Thursday, March 5, 2009

NCAA Tournament Breakdown: March Madness

2009 Tournament: Schedule and Preview (can be found here)
Tuesday 1pm ET: South Regional Preview (can be found here)
Tuesday 5pm ET: East Regional Preview (can be found here)
Wednesday 9am ET: Midwest Regional Preview (can be found here)
Wednesday 11am ET: West Regional Preview
Thursday 9am ET: An inside look at entertaining announcer Gus Johnson
Thursday 12:20 ET: 2009 Tournament tips off with Butler and LSU from Greensboro, NC

Bracket to View can be found here

Bracket to Print can be found here

[Editor's Note: As part of SportsJudge's wall-to-wall coverage of the NCAA tournament, today Chris Stanley and Adam Primm break down their thoughts on the field of 65. As the madness unfolds, check back Saturday March 14th for an updated listing of who should be in and who should be out.]

The following teams should get into the NCAA Tournament as of right now. As we have seen in the past, things can change as the conference tournaments wind down. We have listed likely bubble-bursters and those teams that are barely in, as the conference tournaments get under way.

Atlantic Coast Conference
1. University of North Carolina- Preseason #1 is currently #2 and a lock with a 26-3 record.
2. Duke- 25-5 record and #7 ranking means the Blue Devils will probably be a #2 seed.
3. Wake Forest- Third top ten team in the ACC should make some noise in March.
4. Florida State- Dangerous team could upset a high seed and make the Sweet 16.
5. Clemson- Only 7-6 in their last 13, but overall body of work gets them in the tournament.
6. Boston College- Recent wins over Duke and Florida State get them off the bubble and in.

Big East

7. Connecticut- Currently ranked #1, the most consistent team in the country at 27-2.
8. Louisville- 6th in the country and tied for 1st in the Big East. Could make the Final Four.
9. Pittsburgh- 27-3 record for rugged, dominant Panthers. No brainer.
10. Marquette- Injury to Dominic James leaves them vulnerable, but 23 wins is impressive.
11. Villanova- Surprised some people by staying near the top 10 for most of the season.
12. Syracuse- Non-conference wins over Florida, Kansas, and Memphis plus 10 wins in Big East.
13. West Virginia- 21 win team (10 wins in Big East) has won 5 of 6.
14. Providence- Win over Pittsburgh, 2 wins over Cincinnati, and the Bearcats recent loss to South Florida give the Friars the nod as the 8th Big East team.

Big Ten

15. Michigan State- Could be a #1 seed if they win the Big Ten tournament.
16. Purdue- Impressive season with 22 wins, but recent losses to Northwestern and Michigan could be bad omen.
17. Illinois- Illini have been ranked most of the season.
18. Penn State- Big surprise in the Big Ten this season as the Nittany Lions have won 20 games.
19. Minnesota- Gets in over Wisconsin due to head-to-head matchup (2-0).

Big 12
20. Kansas- Looking strong in the conference, but do they have enough experience to repeat.
21. Oklahoma- Top 5 team, 24 wins, and Blake Griffin. Could be a force in March.
22. Missouri- Tigers were a lock even before knocking off Oklahoma 73-64 on Wednesday.
23. Texas- Longhorns played a tough schedule and still won 20 games.
24. Texas A&M- Have won 5 in a row to get to 22-8 and play their way off the bubble.
25. Oklahoma State- 6 straight wins have pushed the Cowboys (20-9) from NIT to NCAA.
26. Kansas State- Cooled off since impressive mid-season run. Could be NIT bound if a mid-major surprises someone and wins conference tournament.

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Pacific 10

27. Washington – 13-4 in conference and 23-7 overall, the 1st place Huskies are a lock.
28. UCLA –Look for Collison and Shipp to make some noise in the early rounds for the 22-7 Bruins.
29. Arizona State – The Sun Devils have lost two straight, but they have done more than enough to get in.
30. California – A good season for the Bears gets them in at 21-8.
31. Arizona – Arizona is in, but barely. They have lost 3 straight and they could use a few wins in the conference tournament.

Southeastern Conference

32. Louisiana State – The Tigers have won 10 of their last 11, and could make a deep tourney run.
33. Florida – A 21-9 record and 3rd place in the SEC gets Billy Donovan and the Gators in despite losing 5 of their last 7.
34. South Carolina – A good year for the Gamecocks means dancing in March.
35. Tennessee – They could use a couple of wins in the SEC Tournament to ensure their birth. An upset in a small conference tournament could spell NIT for the 18-10 Vols.

