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March Madness Final Four, Darkhorses and Champion Predictions

March 15, 2012 Comments off

The SOUTH: Kentucky

Looking at everyone’s brackets, Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite. Though they enter the tournament losing the SEC Championship game to a rising Vanderbilt team, few teams have managed to contain Anthony Davis. If they get matched up with IU in the Sweet 16, it’s hard to see the Hoosiers beating them twice in the same year.

Darkhorse: Duke

The No. 2 seed, Duke, is the only team that could, at will, give Kentucky a run. The Plumlee brothers could contain Davis and have guards to match up with Kentucky’s quick play.

The WEST: Michigan St.

Watching the Big Ten Championship game was enough proof to say the Spartans are Final Four bound. MSU has an all around game that many teams have a hard time defending. When MSU makes runs it is when they are most dangerous as they have streaky shooters along with Green and Nix who can run the floor and play down low.

Darkhorse: Louisville, Missouri

Louisville comes in red hot winning the elusive Big East Tournament and look to keep the momentum going. The team matches up well against MSU with their quick guard, Peyton Siva, and with 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, the lesser-known Anthony Davis, defending down low that boasts one of the best defenses in the country.

Missouri also comes in winning their conference tournament in the Big 12. The Tigers have three players that can knock down the 3 and play fast paced basketball that doesn’t turn the ball over much. They are the safest “live and die by the 3” team out there.

The EAST: Ohio St.

The Buckeyes have a good clear shot at making the Final Four with the absence of Syracuse’s Fab Melo. OSU had a strong showing against the best playing team in America at the time: Michigan St. Sullinger and Thomas come into the tourney playing some of their best basketball. I’m a big fan of a player like Craft who can be a pain to reckon with. He pushes the pace and is in your face, which is a great attribute to have in the tournament setting.

Darkhorse: Florida St.

A team that can beat Duke then North Carolina is no team to underestimate. It was difficult deciding between Florida State and Ohio State because the ‘Noles are the real deal. Both teams are similar, but the edge is to OSU because they create less turnovers and have more consistent offensive threats.

The MIDWEST: North Carolina

The North Carolina story is similar to when they won the whole thing in 2009. A star is hurt and a team’s success is swayed by a player’s health. It was Ty Lawson then, now it’s John Henson. Expecting him to be at least 80% is enough give them the green light to the Final Four. Zeller is playing the best basketball of his career and protects the bucket well. North Carolina always brings their A-game to the Big Dance.

Darkhorse: None

North Carolina will win this Regional.

National Championship Pick: Kentucky

Kentucky has been the team to beat all year, as they are the complete package that can play D, score, and control a game’s tempo, doing it better than any team in the nation. Team-wise, the Wildcats own the best front seven out there; stopping Anthony Davis will not be enough as they have five other scorers than can drop double-digits in any given game.

Kentucky over N. Carolina 66-62

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Join March Madness Bracket and Take on BAJA Sports

March 12, 2012 1 comment

Would you like a chance to compete against BAJA Sports bloggers in the 2012 Men’s NCAA Tournament?

Do you think you have an unbeatable bracket that will top others?

BAJA Sports has created a group via CBSsports.com called BAJA Sports (directed to tournament page). The password to join is bajasports. Anyone can join to take on Thomas Hitch, Zach Hughes and Brian Weiss.

Each round takes a different opportunity to score more points for correct picks. In the first round one point is gained by picking a winning team, two points in the second round, four points in the third round, eight points in the 4th round, 16 points in the 5th round and 32 points in the championship game.

So what do you have to gain for winning the tournament?

The winner will receive a ‘BAJA Sports Face Time’ opportunity to publish an article of their choice or to brag about their winning bracket.

Think you have a chance to predict a perfect bracket? It is like we say, “Perfection is NOT enough.”

We are calling you out, do you have what it takes to win?

College basketball has no real favorite

January 23, 2012 3 comments

After two and a half months of basketball, I think it’s safe to say that there has been little accomplished when it comes to finding a clear favorite for the NCAA title.

With every team playing a significant amount of games so far this season, one would think that a team would have set itself aside as a favorite.

That is far from the truth.

There is a cluster of teams that have a case as to why they should be considered the favorite. This season’s rankings have been like a game of musical chairs, with teams struggling to hold ground inside the top-ten.

To put it into perspective, in the latest ESPN/USA Today rankings released on Jan. 23, only one team held their position from the previous week.

