Thursday, March 31
Betting on the Final Four
Thinking about placing some wagers on this weekend’s Final Four action? Yeah, me too. Here’s some information you might want before placing your bets.
North Carolina (-5.5) vs Michigan State (o/u 157.5)
North Carolina is 1-7-1 in its last 9 games against the spread. Because they have the talent and ability to blow out just about anyone in the country, their lines tend to be a bit inflated.
Michigan State, meanwhile, enters the game on an opposite trend, having beaten the spread in 12 of their last 14 games (12-2). The Spartans have been tagged as underachievers for nearly two years now, a label this trip to the Final Four finally dismisses. Still, Las Vegas hasn’t been giving them much credit. If you think Michigan State can beat UNC, getting 5.5 points is a lot.
Illinois (-3) vs Louisville (o/u 145.5)
Louisville beat the spread for six straight games in January, then lost against the spread for six straight games in February, and now has gone 5-5 against the spread in their last 10. Undervalued, then overvalued, now just about right. It’s hard to say how well Louisville is going to play on any given night. At their best, they can beat anyone by 10+ points. At their worst, they can really look bad (they lost by 17 to Memphis in February). Proceed with caution.
Illinois has been pretty even against the spread this year (15-17), losing only slightly more than they’ve been winning. Over their last 11 games, they’re 6-5 against the spread. The over/under, however, has been a different story. The Illini have gone under in 65% of their games.
Thank you, readers
For those of you who are relatively new to the blog, please note that this is meant to be an interactive blog, and we encourage comments on all topics. Likewise, if you have your own story or anaylsis you'd like displayed as a story on the main page, just send us an email.
Thanks again for coming and Hook 'Em Horns...
--Peter and Andrew--
Vince Young looking sharp
I'm glad Vince looks great this spring, but he desperately needs some help from his wide receivers this year...
James Thomas named NBDL ROY
It's nice to see Thomas finding some professional success. Thomas, not known for his offensive prowess, is an absolute beast on the boards. He's a bit undersized for a forward in the NBA, but he makes up for his lack of size with tremendous hustle and body positioning. His good work in the NBDL has resulted in two 10-day contracts in the NBA so far this year (with Portland and Cleveland) and should eventually get him a spot on someone's bench.
I always got a little nervous when Thomas would get the ball in the post on offense, but for all his weaknesses, he was tremendously fun to watch and truly epitomized all-out effort. Here's to hoping this early professional success translates into a long and healthy career.
Wednesday, March 30
Longhorns, Buckeyes to play in prime time
Okay, forget the prime time exposure. That’s great and all, but what has me excited is that we’re playing an elite team early in the year, before the Red River Shootout. The routine of going 4-0 against marginal (or worse) teams before heading to Dallas to get trounced by OU is getting tired. Kudos to Mack Brown for scheduling a tough, meaningful game early in the year. If we lose, we lose. But at least we’ll have faced some real competition. One loss is not total doom in the crazy BCS world. But getting pasted by OU every year is doom. Maybe this is the year we show up to Dallas and get a win.
Are we overly obsessed with that game or what?
Three Longhorns considered for award
Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen and those defensive players who line up within five yards of the football. While the watch lists highlight players who have already received national recognition, any Division I player who meets the position requirements is eligible for consideration from the Rotary Lombardi Selection Committee, which is comprised of over 500 members, including all past finalists, all Division I head coaches and a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The Rotary Lombardi Watch List, intended as a reference tool for the Selection Committee, will be periodically updated and revised through the conclusion of the voting to determine the 12 Semifinalists for 2005.
2006 NCAA tickets on sale tomorrow
Baseball team keeps rolling
Barnes to Virginia rumors continue
Tuesday, March 29
Spring football notes
"I went to Texas' scrimmage Saturday and saw a defense that was really hitting. The Horns seem to be adjusting just fine to new D-coordinator Gene Chizik and his new terminology. One pleasant surprise for UT has been the development of Chris Ogbonnaya, who has bulked up 15 pounds and is challenging for time at RB. "He's really been impressive," says UT MLB Aaron Harris. "He's kind of a mix guy. He has the speed and some power, and he's shifty. He's not as much of a downhill guy like Ced (Benson) but I think he can really help us."
Harris, an All-America candidate, says it's been a big change this year not having superstar Derrick Johnson flying around the field making plays. "It is really different," he says. "I mean Derrick helped me out so much. It felt like he was Superman and I was Batman out there."
I was also out at Texas' pro day Wednesday where two busloads of scouts came to see the Longhorns test. Most eyes were on Cedric Benson who clocked a 4.58 forty weighing in at 225 pounds. A scout I talked to said he wasn't wowed by anything Benson did, but added he wasn't turned off either. "He's got a good body of work on film for us," said the scout, himself a former NFL RB. "That's what matters most. We just didn't want him to run a 4.8 or something like that." UT All-American linebacker Derrick Johnson didn't run (he ran up at the combine) but he did measure out at 6-3 and some change and 243 pounds. He also bench pressed 225 lbs 21 times. He also was put through position drills by a scout for the Vikings. Most of the Longhorn underclassmen, including future high picks OT Jonathan Scott and DT Rod Wright, watched the drills from the sidelines."
