NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

National Signing Day 2017: Pac 12

The Pac-12 is on their way back to prominence, with USC’s resurgence and Washington making the College Football Playoff. With that has come better recruiting classes. This page will be updated throughout the day. Here is how the Pac-12 Signing Day is going:

1. USC Trojans

Commitments: 19, 5*: 1, 4*: 7, 3*: 10, Other: 1

Clay Helton has started getting USC back to prominence by recruiting well. Running back Stephen Carr is their only five-star commit, but may not get too many carries early in his career. Linebacker Levi Jones choosing the Trojans on Signing Day was a huge coup. Joseph Lewis will help fill the void at receiver left by JuJu Smith-Schuster, Dareus Rogers and Adoree’ Jackson.

Top Prospects Signed: RB Stephen Carr (4*), WR Joseph Lewis (5*)

2. Stanford Cardinal

Commitments: 14, 5*: 1, 4*: 8, 3*: 5, Other: 0

The Cardinal have a lot of elite prospects this season that should help them compete with Washington for the Pac 12 North. Quarterback Davis Mills has to have Cardinal fans excited as he fills a huge need and is a great prospect. Two five-star tackles will be tasked with protecting him in Foster Sarrell and Walker Little.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Foster Sarrell (*5), TE Colby Parkinson (4*)

3. UCLA Bruins

Commitments: 18, 5*: 2, 4*: 4, 3*: 11, Other: 1

UCLA always has talented players, but they are well on their way to putting together one of the best recruiting classes of all time. They have a great pass rusher in Jaelen Phillips, who is a five-star prospect. Another five-star is corner back Darnay Holmes. Both should help replace a lot of talent lost in the past few years on the defense.

Top Prospects Signed: OLB Jaelen Phillips (5*), Darnay Holmes (5*)

4. Washington Huskies

Commitments: 17, 5*: 0, 4*: 6, 3*: 11, Other: 0

Chris Peterson got the Huskies to the College Football Playoff and has now put together a good recruiting class to get back to that stage. Running back Salvon Ahmed is the best player in the class so far for the Huskies, but may not see the field too early in his career with Myles Gaskin there. Their recruiting is centralized on getting prospects from Oregon, Washington and California.

Top Prospects Signed: RB Salvon Ahmend (4*), OT Henry Bainvalu (4*)

5. Oregon Ducks

Commitments: 19, 5*: 0, 4*: 6, 3*: 13, Other: 0

Oregon has a lot of problems, but the main one is defense. They signed a good corner in Thomas Graham to help out with that problem. The Ducks also have their athletes that the always sign to help make their team, most likely offense, a lot better.

Top Prospects Signed: CB Thomas Graham (4*), ATH Jaylon Redd (4*)

6. Arizona State Sun Devils

Commitments: 18, 5*: 0, 4*: 6, 3*: 10, Other: 2

Arizona State needs to have a good recruiting class to get back on track. Quarterback Blake Barnett formerly played at Alabama, then went to JuCo, and is now moving to Tempe. He was a coveted player before and still has a lot of potential. Corner back Alex Perry should help revamp the defense.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Blake Barnett (4*), CB Alex Perry (4*)

7. Colorado Buffaloes

Commitments: 23, 5*: 0, 4*: 7, 3*: 14, Other: 2

The Buffaloes followed up a successful season with a better recruiting class than they are used to. They have a lot of commitments, but Jake Moretti and Grant Polley are some of the best players in the class so far. Both should bolster the offensive line for Colorado.

Top Prospects Signed: OT Jake Moretti (4*), OG Grant Polley (4*)

8. Utah Utes

Commitments: 13, 5*: 0, 4*: 3, 3*: 10, Other: 0

Kyle Whittingham has successfully recruited a lot of JuCo players. Their best JuCo prospect is guard Jordan Agisava, who is one of the best in the class. Corner Jaylen Johnson is not a JuCo player, but is the best recruit.

