Westwood Rising

 

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(Photo: Casey Sapio, USA TODAY)

 

 

All year long, Steve Alford has been brewing something in Los Angeles. The embattled coach has had a superb bounce back season for UCLA. That was no more evident then on Saturday night as the Bruins took down the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson.

UCLA’s resurgence can be attributed to freshman sensation Lonzo Ball. The sure-fire lottery pick has proven himself to be the best pure point guard in a draft class filled with talented point guards. He leads one of the most explosive teams in the country.

UCLA isn’t always dialed in defensively because they’re so adept on the other end. The Bruins will certainly need to defend better in March, but if they don’t it won’t stop them from being one of the toughest outs in the Big Dance.

Let’s do some conference tournament previews.

ATLANTIC SUN: Florida Gulf Coast, once again, proved to be the class of the Atlantic Sun as it won another regular season title. With many of its primary challengers defecting from the conference recently, the Eagles have enjoyed life at the top. Despite that, they’ll have a difficult time winning the automatic bid here. Lipscomb watched crosstown rival Belmont dominate this league before it left and is ready to step up to primetime. The Bisons have already beaten the Eagles on their home court and that’s why they’ll win the automatic bid.

BIG SOUTH: Winthrop and UNC-Asheville tied for the regular season title at 15-3 with Liberty right on their heels at 14-4. Those three have separated themselves from the pack and look primed to take the bid. UNC-Asheville has the most experience here and thus the Bulldogs are the team no one wants to see in this tournament. Too bad. The Bulldogs will be the team that wins it.

OHIO VALLEY: This one is simple. If Belmont doesn’t breeze through the conference tournament it will be one of the more shocking results in any conference tournament. The Bruins finished five games ahead of their next closest competition and look like a team that can pull off an upset in the Big Dance.

NORTHEAST: Mount St. Mary’s looked to be clear favorites in the NEC until last week when LIU beat the Mountaineers on their home court. It’s going to be a slugfest for the Mountaineers as 7 of the 8 teams that qualified for the conference tournament finished at .500 or above. This will be competitive, but the regency of the the loss to LIU will work in their favor and they’ll return to the dance for the first time since 2014.

AMERICA EAST: The Vermont Catamounts went 16-0 in conference play and are as heavy favorites as Belmont is in the OVC. This tournament will be played on the home court of the higher seeded team. That means teams will have to travel to Vermont to attempt to do something none of them have been able to do all season – beat the Catamounts. That won’t happen. Vermont goes dancing.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Syracuse, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Rhode Island

Last Four Out: Marquette, California, Wake Forest, Houston

This bracket is good for games through 2/26

EAST

1.Villanova16.UC Davis/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo

8.Michigan9.Dayton

5.Purdue12.Nevada Orlando

4.Florida St13.Monmouth

6.Oklahoma St11.USC Buffalo

3.West Virginia14.East Tennessee St

7.Virginia Tech10.Providence Sacramento

2.UCLA15.CSU Bakersfield

SOUTH

1.North Carolina16.South Dakota Greenville

8.South Carolina9.Michigan St

5.Florida12.Georgia Tech/Illinois Orlando

4.SMU13.Akron

6.St. Mary’s11.Vanderbilt Salt Lake City

3.Arizona14.Bucknell

7.Wisconsin10.Middle Tennessee St Indianapolis

2.Kentucky15.Oakland

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.North Carolina Central/New Orleans Tulsa

8.VCU9.Arkansas

5.Cincinnati12.Texas-Arlington Milwaukee

4.Notre Dame13.Princeton

6.Minnesota11.Rhode Island/Syracuse Tulsa

3.Baylor14.Florida Gulf Coast

7.Wichita St10.Northwestern Indianapolis

2.Louisville15.Winthrop

WEST

1.Oregon16.North Dakota Sacramento

8.Creighton9.Maryland

5.Iowa St12.UNC-Wilmington Greenville

4.Duke13.Vermont

6.Miami(Fl)11.Illinois St Milwaukee

3.Butler14.Belmont

7.Virginia10.Seton Hall Salt Lake City

2.Gonzaga15.Texas Southern

Weekend Bracket for 2/25-26

Last Four In: Kansas St, Marquette, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech

Last Four Out: California, Illinois St, TCU, Alabama

This bracket is good for games through 2/24

EAST

1.Villanova16.UC Davis/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo

8.Virginia9.Michigan

5.Florida St12.Texas-Arlington Buffalo

4.West Virginia13.Monmouth

6.Minnesota11.Georgia Tech/Kansas St Orlando

3.Florida14.Winthrop

7.Saint Mary’s10.Northwestern Indianapolis

2.Louisville15.Florida Gulf Coast

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.North Carolina Central/New Orleans Tulsa

