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Monday's Dirty Dozen: First impressions on field of 68............
12) I am sure a lot of people commented when CBS showed the brackets Sunday: "Who the hell is Florida Gulf Coast?" Eagles beat a banged-up Miami team, way back on November 13, but they turn ball over 21% of time, have only two seniors, and are in serious trouble against Georgetown.
11) Lon Kruger went 1-8 in his last nine games vs San Diego State when he was coaching at UNLV; now his Oklahoma Sooners will try to solve this defensively-stout Aztec team. Should be low-scoring.
10) Oregon is a 12-seed? They wouldn't have been in the tournament had they not beaten UCLA late Saturday night? Wow.
9) No Pac-12 team was seeded higher than sixth. Yikes.
8) Northwestern State upset Iowa in a 3-14 game in '06, but this Florida team is a lot better than that Iowa team. Not a great draw for the Demons.
7) Miami is the first ACC team ever to win the regular season/conference tournament to not get a #1 seed in the NCAAs.
6) I'm tired of hearing how NC State underachieved this season; maybe the pundits did a horrible job picking them so high in the preseason, maybe the expectations in Raleigh are placed way too high, the same way they were before Herb Sendek bolted NC State for Arizona State in 2006, after he made the NCAA tournament five years in a row. NC State does have a team that can win 6 games in a row this tourney though. IMO
5) No national champion lost their first conference tournament game, which would rule out Duke; since 1985, only three teams won the national title after not being in the tournament the year before.
4) Hats off to Western Kentucky/New Mexico, who looked like they had huge crowds in their arena just to see the brackets unveiled.
3) Virginia (#27) has best kenpom.com rating to not make tournament; the lesson? ACC teams shouldn't go 0-3 against CAA teams.
2) I got tired of ESPN showing Joe Lunardi's Last 4 in/Last 4 out for a whole month, but dammit, he hit it 100% this year, has missed only 10 teams in the last nine years, so kudos to him on being really good at his job.
1) Hopefully ESPN or CBS will do a feature on how teams scurry for scouting video after the field of 68 is announced. Its an interesting process; the Charleston, SC newspaper ran an article that credited the sophistication of video scouting as a reason for the deep decline in scoring.
I mean, do you think New Mexico has a lot of film on Harvard? Marquette has to be scrambling for knowledge on Davidson, and how much does New Mexico State know about Saint Louis? Lot of scrambling going on.
13) Watching replay of the Giants-Rockies game over the weekend; Giant announcers were saying that Opening Day is a sellout, unless of course you buy a Giants 6-pack. In other words, the game is sold out unless you want to buy tickets for five other crummy games, then they’ll miraculously find you tickets for the home opener. Slimy.
12) Walt Weiss is the new manager of the Rockies; he wants Colorado to carry 13 pitchers on its roster for its home series, only 12 on road trips, due to the extra offense in games at Coors Field.
Interesting concept, not sure it is doable, since once a guy gets sent down he has to stay there for 15 days, except to replace an injured player.
11) Funny story in the NYC papers Monday about how the Saint Louis Billikens were stuck in traffic heading to the airport for their flight home from the A-16 tournament Sunday, so they stopped in a Best Buy in Secaucus, NJ to watch the Selection Show on CBS. Imagine being in that store and seeing 15-20 really tall people walk in the store, all dressed in sweats?
10) From 1987-98, #3 seeds were 38-10 SU in the first round, meaning one lost pretty much every year. From 1999 on, #3 seeds are 53-3 SU, as gap between big boys and low majors has widened.
9) Three of the four play-in game winners have to play day games in their second tournament game; that doesn’t seem right. You play on Tuesday night and then again Thursday afternoon? Would think play-in winners would all get night games in next round.
8) Didn’t know that NBA referees aren’t allowed to work the same team’s games within five days of each other. You learn stuff listening to Mike Breen on ESPN.
7) Of the 16 head coaches in the South region of the NCAA tournament, 10 have coached in a Final Four, and two of the other six are John Beilein and Keith Dambrot, who was Lebron James’ high school coach. Its a heavyweight region for coaches.
6) Four of the six oldest players in the NBA play for the Knicks; Kurt Thomas is the oldest player in the league, one day older than Grant Hill.
