Big League Clu drops some knowledge about what kinds of teams might do some damage in this year’s NCAA tournament.
It’s February everyone! And with the college hoops regular season winding down, we are getting into the most pivotal part of the season: March Madness!! So, here some things that I think you, the average college hoops fan, might have to look out for. I bring you my take on the tournament situation and I break down different college teams all over the country in my own little creation called “Bracket-Science.”
There are over 300 schools fighting for the 68 spots in the tournament. I will be breaking down some of the interesting basketball programs, and telling you what they have done this season and when to look past certain stats when deciding on schools for your bracket. With this insight, hopefully you will learn a thing or two about some of the mid-major schools that I brought up earlier in the year.
First: ITS A TRAP!
I have seen this happen every year. A top school gets a high seed in the tournament, and hey lets just put them in the championship game. Lo and behold, what happens? They get upset by some podunk little college in the middle of nowhere and all hell breaks loose. This has happened many times. #1 Syracuse upset by Butler, #1 Kansas upset by #9 Northern Iowa, etc. The key here is to do your homework on some of these mid-major schools because it is pivotal to know who your team is up against when tournament time comes around. Take the Atlantic 10 conference, for example. People might see Temple or St. Louis, who are tops in their conference and they might end up overlooking them, but they dont realize that Temple has two guards who average almost 19 points and 4 assists per game, and a center who averages 8 rebounds per game.
There are many other schools who could cause some ruckus in the tournament but, because of their records, they are seen as bubble teams. In this instance, I am talking about University of New York at Buffalo. Although they are only 16-6, they have a 9-2 conference record, and are right in the thick of things to make a run into the NCAA tournament. They have two forwards averaging almost 16 points and 7 rebounds per game. Players like this can often be overlooked they are relatively unknown, but if you do some digging you will find that players like Javon McCrea (one of Buffalo’s forwards) have the ability to back up their game. McCrea is in the running to be on the all MAAC team, and Forward Mitchell Walt has made 52% of his shots and averages 15 points and almost 8 rebounds per game. Either of these players can often be overlooked and will do some serious damage in the tournament if given the chance.
Sencond: Quality Wins
Its easy to look at a mid-major school with a 30 win season and be impressed. People often see a team who goes 33-1 and are “wowed” and think this team is going deep into the tournament. Trust me, they wont. Teams like #16 Murray State (24-1) and Witchita St (22-4) often have impressive win totals, but if you look at who they’ve played, you realize they are in the Ohio Valley/Missouri Valley conferences and their non-conference scheduele has only one or two teams that were barely ever even in the top 25. Watch out for these teams because they might win their first tournament game, but once they start playing top seeded teams, their world will come crashing down.
“Quality wins” can also help us determine if those bubble teams will get into the big dance, or end up sadly disappointed in the NIT. In this instance, the Miami Hurricane (15-8, 6-4) fit the bill. They had a major upset over #4 Duke on Feb. 5th. That’s a huge quality win. They could end up bumping some of those teams that are barely clinging on to their spots in the tournament. These last few games of the season are critical for teams like Miami, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and the list goes on and on.
Third: Teams you can count on!
This is the part where I like to give a little bit of reassurance to those die-hard superfans of teams like Kentucky, Ohio State, UNC, Duke, (and of course my team) Syracuse. More likely than not, if these teams make a deep run into the tournament they will have to match up against one mid-major school. The reassurance that I would like offer is that most of these programs have top players who are battle-ready because of the competition they’ve faced all year in their own conferences, and the dogfights they went through early on in the season. Teams like Syracuse, who play in one of the most difficult conferences in the country, or Kentucky, who had to go through top opponents to get to the #1 rank that they currently have, have so many weapons on offense and defense that they should be able to handle anyone.
Last but not least: The importance of conference tournaments
Here we are… it’s the last few weeks of the season and conference tournament time is almost upon us. Some people look at this and say, “shoot…why should I care? My team is out of it anyways!” Then, all of the sudden, your team cant seem to lose! Look at Gerry McNamara with Syracuse back in 2006, or even the run by Kemba Walker and last year’s National champion, the UCONN Huskies. That’s why conference championships are so important. If a team wins the conference tournament they get an automatic bid into the big dance, and they’re already on a hot streak. This can lead to some unfair entries. Take, for example, Georgia, who won the 2008 SEC tournament despite a 4-12 conference record… 4-12!! They should never have been in that tournament, and they showed it by making an early exit. For other schools, like VCU or George Mason, there’s no other way to make the tournament. It might not always be fair, but that’s what the madness is all about.
Orange image courtesy of: Jerome Davis/Icon SMI
McCrea image courtesy of: http://www.splitsecondphotos.com/
Miami image courtesy of: The Associated Press
Melo image courtesy of: Dennis Nett / The Post-Standard
Walker image courtesy of: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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