#3 Marquette vs #6 Butler: NCAA Tourney rematch for the ages

marquette vs butler

The Butler Bulldogs have advanced to the third round, it’s still the second round, you’re telling me in a “round” 64/68 teams get a bye? of the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and will meet Marquette at Rupp Arena on Saturday, March 23rd in Lexington, Kentucky. The arena is named after legendary villain and Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp who is probably turning over in his grave today. For two reasons: one his Kentucky Wildcats went from National Champs to eliminated by lowly Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT, Not Invited Tournament.

And the bigger reason Rupp is turning over in his grave is because black players dominate both his program and all of college basketball (well maybe not the Wisconsin Badgers or at Notre Dame). Rupp didn’t like black players much, so what a coincidence he was aptly named Adolph. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs, who won their second round game against #11 seed Bucknell, will meet #3 seed Marquette at approximately 7:45 p.m. (ET). Butler (27-8) and Marquette (24-8) will be squaring off for the second time this season.

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Big East Tournament will have major impact on NCAA Tournament seedings

big east tournament

The next few days of the Big East Tournament will play a major factor in the seeding that the conference teams earn when the NCAA Tournament brackets are announced on Selection Sunday.  A team could easily move up or down a couple of seeds depending on the outcome of their performance at Madison Square Garden.  Here is a best case/worst scenario on where the Big East teams could land in the brackets depending on their result at the Big East Tournament.

Click here for my latest NCAA Tournament Bracketology.
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Plan to Form a New Great Midwest College Basketball Conference

Louisville dance team

The Big East conference has too many college basketball teams. In an ideal situation, each team in a conference plays each other twice, home and away. They can’t: too many teams!

If they did this, each school would have to play 30 conference games!

Ok, then let’s try this: split the Big East into two divisions of eight and play the other seven schools in your division home and away and play the eight schools from the other division once each-four of them at home, four on the road. No, this won’t work either because this still adds up to 22 conference games, which is still too many.

And besides, if you split into divisions, the only logical way to divide them would be into an east and a west and I’m pretty sure schools like UConn, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Villanova, and Georgetown aren’t going to be OK with being all lumped together and forced to play home and home with each other while schools like Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Marquette get shipped west and avoid the “bullies” of the conference.

I have a better solution: DePaul, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Marquette should leave the Big East.

By Adam Satorious

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Tom Crean: The Reason That Marquette Is In the Big East

The comparison between Marquette and Creighton works on a number of levels. Both schools have a Jesuit tradition with campuses that are located in urban areas. They also have been supported locally by alumni and a segmented passionate segment of their cities’ populations. There is a difference in population size between Omaha and Milwaukee, but there is also a discrepancy in the amount of options that exist to compete for the entertainment dollar in the two markets.

The disclaimer to this piece is that the blogger is a Marquette alumnus, but don’t hold that against the university. It was an oversight due to a clerical error. Tom Crean brings energy and enthusiasm to the Indiana Hoosiers program that must make John Mellencamp proud. It almost entices me to want to jump into a pick-up truck and start a riff on my acoustic guitar. The fact that he took on the challenge of rehabing the program in the immediate aftermath of Kelvin Sampson destroying it tells us he’s a master motivator.

By Patrick Herbert

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OKC-MIL NCAA Tourney Exchange

obama bracket

By Paul M. Banks and Jason Black

(note: be sure to stop by around 6pm at Washington Times.com Communities where I’ll be live blogging the NCAA Tourney night session. You can leave a comment by clicking here)

Picks have been made, brackets are set and Cinderella is getting fitted for her slipper.  The only thing to do now is to see how this thing plays out.  Communities writers Jason Black and Paul M. Banks will be covering the tournament live from Oklahoma City and Milwaukee.  What better way to get ready for the tournament than swapping emails and talking shop.

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The Big East Tournament Live Chat

The Big East Tournament is in full swing, so why don’t you join one college basketball obsessed dork and another guy who just likes to be a nerd talk about the games as they happen LIVE?!

Peter Christian and David Kay will be updating all day, and we’ll be expecting some extremely fun drop ins through out the day.

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2009-2010 Big East Basketball Preview: Part 2 of 5

harangody

by: David Kay

Part of two of our week long Big East Hoops Preview continues with the teams that will likely fall on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.  Unfortunately, I have to include my beloved Marquette team in that category.

