Tag: Belmont

Westwood Rising

 

lonzoball
(Photo: Casey Sapio, USA TODAY)

 

 

All year long, Steve Alford has been brewing something in Los Angeles. The embattled coach has had a superb bounce back season for UCLA. That was no more evident then on Saturday night as the Bruins took down the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson.

UCLA’s resurgence can be attributed to freshman sensation Lonzo Ball. The sure-fire lottery pick has proven himself to be the best pure point guard in a draft class filled with talented point guards. He leads one of the most explosive teams in the country.

UCLA isn’t always dialed in defensively because they’re so adept on the other end. The Bruins will certainly need to defend better in March, but if they don’t it won’t stop them from being one of the toughest outs in the Big Dance.

Let’s do some conference tournament previews.

ATLANTIC SUN: Florida Gulf Coast, once again, proved to be the class of the Atlantic Sun as it won another regular season title. With many of its primary challengers defecting from the conference recently, the Eagles have enjoyed life at the top. Despite that, they’ll have a difficult time winning the automatic bid here. Lipscomb watched crosstown rival Belmont dominate this league before it left and is ready to step up to primetime. The Bisons have already beaten the Eagles on their home court and that’s why they’ll win the automatic bid.

BIG SOUTH: Winthrop and UNC-Asheville tied for the regular season title at 15-3 with Liberty right on their heels at 14-4. Those three have separated themselves from the pack and look primed to take the bid. UNC-Asheville has the most experience here and thus the Bulldogs are the team no one wants to see in this tournament. Too bad. The Bulldogs will be the team that wins it.

OHIO VALLEY: This one is simple. If Belmont doesn’t breeze through the conference tournament it will be one of the more shocking results in any conference tournament. The Bruins finished five games ahead of their next closest competition and look like a team that can pull off an upset in the Big Dance.

NORTHEAST: Mount St. Mary’s looked to be clear favorites in the NEC until last week when LIU beat the Mountaineers on their home court. It’s going to be a slugfest for the Mountaineers as 7 of the 8 teams that qualified for the conference tournament finished at .500 or above. This will be competitive, but the regency of the the loss to LIU will work in their favor and they’ll return to the dance for the first time since 2014.

AMERICA EAST: The Vermont Catamounts went 16-0 in conference play and are as heavy favorites as Belmont is in the OVC. This tournament will be played on the home court of the higher seeded team. That means teams will have to travel to Vermont to attempt to do something none of them have been able to do all season – beat the Catamounts. That won’t happen. Vermont goes dancing.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: Syracuse, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Rhode Island

Last Four Out: Marquette, California, Wake Forest, Houston

This bracket is good for games through 2/26

EAST

1.Villanova16.UC Davis/Mount St Mary’s Buffalo

8.Michigan9.Dayton

5.Purdue12.Nevada Orlando

4.Florida St13.Monmouth

6.Oklahoma St11.USC Buffalo

3.West Virginia14.East Tennessee St

7.Virginia Tech10.Providence Sacramento

2.UCLA15.CSU Bakersfield

SOUTH

1.North Carolina16.South Dakota Greenville

8.South Carolina9.Michigan St

5.Florida12.Georgia Tech/Illinois Orlando

4.SMU13.Akron

6.St. Mary’s11.Vanderbilt Salt Lake City

3.Arizona14.Bucknell

7.Wisconsin10.Middle Tennessee St Indianapolis

2.Kentucky15.Oakland

MIDWEST

1.Kansas16.North Carolina Central/New Orleans Tulsa

8.VCU9.Arkansas

5.Cincinnati12.Texas-Arlington Milwaukee

4.Notre Dame13.Princeton

6.Minnesota11.Rhode Island/Syracuse Tulsa

3.Baylor14.Florida Gulf Coast

7.Wichita St10.Northwestern Indianapolis

2.Louisville15.Winthrop

WEST

1.Oregon16.North Dakota Sacramento

8.Creighton9.Maryland

5.Iowa St12.UNC-Wilmington Greenville

4.Duke13.Vermont

6.Miami(Fl)11.Illinois St Milwaukee

3.Butler14.Belmont

7.Virginia10.Seton Hall Salt Lake City

2.Gonzaga15.Texas Southern

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Tortoise is the Hare

Freshman Melo Trimble leads the Terrapins (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

In the Big Ten, the newest team is the fastest team and last week Wisconsin found out just how good it was. The Maryland Terrapins are blazing a trail along the midwest guns blazing.

