Archive for the ‘March Madness 2009’ Category

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Calipari To Coach Kentucky in ’09-10???

March 30, 2009

It’s kind of a big news day for college basketball, but nothing is bigger than John Calipari possibly taking the head coaching position at the University of Kentucky. This is a somewhat shocking development in my opinion. My first instinct was that there is no way he’d even consider taking the job, but I was playing poker when I heard the news and the chatter at the table was that he’d be an idiot not to take it. Plus, ESPN was running a blurb saying that Calipari met with Memphis officials and players and everybody left the meeting with the feeling that Calipari was going to take the Kentucky job. We all know that Kentucky is one of the most storied programs in college basketball history and Calipari is certainly going to make more money coaching an SEC team.

Here’s what I don’t understand though:

Memphis has a better basketball program than Kentucky: Yeah, not historically, but over the past 3-4 years Memphis has developed into a powerhouse. Kentucky was a one and done team in 2008 and broke a string of 17 straight NCAA tournament appearances this year when they were relegated to the NIT. Meanwhile, Memphis has posted three straight undefeated seasons in Conference USA and have made it to the Sweet 16, Championship Game, and two Elite 8s over the past four seasons.

Memphis might have the best recruiting class of all-time for the 2009-2010 season: Calipari has already inked two of the top three recruits in DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry. John Wall, the #1 high school player in the nation (according to www.rivals.com, also has shown a strong interest in going to Memphis. So Memphis has already signed two players that are ranked higher in this year’s incoming freshman class than Tyreke Evans was in last year’s (arguably weaker) incoming class… with the potential of landing the top high school player in the nation on top of that. It’s scary to think of what those three players could accomplish together. On top of that, Memphis has signed three other four-star recruits. Despite being young, that core of players would probably make Memphis the favorites for a national championship next year… and Tyreke Evans hasn’t even declared for the draft yet. Yikes.

Of course, all of this is subject to change if Calipari decides to jump ship. If that happens, surely John Wall will play elsewhere. I’m not sure what the ruling on backing out of a Letter Of Intent is, but who knows how Cousins and Henry will react when the coach that recruited them is no longer a part of the picture. Personally, despite the financial security and exposure that an SEC head coaching job will bring, I think Calipari would be wise to stay in Memphis. He has the potential to build a dynasty type of program there and I’d hate to see him walk away from it.

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College Basketball – 2009-2010 – A Brief Preview

March 23, 2009

With the 2008-2009 season winding down, I’ve been thinking about what players are graduating, what players are likely getting drafted, and what players will most likely be returning next season and thinking of what teams are looking to be strong next year.

In no particular order, these teams look like they are going to be beasts next year:

Kansas: Even if Cole Aldrich enters the draft and gets picked, which is very likely, Sherron Collins is probably coming back and so is every other piece of a young team that has played its way into this year’s Sweet 16. Kansas figures to lose no one from what was largely considered the #2 recruiting class this past season and already have a solid class this upcoming season that includes 5-star talent Thomas Robinson and top 30 recruit Elijah Johnson.

Bottom Line: I’m leaning towards Aldrich being gone, but even so, Kansas is going to have to be considered a top 10 team heading into next season. If Aldrich decides to come back, they jump to a top 3-5 team.

Syracuse: Syracuse will graduate three seniors from their 2009 Sweet 16 team, but none of those seniors are vital part of the team. Paul Harris, Eric Devendorf, Arinze Onuaku, Andy Rautins, and Rick Jackson (5 of the top 6 scorers) are all certainly coming back for next season. The question mark here is whether or not Jonny Flynn comes back. He’s easily the most talented player on the team, but he’s appearing on most mock drafts late in the first round, so there’s a solid chance he’ll be gone. ‘Cuse does not have a strong recruiting class next season.

Bottom Line: If Flynn doesn’t come back, a year of growth for everyone else should make Syracuse at least as good as they are now. If Flynn comes back, they have a championship caliber team.

Villanova: Scottie Reynolds hasn’t been appearing on many mocks, so I’m banking on him coming back for his senior season. Losing an immensely improved Dante Cunningham is going to hurt, but Nova is going to be returning both Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) and those kids can play. Despite graduating three seniors that get regular minutes, Nova should still have a good amount of depth next year as they are bringing in a remarkable freshman class that includes three top 25 recruits and another 4-Star power forward.

Bottom Line: Already a Sweet 16 team, Nova will bring back most of its scoring and add one of the best freshman classes in the nation. They should be better next year than Kansas was this year.