Top Prospects Signed: OG Jordan Agisava (4*), CB Javelin Guidry (4*)

9. Arizona Wildcats

Commitments: 25, 5*: 0, 4*: 2, 3*: 23, Other: 0

Arizona needs to bounce back quickly for Rich Rodriguez. Nathan Tilford is one of the four-star prospects of the class as a running back from Canada. The Wildcats have a well balanced class of both offensive and defensive three-star prospects.

Top Prospects Signed: RB Nathan Tilford (4*), DE Jalen Harris (4*)

10. Oregon State Beavers

Commitments: 21, 5*: 0, 4*: 1, 3*: 16, Other: 4

The Beavers don’t look like they will be making huge jumps in the Pac-12 any time soon. They got a great wide receiver recruit in Isaiah Hodgins, who should play immediately. Jake Luton will provide depth at the quarterback position. He leads a predominantly offensive class.

Top Prospects Signed: WR Isaiah Hodgins (4*), QB Jake Luton (3*)

11. Washington State Cougars

Commitments: 21, 5*: 0, 4*: 2, 3*: 17, Other: 2

Mike Leach and the Cougars had a great season this year, but fell short in recruiting. They do have a good quarterback signed in Connor Neville, so it will be interesting to see how he fits in Leach’s system. A lot of offensive players are in the class making Mike Leach happy.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Connor Neville (4*), Anthony White Jr. (4*)

12. California Golden Bears

Commitments: 12, 5*: 0, 4*: 2, 3*:6 , Other: 4

Cal’s late coaching change really hurt their recruiting class. They are getting passed by group of five teams and other lackluster programs. Quarterback Chase Garbers is the best player in the class and gives them a slight bit of hope.

Top Prospects Signed: QB Chase Garbers (4*), WR Tariq Johnson (4*)

 

ACC Signing Day- Here

Big Ten Signing Day- Here

Big 12 Signing Day- Here

SEC Signing Day- Here

What’s Up Down Under? Australian Open Week One Takeaways

By the time this is published the second week of the Australian Open will be just a few hours from getting under way. There will plenty of time to look ahead. Here is look back at some of the best, wackiest, and most unexpected stories from week one in Melbourne.

Djokovic Stunned Early

Just when you think you have the answers, sports changes the questions. Six time Australian Open champ and pre-event favorite Novak Djokovic was ousted by 117th ranked wildcard Denis Istomin in round two. Istomin is a career journeyman who his coached by his mom partly because he cannot afford a traditional full time coach. That tells you all you need to know about the kind of win this is for him. He backed it up with another win and is still alive in the event.

Even so, Djokovic is the bigger story here. He has not won any of the three majors since he capped off his career Grand Slam in Paris in June. In two of those events, he has failed to reach the second week. Ultimately, this had more to do with Istomin playing the match of his life than Djokovic playing poorly, but it was still shocking that the Serb could not find a way. I think Djokovic will be fine, but he is vulnerable for the first time in a long time. How he handles that is the magic question going forward. Meanwhile, everyone else still alive has to feel they have more of an opportunity,

Jennifer Brady’s Fairytale Run

 

Photo Courtesy of ausopen.com

I will be the first to admit I had no clue who Jennifer Brady was prior to this event, I was not alone. However, the Pennsylvania born former UCLA Bruin has won three qualifying matches and three the main draw to reach the last 16. She had never won a Grand Slam main draw match before and will break into the top 100 with this result. While the Cinderella story will likely soon end, in a draw full of upsets, Brady’s is manageable for at least one more round.

 

 

Federer Turns Back the Clock

After a six month injury layoff and a scratchy first two rounds, questions about the all-time men’s Grand Slam winner were still running rampant as he faced 10th seed Tomas Berdych in the third round. Vintage Federer are the only two appropriate words. He raced through Bredych in 90 minutes, 6-2-6-2-6-4. You can watch the best of the best at his best in the small snippet below thanks to the KingOfTennis YouTube channel.

While fifth seeded Kei Nishikori will be tough task for Roger in the next round, it sure looks like the projected Federer-Andy Murray quarterfinal will decide the winner of this event, especially with Djokovic out of the picture.

