
1.)*College of Charleston-Southern (22-7)- Bobby Cremins has put the Cougars back on the map and this year his bunch headlined by high scoring guard Andrew Goudelock looks poised to return to the NCAA Tournament. Goudelock ranks 4th in the country in scoring at over 23 points a game but also averages 4 rebounds and almost 5 assists, exemplifying his all around play. Charleston is a very good shooting team (10th nationally in FG%) and have already knocked off Tennessee and Coastal Carolina and lost close games at Maryland, versus Clemson and at North Carolina. Charleston is 2 games clear atop the Southern Conference at 14-2 and look ready to return to the dance under former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins.
2.)*Missouri State-MVC (21-7)- The Bears after a loss to Evansville dropped to second in the MVC but regained a share of first place with 4 straight wins, improving to 13-3 in the Valley. The Bears don’t have too much to hang their hats on in the non-conference but do have nice conference wins over Wichita State, Northern Iowa and Creighton and an RPI inside the top 50 with another chance for a resume win against conference rival Wichita State. Missouri State is led by forward Kyle Weems 17 points and 7 boards, one of the best kept secrets in America and a top candidate for MVC Player of the Year. The MVC may be a 2 bid league and the regular season championship could come down to a Feb 26th showdown between WSU and MSU. The Bracket Buster loss to Valparaiso may mean that MSU needs to win the Horizon or at the very least reach the finals but anything is possible during “Arch Madness”.
3.)*UAB-C-USA (19-7)- The Blazers have a very good RPI for a Conference USA team (31) and a solid SOS (44) two factors that point to UAB as an at large team. The Blazers are 9-4 in conference and have a couple of solid wins over VCU, UTEP and Kent State and only one truly bad loss against Arizona State. UAB has three players averaging over 12 points per game led by Jamarr Sanders(18ppg) and Cameron Moore(16ppg). Aaron Johnson the point guard for the Blazers is their catalyst as he not only averages 12 ppg but ranks 2nd nationally in assists at almost 8 dimes a game. UAB is currently tied atop C-USA with Southern Miss but still play the Golden Eagles on March 2nd in a game that could determine the conference’s regular season champion.
4.)*Oakland-Summit (20-9)- The Golden Grizzlies have started Summit play 15-1, which is not all that surprising considering the gauntlet of a schedule they played in the non-conference. The Grizzlies beat Tennessee earlier this season but also played West Virginia, Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan and Valparaiso. The Golden Grizz look to have benefited from the tough schedule with a great conference start behind double-double machine Keith Benson(18pts, 10 rebounds) and electric point guard Reggie Hamilton(17 pts, 5 assists). This team has been on fire and has just one conference loss but they will need to win the Summit Conference title if they want to make it to the NCAA Tournament where with the right match-up they could be a trendy upset pick.
1.)*Fairfield-MAAC (22-5)- The Stags look to have a strangle hold on the regular season MAAC title but will need to win the Conference Tournament in order to reach the Big Dance. Fairfield’s hopes will largely hinge on the play of sophomore guard Derek Needham who in 2 seasons at Fairfield has led the team in scoring and assists in both of them. Fairfield is 14-2 in conference play but their tournament hopes will come down to whether they can win the MAAC post season tournament. Needham is as good as advertised as he averages 14 points and 5 asissts for a team that has only lost 2 conference games.
2.)*Coastal Carolina-Big South (25-4)- The Chanticleers out of the Big South have dominated the Big South Conference the past two seasons going a combined 30-5 in conference play during that span. This season Coastal Carolina does not have much in terms of non-conference wins but their 15-2 conference record speaks well for the Chanticleers. Recently Coastal has struggled losing 2 of their past 3, largely due to the absence of leading scorer Desmond Holloway who has been suspended from the team indefinitely. Holloway leads the team in scoring at 18.5 ppg and ranks 2nd in rebounding for Cliff Ellis’ Chanticleers at 7 rebounds a game. Rumors have it that Coastal has appealed for his reinstatement but there is no ruling or timetable for a ruling at the time of publication.
3.)*Vermont-America East(22-6)- In my last Bracketology Maine was the representative from the America East as it looked as if Vermont’s reign was over after the graduation of Marqus Blakely. Since losing to Maine, Vermont has gone 10-0 in the America East and stand 2 games clear of Boston University in the conference standings. Vermont is led by Evan Fjeld, Joey Accaoui and Brendan Bald who average a combined 39 points, led by Fjeld at over 15 a game. The Cattamounts have been no stranger to the NCAA dance in recent years so expect the Cattamounts to play with poise and experience down the stretch.
4.)*Harvard-Ivy (20-4)- Last year it was Cornell who controlled the Ivy League but after being decimated by graduation, the Ivy League was predicted as an up for grabs league. That league has been taken over by the Harvard Crimson as Harvard is 20-4 and has already notched non-conference victories over Colorado and Boston College. The Crimson are 9-1 so far in Ivy League play but still have a game on March 5th against their closest competition the Princeton Tigers. Harvard’s Keith Wright is having a tremendous season as he leads the Crimson in points at 15 per game and rebounds at almost 9 a game. Wright is not the only option for Harvard as the Crimson have 5 other players who average at least 9 points a game. In the only league that awards a bid to the regular season champion, Harvard has the inside track and will have a chance to punch their ticket to the Big Dance with a win over Princeton for the 2nd time in the schools history and first time since 1945.
Long Beach State
Long Beach State
1.)*Bucknell-Patriot (20-8)-The Bison clinched the Patriot League at 11-3 earlier this week so at the very least they have clinched an NIT berth. The Bison have thrived this season largely because of the play of sophomore center Mike Muscala who leads the team in scoring at 15 points a game and rebounding at 7 boards a game. The Bison have played a tough schedule having already played Marquette, Villanova and Boston College and they have an upset win over Richmond.
