Bracket Racket and Highlighted Games: Tuesday, Dec 31st

Here’s the Bracket Racket for this week! And we’ve got it in combo with the highlighted games for the day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDNIcFSy8uw

-SAINT JOHN’S AT XAVIER (Big East). Xavier had some decent wins out of conference, but no great ones. Saint John’s did less than they did. Both teams need a strong showing in league play if they want to dance.

-KENT STATE AT PRINCETON. These are two teams with good records, but who still don’t have much in the way of quality and have a razor thin margin for error between now and the end.

-OHIO STATE AT PURDUE (Big Ten). Purdue hasn’t excited anyone yet, but they are 10-3 and have looked good when I’ve seen them. If they win this one, they’ll turn some heads. Ohio State has looked good, but they haven’t played a tough OOC schedule.

-DUKE VS ELON. This game is in Greensboro. Elon is likely the best team in the SoCon, but they’re overmatched today. It’s a real #1v#16 seed feel to this game. Well, maybe 2 v 15.

-SETON HALL AT PROVIDENCE (Big East). Providence didn’t register any bad losses OOC, but they didn’t get any good wins either. That’s the story for most Big East teams. They’ll need to do well in conference if they want a bid.

-EASTERN MICHIGAN AT SYRACUSE. This is a pretty good Eastern Michigan team that has taken on some top power conference opponents. They’ve beaten none of them, though, and this is perhaps their toughest game yet.

-GEORGE WASHINGTON AT KANSAS STATE. These are two teams that have done respectively well OOC, but that no one is talking all that much about. K State got off to a terrible start, but has been good since. GW has just one loss, and has some decent wins on their profile as well. Both these teams are good enough to establish themselves, and whoever wins this will have another quality win on their resume.

-INDIANA AT ILLINOIS (Big Ten). Both teams have good records, and Illinois has a nice win against Missouri, but I get the feeling that neither has established themselves as a tournament team yet, and will have to fight in conference to do it, so even though it’s the first game of league play, it still has a pivotal feel to it.

-MICHIGAN STATE AT PENN STATE (Big Ten). Penn State isn’t a likely tournament team, but they are certainly good enough to play the role of spoiler at home, especially against a Michigan State team that hasn’t looked overly impressive all of the time. The Spartans better be on upset alert for this one.

-LOUISVILLE AT UCF (AAC). Louisville has had a bad couple of days. They lost to their big rivals, and then they lost two contributing players (one to injury, and one to suspension). UCF is 8-3, and although they’ve played a weak schedule, Louisville hasn’t beaten any solid teams away from home. A win for Louisville would be their biggest to date.

-UNC WILMINGTON AT NORTH CAROLINA. UNC shouldn’t have too much trouble against their cross state foes today.

-DEPAUL AT GEORGETOWN. Georgetown REALLLY needs to finish at least four games above .500 and avoid bad losses in order to feel safe. I would consider losing at home to DePaul to be a bad loss.

-MEMPHIS AT SOUTH FLORIDA (AAC). Memphis should be able to win this without too much trouble. They need a solid showing in league play.

-NEBRASKA AT IOWA (Big Ten). Nebraska’s program is trending up, but Iowa’s program is up. They should be able to take care of business at home.

-VILLANOVA AT BUTLER (Big East). Nova has an excellent profile and will likely be favored in all their remaining games. They will really get a test today from what appears to be a good Butler team. Butler’s problem is that they came close to winning some big games, but didn’t actually do it.

-MARQUETTE AT CREIGHTON (Big East). Creighton did okay OOC, but can’t afford to slip up in conference play. Marquette has been disappointing so far and really needs an impressive showing. This is a pivotal game for them.

Small Conference Games of the Day – December 29 and 30

Dr. Pepper Classic, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Sunday, December 29
4:30 PM Eastern: Maine vs Middle Tennessee (no TV)
7:00 PM Eastern: Grand Canyon at Chattanooga (no TV)

Monday, December 30
4:30 PM Eastern: Third Place Game (no TV)
7:00 PM Eastern: Championship Game (no TV)

The SCGD take the choo-choo to Chattanooga, Tennessee today and tomorrow for the last bracketed event of the season before conference tournaments, the Dr. Pepper Classic hosted by the Chattanooga Mocs.  This non-exempt four team tournament kicks off today with its semifinals as Maine battles Middle Tennessee followed by Grand Canyon taking on host school Chattanooga.  The third place game will be Monday at 4:30 PM, followed by the championship at 7:00 PM.

