Tag: Georgetown

Patrick Ewing Has Georgetown Off to 3-0 Start

 

Patrick Ewing
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing’s long offseason of answering questions about his readiness and aptitude for the position has finally ended as he has completed his first week of actual games with a 3-0 record.

 

Those questions, for now, have been silenced as the product Ewing has placed on the court has fans with a positive outlook for the future of the program.

The Hoyas have outscored their first three opponents by an average of 24 points per game and are getting contributions from players they never have before. One of those players is junior guard Kaleb Johnson, who told reporters after the Hoyas’ 83-57 win over UMES on Nov. 18, that he feels more confident playing under Ewing.

“I’ve been working on my three all summer and then the confidence; I think the confidence from [Ewing] is a big thing,” Johnson said.

Ewing has also gotten the requisite production out of junior center Jessie Govan. Govan is averaging 21 points and 14.3 rebounds per game this season. It’s the kind of performance Ewing said that he needed to give for Georgetown to be successful.

“Jessie is one of the keys to our success. If he does not step up and have a great year for us, we won’t be successful,” Ewing told reporters during Georgetown’s media day. “I’ve put a lot on his shoulders. I’ve put a lot on his plate.”

Despite the good start, there are still questions surrounding Ewing and his program. There is still skepticism on just how good this team is as Ewing deliberately built a schedule that would ensure Georgetown won a lot of games during the non-conference portion of the season.

Hoya fans were particularly disappointed that Ewing pulled the Hoyas out of the PK80 invitational, two separate eight-team tournaments to be played in Portland, Ore. by Nike-sponsored schools. The Hoyas first game in that tournament was scheduled to be against Michigan St.

Georgetown won’t play a power conference school until it plays Syracuse on Dec. 16. By contrast, UMES will have played four games versus such schools by that date. According to KenPom, a popular college basketball predictive and analytic tool, it is predicted to be the second-worst non-conference schedule of a power conference team since 2002.

Despite that, there is still more optimism for the program than last. There is a new style of play now that Ewing has brought that’s more modern and faster-paced offense as opposed to previous head coach John Thompson III’s Princeton-style.

He’s also gotten off to a good start on the recruiting trail as Georgetown has signed letters of intent from three prospects. The first is Grayson Carter, an ESPN four-star power forward from Denton, Tex. The next is YouTube sensation Mac McClung. McClung is a three-star point guard from Gate City, Va. The jewel of the class is top-100 forward Josh Leblanc out of Baton Rouge, La.

The Hoyas will take a quick break so that the players can celebrate Thanksgiving with their families, but will face what may be their toughest test to date. They head a few hours south on Nov. 25 to face the Richmond Spiders.

 

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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

SHOCKing Results

Fred VanVleet has led Wichita St to a 19-0 record

Threw almost three months of the season there is one team whose undefeated record is as surprising as its run to the Final Four last season.  Wichita St rolled through its non-conference schedule and with Creighton in the Big East, it looks like the Shockers will face little resistance in the Missouri Valley this season.

Led by one of the best point guards in the country in Fred VanVleet, the Shockers destroyed Indiana St, the only other team in the Valley with real at-large aspirations.  He runs the show and is surrounded by talent that plenty of high majors schools are probably envious of.  Throw in Gregg Marshall, a man who’s legitimately one of the best coaches in the country and this is a team that looks like a national title contender.

Stock Up: Tyler Ennis.  The Syracuse freshman has taken this team to another level.  Any thoughts of a drop off after Michael Carter-Williams have been erased as Ennis has made the Orange the favorite to win the ACC.

Stock Down: Big East favorites.  Both Georgetown and Marquette are sputtering to find themselves as injuries, suspensions and early departures have crushed their respective rosters.  Both squads thought they’d perform much better this season but neither have been close to upholding the standard the each program has set.

Stock Up: Kansas.  The Jayhawks are putting it together and its going to get scary for everyone else.  It appears that Joel Embiid has taken the reigns as the best player on this team and everyone else has followed.  Kansas already has four losses, but it could be a good while before it losses again…if it losses again.

Stock Down: VCU. The Rams have been figured out.  If you limit VCU’s transition opportunities they can’t score.  This team can get hot from deep, but it’s not consistent when the Rams are off, they’re extremely easy to defend.

On to the bracket:

First one of the year.

Last Four In: North Carolina, Stanford, Providence, SMU

Last Four Out: Saint Mary’s, Boise St, Purdue, Georgetown

 