5) CBS put Steve Kerr in a 3-man booth with Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg for the tournament, creating more work for the mute button. Kellogg never lets Kerr finish a sentence, always putting his stamp of approval/disapproval on every thought. I miss the days when Billy Packer was his old grumpy self as an analyst on the air. No one interrupted him.
4) CIT is one of the lesser postseason basketball tournaments; they have Loyola, Md-Boston U as a first round matchup, which doesn’t look like much, but those teams are both headed to the Patriot League next year, so from here on in, they’ll be league rivals.
3) Over the last six years, underdogs are 18-6 vs spread in those 8-9 first round matchups.
2) Odd baseball trade this weekend; as Phillies dealt minor league pitcher Mike Cisco to the Angels......for nothing!!! Cisco is 13-3, 1.73 the last two years in minors (AA/AAA); he pitched at South Carolina, is grandson of former big league pitcher Galen Cisco, so he isn't a stiff.
Officially, he was dealt "for no compensation". Alrighty then.
1) Rupp Arena is hosting NCAA tournament games this weekend, so they put Kentucky's NIT game on the road, at Robert Morris; big event for Colonials, who sold the game out already, then cancelled classes on Tuesday.
Thing is, its also a home game for John Calipari, who is from the Pittsburgh area. He grew up in Moon Township, went to Clarion State.
> 3) Over the last six years, underdogs are 18-6 vs spread in those 8-9 first round matchups.
Might be variance, but probably lots of people automatically pick the bracket favorite in each matchup which skews the lines a little. I don't see how there could be a huge difference between an 8 pick and a 9 pick. Worth looking into it when betting.
Wednesday's Dirty Dozen: Doing some thinking out loud.........
12) One of the NFL’s newer traditions is that the Super Bowl champ opens up at home on the first Thursday night of the season, which this year is September 5; problem is, the Baltimore Orioles have a home game that night, so the Ravens asked them to move the game to an afternoon tilt, but the O’s are so far resisting doing that, since it’s the first game of a 4-game weekend series. Not good.
11) Kicker is the Ravens would rather open on the road September 5 than play at home that first Sunday night, because of the 3+-day advantage in preparation/rest for their Week 2 game, that comes with opening the season on a Thursday.
10) Orioles traded Joe Flacco’s younger brother to the Red Sox last week; he is a minor league third baseman who is a .252 hitter in four minor league seasons, mostly all in A ball. Wonder if that annoyed the Ravens, too.
9) Speaking of annoying, Bobby Valentine is close to signing a deal to be in SNY’s (Mets’ TV station) studios 10-15 nights this summer. Valentine just signed on as the new AD at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.
8) NFL’s Hall of Fame game in Canton August 4: Cowboys-Dolphins.
7) Someone on Twitter actually researched this: of the 68 NCAA tournament teams, 52 wear Nike, 13 adidas, three Under Armour. Alrighty then.
6) ESPN figured out that Andrew Bynum is making $46,700 a day from the 76ers this season, and he won’t play a game for them. We need to invent the Blunder Hall of Fame, and give awards each year for stuff like this. Bynum would definitely be one of this year’s winners; either him or the guy who traded for him in Philly.
5) I’ve never had SPAM. It looks gross. Apparently people eat this stuff. I’m not sure why. Anyone out there who likes it or knows someone who likes it, please clue me in. I'm told its very salty.
4) Heat-Celtic game Monday night was ESPN’s highest-rated regular season NBA game, ever.
3) Maryland beat Duke two out of three this year; one of Terps’ players is Logan Aronholt, who spent the last three years playing for the Albany Great Danes, who play Duke Friday afternoon in Philly.
Wonder if Aronholt shared the Terps’ scouting knowledge on Duke with his former teammates. They’ll need all the help they can get.
2) It still boggles my mind that Super Bowl next February is in Swamp Stadium in New Jersey; what, the Arctic Circle was booked that day? San Diego isn’t good enough? Miami? Phoenix? It just seems wrong.
1) Robert Morris 59, Kentucky 57-- Wonder if this result pumps LIU up for its play-in game with James Madison tonight? Seeing a league rival have success on TV has to boost your confidence, no?
