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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM



By Jim Hurley

Hey, March 16th will be here before y’all know it and that means there’s precious little time now for College Basketball teams to make some final statements to either impress the NCAA Tournament Committee (an ever-changing cast of characters that don’t always “get it”) and/or to upgrade their particular seedings in next month’s “Big Dance”.

While lots of hoop teams wait with baited breath to see if they’re “in” or they’re “out”, we’ll take a few moments in today’s "Jim Sez" column to examine three teams playing on this final Sunday in February that know they are headed to the NCAAs, but just don’t know what’s ahead. After all, the likes of SMU, Michigan State and Michigan – two of the latter three teams mentioned here are ranked in this week’s Associated Press Top 25, and we know UConn’s sitting out the tourney after being declared ineligible because of classroom problems – know they will be landing berths among the 68 teams selected for this year’s NCAA Tourney but depending on how all-of-the-above finish off their current campaigns, it’s tough to say what is exactly straight ahead: Might Michigan State (now 22-5 overall and still on top in the Big 10) win 25-or-more games before we even get to the Big 10 Tournament, than win that shindig in Indianapolis and maybe land up a #2 seed somewhere? Or what about this Michigan team with 18 wins right now that underwent a major facelift after getting all the way to the NCAA Championship Game last year … can the maize-and-blue get on a little roll and maybe slip into a #3 or #4 seed out there? Heck, Michigan’s sitting in second place right here/right now in the Big 10 standings. Don’t touch that dial … we’ll all be finding out soon enough but it’s three weeks and counting down to Selection Sunday – always one of the truly fun sports days all year long, right?

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Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep on piling up the profits all this week/month with lots of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 – so go ahead and win with all the hardwood action today!

Here’s the NCAA Basketball action set for Sunday …

#13 MICHIGAN STATE (22-5, 11-3 Big 10) at #20 MICHIGAN (18-7, 10-3 Big 10) – 12 p.m. ET, CBS

Gotta admit that we’ve seemingly spent an awful lot of time/space examining the ups-and-downs of this 2013-14 Michigan State season – no doubt injuries have wreaked havoc with Sparty as C Adreian Payne has missed seven games with injuries, PG Keith Appling missed three games and parts of a couple others and swingman Branden Dawson has played in just 18 games while dealing with a broken hand, and head coach Tom Izzo is keeping fingers crossed that Dawson is back in the lineup now sooner rather than later.

On the flip side, there’s a Michigan team that’s now alternated wins/losses in its past six games – the Wolverines come off last Sunday’s 75-62 home loss versus 3 ½-point road dog Wisconsin – but one of the feather-in-the-cap wins for the maize-and-blue happened at Michigan State back on Jan. 25th when John Beilein’s bunch scored an 80-75 win as five-point pups. Guard Nik Stauskas scored 19 points in that tilt for Michigan – including a key tie-breaking three-pointer with just over three minutes left in the game – and the Wolves drained 25-of-30 free throws while snapping an 11-game winning streak that Michigan State took into that contest. Maybe Mr. Izzo won’t know his exact lineup till game-time here but one thing his Spartans must do is rebound the ball better as Michigan actually won the glass battle 30-to-29 in that late January bash in East Lansing. Not every day that the Spartans get beaten on the boards, eh?

SMU (21-6, 10-4 AAC) at #21 CONNECTICUT (21-5, 9-4 AAC) – 2 p.m. ET, CBSC

Bless you, Larry Brown!

