Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM
OUR COLLEGE B-BALL MID-WEEK UPDATE: TRACKING A PAIR OF KEY WEDNESDAY NIGHT TILTS
PLUS WE DO A LITTLE PRE-MARCH DAY-DREAMING TOO!
It’s always fun to do a little “day-dreaming” at this stage of the College Basketball season and now less than three weeks away from Selection Sunday (that’s March 16th) we like to look at the #’s 1-thru-8 teams in the current Associated Press Top 25 poll and see what Elite 8 matchups we could conceivably be getting late next month in Memphis, Anaheim, New York City (yes, Madison Square Garden has a host site this year) and Indianapolis.
Go ahead and tell us how these games would grab you with a Final Four berth on the line and – just for fun – we’ll match the way things would go with #1 playing #8 etc. at the sites listed above:
How about Florida vs. Villanova (at Memphis) … Wichita State vs. Louisville (at Anaheim) … Arizona vs. Duke (at New York City) … and Syracuse vs. Kansas (at Indianapolis)?
As they say on the streets, not-for-nuthin’ but these would be major heavyweight bouts and all of the above easily could be Final Four and/or NCAA Championship Game dream matchups and so guess what we’re really saying right here and right now is that the hard-core college hoops fan really “can’t lose” when it comes to what possibly may lie ahead.
The flip side of the coin is this:
Out of this eight-team dream field, how many of ‘em will get picked off even before we get to the regional finals round – a/k/a the Elite 8?
As we discussed in one of our Jim Sez columns last week, we ain’t buying the notion that only eight or nine teams can win it all this season – there’s plenty of teams outside the current top 10 that we could see making a run for all the marbles including the likes of #14 Wisconsin (talk about a team that’s turned around the fortunes of a once-dark season!), fellow Big 10 rival #16 Michigan (the second half against Michigan State last Sunday was utterly brilliant basketball and should scare maize-and-blue foes big-time) and then there’s #17 Kentucky, #18 Michigan State and #19 North Carolina as all of the above have the goods to win six games in a row come NCAA Tourney time.
And now hear this …
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Let’s check out two top Wednesday night games on the College B-Ball docket. We start off with ….
MIAMI (14-13, 5-9 ACC) at #12 VIRGINIA (23-5, 14-1 ACC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
Has there been a more under-the-radar conference leader than the Virginia Cavaliers?
Okay, so for the majority of this 2013-14 season we’ve been hearing plenty about mighty Syracuse and everyone knows that all Atlantic Coast Conference chatter begins and ends with a word or two about Duke but don’t look now ‘cause the Wahoos are sitting atop the ACC and there’s every reason to believe that Tony Bennett’s squad could be a #1 or #2 seed come NCAA Tournament time should they pull the exacta of winning the ACC regular-season crown to go along with the mini-tourney too.
No doubt that Virginia – the number one defense in the land while yielding a meager 55.3 points per game – has been extra-stingy all year long on that end of the floor but in last Saturday’s 70-49 home win/cover against 12-point pup Notre Dame it was a major-league shot block by reserve G Justin Anderson that really stoked the Cavs’ fire and take note that the ND Fighting Irish only shot it at 38.9 percent from the floor in that tilt (that’s 21-of-54 FG makes) … pretty typical numbers when going up against Virginia this season.
If Virginia plans on winning its 12th consecutive game here than Anderson and Co. better bring its lunch pails against a Miami squad that’s caught a little fire lately with three wins in its last four outings including a resounding 69-42 win/cover against 5 ½-point pup Boston College last weekend as Rion Brown poured in 22 points featuring four trifectas.
Brown (15 ppg) is one of only two Hurricanes players to average in double-digits so we’ll say this:
If Miami plans on pulling off the major road upset win in Charlottesville here than it’ll probably be a first-team-to-50-points deal, right?
And remember that Virginia hosts Syracuse this Saturday and so keep in mind that even this Bennett-coached bunch could be “looking ahead” a tad.
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BAYLOR (18-9, 6-8 Big 12) at #24 TEXAS (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Here’s the $64,000 question when it comes to this year’s Big 12 … will the NCAA Tournament folks go five, six or seven teams deep into this year’s 68-team “Big Dance” field?
No doubt that was a real hot button topic in Monday night’s ESPN game where Kansas wrapped up a 10th straight regular-season crown with its 83-75 non-cover triumph over 11-point dog Oklahoma as both play-by-play man Brent Musburger and analyst Fran Fraschilla pounded into everyone’s head that this deep Big 12 would “probably” get seven teams into the tourney field.
The Baylor Bears hope that TV twosome are correct as Baylor’s particularly interested in the answer because the Waco crew is clearing a “bubble team” – hey, maybe that’s being a bit generous to Scott Drew’s team in the eyes of some critics – but it is safe to say that the Bears are moving in the right direction with four consecutive wins since Feb. 12th and last weekend’s 88-75 triumph at 2 ½-point fav West Virginia really stoked the Bears who outscored the Mountaineers 52-33 in the second half.
Now, Baylor’s Royce O’Neale – who scored 22 points via 8-of-8 field-goal shooting at WVU – looks to keep the winnin’ beat going here but note Texas already owns a 74-60 win against the Bears back on Jan. 25th when freshman G Isaiah Taylor scored 27 points and the Longhorns held Baylor to just 18-of-56 shooting from the field (32.1 percent) in that Lone Star State showdown.
Note that the ‘Horns have stubbed their toes lately with the back-to-back road losses at Iowa State and Kansas but the flip side is Rick Barnes’ crew has won its last six consecutive conference home games and so you have to go all the way back to Jan. 4th to find the lone home league setback – and that was a tight 88-85 loss to Oklahoma.
Major key for Texas here is who can hit from deep if this Baylor front line sags down into the paint:
The ‘Horns are keeping fingers crossed that Javan Felix (he’s netted a team-leading 44 triples this year) can tickle the twine and we say it will take Texas getting 21-or-more points from trey-land to win here.
Gut feeling right now?
We believe Baylor, West Virginia (15-12, 7-7) and Oklahoma State (18-10, 6-9) all need to win a few more games before they get green-lighted into the NCAA Tournament. There ain’t much wiggle room for any of these three Big 12 teams but a Baylor win in Austin could have Drew’s guys on the inside-looking-out, if you know what we mean!