Joe Lunardi has published his initial, ridiculously early, meaningless yet fun, pre-pre-season 2009 Bracketology projections. (Hat tip: BK.) His #1 seeds are North Carolina, Duke, Texas and Pittsburgh. 2007 finalists Kansas and Memphis drop to #2 and #3, respectively, and UCLA plummets to a #7. w00t! :)
More importantly, Notre Dame is a #2 seed (without Gene Cross? Hmm…), Gonzaga is a #5, and USC is a #9. Frankly, those all seem high to me, but maybe I’m just a pessimist about my own teams. (Although, if so, it didn’t prevent my irrational Zag-xuberance last year.)
Tennessee falls all the way to #9… where they’re matched up in a brutal first-round game against #8 Davidson. (Stephen Curry FTW!) This year’s mid-major superpower that almost beat UT, Butler, is on the bubble but out, as are the Washington Huskies. The UConn Huskies, though, are sitting pretty as a #2 seed. Oh, and the University of Hartford Hawks, after falling one game short in 2008, make their NCAA Tournament debut in 2009 as a #16 seed. Hurrah!
Yeah, so, we have a college football season to start — and finish — before I’ll get really excited about any of this, but it’s fun to look ahead. :)
The first wave of Friday games is underway. ESPN.com’s writers are hoping for some excitement: “Day 1’s 16 NCAA tournament games were decided by an average of 16 points. Will Day 2’s slate bring a return to the Madness?”
You know, if South Alabama beats Butler later this afternoon, Tennessee might have to beat American and USA to reach the Sweet 16? Unpatriotic bastards! :) Right now, though, they’re struggling with American, which is outrebounding them 12-4. Huh?
Also underway: Gonzaga-Davidson. GO ZAGS!!!
Also, Drake-Western Kentucky and Miami-St. Mary’s. It’s mid-major hour! Only two BCS-conference teams are in action at the moment.
P.S. The latest NIT Pool standings are up, after last night’s wins by Syracuse (over Maryland) and Arizona State (over Southern Illinois). Mark Gardner is still perfect, with an 18-for-18 record and 132 points. Ginny Zak is now alone for second place at 17-for-18 and 125 points. Eight contestants are tied for third with 118 points.
On this NCAA Tournament Eve, here’s a question I’ve been meaning to pose to my blog audience — or, more specifically, to the sports fans within that audience. What’s the most devastating loss you’ve ever suffered as a sports fan?
After the jump, my answer to this question. But I’m really curious about your answers.
La Rev on last night’s Gonzaga-San Diego game:
I think it’s safe to say that the Virginia game last season was
probably the only time the Mark Few Zags have ever been as completely
unwatchable as they were last night. They were pathetic, and I don’t
care to ever talk about it again.
Gonzaga has had an unfortunate habit of not bringing its "A" game to the WCC tourney in recent years. They’ve barely skated by several times, but last night, it finally caught up with them. Hopefully they find their "A" game sometime between now and next Thursday/Friday.
La Rev also predicts St. Mary’s will be snubbed by the selection committee. "Nothing the Committee has ever done dictates that they’ll let three WCC teams in," he says. "Every year there’s got to be a snub that all the media-types get all
huffy-puffy about for the TV audience, and this year, I think it’s
going to be Saint Mary’s."
Lunardi has St. Mary’s as a #9 seed, safely away from the bubble. So if they aren’t picked, it will indeed be quite a kerfuffle — particularly since the only plausible explanation for such a snub would be the three-WCC-bids thing, which would blatantly contradict what the committee always says about how it "doesn’t look at conferences."
Will South Alabama join VCU and Illinois State on the list of mid-majors sweating bullets on the bubble after conference-tournament losses? USA is losing by 4 to Middle Tennessee State with 1:45 left.
UPDATE: MTSU wins! Does South Alabama still get a bid? Yikes. The bubble picture keeps getting murkier and murkier. (And it could get murkier still: Gonzaga trails by 3 at halftime. On the bright side for bubble teams, Davidson’s up by 8 at the break.)
UPDATE 2: Down goes Gonzaga, 69-62. The bubble carnage continues! The Zags are a lock, as are their conference-mates St. Mary’s, so the WCC will be a three-bid league for the first time ever — and somebody else who would have gone dancing, won’t.
Well, at least Davidson won. Bubble teams will be rooting like crazy for Butler in the Horizon final against Cleveland State tonight (Tuesday) at 9:00 PM on ESPN. Also, Kent State needs to win the MAC and Memphis needs to win C-USA. Out-of-nowhere winners in the Atlantic 10 and/or Mountain West — or any of the major conferences, for that matter — would also be trouble.
P.S. As an aside, it’s absolutely silly to say that San Diego “stunned” Gonzaga. The Toreros are good, they were competitive with the Zags in both regular-season meetings, they had more to play for, and the tournament was played on USD’s home court. At most, this was a mild upset.
