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ONIONS

Columnists | Message Board  | Onions Archive

By Adam Glatczak

arfboy37@yahoo.com

February 28th, 2006

 

College Basketball: "Onions" Weekly Review

 

The excitement of March is near, so we’ve got a little advice for those who enjoy crunching seeds, power ratings and last 10 statistics…

-Rule No. 1 for all amateur ‘bracketologists’ out there to remember: NCAA bids are given out to teams, not to conferences.

-Rule No. 2 for all amateur ‘bracketologists’ out there to remember: NCAA bids are given out to teams, not to conferences.

-Rule No. 3 for all amateur ‘bracketologists’ out there to remember: NCAA bids are given out to teams, not to conferences.

 

-With the posting of those three above rules, we hope to someday see the end of discussion about whether ‘X’ conference deserves ‘X’ number of bids to the tourney. A request to everyone out there: please, please, PLEASE do not listen to the ex-coaches and players on ESPN telling you how a certain conference does or doesn’t deserve a certain number of bids because they say so. The number of bids a conference receives is not an indication of a conference’s strength. It merely shows how the best teams, individual of conference, stack up with similar teams from around the country. If it has anything to do with conference, it is that the teams that create separation from the bottom teams in their conference tend to show through as the better teams, and if one thinks about it, isn’t that what conference play is about anyways?

 

-All right, we’re starting this off with some media criticism. The point of this column nor this website isn’t to take shots at other media sources, but I’ve got a big problem with something on ESPN.com this week, and since it’s not like we’ve got a direct line for anyone in Bristol, Conn. to listen to us, we’re going to air it here. It concerns a rather curious story this week by Andy Katz about answers to ten questions apparently posed to selection committee members regarding the NCAA Tournament. The story had a number of questionable premises, including one where, for teams with injuries, the committee is supposedly going to add that player’s ppg average to the games he missed to determine if that team would’ve won a game it lost without him. (Say what??!!??). As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, there was this item:

 

“7. How hard is it to get into the field with double-digit losses from a mid-major conference?   

 

One committee member said double-digit losses aren't a good thing but don't have to be a deal-killer. The key thing--and this could help a team like Syracuse--is who the losses are against. If a Missouri Valley Conference team reaches double-digit losses, it will be viewed differently than a Big East team with a similar number.” (emphasis added)

 

Now, even if we get past the fact that there are still too many misguided souls incorrectly grouping the MVC as a mid-major, the bigger issue is that we don’t understand the last part of that statement at all and don’t know if it’s just an incomplete thought or another ESPN potshot at the MVC. Here’s the thing: we’re always told teams are evaluated for the tourney separate of their conference and based on an entire body of work. If a Big East team is viewed differently than an MVC team, it should naturally be because they had a tougher schedule, more quality wins-in general, an overall better profile. Obviously there can be big differences in non-conference schedules and even conference schedules since every BE team plays a different league slate, so it’s a no-brainer that evaluation is not as simple as saying a team from the Big East with ten losses is better than a team from the MVC with ten losses. Yet that’s exactly what the story seems to be saying, and not only is it a lazy assumption to make, it’s flat-out wrong based on everything we’ve been told in the past. Katz is typically better than to pass on such faulty logic as fact in a story, and this wouldn’t be a big deal except many are going to take this information as gospel because it’s on ESPN. In this case they absolutely shouldn’t.

 