Ohio State: This is hard to call. Evan Turner wasn’t on anyone’s radar before the season started, but now I’m seeing his name regularly in the middle of the first round in most NBA mock drafts. I’d hate to see him go pro after this season, but it’s seeming more and more likely, and he was certainly one of the more impressive all-around talents I saw play all year. BJ Mullens has received the opposite treatment; he started the season near the tip top of most mocks, but his stock has dropped drastically after what most people would consider to be a disappointing freshman season that saw him start a mere two games and only show brief moments of brilliance. He is definitely someone that needs another year of seasoning in college, but it’s going to be hard for the pro teams to pass up a future top 5 pick when he slides to them in the mid-to-late first round. The Buckeyes will lose no one important to graduation and return Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and William Buford, who was very impressive as a freshman. David Lighty, injured almost all season, will be back and healthy next year. The administration must have confidence in its current roster because no one has signed a letter of intent to play at OSU next year.

Bottom Line: It all depends on Turner and Mullens. If they don’t come back, OSU will still return a solid core of players that should make them competitive next year. If Turner and Mullens return, and the latter develops, this could be a championship caliber team.

Purdue: Another current Sweet 16 team that figures to lose no one important to the draft or graduation. I saw Purdue play twice this year and JaJuan Johnson looked NBA ready in both games (30 points vs Ohio State, 22 points 5 rebounds vs Washington). All indications point to him coming back for his junior season and improving even more. 5.6 rebounds per game from a 6’10” stud is probably the reason he’s not making regular appearances on draft boards. He could be next year’s Dante Cunningham. Robbie Hummel, the Big Ten Preseason Player Of The Year, will be back with something to prove after a year of inconsistency and injuries halted his progress a bit. Hummel’s skill set is pretty similar to Kyle Singler’s, whose name is appearing late in the first round of NBA mocks while Hummel has been completely absent. E’twuan Moore makes up the third part of the triumphant of stud players that Purdue will return next season. Chris Kramer, Keaton Grant, and Lewis Jackson will all be back and add depth next year. Purdue has a modest set of in-state prospects coming to the team next year.

Bottom Line: There’s no question marks here. Everyone from this year’s Sweet 16 team will be back next year and I expect significant growth from both Hummel and Johnson. The recruiting class isn’t very strong, but that won’t matter. Assuming OSU loses Turner and Mullens, Purdue has to be the team to beat in the Big Ten next year and should be considered a top 5-10 team overall.

Washington: The bad news is that Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon will be graduating. The good news is that Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter will return. IT should continue to develop into one of the best guards in the Pac-10 and Q-Pon’s offensive output should increase dramatically. While UW can certainly function without Dentmon, filling the void left by Brockman is going to be tough. Matthew Bryan-Amaning has looked capable of taking on that roll at times, but he looked awful and confused a lot of the time this past season. An off-season focused on improving his skill set and confidence would do wonders for this team. Abdul Gaddy, the #2 high school point guard in the nation, will be a more than competent replacement for Dentmon and should take the table-setting pressure off of Thomas and allow him to focus on scoring. Tyreese Breshers, a 4-Star power forward whose season was lost to injury, could also help replace Brockman if he returns healthy. Elston Turner and Venoy Overton are great options off the bench.

Bottom Line: UW unexpectedly won the Pac-10 and was 3 points shy of making it to the Sweet 16 this year. Even with the loss of Brockman and Dentmon, expectations should be higher next season and their will be a target on this team’s back. Abdul Gaddy is a better prospect than Brockman ever was, but it’s unlikely he’s going to have the same kind of impact that the big guy did. I think the X-Factor here is Bryan-Amaning and how much he can grow as a player next season. Regardless, I like UW’s chances to repeat as Pac-10 champs.

Florida: This team that narrowly missed the NCAA tournament only had two upperclassmen and will only lose one player to graduation. While it boggles my mind that Nick Calathes isn’t on draft boards, it looks likely that he will be returning for his junior season. Calathes is one of the best all-around players and another year of growth should do wonders for his draft stock. Calathes is more likely to go off for a triple-double than anyone else in college basketball. Florida will return everyone else from a team that posted a 25 win season with only one senior.

Bottom Line: With Calathes returning and a solid recruiting class, Florida has to be the favorite in the SEC next year.