Now let’s get into some of the teams that could make a case:

Syracuse:

Before losing this weekend to Notre Dame, Syracuse had the best case. They were undefeated and had several quality wins to their name, including Florida, Marquette and Virginia Tech. Syracuse is just now entering the meat of their conference schedule and we will find out if this team is a serious title contender in the next few weeks.

Kentucky:

Christian Watford nails a buzzer beater to upset #1 Kentucky. Credit: smauctioneers.com

With the Syracuse loss, Kentucky has jolted back to the top of the rankings, a place they haven’t been since the fifth week of the season. Kentucky’s only loss came on a buzzer beater three pointer by Indiana’s Christian Watford. It was the first true road game of the season for the Wildcats and, let’s just say, Assembly Hall isn’t a fun place to play as a road team. The Wildcats have arguably the most talented team in college basketball but it’s full of youth. Head Coach John Calipari will need to keep his team focused down the stretch and not let the hype get to them if they want to stay ranked No. One.

Missouri:

The Missouri Tigers started the preseason ranked 25th but have steadily climbed up the rankings and now sit second. They, too, have only lost one game this season on the road to Kansas State in an early Big 12 contest. Missouri proved on Saturday they are serious title contenders when they traveled to Baylor and knocked off the then No. 3 team in the land.

Jared Sullinger is a leading candidate for Player of the Year. Credit: bleacherrepot.com

Ohio State:

Ohio State sneaked past Syracuse by one vote into third in the rankings. The Buckeyes own a 17-3 record with all three losses coming against top-15 teams. They also play in arguably the hardest conference in college basketball – the Big Ten.

The Buckeyes have a three-pronged offensive attack with Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Deshaun Thomas. The Buckeyes also have a feisty point guard in Aaron Craft who helps space the floor and averages just over five assists a game.  The Buckeyes have an experienced team and they’ve experienced playing without players due to injury, i.e. Sullinger. I would personally say a healthy Buckeyes team would be my favorite for the title if the tournament happened to start today.

Duke:

The Duke Blue Devils could also make a case as a title contender. According to the Pomerey Ratings, the Blue Devils have had the toughest strength of schedule so far. Given that, they are still 16-3 and to count out a talented team coached by Coach K is insane.

The Rest:

Will Murray State be this year's Butler? Credit: Aseaofblue.com

Murray State is currently the only team in Division I basketball yet to lose a game. They are 20-0 and currently ranked ninth in the polls. The problem is they only have one signature win and it came against a young Memphis squad. I wouldn’t consider them a title hopeful just yet, but with a few wins in early March that could easily change.

Other teams like Kansas, Baylor and North Carolina could also make cases as to why they should be in the debate.

Kansas has beaten Ohio State and Baylor, when both were respectfully in the top-five. With Bill Self at the helm and stars Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, they will be in the mix throughout the rest of the season.

Baylor started the season off on a 17-game winning streak before losing their past two games to Kansas and Missouri. They are still developing as a team and will look to get back to their winning ways quickly. With their presence down low they will be a tough out for anyone.

North Carolina looked extremely vulnerable in their road game against Florida State a few weeks back. Given they have one of the best starting fives in the nation with Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. They also lead the nation in points scored per game with 85.1 and rebounds per game with 46.3. They can put points up on anyone and it will take a strong defensive effort to slow this high profiled offense down.

These nine teams can make legitimate cases as to why they should be the favorite right now. It just goes to show you how tight the gap between the top teams are and why this season has been so up and down at the top of the rankings.

Honestly, I think it’s going to come down to which team is the hottest during the tournament. Connecticut ran a hot streak to the title last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again.

No matter what happens, March Madness is bound to be just likes how it’s advertised, madness.

BAJA Sports: Madness in March starts in Newark

March 17, 2011 Comments off

Kemba Walker hit the buzzer beater for Connecticut during the Big East Tournament. Games begin Thursday starting with West Virgina vs. Clemson at 12:15 broadcasted by CBS. Credit: NYAT

BAJA Sports bloggers C.J. Bowe, Jared Short and Brian Weiss discuss the first few rounds of the Men’s 2011 NCAA Tournament, along with predictions for their Final Four selections.

1. Much talk went into the selection of the No. 1 seeds during Selection Sunday. Did the selection committee make the right decisions with Ohio St., Duke, Kansas and Pittsburgh?

C.J. Bowe: The No. 1 seeds are one of the few things the selection committee got right.  Fans really cannot argue about Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Pittsburgh having great seasons and deserving a No. 1 seed.  The only team who could have got a one seed that did not was San Diego State.  They do not play in one of the big conferences, but they have been in the top-10 nearly all season. Whenever a team goes 32-2 and their only two losses were against a quality opponent such as BYU (who they did beat in the conference tournament) they had to get some consideration.