 Safarova Saves Nine Match Points, wins

 

The early award for nuttiest match of 2017 goes to Yanina Wickmayer and Lucie Safarova in the first round of this Aussie Open. Wickmayer controlled the vast majority of the match, but every now and then the tennis gods remind us all that the last point is the toughest one to get. Safarova saved an incredible nine match points in the second set ended up winning going away, 3-6 7-6(7) 6-1. You can watch the drama below courtesy of tennis.com. Safarova was beaten in straight sets by Serena Williams in round two.

https://www.ausopen.com/en_AU/news/match_reports/2017-01-17/nine_match_points_saved_safarova_advances.html

Tennis Channel and/or the ESPN family of networks continue coverage beginning nightly at 7 PM ET for a few more days. Unfortunately for us Americans, as we get closer to the finals, live match coverage will take place almost exclusively at 3:30 AM ET with re-airs later in the morning.

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Can the Flying Ducks Keep Their Streak?

Oregon basketball has started a streak. They have won their past nine games of this season and have a 33-game win streak at home. The last time the Ducks lost at home was on March 14, 2015, against Arizona, who was ranked fifth in the nation at the time.

Since their last loss at home, winning has been a commonplace for Oregon. The Ducks finished their 2015-2016 regular season at 14-4 in conference play and earned a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. They knocked off Holy Cross, Saint Joseph’s, and Duke to make it to the Elite Eight. The moral of the story is that this team knows what they are doing.

This raises two new questions: Who got them to this point? More importantly, what is to come?

PERSONNEL


Oregon has five players putting up double figures as they enter conference play. First on the stat sheet is senior Chris Boucher, who is averaging 14.1 PPG while playing 26.4 MPG. However, Boucher currently has a boot on his right foot (ankle injury) and is not expected to return until later in conference play. He leads the team in blocks with 35 on the season, which ranks 10th in the nation overall.

The void of Chris Boucher being gone has been filled quite well by Jordan Bell. He had a career-high 23 points against Fresno State last Tuesday. He also chipped in 16 points against UNLV (the first game Boucher was out). Bell is averaging 10.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG and has 33 blocks in total this season.

The absence of Boucher also allowed Dillon Brooks to make his first start of the season against UNLV and contribute 20 points to the victory. He also added nine points against Fresno State. He is a 6-7 threat who averaged 16.7 PPG last season and as a junior, he has the experience and knowledge to impact the game greatly.

Scorers for the Ducks are coming from all classes in addition to Brooks and Bell. Tyler Dorsey is a sophomore and he is averaging 13.5 PPG just behind Chris Boucher. Senior Dylan Ennis distributes the ball well and averages 3.3 assists per game. Finally, Payton Pritchard, who is playing 27.5  MPG, a rather large amount for a freshman on an experienced team.

Experience is the name of the game for the Ducks. However, the UCLA Bruins’ combination of fresh talent and experience could be road block to this long home win streak.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS


Oregon opens conference play against the UCLA Bruins on Wednesday. They do not get a “warm-up” game. They are taking on the second team in the nation that is led by freshmen. TJ Leaf averages 17.5 PPG and Lonzo Ball is adding 13.7 PPG in addition to 8.3 APG. Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford provide the experience for the team and contribute major points as well as high free-throw percentages, which will be key in late-game situations.

Oregon basketball

UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (USA TODAY Sports)

UCLA has the personnel to end this streak. The meeting of these two teams is a rivalry with some bad blood in the past. From 1970 to 1976, UCLA had a home-game win streak of 98 games which included four National Championships. This streak was ended by the Ducks.

This however, is what great games are made of. First, there are two teams with history. Second, both teams have a lot at stake. UCLA puts up 95.8 points a game and leads the nation with 23.6 APG. Their untarnished record for this season would also dissipate. The Ducks risk a 33-game win streak and a win could would be tremendous for their overall ranking.