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March Madness – Round 1 & 2 recap

March 23, 2009

While my bracket doesn’t look like complete shit after the first two rounds, I do feel like I made some unforgivable mistakes that someone with the basketball knowledge I’ve developed this year should have avoided (Boston College). How Barack Obama picked more Sweet 16 teams correctly than I did is beyond my comprehension. This year has been relatively straight forward as 13 of the top 16 teams on the last AP Poll have advanced to the Sweet 16 (with Florida State, Wake Forest, and Washington being the only victims). Purdue was ranked #17 and Xavier was ranked #20, so it’s not like those teams advancing are all that shocking, especially since Xavier (a 4 seed) was actually favored to do so. The only team that’s in the Sweet 16 that is surprising is Arizona, a team that almost everyone thought shouldn’t have made the tournament in the first place with their mediocre 19-13 record. Even so, Arizona has probably had the easiest path to the Sweet 16. Despite being a 12 seed facing a 5 seed in the first round, I don’t think the world was too startled to see a Pac-10 team with three legitimate stars topple Utah, a representative from a weaker conference with no household names. I wasn’t surprised at least, as I didn’t hesitate very long in predicting that upset in the first round. For the second round, Arizona faced the only Cinderella type team to advance (Cleveland State) and beat them rather easily. So, all in all, the representatives in the Sweet 16 are unsurprising and the only team I think is a clear top 16 team that is no longer in the tournament is Wake Forest, but they have been inconsistent all season.

1st Round: 23 of 32
2nd Round: 11 of 16
Elite 8 Teams Left: 7 of 8
Final 4 Teams Left: 4 of 4

This weekend is going to suck for me. I work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and even though I might be able to get off early the first two days, I really can’t afford to. I need $$$$… so I’m likely going to miss 75% of the action this weekend after getting to see virtually all of the first two rounds. Fortunately, I scheduled myself off for all the Final Four games and the championship.

Performance Of The Tournament (so far): Cole Aldrich, 13 points, 20 rebounds, 10 blocks in 60-43 win over Dayton.

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March Madness Day 3

March 22, 2009

Uhm… yeah, so my blog is clearly going to be dominated by the basketball tournament while it’s going on… I want to say I’ll have some other updates (i.e. movies) during the week, but my internet browser is acting bizarrely at home… I have an online connection, but I can’t surf the web… so no promises. Anyways, today’s update:

1st round: 23 of 32
2nd round: 7 of 8 (today’s games only)
Sweet 16 deaths: 4
Elite 8 deaths: 1

I got every game right today except Washington vs Purdue, which every one in Washington probably missed as well. I can’t lie, it was a painful game to watch. Purdue absolutely dominated us in the first half. Their defense was stifling. The game was so out of control that I even fell asleep watching it…. TWICE. That’s how bad things were looking for us in the first half. We did manage to make a game of it in the second half and I gotta say it would’ve been great to win a game in which we had never lead on the last shot. Alas, Purdue just outplayed us today. Too bad for Jon Brockman, but I think UW will find their way back to the tournament next year with Q-Pon and IT returning, plus top 10 recruit Adbul Gaddy joining the mix.

I have more to say, but it’s late and I’m tired and I wanna be up for Arizona State-Syracuse in the morning. Peace.

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March Madness – Round One Wrap Up

March 21, 2009

After a solid first day of predictions, I had a miserable second day, missing six more games and losing an Elite 8 team.

First Round: 23 of 32 correct
Sweet 16 Deaths: 3 (Wake Forest, Boston College, Portland State)
Elite 8 Deaths: 1 (Boston College)

Honestly, I had a really hard time filling out the bracket this year. I’ve watched more college basketball this season than I probably have in the rest of my life combined and I’ve been tracking box scores, leaderboards, conference standings, and weekly rankings since day one. In 80% of these games, I could make a strong case for either team winning and it only gets harder as the rounds advance.

My biggest problem area was in the bottom half of the Midwest Region, where I had Boston College advancing to the Elite 8… a team I’ve never even considered a top 25 team all season long, even when they earned that ranking by beating a then #1 UNC earlier this year. So how on earth did they find their way into my top 8 teams? Well, for starters, I didn’t think USC was a tournament team this year. However, they did win the Pac-10 tournament, beating a few teams I think are clearly better than them. Secondly, if BC had beaten USC, they’d be matched up with Michigan State in the 2nd round and MSU has been the most overrated team in all of college basketball this season. I’ve been saying that all season long, so how could I not pick them to lose to BC? In the Sweet 16, I would’ve had a BC-Kansas match-up and I was really close to taking North Dakota State over Kansas in the first round… so could I really take to the Elite 8 after nearly giving them a first round exit? I think what it comes down to… is I don’t think there’s a team in the bottom half of the Midwest Region that is a top 8 team in the nation. MSU is overrated and plays in one of the weaker big 6 conferences and Kansas, while defending champs, are too young and inexperienced; that they even played their way to a 3 seed this year is remarkable to me.

