Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Toughest Road Out of the Sweet 16

FGCU's rough road from the Sweet 16 is not safe for dancing. (via Bleacher Report)

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: Which remaining Sweet 16 team faces the most challenging road to an NCAA championship?

Kyle:
My first instinct was to pick a team from the stacked Midwest bracket, but instead I'm going with America's favorite team it just heard of; Florida Gulf Coast.

Being a No. 15 seed Cinderella, every team the Eagles face from here on will be large favorites and more talented than the teams the Eagles see in the majority of the regular season. It doesn't help the other three teams in the region are very low seeds (No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4), FGCU has to play its bigger brother of sorts in Florida and two of these teams (Michigan and Kansas) have been ranked No. 1 in either the AP or coaches poll this year.

If the slipper continues to fit, FGCU would have to face the winner of the East, which was the only region to have all top four seeds reach the Sweet 16. Finally, it's hard to imagine either Louisville, Duke or Michigan State from the Midwest not reaching the title game. That's a major task for a team unknown to the majority of the country before a week ago. 

Alex:
Oregon. The Ducks were woefully underseeded, which made their first two games tougher than they deserved. Yet, they handled both Oklahoma State and a sweetheart St. Louis team with little trouble.

Now that the tournament's wheat has been separated from the chaff, things only get harder. The Ducks must first overcome Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed and a notoriously stingy defensive squad. From there one of two lightweights (you know, Michigan State or Duke) would be waiting in the Elite Eight before a match with either a peaking Wichita State or Ohio State's beat-'em-at-the-buzzer Buckeyes.

Picture a duck — feathers, beak and all — in a house from one of the Saw films. Those are the kinds of traps awaiting Oregon, with the ultimate one being a title game against a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed, or a Cinderella with a groundswell of support in the stands and in the hearts of college hoops fans.


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When The NIT Was The Premier Tournament

Rhode Island could not stop George Mikan in the NIT. (DePaul/Getty)

March Madness is one of the most exciting times for basketball. The best college athletes get together to play an exciting 68-team tournament where upsets are plentiful. A year without March Madness would be an empty one.

So can you believe that at one time the National Invitation Tournament was actually the premier basketball tournament in the world? The NIT used to host players such as George Mikan, Ed Macauley, Lenny Wilkens and Maurice Stokes.

Before every game was nationally televised, the NCAA Tournament didn’t have the same amount of exposure it does today. The NIT was always held in Madison Square Garden, which boasted crowds of 19,000. Meanwhile, the NCAA was hosted in different areas of the country. Teams had a hard time meeting the travel expenses for the NCAA Tournament and played in smaller arenas.

In 1951, City College of New York was caught in a point shaving scandal which included seven schools in total and sent shock waves throughout the basketball world. New York City as a whole was quickly turned off college basketball.

The point shaving scandal came at a perfect time for the NCAA Tournament. Advances in travel and the development in television allowed the NCAA to quickly ascend to the premier tournament that we are all watching and enjoying this March.

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Getting To Know Florida Gulf Coast

Learn a little bit more about the Cinderella that is sweeping the country; Florida Gulf Coast. (thedailybeast.com)

You hadn't heard of Florida Gulf Coast before this Sweet 16 run. That's OK. No one expected you to. Which is why this post will help you learn all about the school that came from nowhere to ruin the nation's collective bracket.

School facts
  • School President is William G. Bradshaw Ph.D.
  • FGCU's doors opened in 1997
  • FGCU has 12,655 total students, 92 percent of which are from the state of Florida
  • One of the 24 sports clubs on campus is archery, so be careful with the smack talk
  • FGCU's 150 student organizations include: Accounting Club, Clinical Laboratory Science Student Organization, FGCU Dance Company, Event Planning Club and FGCU Fishing Club
  • Famous alumni include a professional monster truck driver, PGA Tour golfer Derek Lamely and Chris Sale, pitcher for the Chicago White Sox

Basketball facts
  • Team record is 26-10 and 13-5 in conference play
  • The Eagles defeated Miami 63-51 on Nov. 13
  • FGCU was 15-1 at home this season
  • In the team's first season in 2002-03, the Eagles played in the NCAA Division II without a conference and went 23-9
  • The Eagles first season in the Atlantic Sun conference was 2007-08 and they finished 10-21 overall and 6-10 in the conference
  • Last year, FGCU was 15-17 overall and 8-10 in conference, making this season an 11 game improvement. 
Feel free to throw these facts out to friends while watching the game tonight to make you seem more knowledgable than you are. At least you'll have some support when you lie, saying, "Oh, you just now are hearing about the Eagles? I've been on this bandwagon for a while." 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NBA Draft Stock Tracker: Forwards Fall as Guards Rise

Russ Smith is showing off at the right time of year. (Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

For some players, the NCAA tournament is a chance for players to represent their schools and to play hard for realizing their dreams of being a champion. For others, it is a springboard to help show off their talents for the NBA draft. Here are the list of some of the best and worst performances by players who may be going to the draft this summer. 

Russ Smith, Louisville: Buy
Smith may be the best player on the No. 1 ranked team in the tournament this year, but he hasn’t gotten a lot of attention from NBA scouts. Smith has mostly been trailing other point guards like Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Michigan's Trey Burke because of his perceived inconsistency, but in the first game of the tournament he had 23 points on 10-16 shooting with eight steals. In the second game, he dropped 27 points on 7-15 shooting.

Ben McLemore, Kansas: Sell
As a KU fan, this one hurts me. McLemore had only 11 points against 16-seeded Western Kentucky while committing four turnovers. Not terrible, but not what you would expect from a possible No. 1 draft pick either. Against North Carolina, McLemore went 0-9 and finished with just two points. If he doesn’t rebound from this slump against Michigan in the Sweet 16, McLemore might actually see his name drop in the NBA draft.

Otto Porter, Georgetown: Sell
I’m a big Otto Porter fan and I still think he’ll go in the top 10 and be a good player in the NBA, but losing to Florida Gulf Coast is a bad way to end your college career. Porter was in a shooting slump late in the season and had only shot above 40 percent once in his last five games. He’s still rebounding and playing good defense, but Porter's shooting woes may turn scouts off.

Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Buy
Not many have him going high in the draft, but Craft is still playing excellent ball in the tournament. He had 18 points against Iowa State, including a last-second shot to win the game, while continuing to lock down opponents on the perimeter and provide the Buckeyes with veteran leadership.

