Conference Tournaments

Mission Possible

It was hard watching the North Dakota State game last night’s game against Oakland for the Summit League tourney championship.  The first half was like watching players I had never seen before in the Bison uniform, they were lazy, lacking the energy and confidence we have been used to here in Fargo.Ben Woodside

In the second half, Saul Phillip’s team finally found their confidence and came back from 16 points down to take the lead on a Ben Woodside jumper with 3.3 seconds left in the game.  The win gives the Bison it’s first NCAA birth in the school’s first year eligible.  NDSU’s win is the first of it’s kind since 1972 when Louisiana – Lafayette made the jump to D1 tourney bid.

Congratulations to the Bison and I know former Bison coach Tim Miles is has to be beaming today.  Miles, currently coaching at Colorado State, was the architect behind the Bison vision to red-shirt this year’s senior when they were freshmen, ultimately planning for last nights game five years ago.

Now, I am not sure Woodside and the Bison can be this year’s Steph Curry and Davidson, but I do expect them to competitive as a 12 or 13 seed.  I would expect them to push whom ever they meet in the opening round.

Remember a couple seasons ago?  The Bison, lead by this years starters, beat an Alando Tucker lead Wisconsin team and a Marquette team with the same three guard combo that the Golden Eagles this season.  Both teams were ranked when they lost to the Bison.  They also pushed a talented, but under achieving, USC team before losing by 4 points this season in a game the Woodside did not play well.

All of Fargo is happy that Woodside is getting more publicity, this kid is as fearless as he is talented and should be given a chance at the next level.

For the second time in less than, ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote a blog post on the Bison.

Big Ten

I have no expectations for the Big-Ten tournament, because I have no clue which versions of teams will show up.  As I write this, West Virgina is rolling over Notre Dame in the Big east tourney by 15 points.

Each Big-Ten has a “not so subtle” Jekyll and Hyde issue, with the Michigan State Spartans doing the best job at control the ugly and disgusting side of their teams play.  That being said, they were embarrassed by Northwestern at MSU.

Every team had horrible loses and impressive wins and could go all the way, but I do expect MSU or Purdue to win the whole thing.

Minnesota and Michigan need to win two games to be considered a “tourney quality team”.  Both had great starts to the season, and both let a great opportunity to cement a return to Big-Ten “top level” competition – I expect them to be there soon.

Penn State and Northwestern are both one win away from the tourney.  Both have beaten top tier Big-Ten teams and really should be given a look if they win one or not.

Big East

PITT, UConn, Louisville, Marquette, West Virginia or Villanova?

I am hoping for another UConn/PITT clash, but this is the Big East tourney, so the legend of Gerry McNamara looms heavy over the Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse has played well strong down the stretch, Notre Dame has not.  PITT is almost unbeatable.  Unless you are Providence – who should be a given for selection Sunday.

UConn is a first round lose away from a No. 1 seed, and Louisville needs to win the Big-East tourney to seriously be considered a No. 1 seed.

I have no idea on WVU.  They are not very deep – actually, no team has a lot of quality depth in the Big East – I could be easily persuaded by good argument from a PITT or UConn expert. The Mountaineers do have stud junior De’Sean Butler who is a legit NBA prospect.

My dream is for Notre Dame to win the whole tourney, Luke Harongody deserves better than the NIT.  Without the tourney Championship, I am not sure they will hear their name called on CBS this Sunday.

ACC Tourney

Just like the Big-Ten, the ACC has a quality through out the conference.  You can call UNC and Duke “heavy favorites”, but they have been beaten by lesser teams this season – aka Boston College – aka Tyrese Rice and Headband Bunch.

Clemson is experienced and should be tough,  Wake Forrest is young, talented and capable of winning whole tourney, and then you have Floria State who came out of nowhere.

Every game will be close and I would not be surprised to see any of the top seeded teams lose in their first game or see them all advance.  I know, bold prediction, but I really don’t know what to expect – see Big-Ten Jekyll and Hyde effect.