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Valparaiso is most experienced team in country, with two juniors and six seniors in rotation; Crusaders won last six games and 16 of last 18, but lost by hoop at Nebraska, one of worst teams in Big Dozen. Michigan State is 3-4 in last seven games, with all four losses to teams in top 15; they beat Loyola by 12, in only game vs Horizon foe. Spartans played toughest schedule in country; since 2000, Izzo is 3-2 as double digit favorite in this round, but covered just one of last four first round games. Last six years, #3 seeds are 16-8 against spread in this round; first round favorites of between 10-20 points are 27-22 vs spread.
Since 2001, Patriot League teams are 9-3 vs spread in this round, 2-1 if a single digit underdog; LY, Lehigh upset Duke in 2-15 game. Bucknell has a good resume, beating Purdue-New Mexico State-Kent State-LaSalle, losing by hoop at Missouri- this is highest seed for Patriot squad since Bucknell (+4) upset Arkansas 59-55 in an '09 8-9 game. Last four years, dogs are 11-5 vs spread in 6-11 games; since '09, first round underdogs of 5 or less points are 38-19 vs spread. Butler is 10-6 last 16 games after a 16-2 start; Stevens is master when given prep time- Butler was 3-1 as a favorite in two years they went to Finals (dog in six of ten wins).
Over last six years, underdogs are 18-6 vs spread in 8-9 games; since '99, underdogs of 4+ points are 5-2 in 8-9 games. Since '89, dogs are 16-8 SU in the 8-9 game in West region. Pitt missed tourney LY, then played the #339 non-league schedule this year; Dixon is 7-1 in first round tilts (5-3 vs spread), but all seven wins were as 5-seed or higher, loss as 9-seed to Pacific in '05. Wichita split its last six games, losing to Creighton twice; they lost to VCU in 5-12 game LY, their first tourney under Marshall. This figures to be a physical, low-scoring game. First round underdogs of 5 or less points are 38-19 against the spread.
Saint Louis played in Brooklyn last weekend, winning final on Sunday, now has early Thursday game in San Jose, not easiest travel schedule for veteran team that is fashionable pick as Final Foul sleeper. Billikens had rough 3-3 start, but are on 15-1 run now- they've got four juniors, three seniors in rotation, are in top 20 in country at getting to foul line, which could hurt if game isn't called tight. #4 seed in Midwest got upset four of last five years; other #4's are 9-6 vs spread (13-2 SU) during that time. New Mexico State has 7-5 freshman center; they've won 18 of 20 after a 6-8 start, are #3 team in country getting to line, but their best assist guy (Watson) has been injured. Aggies were in Vegas last week; less travel.
Davidson is very well-coached; they made run to Elite 8 in ’08 with Steph Curry, but those are SoCon’s only tournament wins since ’97. Since ’02, Wildcats are 1-4 in first round, losing by 5-8-12-7 points (lost 69-62 (+7) to Louisville LY). Marquette is 4-1 in last five first round games, winning last two years by 11-20 points (won 88-68 (-6) as 3-seed LY). Wildcats won last 17 games; they went 6-6 vs #16 non-conference schedule; best teams they beat were #83 Richmond, #85 Vandy. Marquette won six of last eight games, but lost in first Big East tourney game. First-round underdogs of 5 or less points are 38-19 vs spread, but over last 14 years, #3’s are 53-3 SU in this round.
Lot of pressure on Memphis coach Pastner, who went 19-0 in C-USA but has yet to win NCAA game, losing by 2-7 points last two years as replacement for Calipari, who was 12-3 in NCAAs three years prior to that. Tigers lost non-league game 64-62 at Xavier Feb 26, only loss since Dec 15 at home to Louisville. Memphis plays at #28 tempo; they'll try to wear down St Mary's with their better athletes. St Mary's played three starters 35+ minutes in methodical win Tuesday over an athletic Middle Tennessee team; Gaels are 24-4 in last 28 games, losing all three games with Gonzaga, by 5-17-14 points. Over last four years, underdogs are 11-5 vs spread in 6-11 games. St Mary's is 3-4 in NCAA games under Bennett, upsetting #2 Villanova on short prep time after beating #7 Richmond two days earlier, scenario similar to this one.