Jeff Withey, Kansas: Buy
He’s most likely going to be a low first round pick for his size and regular season statistics alone, but his recent performances could boost his stock. Withey had 17 points and seven blocks against Western Kentucky and followed it up with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and five blocks against North Carolina.

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Point/Counterpoint: Reseeding the Sweet 16


Should the Sweet 16 field be reseeded, forcing Cinderellas like Florida Gulf Coast to play the region's best team? (washingtonpost.com)

A popular topic the week of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 is whether the tournament field should be reseeded within the regions once the final 16 teams are set. Meaning, if this would take place, the highest seed, in this year's case it could be a double-digit seed, would have to play the lowest seed (usually a No. 1 or 2 seed) in the Sweet 16 instead of who is in their region. Two of our writers each took a side to lay out the points in favor of either reseeding the field of 16 or keeping the regions as they were at the start of the tournament.

Eddie Pro-reseeding:
The NCAA Tournament has become synonymous with madness because of its 'win or go home' format. Unlike 'best of seven' or 'best of five' scenarios, the better team doesn't always have the opportunity to prove their superiority. This results in highly unpredictable results and, every once in a blue moon, a champion that everyone agrees wasn't the best team in the land. In essence, the tournament is rigged against the better teams because all it takes is one off-night for your season to be over, even if you worked far harder than the other team to succeed throughout the course of the season. Reseeding teams within their regions for the Sweet Sixteen would go a long way toward reaffirming the importance of excelling in the regular season.

To make it worse, the NCAA made it a virtual cakewalk to get into the tournament by adding four teams to the field and creating a "first round" in 2011. Doing well in the regular season simply doesn't have the value that it used to. At the beginning of March, Baylor was still considered a "bubble team"with an 18-13 record.

This year, the West region offers the best case for reseeding teams in the Sweet Sixteen. Ohio State, as a No. 2 seed, will play No. 6 seed Arizona for a place in the regional final. Meanwhile, No. 9 seed Wichita State goes up against No. 13 seed LaSalle. Ohio State finished second in the regular season standings of one of the best conferences college basketball has ever seen and just happened to win its conference tournament. And what is its reward? It gets to play a Wildcats squad that spent much of the season ranked in the top five and finished second in the Pac-12. On the other end, two mid-majors who didn't accomplish anything noteworthy in the regular season, despite playing in less competitive conferences, are playing one another. It's really a shame that either Arizona or Ohio State will be sitting at home watching either Wichita State or LaSalle play in the Elite Eight.

Opponents will say that reseeding the Sweet Sixteen will give too great an advantage to the higher seeds and "punish" the lower seeds for earning a place in the tournament's second weekend. I would contend that's the entire point.  Conceivably, if Cinderellas like Florida Gulf Coast played well enough to get into the Sweet Sixteen, they should be able to compete with any team in the tournament regardless of seeding. But it could be that they just overachieved the first weekend and aren't actually good enough to play with the big boys. Either way, the regular season should play a bigger factor in determining a team's postseason fortunes.

Kyle Anti-reseeding:
I agree there are times when the NCAA Tournament, because of seeding or match-up, makes the regular season seem unimportant. Rarely does a committee get every team's seeding correct and sometimes the best team (in this year's case it is Louisville) gets thrown in what many feel is the most difficult bracket. This tournament doesn't always give the championship to the best or most deserving team and neither does any other sport. When the New England Patriots went undefeated into the Super Bowl and lost to the New York Giants, did anyone think the Giants were the better team up until that point or deserved it more? No, but that's the beauty of sport. The Miami Heat "should have" won a championship in 2011, but Dallas had something to say about that. The Detroit Tigers had the fewest wins for a division winner in 2012, yet made it to the World Series. While the regular season is and should be important, it doesn't always translate to the postseason. The beauty of this tournament is when the round of 64 begins, all 64 teams have a shot at a title.

Whether or not it should, I don't think reseeding will happen because of the two reasons that drive fans and money to the NCAA Tournament: upsets and brackets. People love underdogs. More than underdogs, people love brackets. Are people going to start having to only fill out brackets on Selection Sunday only up until the Sweet 16 and then fill out a new one after the reseeding has taken place? And as we've seen, momentum and match-up can make the tournament field crazy. If it is more difficult for the "Cinderellas" to advance, and more and more top seeds breeze through the tournament, the casual fans, who just want to see an underdog, will not be nearly as interested in the tournament.

Why punish teams for playing well now for those who played well months ago? Sure, Wichita State gets to play No. 13 La Salle in the Sweet 16, but that's because the Shockers defeated a No. 1 team. It is not the Shockers' fault Ole Miss or Kansas State couldn't beat La Salle, but Wichita State took care of its business and shouldn't have to face a higher seed because of what the Rebels and Wildcats failed to do. If Ohio State and Arizona are that much better and are reseeded, they would each win and meet in the Elite 8 anyway, delaying the matchup just one round. The team that deserves to move on will find a way to win, no matter the seeding.

The lower seeds are supposed to be the better teams, which is why they have earned those seedings. But at some point they need to go out and win instead of getting favors. It takes six consecutive wins to be champions for everyone and somewhere along the line a team is going to have to beat the other great teams to earn that title.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Experience Proves Important For NCAA Tournament Run

A group of seniors, including Kenny Kadji (35) and Julian Gamble (45), have led Miami to the Sweet 16. (usatoday.com)

Even in an era of freshmen leaving for the NBA after one year of college, experience still holds an important role in the college game; it translates into deeps runs in the NCAA Tournament.

Forget about the 2012 Kentucky team. It was an anomaly that a group of freshmen and sophomores were able to gel and perform consistently at a high level without having the normal ups and downs of performance as freshmen and sophomore who are still adjusting to the college game tend to do. This year's Kentucky team proved this much and the average expectation for a team made up mostly of top-rated freshman probably falls somewhere in between the two.

This is not to say teams shouldn't take highly touted freshmen just because they may leave after one year. Many of these teams have a freshman or two starting for them. But as you will see below, what most of these teams have is upperclassmen who have been in situations like this before.

