We’re going to pick up the daily posting again after taking most of January off to recharge and recalibrate our minds from obsessive college football fandom to obsessive college basketball and bubble tracking. We’ve been trying to catch as much hoops as possible lately and now its time to start commenting on it like any ESPN expert would. In LOUD VOICES AND CAPS while pretending we know it all. Hell, I was born for this.
I’m not clear on what our format is going to be. Expect a couple Bubble centric posts a week in addition to general hoop columns and a strategic game preview or two. And, there is also Chitownblue lurking in the JCB Strategic Engagement And Creative Room, where he’ll continue to pump out NBA and Big 10 focused basketball pieces. Once he’s done ridding our kitchen of mayonaisse. By the time we figure out a format, it will March. At that point, there is no format. Just chaos–in a good way–and a Gatlin Gun barrage of posting as we go from league tournaments to the Big One.
Bottomline? Thanks for sticking with us during our ‘sabbatical’ of sorts. Enjoy the rest of the hoops season and if you’ve got an idea or thought for us, dont hesitate to hit us up on the JCB Twitter feed or drop us a line at Jamie@JustCoverBlog.com. With that out of the way, lets talk hoops:
Is Syracuse the best team in the
country Big East?
Are we sure Syracuse is hands down the best team in the Big East, let alone the country? I’m not. Not because I think the Orange are overrated, but I feel its because Georgetown seems to be so underrated right now. In a one-off for the Big East title, I think this is a toss-up. The Hoyas methodically throttled a struggling UConn team last night and after a series of disappointing Marches, look to be a factor next month in both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. They play active defense, holding foes to 43.5 EFG%, 14th best in the land, and have KenPom’s 10th most efficient defense. Three point shooting is closed when you’re playing the Hoyas. They force steals on the perimeter and block a fair share of shots. In Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson, they have two versatile and good shooting scorers. They go 9-deep, bringing in a crop of four freshmen off the bench, highlighted by Otto Porter, perhaps the next, great Big East star. When this group of freshmen are shooting the ball well, this is a darn near impossible team to beat. They have a lot of effective size, get really good guard play and most importantly are oozing with talent. Everybody that sees legit minutes was at least a 4-star recruit per Rivals. If only they can overcome recent March demons. But, we’re still in February and the Hoyas stand two games behind the Orange. Their one and only regular season meeting of the season is next Wednesday in the Carrier Dome. KenPom only gives the Hoyas a 22-percent chance of winning, calling instead for a 7-point loss. I like their chances better than the tempo free guru. If you give me +7, for example, I am buying. On the same night, Duke/UNC and Kansas/Baylor face each other, but this vintage Big East rivalry is the main game I want to watch. I feel the Hoyas are better. Hopefully we’ll get a rematch next month at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament.
Murray State Eventual Tournament Seed: Over/Under 4.5
I expect this to become a huge talking point, especially if the Racers continue their undefeated run. As of now, I could make an eventual case of them being as high as #2 or even as low as relegated to an 8/9 first round game. Honestly, I can draw a road map that has them not making the field altogether. Seriously, if they drop a regular season OVC game, lose the Bracketbuster match at home vs St Mary’s and fall before the OVC Championship game (like they did a year ago), it’s going to be one nervous week for a team that’s had a heady national ranking virtually the whole season. Three years ago, a 4-loss Murray sqaud dominated the OVC, lost to Morehead in the OVC sectionals and didnt sniff an at large bid. I think there’s going to be too much popular sentiment in the selection room in Murray’s favor if they need an at large bid, so barring a total collapse the next month, they will be in. If they’re undefeated, they will receive major props for a win over the west an coast Gaels and could very well be a #2 or #3 seed. Lose that game, but win the rest including the OVC Tournament and I think we’re looking at #4 or #5. A 2-loss Murray team would slide even farther.
But, what do I know? Dont answer that. Lets instead look towards the Bracket Matrix for guidance. Right now, the consensus does not favor a higher seed for the Racers. Murray State checks in on their 6-seed line. A total of 15 mock brackets seed the Racers as a #7 or worse. They peak as a #3 seed, but only on four mock bracket ballots. Right now, Over 4.5 looks like a solid play. Regardless, I am looking forward to watching them play Southeast Missouri State tonight. The Redhawks are 7-2 in league play, good for in second place in the OVC right now and its the first of two meetings between the teams before Murray plays St Mary’s in BracketBuster.
They can win Tournament games, but can they make the field?
Speaking of midmajor teams, I have made a point to catch the acts of Iona, Long Beach State and Cleveland State at least a couple different times in recent weeks. These teams are really good. All three can games in the NCAA Tournament. But, I dont know if any of them would earn an at-large bid if they fail to win the auto bid in their respective league tournaments. The Horizon, Big West and MAAC sectionals will all carry extra weight next month because of the damage these squads could do to your eventual bracket. Long Beach may merit an at-large based on their strength of schedule, especially if they add a road win at Creighton in Bracket Busters. The Gaels and Vikings wont get similar profile boosts from that event and likely have little at-large chance. Right now, these are three of my favorite teams to watch. I hope they all make the field. And I look forward to betting something like +5 or so on each of them in 4/13 games next month. I expect to cover two out of those three.
Bubble Game Of The Night In Provo
Sticking within the midmajor ranks, there is a major bubble game this evening. Its on the west coast, so get some coffee brewed or whatever energy drink concoction you’re filling your body with these days. The 11pm tip might be hard to survive, but when BYU hosts Gonzaga this evening, it will prove to be one of the most crucial bubble games of the month. The Cougars might be enjoying their new hoop digs in the WCC, but their current third place standing in that league isnt doing them any bubble favors. After two straight home losses to Loyola Marymount and St. Mary’s, the Cougars are hanging on to a mock bid by a shoestring. Their road win at Virginia Tech in between those league home losses isnt giving them any push. They are one of the final at-large bids on the current Bracket Matrix, on just 36 of 55 total ballots, good for third least among the at-large crowd. Frankly, the Cougars dont have much of a resume. Their 6 best wins are Nevada, at Utah, at Loyola Marymount, UC Santa Barbara and at Va Tech. Most at large teams they’re competing with on the bubble could beat that. St Mary’s thumped them twice in their attempts to get a marquee conference win in their new league. Now, they get to tangle with Gonzaga. They play the Zags twice this month, but tonight’ game at home represents their best chance for a resume win. A win tonight might keep the wolves dressed in mock bracketogists clothing at bay. But a third home WCC loss would likely push them out of the consensus Bracket Matrix during the next comprehensive update after the weekend. Other than the road rematch in Spokane, the Cougars wont have a shot at another resume game, so how would they get back into anybody’s good graces? Its too bad we cant commission an extra bracket buster game right now between BYU and, say, Colorado State. The former conference mates are two of the last teams on most mock brackets, if they’re included. KenPom forecasts a slight BYU win, giving them a 61-percent chance at the W in a 75-72 score. I dont know about that. The Cougs have already lost twice on this floor in league play by double digits. Vegas favors them by -3 as well. I dont know. This feels like it would be an upset should BYU win. I’m leaning (but not picking. yet) to the Zags, despite BYU’s historic home court success. Regardless, tonight will go a long way in determining if BYU can get an at-large bid or if they’re relegated to must win league tournament status.
That’s all I got for now. Chitownblue will be around later to drop the dime on what’s going on with the Philadelphia 76ers. Here’s a hint: They’re winning gamblers a lot of moolah right now. And speaking of that, we’ll have a few picks for tonight’s game, so keep refreshing that Twitter feed. Hey, we won on Georgetown last night, so we have some winnings that we must blow. Probably on the Clippers……