This is first time in five years the SWAC rep hasn’t gone to play-in game; they’re 2-4 vs spread in last six regular first-round games, losing last two by 43-41 points. Southern won 22 of last 26 games after its 1-6 start, losing to Iowa State by 23, Nebraska by 11, Wyoming by 7- they won at Texas A&M. Jaguars have #2 eFG% in country (41.6%) but no one in SWAC can shoot. From 2004-6, Gonzaga was #2-3-3 seed, won first round games by 27-10-4 points; this is its first #1 seed. Bulldogs are 11-0 vs teams ranked outside top 150, with 10 of 11 wins by 16+ points; they could be looking ahead to second round, vs Pitt/Wichita winner. Over last five years, #1’s are 13-7 vs spread in this round.
Oregon was 17-2 when PG Artis hurt his foot; they went 5-4 while he was out, are 4-2 since he came back, but 14 minutes he played in Pac-12 title game, and totals of 7-24 from floor, 2-11 inside arc since he came back indicate he isn’t close to 100%. Oklahoma State is in NCAAs for first time in three years, third time in seven years since Eddie Sutton retired; they won 12 of last 15 games, have one of two best freshmen in country in Smart (4-19 from arc in their last three losses, 3.4 3’s/game (13-41) in their last 12 wins). Last five years, underdogs are 12-8 vs spread in 5-12 games; since 1994, dogs are 15-4 vs spread in 5-12 Midwest game. Ducks took advantage of Jordan Adams’ injury to beat UCLA Saturday; 12-seed says they might be in NIT had they lost that game.
Since 1993, Louisville is 3-11-1 vs spread in first round games, losing in first round two of last three years; only other time they were a #1 seed, Cardinals (-20.5) beat Morehead State by 20. North Carolina A&T used four starters 31+ minutes in 73-72 play-in win Tuesday; Aggies lost at Cincinnati 93-39 in its only game against a Big East team. A&T is in serious trouble vs Louisville; they turn it over 22.5% of time, bad news vs Cardinal club that forces turnovers 27.6% of time, #2 in US. #1 seeds are 13-7 vs spread in this round, over last five years. Louisville is 3-0 vs teams ranked outside top 200 this season, winning by 26-41-52 points; they had 44-10 run in second half vs Syracuse, after being down 15 early in second half. Question is, will they let down after winning conference tournament, and looking ahead to winner of Missouri-Colorado State?
South Dakota State is solid offensive team that won at New Mexico, lost by 3 at Alabama, but also lost at Hofstra/Bakersfield. Jackrabbits make 39.4% behind arc, are #26 in eFG% (53.5%) but also lost by 24 at Minnesota, in their only game vs Big Dozen team. State doesn’t sub much, but is #43 experience team in country, while Michigan is #338. Wolverines (two juniors, no seniors in rotation) went 6-6 in last 12 games, after starting season 20-1; six of its seven losses came vs top 10 teams. Michigan is 2-1 in first round under Beilein, winning by 3-30, with dog covering all three games- they lost as 4-seed to Ohio LY. Last seven years, #4 seeds are 17-11 vs spread in this round. Summit League teams are 0-5 last five years, 2-3 vs spread, losing by 19-10-23-4-8 points, all as 13-14 seeds. Playing in Auburn Hills can’t hurt Michigan.
Belmont is in NCAAs for 6th time since 2006; they’re 0-5 SU, 1-4 vs spread, losing by 34-25-1-14-15 points, with only cover 71-70 (+20) loss to Duke in 2-15 game five years ago- they lost by 14-15 points last two years. Bruins won at Stanford, but lost to VCU by 10, Kansas by 29. Belmont’s 56.8% eFG% is #2 in country; they make 37.6% behind arc, 57.1% inside arc (#1 in country). Since 1985, Arizona is 3-7 SU in first round of NCAAs when lower than a 4-seed; they’re 5-5 in last 10 games after a 20-2 start. First round underdogs of 5 or less points are 38-19 vs spread; over last four years, underdogs are 11-5 vs spread in 6-11 games. Game is in altitude in Salt Lake City; Belmont ranks #284 in bench minutes; will longer TV timeouts save them from getting worn down?