West Coast
36. Gonzaga- Ranked #14, 24 wins, undefeated in conference. A lock even without conference championship.
37. St. Mary’s- Return of Patrick Mills (injured for both losses to Gonzaga) means Gaels could take down Gonzaga in conference tournament. Should be an at-large team with 24 wins anyway.

Mountain West
38. Brigham Young- 23 win Cougars had close losses to Arizona State and Wake Forest.
39. Utah- Wins over Gonzaga and LSU (by 30) get 20 win Utes in as an at-large team.

Conference USA
40. Memphis- The Tigers are receiving votes as the #1 team in the country.
41. University of Alabama-Birmingham- Incredibly difficult non-conference schedule gets the Blazers in the Dance.

Atlantic 10

42. Xavier- Wins over LSU, Missouri, Virginia Tech, and Memphis for 23 win Musketeers.
43. Rhode Island- Big wins against Dayton and Penn State supplement 22-8 record.
44. Dayton- Flyers may be the most underrated 24-5 teams in years. Wins against Marquette, Auburn, and Xavier.

The following teams are their conferences’ lone representatives (the first place team is the assumed winner):
45. Vermont (America East)- Catamounts have played the role of Cinderella before in 2005.
46. Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun)- Dolphins are currently leading the conference, but 21 win East Tennessee State is lurking at #2 and Belmont has NCAA tournament experience.
47. Weber State (Big Sky)- Weber State is 15-1 in the conference, but second place Portland State already has an upset of Gonzaga and a 1 point loss to Washington.
48. Radford (Big South)- Radford is the current leader, but is anyone else pulling for VMI’s explosive offense to win the automatic berth here?
49. CSU Northridge (Big West)- The Matadors are leading the conference, but with a 14-12 overall record, this automatic berth is up for grabs.
50. Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic)- Not only will they get in, but Eric Maynor and the Rams will repeat their upset of Duke 2 years ago by knocking off a major conference team in the first round.
51. Butler (Horizon)- Butler will be an at-large team even if they don’t win the conference tournament, but unless Cleveland State or Wisconsin Green Bay pulls an upset, the Bulldogs will be the loan Horizon League team going dancing.
52. Cornell (Ivy League)- The Big Red is the only school above .500 in the conference.
53. Siena (MEAC)- Siena currently leads the conference, but this berth will come down to a championship showdown between the Saints and Niagara
54. Buffalo (MAC)- The conference of Cinderellas (Kent State, Miami of Ohio) is mediocre this year with no team establishing themselves as a player in the tournament. 18-9 Bulls are currently 1st.
55. Morgan State (Mid-Eastern)- At 19-11, Golden Bears are head and shoulders above the rest of the conference.
56. Creighton (Missouri Valley)- The Bluejays should get an at-large bid if they don’t win the conference tournament, which is possible with Northern Iowa (20-10, 1-1 vs. Creighton) and Illinois State (22-8, 1-1 vs. Creighton) in the hunt.
57. American (Patriot League)- The American Eagles are 13-1 in the conference, but their kryptonite (or Abercrombie & Fitch) could be Holy Cross as the second place Crusaders gave the Eagles that loss. Navy is also in the hunt.
58. Robert Morris (Northeast)- Colonials have a 3 game lead in the conference and 21 wins this season.
59. Tennessee-Martin (Ohio Valley)- Led by Lester Hudson (2nd in NCAA in scoring), the Skyhawks are looking to make their first NCAA tournament appearance.
60. Davidson (Southern)- Davidson should hang onto an at-large spot if they lose in the conference tourney which should be competitive with Charleston (23-7) and The Citadel (20-11) in the field.
61. Stephen F. Austin (Southland)- In a battle of schools named after Southwest legends, I am rooting for Stephen F. Austin (20-7) to hold off Sam Houston St. (17-11) solely because the Lumberjacks are a cooler mascot than the Bearkats (which isn’t even spelled right).
62. Alabama State (Southwestern Athletic)- The Hornets (18-8, 15-1) are the only team in the conference above .500. Jackson State (14-14, 13-3) are the only team not below .500.
63. North Dakota State (Summit)- The Bison (23-6, 16-2) appear to be better than the rest of the league, but Oral Roberts (14-4 in conference) and Oakland (20-11, 13-5) could get the upset.
64. Arkansas Little Rock (Sun Belt)- AR Little Rock is currently the leader (22-8, 15-3), but Western Kentucky (21-9, 15-3) beat them twice, including a 79-47 beating. North Texas and Troy, both with 19 wins, are also in the field.
65. Utah State (Western Athletic)- At 26-4, Utah State should be an at-large team if they lose, but only Nevada (17-11) and Boise State (18-10) have a chance of upsetting the Aggies. The Aggies are 13-2 in the conference with one loss each to Nevada and BSU.