Here's a breakdown of the number of seniors (and juniors) who started in the round of 32 for each Sweet 16 team:

Miami: four
Kansas: four
Florida: three (two juniors)
Marquette: three (one junior)
Duke: three
Oregon: three
Arizona: three
Wichita State: three
Indiana: two (one junior)
Syracuse: two (one junior) 
Florida Gulf Coast: two
Michigan State: one (two juniors)
Louisville: one (two juniors)
La Salle: one (two juniors)
Ohio State: none (three juniors)
Michigan: none (one junior)

The lights are the brightest and the stage is the largest at the NCAA Tournament and both of those get even brighter and larger as the field begins to dwindle and teams advance into the second and third weekends. As great as freshmen can be, it's still unfamiliar territory and the biggest stage they've ever been on. The best of both worlds is pairing one or two of these talented freshmen with a group of upperclassmen that can make them stay focused and not get caught up in the moment, which is familiar for many of these seniors.

Michigan has the fewest upperclassmen and have also been the least consistent in the last month, going 6-6 at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines are extremely athletic and talented, yet the lack of experience and chemistry can be seen at the end of the season. Michigan could still easily advance to Atlanta — that's what talent can provide but their lack of experience is definitely an outlier in the Sweet 16.

It is not a coincidence most of these teams have juniors and seniors making up more than half of their starting lineups and all but two teams remaining have a senior starting. Talent usually trumps experience, so naturally these players are also very good at the game of basketball. The advantage experience gives is these players have strong chemistry from playing together for multiple years and by now they've seen almost every situation they may face.

We'll see if this trend continues to the Final Four, but at a time where we focus on the best young players to come and leave after one year, this weekend will be a great opportunity to watch some of the best players to take advantage of their college experience and use it to reach this point.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grizzlies' Season in Question after Gasol Injury

Marc Gasol is central to the Grizzlies' plans on offense, defense and gesturing. (Getty Images)

Adequate scoring is what worried people about the Memphis Grizzlies directly after the Rudy Gay trade, but defense is the primary concern after the news of Marc Gasol's abdominal tear sidelining the center indefinitely, possibly for the team's remaining 12 games of the regular season or longer after already missing Saturday's game against the Boston Celtics.

Losing one of the NBA's best centers would be a major hit to any team, let alone a team operating with the basis of a defense-centric strategy as the Grizzlies do. Along with forward Zach Randolph, Gasol is half of a tandem that terrifies any player thinking of entering the paint. Gasol's specialty is blocking (he is 10th in the league with 116 on the season) while Z-Bo's strength is rebounding. Pure stats display Randolph as the more active defender, as he grabs 25.2 percent of defensive boards when on the court — a number that could very well decline without the taller Gasol patrolling the interior and changing shots regardless of whether or not he successfully swats the ball.

The Grizzlies will also endure a fall-off on the offensive end of the court. Gasol isn't a prodigious scorer (14.3 points per game), but he is likely the best passing big man in the NBA. Several Memphis sets are predicated on Gasol getting touches at the elbow and either feeding the ball into the low post or passing across the lane to a teammate roaming around the perimeter.

Having already clinched a playoff berth, the only question is if the Grizzlies can maintain the Western Conference's No. 5 seed without Gasol. The talent gap between four- and five-seeds in the playoffs may not be deep, but if Memphis falls even one spot it will see the Los Angeles Clippers' young, athletic frontcourt; two and it's a repeat of the 2011 series against the Oklahoma City Thunder; three and the Grizzlies face the veteran San Antonio Spurs. A first-round series against the No. 4 Denver Nuggets is preferable to any of those scenarios.

No matter the opponent, Memphis has to hope Gasol's "day-to-day" tag is more accurate than it is generous, or else a season in which the Grizzlies were expected to be legitimate contenders in the West could turn into an exit after the first round of the playoffs.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

UCLA/Minnesota Fire Coaches; Shaka Smart To LA?

Ben Howland is out as UCLA's head coach. Who will replace him in LA? (espn.com)

UCLA and Minnesota have more in common than just meeting in the round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins and Gophers fired their respective head coaches, Ben Howland and Tubby Smith, within 24 hours of each other Sunday and Monday.

Howland was with the program for 10 years, reaching three straight Final Fours from 2006-2008, but the final five years have been filled with disappointment and scandal. Smith finished his sixth season and while he won his first NCAA Tournament game with the Gophers (against the Bruins), Smith had a 124-81 overall record and a 46-62 record in the Big 10.

Neither of these moves caught people by total surprise. Questions around Howland and Smith's future have been floating around for a while now, and the biggest question now is who will take their place, and more specifically, can UCLA land a young, established coach like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens?

Smart seems more likely to head to LA than Stevens as Butler will be heading to a BCS conference in the Big East. And when people are talking about Stevens replacing Coach K at Duke, it would be hard for him to hurt his potential by failing out west.

UCLA would have to shell out a decent about of money for Smart, who's salary was broken down by USA Today at the end of last season, but after seeing what Smart has done at Virginia Commonwealth, it's hard to say he's not worth it. If Smart wants the job, it would seem realistic it is his for the taking. The question is if UCLA could lure Smart away. Illinois couldn't do it last year, but it also doesn't have the history and tradition of UCLA.

Other coaches that national analysts are talking about as possible candidates include Buzz Williams from Marquette, Jay Wright from Villanova and Lorenzo Romar from Washington.

With everything that has gone on in Southern California the past five years, what UCLA needs is stability. A young, but established, coach who can bring a reputable resumé and discipline to a former powerhouse that has lost its way is exactly what the Bruins need.

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Breaking Down The NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast continues a historic run to the Sweet 16 and will face No. 3 Florida Friday. (nytimes.com)

It feels sweet to be a double-digit seed. Three of them have made it to the round of 16, including Florida Gulf Coast being the first No. 15 seed to ever reach this mark. We shouldn't be too surprised after watching upsets and parity all season long.

Now that 48 teams have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, title hopes seem a little brighter, but the opposition becomes more difficult. After four days of madness, here's where the four regions stand with 16 teams remaining.

Midwest

Everyone said Oregon was better than a No. 12 seed and so far the Ducks have proven the theory correct. Oregon handled talented Oklahoma State and St. Louis teams with relative ease, but now the Ducks face the overall No. 1 seed. If there's a team that has made winning look easier than Oregon, it's Louisville. The Pac-12 has claimed it's been underrated all year. Knocking off a No. 1 seed will help its case but the Cardinals defense has been causing havoc for opposing offenses so far in March.

In the bottom half, a battle of powerhouse programs and Hall of Fame coaches can be found amongst the Cinderella finalists. No. 3 Michigan State and No. 2 Duke have been efficient so far this tournament, although Duke can't afford to get in the foul trouble it did Sunday night against Creighton. Izzo vs. Krzyzewski is a coaching battle worth watching any time and you know these two will have their teams prepared with almost a week to get ready.