WEST

1.Arizona16.Robert Morris/Chattanooga               San Diego

8.Baylor9.Florida St

5.Ohio St12.Providence/Stanford             Raleigh

4.Duke13.Mercer

6.Memphis11.Texas       San Antonio

3.Wichita St14.Georgia St

7.Kansas St10.George Washington           Milwaukee

2.Wisconsin15.Vermont

SOUTH

1.Florida16.Radford        Orlando

8.UCLA9.Xavier

5.Pittsburgh12.Toledo   San Diego

4.Cincinnati13.Stephen F. Austin

6.Gonzaga11.Clemson   Spokane

3.Oklahoma St14.Boston

7.Michigan10.Harvard    Buffalo

2.Villanova15.Utah Valley

MIDWEST

1.Michigan St16.Southern            Milwaukee

8.California9.Southern Miss

5.Iowa St12.Missouri      Raleigh

4.Louisville13.Manhattan

6.Oklahoma11.Green Bay            San Antonio

3.UMass14.Northern Colorado

7.Virginia10.Oregon        Spokane

2.San Diego St15.UC Irvine

EAST

1.Syracuse16.South Dakota/Morgan St  Buffalo

8.Minnesota9.Colorado

5.Saint Louis12.SMU/North Carolina        Orlando

4.Kentucky13.Belmont

6.Creighton11.VCU         St. Louis

3.Iowa14.Towson

7.UConn10.New Mexico               St. Louis

2.Kansas15.Old Dominion

Southwest Region Breakdown

1. Kansas Jayhawks
Location:
Lawrence, KS
Record: 32-2
Automatic Bid: Big XII Champions
Key Players: Marcus Morris (17.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Markieff Morris (13.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg), Tyrel Reed (10 ppg), Tyshawn Taylor (9.1 ppg), Thomas Robinson (8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Strength: Kansas may be the most talented team in the country. The Morris twins are a load in the paint, but when either goes to the bench there’s little drop-off. Kansas can come off the bench with Thomas Robinson, who would start on just about any other team in the nation. The fact that Josh Selby, a McDonald’s All-American, isn’t seeing much time lets you know how deep and talented this team is. Kansas is definitely one of the favorites to cut down the nets because when they play to their potential, they’re virtually unstoppable.
Weakness: Chemistry issues have plagued the Jayhawks this year. Coach Bill Self has tinkered with his lineup numerous times to try to find the right fit. He’s still trying to find the guard to run his team after having to suspend Tyshawn Talylor and not being pleased with Selby’s play after his suspension. Kansas is very talented, but Self has to find the right mix to maximize his talent and make sure the team plays together.

2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Location:
South Bend, IN
Record: 26-6
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Ben Hans rough (18.5 ppg), Tim Abromaitis (15.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Carleton Scott (11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Scott Martin (9.9 ppg), Tyrone Nash (9.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Strength: Notre Dame is deadly from behind the arc. Led by Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, the Irish led the Big East in three-point shooting percentage at 39.2 percent. Hansbrough is great at dribble penetration, which allows him to kick out to his teammates for open threes. The top six guys in Notre Dame’s rotation are all reliable shooters from behind the arc making them hard to guard. Any team that was able to put up those kinds of numbers in the Big East will be a team to be reckoned with.
Weakness: Notre Dame isn’t the most athletic team in the world and has had trouble with teams that can extend defensively and fast break offensively. In a loss to Kentucky, Notre Dame had fits trying to score against the athleticism of the Wildcats. In Notre Dame’s loss to Louisville, the Cardinals were able to wear the Irish down with their full court press. Any good team with superior athleticism can match-up well with Notre Dame.

3. Purdue Boilermakers
Location:
West Lafayette, IN
Record: 25-7
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: JaJuan Johnson (20.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), E’Twaun Moore (18.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Strength: Purdue has a one-two punch that’s unmatched by most teams in America. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are two of the best players in America. They manage to complement each other very well even though they’re both outstanding scorers. The two seniors have picked up the slack the last year and half for the injured Robbie Hummel and they’ll be aiming for a long run in the Big Dance.
Weakness: Purdue is largely a jump-shooting team so when they’re not making jumpers they become a very ordinary team. As good of player as Johnson is, he likes to play out on the perimeter more than he does in the paint. That removes any post presence for the Boilermakers – making them play from the outside in. If they don’t make jumpers, they’ll be doomed.

4. Louisville Cardinals
Location:
Louisville, KY
Record: 25-9
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Preston Knowles (14.8 ppg), Kyle Kuric (10.8 ppg), Peyton Siva (10.1 ppg, 5.3 apg), Terrence Jennings (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Chris Smith (9.1 ppg)
Strength: The Cardinals will pressure their opponent for 40 minutes on defense. Coach Rick Pitino is a mastermind and wearing teams down and taking advantage of fatigue. So many great players have played the Cardinals, but have not been able to make shots at the end of games because of the constant pressure. If the Cardinals are to be beaten, it’ll be by a supremely conditioned team or a club with great depth.
Weakness: Louisville is weak on the free-throw line. Shooting less that 67 percent, the Cardinals can’t be counted on to close in late-game situations. Preston Knowles and Kyle Kuric are outstanding shooters, but Peyton Siva, the teams primary ball handler shoots less than 70 percent and that’s unacceptable. If the point guard can’t be trusted to make free throws at the end of the game, who can you turn to?

5. Vanderbilt Commodores
Location:
Nashville, TN
Record: 23-10
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: John Jenkins (19.5 ppg), Jeffery Taylor (15.1 ppg, 5.4 ppg), Festus Ezeli (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Brad Tinsley (10.6 ppg), Lance Woodbourne (7.3 rpg)
Strength: This is a dangerous team from behind the arc. As a team, Vanderbilt shoots 37 percent from the three-point line. The Commodores are led by John Jenkins, whose made half of his overall field goals from behind the three-point line. The Commodores rely on long-range shooting to win and judging by the success they’ve had this season, it’s treated them very well.
Weakness: This is a team that can get careless with the basketball on occasion. On the year, the Commodores turn the ball over more than their opponents and barely have more assists than turnovers. Turnovers limit the possessions for a team that, at times, wants to to control tempo. Having the ball is key, but if the Commodores don’t value it more they’ll be locked out.

