The Hottest Team in College Basketball

College basketball has been impossible to predict as of late. Duke lost by 11 to a 10-5 North Carolina State team. Michigan State got steam rolled at Ohio State and then followed that up by barely beating Rutgers at home in overtime.

Last week every team in the top 10 lost besides two. The inconsistency of teams has fans grasping for some sort of certainty as we hit the middle of the college basketball season.

The number two ranked Mountaineers:

The West Virginia Mountaineers are now 15-1 this season. They are 3-0 in conference play and have rattled off 15 in a row after their opening night loss to Texas A&M. They are 2-1 against the top 25 and 2-0 against the top 15. The Mountaineers outscore teams by an average of 18 points a game.

As of January 13th they will be getting their second leading scorer from last season back. Esa Ahmad has been cleared by the NCAA to play. He had eligibility problems that cost him the first half of the 2017-2018 season, however he will make a return for the Mountaineers. Ahmad averaged just over 11 points a game last season and can help contribute to an already solid offense.

Press Virginia:

College Basketball

Jevon Carter, (Fansided.com).

Many teams struggle with West Virginia due to their grind it out press. The team presses every single defensive possession and gives no easy baskets. Opposing teams have to work for every single point they score, and that wears on a team. They give up the eighth most two point field goals in the country. Which if it wasn’t already obvious, nothing comes easy against this terrific defense.

The Mountaineers press forces nearly 22 turnovers a game which is good for 4th in the country. They themselves turn it over just 13 times a game which is 58th in the country on the other side. One of their major strengths is the way they dictate the pace. West Virginia doesn’t get tired when they play teams.

The backcourt of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles not only pick you up full court, but they also push the pace on offense. The team is eighth in the country in steals (10.9 per) and 10th in the country in offensive rebounds (14.7 per).

These two statistics in particular show just how well the backcourt dictates pace. Due to the speed of the guards the offensive rebounds are high, because the guards push it they create lots of space in the lane to crash the offensive boards.

When playing the number one ranked defense in college basketball the Mountaineers not only won the game but also won the defensive battle. They out shot the Virginia Cavaliers from the free throw line as well as from the three point line. They out rebounded the Cavaliers, and turned them over at a clip of 14 to the Mountaineers 10. The Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the country in protecting the ball, and the Mountaineers got a big win against a tough defense.

Jevon Carter:

It seems like Jevon Carter has been at West Virginia for forever. Well in today’s college basketball, he has been. He’s a four year senior who has increased his scoring every season he has been at West Virginia.

Carter is averaging 16.1 points, 6.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds as well as 3.6 steals a game. He is the teams best defender and their leader. He does a little bit of everything for the Mountaineers but what he truly brings is both experience and structure.

Jevon is the go to guy for this West Virginia team. When they need a big basket, he’s the one to take it. When they need a defensive stop, he seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He contributes time and time again to making winning plays that keep this team afloat.

The Big 12:

West Virginia is leading the way in the best conference in college basketball. The Big 12 has more then half their teams inside the top 20. They have four teams in the top 12 and three in the top nine. A conference that used to be dominated by Kansas has now been the deepest and most competitive in college basketball.

With all the unpredictability in college basketball this season West Virginia has quietly sat back and executed. It hasn’t always been pretty or high scoring, but the Mountaineers have rattled off a fifteen game winning streak.

Experience in the backcourt, good coaching and great defense is always a good combination come both conference play and NCAA tournament play. Look for the Mountaineers to make a deep run and make people remember just how tough the “Press” Virginia defense is.

Featured image from ESPN.com.

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Way-Too-Early Top 10 For the 2017-18 Season

The 2016-17 season is officially over after what turned out to be a different season from what most people thought. However, isn’t that always the case?

We expected Duke to rein supreme yet again last year with one of the most talented rosters we had ever seen. They were ESPN’s number one ranked team in the way-too-early top 25 without question. College basketball proved for the millionth time that what is expected to happen never happens.

With seven months until the start of the 2017-18 season, we take a swipe at the way-too-early top 10 for next season.

1. Kentucky Wildcats 

You know the drill. We’ve seen this before. Kentucky’s freshmen stars are going off to the NBA (De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo) and being replaced with another bunch of talented studs. The Wildcats have the number one ranked recruiting class in the country yet again, bringing in five ESPN top 100 recruits. They also will have redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo.

Even if these new guys don’t turn out to have the same star power as the players they’re replacing, Kentucky has players like Isaiah Briscoe (if he returns), Wenyen Gabriel and Isaac Humphries who could only step into bigger roles.

There’s no reason coach John Calipari and the Wildcats won’t be national title contender with a stacked incoming class and key returning players.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels 

College Basketball

UNC guard Joel Berry II drives in a game earlier this year (Photo/ Google images)

The Tar Heels are losing a significant amount of players, but hold on for a second. They are losing Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt and most likely ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson. However, they’re still UNC.

Many believe Joel Berry II will come back as well as forward Tony Bradley, who is one of the best rebounders in the country. If that’s the case, the Tar Heels would be poised for another late tournament run.