This list includes the most hatred duo to ever play on one college basketball team, a usual conference powerhouse re-tooling, my MU boys (tear), and a usual bottom feeder that could be poised to make some noise for the first time in almost a decade.

9. Notre Dame (9th, 8-10 in BE, 21-15 overall, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:
A lack of depth was a major issue as the Irish failed to live up to their lofty expectations last season, and it will once again be a concern as four important seniors graduated.  Luckily, Luke Harangody chose to come back for his senior season and Ole Miss transfer Ben Hansbrough (yes, Tyler’s little bro) should step into the starting line-up right away.  A Harangody and a Hansbrough on the same team; the hatred should be plentiful for ND this year.  Tory Jackson should be a steadying presence as he enters his fourth year as the team’s starting point guard.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Luke Harangody (Sr)/Thomas Knight (Fr)/Mike Broghammer (Fr)
F: Tyrone Nash (Jr)/Carleton Scott (Jr)/Jack Cooley (Fr)
SF: Scott Martin (Jr)
SG: Ben Hansbrough (Sr)/Joey Brooks (Fr)
PG: Tory Jackson (Sr)/Jonathan Peoples (Jr)

Gone: G-Kyle McAlarney, G/F-Ryan Ayers, C-Luke Zeller F-Zach Hillesland

Player to Watch: Martin- The Purdue transfer started in eight games for the Boilermakers during his freshman season.  He is a well-rounded player who can hit from the outside and will need to be a perimeter compliment to Hansbrough as sharp-shooters McAlarney and Ayers (who combined for 218 three-pointers last season) have both graduated and Jackson is inconsistent from deep.

10. Pitt (2nd, 15-3, 31-5, NCAA Elite 8 )

2009-2010 Outlook:
I realize this is low for Jamie Dixon’s team.  But losing four starters in Blair, Young, Fields, and Biggs means 59% of their scoring, 63% of their rebounding, and 60% assists from a year ago need to be replaced.  If their role players from last year can adjust to being starters under the tutelage of Dixon, there is a good chance Pitt will be tourney bound.  It doesn’t help though that returning sixth man Gilbert Brown will miss the first semester after being suspended for the first semester due to academic issues while their lone returning starter, Jermaine Dixon has a broken foot that will cause him to miss the beginning of the season.

jamie-dixon

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Gary McGhee (Jr)/Talib Zanna (Fr)/J.J. Richardson (Fr)
F: Nasir Robinson (So)/Gilbert Brown (Jr)/Dante Taylor (Fr)/ Dwight Miller (Fr)
G: Jermaine Dixon (Sr)/Lamar Patterson (Fr)
G: Brad Wanamaker (Jr)/Tim Frye (Jr)
PG: Ashton Gibbs (So)/Chase Adams (Sr)/Travon Woodall (Fr)

Gone: C-DeJuan Blair, SF-Sam Young, PG-LaVance Fields, PF-Tyrell Biggs

Player to Watch: Gibbs- The reins of the Pitt offense will be put in Gibbs’ hands.  He helped lead the Jamie Dixon-coached U.S. U-19 team to the gold medal this summer which should be a big confidence booster as he only averaged ten minutes per game off the Panther bench last season.  Dixon needs someone to step into the leader role on the floor with four starters gone, and Gibbs will have to be that guy.  Spending a year learning from Fields could have only helped his preparation to be the Pitt floor general.

11. Marquette (5th, 12-6, 25-10, NCAA Second Round)

lazar12009-2010 Outlook:
Like Pitt, Marquette loses four starters who accounted for 67% of their scoring and 83% of their assists including their trio of four-year starting guards (McNeal, Matthews, and James.)  It will be a major transition this season as MU tries to find a new identity as six new faces join the Golden Eagles.  MU suffered a major loss in the pre-season when expected starting point guard, freshman Junior Cadougan, ruptured his Achilles tendon and will be sidelined for the season.  Still, If they can build their chemistry early in the year and Hayward emerges as a go-to player, there’s a chance Marquette could be dancing.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Chris Otule (So)/Youssoupha Mbao (Fr)
PF: Lazar Hayward (Sr)/Joe Fulce (Jr)
SF: Jimmy Butler (Jr)/Jeronne Maymon (Fr)/Erik Williams (Fr)
SG: Dwight Buycks (Jr)/David Cubillan (Sr)
PG: Mo Acker (Sr)/Daruis Johnson-Odom (So)/Junior Cadougan (Fr-out for season, ACL)

Gone: SG-Jerel McNeal, G/F-Wesley Matthews, PG-Dominic James, C-Dwight Burke

Player to Watch: Mbao- For a team that has lacked a real inside presence the past few years, having a 7’2 threat like Mbao will finally give Marquette a shot blocking threat they haven’t seen since Jim McIlvaine or Amal McCaskill.  It will just be a matter of how much Mbao will be able to contribute in his first season.  He is still rail thin and very raw, but if he can play 12-15 minutes a night right away at a very unsettled position, it could be a major boost for the Golden Eagles.