WCC #3-seed San Diego beat #2 Saint Mary’s in double overtime early this morning — an "upset" in name only, as San Diego finished a close third in the regular season and is playing the conference tournament on its home floor. So it’ll be a Gonzaga-USD final, again in San Diego, tonight at 9:00 PM on ESPN. If the Toreros can pull another "upset," the West Coast Conference will almost certainly be a three-bid league, as the Zags and Gaels are both considered NCAA "locks." Could the WCC get more bids than the MVC and the CAA combined? It’s possible. Illinois State and VCU, along with all other bubble teams, need to root hard for Gonzaga tonight!
There are three other conference-title games tonight, as Championship Week (or Fortnight) really kicks into high gear. At 7:00 PM on ESPN, it’s #3 George Mason vs. #5 William & Mary for the CAA crown. At the same time on ESPN2, the top two seeds in the MAAC, Siena and Rider, face off. Then at 9:00 PM, while ESPN broadcasts the Zags-Toreros showdown, the Deuce will have the Southern Conference title game between #1-seed, #25-ranked, bubble-if-they-lose Davidson (25-6) and #7-seed, #231-RPI Elon (14-18).
Also tonight, the semifinals of the Summit League (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference), #1 Oral Roberts vs. #5 IPFW and #2 IUPUI vs. #3 Oakland; and the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference, #1 South Alabama (a bubble team if they don’t get the auto bid) vs. #4 Middle Tennessee and #2 Arkansas-Little Rock vs. #3 Western Kentucky. (Don’t let the division-based seeds fool you: Western Kentucky is the clear favorite in that matchup.) Personally, I’m hoping that South Alabama and American University somehow end up playing each other in the Big Dance. It’d be U.S.A. vs. American! :)
NEC #3-seed Sacred Heart this evening became the second Connecticut men’s basketball team to reach a conference championship today, joining Hartford from the America East conference. Sacred Heart beat #2 Wagner to set up a Wednesday meeting on ESPN2 against #4 Mount St. Mary’s. Because SHU has the better seed, they’ll host the title game on their home floor (an unexpected treat made possible by the Mount St. Mary’s upset of #1 Robert Morris).
In other Championship Week news, I mentioned earlier that #5-seed William & Mary upset #1 VCU, putting the latter on the bubble — well, now we know who will be the Pride’s opponent in tomorrow night’s CAA title game, and it’s none other than #3-seed George Mason. This will be Mason’s second straight year playing in the CAA final; last year, they made a Cinderella run as a #6 seed, but lost 65-59 to VCU. (In 2006, the year they went to the Final Four, they were actually booted in the semifinals of the CAA tourney!) Tomorrow’s game will be at 7:00 PM on ESPN.
Also tomorrow night, at 9:00 PM on ESPN2, it’ll be Southern Conference top seed Davidson vs. the Cinderella story of this year’s Championship Week to date, #7 Elon — a team with a 14-18 record and an RPI of #231, now one win from the Big Dance (or rather, the play-in game).
Gonzaga hopes they’ll be playing tomorrow night at 9:00 PM on ESPN, in the WCC title game. But first they need to beat Santa Clara in the semis, and right now they’re trailing 35-34 with 13:04 left. Go Zags!
UPDATE: Gonzaga wins, 52-48! Not a great game for the Zags — Pargo only scored 4 points — but they survived and advanced (albeit with the help of yet another terrible call by the refs down the stretch, as a blatant charge was wrongly called a defensive foul, increasing Gonzaga’s lead from 1 to 3). Tomorrow, they’ll go for their ninth WCC title in ten years against either St. Mary’s or homestanding San Diego.
Illinois State, the alma mater of Irish Trojan contributor Mike Quinn (a.k.a. “isuquinndog”), is fighting for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the Missouri Valey Conference tournament championship game on CBS right now. I assume Mike is at the game; he goes to Arch Madness every year. Anyway, if he is there, he can’t be happy that Drake has the early lead.
Even with a loss, though, Mike’s Redbirds have a pretty decent chance of getting an at-large bid — which is pretty amazing, considering that they had previously been an MVC bottom-feeder (as had Drake, for that matter) during the conference’s recent rise to glory. But Drake’s a lock, ISU is a bubble team, and everyone else is out. (NIT-ology has Southern Illinois and Creighton as NIT teams and Bradley as a CBI team.)
[UPDATE: Drake wins, 79-49. Ouch! Andy Glockner, who writes ESPN’s Bubble Watch, wrote this morning that “[b]arring a disaster against Drake, the Redbirds should like their chances [of an at-large bid] at this point.” I’m thinking that a 30-point loss in a nationally televised game would qualify as a “disaster,” and Illinois State will have a looong seven days watching other bubble contenders play and wondering what the committee will do.]
In other mid-major action later today, Gonzaga plays Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s plays San Diego in the West Coast Conference semifinals at 9:30 PM and midnight, respectively, on ESPN2. Both the Zags and Gaels are almost certainly NCAA-bound, so bubble teams around the country need to root against Santa Clara and San Diego, who could potentially crash the party and turn the WCC into a three-bid league.