They will also have Elite Eight hero Luke Maye and freshman five-star shooting guard Jalek Felton. Both could have a significant impact on their success.

There are a lot of ifs, but as we’ve seen, Roy Williams can do magical things with ifs.

3. West Virginia Mountaineers

Besides losing seniors Tarik Phillip and Nathan Adrian, press Virginia is back. Guard Jevon Carter will take another offensive leading role, while forcing steals on defense. Forwards Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon will be crashing the boards and running the floor both defensively and offensively.

With a Kansas team that will lose a lot of key players, could this be the year Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers take the regular season Big 12 title away from Kansas? It could be.

4. Louisville Cardinals

College Basketball

Louisville forward Jaylen Johnson celebrates their victory over Kentucky earlier this year (Photo/ Adam Creech)

Don’t be fooled by the Cardinals short stay in both the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament. They are a prime defensive team and will gain three incoming freshmen from the ESPN top 100 and maintain almost the entire previous group.

 

With the exception of Mangok Mathiang, who is a senior, and Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel, who could leave for the NBA, Louisville is still poised to have another great season in 2017-18. If Mitchell and Adel stay, Louisville will be in a good place.

5. Gonzaga Bulldogs 

Enough is enough, Gonzaga is for real. The nation’s top defensive team will look to replace fifth-year senior Przemek Karnowski. The Bulldogs will hopefully look no further than Zach Collins, who could potentially leave for the NBA.

If Collins does return along with Wooden Award finalist Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga will be extremely good. Josh Perkins, Johnathan Williams, Killian Tillie and Silas Melson also all return to make a dangerous Bulldog team out for redemption.

6. Wichita State Shockers

The Shockers finished 31-5 and managed to jump all the way up to 15th in the BPI. It looks like they’re just getting started.

After they were given a 10 seed in the tournament, which many believed was highway robbery, the Shockers lost to Kentucky by one bucket in the round of 32. Don’t let that fool you.

Landry Shamet, who could possibly be the most underrated point guard in the country, along side sharp shooter Conner Frankamp, could take the team on another tournament run. This time they won’t be considered a Cinderella.

7. Florida Gators

College Basketball

Florida guard Chris Chiozza hits a game winning shot in Florida’s Sweet 16 victory over Wisconsin (Photo/ Courtney Culbreath)

The Gators are returning one of the best, if not the best, backcourt in the country in KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza. They will look to top their Elite Eight appearance from this year.

Most of the core crew is still intact. They will add a top 10 recruiting class as well as two transfers.

The Gators are dangerous. This could have already been one of the nation’s best teams. With the addition of the incoming freshmen and transfers, they are only getting better. Third-year head coach Mike White doesn’t seem too fazed after following Billy Donovan and the greatest era in Florida basketball.

8. Villanova Wildcats 

Villanova will wave goodbye to a class that helped lift the Wildcats out of their slump in the 2010s, including Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Granted, these two are of major importance and have been throughout their years at Villanova.

However, the Wildcats have an ongoing star guard in Jalen Brunson. They also have Donte DiVincenzo, who improved his numbers immensely from his previous year, and looks to improve them next year as well.

Jay Wright’s team is resilient. What many might believe to be somewhat of a rebuilding year could be another year in the limelight.

9. Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks will lose a lot of players, including national player of the year Frank Mason III and potential top five pick Josh Jackson. That gives room for guard Devonte’ Graham to flourish in an even bigger role.

The Jayhawks return sharp shooter Sviatoslav Mykhailuik on the wing and add top prospects Billy Preston and Udoka Azubuike. They will also add Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, who was one of the top point guards in his class two years ago. Whatever happens, we all know one thing: Kansas will be good. They’re always good.

10. Duke Blue Devils

College Basketball

Duke big man Marques Bolden looks to be the new face of the Blue Devils down low after losing Harry Giles and Amile Jefferson (Photo/ Streeter Lecka)

It won’t be all doom and gloom for the Blue Devils next season. They’re still Duke. However, the Blue Devils are going to lose a lot of players starting with Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles, who were their two top prospects from last year. They will also lose senior captains Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, who have been a source of stability over the past four years.

The Blue Devils do have some top prospects coming in, including Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. There also rests the possibility of both Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard coming back for another year.

If they both chose to leave, the Blue Devils’ starting line up will most likely have no one older than a sophomore. Either way, don’t ever count out the Blue Devils.

 

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NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina Winning a Fluke?

Is it a Fluke that South Carolina is Still Dancing?

Everyone is wondering how South Carolina made it to the Sweet 16. In fact, only five percent of brackets had them making it this far, and 2.1 percent of those people picked the Baylor-South Carolina matchup. Not many people expected them to get here. Honestly, this small percentage could just be loyal fans that picked them out of obligation.

In the first round, the Gamecocks defeated Marquette 93-73. In the second round they took care of Duke with a seven-point margin, beating the Blue Devils 88-81. Here are three reasons why it is not a fluke and how they’ll match up with Baylor.

1. Coach Frank Martin has done his Homework

Following the win on Sunday night Coach Frank Martin said he was impressed by his team’s fortitude.