We’re sure hoping this wasn’t just a small opening for the four-letter network to take another shot at the MVC. ESPN talking heads have been on the clock at virtually every opportunity of late telling us how the Missouri Valley isn’t as good as the RPI says, how  it’s overrated, how their RPI numbers are inflated, how the RPI is flawed, how it’s lame to rush the court after beating Bucknell…just about anything negative they can think of. It seems like a sudden turnaround from the media source that couldn’t stop printing stories about the MVC just a few weeks ago, but it’s not a surprise because 1) several of the sources are uninformed, to say the least and 2) we saw the same thing a few years ago. The MVC’s storyline is quite similar to that of St. Joseph’s in 2004: upstart makes big headlines during the season as that year’s cute story, and then is rebuked when they refuse to go away when the season gets serious. It’s pretty clear that the establishment (the one that tells us that good basketball can only be played in six conferences or at Gonzaga or Memphis) is threatened by the ‘little guy’ making too many waves, and while the commentators will be kind to them during the season, they get agitated when these uppity teams don’t settle back down at the end of the season to let the tried-and-trues take charge. The fact that St. Joseph’s in 2004 and the MVC (and to a lesser extent, George Washington) this year have broken into college basketball’s hierarchy, at least for a year, scares them, and for that we’re here to stick up for the MVC one more time and to remind people that the Valley is only beating the big boys at their own game. The MVC is one of the top six conferences in the country this year, bar none. As such it should not be a surprise for a second if they grab four or five NCAA bids. They will have earned it. Even if the worst case is true and the Valley is really guilty of building up their RPIs with weak non-conference schedules, what’s the shame in that? No different than what the rest of the football conferences do to pump up their power ratings every pre-conference season. (Anyone wonder why Big 10 & SEC teams don’t get killed in the RPI for beating their bottom feeders? Check the non-conference schedules of Penn State, Ole Miss and Miss. State.) You’ll never hear that from the TV heads, though, just like you’ll never hear that, even with 11 built-in TV games against the top-ranked conference in the country, the ACC’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks well behind the Missouri Valley’s this year. (BCS leagues Big 12 and Pac-10 also rank behind the MVC in that category) These are the times when all should be reminded that some of the TV guys should stick to game analysis instead of trying to make value judgments on teams they don’t see very often.

 

-Ahhhhhhhhhh! Just writing and then reading that last part over again just drives one even more mad. That’s the worst part about The Four-Letter Network’s trashing of leagues like the MVC and teams like George Washington, St. Joseph’s, and the like: most of their arguments have next to zero factual basis. If they’re going to form negative opinions, at least base them on facts, not on some recycled drivel that any uneducated person can spout off.

 

-Giving credit where it is due, ESPN did make a great hire with Hubert Davis as an analyst. In a time when ESPN sometimes focuses more on hiring outrageous mouths or big names, Davis is neither. One thing he is, though, is good. The guy not only comes off as having a good personality, but he also says things other guys never would. In several Gonzaga games this year, he’s pointed out what many fans can see but what most analysts avoid; that the Zags and especially Adam Morrison sometimes get calls at home that they probably wouldn’t on the road or if they weren’t who they were. That he was unafraid to point this out is good, but the fact that he doesn’t belabor the point or turn it into an on-running commentary, like other commentators would, shows his real skill. He makes the point and moves on (though sometimes his very able partner Dave Pasch doesn’t so quickly). Pleasant, insightful, and very solid for someone who hasn’t done TV for long.

 

-So many teams this year are seemingly trying to play their way out of the NCAAs, so we must salute Arkansas for being one that almost certainly has played its way in. We’d be lying if we said we were completely impressed with how the Razorbacks accomplished their three wins in a row against Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. The Hogs would’ve lost at least two of the three if their opponents had closed out as they should have, and Florida and Tennessee are sliding, anyways. That doesn’t matter one bit at this point, though. The bottom line is they won them, they did it in difficult fashion, and they’ve earned their place in the postseason. Those three wins, along with non-conference wins over Kansas and Missouri State, give the Hogs a profile that clearly beats that of teams like Florida State, Colorado, Utah State and some of the others trying to grab bids. As far as their chances of advancing in the tourney…who knows? This is a team with some great athletes that probably has been overrated for the past three years now, but if they get on a roll they could make the Sweet 16. One plus is that Coach Stan Heath has experience advancing in the tourney at Kent State, and the Michigan State style that Heath subscribes to obviously has had a lot of success in March.

 

-Know that Alabama fumbled away that Arkansas game like a gold medal in the women’s snow-cross competition, but have to be impressed how the Tide is playing. The short bench and missing Chuck Davis are tough, but most impressive is that Mark Gottfried has essentially 1 ½ guards and the rest of his team is frontcourt players. How they can be winning so frequently when the solution to beating them should seem so simple-play zone all day, maybe box-and-one on Ronald Steele, and try to draw fouls on the offensive end-is incredible. Like Texas, though, it proves how far talent combined with hard work can take a team, even one with little depth.

 

-We’re probably supposed to say similarly glowing things about Oklahoma’s play of late, but just can’t do it. The Sooners may have won four straight one-point decisions, and we’ll give them credit for never giving up when down (a trait harder to find than it should be these days). Sometimes, though, it’s hard to even cite them for their fortitude in the final seconds of games. Not when the Iowa State win was a gift and OU never would’ve beaten Oklahoma State, either, if Kevin Bookout had actually been called for doing The Hustle before his breakaway dunk at the end of the game. Oklahoma has obvious talent inside but possesses some serious defensive questions and commits too many turnovers. This team could have fits in the NCAAs against a team with a quick backcourt.