6. Georgetown Hoyas
Location:
Washington, DC
Record: 21-10
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Austin Freeman (17.9 ppg), Chris Wright (13.1 ppg, 5.4 apg), Jason Clark (12.1 ppg), Julian Vaughn (8 ppg, 6 rpg), Hollis Thompson (8 ppg)
Strength: Most years, the conversation about Georgetown begins and ends with its frontcourt, but not this year. Georgetown’s backcourt is possibly the best in the country and when all three are on, they can collectively score 60 points all by themselves. Chris Wright runs the show, but Austin Freeman and Jason Clark can be deadly from behind the arc. This team is only going to go as far as its trio of guards will take it and that could be a long way.
Weakness: This team is struggling entering the tournament with lingering questions over the health of Chris Wright. With Wright playing well, Georgetown is possibly a top-10 team. Without him, the Hoyas struggle to be competitive with anybody. It’s not just the points, assists and defense that’s missed. It’s his leadership and presence on the court. He’s the emotional leader for Georgetown and without him out there it’s a body walking around without its head.

7. Texas A&M Aggies
Location:
College Station, TX
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: Khris Middleton (14.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg), David Loubeau (11.9 ppg), B.J. Holmes (9.8 ppg), Nathan Walkup (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Strength: This is a tough defensive team. The Aggies only allow opponents to shoot 41.1 percent from the floor and 31.8 percent from behind the arc. In addition to that, they do a great job of limiting their opponents’ possessions by rebounding over 70 percent of their foes’ misses. Teams are barely scoring 61 points against the Aggies – a stat that lets you know the key to their success.
Weakness: Defense will keep Texas A&M in games, but it hasn’t been able to score in key games. The Aggies only score 68.9 points per game and that’s good enough for ninth place in the Big XII. It’s a struggle to win when you struggle to score and that’s why they haven’t been able to get over the hump against teams like Texas and Kansas in league play. Texas A&M needs to be able to put points up to have staying power in the Big Dance.

8. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Location:
Las Vegas, NV
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Mountain West Conference
Key Players: Tre’Von Willis (13.5 ppg), Chace Stanback (13 ppg, 6 rpg), Oscar Belfield (11.1 ppg), Anthony Marshall (9.6 ppg)
Strength: Coach Lon Kruger has taken Big Ten style basketball west and it’s working well at UNLV. The Rebels play defense as well as any team in the nation. UNLV is second in the Mountain West in points allowed, field-goal percentage defense, and three-point field-goal percentage defense. UNLV has proven what it could do against some tough competition this year and should be able to defend well in the Big Dance.
Weakness: The Rebels really don’t have effective size in the post. Carlos Lopez and Brice Massamba provide some depth, but they’re not really threats in the paint. San Diego St and BYU went 5-0 against the Rebels and much of that was because the Rebels had no answer for either team in the paint. It’s clearly the place where teams will attack and if the Rebels aren’t careful, it’ll be the reason they leave the tournament early.

9. Illinois Fighting Illini
Location:
Champagne, IL
Record: 19-13
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Demetri McCamey (14.8 ppg, 6.1 apg), Mike Davis (12 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Mike Tisdale (10.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Brandon Paul (9.2 ppg), D.J. Richardson (8.1 ppg), Jereme Richmond (5 rpg)
Strength: To survive in the Big Ten, teams have to be able to defend. That’s one thing the Illini does as well as any team in the conference. Illinois is first in the Big Ten in three-point field-goal percentage defense and second in overall field-goal percentage defense allowing just 30.5 percent and 40.1 percent respectively. That defense allows the Illini to stay in games and in those close games, a player the caliber of Demetri McCamey can definitely finish a team off.
Weakness: For the second season in a row, the Illini has suffered from inconsistent play. It’s hard to believe that the same team that beat North Carolina, Gonzaga and Wisconsin could also lose to Illinois-Chicago. When Illinois plays their A-game, it can be one of the best teams in America. When it doesn’t, it can fall flat on its face. An outcome that is seems very likely.

10. Florida State Seminoles
Location:
Tallahassee, FL
Record: 21-10
At-Large Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference
Key Players: Chris Singleton (13.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Derwin Kitchen (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Michael Snaer (8.6 ppg), Bernard James (8.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Strength: It’s really simple, teams that play Florida St do not score. This is the best defensive team in the ACC and it’s really not close. The Seminoles have held Florida, Ohio St and Duke to 61 points or less this year. They lead the ACC in field-goal percentage defense by forcing their opponents to shoot just 36.4 percent from the field. Defense has been a staple of Leonard Hamilton since he’s been at Florida St and he’s hoping that defense can finally win him a game in the NCAA.
Weakness: If the Seminoles weren’t such a good defensive team they’d be in real trouble because teams don’t normally enjoy the success they have struggling to score like the Seminoles do. Florida St. is ninth in the ACC in field-goal percentage at 43.6 percent and that’s what keeps them from taking that next step. First-round flame-outs have ended good seasons the past two years for the Seminoles and if they don’t score, history will repeat itself.

11a. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Location:
Richmond, VA
Record: 23-11
At-Large Bid: Colonial Athletic Association
Key Players: Jamie Skeen (15.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Bradford Burgess (14 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Brandon Rozzell (11.3 ppg), Joey Rodriguez (10.6 ppg)
Strength: VCU wants to play a fast paced game. It likes to speed its opponents up to the point where they’re playing at an uncomfortable pace. It looks like they play on roller skates, but it’s very effective. The Rams use that style of play to force nearly 15 turnovers per game – half of those coming on steals. Those turnovers fuel their offense making them one of the most dangerous teams in the country in the open court.
Weakness: The Rams are a very poor rebounding team. They get out-rebounded by nearly four boards per game, which puts them in 10th place in the CAA in that category. Jamie Skeen and Bradford Burgess do their best to pick up the slack in that department, but the rest of the ball club is really more interested in getting out and running instead of hitting the boards. Any team with good size could really punish the Rams.