“I am unbelievably proud of my guys and they have become mentally-tough as mentally-tough can be,” Martin said.

This team and their recent wins aren’t a byproduct of luck.

Coach Martin has put in his time. His philosophies on offense and defense have been developed over time. They were implemented at Kansas State University where he was Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2010 and have now carried over to South Carolina.

He preaches an early offense attack. This means that in order to have success in scoring, you have to run and run all the time, not just when you are up.

The other benefit of having a high-energy pace all the time, is that the defense has to foul in order to slow it down. As a result, the Gamecocks have shot 799 free throws this season and made 556 of them.

When asked about his defense, he commented on modeling it after past, legendary Duke teams. He knows that defense leads to his fast-paced offense. He stresses not letting the opposing team set up plays, because then you are already beat. Make the other team work for their points.

2. they are peaking at the right time

The Gamecocks finished off the regular season with back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and Alabama. They also went 4-6 on the last 10 games of the season. Now they are playing some of the best basketball that fans have seen all season.

Despite being down in the first half against Duke, the team rallied to score 65 points in the second half. South Carolina out rebounded the Blue Devils 37-34 and had 10 more shots overall. Duke turned over the ball 18 times while the Gamecocks limited themselves to 11 turnovers.

NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina Winning a fluke?

P.J. Dozier brings the ball up the court for South Carolina (WLTX.com)

South Carolina wants it more. That was evident in their second half effort against Duke. Chris Silva scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Duane Notice also scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. P.J. Dozier has also been giving good production for the Gamecocks and freshman Maik Kotsar struggled with Duke but added seven points against Marquette.

The Gamecocks are in fact playing some of the best defense in the country. As many coaches say, “defense propels the offensive end of the floor.”

Sindarius Thornwell has made this obvious as he scored 24 points in the second round against Duke while pulling down six rebounds. It’s the same story for Marquette as he scored 29 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and getting three steals.

If South Carolina can keep up the defensive prowess, than there isn’t any reason they can’t move on past Baylor.

3. Possible Home Court advantage

Anyone who says home-court advantage isn’t a factor, probably hasn’t played in a true home environment. Madison Square Garden is closer to South Carolina than Baylor and fan base is everything in a big game.

Let’s go back to Duke for example. The second round game was played in Greenville, South Carolina roughly two hours from the Gamecocks’ campus. In other words, it was practically a home game and that environment definitely didn’t help Duke.

South Carolina fans have every reason to be at this game. The program isn’t exactly known for its tournament history. Two years ago they didn’t make it to the NIT and last year they lost in the second round of the NIT. Coming into the weekend, South Carolina had not won a NCAA tournament game in 44 years.

Needless to say, South Carolina should have some serious backing in New York.

baylor matchup

Unfortunately South Carolina is a young team, as they have a lot of freshman. The past two games have proved that they can play on the big stage, but will the success continue for another game?

The Gamecocks have in fact taken it upon themselves to keep winning. Coach Martin told his players, “We are not responsible for the drought but we are responsible for this moment.”

His players can be the ones to keep making history.

This is compared to a Baylor team who has been in the spotlight all year long, and rightfully so. They have some very impressive guys but they have also had some scoring droughts.

Jake Trotter commented, “Superior talent allowed them to overcome such dry spells in their first two tournament games, but that won’t be easy moving forward.”

NCAA Tournament: Is South Carolina winning a fluke?

Johnathan Motley finishes a dunk for Baylor (Photo courtesy of Houston Chronicle)

Baylor’s lengthy zone can be intimidating and the combination of Johnathan Motley, Manu Lecomte and Jo-Laul Acuil Jr. is also reason for fear. However, South Carolina isn’t necessarily the underdog.

If Baylor can establish a good inside game to pair with their three-point shooting, they will be hard to stop. On the other hand, if Thornwell can have another game for himself with some help then South Carolina is equally as deadly.

Make sure you are watching 7:29pm ET on TBS to see all the action.

 

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When the Remaining Undefeated Teams Will Lose

It is nearly impossible to go undefeated in a season. The last team to do it and win the NCAA Tournament was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.  They were led by legendary Hall of Fame coach, Bob Knight, they are one of 19 teams to even reach the tournament undefeated. The most recent is the 2015 Kentucky Wildcats that fell just short in the Final Four. Wichita State also did it in 2014, but they lost in the second round to a different pack of Wildcats en route to the title game.

There are so many things that can happen in a season. Injuries can instantly derail a team’s season. Players can have acdemic issues as South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell did (and the team is still undefeated with him in the lineup). Naturally, players are human. As good as they are it is difficult to win night in and night out because there is bound to be at least one off night. It is a tall task to make it to March undefeated and it will not happen this year.

With Villanova’s loss to Butler, that leaves two out of the 351 division one teams undefeated. The Baylor Bears (14-0) and the Gonzaga Bulldogs (15-0). Each are currently in the AP top five due to their spotless records.  The question is, when will that first loss come?