 

-With all the praise being heaped on Notre Dame despite their continued losses in close games, it needs to be pointed out that while we feel bad for the Irish with all their heartbreaks, ultimately they are a product of what Bill Parcells always says: you are what your record says you are. In this case, Notre Dame is a mediocre team, nothing more, and contrary to a lot of opinion, they don’t deserve extra credit for playing close. Few seem to remember that the Irish has been on the edge against anyone and everyone this year, not just top-ranked teams. Early in the season ND was making exciting games out of playing the likes of Wofford, IPFW and Florida International. If one is going to give Notre Dame points for losing close to the likes of Connecticut and Pittsburgh, they also need to be consistent and subtract points for squeaking by teams that are in the bottom 100 in Division I.

 

The Irish’s situation also isn’t as uncommon as some think. The Green Bay Packers this year were 3-11 at one point and had outscored their opponents on the season. They were considered a bad team, and people were right. This year, Drexel has lost 10 games by seven points or fewer, eight of those to top 100 teams. Drake has had it even rougher; the Bulldogs have lost 11 games this year by six points or less, including three in overtime. In all of those cases as well as Notre Dame’s, the same thing holds: at some point, you have to win close games, and if you consistently lose them to good teams, you're just not as good. Notre Dame’s string of losses is freaky, but it has to be remembered, there are many teams considered worse that would've found a way to win at least a few of those by now. Tough breaks, yes, but proof of how good they are? No way. And take out seven below-200 RPI wins over teams like the aforementioned IPFW & Wofford, and the Irish is 6-12 against teams w/an RPI better than even 200. That is not the mark of a team that is supposedly better than several teams that will get at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks.

 

-Not to continue picking on the Irish, who truly have done a great job keeping it together through so many close losses, but their end of overtime situation at Connecticut last week brought to mind another peeve. Why did Notre Dame wait until about four seconds left to finally make a move to the hoop at the end of overtime in that game? Why? Why? Why do teams do this? It is such horrible clock management and just bad strategy-unless you’ve got Michael Jordan, wouldn’t it make sense that you need to allow yourself time to make a pass or two if your first option is shut down and you’re down one at the END OF THE GAME??? Seriously, so many teams seem to have absolutely zero strategy in end of game situations, and it is so frustrating to watch. Running some offense or just passing the ball a few times to try to get an open look is apparently passé, because a lot of teams offense in the final seconds is the exact same as Notre Dame’s was, consisting of making a move towards the basket with three seconds left and taking an off-balance 17-footer. Shouldn’t having the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win be a good thing, and not the opposite?

 

-By the way: since when did ND change its school colors to black, green & gold? Those uniforms worn against Connecticut were just horrible.

 

-Villanova is a great team even though it relies on its backcourt too much. How good would the Wildcats be if they actually utilized their inside game as much as they could? And doesn’t the way the Wildcats are winning games this year look very familiar, especially to fans of Philadelphia basketball. It should. (Think two years ago, Atlantic 10 school…)

 

-How is it that an Indiana team that has been slumbering for a month (five straight losses in February) squeaks out a win against Penn State (ho-hum) and then at home against an overrated Michigan State team and now has national commentators falling all over themselves proclaiming the Hoosiers a lock NCAA Tournament team? Sorry, folks, we know this has been a trying year for the players at IU, but this team has no place in the NCAAs unless they win at Michigan and Purdue and grab at least one win in the Big 10 tourney. One win does not make up for a month of stumbles, and if the announcers are going to pronounce Indiana free of all responsibility for its losing ways, then do the same for Northern Iowa. UNI has been on a similar slide of late, but even so has a clearly better profile than the Hoosiers and at no time this year will the Panthers have endured a string of losing seven of eight games, as IU did in February.

 

-One more minor axe to grind. Bill Self is one of the best coaches in the country, period. That said, we just don’t understand this myth that he’s done maybe the best coaching job in the country this year. Kansas is 20-7 and has superior talent in a mediocre conference. How much worse could they really be?