11b. USC Trojans
Location:
Los Angeles, CA
Record: 19-14
At-Large Bid: Pac-10 Conference
Key Players: Nikola Vocalic (17.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg), Jio Fontan (10.4 ppg), Alex Stephenson (10 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Donte Smith (9.9 ppg), Maurice Jones (9.9 ppg)
Strength: Coach Kevin O’Neil decided to take a page of the notebook of cross-town rival, UCLA, and get his team to commit to defense. The Trojans are No. 1 in the Pac-10 in points allowed and No. 2 in field-goal percentage defense. It’s that defense that held Texas to 56 points, Arizona to 57 and Tennessee to 64. If USC can play defense like this in the NCAA Tournament it can pull of a win or two.
Weakness: The Trojans depth is nonexistent. USC has some real talent in its starting five, but after that there’s really not much there. If any proof is needed, USC played only seven players in its Pac-10 tournament loss to Arizona and that was the second game in two days. Teams with depth will run a lot of guys at the Trojans and if they tire them out, it will be a short NCAA stay for them.

12. Richmond Spiders
Location:
Richmond, VA
Record: 27-7
Automatic Bid: Atlantic-10 Champions
Key Players: Justin Harper (17.9 ppg, 7 rpg), Kevin Anderson (16.5 ppg), Dan Geriot (9.9 ppg)
Strength: Richmond’s style of play is very difficult to prepare for. The Spiders run a very effective modification of the Princeton offense. They use that to get back cuts and open three-pointers, which they make 39.7 percent of. The fact that the Spiders have two players tailor made for the offense in Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson just makes them more dangerous and capable of a run to the second weekend.
Weakness: This is one of the worst teams in the tournament on the boards. Richmond is 12th in the 14-team A-10 in rebounding margin. It’s actually last in offensive rebounding make it doubly important for the team to make shots. The Spiders only rebound 28 percent of its misses and that is downright pathetic. If they don’t find a way to rebound, they will make a quick exit for the second year in-a-row.

13. Morehead State Eagles
Location:
Morehead, KY
Record: 24-9
Automatic Bid: Ohio Valley Conference Champions
Key Players: Kenneth Faried (17.6 ppg, 14.5 rpg), Demonte Harper (16 ppg), Terrance Hill (10.4 ppg), Sam Goodman (8.4 ppg)
Strength: Led by the nation’s leading rebounder in Kenneth Faried, Morehead St pounds its opponents on the boards. The Eagles led the OVC in rebounding margin; out-rebounding their opponents with a 9.2 per game average on the season. Where they really can hurt teams is on the offensive glass where they pull down close to 14 per game. This is a team that crashes the boards and there’s not a team in the nation that’s going to stop them.
Weakness: Due to the fact that Morehead likes to get up and down the court, its prone to turnovers. The Eagles finished eighth in the 10-team OVC with 15.1 turnovers per game. They turn the ball over only slightly less than there opponents and it’s been their Achilles heel all season. They don’t shoot the ball particularly well enough to overcome this so if they want to pull off an upset they’ll have to value the basketball.

14. Saint Peter’s Peacocks
Location:
Jersey City, NJ
Record: 20-13
Automatic Bid: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions
Key Players: Wesley Jenkins (12. 8 ppg), Jeron Belin (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Nick Leon (10.6 ppg), Ryan Bacon (10 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Darius Conley (5.1 rpg)
Strength: The Peacocks are one of the best defensive teams in the MAAC. They lead the conference in field-goal percentage defense – holding their opponents to a tad over 37 percent shooting. They’re also second in blocked shots and third in steals. That has allowed them to keep their opponents under 60 points per game on the year. Nothing travels better than good defense and the Peacocks defend as well as anyone in America.
Weakness: As good as St. Peter’s is defensively, it is equally horrendous offensively. The Peacocks barely score 61 points per game on the year on 40 percent shooting. They also have a negative turnover margin and a horrible assist-to-turnover ratio. St. Peter’s defense allowed it to stay competitive in the MAAC, but in the NCAA Tournament, if it doesn’t figure out a way to be competent offensively it will be a very short and painful stay.

15. Akron Zips
Location:
Akron, OH
Record: 23-12
Automatic Bid: Mid-American Conference Champions
Key Players: Nikola Cvetinovic (11.9 ppg, 7 rpg), Brett McKnight (10.3 ppg), Brett McClanahan (10.1 ppg), Zeke Marshall (8.6 ppg), Steve McNees (8.6 ppg), Darryl Roberts (8.6 ppg)
Strength: Akron has one of the deepest teams on the mid-major level. The Zips have nine players who average double-figures in minutes and six players who score eight points or more. That allows them to survive foul trouble and gives them numerous options offensively. If they can get significant contributions from all of their guys, the Zips can spring an upset.
Weakness: The Zips are a poor rebounding team. On the season, teams are out-rebounding Akron by nearly three boards per game. That’s bad at any level but is magnified when it happens in a down year in the MAC. Akron finished with a mediocre 9-7 record in conference play and much of that was due to getting punished on the boards. If they can’t rebound in the tournament, the Zips will get dispatched quickly.

16. Boston Terriers
Location:
Boston, MA
Record: 21-13
Automatic Bid: America East Conference Champions
Key Players: John Holland (19.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg), Darryl Partin (14.5 ppg), Patrick Hazel (5.9 rpg)
Strength: Boston is one of the best defensive teams in the America East. Boston holds its opponents to just 39. 6 percent shooting from the field and 32.1 percent from behind the arc. The Terriers also lead the league in blocked shots as they challenge everything going towards the basket. This hard-nosed defense helped the Terriers to a 12-4 conference record and they hope that it will help them cause a first-round scare.
Weakness: This team will struggle in the tournament because it doesn’t have great depth. The Terriers’ seven-man rotation is good enough for the America East, but the Terriers won’t be playing the likes of New Hampshire in the tournament. Boston just doesn’t have the talent to overcome its lack of depth and against the team it’ll be facing, that will prove to be deadly.