Baylor Bears

Baylor has had a stellar season considering the turmoil of their campus over the past few months.  What is not in turmoil is their talented roster. Not to mention the fact that even with the roster they had the team was not picked to be as high as they are now. The preseason conference poll slotted the Bears at fifth in their own conference.

There are several facets to the Bears game that have gotten them to this point. Firstly, they are very efficient.  As a team they shoot 49.9% from the field. Part of that efficiency comes from the team’s depth.  The roster is not very full, 11 players have logged minutes this year, but 10 players play more than 10 minutes per game. Nine of those average more than five points per game.  Jake Lindsey is the tenth player and he contributes 4.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game in support of leading point guard Manu Lecomte.

Lecomte is a Miami transfer and is flourishing in Waco. He has 11.4 points per game coupled with 5.1 assist per game. His success is aided by his top scorers Jonathan Motley and Allerik Freeman. Each of these three players has managed double digit points (16.0 for Motely) in under 30 minutes of play.

Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (0) is one of the most prolific shot blockers in the country and is the teeth of the Bear’s defense. (photo courtesy of pickandroll.com)

What is more impressive is the defensive effect that each player has on the team.  All ten players that play significant minutes have a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus.  This means that each player has a positive net effect on defense being in the game. The one player that it is impossible not to mention when it comes to Baylor’s tenacious defense is Jo Lual-Acuil. The seven foot monster smashes a whopping 3.6 blocks per game, good enough for third in the country. He has reached that mark in only 25.8 minutes per contest along with 11.1 points and 7.6 rebounds. Lual-Acuil’s high production in limited minutes is a perfect example of how Scott Drew’s use of the whole roster keeps his team energized.

That is what got them to this point. They will not reach the end of the season with a zero in the loss column. Baylor has taken down some giants on its way to current record. They have taken down Oregon who is now on track in addition to Xavier and Louisville. Conference play in the Big 12, however, is no joke. Baylor will finish the season with a minimum of two losses in the Conference.

The good news for all of this is that we will not have to wait long for this team to drop its first game. Already nearly faltering against an average Iowa State team, the Bears come home to Oklahoma State and then travel to West Virginia. This is the fun part about the Mountaineers being in the Big 12, teams have to go halfway across the country to play them. Travel has its wear and tear on players.

So after January 10th, only one team will remain undefeated in the NCAA. West Virginia and Bob Huggins are notorious for their full court defensive pressure that has caused 347 turnovers this season, best in the nation. They have only allowed 60.8 points per game. The really scary part? The team is fifth in the nation in scoring behind eight players over 7.0 points per game for a total of 90.7 per game. The fatigue of the Bears and the relentlessness of Huggins squad will result in Baylor’s first loss.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

At the beginning of the year Gonzaga was supposed to be good. They also had a few games that were supposed to challenge them on paper. Gonzaga has beaten all of the bigger conference teams on their schedule: Florida, Iowa State, an Arizona team on a neutral floor that is now coming around, Washington and Tennessee.

Karnowski is the main reason for Gonzaga’s offensive flow. (Photo courtesy of SI.com)

They have done it with a depth created by returning players, transfers and recruits. Nigel Williams-Goss has emerged as one of the most crucial transfers in the nation sitting at team bests of 13.8 points and 4.7 assists along with 5.7 rebounds. The versatile guard is a staple for the offense and has played the most minutes on the team thus far. To help him he has the interior presence of Przemek Karnowski, one of the best passing big men in the country. He has the highest usage percentage on the team (for players that qualify). Karnowski is the center of the offense for the team and his passing threat is a great creator. It helps Williams-Goss and fellow double digit scorer Josh Perkins to get their opportunities.

All of this action has allowed supporting players such as Cal transfer Jordan Mathews to flourish. Mathews is now shooting 42.5% from behind the arc.  Freshman Zach Collins and Killian Tillie also benefit from the lack of defensive attention. Collins is currently averaging 10.6 points per game on 72.5% shooting. When a guy is making three out of four shots from anywhere you know there is something good going on.

Unfortunately even that cannot prevent the Bulldogs from dropping a game or two.  They have a few tests on their schedule that will cause them some difficulty. The BYU Cougars may present somewhat of a challenge, but the team that will take down Mark Few is the St. Mary’s Gaels. The Gales have faced and beaten prime competition this year. When Gonzaga has to travel to St. Mary’s on February 11th, it will be too much for Gonzaga.

St. Mary’s is led by Australian Center Jock Landale with an outstanding 18.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds. To this point he is one of the most productive players in the country, not to mention the WCC. Another Aussie player that has high production on the team is Emmett Naar.  Naar is a threat in several facets with 10.3 points, 5.7 assists and 2.9 rebounds. He is one of the main reasons that the ball moves so swiftly about the Gaels offense.

What the team truly brings as a strength is its defensive prowess. They are currently third in the country only allowing an astounding 58.1 points per game. They have allowed 61 points or under in 9 of their wins this year. The one game that they lost to UT-Arlington they only allowed 65 points. Gonzaga is a deep team, but they will not be able to fend off the aggressive defense of St. Mary’s.