Speaking of bubble teams, Kentucky got a huge win over Florida today. The loss probably eliminates the Gators from at-large contention, barring a deep SEC tourney run. Meanwhile, the Wildcats improve to 12-4 in the SEC and 18-11 overall. If they happen to flame out early in the conference tournament, they’ll make for fascinating debate fodder on Selection Sunday. Which matters more: their horrible non-conference start, or their strong performance in the (admittedly weaker than usual) SEC?
I’d be remiss in my basketball-blogging duties if I didn’t point out that Gonzaga beat St. Mary’s yesterday to take the WCC lead and probably wrap up an NCAA at-large bid, if they need it. As long as the Zags beat 6-7 Santa Clara tomorrow night, they’ll win yet another regular-season conference title.
Huge WCC game tonight as Gonzaga visits Saint Mary’s. It’s a big-time rivalry game — in La Rev’s words, "HateFest 2008" — and it has major implications to boot. Who ever would have predicted in the preseason that the Gaels would be ranked (#25 AP, #23 coaches) and the Zags wouldn’t? And that both teams would be projected #7 seeds according to Joe Lunardi? Anyway, the game is on ESPN2 at 11:00 PM.
Alas, unless Loyette wakes up screaming and I’m on baby duty, I won’t be able to watch — I need to get some sleep tonight, since I expect to up late tomorrow night, "doing my flips," as my dad says, over Super Tuesday. (To "do one’s flips" about something, in Loomer-Loy family lexicon, means to get giddily excited about said thing and obsess over it. You know, like I do about the BCS every year, and politics, and March Madness, and hurricanes, and the Red Sox in the playoffs, and new Harry Potter books/movies, and…)
In other mid-major basketball news, the ESPN BracketBusters pairings have been announced. You might recall that last year, Becky and I went to the marquee BracketBusters game, Butler-Southern Illinois, and had a fantasic time. Both of those teams ended up in the Sweet Sixteen. The year before that, George Mason played Wichita State in BracketBusters, and those teams ended up playing each other in the Sweet Sixteen (with Mason, of course, going on to the Final Four). What will this year’s BracketBusters bring? #15 Drake at #10 Butler is this year’s biggest game by far (why do the Bulldogs always get to be at home for these things? heh), but I’m looking forward to Davidson @ Winthrop. That should be quite a game.
UPDATE: St. Mary’s won, 89-85 in overtime.
La Rev’s readers are blaming the refs.
Gonzaga and Memphis are underway, and so far, it’s not looking promising for the Bulldogs, as the fast-breaking Tigers have jumped out to an early 10-0 lead.
UPDATE: Well, that’s better. After trailing 25-13, the Zags have rallied to take a 32-30 lead! Two minutes left in the first half.
UPDATE 2: Aaaand the Zags lose all their momentum in the final minute, as Memphis goes up 35-32 on a thunderous dunk at the buzzer.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame leads #18 Villanova — on the road — 35-29 late in the first half.
UPDATE 3: Memphis wins, 81-73.
Big game at noon tomorrow on ESPN as Gonzaga visits #1 Memphis. Between USC losing to Memphis and Gonzaga losing to Tennessee, my teams are 0-for-2 against Jay’s teams so far this year (0-for-3 if you count UConn losing to Memphis); this is my last regular-season opportunity to get a win against him. Go Zags!!
So much for #1 Memphis and #3 Tennessee winning out until their meeting in the Jay Johnson Invitational next month. The Vols, newly dubbed by the AP as the nation’s third-best team, promptly lost to sub-.500 Kentucky last night, 72-66. Not even Bruce Pearl’s orange blazer could save UT from losing to the team that lost to Gardner-Webb (which, incidentally, is now 8-11 overall, 2-3 in the Atlantic Sun).
At this rate of poll attrition, Dickie V’s triumphant return could be at a #1 vs. #2 game between Duke and UNC (currently #4 and #5, soon to be #3 and #4). Though I’m not sure who Memphis is going to lose to between now and then, unless maybe… Gonzaga this Saturday? Hey, it could happen. Go Zags!!
Meanwhile, Andy Katz says Tuesday’s most significant result was not UK over UT, but Drake over Creighton, at Creighton, in overtime. Up the Bulldogs!
The news was not as good for USC, which fell to 0-2 in the Pac-10 and 9-5 overall (albeit against a much tougher non-conference schedule than the Irish) with a 52-46 loss to #24 Stanford. The Trojans were ranked #22 before their consecutive road losses to Cal and Stanford, but will undoubtedly fall out of the poll next week. It doesn’t get any easier for ‘SC in the loaded Pac-10, as they host #4 Washington State and a Washington team that almost beat Wazzu yesterday, then travel to Westwood for a showdown with Kevin Love and #5 UCLA.
Gonzaga, meanwhile, finished up its pre-WCC schedule with a 75-67 win in the Battle of the Bulldogs against Georgia.
Tennessee 82, Gonzaga 72, final. D’oh!