Midwest Region Team Capsules

1. Kansas Jayhawks
Location: Lawrence, Kan.
Record: 32-2
Automatic Bid: Big XII Conference Champions
Key Players: Sherron Collins (15.6 ppg), Xavier Henry (13.6 ppg), Marcus Morris (12.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Cole Aldrich (11.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg)
Strength: The Jayhawks are talented and deep. Led by Sherron Collins, the No. 1 team in the nation can do multiple things right. Now that coach Bill Self has settled on a rotation, it has just made them even more dangerous. It is just simply going to take an out-of-this-world performance to defeat the Jayhawks. They’re great offensively, defensively, and their best is just downright better than anyone else.
Weakness: Team chemistry has been an underlying issue for the Jayhawks this season. They seem to have solve those issues down the stretch, but it’s still has to be a concern for Self. This is still a young team for the most part so it can be unpredictable at times. If they come out with the focus to win a national championship, they’ll be difficult to beat. However, if they’re worried about other things, they might be in trouble.

Big Ten Player of the Year Evan Turner of Ohio State

2. Ohio State Buckeyes
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Record: 27-7
Automatic Bid: Big Ten Conference Champions
Key Players: Evan Turner (20.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 5.9 apg), William Buford (14.5 ppg 5.6 rpg), Jon Diebler (12.8 ppg), David Lighty (12.7 ppg), Dallas Lauderdale (5 rpg)
Strength: There’s no doubt what (who) the strength of the Buckeyes is. National player of the year candidate Evan Turner does it all for Ohio St. He’s a 6’7” point guard who scores, rebounds, runs the offense and defends. Basically, he does everything for the Buckeyes. He leads them in every major statistical category and can will them to a national championship all by himself.
Weakness: The Buckeyes have virtually no depth. There have been games when coach Thad Matta has only trotted four players out on the floor. If someone gets in foul trouble, they may be toast. They just don’t have the bodies to come in off of the bench to produce. If any of Ohio St’s tournament games are called tightly, they might have a shorter stay in the Big Dance then they’d like.

3. Georgetown Hoyas
Location: Washington, D.C.
Record: 23-10
At-Large Bid: Big East Conference
Key Players: Austin Freeman (16.7 ppg), Greg Monroe (16.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg), Chris Wright (14.8 ppg), Jason Clark (10.6 ppg)
Strength: The “Georgetown” (with Princeton principles) offense is already one of the most difficult offenses to defend. Georgetown throws three McDonald’s All-Americans into it and it becomes almost unstoppable. Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman, and Chris Wright are 3/5 or what many to be perhaps the best starting five in all of college basketball. When all three are playing well, the offense can’t be defended. If they play like they did in the Big East tournament, they can cut the nets down.
Weakness: The Hoyas have been inconsistent all year long. They have big wins against Duke, Villanova, Syracuse and Temple and have had bad losses against South Florida and Rutgers. It appears that they may have corrected that issue, but if it rears its ugly head again, they could make an early exit from the Big Dance. That’s not a situation Hoya fans look forward to.

4. Maryland Terrapins
Location: College Park, Md.
Record: 23-8
At-Large Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference
Key Players: Greivis Vasquez (19.5 ppg, 6.3 apg), Landon Milbourne (12.5 ppg), Eric Hayes (11.1ppg), Sean Mosley (10.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Jordan Williams (9.2 ppg, 8.3)
Strength: While everyone knows about Greivis Vasquez, its Maryland’s presence in the paint that has given them an edge this season. Jordan Williams has arrived on campus and has joined with Landon Milbourne to give the Terps one of the most underrated frontlines in the ACC. They’re outstanding on the boards and Williams is an absolute load to guard in the post. The Terps have balance now and that makes them a legitimate threat to make a run in this year’s tournament.
Weakness: Maryland is only as good as its star, Greivis Vasquez. When he’s on, the Terps are very good. When he’s off, the Terps are very mortal. Vasquez can be explosive, but he can also shoot them out of the game. He’s streaky and if he gets on a cold streak at the wrong time, it makes them very easy to guard. Maryland better hope that Vasquez is able to put up huge numbers.

5. Michigan State Spartans
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Record: 24-8
At-Large Bid: Big Ten Conference
Key Players: Kalin Lucas (14.9 ppg), Raymar Morgan (11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Durrell Summers (10.1 ppg), Draymond Green (10.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg), Chris Allen (9.1 ppg), Delvon Roe (5.2 rpg)
Strength: As with all Tom Izzo-coached teams, this edition of the Spartans really crash the boards. Michigan St is the best rebounding team in a conference that values the art of owning the backboard. By out-rebounding their opponents by nine per game, the Spartans are once again showing the kind of toughness Izzo loves. It’ll take a special team to be able to compete with them on the boards.
Weakness: Kalin Lucas is a great player, but the Spartans showed what kind team they were without him. Most teams depend on a great player, but even the Spartans secondary players like Raymar Morgan and Durrell Summers struggled without Lucas. This is not an explosive offensive team as it is so any dip in Lucas’ production could be the death of the Spartans.