Monday, March 28
Gibson staying put
There wasn't much doubt that Gibson would return, but it's nice to have it become official. Gibson will only help himself with another year in college. He was asked to carry a very heavy load this year, and he handled that load better than most ever could hope to. Still, the Horns lack of scoring options (after Tucker and Aldridge went out) exposed Gibson's weaknesses. Even from the start of the year, he was too prone to the turnover and had trouble with decision making at times.
Gibson can play himself into the middle of the first round, or higher, with another year or two of college ball. He has the size and talent to be an impact NBA player, but what's the rush? He has no injury history to speak of and his talents will shine playing a full year alongside Tucker and Aldridge.
If Gibson's freshman season was a success by freshman standards, expect a repeat by even higher standards next year. He's a special talent that's still learning. And that's the key. As much growing room as he has, he's only going to help himself in the draft by sticking around campus for a while.
Preliminary Final Four Thoughts
I did, however, get a bit of redemption on Friday night, as I went three out of four on my predictions. Michigan State did indeed knock out Duke, Kentucky held off Utah, and Villanova beat the spread against North Carolina. So perhaps the tides are turning.
We’ll have coverage of the Final Four throughout the week, but I’m going to offer some preliminary thoughts. First and foremost, I’ve thought, from the beginning, that North Carolina would not win this championship. They’ve survived thus far, and are still the most talented team in the field, but I’ve never felt that this is a championship team. The explosion of Darrell May over the last month has me rethinking a bit, but I’m sticking with my gut: UNC won’t take down the nets.
Can Michigan State beat the Tar Heels? Absolutely. For the same reasons that beating Duke was feasible, the Spartans can handle UNC. North Carolina is certainly capable of beating Michigan State, but I won’t be shocked at all if Michigan State wins it. I’m saving my final predictions for later in the week, but I’m leaning toward Michigan State right now.
On the other side, we’ve got Illinois and Louisville; both coming off of courageous, miraculous, jaw-dropping comeback wins in overtime classics. So who’s got the advantage? To me, this game comes down to discipline. I can easily see Louisville getting caught up in the excitement and hype of the Final Four, playing a sloppy first half, and allowing Illinois to build a double-digit lead by halftime. But if Louisville is sharp from the onset, I think they’ll win it. I’m not ready to make a prediction on this game yet, but my instinct tells me that it’s Louisville, not Illinois, that will determine the outcome. They can win the game, or beat themselves.
An elite weekend
CBS then shipped us to neutral Chicago for Arizona vs. Illinois. I thought going into this game it would be upset city. I though Zona would have another hot shooting night, dominate inside, and the Illini would not be able to keep up. I was exactly right for thirty six minutes. What would Lute Olson do to have the final four minutes back? Illinois played fantastic, making three after steal after three to erase a fifteen point lead. Zona collapsed for sure, but Illinois played unbelievable as well. As the game entered OT, the momentum and fate had switched sides. Zona came close, but it was all over. Arizona had a terrific season claiming the Pac 10 regular season title, but it will all be remembered for what might have been.
And then Sunday. I woke this morning hoping for two more classics but realistically just wanting two close games. I watched a lot of the Carolina game before heading to the Erwin Center. Every time it looked like the Tar Heels were going to run away and hide, Wisconsin came back. The Badgers are overmatched at every position, except maybe coach, but more than held their own. This was the only one of the four that was not an Instant Classic, but maybe the one with the most impressive performance by the losing team.
Then, onto the Austin regional final, Kentucky vs. Michigan State. This was the best of the four. Both teams are deep, talented at every position, well coached, great rebounders, and better defenders. Neither team disappointed. I thought whoever could score 70 would win. I was wrong, which is not too surprising considering my picks. Kentucky came from eight points down in the final five minutes to tie it on Patrick Sparks ridiculous three from the top of the key. I have never seen a play like the final one of regulation. Three shots, one air ball, one long rebound, and one that suspends time as it balances on the rim before falling into the lore of Kentucky basketball. The overtimes were just as amazing. The only disappointment was that the Spartans free throw shooting success in the second overtime didn’t allow another last second shot. Michigan State deserved to win. Kentucky deserved to win. I was just thankful to be in attendance for maybe the best college basketball game I have ever seen.