Eliminate College Conferences

Change. It is a simply spelt and pronounced word, but becomes complex when people start to deal with change. People run away from change out of fear. People usually grimace at the thought of change. Change is often looked at as a bad thing, but change can also be viewed as a great thing. Change is needed for growth and knowledge. Society finds it hard to change things that are long standing traditions, even if they do not work, are outdated, or completely wrong.

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

(Photo: Daniel Gluskoter, AP)

Take a look at the national anthem controversy for instance. Rather than admit its flaws, people are back-lashing against Colin Kaepernick. Why can’t we admit our faults as people or as a society? Because people hate change, whether it’s for the betterment of society or not. It is so much easier to go with the flow rather than to adapt.

It is time for a change in college football by eliminating any and all conferences. They are unnecessary in this day and age. They serve no purpose other than to please tradition. This is a highly unpopular opinion but hear me out before you grab your pitchforks.

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-269730 ORIG FILE ID: 20160903_jla_sh5_731.jpg

(Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers players celebrate defeating the LSU Tigers by doing the Lambeau Leap following the game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY)

The best teams need to play each other weekly regardless of their region or conference. Week one was one of the greatest weeks of college football ever. People are still glamorizing it because it was that epic. We saw great games all over such as (15) Houston defeating (3) Oklahoma. We saw Wisconsin upset (5) LSU. We saw unranked Texas A&M upset (16) UCLA. (18) Georgia beat (22) North Carolina. (2) Clemson had to sneak by unranked Auburn by six points. Fans saw Texas upset (10) Notre Dame in an overtime classic. On a Monday night game, (4) Florida State beat (11) Ole Miss.

Week two also saw some great programs matching up for exciting games. Arkansas was unranked and upset (15) TCU. (17) Tennessee beat Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in the most attended game in college football history with 156,990 in attendance.

(http://www.usatoday.com/videos/sports/ncaaf/2016/11/18/houston-dashes-louisville's-playoff-hopes-upset/94060980/)

(http://www.usatoday.com)

Since the first two weeks there still have been great non-conference games even as teams have gotten into conference scheduling. In week six, Navy upset (6) Houston 46-40 in one of the most exciting back and forth games of the year. Most recently in week 12, the same Houston team that was upset by Navy, and was unranked, ended (5) Louisville’s shot at making the playoffs. They upset the Cardinals 36-10.

All these non conference match-ups with top programs facing off gave us excitement. Fans of football rejoiced over how fun it was to watch these teams play their hearts off to win these big time games. These games mean so much more with the rather new playoff system that determines a true champion in college football. Eliminating conferences would not eliminate rivalries because schools would be able to schedule 10-12 games completely how they want. The only thing each school would  have to do is make sure they schedule their rival schools annually.

(MARK ALMOND)

(MARK ALMOND)

These huge games are what the fans want to see. It doesn’t have to be just about the fans either. The college football playoff committee highly values a team’s strength of schedule. Nobody wants to see Alabama playing teams like Chattanooga or Kent State, teams in which they manhandled this year. Ohio State shouldn’t be playing teams like Rutgers, who happens to be in their conference, or Tulsa. Clemson games are boring when they play teams like South Carolina State or Syracuse. Imagine Clemson scheduling Alabama, Michigan, and Ohio State. If a team goes undefeated with a non-conference schedule as tough as this, there would be no question they deserve to be in the playoffs.

One of the biggest problems with the state of college football now is that great teams still get snubbed from making the playoffs. We need the best four teams in the country making the playoffs as long as it is a four team format. Maybe one day it will be a six or eight team format to eliminate more doubt, because there will always be a team or two on the bubble.

Currently the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Big 12 are known as the power five conferences. Most people can agree these are the top five conferences in the country, with each taking turns on where they rank within the power five.

In the current playoff system, one of the power five conferences will not be represented. A champion from one of these conferences will not have the chance to play in the playoffs and prove they are the best team in the country. This doesn’t account for a team without a conference, such as Notre Dame, who could go undefeated and cause two power five conferences to be left out of the playoffs. It also doesn’t account for a year like this one in which Ohio State and Michigan both look like teams capable of winning a national championship.

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

(http://www.sbnation.com/)

The first ever college football playoff left out TCU and/or Baylor in favor of Ohio State. The debate raged on about which of these teams should have gotten in. Ohio State then went on to win the National Championship as a four seed to quiet the debate, but how do we know, without a doubt, that TCU or Baylor would not have done the same? How do we know TCU or Baylor would’t have beat Ohio State? This is the problem with conferences. The Big Ten was assumed to be the better conference which is why the playoff committee chose to take Ohio State over one of the Big 12 teams. It was all because the Big 12 conference doesn’t have a conference championship game.

There is another issue at hand when it comes to conferences and the entire playoff format. There is always a talk of two teams getting into the playoffs from the same conference. If that were to happen, two conference champions from a power five conference would be left out. This was the problem with the BCS system that the playoffs were suppose to fix. The question that should be asked is how can you be a champion of the nation if you weren’t a champion of your conference? Essentially that is what happens if two SEC or two Big Ten teams get into a four team playoff. Eliminating conferences erases all the doubt. It makes teams schedule harder competition and creates more exciting games. If a school didn’t do it, they wouldn’t get into the playoffs.