The transient head coach who’s won it all at Kansas (see 1988) and gotten into the NCAA Championship Game with UCLA (see 1980) now has put SMU hoops back onto the map after a nearly three-decade “disappearance”, and now here’s a shot to make some hay with the NCAA Tournament folks who may not quite know what to do with these Mustangs who have won 10 of their last 12 games since early January... and that doesn’t include the 74-65 home win against UConn back on Jan. 4th. Brown’s bunch – actually a two-point betting in that initial clash against Connecticut – outscored the Huskies 42-32 in the second half as G Nic Moore poured in a game-high 20 points and kudos to SMU back then for its defensive job on UConn star G Shabazz Napier, who finished up a shoddy 2-of-9 FG shooting with just 12 points in all. As we stated, Connecticut won’t be going “dancing” next month because of that academic backlash that’s actually kayoed 10 different teams from the NCAA Tournament (although the other nine squads probably would not have gotten bids anyway) but Kevin Ollie’s club has revenge here and a little something to prove after shooting a collective 18-of-49 from the floor in that first go-around with SMU.

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Folks, we’re gonna spend plenty of time/space in the Jim Sez columns these next few weeks with NFL Draft coverage and so let’s roll on with the top Wide Receivers. Note that the consensus belief is that we could have as many as a half-dozen wide receivers nabbed in Round I of the May draft with a good chance that as many as four wide outs will come off the board inside the top 15 or 16 picks … we shall see. Here’s some comments below with a reminder we’ll be re-visiting draft news/notes all throughout the next couple of months:

SAMMY WATKINS, CLEMSON – The unabashed top pass-catcher in this year’s draft has it all save for the fact some scouts deem him a bit short at 6-feet-1, 205 pounds. Watkins has wonderful hands, great acceleration and seemingly plays his best in the biggest games and so now wonder many folks believe he’ll go inside the draft’s top five picks with Oakland at #5 most prominently mentioned. Here’s a nugget: You might see one of the Super Bowl teams aggressively look to trade up into the top five picks to snag this do-it-all star.

MIKE EVANS, TEXAS A&M – First things first, this 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is in desperate need of an “attitude adjustment” as he nearly cost the Aggies a couple of times this year with his temper tantrum antics on the field (even QB Johnny Manziel had to discipline him in the team’s come-from-way-behind Chick Fil-A Bowl win against Duke) but it’s hard to ignore his strong hands and ability to make chunk plays way downfield. Expect Evans to be a mid-first-round selection with Baltimore at #17 said to be very interested.

MARQISE LEE, USC – The 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner really dropped off badly last year thanks to injuries and the coaching changes with the Trojans, but all reports are that he’s healthy and well worth a mid-first-round spot in the upcoming NFL Draft as he figures to be a major YAC (yards after catch) guy but can be stay in one piece with his relatively puny frame of 6-feet, 195 pounds? Maybe St. Louis at pick #13 will be interested but our gut feeling is Lee will wind up getting nabbed in the 18-to-22 pick area with the New York Jets at #18 definitely in the market for a playmaker at this position … right, QB Geno Smith?

KELVIN BENJAMIN, FLORIDA STATE – The Seminoles’ strong-handed star caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the BCS Championship back in early January (yes, he started off slowly in that tilt against Auburn but had a big second half) and appears to be a top 25 pick here come May but the $64,000 question involving this 6-foot-5, 235-pounder is will he work hard at this next level and what’s he gonna do about all his drops? Benjamin might see his stock rise if he shows NFL scouts he’s stayed in good shape this winter and a safe bet here is for San Diego to grab ‘em at pick #25 or he could drop a spot to Cleveland at #26.

ODELL BECKHAM, JR., LSU – Most in-the-know folks believe there will be a handful of wide receivers nabbed in Round I and this former Bayou Bengals star might leap a few spots if NFL teams consider him a dual-threat as a punt return specialist. Beckham – who is listed at 5-foot-11, 194 pounds -- has more natural ability than Benjamin but lacking size hurts but we could see the Browns take him at No. 26 or perhaps he’ll slide down a bit to Denver at No. 31 should the Broncos indeed lose WR Eric Decker via free agency and don’t make a trade up for Watkins.

Take note that other wide receivers that figure to land somewhere in Round II include Penn State’s Allen Robinson and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks while Vanderbilt’s record-setting pass-catcher Jordan Matthews also expects to be a top 50 pick in May.

NOTE: Catch our NCAA Basketball and NBA Weekend Wrap-up column in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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