Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 9:38 AM
Hey, did you notice? We now are four full weeks away from the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday, March 11th and there's been some great chatter going on 'round the land as to where the likes of one-loss Murray State will find itself seed-wise (we say the Racers are no worse than a #7 seed providing they don't lose again) plus folks already are bandying about who will be the four #1 seeds.
No doubt that's merely impossible to figure out a month before the brackets come out but the money's on Kentucky and Ohio State to snag two of those top seeds while Syracuse might still be able to grab a #1 should the Orange get to and lose next month's Big East Tournament in New York City.
Who has a shot to really catapult its way onto the #1 seed line?
How about the Kansas Jayhawks who might just be start to jell with this bunch and so don't discount Bill self's squad from all that #1 seed discussion ... got it?
We'll make this an all-College Basketball Jim Sez column today and we'll get things tipped off in a moment with game previews of two Sunday showdowns - that's Illinois at #22 Michigan along with St. John's at #12 Georgetown plus we'll wrestle with some other key topics but first this important reminder:
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for all the Monday-through-Friday weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays.
Now, here's a couple of key Sunday tilts and note the current Associated Press Top 25 ranking is next to the team names:
ILLINOIS (16-8, 5-6 Big 10) at #22 MICHIGAN (18-7, 8-4 Big 10) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Let's just say these teams are gonna get to know one another a whole lot better these next three weeks as the Illini will host the Wolverines on March 1st and it's safe to say that Illinois needs a "signature win" to help its fledgling NCAA Tournament hopes.
The Champaign kids could not overcome a whopping 30 fouls whistled on 'em in Thursday's 84-71 loss at 6-point favorite Indiana as the fundamentally-sound Hoosiers drained 35-of-42 free throws to help sink Illinois. If there's a quick whistle here, than Illinois might get a bit paranoid but expect the Big 10 refs to "let 'em play" and so look for electrifying Illini guard Brandon Paul (see team-leading 15 points per game to go along with 42 made triples this year) to have some room to operate but it's Michigan that would like to get the ball circulating and perhaps you noted that the maize-and-blue had 16 assists on 24 made FGs in last Wednesday's 62-46 win at 3-point home underdog Nebraska.
What Michigan head coach John Beilein really liked in that Big 10 tilt was that everyone else chipped in while star Tim Hardaway Jr. continued his recent shooting slump.
Hardaway - who drained just 3-of-11 field goals en route to a pedestrian 6-point game in Lincoln - was lifted into the winner's circle by his mates including G Stu Douglass who helped to key a 15-4 scoring run early in the second half of that tilt versus the 'Huskers.
One key here: Michigan must board better after getting out-glassed 27-to-20 by Nebraska the other night. As long as we're speculating here regarding NCAA Tournament seeds than consider Michigan a potential #4 seed providing it wins 23 or 24 games and doesn't get ousted right away in next month's Big 10 Tournament.
ST. JOHN'S (10-14, 4-8 Big East) at #12 GEORGETOWN (18-5, 8-4 Big East) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
You have no doubt noticed that this year this is no hue-and-cry for the Big East Conference to get double-digit teams into this upcoming NCAA Tournament - the fact of the matter is the conference would do extremely well by getting half of its 16 member teams into the "Big Dance" and one team that would like to head into March on a major uptick is this G-town Hoyas crew that is still soothing the hurts of Wednesday's 64-61 overtime loss at 9-point favorite Syracuse.
Here, Georgetown will immediately look to rattle a St. John's club that has lost its way - to say nothing of nine on-the-court losses in its last dozen games. The Johnnies have folks transferring or quitting left and right these days (or maybe it just seems that way!) and stand-in head coach Mike Dunlap is feeling the strain these days of a freshman-laden squad that's run out of gas and is playing with little emotion. Look for the Hoyas to challenge St. John's best player here - that's frosh Moe Harkless (averaging 15.5 ppg and 8.5 rebounds per outing) -- and try to get C Henry Sims back on track offensively after the Hoyas' pivot man shot just 1-of-12 from the floor in that aforementioned OT loss at the Carrier Dome.
Georgetown will count on the Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson tag team duo to nail some trifectas here - they've combined for 82 of the Hoyas' 136 triples this 2011-12 season - but John Thompson III's team knows it can get what it wants in the paint against a St. John's club lacking serious size (and heart) these days.
Come back soon, Steve Lavin!
A couple of other games to check out here on this first football-less Sunday since August include the following:
Upset-minded Boston College at Virginia Tech (6 p.m. ET on ESPNU) and Stanford at USC (7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Network) and keep in mind the ESPN Big Monday sked has one of the best twin-bills of the year in Syracuse at Louisville and than Kansas at Kansas State - so that's a little tease as we look towards thee beginning of what figures to be a wild hoops week.
In other College Basketball News & Notes items ...
Okay, so we've all been down this road before be we just gotta ask the question:
Is this year's Gonzaga Bulldogs (19-4) ready/willing/able to make a big run inside the NCAA Tournament next month? The Zags exited Thursday's high-energy 73-59 win against 3 ½-point road dog Saint Mary's having won 14 of their last 16 games and there's been no shortage of stars in/around Spokane lately as G Kevin Pangos poured in a game-high 27 points while physical center Rob Sacre contributed 12 points, 9 rebs and plenty of in-the-paint intimidation against Gaels shooters. Most notably from that tilt, Gonzaga held Saint Mary's to just 38.2 percent shooting (that's 21-of-55 made FGs) and it's been some shortcomings on defense against high-powered teams in the tourney that has kayoed the Zags in years past ...
Finally, is it too early to start discussing possible/potential head-coaching vacancies for next season?
If you try to pin us down, we'll say that Ole Miss probably won't have Andy Kennedy roaming the sidelines next season - we could see one of the SEC's high-profile assistants jump in and nab this job in time for 2012-13 - and let's keep our eyes on the developments at Long Beach State as the 49ers could lose fiery boss man Dan Monson to one of the so-called power conference teams as there could be openings at DePaul or Nebraska or possibly Georgia.
NOTE: Catch up with all the key happenings in the College Basketball world each and every day right here at Jim Sez and don't forget that Jim Hurley is red-hot these days with both NCAA and NBA selections!