Tuesday, March 08, 2005


If you saw last night's WCC final between Gonzaga and St. Mary's you were treated to a great showcase of talent. Tightly contested game for much of the way, but Adam Morrison's 30 points spearheaded a GU win. Gonzaga really impressed last night and I think they have a legit shot at making the Final Four if they receive a favorable draw. One that, for instance, might have them as a 4 seed with Kentucky and Duke as the 1 and 2. St. Mary's moved themselves into the tournament as well. Their at-large status seems assured having simply played in the championship game of the #7 rated conference in America (behind only the traditional BCS conferences). That means the relatively diminutive WCC finished ahead of Conference USA, the Mountain West Conference, the WAC, and the Atlantic 10. Leaps and bounds for the WCC.

Old Dominion winning the Colonial Athletic title was cause for a lot of high-profile bubble teams to exhale, as ODU has a strong enough profile to bump one of them out if they hadn't grabbed the automatic bid.

Teams who need to perform well/win their conference tournament to earn a bid to the Dance:
- The entire MAC quarterfinals crop. Each of these squads could fair well in the tournament, but they've beaten on eachother so badly during the regular season that it's hard to separate Buffalo from Akron from Ohio from Kent St. The only standout at the moment is Miami (OH), but they don't have the conference crown in the bag just yet. An appearance in the MAC title game would probably get Miami in if other bubble teams falter. No guarantees in my favorite mid-major conference.

- People keep saying the ACC has several bubble teams. As I see it, they have two right on the brink: Maryland and North Carolina St. Both can help themselves with a win (or two for NC State) in the conference tournament. I think at this point it is safe to assume that Georgia Tech is in and that Miami and Virginia Tech are not.

- Indiana. The Hoosiers have a very unimpressive record, but finished with ten wins in the Big Ten -- something highly regarded in the past by the NCAA selection committee. Their game against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament will be scrutinized endlessly as the Gophers are probably keeping Indiana out at this point.

- Vermont. They simply need to win the America East tournament. No room for error. They're the darlings among the minnows this season, but lost three of their last six down the stretch. They also play in a weak conference that will never earn two bids.

- New Mexico is an incredibly interesting case. Here's a team that has 22 wins, but an awful computer profile (their strength of schedule is 298/330). They may need a couple more victories to feel safe.

- From Conference USA, it seems to me that DePaul and UAB are jockeying for the same spot. DePaul has a healthy lead at the moment, but the Blazers finished strong and could reverse their fortunes with a good showing in the conference tourney.

- I really don't like any of the Big East bubble teams. Notre Dame will probably make the field of 65, but West Virginia really has to do something special and upset a couple teams to earn their way in. Georgetown, for the record, is toast after the sad way they limped to the finish line, losing five in a row.

Top 10 Championship Contenders
1. North Carolina - 1 and 1A with the Illini.
1A. Illinois - See above.
3. Oklahoma St. - Yes, even if they're third in the conference. I'm really high on this club.
4. Connecticut - Peaking at the right time. Very dangerous now that Marcus Williams is comfortable at point guard.
5. Wake Forest - Need to shore up their perimeter defense if to have a chance.
6. Kansas - If they're healthy (Keith Langford, Wayne Simien, etc.) they can beat anyone. They will, however, make it very hard on themselves.
7. Kentucky - Can never count out the Wildcats. Depth, Tubby Smith, and experience.
8. Gonzaga - The team no one wants to admit is strong enough to beat the big boys. They are. This team is balanced, well-coached, and has already scalped OK State, Georgia Tech, and Washington this season.
9. Arizona - Could be feast or famine with UofA. If they run into a buzzsaw like North Carolina or Oklahoma St, I'd say it's likely their run ended there. They certainly do have the talent and senior leadership to get there. It also helps having Channing Frye as a dominant big man and Lute Olson on the bench.
10. Duke - They're one Shelden Williams foul trouble game away from being cooked. As much as Coach K is a genius and Redick can shoot the lights out, this team is still paper thin.

Runners up -- Washington, Boston College, Oklahoma, Villanova, Louisville

My First Team All-Americans:
G Chris Paul (Wake Forest)
G Dee Brown (Illinois)
F Hakim Warrick (Syracuse)
F Ike Diogu (Arizona St.)
C Andrew Bogut (Utah)-- player of the year


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