Month: February 2015

Weekend Bracket: Feb. 28 – Mar. 1

Last Four In: Stanford, Tulsa, UCLA, Illinois

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Texas, Boise St, Old Dominion

This bracket is good for games through 2/27

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.North Florida/Bucknell Louisville

8.Iowa9.Temple

5.Louisville12.Stephen F. Austin Columbus

4.Wichita St13.Harvard

6.West Virginia11.Texas A&M Portland

3.Utah14.Eastern Washington

7.Providence10.Purdue Omaha

2.Kansas15.William & Mary

WEST

1.Arizona16.New Mexico St Portland

8.NC State9.Georgia

5.SMU12.Wofford Jacksonville

4.Arkansas13.Central Michigan

6.San Diego St11.Illinois/Stanford Seattle

3.Iowa St14.UC Davis

7.Xavier10.Mississippi Seattle

2.Gonzaga15.Albany

SOUTH

1.Virginia16.Louisiana Monroe Charlotte

8.Ohio St9.LSU

5.North Carolina12.UCLA/Tulsa Louisville

4.Northern Iowa13.Valparaiso

6.Georgetown11.Dayton Columbus

3.Oklahoma14.North Carolina Central

7.Oklahoma St10.St. John’s Omaha

2.Wisconsin15.South Dakota St

EAST

1.Duke16.St. Francis(NY)/Texas Southern Charlotte

8.Cincinnati9.Indiana

5.Notre Dame12.Louisiana Tech Jacksonville

4.Baylor13.Murray St

6.Butler11.Oregon Pittsburgh

3.Maryland14.Iona

7.VCU10.Michigan St Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.High Point

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Three’s Company

UC Davis senior Corey Hawkins

There’s a team in California that no one is talking about. This team not only plays after most of the country is asleep, it doesn’t even play on TV. The UC Davis Aggies are 21-4 and 11-1 in the Big West and it’s in large part because they’re the best in the nation in three-point shooting percentage.

Senior guard Corey Hawkins, son of Hersey, leads one of the most efficient offenses in the country. UC Davis is 25th nationally in points per possession. That’s a good stat to watch as people search for a team to pull off an upset in the Big Dance.

Hot shooting, low possessions and veteran leadership is the hallmark for this team.  The Aggies are certainly a team to watch approaching March.

Stock Up: Purdue. The Boilermakers are doing everything a bubble team is asked to do. Get top-50 wins, win on the road and do them both at the same time. Good turnaround for Matt Painter’s team.

Stock Down: Louisville. There are some weird things going on there right now. Rick Pitino kicked Chris Jones of the team and the Cardinals have been struggling.

Stock Up: North Carolina Central.  The Eagles are rolling through the MEAC at 13-0. No conference opponent has come within single digits this month.

Stock Down: Seton Hall. This is a team with player leaving the program near the end of the season and another takes a cheap shot at an opponent. The Pirates haven’t won a game since January 31.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Stanford, UCLA, Texas, St. John’s

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Colorado St, Tulsa, Boise St.

This bracket is good for games thru 2/22.

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.St. Francis(NY)/Bucknell Louisville

8.Iowa9.Cincinnati

5.Louisville12.Valparaiso Columbus

4.Wichita St13.Harvard

6.West Virginia11.Georgia Columbus

3.Notre Dame14.North Carolina Central

7.Georgetown10.Michigan St Omaha

2.Kansas15.Florida Gulf Coast

WEST

1.Virginia16.South Dakota St Charlotte

8.Indiana9.Dayton

5.SMU12.Texas/UCLA Jacksonville

4.Arkansas13.Kent State

6.San Diego St11.St. John’s/Stanford Seattle

3.Iowa St14.UC Davis

7.Xavier10.Illinois Portland

2.Arizona15.Albany

EAST

1.Duke16.New Mexico St Charlotte

8.Ohio St9.Temple

5.Northern Iowa12.Wofford Louisville

4.Oklahoma13.Iona

6.Providence11.Oregon Pittsburgh

3.Maryland14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Oklahoma St10.Texas A&M Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.High Point

SOUTH

1.Wisconsin16.Georgia Southern/Texas Southern Omaha

8.Mississippi9.Purdue

5.Baylor12.Murray St Jacksonville

4.North Carolina13.Louisiana Tech

6.VCU11.LSU Portland

3.Utah14.Eastern Washington

7.Butler10.NC State Seattle

2.Gonzaga15.William & Mary

Razor Sharp

Arkansas guard Michael Qualls (24) scores two over Auburn guard KT Harrell (1) Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala. (Julie Bennett/ jbennett@al.com)

The college basketball world has its eyes focused on Kentucky in the SEC, but it’s another team in that league that has quietly been having an outstanding season. The Arkansas Razorbacks have begun to distance themselves from everyone in the league not named Kentucky.