 

As a team, KU is the proverbial girl with the curl; the Jayhawks can look really good and really bad. Blowout wins in the Big 12 and non-conference wins over California and Kentucky are the good; losses to teams like Missouri, Kansas State and St. Joseph’s, as well as Saturday night’s blowout at Texas, are the bad. Their high points have been enhanced by their competition, though. Kansas’s 10-game win streak consisted of a late comeback win over Oklahoma and a bunch of wins over teams that are NIT level, at best. So why was this streak so impressive to many? This isn’t the Big 12 of a few years ago that had at least three Final Four contenders, this is a league that deserves only three NCAA bids total this year. (If Colorado or Texas A&M makes the field, it will be by default, not because they deserve it.)

 

Furthermore, the Jayhawks have plenty of talent, maybe not Duke-level, but they’re not far off. This isn’t a team of Patriot League non-scholarship players. It is young, yes, but so is Memphis. Kansas has done about what it should have this year, and for that, Self as a coach of the year candidate doesn’t come close to guys like Ben Howland, Bruce Pearl, Jamie Dixon or Dana Altman. If anything, he deserves credit for the development of players like Sasha Kaun (not to be confused with Sasha Cohen), but come on, overall it’s not like he’s making chicken salad out of chicken doo-doo here. The Jayhawks are capable of great things in the future, maybe even as soon as March if they get hot in the NCAA Tournament. Most likely, though, the short term will continue to see young and sometimes undisciplined players being up and down, particularly against good teams.

 

-Big win for Hofstra against George Mason, but still wouldn't recommend holding one's breath about an at-large for the team that should still be called the Flying Dutchmen. The best they can do is a 3-way tie for the CAA title, and not playing at George Mason, the committee will consider their conf. record ever so slightly weaker than Mason or UNCW. If Mason stays in the top 25 of the RPI, they have a chance (top 25 wins are huge to the committee) but that means GMU needs to advance deep into the CAA tourney, because their RPI is going to likely fade a little with their 1st Rd. CAA game.

 

Here's the # that will kill Hofstra: 263. That's their non-conference strength of schedule. In a case like theirs (only 3 games vs. top 50 opponents, nothing much special for non-conf. wins) the committee will use a stat like that against them. They're going to need to keep piling up wins and probably need to make CAA final to have an at-large chance. To this writer, the sensible thing would be to reward a team like them that beats everyone they should, instead of giving a bid to some middling mid-pack team like Colorado, Indiana or Florida State, but it’s likely the committee’s generosity will only go so far and the MVC is just better positioned to capitalize on most of it, not good news for the CAA. (And frankly, losing to middle-of-the-road Notre Dame in their highest profile non-conference game doesn’t help the Dutchmen’s cause) We’re hoping Hofstra makes it, but it's going to be hard for them to get past Mason or UNCW for consideration.

 

-Beware Old Dominion in the CAA tourney. The Monarchs, who never quite lived up to expectations this season, look to be playing their best ball all year. ODU is probably the healthiest its been in some time, Alex Loughton finally seems to be asserting himself, and the Monarchs are getting out in transition more. Old Dominion is particularly comfortable in an up-tempo game, and point guard Drew Williamson is one of the best in the country at running the break. An ODU/UNC-Wilmington semifinal matchup is a possibility, and don’t be surprised for a second if the Monarchs pick off the Seahawks and get to the CAA final.

 

-One would think Gonzaga just isn’t going to go far in the postseason if all of its players continue to be spectators of the Adam & J.P. Show. There is way more talent there than has been shown throughout the West Coast Conference regular season, but no one wants to assert themselves. We know Morrison can score absolutely at will, and maybe he’ll single-handedly will GU through the tourney, but that’s not a chance we’d take. One player that looks like he could make a difference in a hurry is Josh Heytvelt. The big guy has great size and looks to have the kind of energy to be an impact player. The faster and more he meshes into the rotation, the better GU’s situation.

 

-Revisiting the Bracket Buster games from more than a week ago now, Bucknell is just so impressive defensively, and is much more athletic and physical than many would think. If there’s one dangerous trait the Bison have, and this even goes back to last year when they played Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament, it is their penchant for occasionally going through cold spells on offense. Outside of Chris McNaughton in the post and Kevin Bettencourt from three-point range, it’s not a team of aggressive offensive players, and Bucknell will likely need someone to step up their game to advance more than one round in the NCAAs. Even if they don’t, we still think the Bison’s defense and Pat Flannery’s coaching is good enough for a first-round win.