12. St. John’s (13th, 6-10, 16-18, CBI)

mason-jr2009-2010 Outlook:
Getting a medical redshirt year for senior Anthony Mason Jr. who played in just three games last season due a torn muscle in his foot was a big-time plus for a program that hasn’t had a winning record in conference play since 2001-2002.  They only lose one player who barely contributed and their recent youth movement is beginning to mature.  St. J’s could make some noise, but until they prove to be a consistent team, cannot be ranked any higher than this.

Projected Depth Chart
PF: Sean Evans (Jr)/Dale Coker (Jr)
F: D.J. Kennedy (Jr)/Justin Burrell (Jr)/Rob Thomas (Jr)
G/F: Anthony Mason Jr. (Sr)/ Omari Lawrence (Fr)
SG: Paris Horne (Jr)/Quincy Roberts (So)/Dwight Hardy (Jr)
PG: Malik Booth (Jr)/Malik Stith (Fr)

Gone: C-Tomas Jasiulionis, C-Phil Wait (transfer-Monmouth), SG-TyShawn Edmundson (So) (transfer)

Player to Watch: Horne- When Mason Jr. went down with his injury, Horne stepped up his game and finished the season at Storm’s leading scorer.  He loves to pull the trigger from deep and could be a solid compliment to Mason Jr.

WEEK LONG PREVIEW:
Monday: Teams 13-16
Wednesday: Teams 5-8
Thursday: Teams 1-4
Friday: Post-season Award Predictions

Marquette Trio Ready for NBA

jerel-and-wesley

By: David Kay and Paul M. Banks

As a die-hard Marquette fan, it is hard to put into words the impact guards Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James have had on the program the past four years.  From day one, then head coach Tom Crean knew he had a special recruiting class, inserting all three into the starting line-up the very first time they suited up in a Golden Eagle jersey.  But each of the three-headed backcourt has taken a different road to get to their current situation, waiting to find out if they will be picked in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

In McNeal’s case, he has shown a steady improvement each year at Marquette.  As a freshman, the Hillcrest grad often looked like a chicken with his head cut-off; forcing wild shots and turning the ball over at a high rate.  His outside shot was as erratic as Britney Spears’ behavior circa 2006.  But year-by-year, McNeal continued to make strides with his all-around game.  His three-point percentage was almost 40% his senior season and he displayed the tenacity to be a go-to player at the collegiate level, creating his own shot off the dribble almost at will. That scoring instinct eventually allowed him to become Marquette’s all-time leading scorer and earned him second team All-American and first team All-Big East honors this past season.

Defensively, McNeal has always been a thorn in the opposition’s side as confirmed by his Big East Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2006-2007.  His ability to make a break on a ball in his passing lane to create steals or deflections is as natural as anyone’s in college basketball.

The biggest thing holding McNeal back is his “tweener” label.  The Chicago native measured in at 6’3” at the NBA Draft combine which is not the ideal size for an NBA shooting guard.  And while he occasionally ran the point at MU and has decent handles, he certainly is not a true point guard.  “I think initially the situation is I’ll be a bit of combo type guard,”   McNeal told TSB.net founder Paul M. Banks at the combine.  “The most important thing, and this is why I’m so confident I can do it, is be able to guard both positions…  From an offensive standpoint, it’s just a readjustment of a mindset of exactly what you need to do in a game.  It’s not that difficult for me.”  McNeal is pretty much a lock to be drafted in the second round, but I stand by my belief (and call it homering if you’d like) that if McNeal was two inches taller, we would hear his name being mentioned as a possible lottery pick.

dominic1

James’ career at Marquette is almost the complete opposite of McNeal’s.  While Jerel progressed season after season after season, Nic’s play peaked right off the bat in his freshman campaign.  The 5’11” point guard averaged 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game in his first year in blue and gold, earning him Big East Freshman of the Year honors.  Those impressive numbers immediately thrust James onto the national scene and NBA scouts radars, with some projecting him as a future lottery pick.