UNC needs to find PG help while Ty Lawson recovers, Duke needs Kyle Singler to learn how to shot again, if WF is going to go deep Jeff Teague must play all tourney long like he did against UNC, or James Johnson needs to live up to the hype.

Clemson is very balanced, Boston College is not, and Miami is the most frustrating team in the conference, but still could get hot and ride James McClinton for a couple wins.  North Carolina state should be better, Virginia Tech always gives Duke problems, and Virginia went “Wee, Wee, Wee all the way home“.

Side Note- If any of the Memphis Tigers games are remotely close- the C-USA tourney is on their home court –  John Calipari should have to go the rest of March without hair product.

Notre Dame has pulled back with in single digits.  So you are saying there is a chance?  No, I’m not.

Summit Championship

The North Dakota State Bison seniors have showed an amazing level of commitment.  From the moment they step on campus in Fargo, they were talented enough to play as freshmen, but instead red-shirted all for the chance to play in the big dance, to make it to March Madness.

And now that chance is here.  One more win, and they will have accomplished what everyone had only dreamed could happen.   But they will have also taken another step in making NDSU basketball relevant in the universe of college basketball.

For those of us close to the team, we have know about this team for years.  The national audience has seen glimpses of the NDSU basketball team when they shocked highly ranked Wisconsin and Marquette a couple years back.  And then gain this season when Summit League POY Ben Woodside scored 60 points.

NDSU has been known as a football school, and that team was atop the 1-AA Top-25 polls, and beat the Gophers last season, but they have not had then chance the basketball is playing for tonight.

The Bison play tonight (Tuesday) on ESPN2 at 7pm CST against Oakland to continue the journey the seniors embarked on when they signed to play for the Bison.

A couple days ago, ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote a blog post on the Bison.  Check it out here.

Side note:  I heard a rumor that the Utah Jazz had scouts at last night’s game to take a look at Woodside.

Win and In?

The Minnesota Golden Gopher’s are in a tough battle with the Michigan Wolverines and depending on who you follow in the world of college basketball, the winner is in and the loser is out of the NCAA tourney.

Both teams have played like it is the “play-in” game and this will go down to the wire (first cliche’ of the post).

I do need to point out that it is possible for six teams from the Big-Ten to get an “At-Large” bid for the tourney.  If  Selection Sunday were tomorrow; MSU, Purdue, Illinois (over-rated), Penn State (under-rated) are all in.  Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan are bubble teams who all have legit resumes and arguments to secure a tourney bid.

Northwest won AT Purdue and Michigan State and embarrassed Florida State, Minnesota beat Louisville, and Michigan has beat both UCLA and Duke.  Ohio State beat Notre Dame, Butler and Miami.  Wisconsin beat Virginia Tech but does not have another impressive win outside of beating Illinois.

If it were up to me, MSU, Purdue, Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota should be in.  Michigan and Ohio State need to do some work, Wisconsin has to win two games in the Big-Ten tourney.

Man Crush and Basketballing

I get tired of a lot of  “radio personalities.”  Too many people talking about the same thing, with the same point of view.  It can be either local sports talk or ESPN guys, it doesn’t matter.

But the one guy who I enjoy reading and listening to is ESPN’s Bill Simmons. I have his widget on the side of my blog and I have listened to his pod casts all day and will do the same tomorrow.  Read his stuff, funny and entertaining.

I just his train of thought and insight.

Saturday is the beginning on conference tourney play.  My local heart will be backing the North Dakota State Bison, as the look to back-up the regular season Summit title with the conference tourney championship and a chance to get a seed in the tourney above 16!!  Maybe.

Side-noteIf they win the tourney, they better not get stuck in that damn play-in game!!!

The Summit tournament will be competitive, and the hopes of the Bison faithful will again fall on Ben Woodside when the Bison match up with Centenary in Sioux Falls, SD.