West

This West region feels like it was created by ex-girlfriends and angry bosses that just want your bracket to fail. No. 2 Ohio State is the only 1-5 seed to reach the Sweet 16 and if a controversial charging call against Iowa State doesn't go in the Buckeyes favor, the West could be a complete shakeup. No. 9 Wichita State is a terrifying team to play in the NCAA Tournament because of their physicality, tenacious defense and ability to hit big shots when needed. The Shockers will face No. 13 La Salle, who would be the story of the tournament after being one of the last four teams in if it weren't for that team from Florida not named the Gators.

No. 6 Arizona, along with Oregon, continues to try and avenge the Pac-12's name and will now face the Buckeyes for a spot in the Elite 8. Ohio State came through in clutch situations against ISU, while Arizona has won both games by double figures. If this region has taught us anything thus far, it's that predicting its outcome is nearly impossible.

South

No. 1 Kansas against No. 4 Michigan is shaping up to be one of the best matchups of the tournament. Kansas gave one of its best and worst halves of the season in the same game against UNC Sunday, yet won the game more easily than the 70-58 score would suggest. Jeff Withey (16 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks) is the best defender in the country and completely takes away easy shot attempts in the paint. Kansas will have to limit turnovers against a fast-pace Wolverine team with tremendous guard play. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III will give the Jayhawk guards all they can handle and KU will need more from freshman standout Ben McLemore to advance.

Florida Gulf Coast has support from the majority of a country after a historic run being the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. Yet many in its own state will not wish history to continue as now the Eagles must face the No. 3 Florida Gators in the round of 16. This FGCU team is athletic and extremely fun to watch and has more confidence than almost anyone; a deadly combination for opponents in the tourney. Florida will have its hands full as the Eagles bring momentum and the spotlight into Dallas to keep the dream allive.

East

The most predictable and chalk-filled of the regions, the East is the only region with the No. 1-4 seeds advancing to the second weekend. Yet it was not without its scares. No. 9 Temple had the advantage over No. 1 Indiana for most of the game before a 3-pointer by Victor Oladipo sealed it for the Hoosiers, and No. 2 Miami needed clutch free-throws to pull away from No. 7 Illinois.

No. 3 Marquette has only won nail-biters, becoming victorious against Butler in one of the best games of the tournament so far. Gritting out those tough wins has to give the Golden Eagles an advantage as they have proven their toughness and determination to execute in late-game situations. No. 4 Syracuse has yet to be fully tested, so it will be interesting to see how the Orange handle their first bit of adversity.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Southern Almost Upset Gonzaga

Gonzaga narrowly survived a second-round game against No. 16 seed Southern. (espn.com)

It is common knowledge that a No. 16 seed has never bested a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even in years with high parity, the talent gap is usually wide enough for top seeds to glide to easy victories over their less lauded opponents. The knowledge still holds true, but the Southern Jaguars nearly made college basketball and tourney history by upsetting the Gonzaga Bulldogs. It took the Zags a late surge to escape with a 64-58 win that wasn't as close as the final score indicates.

So how did Southern do it? It was a perfect storm. Jaguars head coach Roman Banks built this season's team in the Gonzaga mold and his players knew they were to consider themselves to be like the former Cinderella program. When the round of 64 game was announced on Selection Sunday, the comparison already existed; Southern saw itself on par with the Zags in spite of seeding.

Speculation about Gonzaga already filled national headlines, maybe not concerning overall record but questioning strength of schedule during West Coast Conference play and the legitimacy of the Bulldogs' No. 1 ranking heading into the tournament, which parlayed into a No. 1 seed.

Banks knew all this and one would expect his players did, too. Southern came out hitting 3-pointers and tightened the screws on defense, playing Gonzaga to a 34-34 draw at halftime. The Jaguars didn't let up in the second half and it wasn't until Gary Bell, Jr. and Kevin Pangos hit a pair of treys as Southern went cold from the field that the Bulldogs had some breathing room with under four minutes to play.

Half psychological. Half physical. All Southern. The Jaguars were truly not intimidated, something another 16-seed has already taken to heart when Western Kentucky put a scare into Kansas Friday night. Expect the trend to continue because, eventually, a No. 1 seed will lose in the round of 64 and Banks' Jaguars will be the prototype for the No. 16 team seed that makes history.

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NCAA Tournament: Round of 64 Day 2 Recap

No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast had the win of the night by knocking off No.2 Georgetown. (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

This is more like it. Anyone still feeling good about your bracket? Yeah, I didn't think so. Except for maybe one of our writers, Fred, who somehow picked Harvard and La Salle. Showoff. The tournament balanced a day of blowouts and chalk Thursday with nail-biters and  Cinderella's in training Friday. So naturally the major talking point after Friday is …

Who Wants A Slipper?
Today proved upsets are still alive and well in March. For the second day, a No. 1 was tested before closing out a narrow victory as Kansas held off Western Kentucky. Kansas City didn't see a No. 16 win, but it did see two double-digit seeds pull off victories back-to-back as No. 12 Ole Miss defeated No. 5 seed Wisconsin before No. 13 La Salle blew an 18-point lead to Kansas State before coming back to win. Other notable upsets were No. 11 Minnesota over UCLA, No. 10 Iowa State crushing Notre Dame, No. 9 Temple (upset in name only). Oh and then there was …

The biggest win of the day goes to No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, a school that wasn't founded until 1991, who outplayed No. 2 Georgetown all game to move on to the next round. This is the second consecutive year a No. 15 has defeated a No. 2 (Leheigh and Norfolk St. last year), and before that it hasn't happened since 2001 (Hampton over Iowa St). The increasing trend of No. 15 seeds winning makes a No. 16 victory seem more likely.

Hot and cold
Don't tell the A-10 it isn't a power conference. Teams from the A-10 are 5-0 (VCU, La Salle, Butler, St. Louis andTemple) and most have a good chance of advancing to the Sweet 16. No BCS conferences can show that kind of record. The Big Ten's only loss has been Wisconsin, and the ACC's was North Carolina State, but the Big XII is 2-3, Pac-12 is 2-2 and the Mountain West has been disappointing with both New Mexico and UNLV falling in the first round.

Milestone for Ol' Roy
UNC's second-round victory over Villanova earned Roy Williams 700th career victory. His reward? Having to face his former school and No. 1 seed Kansas in the third round. Roy has faced KU twice before since he left, both times being in the NCAA Tournament, and Roy is 0-2. Still, 700 wins is a incredible accomplishment for a Hall of Fame coach.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Ending the Miami Heat's Winning Streak

How long can the Miami Heat continue this winning streak? (sbnation.com)

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: The Miami Heat have strung together 24 consecutive wins. When will they lose next?

