Tag: Mercer

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

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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