A win against UCLA does not mean the road gets any easier. After UCLA, the Ducks will take on USC just two days later. USC and Oregon are relatively close in many of the statistical areas. The Trojans are averaging 83.2 PPG while the Ducks average 78.3 PPG. Field goal percentage, rebounds per game, and assists per game are relatively the same. The teams are quite evenly matched and the Trojans are also on a 13-game win streak.

The Ducks can keep their streak if they can contain the Bruins’ large scoring margins by limiting the damage done by impact players like TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton. If they can handle UCLA at home and gain some confidence going into USC, then the Ducks should maintain their streak for another week.

 

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Five Lessons from Feast Week 2016

Thanksgiving week is a time for family, food, football and of course basketball! Over the past week, dozens of NCAA teams have made apparent their strengths and weaknesses. Here are the five most important insights that fans can pull from the plethora of Feast Week tournaments:

The Tar Heels are Elite

North Carolina won a not so climactic Maui Invitational and moved to 7-0. They won it with an average margin of victory of 30 points. Granted, one of those games was against Division II opponent Chaminade. Despite that, they obliterated the two Division I teams they faced, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin, by 32 and 15 points respectively.

These are not normal, run-of-the-mill teams. Wisconsin was on the preseason top ten list for many behind Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. Jawun Evans leads the Oklahoma State Cowboys as an elite scorer at 24.7 points per game. Evans was one of only two Cowboys in double figures against the Tar Heels.

Freshman Tony Bradley (5) is an excellent back-up for Kennedy Meeks. (Photo courtesy of newsobserver.com)

Freshman Tony Bradley (5) is an excellent back-up for Kennedy Meeks. (Photo courtesy of newsobserver.com)

North Carolina currently has five players averaging over ten points per game. They can spread the ball well and do not rely on one player to stay above water. Returnees Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks have made it business as usual for Roy Williams. Five star recruit Tony Bradley is a nice addition at 10.7 points per contest and 6.3 rebounds.

This is a very long Tar Heel team that possesses the ability to frustrate defenses by tipping balls away. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks dominate the boards, keeping teams from getting too many second chance points. Each also possesses the ability to protect the rim with good size and length. North Carolina is not one-dimensional.  They are a threat to the two-headed monster of Duke and Kentucky come Phoenix in April. Their next test is Wednesday against Indiana.

Oregon is a Work in Progress

Dana Altman’s team was elite last year, achieving a one seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. With the big three returning for the Ducks, fans and analysts expected much of the same. With the early pre-season injury to Dillon Brooks, that has not been the case.

At the Maui Invitational, the Ducks dropped their first game to the Georgetown Hoyas. Rodney Pryor had 26 points and 10 rebounds for a stellar offensive performance against the Ducks. Despite that, Oregon’s problem has been offense, not defense. With Brooks still not at 100 percent, the team has struggled to put up points while holding every opponent below 70. That is including an overtime game against Tennessee.

Chris Boucher (25) had 13 blocks in three games at tghe Maui Invitational. (Photo courtesy of fox5vegas.com)

Chris Boucher (25) had 13 blocks in three games at the Maui Invitational. (Photo courtesy of fox5vegas.com)

Chris Boucher is the face of Oregon’s defense. He averages a whopping 3.0 blocks per game so far after setting the school record in 2015-16 with 110. As a side note, Boucher also leads the team with 15.0 points per game. That should change as Brooks transitions back into the line-up. As of now, Brooks has only 18.7 minutes per game. The most he has played all year is 25 against Tennessee which included overtime.

The bright spot in all of this is the development for the Ducks players in Brooks’ absence. Freshman Payton Pritchard has amassed a mountain of minutes, getting used to the collegiate game speed. His 29.7% three point mark is not the best but this should rise. As Pritchard’s role decreases and Brooks gets back into the swing of things, the freshman will see better looks with less defensive attention.

Despite the Ducks dropping a game to Georgetown and struggling against the Volunteers they showed some promise during Feast Week. Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey are each looking like their old selves, Brooks is settling in, and the Ducks have proven the ability to gnash their way to a win in a physical game. As Altman’s boys continue to mesh, watch for them to climb back up in the rankings.