Now onto the Final Four. I will write some predictions later this week. Be sure to bet against them heavily. My bracket should be burned. I did two brackets actually and neither is worth even looking at. I apologize to anyone who read my tourney thoughts on this site before the Madness began. I of course lost one Final Four team in the first round, Syracuse, and two more in the second, UConn and Wake Forest. The only one I got right was Illinois and picking the number one team in the country to make the Final Four should not be applauded. If anything it should be scorned for not having the guts to make a real pick. My upset picks went 0 for 4 in the first round. I lost one sleeper pick in the first round, LSU, one in the second, Georgia Tech, and another in the Sweet 16, Villanova. The only part of my post that was prophetic was Michigan State out of the Austin regional. I’ll hang my hat on that one. Remember to check back later this week to see my picks and bet heavily against them.
Oh yeah, if using my red pencil on my own picks time after time wasn’t depressing enough, my girlfriend’s picks are in first place. She will now be in charge of my sports betting account until further notice.
Friday, March 25
Are you paying attention?
North Carolina gets a red hot Villanova team tonight, and while the Heels have the talent to blow anyone out, it’s not happening tonight. I like Villanova to keep it close, but fall short of the upset. The Heels move on, but don’t cover.
Wisconsin battles the late-blossoming NC State team in a game that is pretty evenly matched. There’s something about Wisconsin and Bo Ryan that rubs me the wrong way. I think the Big 10 in general gives me an unpleasant feeling. Let’s go with the better conference here: NC State wins it by 7-10 points.
Duke and Michigan State square off in the game I’m most excited to watch. The Dukies can beat anyone, but this Michigan State team has a feel about it that leads me to believe they’re going to give Duke a very tough game. The Spartans are big and physical, they’re experienced, and they’re well coached. This is tonight’s big upset. Duke falls to Michigan State by 3.
Lastly, my Kentucky Wildcats play Utah. Again. They play every year. I don’t know why, but it’s a given, like taxes and death. Kentucky wins every year, so why think this year will be any different? Well, for one, I’m predicting the Cats will win. But more importantly, Utah’s Bogut is really something else. Still, Kentucky can handle him – they have a 7-footer of their own who can play. I’ll say Kentucky knocks Utah out once again, but it ought to be close and low-scoring. Cats by 5.
Thursday, March 24
Wednesday, March 23
Sweet 16 matchups
The road to the final four for Illinois has been pretty easy so far, and it’s not about to become much tougher in the Sweet 16, as Illinois gets a home game against a #12 seed. It’s the end of the road for the pleasantly surprising UW-Milwaukee squad. Don’t kid yourself: it’s going to be a sea of orange in Chicago. Those of you who were in San Antonio in 2002 know what that’s like.
Meanwhile, we get a tourney treat when #2 Oklahoma State and #3 Arizona square off for the right to play Illinois. Should be one of the better games of the tourney. If Oklahoma State scores 75+ points, they’ll win it.
Buckle your seat belts, place your seats forward, and put your trays in the upright and locked position. Washington and Louisville is going to be a fun, fun game to watch. Two of the best offenses and hottest teams in the country match up in what would be an even better regional final. Those who thought Louisville was seeded two low were justified. Washington features the most balanced scoring attack in the country. No prediction on the outcome here.
Meanwhile, two of the more surprising Sweet 16 teams match up in the bottom of the bracket, as Texas Tech and West Virginia square off. Big East or Big 12? This should go a ways toward settling that debate. I’ve said it all year—the Big East is overrated. Tech wins it.
Smart bracketeers knew that Villanova entered the tourney on a hot streak and would make the Sweet 16. Clearly, I was not one of them. But now Villanova has to face up with the most talented team in the country. Fortunately, that team is coached by Roy Williams. I don’t know what the line is, but I’ll be checking it. If the Heels are favored by 8 or more, I’m putting money on Nova.
Wisconsin and NC State round out the bottom of the bracket, in a game I have absolutely no interest in. I kind of like that cracked out heroine look of Julius Hodge, though, so I’ll pull for the Wolfpack.
The sanest of the brackets thus far, and two stellar games for those of you who get to go to the games. The Dukies will face a physical and experienced Michigan State team that will give the Blue Devils all they can handle. I picked Duke to win it all, but I won’t be surprised if the Spartans take them out. Another line I’ll be watching. If I can get 5 or more points on Michigan State, I’ll take it.
My Kentucky Wildcats face Utah for the sixty-third straight year in the tournament in the bottom of the bracket. I’m jealous of those of you who will get to see the Bogut monster up close and personal. Utah can win this game, but they may have trouble scoring. Tubby Smith doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does. Look for a low scoring and highly entertaining game. I’ll root for the Cats, which means they’ll probably lose.
Tuesday, March 22
In other news, we're looking at the legal possibility of suing P.J. Tucker's tutor.
Friday, March 18
Nevada 61 Texas 57
I don’t know, but after Illinois struggled a bit to get rolling, the line on the Nevada game is probably going to be less than it should. I may just bet the farm on the Illini. If they play well at all, they’ll run Nevada right out of the building. That Texas couldn’t is testament to just how offensively challenged we are without P.J. Tucker.