2.)*Murray State-OVC (21-7)- The Racers went 31-5 last season and upset Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and came in with lofty expectations to start this season. After struggling in the early portion of the season Murray State has raced off to a 12-4 start which has them tied with Morehead State atop the OVC. The Racers have 4 players averaging at least 8 points a game led by sophomore standout Isaiah Canaan who shoots over 41 percent from downtown. This team hasn’t hit the stride it did last season yet but I wouldn’t count the Racers out at this point as Canaan is just one of four key returnees from last years team joining guards Issac Miles, B.J. Jenkins, and forward Ivan Aska. The Racers host Kenneth Faried and co-conference leader Morehead State later this week in a game that could be a preview to the OVC Tournament final.
3.)* Kent State-MAC (18-9) - The Golden Flash are tied atop the East Division of the MAC alongside Miami(OH) with just 3 conference losses. Kent State has played a decent schedule coming up short in games against Cleveland State, UAB and Florida but are a battle tested team who seem poised to pull away in the MAC. The Flash are led by junior forward Justin Green who leads Kent State in scoring and rebounding at 16 points and 8 rebounds respectively. The Flashes have 4 games remaining in the MAC so a lot can still change in a division of a league where the worst team is .500 in conference play.
4.)*Long Beach State-Big West (17-10)- At 17-10 the 49ers don’t jump off the page but when you look more closely you’ll see that they are off to an 11-2 conference start and have played a very challenging schedule. The 49ers have 5 players who average double-figures led by a back court of 5’10 point guard Casper Ware(16 ppg and 5apg) and rangy guard Larry Anderson who averages 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists a game. The 49ers are coached by Dan Monson who is no stranger to the NCAA tournament having previously taken Gonzaga and Minnesota to the Big Dance, his Zags going all the way to the Elite 8 in the 1998 season. The 49ers are two games ahead of Cal Poly in the Big West and can wrap up that top seed with a win over the Mustangs on Thursday night.
Florida Atlantic vs Bethune Cookman
McNeese State vs Texas Southern
Florida Atlantic vs Bethune Cookman
McNeese State vs Texas Southern
1.)*Montana-Big Sky (19-8)- The Grizzlies are the class of the Big Sky Conference at 11-3 in league play a 1/2 game ahead of closest rival Northern Colorado. Montana is very talented evident in an early season win against traditional power UCLA but were recently blown out by Big West leader Long Beach State in Bracket Busters. The Grizzlies have two prime time performers in sophomore guard Will Cherry 14 ppg and senior center Brian Qvale 15 points and 9 rebounds a game. Montana is a team that should be better than a #16 seed and could give someone a scare in round 1 if they were to advance from the Big Sky.
2.) *Long Island -NEC (22-5)- The Blackbirds are quietly one of the more explosive teams in the nation averaging 82 points a game which ranks 9th in the country. LIU is also ranked 2nd in team rebounding led by 2 sophomore forwards Jamal Olaswere and Julian Boyd who average a combined 24 points and 15 rebounds. The Blackbirds have 5 players who average double-figures and are one of the more balanced scoring teams in the country. LIU has won 8 straight and 16 of their last 17 games so if the Blackbirds reach the big dance needless to say beware.
First Four Game FAU vs Bethune Cookman
*Florida Atlantic-Sun Belt (19-9)- The Owls are surging under the tutelage of former St. John’s coach Mike Jarvis at 11-3 in the Sun Belt. FAU has beaten USF, Mississippi State and Hofstra this season and are having one of their best seasons since joining the conference in 2006. The Owls are led by a pair of sophomore guards Greg Gant and diminutive point guard Raymond Taylor who account for a combined 40 percent of FAU’s points this season. The Owls have only made the NCAA’s once in the program’s history but this year FAU looks poised to go dancing under coach Jarvis.
*Bethune Cookman-MEAC (17-11)- The Wildcats have been a pleasant surprise after being picked to finish in the middle pack in the preseason as they lead the conference at 11-3. Bethune-Cookman is led by guard C.J. Reed who leads the the team in scoring at 19 points a game and assists at 5 per contest. This conference is still up for grabs with Morgan State and Coppin State right on the heels of the Wildcats, who are looking to reach the Big Dance for the first time in its’ school’s history.
First Four Game McNeese State vs Texas Southern
*McNeeese State-Southland (16-9) -The Cowboys are atop the Southland behind a high pace attack that ranks in the top 65 in the nation in scoring averaging at 75 points a game. The Cowboys are a balanced team with 4 players averaging in double figures including senior P.J. Alawoya who averages a double-double. McNeese State’s leading scorer is Patrick Richard who averages 15 points and 7 rebounds for coach Dave Simmons’ Cowboys. The Cowboys are 8-4 in the Southland but are far from a clear favorite as 10 of 12 teams are within 2 games of 1st place.
*Texas Southern-SWAC (15-10) - The Tigers have emerged as the class of the SWAC this season at 13-1 as they have already swept conference power Jackson State this season and have a 3 game lead with 4 games to play. Texas Southern has 4 players averaging double figures led by forward Travele Jones at 17 points per game. The Tigers also have a very exciting player at point guard in Kevin Galloway who averages 11 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists but also is turnover prone averaging over 5 miscues a game. At this point it looks like the Tigers will win the regular season crown but they may have to beat JSU a third time if they want to represent the SWAC at this years NCAA Tournament.
Conference Breakdown (# of Teams)
Atlantic 10- 3
Atlantic 10- 3
Last Four In
Last Four Out
Next Four Out
by Gus Elvin