Leading the Terps is their backcourt, specifically their freshman phenom Melo Trimble. He’s been outstanding for Maryland averaging over 16 points and 3 assists per game. Joining Trimble is senior Dez Wells who has been having an outstanding season himself scoring over 15 points per game himself.

Coach Mark Turgeon was on the hot seat before the season started, but he’s squelched any thoughts about his lack of job security. He has his backcourt to thank for that. It’s one that could take Maryland to the Final Four

Conference Tournaments start this week so here are some previews.

ATLANTIC SUN: The Atlantic Sun has gone in a different direction and is holding the entire tournament at campus sites. North Florida won the regular season title and the only team to beat the Ospreys on their homecourt is the South Carolina-Upstate Spartans. The good news for the Ospreys is the Spartans are on the other side of the bracket. I expect North Florida to ride homecourt to the NCAA tournament.

HORIZON LEAGUE: Last year, Milwaukee shocked everyone and made a run to the Big Dance. This year it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Valparaiso, Green Bay and Detroit are all capable of winning this tournament. Given the fact that the tournament will be played on Valpo’s homecourt and the format protects the higher seeds and I think we’ll see Green Bay and Valpo in the final. In that scenario I expect the Green Bay Phoenix to go dancing.

PATRIOT LEAGUE: This has been a disappointing year overall for the Patriot League. In the past, this has been a league that provided upsets in the tournament. There’s little chance of that happen as the champion will most likely have to play in the First Four. Bucknell is the best program in the league and routinely navigates this tournament. That’ll happen again and the Bison will go dancing.

OHIO VALLEY: Murray St has been the class of the OVC for decades. This year the Racers have been special. They blew through the conference finishing 16-0 in league-play. The next closest teams, Belmont and Eastern Kentucky, have five losses. That means there was no one even close. I don’t expect there to be anyone close to Murray St this week in Nashville. The Racers are going dancing.

BIG SOUTH: This should be one of the better tournaments of the early part of championship week. Charleston Southern and High Point finished atop the league with 13-5 records while Coastal Carolina, Radford and Winthrop all had 12-6 records. In total, seven teams had winning conference records. The tournament will be played at the home of defending champion Coastal Carolina so expect the South Carolina teams to have a strong presence. It will be a Coastal vs. Charleston Southern final with CSU heading back to the tournament.

NORTHEAST: If there has been any truth here its that the homecourt in this tournament has never really mattered. Teams have gone on the road and won in this tournament on a consistent basis. St. Francis (NY) won the regular season title, but I’m willing to bet the Terriers don’t want to see Mount St. Mary’s. The Mountaineers beat the Terriers at home and took them to overtime on the road. I expect the Mountaineers go dancing.

On to the bracket.

Last Four In: UCLA, Texas A&M, Michigan St, Purdue

Last Four Out: BYU, Colorado St, Texas, Stanford

Good for games through 3/1.

MIDWEST

1.Kentucky16.North Florida/Bucknell Louisville

8.Ohio St9.Xavier

5.Northern Iowa12.Stephen F. Austin Columbus

4.Louisville13.Harvard

6.Georgetown11.Tulsa Seattle

3.Gonzaga14.New Mexico St

7.Iowa10.NC State Omaha

2.Kansas15.William & Mary

WEST

1.Arizona16.Sacramento St Portland

8.VCU9.Oklahoma St

5.Butler12.Michigan St/Texas A&M Jacksonville

4.North Carolina13.Bowling Green

6.SMU11.Purdue/UCLA Seattle

3.Oklahoma14.UC Davis

7.Georgia10.Indiana Pittsburgh

2.Villanova15.Georgia Southern

SOUTH

1.Virginia16.Charleston Southern Charlotte

8.St. John’s9.Temple

5.Arkansas12.Wofford Louisville

4.Iowa St13.Valparaiso

6.West Virginia11.Illinois Portland

3.Utah14.North Carolina Central

7.San Diego St10.Oregon Omaha

2.Wisconsin15.Albany

EAST

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

8.LSU9.Dayton

5.Notre Dame12.Louisiana Tech Columbus

4.Wichita St13.Murray St

6.Providence11.Mississippi Jacksonville

3.Baylor14.Iona

7.Cincinnati10.Boise St Pittsburgh

2.Maryland15.South Dakota St

BRACKETOLOGY: Sunday March 10, 2013 (Welcome Florida Gulf Coast, Harvard, Belmont)