Tennesse forward Wayne Chism leads the Vols

6. Tennessee Volunteers
Location: Knoxville, Tenn.
Record: 25-8
At-Large Bid: Southeastern Conference
Key Players: Wayne Chism (12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Scotty Hopson (12.5 ppg), Bobby Maze (9.6 ppg), J.P. Prince (9.3 ppg), Brian Williams (5.7 rpg)
Strength: Tennessee is one of the best transition teams in the country. Triggered by their full-court press defense, the Volunteers love to get out on the fast break. Bobby Maze expertly controls this team finding many of the great athletes he has at his disposal. They have guys who can finish at the basket and they have guys who can pull up on the wings and knock down threes. If the Volunteers are able to play at their pace, they’ll be tough for anyone to deal with.
Weakness: The free-throw line has been rough on the Volunteers all year long. At a little under 67 percent, they’re among the worst free-throw shooting teams in the SEC. This team is very talented, but they leave too many points at the line. It’s part of the reason why they only score 73.6 points per game. We saw Memphis lose a title game at the free-throw line two years ago and it could kill Tennessee’s chances for a deep run this year.

7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Location: Stillwater, Okla.
Record: 22-10
At-Large Bid: Big XII Conference
Key Players: James Anderson (22.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Obi Muonelo (13.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Keiton Page (10.7 ppg), Marshall Moses (8.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg), Matt Pilgrim (8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Strength: Led by James Anderson, the Cowboys have one of the best backcourts in the country. Anderson, the Big XII player of the year, along with Obi Muenelo and Keiton Page combine for close to 47 points per game. They are explosive and can put up big numbers in a hurry. The team goes as they go and fortunately for Oklahoma St, they’ve been going pretty well all year.
Weakness: Shooting under 69 percent, free-throw shooting has been an issue for the Cowboys all year. Muonelo, Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim all shoot in the low-60’s in terms of percentage. Oklahoma St relies on those three players too much for them not to deliver at the line. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again, if the Cowboys don’t convert from the charity stripe, it will have a short stay in the tournament.

8. UNLV Rebels

Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Record: 25-8
At-Large Bid: Mountain West Conference
Key Players: Tre’Von Willis (17.3 ppg), Chace Stanback (10.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Oscar Bellfield (9.2 ppg)
Strength: UNLV is one of the most efficient teams in America. The Rebels lead the Mountain West in turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. They also shoot a respectable 46.2 percent from the field. They like to control the tempo and make their possessions count. They can frustrate teams with their patience and precision on offense and that could help the Rebels make some noise in the tournament.
Weakness: The Rebels are not a good rebounding team. Fortunately for UNLV, the Mountain West doesn’t have solid rebounding across the board or it could’ve been in real trouble. It won’t have that luxury in the Big Dance as it is highly likely that no Mountain West foes will be in the Rebels’ path. If UNLV does play a team that is solid on the boards, than it is really going to have to fight on the boards because it leaves itself little margin for error.

9. Northern Iowa Panthers
Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa
Record: 28-4
Automatic Bid: Missouri Valley Conference Champions
Key Players: Jordan Eglseder (12 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Adam Koch (11.8 ppg), Kwadzo Ahelegbe (10.7 ppg), Ali Farokhmanesh (9.3 ppg)
Strength: UNI’s opponents are only averaging 54.3 points per game. Any team that is playing defense like that is doing something right. Part of that low number is the slow pace the Panthers like to play, but another part of it is the 40.3 percent field goal percentage they’re holding their opponents to. They switch on everything and don’t let opponents get clean looks at the basket. This is one team that will frustrate whoever it plays.
Weakness: This is a team that might be susceptible to an athletic opponent. The Panthers play great position and help defense but there aren’t many guys in the MVC like they’ll be facing in the NCAA tournament. They’ll not only have to face teams that’ll be able to take them off the dribble, but they’ll be facing teams that can defend them better than any team in the MVC. This may be an Achilles heel for the Panthers.

10. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Record: 22-12
At-Large Bid: Atlantic Coast Conference
Key Players: Gani Lawal (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Derrick Favors (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg), Iman Shumpert (10.1 ppg), Zachery Peacock (8.7 ppg)
Strength: The Yellow Jackets may have the best frontcourt in the nation. Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors are quite possibly NBA lottery picks. Zach Peacock gives them another complementary piece up front. When Georgia Tech gets the ball down low, they look like world beaters. In the tournament, great players carry teams to great results and the Yellow Jackets have two players who can do that.
Weakness: Georgia Tech’s guards are nowhere near where their frontcourt is. as a matter of fact, they actually hurt the team. Georgia Tech turns the ball over 16.4 times per game which is the second most in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets are 11th in the conference in turnover margin and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio. There’s too much talent in the paint for Georgia Tech for its guards to hurt it this much.

11. San Diego State Aztecs
Location: San Diego, Calif.
Record: 25-8
Automatic Bid: Mountain West Conference Champions
Key Players: Kawhi Leonard (12.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg), Malcolm Thomas (11 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Billy White (11.2 ppg), D.J. Gay (10.3 ppg)
Strength: On a toughness scale, the Aztecs may be No. 1 in the Mountain West. The Aztecs are one of the conference’s best defensive teams; holding its opponents to 40.4 percent shooting from the floor. In addition to that, the Aztecs lead the conference in rebounding margin as well by out-rebounding their opponents by 6.7 boards per game. This team has taken on an identity that it will be the bad guy on the block and it has paid dividends for it.
Weakness: San Diego St is one of the worst free-throw teams in the tournament. At just 61.7 percent, the Aztecs will be very vulnerable in late-game situations. There some key players in their rotation who aren’t even shooting 60 percent. When the best free-throw shooter on the team is shooting just 72.2 percent, there’s a serious issue there. If Aztecs expect to be successful, they have to shoot a respectable percentage from the charity stripe.