Kyle:
Cleveland, Cleveland, Cleveland. What are we going to do with you? You still hold a grudge against LeBron James that will probably never end, yet should have ended long ago, and an opportunity falls into your lap Wednesday night to get a small piece of revenge. The Heat had won 23 straight times and you had them down nine at the start of the fourth quarter (nine!), but you couldn't finish it. LeBron bested you once again.

The Heat will continue this streak to 26 fairly easily, with the next two games against Detroit and Charlotte. The Bulls (March 27 in Chicago) and Knicks (April 2 in Miami) both have beaten Miami this year and could pose threats to the Heat's streak. I would say the Knicks, if they can wake up from this shooting slumber they've been in, are the biggest threat in recent games.

Still, nothing tells me the Heat won't be able to overcome both of those teams to keep the streak alive until ... the Boston Celtics come to South Beach on April 12. If it plays out like this, Miami would be sitting at 35 consecutive wins - beating the 1972 Lakers all-time streak of 33 - before Boston, with possibly a more healthy Kevin Garnett, gives the Heat their first loss since Feb. 1. Boston has defeated its newly heated rival (pun intended) two of the three meetings so far this year and are looking to avenge a 105-103 loss on March 18. The last two meetings have been decided by two points and there is plenty of intensity when these two teams meet, which would make for a great ending to Miami's streak.

Alex: 
The first round of the playoffs, if the Milwaukee Bucks stay pat on their course for the eighth seed. It took Miami overtime to beat the Bucks in November before Larry Sanders became LARRY SANDERS! and the two teams have split a pair of games since, with Milwaukee claiming a 104-85 victory in a post-Christmas, pre-New Year's haze. The Bucks travel to Miami once more this season, but have the unfortunate luck of landing in the midst of an easy streak for the Heat, right after games against the Bobcats and 76ers, so a win will be hard to come by.

The Bucks won three of four match-ups with the Heat last season. Both teams were very different, but with history on their side and the law of averages steering their players toward simultaneous hot games, the Bucks won't allow the Heat to go for four straight wins immediately in the playoffs. Milwaukee's win may not happen until game four, but it will happen.

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If the Mascots Battled - Predicting Regional Finals

Basing bracket predictions off which mascot would win in a fight is a popular method for those unfamiliar with the college basketball landscape (and we all know that they do better in bracket pools than the rest of us). There are some great mascots in the field this year, so here is how I think the regional finals would break down if each team's mascot got to duke it out for a chance to advance in the Big Dance.

Midwest

Billikens vs. Spartans


The St. Louis Billikens have easily the most enigmatic mascot in all of sports. Even the university itself can't quite seem to pin down the origin or definition of their mascot. As they state on their own website, "Several details seem to be certain. Everyone agrees that the Billiken is a good-luck figure who represents "things as they ought to be." The designer of the Billiken also seems to be fact. Florence Pretz, a Missouri art teacher and illustrator, patented her "design for an image" of the jovial creature in 1908.
The Billiken in action.
It's also known that the Billiken was manufactured in the early 1900s as a bank and statuette and was the national rage for about six months -- kind of that period's pet rock. During this time, the Billiken was turned into all sorts of things: dolls, marshmallow candies, metal banks, hatpins, pickle forks, belt buckles, auto hood ornaments, salt and pepper shakers and glass bottles." - http://www.slu.edu/evgrn-what-is-a-billiken, St. Louis University
The Billiken would advance to the regional final out of the midwest simply because of its magical, mysterious properties and the fact that all other mascots would be too confused to fight back.
The Spartans vs. the Blue Devils presents an intriguing Sweet Sixteen matchup, but the Spartans win out because, well, the Spartans always win out, even when down 300 - 150,000. Look for a glorious comeback victory that will avenge the Gods to advance Michigan State to the Elite Eight.
South
Wolverines vs. Aztecs
With all due respect to the Hilltoppers, Jayhawks, and Tar Heels, the Wolverine actually exists and he usually means business. It's definitely not something you would want to run into in the wilderness. It is renowned for besting predators that are significantly larger and more well-equipped. Like the honey-badger, the Wolverine don't care. He'll rip you apart for no reason at all.
I like the Aztecs to come out of a weak bottom half of the South bracket, but I hesitate because of that whole Cortes fiasco a while back. Sure, you can blame smallpox all you want, but losing an empire to a few Spaniards just off the boat is pretty weak. Look for the Wolverines to advance in this one.
East
Wolfpack vs. Buffaloes
The East region has a few of the better live mascots in sports. Butler's Blue II and Blue III get a lot of recognition for being so darn cute, but I've always thought the Bulldog was a rather lazy breed. I like Tuffy, the Tamaskan representing the North Carolina State Wolfpack to get through as the only canine member of the Elite Eight. NC State's website describes the Tamaskan as a "breed of domestic dog originating from Finland. It is known to excel in agility, obedience, and working trials." Sounds like a much better recipe for success than that paunchy bulldog.

You don't want to get in the way of Ralphie, Colorado's live mascot. (zimbio.com)
The bottom half of the East region has several of the more intriguing mascot matchups. At first glance, it would seem that the Miami Hurricanes have the advantage. Hurricanes can really take a punch. However, Miami has employed Sebastian the Ibis as their mascot, and we all know Ibises, "a group of long-legged wading birds" are far too lanky to do well in a fight. Ralphie from the University of Colorado, another impressive live mascot during football season, should make short work of Sebastian after getting revenge on the Illini for all those years getting chased across the plains.
West
Explorers vs. Cyclones
The top half of the West region offers some unique human-based mascots against some feisty wildlife, such as the Badgers out of Wisconsin (you already know my opinion of bulldogs). The Wichita State Shockers and LaSalle Explorers both offer intriguing qualities in fights. The Shocker mascot supposedly originates from students who would shock wheat to work their way through college, though it has taken on quite a different connotation of late. As fun as Shockers can be, Explorers are a gritty bunch who have fought their way through scurvy, chlamydia, and rambunctious natives over the years and can certainly handle a Wildcat or two.