 

Virginia Maintaining Identity without Austin Nichols

Examples of things that are certain in life: death, taxes and the Virginia Cavaliers as a defensive based team. Tony Bennett coaches this team year after year to the same sort of style. This year he has the added stress of doing it without key transfer Austin Nichols. Nichols played in only one game before being released by the team. He had previously violated team rules in October.

Virginia took down Providence for the Emerald Coast Classic Championship. (Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

Virginia took down Providence for the Emerald Coast Classic Championship. (Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com)

Regardless of the reasons for his dismissal, Virginia still looks like the top tier team that they have been over the past few years. Since Nichol’s discharge, the Cavaliers have been nothing short of brilliant. The team’s Feast Week exploits consisted of a dominating performance at the Emerald Coast Classic. They held their opponents to 42.3 points over the three game span of the tournament. While Grambling State is lesser competition, Iowa and Providence do not operate in the same category.

Better yet for the Emerald Coast champs are the two contests they played outside of Feast Week show their consistency. Virginia held Yale and St. Francis (NY) to under 40 points. Their points allowed average since Nichol’s left is 39.4 points.

The one detriment to the Cavaliers is that they do not score. Their 72.8 points per game through six games ranks them 214th in the NCAA. The only game which holds that average above water is the 90 point showing against Grambling State. Additionally only one player averages double figures in scoring: Darius Thompson at exactly 10.0 points per game. Virginia does play ten players, but they need someone to step up. Balance is great but they have no go-to player at this point. London Parrentes should turn into that player at some point this season.

UCLA is an Offensive Juggernaut

Okay, so with the exception of Texas A&M, UCLA has not exactly played anyone yet. Still, the offensive accomplishments and efficiency the team has put together is daunting. Putting up the numbers they have against anyone is impressive.

Lonzo Ball (2) has been one of the most impressive freshman in the country. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Lonzo Ball (2) has been one of the most impressive freshman in the country. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)

Lonzo Ball is the major recruit of this class for Steve Alford and he has not disappointed. Nothing short of brilliant, he averages 16.0 points, 9.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.  Nearly averaging a double-double as a freshman is impressive. What about having two freshman nearly averaging a double-double on the same team? T.J. Leaf was the other stellar recruit for the Bruins and he sits at  17.1 points (leading the team), 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

Additionally, four other players are averaging double-digit scoring figures totaling six for the team as a whole. Bryce Alford is second on the team with 17.0 points per game. He also is first in shots made from behind the arc with 19 and is shooting at 44.2%.

There is a laundry list of personal accomplishments, but the team’s overall statistics are the most astounding. Through six games the team is second in the nation in field goal percentage, sixth in three point percentage and first in total assists. They average 96.9 points per game. UCLA has 249 made field goals and 169 assists meaning they assist on 67.8% of their baskets. Not only are they extremely efficient, but they also share the ball well.  That should be more than apparent with the aforementioned six players in double figures.

NCAA Champions Points Per Game
Year Team Points Forced Points Allowed
2015-16 Villanova 78.0 63.6
2014-15 Duke 79.3 64.2
2013-14 UConn 71.8 63.2
2012-13 Louisville 74.5 58.8
2011-12 Kentucky 77.4 60.6
*UCLA 96.9 Forced, 75.3 Allowed

The one caveat would be the lack of defensive efficiency. Sure, the team does not rely on one player for its scoring. However, they currently allow 75.3 points per game. They may have a high powered offense, but their defense needs to improve when they do hit the tougher schedule. Generally, championship teams do not allow that many points.

The Bruins won a lackluster Wooden Legacy tournament during Feast Week. The only game that caused them any trouble was the grind-it-out match-up Texas A&M. The Aggies have some surprising new faces contributing, but are not of the same caliber as the Bruins. December 3rd they will face Kentucky in Lexington. This will be the first true test for Alford and company.

Michigan State is Still Difficult to Trust

Tom Izzo’s teams are the epitome of March basketball. Right now they are searching for a legitimate identity. Between a rough early schedule and some early individual struggles the Spartans they have yet to establish consistency.