12. New Mexico State Aggies
Location: Las Cruces, N.M.
Record: 22-11
Automatic Bid: Western Athletic Conference Champions
Key Players: Jahmar Young (20.5 ppg), Jonathan Gibson (17.5 ppg), Troy Gillenwater (14.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Wendell McKines (10.8 ppg 9.9 rpg), Hamidu Rahman (10.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
Strength: Across the board, this is one talented team. The Aggies have put up over 78 points per game this season and that’s because they have a lineup loaded with scorers. Five guys average in double figures led by Jahmar Young. Young along with his backcourt mate Jonathan Gibson are the main options for the Aggies, but there’s plenty of other scorers to worry about. This team is going to be a real problem for opponents this March.
Weakness: Defensively, New Mexico St is one of the worst teams in the WAC. Teams are scoring a staggering 77.8 points per game on the Aggies. It’s amazing that they’ve been able to have this level of success given those numbers. There’s no doubt that they have some outstanding scorers. However, in this tournament, teams that defend are successful. The Aggies don’t and that might doom them.

Houston guard Aubrey Coleman, the nation's leading scorer

13. Houston Cougars
Location: Houston, Texas
Record: 19-15
Automatic Bid: Conference USA Champions
Key Players: Aubrey Coleman (25.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Kelvin Lewis (15.3 ppg), Maurice McNeil (8.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
Strength: The Cougars have the luxury having the nation’s leading scorer in Aubrey Coleman. Coleman is an outstanding scorer who can hit the occasional three, slash and get to the free-throw line. The Cougars showed they could win without him having a banner game in their C-USA title game victory over UTEP. However when he’s on, they’re very good and could cause a lot of trouble.
Weakness: The Cougars have been pounded on the boards all year. They’re dead last in C-USA in rebounding margin getting out-rebounded by over eight boards per game. What compounds the problem is their poor shooting numbers. They’re only shooting 42 percent from the field. The fact that they only rebound 30.6 percent of their misses only exacerbates the issue. They have to attack the backboard to be competitive this March.

14. Ohio Bobcats
Location: Athens, Ohio
Record: 21-14
Automatic Bid: Mid-American Conference Champions
Key Players: Armon Bassett (16.9 ppg), D.J. Cooper (13.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.9 apg) , DeVaughn Washington (11.2 ppg), Tommy Freeman (10.1 ppg), Kenneth van Kempen (6.9 rpg)
Strength: Indiana transfer Armon Bassett is one of the most underrated mid-major players in America. Many forgot about him after he had to sit out last season, but he’s got plenty of talent. He started the year slow but has it going now. He averaged over 29 points during the MAC tournament carrying the No. 9 seeded Bobcats to the title. He’s explosive and capable of winning a game all by himself.
Weakness: The Bobcats are one of the worst rebounding teams in the MAC. Their opponents are out-rebounding on the year by close to half a rebound per game. The fact that this is a poor shooting team makes matters even worse as they’re in the bottom half of the conference in offensive rebounds. They need to sure this up against the big, athletic teams in the tournament or they may get punished on the boards in the Big Dance.

15. UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos
Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Record: 20-9
Automatic Bid: Big West Conference Champions
Key Players: Orlando Johnson (17.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), James Nunnally (15 ppg, 5.7 rpg), James Powell (9.4 ppg), Jaime Serna (8 ppg)
Strength: The Gauchos are the best three-point shooting team in the Big West and it’s not even close. They’re shooting 37.9 percent on the year from downtown which really makes them dangerous. They’re a team that likes to control tempo, so they’re scores are lower, but that just magnifies the importance of the team’s overall range. They’re going make teams guard them for long stretches and then knock down outside shots.
Weakness: The Gauchos are the worst team in the Big West on the Backboards. The Gauchos are being out-rebounded by over two boards per game. They don’t have quality size inside and that’s a huge part of the problem. Teams in the tournament see that weakness and they will exploit it to the fullest. If they’re not able to find a way to rebound the basketball, they’ll be one-and-done.

16. Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Location: Bethlehem, Pa.
Record: 22-10
Automatic Bid: Patriot League Champions
Key Players: C.J. McCollum (18.9 ppg), Marquis Hall (11 ppg, 5.7 apg), Zahir Carrington (10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Gabe Knutson (9.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Strength: Shooting 40 percent, the Mountain Hawks are the best three-point shooting team in the Patriot League. They were able to stretch defenses all year with their long-range shooting. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh’s best player, along with Marquis Hall are the primary threats shooting 46.6 and 37.3 percent respectively. If they’re able to continue this kind of shooting in the tournament, they may be able to give a team a scare.
Weakness: While they’re not the worst defensive team, Lehigh allows teams to score over 70 points per game. Given up that kind of number might be ok against the Colgate’s and Navy’s of the world, but the Mountain Hawks will be facing a totally different caliber of competition in the NCAA tournament. They have to keep those numbers down if they expect to compete this March.

Steamin’ Deacons

Al-Farouq Aminu and the Deacons are flying high

There’s a team in the ACC that may be a legitimate Final Four contender and I’m not talking about Duke. Wake Forest is quietly having an outstanding year sitting in second in the ACC with an 8-3 league record. Throw in four RPI top-25 wins and it’s easy to see why the Demon Deacons sit with a RPI of 11.

Wake Forest is led by Al-Farouq Aminu and Ishmael Smith. The two players combine for almost 30 points per game and are one of the best inside-out combos in the country. They’re incredibly athletic and are load for anyone to guard.