UNLV (+1.5) won 76-75 at Cal Dec 9; Thomas put back airball for win at buzzer, in game Birch didn't play and Moser got hurt in, playing five minutes. Now Rebels go back to NoCal (San Jose) for semi-road game vs Bears, who lost last two games after winning previous seven. Solomon was 7-13 from floor in first game; doubt he'll do as well with defensive ace Birch in paint. Over last five years, dogs are 12-8 vs spread in 5-12 games; underdogs of 5 or less points are 38-19 vs spread. UNLV lost its last three first round games (favored in all three), so certain amount of pressure on Coach Rice, who doesn't have true PG on this roster. Cal lost three of its last four first round games, losing play-in game LY to South Florida. Bears hardly sub; they get 62% of points on 2-pointers (#5 in country), so Rebels' edge inside should be the difference.
Missouri PG Pressey is loose cannon, not a dependable PG, turning ball over 25.5% of time; Tigers are 8-6 in last 14 games, with all six losses by 3 or less points, or in OT- one of losses was on this floor in OT Feb 23. Colorado State starts five seniors, but PG Green tweaked ankle at end of UNLV game Friday, is a ? here. Rams are #308 in bench minutes, so they need Green to be healthy, especially vs Missouri team that will be anxious to atone for upset loss in a 2-15 game LY. Colorado State is top rebounding team in country (#2 on offensive, #1 on defensive boards); Iverson-Oraihki matchup will be fun. Over last six years, underdogs are 18-6 vs spread in 8-9 games; over last 13 years, dogs are 11-2 vs spread in Midwest 8-9 game in. Winner of game gets Louisville Saturday, when Lexington locals will pull for them and against the Cardinals.
Akron PG Abreu got arrested/suspended two weeks ago; Zips won the MAC tourney without him, thanks to double bye, but now face a VCU team that forces turnovers 28.7% of time, #1 in country. Important for VCU to make 3's (35.2% from arc) to negate 7-foot Marshall, defensive force for Zips- two teams Akron played without Abreu, Kent/Ohio, are not good shooting teams. Rams beat Akron 70-53 in '10 Bracket Buster game, then won by point in OT at Akron in return game LY. Since 2006, first round favorites of between 5-10 points are 28-23 vs spread. Dogs are 10-6 vs spread in 5-12 games last four years. VCU won 10 of last 13 games, with only losses to Saint Louis/Temple, teams with outstanding guards. Atlantic 16 is #8 conference this year, MAC is #15. Since 2004, MAC teams are 1-7 in first round games, covering four of last five.
New Mexico is underrated as #3 seed, winning nine of last 10, beating UNLV on its home floor in MWC title game. Key here is to defend the 3-ball; Harvard is #8, making 40.8% behind arc. Crimson didn't exactly dominate Ivy League, losing three games; since 1999, Ivy League teams are 1-13 in first round games, 3-11 vs spread; Harvard (+6.5) lost 79-70 to Vandy in LY's tourney, but two guys from LY that were supposed to return didn't for off-court reasons, so they're #286 in experience, #343 in bench minutes, which will hurt in Salt Lake altitude. Crimson lost its last two road games; they're #2 in country at getting to foul line- Lobos are #8 team in country at not fouling- their two big fellas inside should enjoy playing vs Ivy League bigs after banging with more athletic Mountain West bigs all winter.
Long road trip for Syracuse after playing four games in four days in New York last week; they've won last four first round games, by 15-23-17-7 points. Montana is 93-34 last four years, so they've got guys who are used to winning, but without 6-7 inside star Ward, would have to shoot high percentage of 3's (37.8% for year) against team thats more athletic across board. Over last six years, #4 seeds are 14-10 vs spread in this round; last time #4 seed in East got beat was 1991, though six other #4's have lost in last five years. Cal's fans will be there too; their coach was Montana's coach long time ago (he coached Griz coach Tinkle for year), so if this game stayed close, expect the crowd to turn on eastern favorite and pull for underdog Griz, but Big Sky teams are 1-13 in first round last 14 years, losing last six years (1-5 vs spread) by 28-24-18-5-18-24.
Duke has to be concerned after losing first ACC tourney game last week to Maryland, only second time in last 11 years they lost first ACC tourney game- they went 8-8 in ACC the other year (’07) and got upset by VCU 79-77 (-7) in a 6-11 first round game, but their concern would be with Saturday’s game, not this one- Albany finished 5th in America East, the #22 league this season. Great Danes lost by 22 at Ohio State, won at Washington, and otherwise played a dismal schedule (#315 non-league/#295 overall), getting lucky they had two home games in league tourney, where they upset top seed Stony Brook after losing to them by 16-5 during season. Blue Devils lost as 2-seed to Lehigh LY; they’re 4-6 vs spread in first round games last 10 years. Over last six years, #2 seeds are 13-11 vs spread in this round. Duke beat Binghamton of America East 86-62 (-22) in this round in ’09.