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Conferences started mostly due to how difficult it was to travel when teams were still taking buses. Colleges can afford to fly their teams in today’s sports and traveling is not as hard as it use to be. What is the need for conferences then? The idea of no conferences at all is highly appealing in my eyes, but will not be popular to most. It would be revolutionary to eliminate conferences. The most remarkable changes in the world once were thought to be outlandish. Conferences are a tired idea that is outdated and the sport can become more exciting by eliminating them.

 

 

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2017 College Basketball Bracketology November 9

2017 NCAA Tournament Bracketology

Click on bracket to zoom.

2017-ncaa-bracketology-11-9

First Four Out: BYU, SMU, Clemson, Pitt

Next Four out: Georgetown, Seton Hall, Baylor, Illinois

 

Breakdown by Conference:

ACC 10
Big Ten 7
Pac-12 6
Big 12 5
SEC 4
Big East 4
WCC 2
AAC 2

 

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College Football Week Four Recap

This weekend’s games didn’t have all of the greatest match-ups as previous weeks, but there was still a lot of good football. Four weeks into the season we have learned a lot of things about plenty of teams, but here are some takeaways from the week:

1. The Big Ten is for real.

A lot of people have been debating whether the Big Ten is the best conference in college football this week, but one thing isn’t in doubt after this weekend: The Big Ten has a few elite teams. Ohio State was off this weekend, but remains number two in both the Coaches’ and AP Polls. Michigan got another blowout win this week, this time demolishing Penn State in the Big House, and remain in the top five of both polls. Michigan State lost to a very good Wisconsin team, but both teams should be pretty good the rest of the way. Wisconsin worked their way up to eight in the polls with the win and Michigan State dropped to a respectable number seventeen in the Coaches’ Poll. Nebraska followed up their win over Oregon this week by beating Northwestern this weekend, while moving up to fifteen in both polls. Polls can be misleading because of schedules and how they were formatted to start the season, but Ohio State went on the road to beat Oklahoma, Michigan got a win over a Colorado team that went on to beat Oregon, Nebraska squeaked by that same Oregon team, Wisconsin surprised an LSU team that at the very least has a lot of talent and Michigan State beat an under-performing Notre Dame team on the road. The Big Ten has challenged itself and has earned the right to be called the best conference in the country.

2. It is really hard to lead a nationally prominent team for a long time.

Les Miles has been fired from LSU after losing to Auburn this weekend. Defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis. He previously was an interim coach at USC, after the firing of Lane Kiffin. Miles had a very successful run for the Tigers, winning a national championship and countless other big games. LSU had some of the best recruits in the country every year under Miles, which is something they will wish to continue under their new leadership. In the end though, Miles was fired because he refused to change and was too predictable on offense. Handing the ball to outstanding running back Leonard Fournette every down may sound like a great idea, but teams simply stacked the box because LSU couldn’t find anyone to consistently complete passes. Miles also refused to change the offensive system to open things up for the quarterbacks. He hasn’t had much success against Alabama, which has been frustrating for LSU fans. Now that it is all said and done, Miles had a successful stint as LSU’s head coach, but if you aren’t winning national championships regularly, it is hard to keep people happy.

3. Baylor is the Big 12’s last hope at the College Football Playoff.

The Bears got a big win over Oklahoma State this weekend, which has made them the team to beat in the Big 12. Oklahoma has two losses and is a long-shot to make the playoff. Oklahoma State lost to a MAC team two weeks ago. Texas lost to Cal to weeks ago and has a shaky defense at best. TCU lost to Arkansas in a close match-up, but hasn’t looked good otherwise either. Baylor never plays anyone of note in the non-conference schedule, but they may not need to if every other contender in the conference continues to lose. Even with a lousy schedule, the College Football Playoff Committee will select the Bears if they run the table or, if the circumstances are right, finish with one loss.

 

College Football Week Two Recap

Week two of college football is in the books and so much more is known now than a few short weeks ago. Here are four takeaways from this weekend’s action:

1. The Holy War is a very underrated rivalry.

BYU versus Utah always provides great drama and this year was no exception. The Cougars traveled down the field and scored a late touchdown to put themselves within one point of their rivals. Head Coach Kalani Sitake elected to go for a two point conversion after the touchdown to potentially win the game in regulation. A quarterback draw play was called and Taysom Hill was stopped short of the goal line, which sealed a Utah victory. This series was so intense and violent that the schools discontinued the annual game for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The football gods wanted them to play so bad, that they met in the 2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and the annual series was continued this season. Since 2012 all of the games have been decided by one possession. This rivalry is definitely one to keep an eye on into the future, as BYU will be looking for revenge after losing the last six match-ups.

