College Basketball: The Spin
Just over a month until Championship Week begins, and
I can't wait. There is so much to be determined between now in then in almost
every conference. In fact, the only conference that I feel has already been decided
is the West Coast Conference, where Gonzaga is truly head and shoulders above
the competition. I rarely would say such a thing knowing that all it takes is
one upset in the conference tourney to take someone else's bid away, but I just
don't see it happening. This may be the best Gonzaga team we've seen yet, which
is quite scary if you think about it.
Bracket Buster Saturday Is Coming
Another thing that got my blood boiling this week was the release of the Bracket
Buster Saturday pairings. In case you're not familiar with the Bracket Buster,
it's an event created by ESPN that features strictly mid-major programs for the
sole purpose of giving each of these tourney hopefuls one last chance at a quality
non-conference win. The teams are selected prior to the season, but the matchups
are not (with the exception of Gonzaga-Tulsa, which is in the second year of a
home-and-home set) so there is plenty of guesswork involved for the programming
department at ESPN. This season's matchups turned out much better than last year's
maiden voyage, although there are only a few mid-major who have a legitimate shot
at an at-large bid. It's still quality basketball pitting teams against each other
that would otherwise rarely meet.
Reportedly, ESPN tried to get Tulsa to back out of the pre-determined matchup
with Gonzaga, because the Golden Hurricane are going through a difficult season.
But Tulsa wouldn't budge, and therefore this game will do little for Gonzaga,
except add another road game in a difficult place to play. But Mark Few's team
won't need the help to get into the Dance anyway.
Here are the other matchups in addition to what network they are on for the Saturday,
February 21 Bracket Buster:
Noon ET: Creighton at Kent State (ESPN2)
1 ET: Louisiana-Lafayette at Rice (ESPN Plus/Full Court)
2 ET: Manhattan at Wisconsin-Milwaukee (ESPN2)
3 ET: East Tennessee State at Fresno State (ESPN Plus/Full Court)
4 ET: College of Charleston at Western Michigan (ESPN2)
5 ET: SW Missouri State at Miami (OH) (ESPN Plus/Full Court)
6 ET: Gonzaga at Tulsa (ESPN2)
7 ET: Austin Peay at Wichita State (ESPN Plus/Full Court)
9 ET: Toledo at Nevada (ESPN Plus/Full Court)
Midnight ET: Hawaii at Southern Illinois (ESPN)
Seminoles Burying Ranked Teams on Home Boards
It may not matter that Florida State has played less than desirable ball on the road, when Selection Sunday comes around. The 'Noles have now defeated four ranked teams at home this season, after dispatching of Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, thanks to a career-high 33 points from Tim Pickett.
In addition to Georgia Tech, Leonard Hamilton's bunch has also defeated ranked Maryland, North Carolina and Wake Forest squads. Florida State is just 3-5 away from home this season, with those wins coming against Miami (FL), Chicago State and Stetson. So while I wouldn't book my flight for the NCAA Tournament yet, it's going to be very difficult for the committee to ignore these four quality conference wins.
Note of the Week
With Saint Joseph's and Stanford still unbeaten, it marks just the fifth time since 1976, when the NCAA Tournament expanded to 32 teams, that there have been two unbeaten teams heading into February. It's the first time it's happened since 1992 when Duke and Oklahoma State did so. Duke, of course, went on to win the national championship that season.
The other three occurrences came in 1984 (DePaul and North Carolina), 1981 (Oregon State and Virginia) and 1976 (Indiana and UNLV). Indiana, which is the last team to go unbeaten over an entire season, is the only one among this group to go on and win a national title.
Next week, we'll begin looking at teams' NCAA Tournament standing. We'll break them down into teams that are in, likely in, still need to impress, and those who need to get hot to be invited.