Tournament Watch: Sunday Viewing Guide
For the first time in a few weeks, Purdue went into a game that had virtually no chance of hurting their tournament hopes, which is good, because the Boilers became the fifth NCAA-bound team (Boise State, UAB, Iowa, Ohio State) to lose to Wisconsin by 20 or more points. The Good Guys have a tournament bid locked away mostly because so many other teams blew their chances, but also because they won 10 of their last 14 in a conference that had a number of teams looking to do the same thing. Three of those wins came against teams that needed them badly (Indiana and Illinois), and two more came against teams that made it anyway (Iowa and OSU). It wasn't pretty, but then December wasn't either.
Changing it up a bit: I'll tell you about the games I watched, in whole or in part.
Albany and Stony Brook was interesting because of the finish, but games that are that low-scoring are generally not interesting to watch unless you have a rooting interest or know the teams well. Nothing else was on, so I didn't have a choice.
Hampton and Delaware State was at least a faster-paced game, and the first half was even, but the Hornets wore down in the second, putting yet another sub-.500 team in the tournament. Maybe the Pirates can film another ESPN commercial while they're in Dayton.
I didn't watch Purdue because I knew you all had it covered for me. Instead, I watched Harvard and Yale play in an arena that's about as old as Mackey (well, not quite) but not nearly as renovated. There was another dramatic finish, but as I pointed out on Twitter, the best part was watching the Ivy League CEO beam on camera about how this game was so wonderful and got the league so much publicity. It's so much fun watching someone from 1955 experience 2015 firsthand. (Oddly, the CEO is a woman - props to the Ivies for that. Perhaps their trendsetting CEO could do a little more research into things that might get the league more exposure on television ... and then maybe they could afford announcers. I'd actually take the BTN+ people over these guys.)
After that, it was Iowa State and Kansas, mostly because Wayne Selden Jr. was the first guy playing on my DraftKings team tonight. (Don't worry, tonight I made enough to buy my own jelly beans. It still cracks me up that not too long ago, the NCAA still tried to pretend that they owned the rights to players' names and stats. Remember when only certain places would do NCAA fantasy, and even then it was kind of black-market gaming? Now, you can actually make money on NCAA fantasy sports.) I got a kick out of watching Bill Self see a late lead collapse without any idea how to stop it. What, Roy Williams didn't leave you any notes about that? Well, yeah, you do have a point. He'd have just made things worse.
Next, Buffalo and Central Michigan. The only thing worse than seeing ESPN brag 100 times about how people hate Christian Laettner is seeing another Dookie from that era back on TV. Bobby Hurley looks just as whiny as he did under Coach K, but thankfully we'll only have to watch him for one more day this year. Buffalo's defense and three-point shooting aren't good enough for them to cause problems as a 12 seed.
I kind of got sidetracked here and forgot that the UNC-ND game was on. I was hoping Notre Dame would bring its early-season defense to Greensboro and let Marcus Paige and Kennedy Meeks wreak some havoc. They did, for maybe 25 minutes. After that, UNC kind of sucked. It was great to watch Roy Williams make his usual whiny faces instead of doing actual coaching.
I wrapped up my night with Oregon and Arizona, mostly for
gamblingfantasy sports purposes, but also because I'd forgotten what was on the other ESPN channels. Eventually Sling got tired and wouldn't stream anymore, but I saw Arizona open up its big lead, and then I spent the rest of the evening watching my DraftKings page and hoping that Brandon Ashley would stop doing things. The Wildcats looked really, really good. Utah would have been a much better test, but sometimes it's enough to see a top team just blow out a pretty good team again. (Arizona won the regular-season meetings by 18 and 34.) A 28-point win is big enough, but in a game with 61 possessions, that's an even bigger margin of victory. (By contrast, the 18-point win had 72 possessions.) I got the points and rebounds I needed for my jelly beans, and Arizona got the blowout it needed for a #1 seed.
Projected seed: 10 (40th on S curve)
Looks like everyone's caught up from Saturday's action.
Bracket Matrix: updated at 7:57 PM Saturday. Purdue's up to 10.55, in 93 of 95 brackets, with the only two offenders the ones previously listed.
Lunardi: dude's been updating during the day periodically, and has finally updated to include everything from Saturday (including UC Irvine winning the Big West). Purdue's now the fourth 10 seed, but went from playing Xavier in Charlotte with Virginia waiting in the second round, to playing Butler in Omaha with Kansas waiting in the second round. I strongly prefer Purdue-Virginia to Purdue-Arizona. I mean, Tarczewski (I spelled that from memory) vs. Hammons would be really interesting. A.J. doesn't usually match up with guys anywhere near his size. Hollis-Jefferson vs. ... yeah, let's just stop there. Could Rapheal be just a little bit taller for one day?