James’ numbers dipped off his final three years at Marquette, massively dropping his draft stock.  There has never been a question regarding his athleticism.  To see someone his size dunk with ease, throwing down back-handed dunks like he was a power forward was almost breath-taking at times.  His ability to drive to the basket and create for open teammates has always been a strength as well.  The flaw in James’ game comes with his outside shot.  Consistency was a major issue as ‘Nic shot less than 30% from downtown during his senior season, at times erasing any confidence he had from the perimeter.

A late-season broken bone in his foot pretty much sealed James’ destiny to not be selected in the NBA Draft.  I caught up with James after he worked out for the Bucks in late-May.  He said his foot was still only about 75-80% healed.  “A lot of it is mental, just trusting it and knowing that I’m capable of doing the things I once could do,” James said. “That’s just the type of player I am.  I persevere through any adversity I face.”  The odds of James hearing his name called on Thursday are slim-to-none, but he should at least find a spot on some NBA team’s summer league roster.  Unless he wows some team, his basketball career will likely continue overseas.

wesley

Of the three guards new to the scene at Marquette in 2005, I initially thought Matthews had the best chance of succeeding at the next level.  He arrived at MU with a solid combination of size, athleticism, and pure basketball skills.  While he was a serviceable complimentary player his first three years with the Golden Eagles, Matthews failed to live up to his full potential, playing third fiddle to McNeal and James.  Then Tom Crean left for Indiana.

Matthews wasn’t shy on senior night when he thanked first-year head coach Buzz Williams for “unleashing him.”  The Madison native made a huge leap during his senior season under Williams, averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage.  Matthews showed a consistency from beyond the arc, the ability to attack the basket off the drive, and played very physically as he often spent time at the four due to Marquette’s lack of height.  He was deservingly named second team All-Big East and his name started to appear on the second round of most mock drafts.

While no specific area of his game stands out above the rest, Matthews can offer his all-around talent to whichever team drafts him, likely late in the second round.  “I’m going to do whatever you need me to do,” Matthews told me after his work-out with the Bucks.  “I’m going to compete.  I’m going to work.  If my offense isn’t on, I’m always going to have my defense… I’m going to do everything possible to make whatever team I’m on, a better team.”  If Matthews isn’t drafted, he will certainly find a spot on a summer league roster and could be a steal as an un-drafted free agent.

Villanova Marquette BasketballPotential and upside aren’t words associated with any of the Marquette prospects.  It’s highly unlikely any of them will reach Dwyane Wade-type stardom in the NBA, but having spent four years being major contributors at Marquette should have prepared all three prospects for whatever lies ahead in the basketball careers.  Matthews echoed that thought.  “Along with Dominic and Jerel, we’ve been battle tested for four years.  We’re physically ready to play an 82 game season at what position you want us to play, at whatever role you want us to play in, and we’re only going to get better.”

McNeal agreed.  “I think any time you come into a situation where you get a guy, not just us three, but guys who have been in college for four years and have proven ourselves, from a competitive standpoint, on a night-in, night out basis, you know that you’re going to get a good solid competitive basketball player no matter what happens.”

No matter what happens next, their contributions to the Marquette basketball program won’t be forgotten any time soon, and hopefully all three can follow in the footsteps of Travis Diener and Steve Novak, and find a role in the NBA.

NBA Draft Combine Brings out the Stars

griffin

By Paul M. Banks

When the NBA Draft Combine comes to Chicago, the Second City resembles Beverly Hills for a couple days. Strolling through the Westin Hotel on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, where the Draft Combine’s media activities are held, I encountered basketball’s heaviest hitters. The entire Chicago Bulls front office, Pistons GM Joe Dumars, NBA coaches Mike D’Antoni, Mike Dunleavy, legendary talk show host Larry King (twice) and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda; and that was just the first hour.

During the actual interview sessions, a draft combine reporter gets up close and personal with every former college basketball star soon to be drafted in a couple weeks. Each player gets his own table in the conference room and journalists rotate like speed-daters to obtain quality face time with everyone. Conversation is much more in-depth than post-game press conferences. It’s about the big picture here- no time to waste on the boringly banal queries from newspaper beat writers.jerel

On top of the media grilling, NBA prospects face tougher inquisitions from the teams themselves. Arizona’s Chase Budinger (projected 23rd) said he faced a psychological aptitude type test from the Bulls. He had to arrange blocks to match a picture they presented. NBA teams want to know if players are single, married, have kids. Multiple players had to reveal if they had a “friend with benefits.” It’s like Torquemada and your Prom date’s father rolled into one. 