I don’t have too much more to say right now. That’s a lie. I’ve got plenty of negative things I’d like to say about last night’s game, but I’m spent…
Thursday, March 17
Pacific-Pittsburgh: Beware of the Big West. They have two teams in the tourney (Pacific and Utah State), and rightfully so. My Dad teaches at UC-Irvine (Big West) and has seen both teams play. Don’t be surprised if Pacific beats Pitt and gives Washington a run for its money. And don’t be shocked if Utah State plays Arizona tight. Pacific leads Pitt by 10 right now.
UW-Milwaukee-Alabama: Alabama looks like a typical big conference team that’s athletic but often plays crappy team basketball. Milwaukee is beating them with good passing and sharp shooting, and my Sweet 16 pick of Bama is looking rather bad at this point. Screw it – I’m all for the upset. The SEC may have a rough tourney this year…
Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky: The Cats are only up by 8 at half, though the outcome of this game really isn’t in doubt at this point. A pretty boring game, with neither team scoring very well. Kentucky is talented, but vulnerable this year. Another 2nd round exit wouldn’t shock me.
Oklahoma-Niagara: As I expected, OU is bullying Niagara, up by 10 right now and looking comfortable. Big 12 teams usually fare reasonably well early in the tournament, as the brutal, physical play of Big 12 teams punishes many of the early opponents.--PB--
So relax, get a little work done before noon, and subscribe to CSTV at www.collegesports.com
Enjoy the Madness, everyone.
Rebuttal: Peter's Tourney Thoughts
I generally agree with Andrew’s (as always) insightful thoughts, but let’s not kid ourselves—this is the NCAA tournament. If we all agreed, there’d be no need for office pools. So here are my own thoughts on each region, written comparatively with what Andrew’s already offered.
I don’t disagree with much of anything here, though I like the Salukis to beat St. Mary’s. It’s a shame that these two mid-majors will have to play in the first round, as both have that potential to knock out big conference schools. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t many upsets in this region. The top seeds are all strong and all playing well. I love Oklahoma State to come out of this region. It’s hard to pick against a team that’s had a year like Illinois has, but I’m doing it. Stanford 2004, anyone?
What a mess of a bracket. This one’s going to make a lot of people look silly. Any of the top five seeds could win the region and I think we’ll see some of the tourney’s wildest upsets coming from here. We’ll get a good taste of how strong the Pac 10 really is in this one. I think we’ll see UCLA get bounced by Tech and someone take out Washington in the 2nd or 3rd round. If you love to pick upsets, this is a region you can have some fun with. Wiggins nailed it: Wake is the pick. Chris Paul is going to have a big tourney…
Great minds think alike. UConn is the pick here. Wiggins and I think the Big East is overrated, but love the top teams. UConn, Syracuse, and Villanova are all scary. Speaking of Nova, what a shame they have to play my other sleeper: New Mexico. The Lobos with Danny Granger back are on a roll, but a first round matchup with Nova means one of them won’t get to wreck any brackets. I’m taking New Mexico to knock out Nova and Florida. I like UConn to get by Kansas, but if it’s UNC vs Kansas, don’t bet against the Jayhawks. Roy can’t win the big one. That’ll be a biggie…
Wiggins’ Syracuse pick is justified (they looked awesome in the Big East tourney and can beat anyone when they’re hot), but I can’t see them getting past Duke. Where Wiggo thinks his boys from Durham as overrated, I see them as hitting their peak. Sheldon Williams is the most underrated big man in college basketball. What a beast. I hate the Dukies, but this is theirs to win. This is going to be a heck of an interesting regional, and like Albuquerque, could wreck a lot of brackets. Those of you in Austin with tickets are lucky indeed.
Less than 2 hours until the Madness begins...
Wednesday, March 16
Texas vs Nevada Preview
This year's Nevada team is every bit as good as last year's, the only difference being that this year, everyone knows it. They feature a 6'11" center named Nick Fazekas who averaged (gulp) 21 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. He's kind of a skinny guy, but he has great moves around the basket, a soft touch with the ball, and an agressive attitude about scoring. Forwards Buckman and Klotz will have their hands full, and Texas will have to be strategic about how it handles him inside.
Texas can't afford to be too agressive with Fazekas and get into early foul trouble. If Buckman, in particular, is forced off the floor early, the Horns are in big, big trouble. Barnes has several strategic options here. One is to play a packed in zone and make the Wolfpack score from the perimeter. At least on paper, this doesn't look like a bad strategy. Nevada shot a miserable 27% from beyond the arc this year. Texas has had some success with the zone this year--this looks like an opponent that might struggle to scroe against it.
The other option is to concede the 20-25 points to Fazekas and try to smother everyone else in man-to-man. Nevada is a physical team that likes to score inside and beat you on the boards. The primary weakness of a zone defense is that you give up a lot of offensive rebounds, so Texas could potentially be better off playing man to man and trying to control the glass, as we usually do.