Last Four In: Boise St, Virginia, Tennessee, La Salle

Last Four Out: Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, Alabama

MIDWEST

1.Indiana16.Northeastern/Southern Dayton, OH

8.Wichita St9.San Diego St

5.Pittsburgh12.Saint Mary’s  Austin

4.Oklahoma St13.Louisiana Tech

6.VCU11.Minnesota Austin

3.Florida14.Valparaiso

7.Memphis10.Oklahoma Philadelphia

2.Georgetown15.Niagara

SOUTH

1.Louisville16.Charleston Southern/Long Island  Lexington, KY

8.NC State9.Illinois

5.UCLA12.Tennesse/Boise St  Salt Lake City

4.Kansas St13.Bucknell

6.Butler11.Colorado Dayton, OH

3.Ohio St14.Stephen F. Austin

7.UNLV10.Villanova Lexington, KY

2.Miami(FL)15.Florida Gulf Coast(ASun)

EAST

1.Duke16.Norfolk St Philadelphia

8.Iowa St9.Colorado St

5.Saint Louis12.Cincinnati San Jose

4.Arizona13.Davidson

6.Syracuse11.Belmont(OVC)  Auburn Hills, MI

3.Michigan St14.Harvard(Ivy)

7.Creighton10.California Lexington, KY

2.Kansas15.Stony Brook

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.Long Beach St San Jose

8.Oregon9.Missouri

5.Wisconsin12.La Salle/Virginia Kansas City

4.Marquette13.Akron

6.Notre Dame11.Middle Tennessee St Salt Lake City

3.New Mexico14.South Dakota St

7.North Carolina10.Temple Auburn Hills, MI

2.Michigan15.Montana

Sons of Westwood

UCLA coach Ben Howland and freshman Shabazz Muhammad. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The rumors of UCLA’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Early in the season it looked bleak for UCLA after struggling to beat Georgia and losing to Cal Poly.  The Bruins chemistry looked shoddy and they were working to incorporate Shabazz Muhammad into the lineup.

Now the Bruins are tied for first in the Pac-12 and Muhammad, along with other freshmen Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are key contributors to the team’s success.

Those freshmen are now meshing with North Carolina transfers, David and Travis Wear and Larry Drew II, to form a team that can score and will put fear in the hearts of any team in March.

That being said; regular season success isn’t the measuring stick in Westwood.  It’s Final Fours and national championships and any season when neither happens is a disappointment.  So while I commend the Bruins for figuring it out, they have a long way to go to please their fans.

It’s March.  No stock report this week as we have conference tournament previews.

BIG SOUTH CONFERENCE: This is a league that’s grown in numbers and appears to be undergoing a changing of the guard.  UNC-Asheville and Coastal Carolina had been at or near the top of the standings lately, but this year Charleston Southern and High Point have taken over that mantle.  I like experience and until proven otherwise, I think UNC-Asheville will find itself in the NCAA tournament again.

HORIZON LEAGUE: Butler is gone, but the top of the conference looks similar to last season.  Valparaiso finished in first, the same place it finished in 2012 while Detroit finished second – one spot above where it finished last year.  In the conference tournament Detroit avenged regular season losses to Valpo to get to the dance.  I think Detroit is the more talented and more explosive team and will go dancing  again.

OHIO VALLEY: One of the more underrated moves in conference realignment was Belmont leaving the Atlantic Sun to go to the OVC.  That move has proven to be a good one for the Bruins as they won the regular season title in the league while gaining a conference mate that rivals them in quality in Murray St.  The Racers return one of the best players in the country in Isaiah Canaan, but did not finish the season well.  Watch out for Eastern Kentucky, but I think you have to go with the Bruins in this league.

ATLANTIC SUN: Florida Gulf Coast beat Miami earlier this season and looked to be in good shape.  However, Mercer walked the Eagles down even with a loss to them last week.  Mercer is hosting the conference tournament and I expect the Bears to be tough to beat on their home court.