The NBA amalgamates feedback from the league’s scouts and personnel, deciding which 50-60 prospects are gauging the most interest. The most elite prospects are then invited to run drills, 3 man weaves and workout (this part is closed to the media). They also take more measurements than a Playboy playmate; each player’s wingspan, vertical reach, height and weight (with and without shoes) become public knowledge. This male version of a beauty pageant can be stressful, but also fun.

Former Marquette guard Jerel McNeal projected 42nd overall in NBA Mock Draft,  “It’s been real intense, it’s been like a circus since I got down here, but it’s also been real fun so far. To be around such a great group of players and unbelievable talent, to be fortunate enough to be in this situation, you can’t help but feel excited and glad about what’s coming in the future,” said McNeal.

Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, projected 10th in this year’s draft spoke about how the combine brings together former AAU, McDonald’s All-American and Summer league teammates. “It’s cool, it’s like a big family reunion everybody reminiscing on the stories we had from summer camps, at the USA team and things like that. We’re all in competition on the court, but off the court it’s a family feeling, we just kick back, chill and talk about the good old days,” Flynn said.

There’s only one thing certain about this draft: Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin is going to the L.A. Clippers at #1. The brightest lights and greatest amount of cameras were naturally on him. And the future franchise player seems ready to become the next media darling. “I don’t mind the media…I hope I’m ready for it. I think I’m ready for it” Griffin said before answering a question about how he’ll soon see his personal privacy disappear. bgriffin2

“You just got to know that people are watching you and you got to be a positive role model and not put yourself in bad situations,” Griffin stated.

I asked Griffin what his favorite aspect of this process has been so far. “Some of the restaurants have been pretty good. That’s a big part of my life. But getting to meet people, different players and taking perspective and getting advice from them has been great,” he responded.

The Second City is famous for its food. The next day I saw him in the restaurant downstairs and asked him about his overall favorite restaurant here. He said he’s a big fan of Ditka’s, prompting another reporter nearby to endorse the joint’s steaks. Griffin then said he’s not eating much red meat right now, so I mentioned their Salmon and Tuna steaks. The future Clipper approved Ditka’s seafood. So this is life in transition to the next level, where everything’s meatier and portions of everything are much bigger. So is the number of people watching you.   

Marquette NCAA Tournament Live Blog

by: David K. and Quentin

(11:25 a.m.)  It’s go time.  After a season that started out with very high expectations and even realistic thoughts of a trip to the Final Four, Marquette begins their NCAA Tournament run with not a lot of hype due to losing five of their last six games.  Of course the Dominic James injury played a major factor in that losing stretch, but MU has played well and hung with five of the top teams in the country in those losses.  I will be live blogging during the Marquette/Utah State opening round game.  Please follow along and post comments and I’ll be sure to respond to any and all questions and/or comments.

(11:30 a.m.) Tip time… CBS is obsessed with the top angle of the opening tip and then zooming in the NCAA logo at half court.  My prediction: MU 78 Utah State 65

(11:33 a.m.) MU with all team shaved head look!  Not sure how I feel about that.  They look kinda goofy.  But if it helps them win, then I am all for it.  Why did Dom not shave his head?  SHOCKER… a terrible charge call on Dwight Burke to start the game.

(11:36 a.m.) Wesley rocking the headband, not Wayne Chism style, but I still like it.  The Boise crowd seems to be really pro-Utah State thus far.

(11:38 a.m.) From Quentin: “They announced during the ‘Cuse game that Stephen F. Austin has a guy who is 27.  The 26-year old on Utah State must be relieved.”

(11:41 a.m.) From Quentin: “Dood just said DJ was one of his favorites, guess that means we’ll constantly be reminded how much we miss him.”  “Utah State’s PG is a 23-year old junior.  Going on a Mormon mission is the prep school of Utah.”  Q is like Lazar right now and I am the rest of marquette, just getting out-produced.  Lazar has all ten of our points.  I love Lazar.

(11:45 a.m.) From Q: “So they’re running the Tom Crean ‘We have 400 offensive plays’ strategy.  I wonder if 394 of them are the 3-man weave at the top of the key before chucking a three as the shot-clock expires too.” 