 

-Northwestern State has the backing of this site’s boss, and we like the Demons a lot, too. Heartbreaking loss to Utah State last weekend in a game NW State led almost the entire way and probably would’ve won if they’d hit a few late free throws. Like the way Mike McConathy plays 11 guys every game and how he uses the full-court trap efficiently to take advantage of his team’s quickness and mask some of its lack of height. The Demons also have a lot of seniors and play tougher than their size, and in point guard Tyronn Mitchell have the kind of composed leader that will make a difference in March. If there’s one worry about this team, it is that there is no particular go-to player who can be counted on consistently for baskets down the stretch.

 

-Here’s hoping Albany wins the America East tourney just so the country can see Jamar Wilson, one of the most exciting players anywhere. Wilson’s shaking and baking almost single-handedly got the Great Danes past Virginia Commonwealth in their BB game. He is a tremendous talent on a team with a number of players who can come up big against any given opponent. Also a fan of the other Wilson on Will Brown’s team, Brent Wilson. The sophomore has a nice touch and does a little of everything, reminiscent of former Vermont utilityman extraordinaire Grant Anderson of a few years ago. He’s the kind of glue player with size and skills that many teams at Albany’s level would go crazy for. It also helps that the Great Danes have a seven-foot center, Kirsten Zoellner, that allows him to step outside sometimes, where the 6-8 forward has hit 52 three-pointers.

 

-Also must note that NW State guard Kerwin Forges has a great, great nickname. The 6-4, 235 lb. senior is affectionately known as “Fat Daddy.” Repeat, affectionately.

 

-Have there ever been much quieter 20-win seasons than those by South Alabama and Montana this year? Fantastic job by John Pelphrey and the Jaguars this year. USA is only one-half game behind Western Kentucky for the best record in the Sun Belt and has a sparkling 21-6 record. Note to NIT: make sure to find a place for this team if it doesn’t win the Sun Belt tourney. Unlike the Jags, at least Montana has had a little notoriety this year for its whipping of Stanford. The Grizzlies, like South Alabama, are also 21-6, but have slipped up just enough in the Big Sky to take away some of their sparkle. A second-place finish behind Northern Arizona and a blowout loss at Idaho State in the one game we saw them in weren’t the way to follow up a strong non-conference season, but beware of the Griz in March. Montana is always one of the teams to beat in the Big Sky tourney.

 

-It is incredible the difference scholarships are making in the Patriot League. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Patriot just recently started allowing scholarships after going the Ivy League non-scholarship route for many years. However, not everyone has taken advantage of this yet and it shows in the league standings. Lafayette is one school still not offering scholarships. The Leopards were a perennial league title contender a few years ago but have been passed up not only by Holy Cross and Bucknell, but now also by Lehigh, which a few years ago was a league doormat but under the coaching of Billy Taylor and a talent transfusion has become the third PL heavyweight. Those top three are far ahead of the rest of the league, and all three could realistically compete for the first division in any eastern conference not called the Big East. We don’t want to disparage the current Lafayette team; in fairness, Fran O’Hanlon’s Lafayette team is struggling as much with youth and injuries as with talent level, and there’s no doubt that neither coach nor team is using lack of scholarships as an excuse. The truth that the Leopards have slipped down the standings, though, is undeniable, and it’s been startling to see how quickly it has happened.

 

-With the career of one of college basketball’s finest snipers ever winding down, we can’t let Keydren Clark ride off into his career after college basketball without due respect. One of the finest Peacocks of all, the 5-9 St. Peter’s guard is going to end up in the top 10 on Division I’s all-time scoring list, in the midst of names like Hersey Hawkins, Oscar Robertson and Danny Manning. While it’s true that Keekee’s career will never resonate the way theirs did, he has a good chance of going over the 3,000-point mark in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament if his team can win one game, and if that were a case he’d have a good chance to surpass Hawkins for the No. 6 spot on the all-time list. His numbers have to be considered incredible for three reasons. One, he has scored at such a high rate for four straight seasons-his lowest points per game average was just under 25 ppg his freshman year. Two, he has done this on St. Peter’s teams that were mediocre at best, never winning more than 17 games. This means teams always knew he’d be taking shots and could devote their defenses to trying to stop him, and is one good reason why he’s never shot better than 41% from the field in a season. Most impressive, though, is simply that he has scored so much in an era when scoring just isn’t cool. With scoring totals on a continued decline across the board over the past 10 years, plus the fact that anyone who can score is usually going pro before his eligibility runs out, it’s amazing that anyone would be able to pile up 3,000 points in this age. He has also scored more than 26 a game this year while coping with the loss of former teammate, roommate and best friend George Jefferson, who passed away in the offseason. For all of the above, Clark deserves to be remembered as at the least one of the best in MAAC history and at least should be discussed as one of the great scorers of all-time.