On to the Bracket.

Last Four In: Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, Villanova, Iowa St

Last Four Out: Kentucky, Alabama, Iowa, Arizona St

This bracket is good for games thru 3/3

MIDWEST

1.Indiana16.Norfolk St/Charleston Southern Dayton, OH

8.Pittsburgh9.Creighton

5.Saint Louis12.Akron  Salt Lake City

4.Oregon13.Iowa St/Tennessee

6.Illinois11.Louisiana Tech Salt Lake City

3.New Mexico14.Princeton

7.North Carolina10.La Salle Philadelphia

2.Georgetown15.Stony Brook

EAST

1.Duke16.Robert Morris Philadelphia

8.Missouri9.Oklahoma

5.Arizona12.Belmont Dayton, OH

4.Ohio St13.Villanova/St. Mary’s

6.UNLV11.Virginia Kansas City

3.Kansas St14.Stephen F. Austin

7.VCU10.Colorado Lexington, KY

2.Louisville15.Niagara

SOUTH

1.Kansas16.Montana Kansas City

8.Memphis9.Minnesota

5.UCLA12.Boise St San Jose

4.Marquette13.Davidson

6.Syracuse11.Colorado St Auburn Hills, MI

3.Michigan St14.Valparaiso

7.Butler10.Wichita St Lexington, KY

2.Miami(FL)15.Long Beach St

WEST

1.Gonzaga16.Northeastern/Southern San Jose

8.California9.San Diego St

5.Wisconsin12.Cincinnati   Austin

4.Oklahoma St13.Bucknell

6.NC State11.Middle Tennessee St  Austin

3.Florida14.South Dakota St

7.Notre Dame10.Temple Auburn Hills, MI

2.Michigan15.Mercer

In graphical form

Made of Gold

Jae Crowder
Jim Prisching/AP Marquette's Jae Crowder (32) celebrates a basket against Cincinnati during a game on Feb. 11 in Milwaukee. Marquette won 95-78.

Marquette was expected to be among the favorites in the Big East, but I’m not sure many people thought the Golden Eagles would be this good.  Their currently second in the conference with a 13-3 league record losing just one of their last 13 games.

Marquette doesn’t have a lot of size, but have two outstanding players in Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.  These are two players that can carry the Golden Eagles in March.  Johnson-Odom, the Tobacco Road-native, is one of the best shooters in the Big East as he makes over 40 percent of his three-pointers.  Crowder is a matchup nightmare who’s physical enough to score in the paint, but can also step outside and show range on his jumper.

This team may not rebound the ball well and may be unconventional, but it’s going to play hard and defend to the best of its ability.  When you can do that with two all-Big East caliber players, you can make some noise.

No Stock Report this week as we preview some mid-major conference tournaments.

BIG SOUTH: This is pretty simple.  UNC-Asheville is the most experienced and clearly the best team in this conference.  The Bulldogs finished four games better than it’s next closest rival, Coastal Carolina.  Throw in the fact that all games would be played in Asheville and it will be extremely difficult to unseat the Bulldogs as Big South champions.

HORIZON LEAGUE: This figures to be one of the more competitive tournaments in all of college basketball.  Valparaiso won the conference outright with a 14-4 record, but showed some kinks in the armor down the stretch.  The Crusaders along with Cleveland St will be protected seeds getting byes until the semifinals, but I’m not sure that’s going to protect them.  I’m picking the Detroit Titans to find a way to dance.

OHIO VALLEY: In the games leading up to its loss to Tennessee St, Murray St did not look like an at-large candidate.  Since that loss, they’ve been playing like a team possessed.  The Racers have their mojo and motivation back and is out to prove a point.  They’ll be going dancing.

ATLANTIC SUN: At one point this season, the race for the regular season title was heated.  That was before Mercer lost three of its last four games to hand Belmont the league title.  There’s good news for Mercer though, it’s hosting the conference tournament and had Belmont on the ropes in the regular season finale.  It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season.  I don’t think Belmont can do it.  Mercer is going dancing for the first time in 27 years.