(11:46 a.m.) Ah, the Travis Diener offense.  I think the whole “flash cards of plays” is very hig-schoolish.  Jimmy’s rocking the headband too.  By the way, every team should have a guy named “Jimmy” on their team.  It’s just fun to say.

(11:50 a.m.)  For the record, all times are posted in CST.  Sorry Acra.  From Q: “With the headband, Jimmy now looks like a cross between Wayne Chism and Landry from Friday night Lights”

(11:53 a.m.) Lazar just sprited a dunk.  If you don’t know what “spriting” a dunk is, it’s when you have a easy dunk but brick it off the back of the rim or don’t get high enough and get it stuck on the front of the rim.  Wesley just did a brilliant flop and drew the offensive foul call.  Well played Wesley.

(11:55 a.m.) I think they’ve mentioned Dwyane Wade’s name about 12 times already.

(11:56 a.m.) From Q: “For the 1247th time, I love these kids.  They seem to have come out with the exact attitude that I hoped for.”

(12:00 p.m.) 19-9 Marquette at the under 8 minute time-out.  Marquette’s defense is apparently pretty good right now as Dood (the color analyst) has mentioned about 14 times.  Plus, Utah State looks like a team that was really good in a really terrible conference.  Oh wait, that’s exactly what they were.  I heard Woody Paige picked Utah State to upset Marquette.  When I found that out, I became even more confident MU would win.)

(12:05 p.m.) Glad to see Syracuse is taking care of business, up 16 at the half.  I just had my DVR rewind of the game when Jerel blocked the dude’s lay-up by pinning it against the backboard.  We are playing dumb right now.

(12:10 p.m.) Lazar is kind of a black hole when he puts the ball on the deck, but it’s okay today.  Why are we doing 17-foot pull-up jumpers on fast breaks?  Isn’t one of our strengths attacking the basket in transition and getting lay-ups or fouls?

(12:12 p.m.) From Q: I would love to see ‘Rel get a couple of shots to drop.  He seems to be short-arming everything.”

(12:15 p.m.) I’m surprised Utah State doesn’t have more players rocking the t-shirt under the jersey.  It’s well-documented how much I hate that look.

(12:17 p.m.) I just said, “Uh-oh!  Oh, it’s only Cubillan” when there was a Marquette player grabbing his ankle.  That sounds kind of terrible, but is really the proper reaction.

(12:19 p.m.) From Q: “Big last minute and a half here.  Need to calm things down.”

(12:21 p.m.) Yeah, we’re lucky to be up eight at the half.  They looked pretty out of sorts in the last couple minutes.  Thankfully, Utah State can’t hit a shot.

(12:25 p.m.) My All-T-Shirt team: (C) Arinze Onuaku-Cuse (PF) Matt Howard-Butler (SF) James Harden-Arizona State (SG) Manny Harris-Michigan (PG) Jonny Flynn-Cuse

(12:33 p.m.) Q’s Halftime Thoughts: “Frustrated.  We’re letting them hang around and their fans are coming alive.  A great defensive effort but something needs to be done about ‘Rel.  I recall distinctly 4 great looks that he didn’t knock down.  When that’s happening, maybe we should ask someone else to take the isolation play?  Seems like we’re trying to get him started but it just isn’t happening.  The effort is there and we don’t seem to be playing tight so I feel like we hit a few shots, we’ll get things going.”

(12:40 p.m.) I’m feeling pretty good considering ‘Rel and Wesley were both cold in the first half.  We need to attack the basket more.  And it helps that Mo starts the second half with a three.

(12:45 p.m.) Utah State within three and Marquette looks lost on offense.  Not a good start to the second half.  Let’s figure it out here, huh?

(12:50 p.m.) 31-28, at the under 16:00 time-out.  Lazar is carrying us.  And yes, I am going to refer to Marquette as “we” and “us.”  If anyone sees Jerel McNeal, can you please ask him to show up in Boise?  Thanks.

(12:55 p.m.) A guy from Utah State just badly bricked a jumper and the announced said, “He tried to bank it in,” and I think he was serious.  Hoop and some harm for Utah State and we are tied.  Ugh.

(12:59 p.m.) Uh-oh, Wesley’s down and holding his shoulder or elbow.  That should help his broke jump shot and our lack of offense.

(1:06 p.m.) 36-35 10:47 left  Wesley’s ok.  His offense is not.  Nor is Marquette’s rebounding which is also non-existent.

