Monday, March 8, 2010
Afternoon Linkage: Let the madness begin
By Eamonn Brennan
In many ways, today is the real start of March Madness, though you could just as easily say that about last week, when the conference tournaments really began. But since we have, count 'em, eight conference championships on the line tonight, and since this week marks the beginning of all the power conference tournaments, today rather feels like the start of what will be four consecutive awesome weeks of win-or-go-home hoops. Let's go to the tape:
Ken Pomeroy breaks down this week's most voluminous, and usually most exciting, conference tournament (who's up for another six-overtime thriller, because I am): the Big East. Can Syracuse rebound from its loss to the Cardinals? It might not matter, as Louisville is safely in the opposite side of the bracket. Meanwhile, West Virginia will look to upset the established order, and Villanova will try to overcome its defensive issues -- which actually didn't show up in its overtime loss to the Mountaineers Saturday -- and re-boost its once lofty projected tournament seed in the process.
ESPN Insider's LaRue Cook breaks down the historic chances of mid-major at-large bids, finding that conference tournament wins can be both a blessing and a curse for mid-majors on the bubble: "A handful of mid-major teams will receive consideration for at-large bids after strong work during the regular season, particularly given the under-performance of some of their major-conference brethren down the stretch. For those mids -- Saint Mary's, Old Dominion, Wichita State and Siena among them -- a conference crown isn't a must. Instead, our data shows that a single conference tournament win may do the trick. One win doesn't seem substantial, but last season four mid-majors received at-large bids and all of them had one conference tournament win on their resume. In fact, 33 mid-majors have earned an at-large bid in the past five NCAA tournaments, and just seven have not had at least one win in their conference tournament."
With the regular season finished, John Gasaway drops his final Tuesday Truths of the season. Maryland is still under-seeded according to their efficiency margin despite last week's big win over Duke, Notre Dame has added defense to its conference-leading offensive efficiency, Wisconsin is first -- yes, first -- in the Big Ten, and the order of the top four teams in the Mountain West might surprise you.
The Michigan State fans at The Only Colors relish a season-ending win over Michigan. Taking one look at the Spartans' offensive rebounding against the Wolverines is all you need to know; if Michigan State keeps that sort of obsessive second-chancing (not at all a verb, but let's go with it) going in the Big Ten tournament, it could separate itself from Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue just in time for the NCAAs.
IU coach Tom Crean fired assistant Roshown McLeod, who will not coach in the Big Ten tournament. IU is 1-0 this season without McLeod on the bench; the Hoosiers won their first game post-firing, a nearly blown home win over Northwestern Saturday. So maybe that bodes well for the Big Ten tournament? OK, probably not.
Kentucky fans might not like this column from CBS' Gregg Doyel, which parrots John Calipari's own consistent criticisms of the Cats: "Calipari looks tired. He sounds drained. And he looks and sounds this way on a Sunday afternoon when his team has just beaten Florida 74-66 to win the SEC regular-season title by two full games. He looks and sounds this way because he knows the heavy lifting is still to come, and because he has a team that is talented enough to lift as much weight as any team in college basketball -- but a team that is young enough, and dumb enough, to drop the weight on its own foot."
Basketball fans of the semi-nerdy persuasion were no doubt aware of MIT's Sloan sports conference, a collection of some of the best basketball-related statistical and business minds in the world. The conference is of primary interest to NBA fans, sure, but there is plenty of interesting stuff that spans into college hoops, too. Kevin Pelton has a recap, and our blog brothers at True Hoop were all over the gathering from start to finish.