Thursday, March 11, 2010

Office Pool Prep 101; Part 4

We start to separate the men from the boys here in these last two segments. Seeds 4,5 and 6 break us into the top 25 teams.

6 seeds—UNI, Wake Forest, Texas A&M, Tennessee
--The big question everyone around here wants to know is, “How far can the Panthers go?” They have the lofty record (28-4) and are Missouri Valley Conference regular and tournament season champs, have good inside-outside play and the #2 rated scoring defense nationally. But their biggest wins are against Old Dominion, Iowa State, and some of the other Missouri Valley elite—which isn’t saying much. I think UNI can make a Sweet 16 run, and with some luck, MAYBE an Elite 8. Wake Forest has lost four of its last 5 (wrong time of year to do that), but has wins against Gonzaga, Xavier and Maryland. See how they do in the ACC Tourney, then gauge them from there. They are 4-0 in Overtime games. Texas A&M is 22-8. All losses are to tourney teams except one. They have good senior leadership and good guard play. Tennessee is 23-7 with wins over Memphis, Kansas and Kentucky. They also have 4 losses by ten or more points, so be careful with the Volunteers. They’re a prime candidate to be upset in the first round.

5 seeds—Temple, Butler, Texas, Wisconsin
--Temple, Butler and Wisconsin all fit well together here. They are all slow tempo teams that play solid defense and are hard to prepare for. Wisconsin and Temple both rank in the top 10 in scoring defense nationally. Temple has wins against Virginia Tech, Villanova and Xavier, and finished 14-2 in a very good Atlantic 10 conference. Watch out for them. Wisconsin defeated Maryland and Duke in back-to-back games this year, and also defeated Marquette, Ohio State and Purdue. I really like this Badgers team—they could be a Final 4 surprise. I’m not sold on Butler (maybe it’s the Lickliter thing?)—their best wins are against an Evan Turner-less Ohio State team and Xavier. Texas is a mess (6-8 since January 18th).

4 seeds—Michigan State, Pitt, BYU, Gonzaga
--Before the season began, the Spartans were one of my Final 4 favorites. Then they hit a rough patch when Kalin Lucas got hurt. They’ve got the pieces to make a title run if they start hitting on all cylinders. See how they do in the Big 10 tourney, then make the call. Pitt is tough to figure. They play in the nations best conference and have wins over Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova. On the flip side, they lost to Indiana and have four losses by 10 points or more. I don’t trust them. BYU is 28-4, they have good guards led by Jimmer Fredette (20 ppg), and go 9 players deep. Two of their four losses are to Steve Alford’s New Mexico team. Their best wins are against UNLV and UTEP, and haven’t played a great schedule. This may be the most difficult team to gauge in the field of 65. I’d play it safe and not pencil them in past the Sweet 16. Gonzaga defeated Wisconsin and Memphis this year, but also lost to San Francisco and Loyola Marymount. Not enough quality wins here to impress me too much. I think they’re another candidate for an early exit.

As we start to separate the men from the boys with these seeds, I like UNI, Wisconsin, and Michigan State, with a possible deep run by Temple. Be careful with Tennessee, Pitt and Texas.

Seeds 1 through 3 are the cream of the crop. The National Champion comes from this group most of the time.

Kansas—The most talented team in the tournament. They have it all—a great floor leader in Sherron Collins, good inside play with Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris, and great depth. The Jayhawks rank fourth nationally in scoring; eleventh in rebounding margin; and second in margin of victory.

Purdue—The loss of Robbie Hummel is crushing. Don’t bet on the Boilermakers beyond the Sweet 16.

Kentucky—As talented as Kansas, but not as experienced. Watch out though, we’ve seen teams full of diaper dandies go deep in recent tournaments—see Memphis, Syracuse, etc…

Syracuse—The match up zone they play is deadly come tournament time. Teams don’t have enough time to prepare for that different style of play. Throw in five guys that average double digits, size and depth, and Player of The Year Candidate Wesley Johnson, and you have a legit title contender.

Villanova—Great guard play, led by Scottie Reynolds, and a top ten ranking for most of the year in the Big East. But, Nova has been shaky lately, losing 5 of their last 7. Careful with the Cats. They are 3-5 against the top 25.

West Virginia—This team is scary good in a scary good conference. Three of their six losses were by a total of 6 points. Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in college basketball. They played the #1 toughest schedule in America this year according to the Sagarin poll.

Duke—Duke has three solid scorers—Scheyer, Singler, and Nolan Smith all average over 17 points per game. They also have good depth with their big men—something they have lacked in recent seasons. Duke is #18 in scoring offense nationally, #18 in rebounding margin, and #3 in margin of victory.

Kansas State—2 of the Wildcats 6 losses are in overtime. 2 others are by less than 6 points. Pullen and Clemente are as good a guard combo as any.

Vanderbilt—They won’t be a top 3 seed and could be a one-and-done. Not impressed with the Commodores, although they did beat Tennessee twice and played Kentucky to within two points.

New Mexico—They’re coached by Steve Alford. Enough said.

Georgetown—I like this team a lot, but like Ohio State, they’re not very deep. And they’re 4-4 in their last 8 games. The Hoyas played the #2 toughest schedule according to the Sagarin Poll.

Ohio State—Since January 12th, OSU has lost just two games by a total of 9 points. Both of those losses were to top ten teams. If they can keep all 5 guys on the floor and out of foul trouble, OSU may be a Final 4 team, maybe a dark-horse National Title contender with National Player of The Year favorite Evan Turner.

Stay tuned for all my selections after Selection Sunday. It's the most wonderful time of the year!

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