(1:09 p.m) From Q: “HEY! A good call on the attempt for a charge.  I want their big guy shooting, not Quayle.”

(1:10 p.m.) 41-38, 9:09 left  Lazar hits a three and we seem to have some momentum until typical white under-sized shooting guard from Utah State drains a triple.  ‘Cuse wins.  Now we don’t have to hear anything about tired legs.

(1:11 p.m.) From Q: “And Quayle hits a three.”

(1:14 p.m.) 43-40 7:39 left  Lazar makes Bob Knight proud by using a pump fake to free up a 16-footer which he makes.  Aggies just won’t go away as their 84-year old center gets a bucket and foul.

(1:16 p.m.)  Utah State has a guy named Pooh.  Somewhere Pooh Richardson is angry. 

(1:17 p.m.) Utah State’s fundamentals are killing us and Wesley and ‘Rel miss back-to-back lay-ups.  Quayle hits a three, Utah State takes the lead for the first time.  We can’t buy a basket.  I’m getting angry.

(1:17 p.m.) From Q: “Quayle just hit another three.  I’m watching the last 5 and a half minutes with my hands over my eyes.”

(1:18 p.m.) Another Utah State three.  MU down 49-43.  I’m getting really angry and don’t want to check any of the four text messages I just received.

(1:21 p.m.) From Q: “The DirecTV commercial about using DVR from your phone: It’s a Tuesday and the game he wants to see starts at 7:30.  Who’s at a dinner party on a Tuesday?  How does said party almost end at 7:20.” 

(1:22 p.m.) I’m just glad it’s not the Fast and Furious commercial for the 67th time.

(1:24 p.m.) Quayle has four fouls.  ATTACK HIM!!!!

(1:26 p.m.) Why did it take Marquette 37 minutes to figure out that they should attack the basket and draw fouls.  Utah State just called “Spur 2” which thankfully means missing a three that goes out of bounds to Marquette.

(1:29 p.m.) From Q: “Suddenly, Wilkinson is Luke Harangody.”

(1:30 p.m.) I just threw up in my mouth A LOT.

(1:33 p.m.) From Q: “Ok, since I have an awful track record on jinxing these things.  I now am officially afraid of Wilkinson”

(1:35 p.m.) From Q: “What is the guy (announcer)?  He said “no” to that one before it even got to the backboard.  AND HE THINKS HE INTENDED TO USE THE BOARD?!?!?!!”

(1:37 p.m.) Ok, my computer just froze.  CBS switched off the Marquette game during important free throws.  Quayle and Jimmy fouled out.  Jerel showed up to make a play.  Marquette has hit free throws.  Some guy on Utah State just banked a three.  MU up 56-54 19.3 seconds left after nearly throwing the inbounds pass away.  I’m having a heart attack.  Seriously.

(1:38 p.m.) From Q: “Yeah, I feel like the world is spinning too fast right now.”

(1:39 p.m.) From Q: “Pooh is allowed to tackle someone?”

(1:40 p.m.) We hit our free throws.  We win 58-57.  I feel like I just ran a marathon or as a friend texted me, “had an orgie with the Swedish cross country skiing team.”  Marquette was lucky to win that.  Jerel and Wesley should be hugging Lazar all day and buying him some “entertainment” for the evening (assuming they have “entertainment” in Boise.) 

(1:43 p.m.) GO CORNELL!!!!

West Regional Bracket Breakdown

By: David K.

West Regional Bracket Breakdown
In the up-coming days leading up to the NCAA Tournament, I will breaking down each of four Regionals.  Yes, I have watched 242 college basketball games this year and have a pretty good understanding of the teams.  As a disclaimer, I will not be held responsible if you copy my picks and they are wrong.  So don’t yell at me if you take my advice and it backfires on you…

Overview: Outside of the obvious, Marquette being in the West, this Regional does not excite me very much.  UConn was awarded the number one seed instead of Memphis, and it’s possible the two teams will meet in the Elite Eight if the bracket plays out as expected.  Outside of the Huskies and Tigers, I can only see one other team realistically making it to the Final Four.

My Elite Eight Prediction: (5) Purdue beats (2) Memphis
I was high on the Boilermakers to start the season, picking them as one of my Elite Eight teams, and I am sticking to my guns.  They have been inconsistent this season due to injuries to starters Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer, but showed their potential now that they are healthy by taking the Big Ten Tournament title.  I think they have what it takes on both ends to knock off a UConn that I am just not very high on come tourney time.  Memphis has won 22 games in a row fueled by their overwhelming defensive effort.  The Tigers have a pretty easy path into the Elite Eight.