Woodside also won the final Summit player of the week award which should be the icing on the cake that is the POY for the Summit Conference.

I still think he should be up for POY in the NCAA’s.  Too damn good.  Just look at his stats and his teams record.  A win over USC would have helped.  The Bison will be a nice story in the NIT or the NCAA’s as they make their first postseason appearance with the first chance the have.  One for One!!

Good publicity and $$$$$$$. (I heard a million dollars for just one game in the NCAA’s and $500,000 for a single game in the NIT).

The Gophers took a step close to popping the bubble and getting in the tourney with a win over rival Wisconsin.  How crazy would it be if the Bison make it and the Gopher’s do not.

Tubby’s crew needs another win over fellow bubble-boy Michigan, to get grab onto a 7-10 seed.

P.S. – My brother won $200 at half-time of the Gophers/Badgers game when he hit a lay-up, free throw and a 3 pointer in 25 seconds.  If he could have added a half court shot – $25,000.  Oh well, $200 more than he walked in the door with.  Unless he bet someone $200 he could make all four shots.  I don’t think he is that stupid! :)

The Value of Conference Play

March is here and the Madness is right around the corner.  Everyone is searching through data, looking back at teams schedules and the highlighted the teams losses and what teams those teams lost to.  It is very confusing.

We measure the strength of schedule, the RPI – what the does that mean for anyway??

I just googled and it is  “The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) has been used by the NCAA since 1981 to supplement the selection of at-large teams and the seeding of all teams for the NCAA basketball tournament.”

Thanks WikiAnswers.com.

That doesn’t tell what it means!  I am sure it is like BCS for college football, so it is some made-up factor to give someone something to do, somewhere.Connecticut Basketball

Moving on.  Another highlighted stat is “key wins and losses”.  It is something that must be mentioned in determining if a team should be “rewarded” with the chance to play for the championship.

Conference play is the great equalizer, I have said this all season, and I stand by it.  So when evaluating a teams overall resume, it is tough to pull “key wins or losses” out of the conference record.

So what is the criteria for judging conference wins?  Big East wins are impressive because the teams are ranked in the polls, but the Big-Ten is not as unless it is against the ranked.

Take Connecticut for example.  UConn has beat a ton of ranked teams – all in the Big East.  But there only out of conference “statement” win was over then No. 7 Gonzaga in overtime.

Granted, six of the top seven teams in the Big East are ranked in the top 25 polls, but how much weight do you give those conferences wins?

Let’s take a look at the Big-Ten, who have two teams many think should be out for the Madness.  After No. 8 Michigan State, No. 11 Purdue, and No. 23 Illinois, there is a log jam of six teams that are right around .500 in conference play.

Michigan is one and one against Illinois this season, and has quality wins of Duke and UCLA.  If there were”quality losses” that would get won for an eight point loss to UConn.  But there conference record is 8-and-9 in the Big Ten.Manny Harris

Minnesota is 20-8, 8-8 in the Big Ten and has a statement win over Louisville on a neutral site and destroyed Illinois, 59-36 a couple weeks ago.

UConn is in the tourney, no questions.  But experts have Michigan and Minnesota just on the outside looking in at the field of 65, even after beating teams like, Louisville, UCLA and Duke.  To be fair, both teams have been playing poorly lately.  Michigan has won only five out of the last fourteen games and Minnesota has gone 7-7.  But that is exactly my point.

They are losing to, and beating, teams that would win 95% of the Mid-Major Conferences out-right.

So if the whole of a conference is is better than the top of a “mid-major” conference, how can you judge against a team that is .500 against better talent?

In previous years, all I team needed was a solid non-conference record, .500 in conference and a couple statement wins.  But with the awareness and talent of “Mid-Majors”, mid-level teams in major conference need to have a stronger resume.

Luckily, I do not pick the teams, I just try to win the bracket tourney pools – yes I do more thanone!  But I hope that we get to hear why decision were made in a season where parity is the “Catch-phrase”.