The Iowa State mascot, Cy the Cardinal, as a cyclone. (newspaper.li)
The Iowa State Cyclones have a cake-walk to the Elite Eight, facing potential match-ups against the Buckeyes, and the Wildcats or Crimson. Please. Yes, Cy the Cardinal is a much weaker stand-in for an actual cyclone, but for the sake of argument, we are going to assume that he can turn himself into a column of wind at will. How else could he have posed for his picture featured on the Iowa State logo?  This should be a tough matchup for the privilege of a trip to the final four. 

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NCAA Tournament: Round of 64 Day 1 Recap

No. 14 Harvard pulled off the biggest upset of the night against No. 3 seed New Mexico. (thecrimson.com)

The first "official" day of the NCAA Tournament is in the books. It was a great day of basketball because, well, it was 10 hours of basketball. I'm not sure it's possible for the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament to not be great, no matter what happens on the court.

Yet the offense wasn't great and it looked like there wouldn't be any of the major upsets that we're normally accustomed ... oh, hey Harvard, almost missed you. It took one of the final games of the night, but No. 14 Harvard upset No. 3 New Mexico, making many who had New Mexico advancing multiple rounds sobbing into their pillow before falling asleep and waking up the next morning hoping it was all a dream. Those Ivy School Madness-makers were the big story of the night, but here are a few other takeaways from the first day of the NCAA Tournament.

No first for a No. 16 … yet
Every No. 1 seed each year has to go into that first game wishing and praying it is not them who becomes the first top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. It will forever live in the history books along with the embarrassment that it was you and your school to "choke" first. An athletic Southern team gave Gonzaga all it could handle Thursday bringing the thought up once again, but the Bulldogs were too strong down the stretch to be upset. However, with the increasing parity and athleticism found at some of these mid-major schools, it would not be surprising to see a No. 16 come away victorious for the first time in the next five years.

Runaway victories
Out of the 16 games played Thursday, 11 of them were decided by 10 points or more. Some of these scores are misleading as it was closer than the final score would indicate (Butler vs. Bucknell) but others are the opposite, as it was never really felt that close (Michigan St. vs. Valpo). In a tournament where the stage and momentum are great equalizers, games are usually pretty competitive, but Thursday there were plenty of cases where one team didn't show up or the other team just ran away with the game from the beginning. This was especially surprising in the No. 8/No. 9 matchups, where the quality of the teams should be fairly equal, yet Wichita State ran all over Pitt and Colorado State did the same to Missouri. It will be interesting to see if the margin is closer in the Friday games.

Close, but not close enough
Yes, most of the games were not that close, but a few teams brought fans to the edge of their seats, especially in the afternoon sessions. No. 11 St. Mary's battled back from a late deficit to having the final shot to win with just more than a second remaining, while No. 14 Davidson had a one-point lead on Marquette with four seconds left. In a month and tournament known for underdogs being immortalized in last-second greatness, both St. Mary's and Davidson fell short of advancing to the Round of 32. Instead it was Marquette with the end-game heroics to win. We're still waiting for that first buzzer-beater from a mid-major player who will be remembered and talked about from that point on.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

NCAA vs. NBA: Could the Top-Seeded Louisville Cardinals Defeat the Charlotte Bobcats?

Peyton Siva wrenches the ball away from Kemba Walker in the 2010-11 season. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

The Charlotte Bobcats' 15-52 record is the NBA's worst. The roster is built with former NCAA stars Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilcrist and Gerald Henderson and most of the team's players could still be part of an NCAA tournament team. Myself and BDD pose the question: could this year's NCAA tournament's top seed, the Louisville Cardinals, defeat the Bobcats in a head-to-head battle?

When comparing an NBA and NCAA team, there are a two huge differences to take into account. The NBA plays four, 12-minute quarters. NCAA games are two, 20-minute halves. NBA teams abide to a 24-second shot clock, while NCAA teams have 35 seconds to put up a successful shot attempt. Kemba Walker leads the struggling Bobcats by scoring only 17.2 points per game. Louisville junior guard Russ Smith scores 18.1 ppg for the Cardinals. Even with fewer possessions and shot attempts, Louisville's top scorer outscores Charlotte's by almost a full point.

Winners of only two of the past 10 games, Charlotte has failed to win more than three consecutive games all season. The Cardinals are winners of their last 10, most recently overcoming a 16-point deficit in the Big East Championship to defeat the talented Syracuse Orange. 

The Bobcats dwell at the bottom of almost every relevant statistical category.

BasketballReference.com

It's only fair we show the Cardinals' numbers, too.


The statistic that should pop off the page should be DRtg. 85.5 represents the number of points teams score against the Cardinals per 100 possessions. The Bobcats rank last in this category, holding a rating of 111.7. According to this, the Bobcats average nearly 96 possessions per game. Scoring at a rate of 93.1 ppg, the Bobcats manage to score a mere 1.02 ppp (points per possession), which is less than the Cardinals' average of 1.06. Keeping in mind possessions are more valuable because they are less frequent, a game where both teams abide by the same shot and game clock length, Louisville will both score and defend at a higher rate.

Where the Bobcats struggle, the Cardinals thrive. Only four teams have totaled more turnovers than Charlotte, while only one team has created more than Louisville. The Bobcats also have allowed their opponent to steal the ball away 455 times (only the Knicks have allowed more), ranking Charlotte second to last in the category. Who ranks second best in college hoops? You guessed it, the Louisville Cardinals.

The Bobcats are still professionals. The roster contains several veteran players with at least five years of experience in the league. Ben Gordon is one of those veterans who is prolific at scoring the basketball.  He also has experience playing for England at the Olympic level. An average front-court rotation contains 'quality' minutes from Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts, all who are at least 6-9, with Mullens reaching 7-foot. Rick Pitino's front-court would be looking up. Only four Cardinal players are taller than 6-6 and none of them reach the 7-foot mark. Gorgui Dieng is Louisville's tallest player at 6-foot-11 and is the team's best rebounder. Chane Behanan, listed at 6-6, has tallied the second-most rebounds for the Cardinals. It is a tough match-up physically for Louisville as they also weigh 20 pounds less per player than the Bobcats. Charlotte is taller and larger before tip-off and even more experienced afterward. 

Kids are kids and professionals are professionals.  Both teams play very different basketball. That being said, it is still the same game. If the ball bounces the right way enough times, could the Cardinals score and steal their way to a victory? First, we'll see if they can defeat the competition at their own level, and maybe we could discuss it afterward.