Wisconsin won its last six first round games; since 2002, they’re 6-2-1 vs spread as a first round favorite. Badgers split pair of games with SEC teams this year, losing 74-56 at Florida Nov 14, then beating Arkansas 77-70 on neutral floor 10 days later- their March 3 home loss to Purdue was only one of their 11 losses that wasn’t to top 30 team. Ole Miss won last five games after a 4-6 skid had them headed to NIT; they came back from down double digits twice in SEC tourney behind two sturdy senior big men and fiery guard Henderson, who has big mouth and the game to back it up. Ole Miss is #7 in country at protecting ball- they played #333 non-league schedule, and have otherwise ordinary resume. Over last five years, underdogs are 10-6 vs spread in 5-12 games, but hard to buck tourney-tested Badgers with Ole Miss squad not used to being here. both teams played Sunday, so quick turnaround not an issue.
Temple is 1-4 in last five first round games; they're 0-3 as underdog in tourney under Dunphy; Owls have senior guard Wyatt who will take a ton of shots- they go how he goes. NC State holds opponents to 29.9% from behind arc (#19 in country); since 1989, they're 7-1 in first round, winning last four by 12-6-9-14 points. Underdogs are 18-6 vs spread in 8-9 games last six years. Wolfpack was overrated in fall, then ripped as disappointment by media that overrated them; State is 20-2 this season vs teams ranked outside top 50. Temple won seven of last eight games overall- they lost to Duke by 23, in only game vs ACC foe. Owls take a lot of 3's; Wyatt/Randall combined to shoot 32% from arc on 403 tries, not very good. State beat UMass by 18, St Bonaventure by 19 in its two games vs A-16 teams this season.
Pacific won Big West title as #2 seed last week, giving retiring Thomason going away present, as he retires after 25 years coaching his alma mater. Tigers are in NCAAs for first time since '06; they won last seven games overall, are 1-3 vs top 60 teams, losing by 20-18-28 points, with upset of St Mary's Nov 23. Big West teams are 0-7 in first round last seven years (2-5 vs spread), with five losses by 12+ points; Pacific was last Big West team to win in tourney, beating Providence in 8-9 game in '05. Miami won ACC title for first time last week, after going 2-3 in last five regular season games; they figure to have letdown here, looking ahead to facing Illinois-Colorado winner Sunday. Three of Miami's six losses are against teams ranked outside top 100; sometimes they play to level of opponent, then pull game out late. Both sides are top 10 in experience.
Creighton makes 42.1% (#1) behind arc, 56.4% (#2) inside arc, one of best offensive teams in country; Bluejays' 58-57 first round win (+1.5) over Alabama LY was their first in tournament since '02. Creighton split six games vs top 50 teams; they started year 17-1, won last five games, but went 5-6 in ugly stretch in between. Over last four years, underdogs are 13-3 vs spread in 7-10 games. Cincinnati is 2-0 in first round games under Cronin; favorites are 4-1 vs spread in his tourney games. Bearcats started season 12-0, beating Oregon/Iowa State/Xavier on neutral floors, but stumbled to 4-7 finish- they scored 55 or less points in seven of last eight losses. Cincy is strong defensive team, with #9 eFG% in country; they hold teams to 30% from arc, block 16% of opponents' shots, so is fascinating to see whether Creighton can get McDermott going inside.
LaSalle won first tourney game since 1990 Wednesday, making 11-21 on arc for an eFG% of 74.5%; they use four guards, spread court, expect its guards to make plays. Explorers are 2-2 vs top 50 teams; Villanova and VCU are best two they had beaten before Boise State win. Over last six years, #4 seeds are 14-10 vs spread in this round. Kansas State is 20-5 in its last 25 games, but they were 0-3 vs Kansas, 20-2 vs everyone else in that stretch; Weber took Frank Martin's players and ran with it- they won 65-62 at George Washington, their only game vs 1-16 foe. LaSalle scored 54-58 points in last two games, had to be thrilled just to get into play-in game, now they've got chance to duplicate VCU's run of couple years ago. Kansas City site has to favor K-State, which plays conference tourney here; Wildcats are 11-2 out of conference, with neutral court win over Florida, losses to Florida and Michigan.
