Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, February 18, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Okay, so we're now officially inside 30 days till NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday (see March 17th) and there's a whole lot of questions yet to be answered like just how many power conference teams are going to fill out the 68-team field and just what sort of NCAA Tourney seeds are the non-power conference stars gonna get - Gonzaga is at the head of this class and could get a #3 seed if the Zags stay the course these next couple of weeks.
As we stated at this very time a year ago, let's now go on record - right here and right now - to say we would love the tournament to be approximately two-thirds power conference or "super six" leagues and one-third comprised of the non-power conference crews and let's give the benefit-of-the-doubt call to the "little guys" as we would prefer an Ohio University (19-6 overall and 10-1 in the Mid-American Conference) get the nod over someone like Villanova (16-10 overall and 7-6 in Big East play) when it comes to popping in a #12 seed somewhere in the field.
Do you agree?
In fact, if the season ended at this very moment, we believe the following mid-majors or non-conference clubs should be veritable "locks" to get into the "Big Dance" (in no particular order) whether they win their so-called mini-tournies or not:
New Mexico (22-4), Colorado State (21-4), Middle Tennessee (23-4), Louisiana Tech (23-3), Gonzaga (25-2), Saint Mary's (22-5), BYU (19-8), Wichita State (21-5), Creighton (21-6), Akron (21-4), Memphis (22-3), VCU (21-5) and Butler (21-5) - and that's a baker's dozen of mid-majors that should get the NCAA Tourney call and note that nearly 20 percent of the field.
So what are we exactly saying to some of those so-called "bubble teams" from the major conference ranks?
Simply this: Well, the likes of aforementioned Villanova, Baylor (16-9), Missouri (18-7) and Arizona State (19-7) - among others - better win more than they lose in the coming days/weeks because all of their "margins of error" are shrinking fast ... got it, big guys?
Okay, so nobody asked us but ...Right now here's how we would be seeding the NCAA Tournament teams at this very moment:
- The #1 seeds would be Indiana, Miami, Duke and Florida;
- The #2 seeds would be Michigan, Syracuse, Michigan State and Arizona
- The #3 seeds would be Gonzaga, Louisville, Kansas State and Kansas
- And the #4 seeds would be Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Butler.
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Now, here's the top early-week NCAA Basketball tilts. Tonight, it's ...
#21 NOTRE DAME (20-6, 8-5 Big East) at #16 PITTSBURGH (20-6, 8-5 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
How about the fact these two soon-to-be-ex-Big East Conference teams have the identical record (both overall and in league play) while heading into this prime-time tilt in the Steel City and we're quite sure the broadcast troika of Sean McDonough, Bill Raftery and Jay Bilas will point this factoid out before the first jump ball but will the trio also remind folks both of these clubs come off weekend losses with Notre Dame's ugly 71-54 setback at 2 ½-point home fav Providence "featuring" 15 offensive rebounds by the gritty Friars and a 1-of-14 night from beyond the three-point stripe for Mike Brey's Irish.
If Notre Dame cannot get untracked from "downtown" here than F Jack Cooley (12 points and 10 boards against Providence) is really gonna have to step it up and taking more than 10 field-goal attempts will be a "must". Hey, Notre Dame enters this TV tilt having won five of its last seven games and so it's not as if the sky is falling but the Irish can turn in a clunker or two and a physically demanding Pittsburgh team here could shake up the road folks sooner rather than later.
Note that the Panthers - who suffered a 79-69 defeat at 2 ½-point home dog Marquette this past Saturday afternoon - played chase all game long there and now head coach Jamie Dixon believes holding Notre Dame to below 40 percent FG shooting is key. Marquette drained 26-of-46 FGs for a 57 percent accuracy rate the other day and that steamed Dixon who also was not pleased his Pitt guys lost the rebounding battle 31-23.
One key tonight is Pittsburgh G Tray Woodall (4-of-11 FG shooting for 10 points) who must look for his shot more in the half-court game and not shy away from triple tries despite nailing just two trifectas against Marquette.
On Tuesday, it's ...
#1 INDIANA (23-3, 11-2 Big 10) at #8 MICHIGAN STATE (22-4, 11-2 Big 10) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
From this department of it-doesn't-get-much-bigger-than-this comes this top-flight game from the country's most top-flight league - now does the high-flying Indiana team averaging a haughty 82.9 ppg prevail over a Michigan State squad that holds folks on average to just 59.1 ppg?
The Hoosiers - fresh off Saturday's 83-55 cake-walk win against 19-point underdog Purdue - already have banked one win against Michigan State this year with the 75-70 triumph back on January 27th when G Victor Oladipo registered the stat-sheet stuffing line of 21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocked shots.
Now, Oladipo must deal with a Spartans' backcourt that has helped Tom Izzo's gang win 11 of its last 12 games including last weekend's 73-64 win at Nebraska. The Spartans relied on C Derrick Nix to save the day as he scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half while PG Keith Appling chipped in 16 points (but shot just 3-of-11 from the floor) and M-State's guard play must be more consistent here or else the Hoosiers should land a clean sweep of the regular-season series.
Two quickie keys here:
Michigan State blocked a season-high 12 shots in the win against the Cornhuskers - now there must be a slew of "return-to-sender" shots here as well.
Finally, Indiana must make M-State respect the three-point shot here with Hoosiers G Jordan Hulls (team-high 59 triples) a key figure here. Can Hulls get off half-a-dozen triples or more here? It could tell the tale of who wins this monster top 10 showdown in East Lansing.
THE NBA REPORT
Okay, so the shenanigans that is the NBA All-Star Game is now in the rear-view mirror with the West's 143-138 victory in Houston and it's time to focus here on two teams - one from each conference - that could be making a major splash in this unofficial "second half" of this 2012-13 season:
BROOKLYN (31-22) - The here-and-now NBA standings say the Nets are sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference but don't be surprised if P.J. Carlesimo's club winds up with the second see in the playoffs come late April. Keep in mind that PG Deron Williams really has not played his best ball - he's hoping the extended All-Star Game break will have worked wonders with his sore ankles - but what really should help is this Brooklyn team is deep and will be able to handle these late-year back-to-back games better than some of the "older" Eastern Conference teams.
DENVER (33-21) - No, the Nuggets didn't exactly enter the All-Star Game break clicking on all cylinders with back-to-back-to-back losses but now that George Karl's crew has taken a deep breath, look for this Mile High City team to wend its way into the upper portion of the Western Conference playoff chase with the prediction here that Denver gets the #4 seed behind San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers. Denver's clever point guard Ty Lawson will keep everyone happy with his smart passes and the deep bench here will make a difference - watch for the Nuggets to be a noise-maker the remainder of the way.
NOTE: Catch our College Basketball Mid-Week Update in the next Jim Sez.