Maine enters the tournament at 1-9 on the season, with the Black Bears lone win coming over non-D1 Fisher College.  They have already lost twice to NJIT as well as suffering a home loss to a bad Army team.  Maine is presently ranked #345 in the KenPom, #317 in the RPI and #348 in the BPI.  Quite simply, this had been a disastrous season so far and the Black Bears are the clear “favorites” for a fourth place finish in this event.  Barring a miraculous turnaround in America East play, this will not be the year Maine makes it to their first ever NCAA tournament.  The State of Maine is the only state in the nation that has a Division I program and has never placed a team into the NCAA tournament (Alaska has also never had a team in the Big Dance, but has no D1 teams).

While Maine is clearly the weakest of the four teams in this field, Middle Tennessee is clearly the favorite to win it.  The Blue Raiders are 8-4 so far without a bad loss (although also without much in terms of wins either).  MTSU is not good enough to be under at-large consideration barring a complete domination of Conference USA — which is unlikely with the likes of Louisiana Tech, UAB, Southern Miss and Charlotte to deal with.  However, Kermit Davis has a solid team that should be in some form of postseason play this year, most likely the CBI or CIT.

Grand Canyon is not going to be playing postseason basketball this year no matter what they do as they are an ineligible transitional team in their first year of Division I play.  Dan Majerele should be able to build this program quickly though, and it would not be a shock to see them in the NCAA tournament within a few years of gaining eligibility.  The Lopes are 5-6 so far on the season, though 3 of the wins are over non-D1 foes.  They have been competitive though, losing by 3 to Loyola Marymount, 1 to Tulsa and 2 to Northern Arizona.  Unfortunately, the Lopes had some tough news this week as their top player, Demetrius Walker (formerly of both Arizona State and New Mexico) was dismissed from the team along with Jeff Lowery for “violation of team rules.”  Guard Justin Foreman, who was also a solid contributor so far, was suspended indefinitely as well.  The losses of these three players will make it difficult for Grand Canyon the rest of the season, though the SCGD still picks them to finish at least third in this event.

Finally, the host Chattanooga Mocs enter the tournament at 4-8 on the season, but with only one D1 win, a victory over IUPUI.  They have already suffered several bad losses including Northern Kentucky, Kennesaw State and the lowly Georgia Bulldogs.  That being said, the Mocs could pick up some momentum in their host event before starting conference play next Saturday.  With the Southern Conference appearing to be wide open in light of Davidson’s struggles so far, there is no reason that even the Mocs can have a shot at contending for the league’s lone tournament bid.

Small Conference Game of the Day – December 28

Check out David Griggs’ preview of all of today’s action by clicking here!

Harvard at Fordham, 4:00PM Eastern (SNY)

Following the Christmas break, the SCGD returns today, taking us to the Bronx for the battle between Tommy Amaker’s Harvard Crimson and the Fordham Rams.  Harvard has been sniffing at breaking into the Top 25 the past few weeks, having run off 6 straight victories since losing at Colorado, and boasting a 10-1 overall record on the season.  With the meat of the Ivy League season still several weeks from starting, today’s game is one of four remaining non-conference road tests.  The Crimson will also have to travel to Rice, Florida Atlantic and UConn, plus a home contest against Boston College before turning their attention to  conference play.

Fordham is off to a solid 7-4 start to the season.  However, their most notable win to date is a road win over Manhattan.  That is offset by a bad road loss to Monmouth and an even worse home loss to Sacred Heart.  Today’s game is the second to last non-conference game for the Rams, with only a trip to Siena on Monday before A-10 play starts.  This appears to be Harvard’s game to lose today, but Tom Pecora’s Rams should be ready and it would not be a shock if this game is close all the way.

