Gael Force Wind

Photo by Tod Fierner

Two years ago Saint Mary’s shocked the country in the NCAA tournament when, as a No. 10 seed, it upset Richmond and Villanova on its way to the Sweet 16.  If the Gaels shock anyone in the tournament this year then it’s because of negligence because they might be the best team on the West Coast.

The Gaels are currently undefeated in the West Coast Conference, including an impressive 3-0 over Gonzaga and BYU.  In those three wins, the smallest margin of victory was 14 points.

Leading the Gaels is Australia native Matthew Dellavedova who played a key role in that Sweet 16 role two years ago as a sharpshooting roleplayer.  He’s still a sharpshooter, but now he’s one of the best guards in the country.

Complimenting Dellavedova is Rob Jones who’s averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.  This is a dangerous team and clearly a top-25 squad.

Stock Up: Florida St. Earlier in the season it looked like the Seminoles were in serious trouble of making the tournament.  However, they turned it around and are looking like legit contenders for the ACC regular season championship.  More than the wins over North Carolina and Duke; the Seminoles are staying focused and taking care of the Maryland’s and Wake Forest’s of the world.  That shows staying power at the top of the conference.

Stock Down: Pac-12.  The conference has been struggling for a few years now, but at least last year it had a few good teams.  This is the worst I’ve seen a power conference.  This week I only have one Pac-12 team in the bracket and that’s a shame.  UCLA is down, Arizona is struggling.  Those are the two bell cows for this league and it won’t get back right until they do.

Stock Up: Notre Dame. Mike Brey might be doing it again.  People seem to count his teams out every year yet he manages to get them going again.  The Fighting Irish are in a three-way tie for third place in the Big East with Georgetown and South Florida due to a three-game winning streak over Syracuse, Seton Hall and Connecticut.  Notre Dame is young and lacking star power, but make no mistake about it, its ready to make another run at the Big Dance.

Stock Down. A-10 contenders.  What’s going on in the Atlantic 10.  St. Joseph’s, St. Louis, Dayton, Xavier and Temple are all taking turns proving that they can’t handle success.  Despite impressive non-conference resumes, none of them seem to want to win the regular season conference title.  This has resulted in a three-way first place tie between Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure and La Salle.  Stretch run in the A-10 looks to be fun, but it may not be pretty.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: BYU, Arkansas, Colorado St, Alabama
Last Four Out: UCF, Washington, Wyoming, Mississippi

Good for games through 1/29

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Louisville

8.Wichita St9.Illinois

5.Gonzaga12.Seton Hall Portland

4.Florida St13.Oral Roberts

6.Mississippi St11.Minnesota Albuquerque

3.UNLV14.Akron

7.Louisville10.Xavier Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Montana

WEST

1.North Carolina16.Texas-Arlington/Stony Brook Greensboro

8.California9.Notre Dame

5.Wisconsin12.Alabama/BYU Portland

4.Marquette13.Long Beach St

6.Virginia11.Dayton Nashville

3.Vanderbilt14.Davidson

7.Michigan10.Connecticut Omaha

2.Kansas15.Long Island

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Bucknell Pittsburgh

8.Southern Miss9.Kansas St

5.San Diego St12.Purdue  Nashville

4.Florida13.Iona

6.Murray St11.Massachusetts Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Nevada

7.West Virginia10.Iowa St Greensboro

2.Duke15.Belmont

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.Norfolk St Pittsburgh

8.Temple9.Memphis

5.Georgetown12.Colorado St/Arkansas Columbus

4.St. Mary’st13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Indiana11.New Mexico Louisville

3.Creighton14.Cleveland St

7.Harvard10.Cincinnati Omaha

2.Missouri15.George Mason

In Graphical Form

M…I…Z…Z…O…U

Missouri ‘s Marcus Denmon prepares to pass as Baylor ‘s Perry Jones III defends beneath the basket during the first half of a game that matched the No. 5 Tigers against the No. 3 Bears. Tony Gutierrez/The Associated Press

In a year where it appears that the Big XII has three great teams, the best of the three may be the team on its way out.  The Missouri Tigers are rolling along with only one loss this season and is doing by leaning on its their guard play.

Leading the way for the Tigers is All-American candidate Marcus Denmon who’s averaging over 17 points per game, but he’s getting plenty of help.  Running the point for them is one of the most athletic little guys in the country, Phil “Flip” Pressey with Kim English and Michael Dixon also giving the Tigers help in the backcourt and on the wing.

Missouri can beat you in the paint as well now. Ricardo Ratliffe went toe-to-toe with Baylor’s imposing frontcourt and emerged with 27 points and 8 rebounds in it’s 89-88 win over the Bears on Jan. 21.

The Tigers still have plenty of work to do this season, including another match-up against Baylor and two against Kansas.  However, they look like they’re hear for the long haul.

Stock Up: Big Ten Conference.  The Big Ten looks primed to get close to 75 percent of it’s teams in the NCAA tournament.  That it is an amazing feat.  There are no gimmes in the league this year showing how deep it is from top-to-bottom.  Ohio St looks to be the class of the league, but there’s about seven teams in this conference that can beat anybody on any given night.

Stock Down: Colonial Athletic Association.  It was all good just a year ago.  The CAA got three NCAA tournament bids and VCU fought its way to the Final Four.  That will not happen this year.  The winner of the CAA will be fortunate to be a 13/14 seed.  College basketball is cyclical and every league will have a down year, but the sudden fall for the Colonial has been surprising.

Stock Up: Doug McDermott.  He’s not getting publicity like Jimmer Fredette, but McDermott is putting up huge numbers for the Creighton Blue Jays.  McDermott is averaging 23 points and over eight rebounds a game.  He’s a definite All-American candidate and has Creighton fans thinking back to the days of Kyle Korver.  The scariest thing about McDermott is that he’s a sophomore too.

Stock Down: Syracuse University Athletic Department.  Your team is having a great year and great years should be celebrated…when they’re over.  Someone in Upstate New York thought it was wise to sell “No. 1” and “20-0” t-shirts.  Right now the Orange is neither.  Let’s act like we’ve been there before fellas.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: BYU, Marshall, NC State, Mississippi
Last Four Out: New Mexico, Colorado St, St. Louis, Wyoming

Good for Games through 1/22

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Texas-Arlington/Boston U        Louisville

8.Connecticut9.Southern Mississippi

5.Indiana12.NC State/BYU                     Portland

4.San Diego St13.Middle Tennessee St

6.Wisconsin11.Oregon         Columbus

3.Georgetown14.Valparaiso

7.Murray St10.Xavier          Albuquerque

2.Baylor15.Belmont

WEST

1.Missouri16.UNC-Asheville/Miss Valley St      Omaha

8.Illinois9.Dayton

5.St. Mary’s12.Mississippi/Marshall          Nashville

4.Marquette13.Davidson

6.Cincinnati11.Alabama             Louisville

3.Creighton14.Long Beach St

7.Michigan10.UCF             Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Norfolk St

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Weber St              Pittsburgh

8.Kansas St9.Temple

5.Gonzaga12.Northwestern                Portland

4.Vanderbilt13.Oral Roberts

6.West Virginia11.Arkansas            Columbus

3.Michigan St14.Nevada

7.Harvard10.California       Greensboro

2.Duke15.Long Island

MIDWEST

1.Ohio St16.Bucknell              Pittsburgh

8.Louisville9.Wichita St

5.Florida St12.Memphis                      Nashville

4.Mississippi St13.Iona

6.Florida11.Purdue           Albuquerque

3.UNLV14.Akron

7.Virginia10.Seton Hall          Omaha

2.Kansas15.George Mason

In Graphical Form