Number 1 Seeds
Connecticut, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Memphis

Last Five In:

1. Tennessee- The best of a mediocre bunch in the SEC (Kentucky, Auburn, Vanderbilt) is the last team in. A win over South Carolina could solidify this spot.
2. UAB- 20-10 record includes road losses to Oklahoma, Boston College, Cincinnati, Louisville, Butler, and Memphis and a road win over Arizona. Could be a potential Cinderella in March.
3. Kansas State- Seventh team out of the Big 12 gets in due to mid-season winning streak that included a home win over Missouri and wins at Texas and Texas A&M.
4. Rhode Island- 22-8 record includes a 3 point loss at Duke, a 1 point loss at Providence, a 4 point loss at Oklahoma State, and a loss to Villanova. Non-conference wins over Penn State and Virginia Commonwealth bookend their current 6 game winning streak that includes a win over Dayton.
5. Minnesota- Season’s second win over Wisconsin put in over the Badgers. Their only home loss was to Michigan State and they had an early non-conference win over Louisville.

Bubble Bursters (teams that could get in by winning their conference tournament and burst the bubble of an at large team):
1. Cleveland State (Horizon)- Competitive all season with a last second win at Syracuse and losses to Kansas State, Washington, and West Virginia. Two 2 point losses to Butler in the regular season mean that this 3 seed could push Butler in the conference championship.
2. Charleston (Southern)- 23 win team split 2 games with conference leader Davidson winning 77-75 at Davidson and losing 75-79 at home.
3. Nevada (Western Athletic)- With a recent 13 point win over conference leader Utah State, Nevada could make a run in the WAC tournament giving this conference two teams in the Dance.
4. San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV (Mountain West)- Utah and BYU should be at-large teams opening the door for 3 teams out of the MWC if one of these bubble teams get hot. The top of the conference is tight with all 5 teams within 2 games including a 3-way tie at the top.
5. Illinois State (Missouri Valley)- Creighton looks like a tournament lock opening the door for the Missouri Valley Conference to get a second team to punch the dance card if someone can knock of the Bluejays. The Redbirds have the best chance as they beat Creighton by 22 earlier this year and recently lost to the Jays by 4.
6. Portland (West Coast)- Gonzaga and St. Mary’s should be in as as-large teams if 18-win Portland can find the scoring balance that led to a season-opening win against Washington.

Dream Match-Up:
This will never happen, ever, but a match-up between Tennessee-Martin against Davidson would have a small school Cinderella appeal plus the two leading scorers in the country (UT’s Hudson and Davidson’s Stephen Curry) guarding each other. Talk about “One Shining Moment.”

1. Virginia Commonwealth- They did it once before and they can do it again. Senior Eric Maynor was a star in the Rams upset of Duke two years ago.
2. UAB and Rhode Island- Both teams played very tough non-conference schedules and showed they can compete with the big schools away from home.
3. Cleveland State- Just short of an at-large bid, the Vikings need to win the Horizon League tournament to get in, but if they do this team is dangerous with competitive losses to Kansas State, Washington, and West Virginia, two close games with Butler, and a 72-69 buzzer-beater to win at then undefeated Syracuse.
4. St. Mary’s- Only one loss this season when Patrick Mills was healthy (played first half before injury in a loss to Gonzaga). Mills was recently cleared to play in the West Coast tournament.

Outstanding Player of the Tournament:
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma- If the Sooners go deep in March, it will be because of this double-double machine.

DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh- His power neutralized UConn and Hasheem Thabeet earlier this season. Think Blake Griffin in a slower, more conservative offense.

Hasheem Thabeet, UConn- Has the ability to dominate a game on both ends of the court. Could put up a triple-double with points, rebounds, and blocks in one of the first two rounds.

Patrick Mills, St. Mary’s- The Gaels could put together a Davidson type run to the Elite Eight or Final Four with Mills leading the way.

Jeff Teague, Wake Forest – Leads the Demon Deacons in points, steals and assists. Teague is an all-around gem that seems to pick it up when the big games come around.

*Revised: Check out the March 14th update here

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Marc Edelman said...

So, I bring a couple of Buckeyes aboard to cover basketball, and low and behold Michigan gets left out of their projected Big Dance. What gives?

Adam said...

I almost nominated my Buckeyes, along with Cincinnati, for the "Plaxico Buress Award" for shooting themselves in the foot (leg) down the stretch. I'm equal opportunity.

Chris Stanley said...

Wait? Michigan has a basketball team? I think the Buckeyes can make a Big 10 Tourney run and make some noise.

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sumon roy said...

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