Highlighted Games for Saturday, Dec 28th

SPOTLIGHT GAMES

-LOUISVILLE AT KENTUCKY. It’s the Saturday after Christmas, and that means the Bluegrass State is on full meltdown alert. The normal story line for this game on paper is that it is an out of conference games between two solid tournament teams who are looking for a quality win. This year it actually means a little more. Neither team has a big win yet, and at the same time neither team will have quite as many opportunities in conference to get one, so this could end up being the biggest win that either team manages on paper as well as off. Louisville has played a weaker schedule, but has looked really good against some fringe tournament teams. Kentucky is more tested, but still doesn’t have a really big win yet. It’s normally a sloppy game, and it may be again this year. The cliche of throwing the books out the window really is in play for this one. Neither team or fan base cares about winning a big game to impress the committee. They care about winning this game for bragging rights.

-VILLANOVA AT SYRACUSE. An old conference rivalry that is no longer a rivarly. Both teams are playing like protected seeds, and are currently looking like #1 seeds, so it’s a low risk/high reward game. It will be a great win for whoever pulls it off, but it won’t be a damaging loss at all for whoever doesn’t.

-PROVIDENCE AT UMASS. UMass is at home today, which is a place that haven’t been at all that often this season. They have an impressive resume despite the fact that they’re coming off a loss to Florida State. Providence has just two losses this year, but doesn’t have any really good wins. This is a huge game for them because if they can get this one on the road it would go a long way as far as them making the dance. The problem is they’re battling injuries and suspensions. UMass, on the other hand, is looking to add another notable win to their already impressive profile.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTED GAMES

-NEBRASKA AT CINCINNATI. Both teams have decent records, but neither have a really good win yet, although Cincinnati did beat what is currently a decent Pitt team. Nebraska is better than expected, but if they are actually good enough to be in the discussion then they need this win.

-BELMONT AT INDIANA STATE. Belmont has lost three straight and Indiana State has dropped some games as well since winning at Notre Dame. If either team wants any shot at all at an at-large then they need to win this one.

-EASTERN MICHIGAN AT DUKE. At 7-3, Eastern Michigan has played well and appears to be better than expected, but they’re likely way overmatched in this one. Still, when you consider how weak Duke’s defense has been, and how they still don’t have a hugely impressive win, it does appear to be a game that’s at least worth watching.

-SOUTHERN MISS AT RHODE ISLAND. Southern Miss is a respectable 11-2, but because they don’t have a strong schedule or conference, their margin for error is thin. They need to pretty much win them all if they want to stay in the discussion.

-UIC VS ILLINOIS. This game is in Chicago, but it will be a very pro-Illini crowd. Illinois just had a big win against Missouri, and this is their first game back. They’ve struggled in the past against UIC, so although it may look like a cakewalk, Illinois may sweat a bit.

-GEORGE WASHINGTON AT HOFSTRA. A win for GW puts them at 11-1. Despite their good record and despite this being a road game, a loss would be somewhat damaging.

-HARVARD AT FORDHAM. Fordham, who has perennially been one of the worst teams in div1, is now out to a respectable 7-4 record and has actually looked decent at times. They may put up a fight at home against a Harvard team, who suddenly needs to be conscious of their OOC games now that Princeton is on the scene.

-BYU AT LMU. BYU has some decent wins, but they’ve struggled recently and really need to have a sense of urgency against an LMU team that has been tough to beat at home so far.

-WAKE FOREST AT XAVIER. Wake is out to a quiet 10-2 start, and has looked decent at times. Xavier has won four straight since losing all three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Both of these teams have shown signs of life, but both still have a feel of being on the outside looking in and trying to solidify themselves, so both need to come into this with a sense of urgency.

-OLD DOMINION AT RICHMOND. Richmond, I believe, is running out of strikes. They need to go on a massive winning streak if they want to be in the picture. They can’t afford a loss to their cross state rivals today.

-CLEVELAND STATE AT KENT STATE. If Kent State can get a win against their neighbors to the north, they’ll improve to an impressive 10-2.

-BOSTON COLLEGE AT VCU. VCU has been disappointing so far, but they still have a ton of potential and shouldn’t have too much trouble today.

-SANTA CLARA AT GONZAGA (West Coast). Gonzaga has a good record, but doesn’t have any big wins yet, so they won’t have a huge margin for error in conference play.

-MISSOURI AT NC STATE. I’ve said all along that I think Missouri is good at home, but terrible on the road. If they truly are a top 25 team, this is the kind of road game that they should be able to win. NC State is decent, but not great, despite their 9-2 record. Their only win of note so far is at Tennessee, so it’s a big game for them as well.