In evaluating the two strategies, though, I think we have to go with a zone defense. We're too thin to play man-to-man and risk foul trouble, and rebounding is more about a commitment to working hard for position than anything else. I think Barnes would be wise to stick with the zone we've been forced to play (and gotten better at playing), try to frustrate Fazekas inside, and send five guys to the defensive boards every time. If the guards for Nevada have a sensational night and burn us with deep three pointers, what can you do?
Offensively, it will be imperative that the Horns get some fast break points, as our offense can really get bogged down at times in the half court. We'll need to do a good job of getting the ball inside to Buckman and Klotz, who are most efficient scorers. For Gibson, he needs to use his penetration to free up others to shoot, rather than spend a lot of time looking for his outside shot on the perimeter. Gibson is best when he's driving to the lane, drawing fouls, creating passing lanes, and getting others involved.
Nevada wants the game to be a brutal, half-court affair where they can use their size and strength to wear their opponent down. Texas can certainly play that game, and is less vulnerable to banging teams than teams with strong guard play, but still, the Horns will be better off if they can get the tempo of the game up a bit. The higher scoring this game goes, the better chance we have to win.
I've been predicting the scores for Texas games all year, with minimal success. You just don't know whether the Texas team that beat Oklahoma State twice or the team that lost to Colorado twice will show up. I'll stake my call on this: if Gibson plays like a freshman, we're going to lose handily, but if Gibson takes a step forward and leads this team like a veteran, I think we're a solid bet to win. I'm hedging, I know... I'll make a call: Texas wins it with a strong second half, 77-72.
Drew's Tourney Thoughts
In my opinion this is the second toughest region. The committee did top seeded Illinois no favors by placing senior filled and tourney tested Oklahoma State in their region. This region also features always dangerous and immensely talented Arizona and Big East regular season champ, Boston College.
The Pick: Illinois. The Illini have to travel only to Indianapolis and then back to Chicago, where they just took the Big 10 Conference Tourney crown. The trio of Head, Brown, and Williams is unmatched in college basketball. I can’t stand the weak Big 10 but it is tough to pick against a one loss team.
Top Contenders: Oklahoma State and Arizona. OSU rode a Big 12 tourney title to the Final Four last year and could easily do it again. They only lost Tony Allen from last year’s squad. Look for Lucas and the Graham brothers to go far. If they cut down the nets, does Eddie Sutton retire? I think so. Arizona has more athletic ability than maybe anyone else in the game. They have a top notch coach and a prolific offense featuring Salim Stoudemire, the best shooter in the country outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Can any team win without playing defense though? Doubtful
Sleeper Pick: LSU. The Tigers have been hot lately with only an overtime loss to Kentucky in the last few weeks. Tough inside, but may not have the guard play.
Upset Pick: St Mary’s over Southern Illinois.
Top Seed Heading in Wrong Direction: Boston College. Lost four of final eight after starting 20-0 and lost quarterfinal game in Big East Tourney.
Oh yeah: Texas is in this region as well. The Horns got a tough draw, a first round matchup with WAC champ, Nevada and a potential second round game with top ranked Illinois. Sorry Digger, this will not be Texas’ year.
This is by far the weakest region. Washington is the weakest number one seed and Georgia Tech may be hot but they are still inconsistent. Yes Louisville deserved a higher seed but winning the CUSA doesn’t mean what is used to. Oh yeah it never meant much. Region also hosts slighted Wake Forest and Chris Paul, the best player in the country, and the mystery from out west, Gonzaga.
The Pick: Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have done it all year long. They have the best two guard backcourt in the country with Paul and Justin Gray and get inside dominance from Williams. Wake was a number one seed until Shelden Williams tipped in a missed free throw in the ACC final. They are the easy pick here.
Top Contenders: I guess Washington. I haven’t been impressed with Georgia Tech all year. Louisville seems to play to the level of their opponents and has trouble scoring at times, not solid attributes for March success. Gonzaga plays much better in the tourney as the underdog. They still haven’t figured out how to play as a favorite. The Huskies had an outstanding season out west when no one was watching. I had them correctly seeded on Sunday afternoon. They are led by the best player under six feet tall, Nate Robinson, but, like Arizona, don’t play enough defense to win it all.
Sleeper Pick: Georgia Tech. If they play like they are capable, they can beat anyone. I just wouldn’t bet on them putting it together too often.
Upset Pick: UCLA over Texas Tech. Sorry Bobby Knight, I hate to pick against you. I think your boys may run out of gas after impressive and long Big 12 tourney run.
Top Seed Heading in Wrong Direction: Pacific, lost long conference winning streak in finals to Utah St.
Oh yeah: Winthrop, Gonzaga’s first round opponent, holds the nation’s longest winning streak, 18 games.
This is by far the toughest region. UNC is the obvious top seed, but Kansas still holds the number one ranking in the computers, Florida just won the SEC tourney, and UConn is number one if we just measure up side.