8.South Carolina9.Michigan St

5.Notre Dame12.UNC-Wilmington Milwaukee

4.Purdue13.Akron

6.Miami(Fl)11.Xavier Orlando

3.Kentucky14.Princeton

7.Creighton10.Syracuse Salt Lake City

2.Arizona15.CSU Bakersfield

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.North Dakota St Sacramento

8.Wichita St9.Arkansas

5.SMU12.Vanderbilt/Marquette Greenville

4.Duke13.Bucknell

6.Wisconsin11.Middle Tennessee St Indianapolis

3.Butler14.Valparaiso

7.VCU10.Providence Sacramento

2.Oregon15.East Tennessee St

SOUTH

1.North Carolina16.North Dakota Greenville

8.Maryland9.Dayton

5.Iowa St12.Nevada Milwaukee

4.Cincinnati13.Vermont

6.Oklahoma St11.Seton Hall Salt Lake City

3.UCLA14.Belmont

7.Virginia Tech10.USC Tulsa

2.Baylor15.Texas Southern

Published in: on February 25, 2017 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fear the North

 

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North Dakota’s Quinton Hooker (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

In the first time since both universities have been Division I participants, both North Dakota and North Dakota St have legitimate shots to  go dancing.

At the publishing of this post, North Dakota is  in first place by a half-game in the Big Sky while North Dakota St is tied for first in the Summit with South Dakota.

This would be quite the feat for the two universities and would give the state bragging rights over the Dakota to the South. Both schools will most likely be 15/16 seeds, but that doesn’t take away of how historic this will be for the state. Besides, the world needs to see North Dakota’s Quinton Hooker in the Big Dance.

Stock Up: Wichita St. As you will see below the Shockers are an No. 8 seed without an at-large resume. That’s because I believe what my eyes tell me when I watch them play. This is a tournament team. They are destroying the Missouri Valley. In 13 of their 15 conference wins, the margin has been double digits. In fact they beat Illinois St, the team they’re tied with for first place, by 41 points earlier this month. You don’t want to see this team in March.

Stock Down: Virginia. I’m starting to wonder if the rest of the ACC has figured Tony Bennett out. It happens from time-to-time, but the Cavaliers are currently on a four-game losing streak and haven’t looked good in the process. There is now a scenario where Virginia is playing in a 7/10 or 8/9 game in the Big Dance.

Stock Up: Bucknell. On Sunday, Bucknell traveled to Boston University to play a game for first place in the Patriot League. When the game was over; there was no doubt. Bucknell throttled Boston 86-66 to take a two-game lead and are now the odds-on favorite to win the automatic bid.

Stock Down: Mountain West. Last week we spoke about the downturn of Conference USA and this week it’s the Mountain West, which appears to be a one-bid league again. Long-term this appears to be more of a blip than a trend as it has major state universities. However, more is expected of this league.

 

Last Four In: TCU, Seton Hall, Syracuse, California

Last Four Out: Alabama, Marquette, Providence, Illinois St

This bracket is good for games through 2/19.

EAST

1.Villanova16.UC Irvine/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo

8.Virginia Tech9.Saint Mary’s

5.Florida St12.Texas-Arlington Orlando

4.Cincinnati13.Monmouth

6.Maryland11.Dayton Orlando

3.Florida14.UNC-Asheville

7.Northwestern10.Kansas St Indianapolis

2.Louisville15.Florida Gulf Coast

SOUTH

1.North Carolina16.North Dakota Greenville

8.Oklahoma St9.Michigan

5.Wisconsin12.Nevada Buffalo

4.West Virginia13.Vermont

6.Creighton11.Tennessee Salt Lake City

3.UCLA14.Belmont

7.South Carolina10.USC Tulsa

2.Baylor15.Texas Southern

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.North Dakota St Sacramento

8.Wichita St9.Georgia Tech

5.SMU12.Syracuse/Seton Hall Milwaukee

4.Purdue13.Bucknell

6.Iowa St11.California/TCU Greenville

3.Duke14.Valparaiso

7.VCU10.Michigan St Sacramento

2.Oregon15.Furman

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.North Carolina Central/New Orleans Tulsa

8.Miami(Fl)9.Xavier

5.Notre Dame12.UNC-Wilmington Milwaukee

4.Butler13.Akron

6.Virginia11.Middle Tennessee St Indianapolis

3.Kentucky14.Princeton

7.Minnesota10.Arkansas Salt Lake City

2.Arizona15.CSU Bakersfield

 

 