-GEORGIA AT COLORADO. The Buffs should have little trouble in this one.

-ALABAMA AT UCLA. Alabama has been somewhat disappointing this year and is likely overmatched in this one.

 

BUY GAMES

-Eastern Washington at UConn

-Jackson State at Memphis

-FIU at Georgetown

-NJIT at Butler. NJIT is having a decent year by their standards, but they’re way overmatched today.

-Prarie View A&M at Wisconsin

-UC Irvine at Arizona State. I’m still not completely sold on the Sun Devils, but a win does get them to 12-2

-Coppin State at Toledo. A win for the Rockets gets them to 12-0.

-Lamar at Colorado State

-New Orleans at Michigan State

-Tulane vs Kansas State (Not officially a buy game, but it seems like one. The game is in Brooklyn, NY.

-Furman at California

-Holy Cross at Michigan

-High Point at Arkansas. A win for Arkansas gets them to 10-2.

McNeese State at LSU. A win for LSU gets them to 9-2, and they have decent wins over Butler and UAB.

-TAMUCC at Minnesota

-San Diego Christian (nondiv1) at Utah State

Bracket Racket 12/22/13

HHDpodsOn our penultimate Bracket Racket of 2013, Galen, Kyle, and David talk about some of the key games from the past week and how those play in to the conferences at the top of the college basketball spectrum. We talk extensively about North Carolina, Texas, Louisville, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon, BYU, and a host of other schools, as we break down both recent results and overall schedules. We also take a look at the relative strength of the ACC, Pac 12, Big East, and Big 12, and discuss the potential tournament teams coming out of those conferences. Finally, we preview what is likely to be an abbreviated week of college basketball, highlighting the games featuring Kentucky, Louisville, Syracuse, and Villanova on Saturday.

Small Conference Games of the Day – December 22 and 23

As we head into the Christmas holiday break, the SCGD heads back to Las Vegas the next two days for the Las Vegas Classic.  This exempt tournament features two separate brackets of teams playing semifinals today and Third Place/Championship games tomorrow.  The “Hosts” bracket features Mississippi State, South Florida, UNLV and Santa Clara.  However it is the “Visitors” bracket that is the feature for the next two days here at the SCGD.

The Visitors bracket begins with its semifinals today.  At 3:00PM Eastern time, Radford will be taking on Sacred Heart.  At 5:30PM, Florida A&M will battle Florida Gulf Coast.  The two losers meet in a third place game tomorrow at 2:30, while the winners meet at 5:00PM.

Radford enters this tournament with a record of 6-4.  None of their 4 losses have been awful (the worst being to Santa Clara), but on the same token none of their wins have been anything of note either (the best being over North Carolina A&T).  The Highlanders do look like they will be able to contend in the Big South’s North Division this season, though the conference’s top two teams (Winthrop and Charleston Southern) are both in the South.

Sacred Heart is 2-10 on the year so far with road wins over Fordham and Hofstra, but 10 losses to mostly mid-major and lower quality teams.  The best game the Pioneers have played so far was on November 26 when they forced Boston College to overtime before losing.  It appears that this is going to be a long season in Fairfield, CT as the Pioneers will probably be fighting to just qualify for the Northeast Conference tournament.

Florida A&M has had an even worse season so far than Sacred Heart.  They stand at 2-9 overall, with only one win over a D1 team, 63-60 at home over Stetson back on November 14.  the Rattlers losses include a loss at Jacksonville, a team which is ranked 321 in the KenPoms at the moment.  One of the lone advantages that FAMU has over Sacred Heart is the fact that the Rattlers will be in their conference tournament this year.  Unlike the NEC that only allows the top 8 of its 10 teams in, all 13 MEAC members are allowed to compete for the automatic bid in March.

Florida Gulf Coast enters the Las Vegas Classic as the favorites to win the Visitors Bracket.  While last year’s A-Sun tournament champions and surprise Sweet 16 team is only 5-6 on the year with two of those wins against non-D1 competition, their losses have for the most part been against better competition.  Two games back they appeared to have their game at South Florida on its way to triple overtime until a somewhat controversial ruling on a tip-in at the buzzer went against them.  While the Eagles have certainly not played at the level that made them everyone’s darling last March (and landed Andy Enfield at USC), there is no reason that this team will not turn things around as it heads into conference play after this tournament.