Stats from: BasketballReference, TeamRankings.com, 


Spying Cinderella Pt. 2: Montana Grizzlies

Does Montana have the firepower from 3-point range to knock off Syracuse and become Cinderella? (sbnation.com)

By now, you've seen all the "expert" predictions on who could make a splash with a big upset in the second (first) round and possibly carry the banner of 'Cinderella' into the Sweet 16. You've probably taken this advice and settled on a couple Cinderellas to feature on your bracket. But don't turn that sucker in to the pool manager without giving one last hard look at the Montana Grizzlies, the scrappy champions of the Big Sky Conference.

Montana returns the bulk of its players from a first-round-tournament exit one year ago, which was not particularly competitive. Giving a hot team like Montana additional motivation to prove itself is like adding fuel to the fire. The Grizzlies have won 21 of 23 coming into their Thursday night match-up with 4-seed Syracuse.

We all know how big a factor 3-point shooting is for underdogs to overcome their disadvantages in the athleticism department. This is particularly true when going up against Syracuse's vaunted zone defense. As a team, Montana shoots 38.5 percent from 3 five percentage points better than Syracuse. They also post the No. 23 highest overall field goal percentage in the nation at 47.4 percent.

Aspiring Cinderellas always benefit from experienced floor generals, and Montana has that in senior point guard, Will Cherry. In a close game down the stretch, Cherry could be the difference, along with the Grizzlies' stellar 76.8 percent team free throw percentage. One reason to hesitate when picking Montana to advance tonight, though, is its loss of leading scorer and senior forward Mathias Ward late in the season to a foot injury. Montana managed to persevere and make it to the Big Dance anyway, but he could be sorely missed in those moments when the Grizzlies desperately need a bucket to turn back Syracuse's momentum.

It won't be easy for Montana to pull off the upset, by any means, but if Syracuse goes cold, the Grizzlies are the perfect team to take advantage. Some hot shooting from deep, early and often, coupled with enough opportunities at the charity stripe, could spell trouble for the Orangemen... and victory for your bracket.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BDD Brackets: Who Our Writers Picked In The NCAA Tournament

Since we writers for BDD have been giving you, and will continue to give you loads of information and breakdowns of the NCAA Tournament, we're putting our brackets where our mouths are and revealing our tournament selections.

Alex:

Let's be clear: I am not at all comfortable with this bracket. It didn't even feel right while it was happening, but I'm forging ahead with it because many of these are reasonable picks (even two No. 2's, a No. 1 and a No. 3 make the Final Four), which is exactly what distresses me about this bracket. Instead of doing the usual amount of research, I took an approach that mixed equal parts eye test and gut reaction with a reputation regarding defensive and scoring prowess. High risk, high reward.
  • Living in the heart of Big 12 country, I advanced each team in the conference except for the young, athletic Oklahoma Sooners. K-State sees an early exit, having been eliminated by Wisconsin twice since the turn of the century (2008, 2011) and new coach Bruce Weber's Big Ten experience shouldn't be enough to overcome history.
  • Upsets Colorado got some glancing love even after defecting from the Big 12. Some of it is also due to Illinois' underachieving ways. Like innumerable other people, I have Davidson advancing over Marquette, although I believe Buzz Williams' squad is underrated. The biggest chances I took are in the loaded Midwest region with Louisville going down to a balanced, physical St. Louis, and Creighton moving past Duke. Many people fail to realize the Bluejays can score without Doug McDermott on the floor and are battle-tested having played Wichita State's stringent defense three times in Missouri Valley play.
  • Sweating Having two Big Ten teams, let alone both Michigan teams, in the Final Four has me worried. Trey Burke can put the Wolverines on his back if need be and Tom Izzo primes his teams for March each season, something that puts the Spartans far ahead of the pack in a year where there is not a clear cut juggernaut. Sending Georgetown and Florida to the Sweet 16 (and further, for the Hoyas) will keep me on pins and needles until they prove me otherwise, though.
  Kyle:

This year, more than ever, is up in the air. There is no dominant Kentucky team of last year that was a virtual no brainer for the Final Four. This tournament could go a number of ways, which means the amount of research, scouting and knowledge might be futile. You might as well pick by color or mascot. Nevertheless, it is an equal playing field in the fact that this field is a jumbled mess to everyone, so here's a few of my thoughts and reasonings for why you see the names above that you do.
  • While there is more parity than ever, I do think there's still only a handful of teams that are legitimate title contenders. So while I loved some early-round upsets, there is still a good amount of chalk in the Elite 8 and up. It's difficult to stop - I wanted to go with that No. 13 seed to reach the Final Four, but as much as I tried, I couldn't do it. Some teams are just better, even with the parity.
  • That being said, I love some double-digit seeds to advance to the third round (Round of 32) and on to the Sweet 16. As I mentioned in my initial reactions post, I really like No. 14 Davidson because of how the Wildcats match up with Marquette and then advancing on to the Sweet 16. Remember, they're on a roll. I also clearly like the No. 11's and No. 10's as I have two No. 11's (Belmont and Minnesota) and two No. 10-seeds (Iowa State and Colorado) winning second-round games.
  • I read an incredible stat that only once in the past 16 years have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16. No. 2 seeds seem like almost automatic advances, yet one always falls. That's why I picked Iowa State to knock off Ohio State (I also considered Colorado over Miami). Iowa State is a dynamic 3-point shooting team that when they're hot, the offense is very tough to stop. If they can hit outside shots and play better defense, I could see the Cyclones reaching the Sweet 16.
  • As for my Final Four, I'll start in the Midwest, where honestly any of the top four seeds could be in Atlanta. I really wanted to put St. Louis in Atlanta, but Tom Izzo gets his teams ready in March as well as anyone. The Spartans are balanced and physical, which bodes well for this tournament. A lot of people are writing off Gonzaga, but I've watched at least half of the Bulldogs' games this year and they are a legitimate great team. I think Indiana is too strong for Miami in the East and if the Kansas team that played in the Big 12 Tournament shows up here, the Jayhawks have the talent to reach the Final Four.
 Zach:

My college basketball knowledge, is not the best, but this is what I think I know. Miami CRUSHED Duke at some point this season. New Mexico didn't hold back when scheduling opponents (the Lobos have the second-rated strength of schedule). Being in-tune to the Minnesota Golden Gophers' play kept my ear open to the Big Ten. That being said, here's the method to my bracket madness.
  • Regardless of their season and ACC tournament performance, usually Duke lands in my final four. Coach K has his pick when recruiting and also happens to be a pretty darn good in-game coach.  
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers I have lived in Minnesota for a scattered 17 years. I've watched Rodney Williams, Joe Coleman and Trevor Mbakwe play since their days in high school. I picked them to be a Sweet 16 team before the year and cannot go back now.  
  • Big Ten Picked every team to win first round match-up, but none to make the Final Four. Known for it's grind-it-out style, the B1G contains excellent guard play. Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Victor Oladipo (Indiana) and Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke (Michigan) all need to help control the pace for their team. Guard play is essential to tournament success.
  • If I needed to make a guess or felt completely lost, I determined a winner using Strength of Schedule. After SoS, I went to allowed points per game and PPG differential. If I still struggled to decide a winner, I went with the team who had a player leading them in both PPG and assists per game.  
  • Cinderella (If I had one) I chose St. Mary's to be victorious in both their play-in round game and a match-up with Memphis. I like St. Mary's going to Australia to recruite players who have experience in national competition. Patty Mills, now with the San Antonio Spurs, led St. Mary's to a Sweet 16 appearance a few years back. An upset relies heavily on Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova's offensive presence. Also relentless on-ball defender, Dellavedova has not shot well in previous tournament appearances.
Fred:

  • Jordan Adams, second on UCLA in scoring, was able to provide 15.3 points per game. His injury can have a dramatic effect on the first round where UCLA is ranked 6th and Minnesota 11th. I can see Minnesota upset UCLA with their balanced scoring and tremendous rebounding.
  • Zeller will be a tough matchup for every team, but Adreian Payne will be the difference maker for Michigan State.
  • San Diego State, how can you not love them? I’m forced to since my brother is an alumni and it’s the only place I go to watch college basketball live. This pick is from the heart, not the mind. I’m not worried about the statistics, nor am I worried about what implications this pick may have on the rest of my bracket. I put my soul into this pick, and I’m sticking with it.

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Julius Randle Is Heading To Kentucky; UK Lands Fifth Top-10 Recruit

Julius Randle chose Kentucky Wednesday over Kansas, Florida and Texas. (sportingnews.com)

Kentucky's loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT put fear into the Kentucky faithful but it was not enough to scare off Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9 forward from Plano, Texas and the No. 2-rated high school recruit in the country according to Rivals.com.

Randle selected Kentucky as his future school Wednesday over Kansas, Florida and Texas. Randle was forced to sit out part of his senior year of high school with a foot injury, but came back before the end of the season and continued his dominant play.

Kentucky already had one of the top recruiting classes in the country, but the addition of Randle leaves little question to what school has the No. 1 class. Along with Randle, Kentucky is bringing in Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young, all who have been ranked in the top 10 in the country on various recruiting websites.

The biggest question with the Wildcats now is who will be leaving for the NBA Draft in June and how Kentucky can juggle all of these players who expect to play immediately.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness Five-Word Descriptions

Need some knowledge on each of the schools in the tournament? We've got you covered. (sportingnews.com)

The first four teams will play tonight for a chance to play again with the rest of the NCAA Tournament field. With a large diversity in power conference and mid-major teams and some teams who are either new to the tournament or have not been dancing for a while, we've compiled five-word descriptions of all 68 teams in the tournament to help you get to know who you are picking in your brackets.

Akron - Let them wear Twitter handles!
Albany - Upstate NY's only canine mascot.
Arizona - Was great until Pac-12 play.
Belmont - Tourney's second-most historic Bruins.
Boise State -No, their court isn't blue.
Bucknell - Giant Major-not-major killer
Butler - Found out A10 > Horizon League.
California - Want to avenge UNLV loss.
Cincinnati - Bear claws better than Bearcats.
Colorado - University of Chauncey Billups-Boulder
Colorado State - Hide the Lexington co-eds.
Creighton - Minnesota Timberwolves junior varsity squad.
Davidson - Riding a big winning streak.
Duke - Championship lock, if at home.
Florida - Duke version 2.0: Southern comfort.
Florida Gulf Coast - Forgotten in East/West beef.
Georgetown - Best player named Otto since...?
Gonzaga - Wearing first round short shorts?
Harvard - Less stylish warm-ups than Princeton.
Illinois - If only performance = Groce's energy.
Indiana - Top seed and still underachieving.
Iona - Iowa's urban, middle class cousin.
Iowa State - Threes on threes on threes.
James Madison - Biggest achievement since U.S. Constitution.
Kansas - Mid-major loss? Championship or bust?
Kansas State - Strength: grit. Weakness: Big Ten.
La Salle -One basketball HOFer, Tom Gola.
Liberty - Could potentially face Seth Curry.
Long Island - The world is yours, guys.
Louisville - Drake's new favorite Kentucky program.
Marquette - Cool name, cool coach's name.
Memphis - Josh Pastner continues working magic.
Miami (FL) -Paternal professional baseball player? Check.
Michigan - Wolverines might actually eat Jackrabbits.
Michigan State - Never underestimate Izzo in March.
Middle Tennessee State -'I' in 'Ten-I-See'
Minnesota - Experienced, strong, but mostly inconsistent.
Mississippi - "Is this like a bowl game?"
Missouri - There's always SEC football, MIZ.
Montana - Big Sky champs, big upside.
New Mexico - Possibly underseeded; maybe Arizona's neighbor.
New Mexico State -Properly seeded; Arizona's stately neighbor.
North Carolina - Improving at the right time.
North Carolina A&T - They have great cell service.
North Carolina State - Plenty of Wolves, no Pack.
Northwestern State - Not just "Northwestern." Sorry, Wildcats.
Notre Dame -Irish will need some luck.
Ohio State - If Craft becomes scorer, intimidating.
Oklahoma - Lon Kruger really gets around.
Oklahoma State - Smart among tourney's best players.
Oregon - Chip Kelly's high-powered, wait....
Pacific - Nice while it lasted, right?
Pittsburgh - Dixon knows how to coach.
Saint Louis - Consensus Cinderella for good reason.
Saint Mary's - Buzzer-beaters don't make a resume.
San Diego State - SD Not-A-State University
South Dakota State - Wolters v. Burke will be epic.
Southern - Branford Marsalis free-form athletics.
Syracuse - Tough with game on line.
Temple -Indiana Jones joke here somewhere...
UCLA - Popular pick to be upset.
UNLV - The NBA's summer league team.
Valparaiso - Fourth best team from Indiana.
Villanova - Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
Virginia Commonwealth - Scary as a No. 5.
Western Kentucky - Anagram for "Crunk tween tykes."
Wichita State - Could advance on athleticism alone.
Wisconsin - Badgers will be tough out.

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