Sleeper: (6) Marquette

Purdue’s my real sleeper, but since I have already talked about them, I’ll throw out my thoughts about Marquette. I am glad the Selection Committee did not punish them for losing five of their last six games; with those losses coming to Louisville, Pitt, and UConn (all #1 seeds), and Syracuse and Villanova (both #3 seeds.)  MU was in each one of those games and has a fairly favorable second round match-up against offensive-minded Missouri.  I spoke with Wesley Matthews on Saturday night and he said this team still believes they can get to Detroit (site of the Final Four.)  They have played well against some of the top teams in the nation since Dominic James’ season-ending injury and could still make some noise.

Early Exit: (4) Washington
The Huskies have the four seed in this regional and a tough opening round game against Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs have won six in a row including the SEC Tournament, which was their only chance of in the Big Dance.  Mississippi State has a big man inside in Jarvis Varnado who can limit Washington’s double-double machine Jon Brockman, and also has the guards to slow down the Huskies talented duo of Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon.  Even if Washington gets past the first round, I don’t like their chances against Purdue in the second round.

Most Intriguing First Round Match-up: (7) California vs. (10) Maryland
In my opinion, both of these teams were over-seeded.  The Terps finished 7-9 in the ACC, 20-13 overall and were considered by many as more of a bubble team than they actually ended up being.  Neither team is playing great basketball right; Maryland has lost five of their last nine while Cal has dropped four of their last six.  Both teams rely on their guard play and this game will likely come down to whether or not Greivis Vasquez can carry Maryland like he has had to do much of the season.

College Hoops 101

By: David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Selection Sunday is six days away!!!!  Be sure to check back to thesportsbank.net frequently during the next couple weeks as I plan on dropping all sorts of college basketball knowledge for your reading enjoyment.

Rewind

-Five teams earned an automatic bid into the Big Dance; Cornell (Ivy League), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Radford (Big South), Morehead State (Ohio Valley), East Tennessee St. (Atlantic Sun).  Northern Iowa is the only one that could actually make any first round-upset noise in the tourney.

-Bubbles are already being burst as upsets are knocking out big name teams from their conference tourneys.  Creighton, who lost in the semi’s of the MVC Tournament, now has to be considered for an at-large bid.  As does Stephen Curry and Davidson who fell to Charleston in the Southern Conference Semi’s.  Big conference bubble teams (like Moe Diddy’s Arizona Wildcats) hate seeing this happen.

-The bubble officially burst for the following teams: Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Maryland, Miami (FL).

Footlocker.com

-The dreaded took place as Marquette lost to Pitt and Syracuse this past week, meaning they have now lost all four games since Dominic James’ injury.  MU has proven that without James, they can hang with any team in the country, but cannot get over the hump.  Barring a major run in the Big East Tournament, do not be surprised to see them end up with a 7, possibly even 8 seed come Selection Sunday.

-Convince me NOT to pick Pitt to win it all in my brackets.  I dare you.

-Kudos to Bill Self and Kansas.  Even after losing all the talent they did from last year’s National Championship team, the Jayhawks captured the Big 12 crown and put themselves in a position to have no lower than a #3 seed in the tourney.

My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. North Carolina (27-3)
2. Pitt (28-3)
3. UConn (27-3)
4. Memphis (28-3)
5. Louisville (25-5)
6. Oklahoma (27-4)
7. Wake Forest (24-5)
8. Michigan St. (25-5)
9. Gonzaga (25-5)
10. Duke (25-6)

Fast Forward

-I don’t even know where to begin.  Just please plan on watching some of the best college basketball yet this week.  I am setting a personal goal of 25 games this week, (my previous individual week high is 17)  Any social life is going out the window, unless it involves sitting at a sports bar, watching a 70-foot flat screen.  In which case, BOTTOMS UP!

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The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season, which will be broken this week…  This should have been the week the Drive was accomplished, but a combination of the flu and a crazy weekend at work ruined those chances.  I’m actually a little upset about this because I missed A LOT of sweet games…

Games watched through 3/8: 223

Games watched this past week: 10
Villanova at Notre Dame
Rutgers at Syracuse
Marquette at Pitt
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Tennessee at South Carolina
UConn at Pitt
Syracuse at Marquette
Louisville at West Virginia
Standford at Arizona
Indiana at Wisconsin