The Pick: UConn. This is the best rebounding and shot blocking team in the country. Defense and guard play wins championships and the Huskies have both. Williams, Anderson, and Gay dominate the backcourt while Boone and Villanueva control the glass. Yes, a backup player was just suspended and Anderson is still nursing an injury. But I expect Jim Calhoun to have this team ready for another deep run.
Contenders: North Carolina and Kansas. UNC has been great all year and was most impressive in a late season road win vs Connecticut. But they have been a little inconsistent lately struggling with Clemson and losing to Ga Tech. They never seem to play with much intensity outside of games with Duke. And they are lead by the wrong man. Roy Williams, not McCant’s mood swings, provides the biggest flaw to Carolina’s tourney chances. Kansas was great early but is only 5-5 in their last ten games. Langford is injured. They have made deep runs the last three years, but won’t in 2005.
Sleeper Pick: Villanova. They have wins over Kansas and Boston College and are 8-1 in their last nine.
Upset Pick: I like NC State, but I’ll take Ohio. The MAC tourney champs get hot Florida in round one. But the Gators have underachieved all year, save the last seven days and usually bow out early.
Top Seed Heading in Wrong Direction: Charlotte. Three game losing streak, all by double digits.
Oh yeah: I would love to see a Roy Williams vs. Kansas game but it seems unlikely.
I get to see the games. Yep, ordered my tickets last year and got them in the mail a few weeks ago. This region could feature some huge matchups down the road. Duke is the top seed and my favorite team, but they have overachieved all year. Sean Dockery is supposed to be back for the tourney after tearing his MCL. But even with him, Duke is thin and very thin up front. They finished the second Maryland game with three guys I’ve never seen before after suffering severe foul trouble. Any foul trouble to Williams or an off shooting night by Redick dooms them.
The Pick: Syracuse. Much like a few years ago, things appear to be falling into place. The zone is working. Warrick is dominating the low block and McNamara has remarkably found his shooting touch. They will roll into Austin with the Big East tourney title and tons of confidence.
Other Contenders: Duke and Oklahoma. I love Duke but they are not a Final Four team. I would be shocked to see them in St. Louis. Oklahoma looked like the hottest team in the country before falling to Bobby Knight and the motion offense in Kansas City. Can they regroup? I think so. Kentucky is not a serious contender to anyone who has seen them play.
Sleeper Pick: Michigan State. They were playing so well after a mid season loss to Illinois but suffered an inexplicable loss to Iowa in the Big 10 tourney. They are huge up front and dominate the glass.
Upset Pick: Definitely Iowa but also possibly UTEP. The Miners are hot, WAC tourney champs hot. That isn’t that impressive but they could still surprise Utah in round one.
Top Seed Headed in Wrong Direction: Kentucky. SEC tourney blowout to mediocre Florida squad doesn’t bode well for tourney. They have no stars on the team and have trouble scoring points. That said, I can’t see them exiting this weekend.
Oh yeah: Does the committee try to remake Duke-Kentucky every year? When was the last time it worked? Once again it doesn’t seem likely.
Comments welcome. Post your picks now on ESPN. Group: Longhorn Jokers. Password: hornsblog.
Monday, March 14
Join the Hornsblog Tourney Challenge
The Madness Begins
The Committee did its usual good work, and I don’t have many gripes with this bracket at all. Washington as a #1 seed is a bit surprising to me, but I’m not big on carping between who is seeded #1 and #2. The Committee correctly identified Oklahoma State as the Big 12’s best team. The Big 12 as a whole, in fact, got a lot of credit, earning six berths, including a #2 seed (OSU), two #3 seeds (OU and Kansas), a #6 seed (Texas Tech), a #8 (Texas), and #9 (Iowa State).
For those of you in Austin, I hope you have tickets to the regional, because it certainly has the potential to be truly dynamic. Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Syracuse, and Michigan State are all powerhouses, and there are some potentially fun sleeper teams like Vermont and UTEP who could creep into the mix.
The Madness has begun and here on the Hornsblog, we’ll be speculating and reporting all week long. Check in regularly for tournament news and updates. Feel free to jump in with thoughts and comments, and be sure to sign up for the Hornsblog tourney challenge on ESPN.
Andrew's Final Seeds
No. 1: Illinois, North Carolina, Duke, Washington
No. 2: Wake Forest, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kentucky
No. 3: Arizona, Louisville, Syracuse, Gonzaga,
No. 4: Oklahoma, Boston College, UConn, Florida
Close: Utah, Wisconsin, Villanova, Michigan State, Alabama,
Texas would be a No. 10 seed.
Friday, March 11
Friday Open Thread
Drew's Thursday Thoughts
Teams that have played their way in:
West Virginia: 2 wins so far in NYC including one against conference champ BC.
NC State: Blowout win vs. FSU. Looks even better in comparison to Maryland & Miami.
Iowa St: Beat a lesser opponent handily. Texas wasn’t taking notes.