With play reminiscent of the Nolan Richardson days, the Razorbacks play an exciting brand of trapping and pressing that is finally paying dividends. The “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” is forcing over 16 turnovers per game giving them 11th most possessions per game nationally.

Coach Mike Anderson is back home and it looks like he’s bringing the old days back. Mark Feb. 28 on your calendars folks. That’s the day the Hogs invade Rupp.

Stock Up: Valparaiso. This team is dangerous. While the country was expecting Green Bay to have a big season in the Horizon, it’s been 24-4 Valpo who’s running away with league title.

Stock Down: George Washington. The Colonials had a really bad week last week. Losing at Duquesne and home to Briante Weber-less VCU made GW’s RPI plummet to the 70’s. Going to be an uphill climb for the Colonials the rest of the way.

Stock Up: SMU. Last year on Selection Sunday, the committee took exception to the Mustangs strength and schedule and road record. That will not be an issue this year. SMU took care of business on paper and is now doing it on the court.

Stock Down: Old Dominion. A once promising at-large resume is faltering in the unfavorable light of being 7-5 in Conference USA.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Stanford, St. John’s, Colorado St, NC State

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Miami (FL), Oregon

This is good for games through 2/15

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.St. Francis(NY)/Bucknell Louisville

8.Dayton9.Texas

5.Northern Iowa12.Valparaiso Louisville

4.North Carolina13.Harvard

6.San Diego St11.Michigan St Seattle

3.Notre Dame14.North Carolina Central

7.VCU10.LSU Portland

2.Arizona15.Florida Gulf Coast

WEST

1.Virginia16.South Dakota St Charlotte

8.Ohio St9.Xavier

5.SMU12.Colorado St/St John’s Columbus

4.Oklahoma13.Eastern Washington

6.Oklahoma St11.NC State/Stanford Pittsburgh

3.Maryland14.Bowling Green

7.Temple10.Illinois Seattle

2.Gonzaga15.High Point

EAST

1.Duke16.Louisiana-Monroe Charlotte

8.West Virginia9.Cincinnati

5.Arkansas12.Wofford Jacksonville

4.Wichita St13.Iona

6.Butler11.Texas A&M Columbus

3.Iowa St14.UC Davis

7.Indiana10.Georgia Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.Albany

SOUTH

1.Wisconsin16.New Mexico St/Alabama St Omaha

8.UCLA9.Mississippi

5.Baylor12.Murray St Jacksonville

4.Louisville13.Louisiana Tech

6.Providence11.Iowa Portland

3.Utah14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Georgetown10.Purdue Omaha

2.Kansas15.William & Mary

The Biggest Cats in the Valley

Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. Photo: Jeffrey Becker, USA TODAY Sports

The country has been so enamored with Wichita St over the past three years that it overlooked a program that has been among the most successful in the Missouri Valley in the past decade. That is no longer an issue as Northern Iowa has staked its claim as the team to beat in the MVC.

As in most years, the Panthers are doing it with defense as they lead the league in points allowed, field goal percentage defense, and three-point field goal percentage defense. In fact, when Wichita St made the trip up to Cedar Falls it only shot 35.4 percent for the game.

Defense can carry a team a long way in March and the Panthers, who’ve only allowed one opponent to score 60 since December 13, have the tools to get to the second weekend.

Stock Up: Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. The arch rivals are having quite the run in recent weeks. Both are climbing the Big XII standings and posting impressive wins while they do it.

Stock Down: Georgetown. There’s a lot of talent on the team, but it’s just not coming together as of yet. The Hoyas have plenty of time to climb out of their current funk, but getting swept by Xavier and Providence won’t look good on Selection Sunday.

Stock Up: Harvard. Hasn’t been the prettiest start, but it looks like the Crimson has found its groove. Harvard is beginning to resemble the team everyone thought it would before the season started.

Stock Down: USC. The Trojans are 1-10 in conference play and this is a down year in the Pac-12. Andy Enfield has yet to get Dunk City to move to Los Angeles.

On to the Bracket.