Michigan State started off the year 0-2 after a last second loss to Arizona and a less than stellar performance against Kentucky. After a 100 point performance against Mississippi Valley State, the Spartans won a controversial game against Florida Gulf Coast 78-77.

Miles Bridges (22) is the most dynamic athlete for the Spartans. (Photo courtesy of zagsblog.com)

Miles Bridges (22) is the most dynamic athlete for the Spartans. (Photo courtesy of zagsblog.com)

Tom Izzo’s squad spent their Feast Week at the Battle 4 Atlantis. They took down St. John’s 73-62 to start. They were then dominated by Baylor 73-58. Miles Bridges was the only player in double figures for the Spartans with 15 points. Bridges is the highest rated member of a stellar Spartan recruiting class. Bridges has had some up and down games, including struggles against Kentucky and Florida Gulf Coast, but is still the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game. His dynamic athleticism has him averaging 1.7 blocks per game and defensive win shares. Bridges decision making is still a point of weakness with 3.4 turnovers per contest, also leading the team.

Michigan State finished up with a 77-72 win against Wichita State, but the Shockers nearly willed their way to a win in this one. Bridges led the team with 21 points, but this time four other players also achieved double figures. Senior Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer, has had the most inconsistent year. In the contests against Arizona, Kentucky and Baylor this year he averaged 4.0 points. On the flip side he had 31 against FGCU. The Spartans will need Harris this year to have a deep tournament run and find some sort of team identity.

On the Rise: UCLA Bruins

The UCLA Bruins are on the short list of possible teams to have a big come back in 2016-17. They absolutely should be. The 2015-16 Bruins went 15-17 in a PAC-12 that under performed in the tournament. For that reason, many analysts are writing them off. However, this season will be completely different. From top to bottom of the situation the Bruins will improve in the 2016-17 season.

To begin, the Bruins are led by a coach who has established a culture of winning at each landing spot. He may be on the hot seat this year after a poor performance last season, but there is little to worry about in terms of him turning things around. This was Steve Alford’s first losing season since 1999-00, his first year with Iowa. The following year his team went 23-12 and won the Big 10 tournament. He is in a better situation now than he was then considering the current roster.

UCLA Under Steve Alford
Year Record Result
2015-16 15-17 N/A
2014-15 22-14 Sweet 16
2013-14 28-9 Sweet 16

UCLA went 22-14 in 2014-15 and returned majority of their roster for the following year. They did lose Kevon Looney and Norman Powell, each now in the NBA. However they returned starters from both the front court and the back court. UCLA should have been a lot better than 15-17 considering they added two four-star recruits.

This year the only notable losses are big man Tony Parker to graduation and Jonah Bolden. Bolden made the decision to play basketball professionally in Australia. Despite these losses, UCLA still has remaining parts from a 2014-15 winning campaign and the talent on this roster is worth noting.

Bryce Alford was UCLA’s second leading scorer and had a PER of 17.6. (Photo courtesy of dailybruin.com)

Leading scorer Isaac Hamilton showed increases in every major statistical category. He averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Right behind him was Bryce Alford, Steve Alford’s son. Bryce’s totals remained much the same in the Bruins first losing season since 2009-10. Thomas Welsh’s contributions skyrocketed from those of 2014-15. He doubled his rebounding totals from 3.8 per game to 8.5 and tripled his scoring average from 3.8 points per game to 11.2.

In addition to the pieces left over from the previous winning season, the 2015 recruiting class progressed immensely. Aaron Holiday played significant minutes as a freshman and was a main contributor on the offensive end. The freshman led the team in steals as well showing his versatility. Prince Ali also saw more than 10 minutes of floor time each contest with decent returns. Each of these four star recruits is primed to be a contributor in what will be a large turnaround in win totals this season.

There is even more to be excited about in the outlook for UCLA. They add the top rated point guard in the class, Lonzo Ball, as well as 5-star TJ Leaf and 4-star Ike Anigbogu.  Ball’s court vision and passing ability should greatly assist in opening up the court for his teammates. So despite the Bruins’ losing two players, this top 10 recruiting class is power-packed with talent and play makers to fill the void.

