Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 2, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT:
GONZAGA’S WEEKEND LOSS IS
EVERYONE’S GAIN IN THE CHASE
FOR A #1 NCAA TOURNAMENT SEED …
PLUS WE PEAK AHEAD AT THE START
OF THE CONFERENCE TOURNIES
Don’t believe for a single minute that the only story in this year’s NCAA Basketball season is whether or not the Kentucky Wildcats (29-0, 16-0 SEC) stay perfect right throughout the 2015 championship game next month at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
In fact, one of the other big stories this hoops season is trying to avoid the aforementioned Kentucky Wildcats as long as you can in this year’s NCAA Tourney -- and the best way to do that is to snag a #1 seed in one of the tournament’s other three regions.
Folks, get ready for the major scramble these next two weeks for those other three No. 1 seeds now that the Gonzaga Bulldogs spit the bit with last Saturday’s stunning 73-70 home loss versus 13½-point underdog BYU (and talk about the Las Vegas line move here that had Gonzaga go from a 12-point to 13½-point game-day betting favorite … ooops!).
Okay, so maybe Gonzaga (29-2) cannot be totally eliminated – still – from the chase for a #1 seed considering Mark Few’s bunch remains the odds-on favorite to win the upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament and there could be some elite teams that get dunked along the way before we ever get to Selection Sunday but let’s roll through some scenarios … here’s who’s hoping to land a #1 seed along with Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament that begins on Tuesday, March 17th:
VIRGINIA (27-1, 15-1 ACC) – We keep hearing critics verbally whack the Cavaliers but what’s a team got to do to grab a #1 NCAA Tournament seed?
The Wahoos – fresh off last Saturday’s 69-57 non-cover win against 19-point underdog Virginia Tech – don’t always play a “stylish” game but Tony Bennett’s club ranks No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense (a miniscule 50.1 ppg) and sports a snazzy RPI (4) and the team’s lone loss happened Super Bowl weekend with a 69-63 home setback against Duke, yet another high-quality team battling to get a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament (see below).
How to Get a #1 Seed – Simply put, Virginia must run the table from this point on and that won’t be easy considering the Cavs conclude regular-season play tonight in Syracuse and Saturday at Louisville before even getting to the loaded ACC Tournament. One loss by the Cavaliers and losses by these other No.1-seed hopefuls listed below could be enough too.
DUKE (26-3, 13-3 ACC) – Don’t look now but the Blue Devils have won nine in a row following last Saturday’s 73-54 triumph over 12-point underdog Syracuse and how about the fact that since Jan. 29th the Blue Devils have beaten the likes of Virginia, Notre Dame, Syracuse (twice) and North Carolina (in OT) … talk about peaking at just the right time!
Mike Krzyzewski’s squad hosts Wake Forest on Wednesday night and then puts a bow on the regular-season with Saturday’s game at North Carolina but tell us right now that the Dookies win these tilts and at least get to the ACC Championship Game and we say they’re a shoo-in for a #1 seed in the NCAAs.
Duke owns an RPI of 5 and has managed to navigate its way this far with a short bench (made shorter by the exodus of Rasheed Sulaimon who did average 7.5 ppg and 2.0 rpg) – right now we put the Devils a hair behind Virginia in the chase for the next No. 1 seed behind Kentucky.
WISCONSIN (26-3, 14-2 Big 10) – No doubt the Badgers are a real “make sense” pick for one of the #1 NCAA Tournament seeds as Bo Ryan’s crew earned at least a share of the Big 10 title with Sunday’s 68-61 non-cover win against 9-point pup Michigan State (yes, Wisky led by 22 points at one stage in the second half) and a mini-conference tourney win in Chicago on March 15th would assure the red-and-white a top “Big Dance” seed.
Throw into the mix that Wisconsin F Frank Kaminsky (season-best 31 points with 8 rebs and 3 blocks versus Sparty on Sunday) is a legit Player of the Year frontrunner along with Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and there’s major sentiment to making this Badgers bunch with a tasty RPI of 6 a top tourney seed.