Jared Short: Ultimately, Ohio State, Duke, Kansas and Pittsburgh are the rightful owners for the No. 1 seeds. I feel as if Pittsburgh is the weakest of the four No. 1 seeds. Ohio State, Duke and Kansas are good “all-around” teams that have star power. For me, Pittsburgh just does not fit this mold. Pittsburgh is a big physical team, and I am not convinced they play a style of basketball allowing them to progress to the final stages of the tournament. Do not get me wrong, they have the potential to be dangerous, I just do no’t see them as a real contender for the title.  Although I do not see Pittsburgh as a serious threat, there is no team out there that deserved the No. 1 seed more. Overall, the selection committee hit the nail on the head when it comes to the No. 1 seed selections this year.

Brian Weiss: The committee made the right decisions this year when it came to the No. 1 seeds. Ohio State and Kansas were locks after they both dominated their conference tournaments. Pittsburgh’s body of work throughout the season earned them the other No.1 seed even though they went out in the quarters of the Big East Tournament. That leaves one spot left and I believe it was a two team race between Duke and Notre Dame with Duke winning out. The committee puts a lot of weight on what the teams do in their respected conference tournaments. That being said, Duke cruised through the ACC tournament and crushed No. 2 seeded North Carolina in the championship. Notre Dame was knocked out in the semifinals of the Big East tournament after only winning one game. Overall the committee did a good job on the No.1 seeds this year, nobody was surprised when the brackets were revealed.

2. What teams in your opinion were left out of the tournament this year who deserved a chance to dance? Were there any teams who should not have a chance?

Jared Short: The answer is simple. Colorado. Did teams like UAB and Clemson deserve to make it in? Not more than Colorado did. The committee has some awfully tough decisions every year, but this one should not have been a challenge.

Brian Weiss: Unlike the No.1 seeds where the committee did a good job I think they really “screwed the pooch” on the bubble teams. There were two teams who should have been included, Colorado and Virginia Tech, and two teams, UAB and VCU, who should be playing in the NIT. VCU finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic and were bounced early, same as UAB, in their conference tournament and VCU only had three wins against the top 50 (UAB had one). Colorado had six top 50 victories including three against Kansas State and one against Texas. Virginia Tech beat No. 1 seed Duke along with two other top 50 teams.

C.J. Bowe: This is where I was left wondering what kind of people even pick/seed the teams for the tournament. VCU and UAB making the tournament is absolute garbage over Colorado and Virginia Tech.  Both Colorado and Virgina Tech have 20+ wins and have much better resumes than VCU and UAB put together. Neither VCU or UAB were considered a bubble team yet some how made the tournament.  When a team like Colorado who beats Kansas State three times and Virginia Tech who has gotten snubbed two years in a row with quality wins over Duke and Florida State it really leaves me scratching my head.  Jay Bilas summed it up best, “Sometimes I wonder if the people on the committee know the ball is round.”

3. Everyone wants to know about selections for the Final Four picks. So, who are your predictions to make the Final Four in the 2011 NCAA Tournament?

Brian Weiss: This is a hard year when picking the bracket because the field is much closer talent-wise than the past years. I believe around ten teams have a chance at winning the championship this year. That being said I believe the four No.1 seeds will make it to the Final Four. I see the upsets happening to the lower seeded teams giving the one seeds much easier routes to a Final Four appearance. I will take Kansas and Ohio State in the final with Kansas taking home the hardware this year.

C.J. Bowe: Like always its tough to predict the bracket, but for the most part the No. 1 seeds should be able to make it to the Final Four, besides Duke. Duke has me thinking a lot lately though since Coach K announced yesterday that Kyrie Irving may be playing in the first round.  Nobody knows how Irving will play when/if he comes back, but if he is anything close to how he was before he found injury then I have to think Duke is the favorite to win it all. I’m Going to assume that Irving will be a non-factor though and go with Ohio State, Connecticut, Kansas and Pittsburgh.  The championship will be the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Kansas Jayhawks with Jared Sullinger, David Light and Jon Diebler being too much for the Jayhawks to defend.  At the end of the night, Thee Ohio State University will be on top of the basketball world.

Jared Short: After dissecting the bracket, my Final Four consist of only one No.1 seed. I have Duke, North Carolina, Purdue, and Florida making it to Houston. I believe that Duke will be too much for North Carolina to handle, especially with the news that Irving will be in the lineup. Purdue has the depth needed to win an NCAA championship, and I think that they will do just that.

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