There is a lot to like about this team. They have a coach that wins. They have remaining pieces and leaders that know how to win. Their young talent showed progression last year. Finally, they add some exciting new pieces. Despite the juggernaut that is Oregon, this is a team that will have a huge turnaround. This is a 25-win team. They should not settle for anything less than that.

NCAA Football Week Four Picks

Rob Doerger and Joe DiTullio, personalities on the DiTullio and Doerger College Sports Show, make their picks for all division one FBS games.

Away Home Location Rob Joe
#5 Clemson Georgia Tech Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA Clemson Ga Tech
Wyoming Eastern Michigan Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti, MI Wyoming Wyoming
TCU SMU Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, TX TCU TCU
USC #24 Utah Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT Utah Utah
Kent State #1 Alabama Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL Alabama Bama
Margin of Victory 28 34
#12 Georgia #23 Ole Miss Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS Ole Miss Ole Miss
Nevada Purdue Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN Purdue Nevada
San José State Iowa State Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA Iowa St Iow St
Charlotte Temple Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA Temple Temple
Iowa Rutgers High Point Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ Iowa Iowa
#13 Florida State South Florida Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL FSU FSU
Colorado State Minnesota TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN Minnesota Minnesota
#11 Wisconsin #8 Michigan State Spartan Stadium , East Lansing, MI Mich St MSU
East Carolina Virginia Tech Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA VT Va Tech
Central Michigan Virginia Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA CMU CMU
Syracuse Connecticut Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT Uconn Uconn
Wagner Boston College Alumni Stadium , Chestnut Hill, MA BC BC
Gardner-Webb Ohio Peden Stadium, Athens, OH Ohio Ohio
Miami (OH) Cincinnati Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH Cincy UC
Western Illinois Northern Illinois Huskie Stadium, DeKalb, IL NIU NIU
Appalachian State Akron InfoCision Stadium, Akron, OH Akron Akron
Boise State Oregon State Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR Boise Boise
BYU West Virginia FedExField, Landover, MD WVU BYU
Duke Notre Dame Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN Notre Dame Notre Dame
Mississippi State Massachusetts Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA Miss St Miss St
#19 Florida #14 Tennessee Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN Florida Tennessee
Pittsburgh North Carolina Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC Pitt Pitt
Texas San Antonio Old Dominion S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, VA Old Dom UTSA
Penn State #4 Michigan Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI Michigan Michigan
Wake Forest Indiana Memorial Stadium , Bloomington, IN Indiana IU
Delaware State Missouri Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, MO Mizzou Mizzou
Vanderbilt Western Kentucky L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, KY WKU Vandy
Tulsa Fresno State Bulldog Stadium , Fresno, CA Tulsa Tulsa
Colorado Oregon Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR Oregon Oregon
#18 LSU Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL LSU LSU
Ball State Florida Atlantic FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, FL Ball St Ball State
North Texas Rice Rice Stadium, Houston, TX Rice Rice
#6 Houston Texas State Bobcat Stadium , San Marcos, TX Houston Houston
Central Arkansas Arkansas State Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR Ark St Arkansas St
New Mexico State Troy Veterans Memorial Stadium , Troy, AL Troy Troy
Nicholls South Alabama Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL USA USA
Georgia Southern Western Michigan Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, MI WMU WMU
UCF Florida Intl FIU Stadium, Miami, FL UCF UCF
Louisiana Tech Middle Tennessee Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, TN Louisiana Tech La Tech
Army Buffalo UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY Army Army
Missouri State Kansas State Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, KS Kansas St KSU
#20 Nebraska Northwestern Ryan Field, Evanston, IL Nebraska Nebraska
Oklahoma State #16 Baylor McLane Stadium, Waco, TX Baylor Baylor
South Carolina Kentucky Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY Kentucky South Carolina
#7 Stanford UCLA Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA UCLA Stanford
#3 Louisville Marshall Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, WV Louisville Louisville
Bowling Green Memphis Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN Memphis Memphis
Louisiana Lafayette Tulane Yulman Stadium, New Orleans, LA ULL ULL
Southern Mississippi UTEP Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX So Miss So Miss
Idaho UNLV Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV UNLV UNLV
#17 Arkansas #10 Texas A&M AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX Texas A&M TAMU
California Arizona State Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ Arizona St ASU
Air Force Utah State Romney Stadium, Logan, UT Air Force AF
#9 Washington Arizona Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ Washington Washington
Gameday Guest Picker (Knoxville, Tennessee) Kenny Chesney Peyton Manning
Season Total 205 193