I suppose I get minor kudos for picking two #12 teams correctly (Arizona and Western Kentucky). In most years, those would be considered big upsets… but I’m not surprised by either of them. Arizona has the longest active streak of consecutive tournament appearances, so despite the low ranking this year, they are about as seasoned a program as there is. Not only is the school storied in the tournament, but they got a solid nucleus of talent with Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Nic Wise… those guys are good enough to contend with just about anyone when they are firing on all cylinders, and let’s face it, Utah isn’t exactly a powerhouse organization.

Western Kentucky beating Illinois wasn’t a big shocker either. Only a year ago, they went to Sweet 16 as a #12 seed, so it’s not like this is a news flash. Also, Illinois isn’t blowing anyone’s mind with their talent level. Which brings me to….

Biggest Upset Of Round One: Cleveland State over Wake Forest – This should be the biggest bracket buster across the nation. Wake Forest has been inconsistent enough this year for this to seem possible, but they also have the talent of a team that can win a national championship. In my eyes, this loss would be on par with any of the #2 seeds losing in the first round. I’ve seen Wake play a couple of times this year and when they are on, they look like a top 5 team. For all the problems I had in the bottom half of the Midwest bracket, I would’ve taken Wake Forest to the Elite 8 over any of those teams (Kansas, USC, MSU, BC, West Virginia, Dayton). I’m sad to see such a talented team ousted so early. With that said, Cleveland State deserves some credit…. while they have earned the Cinderella moniker for the tournament, they did beat a then undefeated Syracuse team earlier this year… a team that is now in the top 12 nationally. Cleveland State certainly has it in them to advance to the Sweet 16 as Arizona should be an easier fight than Wake Forest.

Game To Watch: Washington vs Purdue – I think even outside of Washington this has to be seen as the most interesting match-up tomorrow. I hate Big Ten basketball this year and I’d love to see the Huskies pound the Boilermakers, but it’s hard to call. Personally, I think UW is easily the better team.

Runner-Up: Maryland vs Memphis – While I didn’t predict this upset, I do think the Terps can give Memphis a run for its money tomorrow, especially with how tough a time the Tigers had with CSU Northridge on Thursday. Memphis is one of the harder teams to judge this year. It wouldn’t be outlandish to say they have mediocre results against good teams this year; they lost games to Georgetown, Syracuse, and Xavier. They only have one win over a solid team and that was a decisive win against Gonzaga. Watch out now….

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March Madness: Day 1 & 2

March 20, 2009

Ah yes, folks, it’s my favorite time of the year: the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship, a.k.a. March Madness. With 75% of the first round complete, my bracket still looks in good shape. I’ve missed a total of 5 games, which probably has me around the national average, but I still have all my Sweet 16 teams alive.

My misses so far:

West Virginia vs Dayton: I penciled in Dayton in my first draft and thought they were certainly capable of the upset. However, at the end of the day I had to admit that West Virginia is the better and more seasoned team and I went with them. I can’t say I’m shocked by this upset at all though.

BYU vs Texas A&M: This was a pretty even match. I went with BYU because Lee Cummard is a beast and they seemed like the stronger team. Missing an 8 seed vs. 9 seed game is a pretty minor mistake anyways.

Tennessee vs Oklahoma St.: Another really even 8 vs 9 match. Oklahoma St. has decent depth and a star in James Anderson, but Tennessee is certainly the more touted team. This was the last game I filled out in the first round, so I could’ve gone either way on it.

VCU vs UCLA: Every analyst in the nation was predicting this upset and I think for good reason. I wasn’t jumping on any bandwagons making this pick because there are solid reasons for taking VCU in this game. First off, Eric Maynor is a beast… better than anyone on UCLA, Darren Collison included. Secondly, VCU won a tournament game just a few years ago. Thirdly, UCLA is just not that good this year. They have a decent squad, yes, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t lose by 10+ to Villanova tomorrow.

Clemson vs Michigan: I’m not sure why I went Clemson on this one. I made a list of my favorite out-of-state teams for the 2008-2009 college basketball season and Michigan was on that list simply because I think very highly of Manny Harris. I prefer Michigan over Clemson and since neither team is all that dominating, I’m surprised I didn’t go w/ the team I like more. I guess I figured Trevor Booker’s presence in the middle would be the difference in this game. I guessed wrong.

It sucks being at work while all these games are on, but I did get to see Washington vs Mississippi State and Gonzaga vs Akron yesterday. Thankfully, today is the only day I’m missing the action because I took tomorrow off and I always have Sundays off. I’ll be in Seattle rooting for the Huskies.

I should have another update tonight after the rest of today’s games.