Kalen Ballage had a historic game against Texas Tech. (Courtesy of azfamily.com)

2. Kalen Ballage is a star.

How many people knew the name Kalen Ballage before this weekend? Ballage is the running back for Arizona State who scored eight touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ win over Texas Tech. No defense was played in this game (the final score was 68-55), but Ballage almost outscored the Red Raiders by himself. The eight touchdowns were school and Pac-12 records, but sadly his performance only tied the NCAA record for touchdowns in a game. The most impressive thing about the eight touchdowns is that he only touched the ball fifteen times. After the game Ballage showed his class by bringing his offensive line to the press conference to show the press who helped him achieve such a feat. BWatch out for him to break more records this season, based on his great performance in this game.

Central Michigan pulled off an improbably upset. (Photo courtesy cbssports.com)

3. The Big 12 needs to step up fast.

Oklahoma lost to Houston, who is a good team, but that is not a loss that should happen for a team that was supposed to win the Big 12 and return to the College Football Playoff. Oklahoma State lost to a MAC school, Central Michigan, in a controversial fashion. Even if they should have won, they should have also played better against a team from the MAC. TCU, who was picked by some to make the CFP, lost to Arkansas. Texas Tech just lost a big game on the road too. If the Big 12 wants to have a team represent them in the CFP, they need to have some team step up.

The Broncos aren’t quite ready to leave the national scene. (Courtesy ktvb.com)

4. Don’t sleep on the Mountain West.

The Mountain West notched two big wins this weekend over Pac-12 schools. Boise State defeated Washington State 31-28. The Broncos have a solid team and look to be one of the best group of five conference teams. Washington State was thought to have a breakout year in the Pac-12, and still might, but fell just short of collecting a big win in Boise. San Diego State now has twelve straight wins after beating California this weekend. Cal isn’t the most talented team in the Pac-12, but it is still a big win for SDSU. The Aztecs may be in store for a New Year’s Six Bowl. The only big threat for these teams are each other, in a possible Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Watch out for these two teams to rise in the rankings as the season goes on.

 

Big 12 Landscape Becoming Apparent for 2016-17

With the newest season of college basketball less than 100 days away, predictions for the season are beginning to surface. Several teams are in the midst of overseas tournaments giving us a first look at the newcomers. In the next week or two campuses will be flooded with returning students and then the first preseason exhibitions will be only a few short months away. With the season rapidly approaching, there is a better sense of how each conference will play out. First, it is time to take a look at one of the best conferences from 2015-16, the Big 12.

Kansas Will Win the Regular Season Title…Again

Kansas has won at least a share of the regular season Big 12 title every year since 2006. There is no indication that this trend will stop. The team has a plethora of returning and incoming talent. Bill Self also continues to develop players into better versions of themselves.

Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason will be a force to be reckoned with for Bill Self. (Photo courtesy of kusports.com)

Notable returnees include Devonte’ Graham, Frank Mason and Carlton Bragg Jr. Graham and Mason combine to be the best returning guard tandem in the Big 12 and one of the best in the country. Both are highly skilled on the offensive end of the floor, but their defensive statistics will be what separates them as the best 2-way pair and will make the Jayhawks a lock for the regular season title.

While Graham averaged 11.3 PPG and 3.7 APG, his Defsnsive Box Plus/Miinus of 3.7 shows his positive contributions on the other end of the floor.  2.2 of his 5.1 win shares were defensive, meaning he was nearly as important on defense as on offense. Frank Mason had eerily similar numbers with 12.9 PPG and 4.6 APG along with 4.3 RPG. He also posted a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus of 3.7 indicating a heavy contribution both ways.

Carlton Bragg Jr. played only 8.9 MPG but his stats show yet another bright spot for Self and crew. Even playing as little as he did, he was able to post a 4.7 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. His per 40 offensive averages are astounding at 17.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 1.7 steals per contest. When Bragg plays this year, and he will after the departure of Perry Ellis, he will be able to contribute.

Finally, bolstering this load of talent is a recruiting class that includes the top rated player in the country, Josh Jackson. Jackson is an explosive athlete that is still fine tuning his shooting ability. With all of the other offensive options he should have plenty of help to grow from the raw talent that he is into something more. Also joining the mix will be big man  recruit Udoka Azubuke. There is plenty of depth to shore up any possible flaws that may arise on this team. They will have no problem winning at least a share of their twelfth straight Big 12 regular season title.

TCU Will Make the 2017 NCAA Tournament

Jamie Dixion will coach his alma mater in 2016-17. (Photo courtesy of frogsowar.com)

Jamie Dixon is the main reason that there will be life for the Horned Frogs in basketball. He took the Panthers to 11 NCAA Tournaments in 13 seasons with one Elite Eight and two Sweet Sixteen appearances. Dixon chose to return to his alma mater where he played from 1984-87.

Dixon will undoubtedly make the team better immediately, but there is more reason to think that this team will not repeat its 2-16 Big 12 record. The only losses for TCU were Devonta Abron to graduation and Chauncey Collins, who signed with an agent.

Though the loss of their top scorer will hurt, most of the key pieces remain and will develop under Dixon. Dixon oversaw the development of many players while at Pitt including Lavance Fields and Dejuan Blair. Malique Trent was already a multi-faceted threat but Dixon could develop him into a bona fide star. Additionally Dixon signed 4-star point guard Jaylen Fisher.

