Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Men's contenders and pretenders

I don't have time to go through every conference and every team, so I'm going to pick some teams from the major conferences that I think will make an impact this year and some teams that are off to great starts but really won't do much.

Disclaimer: every year when I fill out my bracket in March, Duke miraculously wins my Championship. thus, I am rarely the winner with my picks. Last year was the first year I didn't pick Duke. Instead I picked Kansas, who is the March Madness equivalent of Oklahoma in BCS games. My thick pride does not allow me to actually consider Duke losing in March, but I have had a good sense for past upsets, such as Manhattan, Creighton, Butler, etc...
My biggest pet peeve is when mid-majors get high seeds, so they are no longer underdogs. It's not that they don't deserve the high seeding, it's just that the mojo is gone when they're the favorite. Anyway,

ACC Contenders
North Carolina

UNC will take the Conference title, probably winning both games against Duke in the regular season. They will also win the Conference Tourney, earning a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Duke will probably suffer a couple of tough losses to middle of the road teams like Florida State, Clemson, and Maryland--teams that are quicker than them and can put points on the board.

ACC Pretenders
Boston College

Big East
they'll get eight mediocre teams in the tournament, then a deserving mid-major that doesn't win its conference tourney will get snubbed. Pitt and Georgetown are the teams to beat in the Big East, and Marquette may also make some noise.

Big 10 Contenders
Michigan State

I said I would try to get two teams in for each slot. This was tough. I'm not confident in Indiana or Wisconsin. The Badgers beat Texas, but were blown out by Duke, whereas Indiana has had convincing wins, including a tough road game against the Salukis. Michigan State played tough against UCLA as well as a W vs the Longhorns (perhaps a Big 12 pretender?)

Big 10 Pretenders

Minnesota got off to a great start, but they're gonna get some tough games. Look for them to fade into mediocrity after losing their next two home games to Indiana and Michigan State.

Big 12 Contenders
Texas A&M

This is a fun conference to watch in the regular season. Texas A&M has a quick team that can score some points, and the Jayhawks are as physical as you can get--and they aren't even healthy yet. Too bad they blow in March.

Big 12 Pretenders

I know, Texas beat UCLA on the road and Tennessee by 20, but they're so inconsistent. They've lost three games that they would have won if they were real contenders. It's too bad they didn't play Duke at the Garden this season...then Duke would still be undefeated.

Pac 10 Contenders
Washington State
Arizona State

This is another fun Conference to watch. USC is young but talented. They aren't going anywhere this season, maybe a trip to the big dance if they pull off some marquee wins. They're the most dangerous team. I say this because they aren't anything special on paper, but they will surprise some teams.

Pac 10 Pretenders

Losses to Oakland and St. Mary's, then wins against Arizona and Stanford? Not buying in.

SEC Contenders

I don't like the SEC much this year simply because the two strongest teams aren't convincing in their wins. Tennessee has squeaked out some narrow ones, and the Rebels have a nice road win at Clemson. I look for these teams to beat each other up in Conference play, then pull a pumped up mid-major in March and head home early.

SEC Pretenders

Don't let those nice records fool you. Conference play will bring out the true colors for these two teams.

Mid-major teams to watch:
Memphis - Obviously a threat to win the title this year. They need to get out of Conference USA to get some respect from bigger schools before their talent disappears. They Have done everything asked of them so far, including beat middle of the road teams like Oklahoma and UConn, to the tall tasks of Georgetown and Arizona. And no fluke losses to teams like Richmond, Siena, or USC.


Those are both teams that can make a splash in March if they draw the right opponent. They aren't the strongest of teams, as they have losses to squads that match up well against them, but they are two of the last teams I would want to run into in the first round of the NCAA's.

Gonzaga - always a threat, especially when they're an underdog
St. Mary's - they've been gaining on the 'Zags the past few years, this may be their year to take the spotlight. I just hope the committee takes two teams from the WCC instead of that extra Big East team
Rhode Island - Will Daniels (FDR grad) is a beast with enough of a surrounding cast to send you packin'

Teams I can't buy into yet, and I wish they would get a formidable opponent so I can see what they're really made of:



January 22 the two square off for the first of two meetings this season, with the second just eight days later on January 30. I hope they split, sending even more obscurity into their potential NCAA bids. I'd most likely take either in a nice 12-5 or 13-4 draw unless they're up against one of my favorites.

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