Teams that have played their way into the NIT:
Maryland: Third straight loss to Clemson just won’t cut it. 3-7 in last ten.
Notre Dame: Consecutive losses to Pitt & Rutgers don’t leave the best final impression.
Texas A&M: Poor effort vs. Kansas State shuts the door on their faint hopes.
Vanderbilt: Nothing can help them now.
Arizona St: Great effort vs. Washington comes up short.
Teams crossing their fingers on Selection Sunday:
Georgetown: One win in NYC and a good effort vs. UConn could do it.
DePaul: Lost three of last four including quarterfinal game vs. UAB.
UCLA: Good win at Notre Dame but horrible 1st round loss to Oregon State.
UTEP: Still may need to win WAC title.
Buffalo: Seventh seeded MAC team still has a chance.
Teams in the tourney but heading in the wrong direction:
Cincinnati: Shocking loss to South Florida makes them ripe for 1st round upset.
Texas: Probably “played” their way to a 10 or 11 seed. Sweet 16 trip seems unlikely.
Pittsburgh: Lost four of last six, including blowout to UConn on Senior Night.
Charlotte: Three game double digit losing streak.
Colorado 81 Texas 69
To be completely honest, I didn't care too much about this game or this tournament. Things would be a hell of a lot different if we hadn't beaten Oklahoma State, but we did, and in the end, we were just playing for seeding. If we're lucky, we played our way down to a #10 seed. If we're not, we'll be stuck at #9.
I'm also not terribly opposed to a team ending its regular season on a bad note, as bad losses often motivate teams to pull things together and improve. There's plenty of reasons to be skeptical about this team, but as we all know, we're capable of beating anyone. Pay close attention on Texas' draw come Sunday: who we play will be crucial to the length of our stay in the Dance.
Thursday, March 10
Texas 7 Rice 0
Texas vs Colorado Preview
But Texas has improved as a team since that stretch, learning to win games without Lamarcus Aldridge or P.J. Tucker. The Horns won five of their final seven regular season games, as Brad Buckman suddenly became Corliss Williamson and provided the big time scoring that Texas so desperately needed.
Right now, Texas is probably sitting in the dreaded #8 or #9 seed. A loss to Colorado would probably bump us down to a #10 seed, a strong win and a solid showing against Oklahoma State could move us up to a #7, and any kind of deep run into the Big 12 tournament could get us as high as #5 or #6.
I haven't had much success predicting wins, and we beat Oklahoma State when I predicted a loss, so I'll suggest that Texas comes out sluggish, fails to get an offensive rhythm going, and falls to the Buffalos, 69-65.
Wednesday, March 9
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
We want to know what you think. Does it make sense to foul a player on the floor to prevent a three point attempt or are you better off defending and hoping for a miss? Is the risk of what happened to Texas worth the potential benefit of preventing the opposition form an attempt to tie the game? Please join in with your thoughts.
Conference Tourney Challenge
Readers: now is the time to show us your stuff. Pick the winners to the following conference tourneys. The winner will get a $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com (Yes, we encourage reading!). You get three points for each picked winner and one point if your pick makes it to the final game.
Good luck. Post picks before CUSA starts on Wednesday.
Dick loves Daniel
Gibson leads the team in minutes, points, and assists, and without his stellar play, the Horns would certainly have missed the tourney.
Tuesday, March 8
Big 12 Tournament
Texas lost at Colorado a month ago, but I expect them to take care of business this time around, setting up another matchup against Oklahoma State.
Texas Tourney Talk
I think you put it well, Drew: keep on winning and let the seeds fall where they may. If we draw a powerhouse in the second round, we're done for, but there's no sense in worrying about it at this point. I also agree that we can beat just about anyone on any given day, though some of the top ACC competition really scares me. But who knows, perhaps we'll get lucky and get a favorable draw. Maybe we'll play our way up to a 6 or 7 seed by making a run in the Big 12 tourney. The important point is that, for the seventh year in a row, Texas is in, and the tournament takes on added significance. Get your Thursday and Friday off of work now, boys and girls. The Madness is here.
No. 1: Illinois, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Kansas
No. 2: Kentucky, Arizona, Louisville, Oklahoma State
No. 3: UConn, Duke, Washington, Boston College
No. 4: Michigan St., Oklahoma, Utah, Gonzaga,
Close: Syracuse, Alabama, Pitt, Villanova,
Texas would be a No. 10 seed.
Texas 74 Oklahoma State 73
The Horns started well. By well, I mean they didn’t get run out of the gym. They held within a few points for most of the first half and took a one point halftime lead through divine intervention and a banked Kenny Taylor three as time expired. Texas and Oklahoma State were tied 56-56 with about eight minutes to go. We couldn’t have been in a better position. Texas took the lead and never relinquished it. Not even a bad “shooting foul” call on Brad Buckman with under a second left could ruin the victory. Texas was up three points with just seconds left. The ball was inbounded at around half court. Buckman strategically and purposefully fouled Ok State’s Crawford as he was dribbling and clearly on the floor. Crawford played through the foul and made a vain attempt with a half court heave. The refs incorrectly awarded him three foul shots. Thankfully and fatefully, he made just his first and third attempt ensuring a monumental Texas victory.