With Dixon at the helm,  majority of the team returning and the key addition of Fisher, TCU should make the tournament. They will likely be a bubble team or perhaps a nine or ten seed at best, but they should squeeze their way through the year and sneak in despite the program’s poor recent history.

Oklahoma, Texas Will Experience Rebuilding Year

Oklahoma’s roster will be a immensely different in 2016-17. They lose three of their stars in Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and 1st Team All American, Buddy Hield. The trio combined for 47.8 of the team’s 79.7 points per game. Additionally they were three of the top four leaders in assists and rebounds.

That leaves a significant amount of production with Jordan Woodard as the only remaining key piece. He and Khadeem Lattin are the only players returning that saw over 13 minutes per game. With Woodard being the only returning star, teams will easily be able to concentrate on him, diluting his numbers. He is an efficient shooter now, but his efficiency will not get any better when he has the opposing team’s best defender on him. That is, unless Oklahoma’s recruiting class outdoes expectations. Lon Kruger’s teams do not normally hit the ground running.  He specializes in player development over time as seen in the past year.

The Texas Longhorns will experience much of the same situation in Shaka Smart’s second year. The Longhorns lose their top three scorers, two to graduation and Isaiah Taylor to an early entry in the NBA. Additionally the top three rebounders on the team will need replacements. Kerwin Roach Jr. did have an eye-opening dunk against Kansas, but with him as the remaining leader in points and rebounds at 7.5 PPG and 2.9 RPG this team will take a year to develop an identity.

Luckily Smart seems to have a knack for developing players over time. Players like Brionte Weber and Eric Maynor were not highly touted recruits, but each came into their own at VCU during Smart’s tenure. The Longhorns do have one of the best recruiting classes in the country. However, the one-and-done roster turnover is not Smart’s forte. Thus, he and Texas will have a bit of trouble adapting to the new atmosphere and essentially take the year to figure themselves out in the wake of their losses.

 

 

 

 

The College Football Playoff Should Expand to Six Teams

Overall, these two years of playoffs in college football have gone tremendously. Ratings have been through the roof, especially in the first year. The championship has never felt more undisputed, and the story-lines of “3rd-string quarterback” or “return to the throne” could not have been scripted with any more perfection.

But to be frank it’s a travesty to watch a playoff that is supposed to be all-decisive not include at least one team that was the winner of one of the best conferences. And when you have five conferences that are slated as the “best conferences” (that’s the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, of course) at least one champion gets left out, which sucks when sometimes they only have one or two losses. I specifically reference a greatly talented one-loss Big 12 champion TCU or Baylor team in 2014.

Throw in your possible non-power five busters, potential deserving conference runner-ups, or Notre Dame, and we’re talking about two power five conference champions not in the hunt for what is supposed to be an all-determining playoff.

Is what we have way better than any two-team championship game system or poll determinant? Yes. But leaping over the hurdle of making a playoff isn’t good enough. Why not go all-in on making the champion truly undisputed? It’s as if a vegetarian came off a 144-year diet of not having the best that food has to offer, but then after doing the hard part and enjoying a Big Mac he says, “Oh no, I can’t get into that five-star quality sirloin.” Just cut into that perfect bit of delectable cow now that you finally will eat something from the four-legged milk producer, college football.

Three other big reasons why the College Football Playoff should be six teams:

  1. Seeding will matter. Did Alabama in 2014 honestly say “YES! We got Ohio State instead of Florida State!”? I highly doubt it. In a six-team playoff, seeds number one and two get first-round byes, adding a bit of intrigue to selection day.
  2. Everyone loves an underdog. Who wouldn’t love to see a team like Western Kentucky go on an undefeated run? Better yet, that team could go beat an Oklahoma or a Clemson. With six teams, those normally mid and lower-tier teams have more of a chance to get in.
  3. Mo’ money. Simple addition kids, two more games equals two more chances at high ratings. Everyone loves a payday. The schools, the NCAA, the TV networks, everyone.

The counterpoint is somewhat supporting evidence of reason three above: two more games equals two more times for players getting hurt, two more sets of travel costs for families and students, and two more times players can’t get their academics as up-to-date as they could. I honestly cannot deny these negatives, but I think the pros of expansion far outweigh the cons.

As far as going to eight teams opposed to the six I suggest, I think four extra games does cause enough con to outweigh pro. Why? Because plain and simple, I think there are plenty of years teams ranked five or six could make a case for being the number one team in the country. But there are very few years number seven or eight could make the same claim.

Look at the teams ranked number seven and eight in the final regular season AP poll over the past seven years. They average 1.6 losses at they end of the regular season, going a combined 7-7 in the following bowl games (polls and records from sports-reference.com). Eventual 2014 champion Ohio State trounced seventh ranked Michigan State during the season. Furthermore, number eight Mississippi State wouldn’t have stood much of a chance against OSU either. In 2013 I doubt Ohio State or South Carolina would have had a shot against Florida State. And in 2012 Kansas State or Stanford against Alabama? Forget about it.

So to me, six is the perfect number for a playoff in college football. No more, no less.

 

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