 

-Thrilled to get a response from Stetson assistant coach Jon Coffman regarding our query of how the Hatters solved the dilemma of putting the name of center Chief Kickingstallionsims on the back of a jersey. Indeed, Stetson has gone retro and put the first name ‘Chief’ on the back of the jersey, which qualifies as nothing less than awesome. If only there was a way for Stetson to start marketing this jersey now, we think the school would have a serious source of income but, alas, we’re pretty sure NCAA rules still prohibit selling jerseys with a player’s likeness or name on them. Too bad.

 

By the way, you may not have heard a quiet racket the past few weeks in Florida with all the racing going on (or maybe it was just tires squealing from Tony Stewart’s latest attempt to wreck somebody) but Stetson has rebounded from a 2-16 start to win 11 of its last 12 games, including it’s last eight in a row. Quite an incredible turnaround…as Coffman said, a few weeks ago the team had the second-longest losing streak in the nation, and now it has the seventh-longest win streak. Very good to see for the Hatters of coach Derek Waugh and players like E.J. Gordon and Anthony Register, both of whom it seems should be in about their eighth years of eligibility (they weren’t recruited by long-time Hatters coach Dr. Glenn Wilkes, who retired in 1993, it just seems that way). No doubt their late run makes Stetson a scary matchup in the Atlantic Sun tournament.

 

Games you can’t or won’t watch but should

For this last week, the list consists of only regular season games, since it would take us the rest of the week to write up conference tournament games you should watch. Whether they’re the perfect way to decide conference NCAA Tournament representatives or not, we love conference tourneys and encourage all to check them out, regardless of teams or conferences. In most games the desperation of win-or-else will show through, making almost every game worthwhile viewing.

 

Tuesday, February 28

Cincinnati at Seton Hall. Sounds funny, but maybe the most important non-conference tourney game of the week. Quite possibly an at-large play-in game, though we have a feeling the Bearcats are looking good for a bid.

 

Wednesday, March 1

Duke at Florida State. Contrary to what some think, this win would not lock the Seminoles in the field, but it would likely come pretty close.

Texas at Texas A&M. What’s said about FSU applies to the Aggies, too. Both teams’ awful non-conference schedules mean they deserve to sweat even if they win these games, though.

Kentucky at Tennessee. The Wildcats are running out of chances to impress. Likely a team that has done just enough to make the tourney, and not a single thing more.

Colorado at Kansas. Well, if the Jayhawks are as bad as we make them sound, CU should have a good chance here, right? Haha. Nope. Seriously, KU will be mad and the Buffs are a pitiful road team.

Temple at Rhode Island. This game still has more meaning than some think. We’ve given up on it ever happening, but if the Owls string together some wins the rest of the way, they still have a shot at the NCAAs.

Marquette at Louisville. We will bet money that if the Cardinals win this game that some will forget all their wrongs this year and start touting them as an NCAA tourney team.

Indiana at Purdue. The Hoosiers’ at-large hopes should fall by the wayside here.

Sam Houston State at Texas-Arlington. Mavericks need this one just to make the Southland Tournament.

 

Thursday, March 2

Memphis at Alabama-Birmingham. If Cincy/Seton Hall isn’t the game of the week, this is. Huge opportunity for the Blazers, and we think they’ll take advantage. UAB deserves to be in the NCAAs.

UCLA at California. Big one in the Pac-10, which if we follow the logic of many, should be called the best mid-major conference in the country.

Wisconsin at Michigan State. Regardless of outcome here (MSU should win), I smell an early-round loss for the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament. Smell that?

Syracuse at DePaul. Loss here could be a dagger to the Orangemen. The kind of game the ’Cuse needs to win if it deserves an at-large bid.

 

Friday, March 3

Seton Hall at Pittsburgh. One more chance for the Pirates to impress. Book them for the NCAAs if they win this one.

 

 

 

 

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