Weekend Bracket for 2/18-19

Last Four In: Kansas St, Providence, California, Syracuse

Last Four Out: Alabama, Houston, Georgetown, Wake Forest

This bracket is good for games through 2/17

EAST

1.Villanova16.UC Davis/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo

8.Virginia Tech9.Michigan

5.SMU12.Texas-Arlington Buffalo

4.West Virginia13.Monmouth

6.Maryland11.California/Providence Indianapolis

3.Kentucky14.UNC-Asheville

7.Northwestern10.Arkansas Indianapolis

2.Louisville15.Florida Gulf Coast

SOUTH

1.Baylor16.North Carolina Central Tulsa

8.VCU9.Saint Mary’s

5.Notre Dame12.Wichita St Milwaukee

4.Purdue13.Vermont

6.Creighton11.Middle Tennessee St Salt Lake City

3.UCLA14.Belmont

7.USC10.TCU Greenville

2.North Carolina15.Texas Southern

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.North Dakota St Sacramento

8.Minnesota9.Oklahoma St

5.Virginia12.Nevada Milwaukee

4.Butler13.Bucknell

6.South Carolina11.Seton Hall Greenville

3.Duke14.Valparaiso

7.Iowa St10.Georgia Tech Sacramento

2.Oregon15.Furman

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.Weber St/New Orleans Tulsa

8.Michigan St9.Miami(Fl)

5.Cincinnati12.UNC-Wilmington Orlando

4.Florida St13.Akron

6.Wisconsin11.Syracuse/Kansas St Orlando

3.Florida14.Princeton

7.Xavier10.Dayton Salt Lake City

2.Arizona15.CSU Bakersfield

Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Super-Nova


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(Yong Kim – Philadelphia Inquirer) Villanova Guard Josh Hart

It’s extremely hard to repeat in any sport and odds are that Villanova will not win the 2017 national championship. The Wildcats, however, have as good a chance as team.

 

With national player-of-the-year candidate, Josh Hart and the hero of the title game, Kris Jenkins returning; the Wildcats are running away with the Big East regular season title. Their stellar play has them poised for another deep run. They play outstanding defense, understand what head coach Jay Wright wants on offense, and have plenty of experience.

Villanova was named as the No. 1 overall seed by the selection committee on Saturday. If they keep playing like this then there’s a high probability that’ll repeat on Selection Sunday.

Stock Up: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have been nearly as impressive as the Wildcats. As usual, Gonzaga challenged itself in the nonconference and passed with flying colors. Saturday night was supposed to be a challenge at St. Mary’s, but the Gaels proved to be in the same class as the Bulldogs. The aspect of an undefeated regular season is looking better and better.

Stock Down: The Big Ten. Not one team from the Big Ten was named as a top 16 seed by the committee and that is unheard of. Part of the problem is the down years by both Indiana and Michigan St. Those two teams, along with Wisconsin, were expected to be top-15 teams. Not even a likely berth to the tournament for Northwestern can save the league.

Stock Up: New Orleans. This story is remarkable. Due to Hurricane Katrina and the Louisiana government cutting higher education funding, the school decided to demote itself to Division III status. Three years later, it decided to return to Division I and joined the Southland Conference. Now the Privateers are in first place in a league that has won tournament games in 2 out of the past 3 seasons. If there as any team to root for as March approaches, it’s them.

Stock Down: Conference USA. When the Great Midwest and Metro Conferences joined forces in the late 90’s this is not what they had in mind. UAB and Southern Mississippi are the only original members remaining and the effects of all the defections can be seen in the on-court results. The league, which was consistently top-8-10 in college basketball, is now ranked No. 25 out of 32 Division I conferences. The league has to do a lot of work to rebuild its reputation.

Now on to the bracket:

This bracket is good for games thru 2/12

Last Four In: Tennessee, Wake Forest, Seton Hall, Syracuse

Last Four Out: Arkansas, Rhode Island, Alabama, Houston

EAST

1.Villanova16.UC Davis/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo

8.Virginia Tech9.Kansas St

5.Creighton12.Texas-Arlington Salt Lake City

4.UCLA13.Monmouth

6.Maryland11.Boise St Indianapolis

3.Kentucky14.UNC-Asheville

7.Northwestern10.California Indianapolis

2.Louisville15.Florida Gulf Coast

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.North Dakota St Sacramento

8.Minnesota9.TCU

5.Cincinnati12.Seton Hall/Wake Forest Greenville

4.Virginia13.Bucknell

6.South Carolina11Middle Tennessee St Buffalo

3.West Virginia14.Valparaiso

7.Iowa St10.Dayton Sacramento

2.Oregon15.Furman

SOUTH

1.Baylor16.North Carolina Central Tulsa

8.VCU9.Saint Mary’s

5.Notre Dame12.Illinois St Milwaukee

4.Purdue13.Vermont

6.SMU11.Michigan Orlando

3.Florida14.Belmont

7.USC10.Oklahoma St Greenville

2.North Carolina15.Texas Southern

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.Weber St/New Orleans Tulsa

8.Michigan St9.Georgia Tech

5.Butler12.UNC-Wilmington Milwaukee

4.Duke13.Akron

6.Wisconsin11.Syracuse/Tennessee Orlando

3.Florida St14.Princeton

7.Xavier10.Miami(Fl) Salt Lake City

2.Arizona15.CSU Bakersfield

Published in: on February 14, 2017 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment