Category Archives: Big East Conference

Ohio flavor on World University Games team

USA Basketball’s roster for the World University Games is set — and it has a strong Ohio flavor.

Among those making the final cut announced Saturday were Adreian Payne (Dayton/Michigan State), Aaron White (Strongsville/Iowa) and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick.

A minicamp with 26 players began last week, and the 12-man roster will train through Monday in Colorado Springs and depart for Russia on July 1. World University Games play begins on July 7.

Other notable names on the roster include Final Four MVP Luke Hancock of Louisville, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Treveon Graham of VCU and a pair of Indiana Hoosiers, Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell.

Davidson’s Bob McKillop will coach Team USA and is assisted by Michigan’s John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin.

Xavier’s basketball future looking bright

Indiana transfer Remy Abell has announced he’ll transfer to Xavier, continuing a strong run of commitments for coach Chris Mack and the Musketeers as they prepare to move to the Big East.

Abell, a 6’4 guard out of Louisville, Ky., played two seasons at Indiana and will have two more at Xavier after sitting out the 2013-14 season.

Also on Friday the school announced the addition of 6’8 Bulgarian forward Aleksandar Vezenkov, who’s played for his country’s junior national team and as an amateur in a Greek pro league. The 17-year old Venenkov is eligible to play next season.

With essentially a whole lineup of five players either concentrating on academics or playing elsewhere last season, a relatively young Xavier team took its lumps and missed the postseason but still finished 17-14. If Jalen Reynolds and Miles Davis get eligible and are ready to contribute for this season, the Musketeers will be in position to take a leap.

Joining Vezenkov in this summer’s incoming freshman class are 6’5 forward Kamall Richards and point guard Brandon Randolph,a  four-star prospect by Scout.com rated as the nation’s 15th best point guard prospect. Big man transfer Matt Strainbook (Cleveland/Western Michigan) will also be eligible this season.

Xavier already has two commits in the class of 2014, from four-star power forward Melvin Swift of Houston and three-star guard Edmond Sumner of Detroit. With Semaj Christon as the likely centerpiece for the next three years, the future for Xavier could be very bright.

Final Four theories and picks

I have theories.

Yes, I usually do.

Anyway, my theory regarding Michigan is just that the season is too long, and the young Wolverines were tired, and Big Ten teams knew them well enough to slow them down, and there were times Trey Burke tried to do too much.

Losing on Friday at the Big Ten tournament was a blessing in disguise. The Wolverines got rested, and refocused, and got a good draw that allowed them to get out and run and have fun again.

Oh, and Mitch McGary started playing like the 7-foot monster he is.

Oh, and when Burke made that 3-pointer from Waco to force overtime vs. Kansas, it became clear that Michigan was a little charmed, too.

Syracuse is playing really good defense and got a draw with opponents who needed pace and tempo to succeed, Syracuse just halted that pace and turned games into grinders. It’s a good thing Indiana cut down that net back on March 5, because the Hoosiers might not have beaten Syracuse in five tries.

I think that zone and those athletes will slow down Michigan the way Big Ten teams.

We’ll see if I know anything.

I have two theories on why there’s not a ton of buzz about Wichita State’s run to the Final Four.

One, Butler spoiled everybody. We’ve seen this before — recently, and in back to back years. Especially the second time around when Butler and VCU made the Final Four in the same year.

Here, it’s because Wichita State beat Ohio State. Especially with Michigan still going on the other side, basketball season ended for much of Ohio around 9 last Saturday night.

I have another theory, too. It would take a near miracle for any of these teams to beat Louisville.

The Cardinals are rolling. They have a cause, a mission and a nasty demeanor. Keeping up for 40 minutes is just tough.

Those are my theories. Here are my picks…

Louisville 74, Wichita State 61

Syracuse 62, Michigan 60

MONDAY NIGHT

Louisville 68, Syracuse 63

Thoughts on Saturday’s NCAA games

DAYTON, Ohio – Just some thoughts on today’s NCAA tournament games below.

I actually didn’t do terribly in trying to help with my analysis earlier this week. On my “official” bracket I guessed correctly on 23 of 32 first-round games, and considering the number of upsets, I’m patting myself on the back.

I generally do. Here goes…

Michigan – VCU: To me, it’s the must-see game of the day, though there certainly will be good games at night. VCU probably isn’t as great as it looked against Akron, but Michigan has been trending in the wrong direction for a month now. Trey Burke will create scoring opportunities by beating VCU’s pressure, but Michigan’s inside struggles and inconsistent shooting are of major concern. VCU’s Troy Daniels is locked in, and I think the Rams win another one

VCU 68, Michigan 66

Michigan State – Memphis: The Spartans have a lot going for them, including an advantage inside with Derrick Nix and the home-crowd advantage in Auburn Hills. They’ll be a tough out for a gifted Memphis team that played a smart, steady game in holding off Saint Mary’s on Thursday. Expect a close one throughout, but wait ’til later for a true upset

Michigan State 65, Memphis 58

Colorado State – Louisville: Strange things happen in March, but not in this game.

Louisville 72, Colorado State 52

Harvard – Arizona: The wide-open West region gives us another intriguing pairing. Harvard comes in off a huge upset of New Mexico and won’t be intimidated on this stage. Arizona has the talent to make a deep run and should see the door open here, but don’t expect it to be easy. Maybe Mark Lyons vs. Ohio State next Thursday?

Arizona 67, Harvard 65

Oregon – Saint Louis: The Ducks aren’t your typical 12 seed and are playing their best basketball right now. So are the Billikens, who can play with anybody. Unfortunately, Louisville is probably next, but this will be an outstanding game.

Saint Louis 58, Oregon 55

Butler – Marquette: I’m not sure if anybody knows just how Marquette managed to win that game Thursday against Davidson. I am sure nobody wants to see Butler in a tournament setting. The longer the Bulldogs hang around, the more dangerous they become.

Butler 65, Marquette 60

Wichita State – Gonzaga: Not your typical No. 1 seed vs. No. 9 matchup, especially when compared to Louisville-Colorado State. Wichita State has guards, experience and won’t be rattled. Gonzaga seems to be playing a little burdened, and though I expect the Zags to be better than they were against Southern, I don’t think they’ll be good enough.

Wichita 63, Gonzaga 60

Cal – Syracuse: The Orange cruised over Montana by 47 in the first round and Cal showed it’s also not your typical 12 seed by running past UNLV. Cal has the guards (as previously advertised) to take on the Syracuse zone, and I’d expect the Bears to be right in it all the way. Upset Saturday? Yes, why not? Upset Saturday it is.

Cal 68, Syracuse 67

Office pool insights: Midwest Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

Midwest Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 6 Memphis. The Tigers are athletic, talented and ran through Conference USA unscathed. But the Tigers also appear very, very vulnerable against teams that like a slower-paced game, and in a region as stacked as this one there appears to be a falloff from the first five seeds to Memphis. Thursday’s game against Saint Mary’s is a tough one, and even if Memphis survives, beating Michigan State in the state of Michigan seems impossible on Saturday.

VIDEO: A to Z talks NCAA Tournament

UNDERSEEDED: No. 7 Creighton. The Blue Jays hit a midseason rut that took them off the national radar — and that might have been a good thing. They’ve been on a tear since, losing only in a road game at Saint Mary’s since mid-February. Doug McDermott is a bona fide star, and senior point guard Gary Gibbs directs a dangerous offense. The Blue Jays don’t have an easy draw with Cincinnati and then Duke looming, but they shouldn’t be discounted.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 12 Oregon. The Ducks’ long slide through the regular season happened with point guard Dominic Artis out with an injury. Artis is back, and Oregon comes in after winning the Pac-12 tournament last weekend. With Artis in the lineup Oregon can beat Oklahoma State, and maybe after last weekend the Ducks are expecting to.

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 9 Missouri. The Tigers have 23 wins and have talented players returning from last year’s team that earned a No. 2 seed, but that team was knocked out immediately by Norfolk State. This team has lost two of three has absolutely zero impressive wins away from its home floor all season. Maybe Missouri beats Colorado State on Thursday; it certainly isn’t beating Louisville.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: Oregon-Oklahoma State, Creighton-Cincinnati or Saint Mary’s-Memphis. All are toss-up games. This region is stacked.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Duke-Creighton this weekend; Saint Louis-Louisville in the Sweet 16; Saint Louis or Louisville vs. Duke or Michigan State in the regional final.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Adreian Payne, Michigan State. The 6’10 — and maybe growing — Payne is having his best season and could use this stage to take a real leap in the eyes of scouts. The Dayton, Ohio native has always had the ability, and this season he’s shown more polish and consistency — but he’s not all the way there yet. Helping push the Spartans deep into the bracket could make Payne a hot commodity in the eyes of the NBA.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Creighton takes on Michigan State in the Sweet 16; Saint Louis beats Louisville at its own game.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: Louisville to win the region — and the big trophy, too. The Cardinals are the clear favorite.

Office pool insights: East Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

East Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles hung near the top of the Big East throughout conference season but just seem to be a step behind the other top seeds across the board. They got a tough draw, too, with an experienced Davidson team first and then the Butler-Bucknell winner looming if Marquette can win. Buzz Williams’ team is deep and has a unique player inside in 6’8, 290-pound Davante Gardner

UNDERSEEDED: No. 12 Cal. The Bears stumbled a bit down the stretch, getting eliminated in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals  by Utah and a miracle shot that sent the game to overtime. But Cal has the kind of talented backcourt that’s capable of making a run through the first weekend of the tournament and a go-to star in Allen Crabbe who could be a household name by next week. The first-round matchup with UNLV won’t be easy, but a No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 almost every year and Cal has the pieces to be the one to do it this year.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 14 Davidson. The experienced Wildcats come in riding the nation’s longest win streak at 17, are the best free-throw shooting team in the NCAA tournament at 80 percent and have five players who shoot 37 percent or better on 3-point tries. Looking at the Butler-Bucknell/Marquette-Davidson pod, if you ask four people who comes out of that to the Sweet 16, you might get four different answers. Choose wisely.

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 4 Syracuse. The Orange finished the regular season with a 1-3 stretch. They flipped that by going 3-1 in the Big East tournament — and looking more like the team they’re capable of being — but spent a lot of energy in doing that, and the inconsistencies and cold-stretches that have haunted this team since late January could end their season sooner rather than later.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: Butler vs. Bucknell. The team nobody wants to play in March against another off-the-radar team that’s suddenly a trendy upset pick. Points should be at a premium in this one.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Syracuse vs. UNLV or Cal this weekend, Miami vs. Butler in the Sweet 16, Miami vs. Indiana in the Elite Eight.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Shane Larkin, Miami. He’s played this season like he wants to be known for more than being Barry’s son, and he’s done a more than admirable job in that regard. Larkin has made big shots in big moments throughout the season, and he could be a few big ones away from being a prized NBA prospect.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Cal and Davidson to make mini-runs; Butler to be Butler for at least two games; Miami to not survive the first weekend — yet Miami to the Final Four isn’t crazy, either. Tough stuff, this bracket business.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: Indiana to play in the Elite Eight.

Office pool insights: South Region

A series of quick thoughts — all my own and strictly from what I’ve seen from attending 30+ games and watching hundreds of others — on each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament bracket. Enter bracket pools and waste valuable hours of your workplace’s time at your own risk…

South Region

OVERSEEDED: No. 5 VCU. The Rams went to the Final Four from the First Four two years ago and won a game last year as a No. 12 seed, and it seems like that reputation helped their seeding this year. They’re still dangerous with Shaka Smart on the sideline, an experienced roster and a first-round matchup against an Akron team without its point guard, but VCU doesn’t have much inside presence and has struggled to score when its defense doesn’t create a bunch of easy baskets.

UNDERSEEDED: No. 8 North Carolina. Six weeks ago, the Tar Heels looked like an NIT team. Then, something clicked. They’re scoring a bunch of points, sharing the scoring wealth and haven’t lost to anybody but Duke or Miami (Fla.) since late January. They have a very winnable first-round game with Villanova, then should give Kansas everything it can handle this weekend.

TRENDING UPWARD: No. 1 Kansas. This team was under the radar early in the year despite being the national runner-up last season. The conference season brought some head-scratchers, though, none more so than a loss to TCU. Yes, Kansas lost at TCU. But the Jayhawks have two very special players in Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey and showed their potential when they hit the gas and cruised to the Big 12 tournament crown last weekend.

<<Podcast: Breaking down the bracket, A to Z style>>

TRENDING DOWNWARD: No. 4 Michigan. The Wolverines are just 6-6 in their last 12 games, including an inexplicable loss at Penn State and a quick exit from the Big Ten tournament in Chicago last weekend. Michigan is struggling defensively and has a young team that looks tired. The Wolverines earned the right to play in Auburn Hills, Mich., based on what they did in December — and they’ll have to play better than they have recently to earn their way to Dallas.

BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: VCU-Akron. The Rams want pressure, tempo and a full-court game. Akron wants to win it in the half court. The coaches know each other well. A 14-point VCU victory wouldn’t be a total surprise; neither would an Akron victory.

BEST POTENTIAL GAMES: Michigan-VCU and Kansas-North Carolina this weekend; Georgetown-Florida in the Sweet 16, Florida-Kansas in the regional final.

PLAYER WHO COULD MAKE SOME NBA CASH: Otto Porter, Georgetown. He’s done a little of everything this year and now gets the chance to do it on college basketball’s big stage. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the top of this year’s NBA Draft and with so many potential picks having a bunch of, um, potential, Porter can use this tournament to show his polish and make himself some money.

NOT-TOTALLY-CRAZY OFFICE POOL PLAYS: Akron over VCU; San Diego State over Georgetown and into the Sweet 16.

SAFEST OFFICE POOL PLAY: A Kansas-Florida regional final.

Atlantic 10 statement on Xavier and Butler departing

Full text of the Atlantic 10 statement on Xavier and Butler leaving for the new Big East…

NEWPORT NEWS, Va.—Atlantic 10 Conference Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade released the following statement on the departure of Xavier University and Butler University.

“I wish Xavier University and Butler University all the best in their new conference. They are two outstanding universities with outstanding people; our partnership has been mutually beneficial and successful. As a longtime strong A-10 member, Xavier’s departure is unfortunate. Butler’s departure is a by-product of the chaotic conference realignment environment. BU’s association with the A-10 has been a fun ride this year; no regrets from the Atlantic 10 for providing a home for them during the 2012-13 season.

“As a conference, we anticipated this move and are prepared to proactively move forward. The A-10 is strong – we have 16 basketball teams participating in the postseason and will focus on them right now. NCAA Postseason is an exciting time not to be overshadowed by conference realignment.

“Lastly I would like to acknowledge both presidents: Rev. Michael Graham and James Danko for their cooperation and professionalism in their management of this issue. It has been an honor to work with and for them.”

What I think the committee is thinking

Posted 1:01 p.m. Updated 4:09 p.m.

I am a committee of one. I know stuff.

If you’ve ever been to this blog, you probably were familiar with that concept.

Today, though, most eyes are on the NCAA tournament selection committee and the final results of that group’s work. Sixty-eight teams are going to be seeded, bracketed and sent to eight sites for games starting on Thursday.

Here’s my best guess at what we’ll see a little after 6 o’clock tonight. Again, this is my guess at what the committee will do, not what I think it should do.

My guess at the No. 1 seeds

Midwest – Louisville (No. 1 overall)
East – Miami
South – Indiana
West – Gonzaga

My guess at the No. 2 seeds

Midwest – Duke
East – Florida
South – Georgetown
West – Kansas

I’m beginning to like the No. 2 seeds better than I like the No. 1 seeds.

I think Ohio State is a 3 seed, Cincinnati is an 11 seed and Akron could be a 12, but probably is a 13. The absence of Alex Abreu certainly affects that and keeps the Zips from being seeded higher.

I think Wisconsin, Saint Louis and Michigan are No. 4 seeds; I think Michigan State and New Mexico are No. 3 seeds. I have other thoughts, too, but there are games to watch.

I don’t think the committee cares much about the currently ongoing Big Ten championship game.

My thoughts on the bubble, on which Ole Miss no longer lives…

Iowa – Out

Boise State – In

Kentucky – Out

Middle Tennessee – In

Saint Mary’s – In

Southern Miss – Out

LaSalle – Out

Temple – In

Tennessee – In

Cal – In

Louisiana Tech – Out

UMass – Out

Villanova – Out

Virginia – Out

I think the toughest, closest calls there are with LaSalle, Tennessee and Villanova. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

A little bubble-watching viewer’s guide

If I was a potential NCAA Tournament bubble team (or a fan of a potential bubble team), and for purposes of this blog entry I mean mostly Akron and to a lesser extent Cincinnati, this is what I’d be rooting for over the next several days.

By the next several days, I mean the end of the regular season for most teams and in the conference tournaments that have already started or start over the next 48 hours. We’ll dive into this discussion again next week before the Big East, Big Ten, MAC and most of the rest of the country start their conference tournaments.

So, without futher ado, here’s what those aforementioned teams should be rooting for…

*Belmont to win the Ohio Valley Tournament.

*Middle Tennessee to win the Sun Belt Tournament.

*Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s to win the West Coast Tournament. BYU (or someone else) winning it would be stealing a bid.

*Kentucky to lose at Georgia on Thursday, then at home to Florida on Saturday. The obvious preference is both. A win over Florida would be really big for Kentucky’s shaky NCAA Tournament resume; a loss to Georgia certainly wouldn’t help it.

*Whether a more qualified Akron team would actually make the field over Kentucky because Akron is, well, Akron and Kentucky is Kentucky is a different argument. We’ll dive more into that next week.

*Cincinnati, just in case, would like the likes of Oregon, Iowa State, Marshall and Xavier to win. It so happens that it’s less important — but still potentially important — to Akron’s computer profile that Oklahoma State beats Iowa State Wednesday night. Iowa State needs that game.

*Boise State looks like a tournament team and pretty much as a tournament resume, but the Broncos play San Diego St. on Saturday and quite possibly again in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament. In Ohio, folks will be rooting for the Aztecs.

*Georgetown to beat Villanova on Wednesday, Butler to beat UMass on Thursday, LaSalle to lose to Saint Louis on Saturday and VCU to beat Temple on the same day.

*This is just a template and some ideas; it’s entirely possible Akron won’t need an at-large bid and Cincinnati will play itself up a few seed lines and away from a potential and/or perceived bubble. But the Bearcats need some wins, or they might need some help.