Terrance’s Top Ten Returning College QBs #8: Josh Rosen #TerranceTopTen

And at the number 8 spot on my list is….

Kelvin Kuo/ USA Today Sports

Kelvin Kuo/ USA Today Sports

#8- UCLA’s Josh Rosen- Coming out of high school, Josh Rosen was the number one QB in the Class of 2015. At 6’4″, it seemed as if Rosen was playing a man playing against boys. In high school, he showed great arm talent. He could make every throw and could read defenses like an open book. The most overlooked part of his game is his athleticism. As a kid, he was a very good tennis player and that gave him great footwork. He won’t scramble too much but, he will definitely extend the play from the pocket and make the proper throw. Ever since Rosen signed his letter of intent, he was UCLA’s golden arm. And for the most part he lived up to the bill. He came in his first year and won the starting position making him the first freshman starting QB in Bruin history. In his first season, Rosen threw for over 3600 yards, threw 23 touchdowns and threw 11 interceptions. Rosen’s season started off on fire winning his first four games. His first game showed the nation why Josh Rosen was coveted in the first place.

His three best games were his season opener against Virginia, his game at Arizona, and then his matchup against Jared Goff and the California Bears. Against Virginia, in his first college game ever, he went out there and put on a clinic. He completed 80% of his passes on 35 throws, threw 351 yards, threw 3 passing touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also posted his season’s best passer rating of 192.5 and a QBR of 90.8. Most importantly on that day he got his first college win. On his first snap, he went deep. It was a perfect play action, the defense bit and Kenneth Walker III got open but dropped the sure TD pass. Rosen stayed poised and continued to show of his talents. In this game Rosen got his nickname, Chosen Rosen.

In week four, Rosen experienced his first PAC 12 road game when he played Arizona. It went well. He won the game 56-30. In this game, he posted his season’s best QBR of 96.9. You can also throw in two passing touchdowns and one score on the ground for the talented freshman. What shines brightest about this game was how poised Rosen was. He had just lost his best player on defense and offense in Myles Jack and he came off two horrible games against UNLV and BYU. He went into this game poised as if those two previous games were blur and that week when his team needed him most he delivered. You usual don’t see intangibles like that from a true freshman QB, but that’s why his nickname is Chosen Rosen because he is not like other true freshman QBs. His first half was so great he didn’t need much in the second half. By halftime, he threw for 212 yards on 13 of 17 passes and threw two touchdowns. But after this game, UCLA went on a two game losing streak and on October 22nd to stop the losing streak he would have to beat Jared Goff, the future first number one pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

It was a showdown between the future and present great PAC 12 QBs when Jared Goff and Josh Rosen faced off. The youngster came out victorious to the tune of 40-24. He went 72.3% on 47 passes, threw a season high 399 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also posted a QBR of 86.1. On this night, Rosen threw for more yards, and had a higher QBR than Goff while also getting the win. He also posted a new school-record of 34 passes completed in one game.

In his first year, Rosen had his ups and downs and that is expected from a freshman QB, but for the most part he showed many signs to believe he is the man for the job at UCLA. He went 8-5 in first year and I expected him to post more wins, yards, touchdowns, and less bad games and less interceptions. A QB of Rosen’s talents matched with a coach like Jim Mora, he will continue to grow as a QB. I could see Rosen and the Bruins posting no less than 10 wins this year and maybe even an appearance in the PAC 12 championship game all because the growth of Josh “Chosen” Rosen.

#9- Luke Falk                                                                                                                                                       #7-Greg Ward Jr.