James Madison is ranked lower than every team in Big Dozen, Penn St. included; Indiana is 8-0 vs teams ranked outside top 170, with all eight wins by 31+ points. JMU got off to 1-5 start this year, losing to UCLA by 30, North Dakota State by 22, but they've now won five games in a row but played 26 games in a row vs teams ranked outside top 140. #3 Indiana split its last six games, losing to Wisconsin for 12th straight time in Big Dozen tourney- worst team Hoosiers lost to this season is #53 Butler, a local rival. Over last five years, #1 seeds are 13-7 vs spread in first round games. JMU scored lot in transition vs a lousy LIU defense, won't have that luxury against Hoosiers, whose 44.0 eFG% is #18 in country. Indiana was in tourney LY for first time in five years; they won last two first round games by 13 points each.
Illinois got off to 12-0 start, with 94-64 win over USC its only game vs Pac-12 opponent; they lost 8 of 11 after that, then won five in row, but finished on 2-4 skid. Illini is 10-1 in last 11 first round games, under few coaches, with only loss as 5-seed vs Western Kentucky in '09. Over last four years, underdogs are 13-3 vs spread in 7-10 games. Young Colorado has only one senior in rotation (#311 in experience); they've won four of last six road/neutral games, are 7-4 vs top 50 teams. Buffaloes won first round game LY, upsetting UNLV; they hold teams to 32.3% behind arc, in top-third in country. Illini gets 33.6% of its points behind arc, only make 32.3% of 3's, which is why they've had droughts this year. Buffs played #55 non-league schedule, Illinois #139.
Second year in row Georgetown gets A-Sun champ in first round; A-Sun teams are 0-9 in tourney, 0-3 vs spread last three years; Florida Gulf Coast is in its sixth year of D-I ball; they went 6-5 against the #40 non-league schedule this year, with 63-51 win over Miami Nov 13, in game Durand Scott missed for 'canes. Eagles lost at Duke by 21, at VCU by 23, Iowa State by 11, but they've won 12 of last 14 games, are #48 in forcing turnovers (22.4% of time). Other than Miami, best team FGCU beat is #118 Mercer (2 of 3). Since 1990, Georgetown is 5-4 vs spread in first round, but they lost two of last three years, as 3/6 seeds. Hoyas have #6 eFG% defense in country (42.8%); other than Porter, it is a young team- when he got in foul trouble at USF, Hoyas got upset. Over last six years, #2 seeds are 13-11 vs spread in this round.
Since 1985, MAAC teams are 3-30 in non-play-in tourney games, losing last four by 8-22-6-19 points; '09 Siena was last MAAC team to win a tourney game, beating Ohio State in double OT, now Buckeyes face an Iona team that has Arizona transfer Jones at guard (23 ppg). Gaels went 6-6 vs #51 non-league schedule, 2-2 vs top 100 teams, losing at LaSalle by 14, St Joe's by 5. Iona went 1-6 in one stretch, with all six losses by 3 or less points, or in OT. Ohio State won last eight games, taking title in Big Dozen tourney; they're 5-1 in first round under Matta, covering last two years in wins by 29-19 points. Buckeyes beat Loyola in first round LY, so this is third time in last five years they've played MAAC team in first round. Iona plays fast, is chaotic and dangerous. Over last six years, #2 seeds are 13-11 vs spread in this round.
Villanova's #9 seed said they made tourney easily; I'm not sure why, but they do lead country in getting to foul line, getting 28.1% of points from charity stripe. Wildcats are young (#275 in experience), don't sub much (#236 in bench minutes); they're 4-6 vs top 50 teams, with all four wins at home. North Carolina won eight of last nine games, losing to Miami in ACC tourney finals; they've won last ten first round games, last losing in first round in '99 to Weber State, but this is first time since '04 they're lower than a 3-seed. Tar Heels are 1-7 vs top 30 teams, 23-3 vs all other teams; Villanova is #45. Over last six years, underdogs covered 18 of 24 8-9 games. UNC is #16 at not fouling so will be interesting to see if the young Wildcats can get points from line. Carolina scored 76+ points in seven of its last eight games.