Many have already anointed Duke as the ACC champions, but I’d hold off on that prediction. While they might not have the name cache, they’re seem ready to remove the bad taste left from last season’s disappointing finish.

If you’re looking for a sleeper Final Four team this year, you’d better keep an eye on the Deacons.

Stock Up: Gonzaga. Outside of a mystifying loss to San Francisco, Gonzaga is rolling. The Bulldogs have followed their Maui Invitational championship with wins at Illinois and Memphis in conjunction with a regular season sweep of St. Mary’s. Freshman Elias Harris has provided a huge presence in the post and with their typical guard play, Gonzaga is a tough out once again.

Stock Down: Georgetown. Talk about schizophrenic. Georgetown has beaten Duke, Villanova, Pittsburgh, Temple and Butler. They’ve also lost to Rutgers and South Florida. The Hoyas seem to go as Chris Wright goes. Wright needs to be as consistent as his All-American co-horts if Georgetown expects to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Stock Up: Texas A&M. The Aggies are quietly moving up the charts in the Big 12. Some thought the Aggies would fold after the season-ending knee injury to Derrick Roland, but they’re just rolling along. After posting their fourth win in a row on Saturday, the Aggies appear to be the only left that can put a dent in Kansas’ undefeated conference record.

Stock Down: Jordan Eglseder and Northern Iowa. Eglseder, in a lapse of judgement was arrested and charged with DUI with his team having one of the best years in school history. Northern Iowa’s response was to suspend him for 3 games. He basically got a week and a half off. Way to enforce the law Ben Jacobsen (Northern Iowa’s Head Coach).

This week’s bracket projections:

Last Four In: Cincinnati, Mississippi, Dayton, Florida St
Last Four Out: Maryland, San Diego St, Florida, Northwestern

Click the link to see the bracket.

NCAA Projected Bracket

Saints are Marching In

Siena G Kenny Hasbrouck
Siena G Kenny Hasbrouck

In Orlando, after a loss to Wichita St, it appeared that all hope was lost for the Siena Saints.  They were expected to challenge for an at-large bid.  There was no reason why they should’ve lost to the Shockers.  The Saints finished that tournament 0-3 and even I read them their last rights.

Well, since leaving Orlando, Siena is 14-2 and 10-0 in the 12th rated conference in the RPI.  Their two losses came on the road at Pittsburgh and Kansas.  Siena already has seven top-100 wins and it looks as if they’re on a mission to roll towards the NCAA tournament.  I fully expect to see Siena’s name pop up on Selection Sunday and they are definitely a threat to pull off another upset.

Louisville F Terrance Williams
Louisville F Terrance Williams

Stock Up: Louisville.  It looked ugly early for the Cardinals.  After an early season loss to Western Kentucky, Rick Pitino had to issue a public apology on his website.  He doesn’t have to apologize now.  Louisville looks like the team we expected to sea before the season began.  They’re playing excellent defense while Earl Clark and Terrance Williams are proving to be an unstoppable duo.  This is definitely a final four contender.

Stock Down: Wisconsin.  The Badgers are in a corner right now.  They’ve lost four in a row with three of their next four coming up against teams in this week’s bracket.  They must stop the bleeding or it could be a long season in Madison.

Stock Up: Utah St.  I criticized the Aggies’ schedule a few weeks ago, but if you don’t lose…it doesn’t matter.  They are rolling and with three of their next four at home, they can really take all of the suspense out of the WAC regular season championship.

Stock Down: Georgetown.  The Hoyas are going to let the entire season go by without realizing that had they played hard, they would’ve made the tournament.  Watching them play right now, it’s not a matter of talent, it’s a matter of want-to.  Right now Georgetown doesn’t want it bad enough.  They’d better or the Big East will embarrass them.

This week’s Bracket Projections:

Last Four In: Penn St, South Carolina, BYU, Michigan

Last Four Out: USC, Wisconsin, Boston College, Illinois St

This bracket is good for games played through Sunday, January 25, 2009.

SOUTH

1.Duke16.Morgan St Greensboro, NC

8.Dayton9.Georgetown

5.Kansas12.Siena Portland, OR

4.Purdue13.Buffalo

6.Minnesota11.Miami(FL) Miami, FL

3.Butler14.Cornell

7.Kentucky10.Davidson Kansas City, MO

2.Louisville15.Austin Peay

WEST

1.Oklahoma16.East Tennessee St Kansas City, MO

8.Utah St9.Virginia Tech

5.Washington12.BYU Portland, OR

4.Syracuse13.VMI

6.St. Mary’s11.Michigan Minneapolis, MN

3.Marquette14.Virginia Commonwealth

7.California10.Oklahoma St Greensboro, NC

2.Wake Forest15.North Dakota St

MIDWEST

1.Pittsburgh16.Alabama St/Holy Cross Dayton, OH

8.Florida St9.Ohio St

5.Memphis12.South Carolina Boise, ID

4.Texas13.Portland St

6.Arizona St11.Notre Dame Minneapolis, MN

3.Illinois14.Northern Iowa

7.Missouri10.Tennessee Philadelphia, PA

2.North Carolina15.Long Beach St

EAST

1.Connecticut16.Robert Morris Philadelphia, PA

8.Baylor9.Florida

5.West Virginia12.Penn St Miami, FL

4.Clemson13.Western Kentucky

6.UCLA11.Villanova Boise, ID

3.Xavier14.Stephen F. Austin

7.Gonzaga10.UNLV Dayton, OH

2.Michigan St15.Vermont