We got another heroic and career night from Brad Buckman, 27 points and 9 rebounds. Buckman may have taken the OU game off, but he couldn’t have played harder against the Cowboys. And we wouldn’t have won without him. Texas dominated the boards 33-22, played our solid 2-3 zone defense, shot over 53% from the floor, and overcame 16 turnovers, including six from Daniel Gibson. For the second time against Ok State, the zone proved to be the difference. The best three point shooting team in the Big 12 hit just 7-24 (29%) from behind the arc. Texas conversely hit 7-19 (37%) from three point land with an uncharacteristic 3-5 from player of the game, Buckman. Texas also got solid efforts from Gibson (save the turnovers), Taylor, and Klotz. We did suffer another injury though, this one a knee injury to Dion Dowell. No word yet on the extent of the injury.
Saturday night was why I love college basketball. On any court and on any night in just forty minutes anything can happen. Texas likely secured their place in the Big Dance. They also gained valuable confidence heading into this week’s Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Texas opens with Colorado on Thursday. Texas will be the sixth seed and Colorado the eleventh. A win would lead to a third meeting with this very same Oklahoma State team. My pessimism reared its ugly head briefly, but the excitement and optimism has returned. Given a certain draw, solid play from Buckman and Klotz and controlled turnovers from Gibson, this team can beat anyone and could surprise people the next few weeks. Love the Madness.
Friday, March 4
ESPN analyst ranks Gibson fourth
Forde also reports that Gibson's condition for leaving after this year is a guaranteed spot in the lottery, but that scouts only have Gibson in the 15-20 range right now. Forde also echoed my own view that Gibson is still too turnover prone and needs another year to improve his game. Forde speculates that another year in college would probably bump Gibson up to a lottery pick next year.
Texas at Oklahoma State Preview
The Horns travel to Stillwater to try for a road win and season sweep against a talented and deep Oklahoma State Cowboys team. Unfortunately for Texas, the Cowboys haven’t lost at home in two years, and will want revenge after suffering a conference loss to the Horns in Austin back in January.
Texas' best chance at a victory would come from a low-scoring, thuggish affair that came down to the wire, but I don’t see that happening on Saturday. I expect Oklahoma State to suffocate the Texas offense and pull ahead early. I’ve yet to predict a loss for the Horns this year, but I can’t see us winning this one. Oklahoma State continues Texas’ bubble woes, 80-65.
Friday Open Thread
Please identify yourself for the group.
Wednesday, March 2
It wasn't long ago that I remember reading about Gibson saying that he was going to do what T.J. Ford didn't do: hang an NCAA championship banner at the Erwin Center.
Now it appears that the cloud that's hanging over the Erwin Center just got a little darker...
Tuesday, March 1
Oklahoma 74 Texas 58
Let’s hope the committee wasn’t watching. Let’s hope they were tuned in to the Bachlorette instead. I went to the game last night and couldn’t agree with Bean more. We were totally outplayed. OU outshot, outrebounded, outhustled, and outcoached our Horns. We looked awful. OU dominated the tempo of the game by constantly pressuring the basketball and largely neutralizing Daniel Gibson. Williams, Klotz, and Buckman were forced to consistently handle the ball up the court while Gibson was successfully face guarded by Drew Lavender. Coach Sampson was not going to let Gibson beat him and it worked. We were never in a rhythm offensively. We got zero fast break points. OU had 14. We were outrebounded by ten and it seemed like much, much more. The Sooners were the hungrier team, diving for loose balls, playing great transition defense, and shooting timely threes. Texas looked like a team stuck glaring at the spotlights of Senior Night.
I was particularly struck by the severely honest post game comments by Jason Klotz. Klotz for the second game in a row played great. Klotz said that some players simply didn’t come to play and didn’t put out effort. He seemed to be particularly pointing the finger at Brad Buckman. For the second game in a row, Buckman traded in the Superman outfit he had been adorning over the last two weeks for the much more regular Clark Kent attire. Buck played just twenty one minutes scoring nine points and getting four boards. Please get it together Texas.
My optimism is fading. We play on Saturday night at Oklahoma State, who I believe is still the best team in the Big 12. OSU hasn’t lost at home in over two years and I doubt they will on Saturday night. If playing there wasn’t tough enough, we will face yet another nationally televised audience at the site of ESPN’s College Gameday on Senior Night for the Cowboys. We are in trouble. A blowout loss coupled with a first round exit in the Big 12 tourney could spell ultimate doom for the Horns tourney chances. We are still assured an 8-8 finish in conference. But will that be enough?