-Whatever was wrong with Butler in their rather decisive loss at Xavier has not been wrong with them in this tournament. They hung in with what is by all accounts a strong Marquette team, and ended up winning on a last second shot. That was a huge win because not only is it a quality win in and of itself, but it also awarded them the opportunity to face North Carolina in the next round, who they also ended up beating. The Butler lead was as high as 29 points in the second half. UNC came back and got as close as six, but could not get over the top. Butler is off to a great start and these wins will look great for them come tournament time.
-Other games of note were Chaminade’s upset win over Texas. Texas is off to an absolutely horrible start. They followed up that loss with another loss to an underwhelming USC team.
-Illinois has advanced to the finals and will face Butler tonight. Unlike Butler, their road hasn’t been exceptionally difficult as their wins have come against Chaminade and USC. They will face a quality team tonight and appear to be overmatched.
-If the four semifinalists were not predetermined, Georgia would not have been here because Youngstown State would have knocked them out. Once they were here, though, they played much better than expected despite the fact that they lost to both Indiana and UCLA.
-Indiana won the tournament and looked good doing it, but we already knew the Hoosiers were good. The team I think we learned the most about was Georgetown, who handled a highly touted UCLA team, and then took the top ranked Hoosiers into overtime. It would have been a fantastic win, but it is not a damaging loss by any means. The Hoyas are definitely a team to watch for.
-If I counted correctly, nine of the twelve Paradise Jam games were decided by ten points or less, and it provided some of the more exciting games we’ve seen so far. New Mexico beat George Mason at the buzzer in the semifinal round, and Quinnipiac took Connecticut to overtime in the semifinal game, which followed a furious comeback by UConn. New Mexico ended up winning the tournament over what appears to be a very good UConn team, so they’re off to a great start in building their NCAA Tourney profile.
NIT PRESEASON TIPOFF
-Many are expecting big things out of Drexel in the Colonial this year, but Delaware has a chance to make some real noise early as they have advanced to the semis of the NIT with their win at Virginia. They will face Kansas State tonight, and Michigan will face Pitt in the other game. Michigan is ranked way ahead of everyone else, but I do think that Pitt will challenge them tonight.
BATTLE FOR ATLANTIS
-Traditionally, this isn’t a tournament that resonates with people the way the Maui or the NIT does, but it appears to have one of the stronger fields this year. Louisville, Duke and Memphis are all highly ranked, and VCU, Stanford, Minnesota and Missouri are all NCAA hopefuls. Northern Iowa, who appears to be the weakest team in the field, is still pretty good. Every game in this tournament will feature a tournament quality team, and you can bet the committee will look very closely at virtually every one of these results. Hopefully you get the NBC Sports Network, because this is a fantastic field.
OLD SPICE CLASSIC
-West Virginia, Davidson, Oklahoma, Clemson and Gonzaga appear to be the stronger teams in this field. Gonzaga has already faced West Virginia, and they basically blew them off the planet. Davidson has had some challenging games as well, but has come up short. This tournament is very important for them because it provides them opportunities at notable wins. Once conference play begins for them, they won’t have these kinds of chances anymore, so they need to take advantage of it now.
-Not as strong as some of the other fields, but Xavier, Drexel, Saint Mary’s and California are all teams to pay attention to. Saint Mary’s appears to be the best team, but Xavier is off to a good start as well. Not much was expected out of the Musketeers this year, but they are unbeaten and have what appears to be a quality win against Butler. If they can do well in this tournament, it will continue their momentum and put some more good wins on their resume. Drexel and Saint Mary’s face each other in the first game, which is kind unusual bracketing since those two appear to be the two best teams.
GREAT ALASKA SHOOTOUT
-It is not as great as it used to be, but then again it produced two teams last year that were way off the radar at the time, but turned out to be solid NCAA teams in Murray State and Southern Miss. That’s why I mention it. You just never know. Belmont looks to be a good team, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them win this. Charlotte and Oral Roberts are two other teams to watch for.