Not sure how I feel about Kansas vs. Arizona. I guess in general, if you're a 10 seed, it shouldn't matter? Any loss is expected and any win is awesome.
dratings: updated at 8:38 AM. Purdue's the fourth 10 seed, no change.
kenpom: 49th, down one spot. No big deal.
RPI: updated through Saturday's games, presumably. There's still a tie for 53rd, but it's LSU and Harvard. Purdue moved up to 52nd, Mississippi moved down to 55th.
SEC: #2 Arkansas (26-7, RPI 17) vs. #1 Kentucky (33-0, RPI 1), 1:00 on ESPN
The 5 line is a tough place to be. Do you want Louisville, Baylor, North Carolina, or Northern Iowa? Those teams are clustered between 12 and 18 in kenpom's current ratings. Arkansas is 29th. They do not want any of those teams. Of course, if you're a 5, and you move up, where's that 4 going to go? Right. Still, your other options are West Virginia, Wichita State, and Utah. The Shockers might be an interesting matchup, given the Razorbacks' size and tempo ... but for that to happen, Arkansas would have to beat Kentucky. Stranger things have happened.
A-10: #5 VCU (24-9, RPI 16) vs. #2 Dayton (25-7, RPI 28), 1:00 on CBS
VCU is also in the wrong place: as a 9 seed, they can't avoid a second-round matchup with a 1, especially not with Dayton also on the 9 line. Sure enough, overnight changes moved them to an 8, but they're still the fourth 8 seed. I wouldn't be surprised if the committee just left those two in place. At best, they might just say "A-10 champ" and "A-10 runner-up" and then put in the teams after the game.
Sun Belt: #2 Georgia Southern (21-8, RPI 113) vs. #1 Georgia State (22-9, RPI 61), 1:00 on ESPN2
Why drag this tournament out for four days? Just have the top two seeds play it out, or maybe just take the regular-season champion. The Sun Belt had 10 postseason-eligible teams, but only had 8 in their tournament, and then did the staggered two-games-per-day setup that some other small conferences have. Sounds great until you realize that you're renting a facility for four days instead of three, nobody's going to pay for extra nights in a hotel to watch their teams, etc. etc. Make it a normal three-round tournament and wrap it up Friday for more visibility.
AAC: #1 SMU (26-6, RPI 13) at #6 Connecticut (20-13, RPI 67), 3:15 on ESPN
Remember how Wyoming might have knocked Indiana out of the tournament? No, because it was a painful 45-43 game, so of course you don't remember that from Saturday. (That's actually a lower-scoring game than the Final Four game the Cowboys won in 1943, 58-54 vs. Texas, and fewer points than they scored in the title game, a 46-34 win over Georgetown.) Well, UConn may have an insurance shot, and they'll probably force the selection committee to make two brackets: one with SMU as tournament champ and the Huskies out of the field, and one with UConn as the tournament champ and maybe Mississippi or Boise State out of the field.
SMU ought to win this one, but surprise! Connecticut's basically at home, even though this isn't played in Storrs. I'd make a joke about second-rate conferences and semi-neutral courts, but imagine if Maryland had beaten MSU. They'd be playing Wisconsin in Chicago. Granted, the Badgers don't play in Chicago during the regular season, but in terms of driving distance, it's the same ballpark: UW fans can easily make it to Chicago. Maryland fans just have to wait a couple of years.
Bee One Gee: #3 Michigan State (23-10, RPI 22) vs. #1 Wisconsin (30-3, RPI 4), 3:30 on CBS
Remember when we thought the dumbest thing Jim Delany could do to the tournament was put it so late in the day that a possible at-large team would be screwed out of a spot? HA. In a couple of years, when the vast majority of Big Ten fans decline to spend hours fighting through traffic or triple digits on tickets in arenas far from any existing fan bases, Delany will be on camera desperately trying to convince the public that the thousands of empty seats behind him were actually roped off for safety reasons or something like that, while CBS and BTN explain away the lack of free online viewing options by blaming Comcast for having their own sports networks.
It'll be even better when Delany has to explain how he moved the tournament from a pair of facilities that were selling out every game to a venue in 2018 that was ALREADY BOOKED THAT WEEK. It'll be just like when Delany convinced people that there was no need to have a championship game in football and then whined about how hard it was to get people to pick a conference team for the BS title game instead of figuring out what was going on, only it'll directly affect a number of teams instead of just one.
But hey! At least this year and next, Big Tenteen basketball is reasonably close to us, and if you feel like using your old HD antenna, you can dial in CBS (if you can find it) to watch Wisconsin pummel Michigan State. Make sure to watch the postgame press conference where Tom Izzo blames the loss on the unusually low pressure inside the United Center, or the odd magnetic waves emanating from Lake Michigan, or something else like that.