VILLANOVA (27-2, 14-2 Big East) – Okay, so we heard CBS’ studio analyst Seth Davis declare that he doesn’t believe these ‘Nova Wildcats are quite as good as the other No. 1 seed hopefuls and we’d wholeheartedly agree that the Big East simply ain’t as good as some of the other power conferences.
Still, take into effect the fact Jay Wright’s guys have a 3 RPI and exited Saturday’s 78-66 win/cover at 2-point home dog Butler on a snazzy 10-game winning streak (Villanova started off the season on a 13-game winning streak, you’ll recall) and you get the feeling that year-ending wins at Creighton and home to St. John’s along with a Big East Tournament title in Madison Square Garden next week will be good enough to get the Philly gang a No. 1 seed.
Remember that’s someone’s gonna lose in the Duke vs. Virginia scenario in the chase for the ACC Championship.
ARIZONA (26-3, 14-2 Pac-12) – Here’s the final team that we believe could snag a No.1 NCAA Tournament seed – note that we’ve eliminated Kansas (23-6) from the talk because of the excess regular-season losses – and the U of A ‘Cats may be the one team with “meaningful momentum” than anyone else here save for Duke.
You see, the ‘Cats – coming off last Saturday’s thrilling 63-57 win at 3-point favorite Utah – have won their last six games in a row and four of them were on the road including away triumphs at Washington, Washington State and Utah.
Sean Miller’s crew has held each of its last five foes to below the 60-point mark and no doubt you saw how the Utes shot just 17-of-55 from the floor (that’s 30.9 percent accuracy) last weekend and still prevailed even though star F Stanley Johnson managed to connect on only 3-of-19 FG tries.
The ‘Cats host California and Stanford this Thursday/Saturday, respectively, and then need to win the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas in order to have a shot at a #1 seed.
One slip-up by either Wisky or ‘Nova could be the trick for an Arizona team with an RPI of 7 to go along with non-league wins against Gonzaga and San Diego State.
Hey, you don’t want to be the “fifth” No. 1 seed, ‘ya know.
Not this year – not with Kentucky in your way to the Final Four.
Just for kicks, here’s our top four seeds in each region as we begin a new work week:
#1’s – Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Villanova
#2’s – Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas and Utah
#3’s – Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Wichita State
#4’s – Maryland, Northern Iowa, Maryland and Arkansas
And now hear this …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be rockin’-n-rollin’ through the month of March with this College Basketball and NBA season as there are gonna be loads of winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action and remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies that heat up this week/next week with day-time action all throughout the month. Be sure that we’ll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!
Finally, as we’ve been pointing out in recent days, the College Basketball Conference Tournaments are beckoning with the Horizon League getting into the swing of things come Tuesday night and here’s a little overview:
HORIZON LEAGUE –
The truth is this figures to be a mere one-team league when it comes to the NCAA Tournament and the co-favorites are Valparaiso (26-5, 13-3) and Green Bay (23-7, 12-4) who split a couple of high-wire games this year with Green Bay snagging a 51-50 home win back on Jan. 23rd and Valpo gaining some revenge with a 63-59 victory on Feb. 13th.
Valparaiso copped the regular-season crown with a 56-53 win at 3 ½-point fav Cleveland State last Friday night as Alec Peters (15 points) registered a key four-point play with a minute-plus remaining in the game and if Peters (who played 39 minutes in that latest tilt and averages a team-best 16.8 ppg) can get some offensive help from G Darien Walker, the Crusaders should survive this mini-tourney brouhaha.
Green Bay’s live – of course – and don’t sleep on Oakland (11-5 in Horizon League play), a team that leads the conference in scoring (73.9 ppg).
NOTE: There’s more College Basketball News/Notes/Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember the various conference tournaments as we’ll check in on the Missouri Valley Conference, the West Coast Conference and the Colonial Athletic Conference later this week with tons of previews next week on all the power conferences.