Thursday, February 25, 2010

“Office Pool Prep 101”

March Madness is upon us. Just like a test in high school or college, you always do better if you don’t wait until the last minute to study. So, for the next several weeks leading up to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, I’ll help you study up so you can enter your office pool with the utmost confidence.

Since a 16 seed has never defeated a 1 seed, we won’t waste our time with those. This segment, we’ll focus on the 13, 14, and 15 seeds. These teams and seeds are based on Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology” predictions as of February 22.

15 Seeds—Morgan State, Coastal Carolina, UC Santa Barbara, North Texas
--Not much to consider here. I wouldn’t choose any of these teams to pull an upset. A 15 seed has only defeated a 2 seed four times (and yes, Iowa State getting beat by Hampton was one of those four). The only team I would pay any attention to in this group is Morgan State. They are 21-9, have a high scoring senior guard—Reggie Holmes (21 ppg), and many of their losses have been to good teams—Louisville (90-81); Minnesota (94-64); Baylor (79-63). They beat Arkansas 97-94.

14 Seeds—Sam Houston, Weber St., College of Charleston, Oakland
--A 14 seed has beaten a 3 seed fifteen times since 1986. There are some teams with decent RPI’s in this group—Oakland (67), Weber State (70), and Sam Houston (76)—but I still don’t see quality wins out of this group. The only exception would be College of Charleston with a three-point win over North Carolina. College of Charleston also has 4 guys who average double figures, and a solid guard court led by Andrew Goudelock, so they are a team to watch out for. Sam Houston is a high-scoring team that only lost to Kentucky by 10 points, 102-92. Oakland doesn’t have a big-name win, but 5 of their losses have come at Wisconsin, at Kansas, at Memphis, at Michigan St, and at Syracuse, so they are battle-tested.

13 Seeds—Kent State, Northeastern, Murray State, Utah State
--A group to watch with some potential gems. Utah State is 22-6, with an RPI of 35. They are one of only three teams to have beaten #11 BYU this season, winning by 10. Murray State is 26-4 and has five (nearly six) guys that average double digits in scoring. They don’t have a big-name win, but anytime you can get that consistent scoring from six guys, you will always be dangerous. Kent State is 21-8 with an RPI of 49. They also have balanced scoring, with four players averaging double figures. They have good guards and two of their losses were at Xavier and at Pitt. Look for one of these three teams to pull a first-round upset.

All said, I see four teams out of this group to watch out for: College of Charleston, Kent state, Murray State and Utah State. If I had to pick a Cinderella out of the bunch, I would go with either Murray State or Utah State. Next segment, we'll look at seeds 10, 11, and 12.

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