This Week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Dayton, Northwestern, Miami(FL), Texas
Last Four Out: St. Joseph’s, Colorado St, Arizona, UCF

Good for Games through 2/26

SOUTH

1.Kentucky16.Stony Brook/Savannah St Louisville

8.Memphis9.Washington

5.Indiana12.West Virginia Louisville

4.Gonzaga13.Texas/Dayton

6.Murray St11.Connecticut Albuquerque

3.Baylor14.Akron

7.Florida St10.Cincinnati Pittsburgh

2.Ohio St15.Belmont

WEST

1.Michigan St16.UNC-Asheville/Mississippi Valley St Columbus

8.Iowa St9.Saint Louis

5.Notre Dame12.Long Beach St Portland

4.Wichita St13.Drexel

6.Florida11.Miami(FL)/Northwestern Nashville

3.Georgetown14.Davidson

7.New Mexico10.California Omaha

2.Kansas15.Valparaiso

MIDWEST

1.Duke16.Bucknell Greensboro

8.Alabama9.Kansas St

5.Louisville12.Xavier Nashville

4.Wisconsin13.Iona

6.San Diego St11.Harvard Albuquerque

3.Marquette14.Nevada

7.St. Mary’s10.Virginia Omaha

2.Missouri15.UT-Arlington

EAST

1.Syracuse16.Long Island Pittsburgh

8.Purdue9.BYU

5.Temple12.Mississippi St Portland

4.UNLV13.Oral Roberts

6.Vanderbilt11.Seton Hall Columbus

3.Michigan14.Middle Tennessee St

7.Creighton10.Southern Mississippi Greensboro

2.North Carolina15.Weber St

In Graphical Form

Heroes in a Half Shell

Jordan Williams in the paint makes Maryland a tough out this March

The Maryland Terrapins, who welcome Duke on Wednesday, are one of the hottest teams in the nation. They’ve won five in-a-row and 11 of 13.

Everyone knows about the guard ACC fans love to hate, Greivis Vasquez, but the revelation for the Terps has been freshman post player, Jordan Williams. Williams is averaging nine points-per-game, but what’s more impressive is the 8.4 rebounds a game. He gives the Terrapins a legitimate presence in the paint that they can rely on in a half-court game.

Gary Williams has been criticized a lot in the Washington, D.C. media and by Terrapin fans, but now is the time for folks to be quiet and give Gary Williams a round of applause for the job he continues to do in College Park. This team is playing hard and playing well and people should thank Gary for that.

We’re forgo the Stock Report this week for conference tournament previews.

BIG SOUTH: For some reason, this might be my favorite low-major conference. Whenever I watch a Big South game, it’s always entertaining. I expect more of the same from the tournament. I killed Coastal Carolina earlier this season for not beating Radford at home. Well, Coastal went traveled to Radford on Valentine’s eve and shut me. At 26-5, it’s Coastal Carolina’s year. Expect the Chanticleers to go dancing for the first time in 17 years.

OHIO VALLEY: On Bracketbuster Saturday, I finally got a glimpse of Murray St and boy was I impressed. They were running through the OVC and took a pretty good Morgan St team apart down the stretch. Then the Racers paid a trip to Morehead St to play the Eagles and had their quest of a perfect league record eliminated. After a disapointing loss in the the OVC semi-finals and the recent loss to Morehead St, expect to see a very motivated Murray St team this week. Motivated for a trip to the Big Dance.

ATLANTIC SUN: It’s hard to find words to describe this season in the Atlantic Sun. The first place team changed weekly it seemed so it was only fitting that there was a four-way tie for first. Lipscomb, Belmont, Jacksonville and Campbell finished with identical 14-6 conference records while East Tennessee St was just a game back at 13-7. No program in the Atlantic Sun knows how to navigate this tournament like Belmont. It had a down year last year but it’s back this season and will make a return to the NCAA Tournament.

HORIZON LEAGUE: Butler completely dominated the Horizon this season. It was the only team to finish with an undefeated league record in conference. The Bulldogs are six games ahead of their closest competitors. There is no reason to believe that someone is going to be able to beat them at home this weekend. Butler will win the Horizon League tournament and make a bubble team somewhere very happy.

This week’s bracket projections:

Last Four In: San Diego St, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Connecticut
Last Four Out: Mississippi St, Virginia Tech, Mississippi, Rhode Island

NCAA Projected Bracket