Northwestern State last made tourney in '06, when they upset Iowa by point in 3-14 game (+7.5), but this Florida team is better than that Iowa club was. Demons lost by 7 at LSU, 13 at Texas A&M, 4 at Oklahoma, 18 at Arkansas; they've won 13 of last 15 games, are deep (#6 in nation in bench minutes) and lead country in scoring. Southland teams are 0-6 in non-play-in games since then (2-4 vs spread) losing by 13-24-15-9-29-12 points. Florida won/covered four of last five first round games, with only loss as 10-seed in 2010. Florida is just 5-4 in last nine games; they beat SE Louisiana of Southland 82-43 in December. Gators score well in metrics, but are 0-6 in single digit games, which means all 26 of its wins are by 10+ points. #3 seeds are 6-2 vs spread last two years, have been upset only once in six years since Northwestern St beat the Hawkeyes.
Thursday's List of 13: Welcome to the best four days of the year.......
13) Why do I get the idea that for the next four days, unless something really big happens, Joe Biden is running the country?
12) So when Robert Morris beat Kentucky at home Tuesday, it set off one of the better court rushes of alltime; ESPN interviewed coach Andy Toole on the court about what the win means. Would’ve been awesome if he had just looked into the camera and said truthfully,
“It means I’m getting a better job!!!”
This is the unusual case of a team being better off in the NIT than the NCAA’s, they got lot of extra publicity out of beating Kentucky.
11) Robert Morris’ win will set non-conference scheduling back, as the big boys will turn their nose up at true road games, even moreso than they do now. When was the last time Kentucky played a true road game in a gym that seats less than 5,000 people?
10) Since 1993, Louisville is 3-11-1 vs spread in its first tournament game; this is just their second #1 seed- they beat Morehead State by 20 (-20.5) in first round, the other time they were a 1-seed.
9) So couple years after the Carmelo Anthony trade, did one side get the better of it? Knicks are 39-26, but have oldest roster in league, they’ve lost four of last five games and are looking into signing Hawkeye Pierce to take care of their MASH unit full of injured players.
Denver is 47-22, has won 13 games in a row and appears to be a legit threat in the West. I’m thinking Denver got the better of the deal.
Feel bad for Mike Woodson though; he’s a very good coach saddled with an old team that ain’t getting healthier as the playoffs approach.
8) There are 21 Division I basketball schools in Texas, none made the tournament, first time Lone Star State got blanked since 1977, when it was a 32-team tourney. Damn, I was in high school back then.
7) Youngstown State made an astounding 18-35 behind arc in its 99-87 win over defenseless Oakland Tuesday. LMU made 21 treys vs Michigan in second round of the 1990 tournament, and from what I can tell, that is the most treys any team has made in a D-I college game.
6) Hockey legend Bobby Orr, who was Wayne Gretzky before Gretzky, but as a defenseman, turned 65 this week. Orr was one of my first childhood heroes; boy could he skate!!!
Knee injuries shortened his career. Orr turned the Bruins around almost single-handedly; he is still revered in Boston.
5) An umpire broke his hand in a spring training game, so one of the other umps went in to put his chest protector on to take his place behind the plate. Veteran ump Tim McClelland, in order to keep the exhibition game moving, called balls/strikes from behind the pitcher for four batters, until the other ump was ready to go. That’s what they do in Little League!!!
4) NFL might play the Pro Bowl by having captains choose up sides, like we did on the playgrounds as kids. Whatever, I’m still not watching. Choosing up sides would be intriguing for the NBA All-Star Game, though.
3) Listening to Bill Walton working SF Austin-Stanford NIT game Tuesday, it occurred to me that I’d love to be as positive about everything as he is. Not everyone can be that way, but I enjoy his TV work very much.
2) Stephen F Austin University is in Nacogdoches, TX; they lost Southland finals to Northwestern State, which is in Natchitoches, LA.
Say that three times fast.
1) The next four days are among my most favorite of the year; I plan on doing nothing but watching basketball, eating and talking to friends about basketball and eating. Enjoy the tournament!!!!