|STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
March 2, 2006
Cortney, SCS.com Staff Writer
I spend a good deal of my writing time poring over the profiles of bubble teams
this time of year. Fellow SCS.com writer Jeff correctly identified and broke down
the runaway one seeds this season earlier this week. But in between
the 11 and 12 seed Bubble Boys and Duke, UConn, Villanova and Memphis, a host of teams
with real shots to go deep in March lie in wait. There are some 2, 3, 4 and even
lower seeds that have their eye on Indianapolis and have the goods to get there.
Here are some teams that have the best chances of getting past the ballyhooed one
HIGH SEEDS, HIGH HOPES
Don't look now, but the defending champs are, well, defending. They are currently
15th in the RPI and boast a 9-1 record in their last ten games. That only loss
was to the Dukies in a nail-biter at home. The Tar Heels have a low post beast in freshman
Tyler Hansbrough and enough outside shooters to keep defenses honest. They have
established themselves as the second best team in the ACC and have a real shot at
a 2 or 3 seed if they can finish with a flourish. If UNC somehow gets back to the
Final Four, Roy Williams deserves a cookie. A gourmet one.
The Buckeyes were supposed to be really good next year, but that has not stopped
them from being the best team in the Big Ten this season. A home win against Purdue
is all that stands between them and an outright Big Ten title. They are 22-4 overall
and have posted a 6-3 road record. OSU is 10-2 in its last twelve with close
road losses at Iowa and at Wisconsin. Like North Carolina, they have a monster
post player in Terrance Dials and a nice collection of athletes and shooters around
him. The Buckeyes can cement a 2-seed by beating Purdue and being solid in the
Big Ten Tourney.
Tiger coach John Brady has his critics (justifiably so), but LSU has scary talent.
The Mitchells (Darrel and Tasmin) can score with anyone, and freshman center Tyrus
Thomas has been a huge addition. Glen "Big Baby" Davis is one of the top players
in the SEC. There are not many teams in the country that possess this combination
of talent, athleticism, and desire. The Tigers rebound well and they defend. The
concerns with LSU are outside shooting and depth. Also, I have made a mental note about
last year's first-round NCAA game with UAB, the one where LSU chose to run around
like mad (just as UAB wanted) and forgot that they had both Brandon Bass and Davis
on the block. I love LSU's talent, but they need good game plans and decision-making
in the Tourney. The SEC Tourney might tell us a lot.
Some pundits are criticizing the Zags for all of those close games with "inferior"
competition in their league. But, regardless of conference, those who know a team
well play them the toughest. These teams know Mark Few, they know Adam Morrison,
and they know what the Zags do. Going unblemished in any conference is quite a
feat, and Gonzaga did just that. These tough, close battles will serve them well
down the stretch in tight games. Add in the fact that they have the best player
in the land on their team, and that makes them a threat. Especially when said player
has a penchant for making game-winning shots. Adam Morrison has my vote (if I actually
had one) for POTY because he is the best basketball player. Redick has had equally
great success against tougher competition, and voters may value that. But if the award
goes to the best "basketball player," Adam Morrison is the man. Having the best
player with a solid supporting cast makes for a dangerous team.
The Longhorns have been somewhat enigmatic this season. They have been ravaged
by Duke (by 31!), Tennessee (by 17 in Austin), and at Oklahoma State (by 21), but
also have a number of nice wins and might have the most overall talent of any team
in the land. A focused Texas team is as good as anyone, and when the chips are down,
they will be tough to handle. Gibson, Tucker, and Aldridge are among the top players
at their respective positions.
MIDDLE SEEDS TO WATCH
The Spartans are going to be one scary 4 or 5 seed. They have a premier big man in
Paul Davis, athletic wings who can score the ball in Mo Ager and Shannon Brown,
and a solid point in Drew Nietzel. Oh, and their coach has led them to four Final
Fours in the last seven seasons. Like last year, they are going to be some number
one seed's worst nightmare if they wind up as a 4 or 5 seed. The Spartans took out
Duke last season as a five seed on their way to the Final Four. That looks like
the most likely spot for them at this point, too.
The red hot Jayhawks are 11-1 in their last twelve, and although that one loss was
an ugly one at Texas, KU is peaking at the right time. They calmly regrouped after
the Texas beat down and walloped Colorado by 21 on Wednesday. The young Jayhawks
broke into the RPI top 40 with that win (#39) and are speeding up the seeding ladder.
Like Michigan State, they could wind up as a nightmarish 4 or 5 seed for a number one.
No one wants to play a team that is 29-1, and that will be the Colonials' record
if they win out through the A-10 Tourney. That means they could have 30+ wins when
they face one of the one seeds. GW's horrendous strength of schedule is likely
going to keep them in the 4 or 5 seed range, although they could creep up to a three
if things fall just right. Regardless of seed, no top dog wants to face a team
with a record of 31-1 in the Sweet 16, and that is quite possible at this stage.
LOW SEED TROUBLEMAKERS
The Hogs have scored some big wins recently, taking care of Florida, Alabama, and
Tennessee in the last couple of weeks. In fact, since a disappointing loss at Ole
Miss, the Hogs have won four straight in grand style. UA could wind up in an
8/9 game depending on how the SEC Tournament shakes out, and they could pose a serious
threat to any one seed that is not on their game.
Sticking with the SEC, the Tide has played good basketball for awhile now, but those
ten losses will likely keep their seed down. They also could cause problems as
an 8/9 game winner due to their excellent size (namely Jermareo Davidson) and their
top-flight point guard Ronald Steele.
The MVC Field
The Missouri Valley may put as many as six teams into the bracket, and none may
receive a seed higher than a seven. That makes for some dangerous 8/9 opponents
for one seeds. For my money, Bradley has the best talent and is the hottest right
now, so keep an eye on the Braves. If you have not seen Marcellus Sommerville and
Patrick O'Bryant play, make it a point to catch Bradley this postseason. Wichita
State has been the steadiest, so I like the Shockers chances to cause trouble as
The Cinderella discussion will have to wait for another day, but these teams have
real chances at causing some strife for the runaway one-seeds. Actually, by the
end of next week, one of the one seeds may not seem like such a runaway. That's
not a prediction of any kind, but it is the nature of this wonderful game.
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