Last Four In: Miami(FL), Stanford, Purdue, Texas A&M

Last Four Out: Colorado St, Michigan St, Boise St, Rhode Island

This bracket is good for games thru 2/8

Quick Note: Virginia is on the No. 2 line because of Justin Anderson’s injury. We’ll see how this week plays out.

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.North Florida/Alabama St Louisville

8.Iowa9.Xavier

5.Ohio St12.Stephen F. Austin Jacksonville

4.Oklahoma13.Harvard

6.Cincinnati11.Old Dominion Portland

3.Utah14.North Carolina Central

7.SMU10.Georgia Charlotte

2.Virginia15.Albany

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.Sacramento St Seattle

8.Georgetown9.Dayton

5.Northern Iowa12.Purdue/Stanford Columbus

4.Iowa St13.Valparaiso

6.Oklahoma St11.Texas A&M/Miami(FL) Louisville

3.North Carolina14.Bowling Green

7.VCU10.Illinois Portland

2.Arizona15.New Mexico St

EAST

1.Duke16.North Dakota St Charlotte

8.Indiana9.Tulsa

5.West Virginia12.Wofford Pittsburgh

4.Wichita St13.Iona

6.Maryland11.UCLA Seattle

3.Baylor14.UC Davis

7.Mississippi10.Texas Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.Louisiana Monroe

SOUTH

1.Wisconsin16.St. Francis(NY)/Colgate Omaha

8.San Diego St9.LSU

5.Butler12.Murray St Jacksonville

4.Notre Dame13.Louisiana Tech

6.Arkansas11.Temple Columbus

3.Louisville14.William & Mary

7.Providence10.George Washington Omaha

2.Kansas15.High Point

Ute Nation

Utah’s Delon Wright (AP Photo)

It was apparent last season that Larry Krystkowiak was on to something. However, no one knew he was on to this. The Utah Utes have staked their claim as one of the premier teams out west and it’s because of the talent they can roll out there.

The Utes are led by do everything guard Delon Wright, who is tracking to be a first-team all-American. The senior guard is averaging nearly 15 points, over four rebounds and a little under six assists per game. He leads an attack that also features Jakob Poeltl, the Austrian import that has NBA scouts watching, and three-point marksman Brandon Taylor.

They are efficient. They can defend. They’re big. They’re good. This is a team that appears to be a legitimate contender to get to the Final Four.

Stock Up: Albany. The Great Danes are undefeated in the America East and seem very interested in making a return trip to the NCAA tournament.

Stock Down: Texas. The Longhorns have lost 5 out of their last 7. I understand that the Big XII is competitive, but they should probably put a few wins together.

Stock Up: UCLA. The Bruins aren’t in the bracket below, but a 2-0 week would be huge after beating Colorado and Utah last week.

Stock Down: VCU. Unfortunately for the Rams; Briante Weber went down with a season-ending knee injury in their loss to Richmond. He was the heart and soul and the key to VCU’s havoc defense.  It’ll be interesting to see if VCU can bounce back.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Michigan St, Miami(FL), NC State, Iowa

Last Four Out: Texas A&M, Colorado St, Temple, St. John’s

This bracket is good for games thru 2/1

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.St. Francis(NY)/North Florida Louisville

8.Xavier9.Dayton

5.Wichita St12.Stephen F. Austin Seattle

4.Baylor13.UC Davis

6.San Diego St11.Iowa/Miami(FL) Pittsburgh

3.Villanova14.North Carolina Central

7.SMU10.Tennessee Charlotte

2.Duke15.High Point

EAST

1.Virginia16.New Mexico St Charlotte

8.Cincinnati9.Oklahoma St

5.Georgetown12.NC State/Michigan St Columbus

4.Iowa St13.Yale

6.Northern Iowa11.Mississippi Louisville

3.North Carolina14.Iona

7.Providence10.Georgia Omaha

2.Wisconsin15.Texas Southern

SOUTH

1.Kansas16.North Dakota St/Colgate Omaha

8.Tulsa9.Stanford

5.Oklahoma12.Wofford Jacksonville

4.Maryland13.Valparaiso

6.Ohio St11.George Washington Pittsburgh

3.Louisville14.Akron

7.Indiana10.Old Dominion Portland

2.Utah15.Sacramento St

WEST

1.Arizona16.Georgia Southern Portland

8.LSU9.Texas

5.Butler12.Murray St Jacksonville

4.West Virginia13.Louisiana Tech

6.VCU11.Kansas St Columbus

3.Notre Dame14.William & Mary

7.Arkansas10.Seton Hall Seattle

2.Gonzaga15.Albany