Cinderellas March On

uab

By Aaron Hampton

March Madness is staring wide-eyed at your tattered brackets during the midnight hours of the morning trying to make sense of one of the most anarchic sporting events in the world. Less than 24 hours into this year’s edition of the NCAA Tournament, and madness might just be underselling what a wild first day of the tournament we’ve seen.  So while we brainstorm superlatives to put Thursday’s insanity (hey that’s it) into perspective, let’s take a look at how two of Thursday’s biggest upsets transpired.

2015 marks the third straight year that a 14-seed has advanced over a 3-seed in the opening round of the tournament, and we narrowly missed having 3 straight 14-seeds advance in one day as Northeastern University almost joined shock winners UAB and Georgia State in the second round.

When thinking about what goes into making a great upset, certainly luck has to be listed in there somewhere.  Georgia State made their own luck Thursday, using an aggressive defensive approach to force Baylor into 21 turnovers, and a stifling full-court press to shutout Baylor for nearly the last three minutes of the second half.

It just hasn’t been a good year for Big 12 postseason aspirations in both basketball and football, dating back to the College Football Playoff committee overlooking TCU for a playoff berth due in large part because the conference does not have a postseason tournament.  Having both Baylor and Iowa State, both two of the upper echelon teams in this year’s Big 12, flame out in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament has to rank right beside that disappoint.

Iowa State were seen as many as a dark horse pick to reach the Final Four in this year’s tournament, and played uncharacteristically mediocre against a team that was barely .500 in the Conference USA. Take nothing away from the Blazers, they dominated the glass, kept Georges Niang from having any type of imprint on the game, and forced Iowa State into questionable decisions with the ball that led to have nine turnovers heading into halftime.  Never have I been a fan of the logic that one team wanted a game more than the other, but the Cyclones just could not match the effort and intensity of the Blazers and ultimately it led to the win slipping from their grasp.

At the end of the day, upsets are what make this tournament what it is.  Upsets are the reason over 70 million brackets have been filled out and over $2 billion dollars has been wagered on the tournament.  So grab the tape and put the tattered pieces of your bracket back together, if Thursday’s any indication we’re in for an unforgettable March.

Advertisements

Sweet Aint It ?

Image

By Stefan Anderson

Now that the first two rounds have been completed and some teams have seen their fate and some have seen their promise and steps closers as tonight’s Sweet 16 matchups begin. Since the beginning of this year tournament, there have been many storylines that we have paid attention to and will learn more about as time passes by.

Here are some to look at for the Sweet 16:

The Miller Brothers: At the beginning of the season we knew that this year’s Arizona team was going to special and most favorite for the National Championship, including myself. But no one expected the emergence of Dayton after knocking off Ohio State and then Syracuse become the nation’s Cinderella team. Dayton is on the brink of having a legendary run and with an amazing storyline of the Miller brothers, Archie and Sean.  The Miller Brother could face off their superior teams and make for the one of the best final four matchups in years.

Most Intriguing Matchup: 

Eastern Bracket: Virginia vs. Michigan State: The Cavaliers have rounded out their best seasons in the past twenty years, by playing great defense and continuing to outplay any opponent given to them. Michigan State has looked shaky at times this season due to injuries and chemistry but the Spartans turned it around and have been on track towards holding up the National Championship at the end of the tournament. Virginia intense defense and ability to turn on the “switch” versus the poised, veteran Michigan State team should be a interesting one and could determine who wins the National Championship.

The Kentucky Rivalry: In the Midwest Bracket, Calipari vs. Pitino, the young Wildcats versus the well-seasoned national champions Cardinals, should a great matchup to see. After beating the hottest team in the NCAA, Wichita State, they have to face the defending National Championship next. Kentucky after their highly publicized season are living up to the hype of their standout freshman have a chance to prove doubters wrong and make a lot of people mad if they knock off the defending champions. But the Cardinals haven’t lost the beat this season as they continue to tally up wins and play their high speed pace along with their annoying defense which can be a concern for the young Kentucky guards. If the Wildcats can deal with the non-stop full court press and the guard play of Russ Smith, they have a chance. This has the making of great matchup of who is the best in their state.

Upset Alert: After making it to the National Championship last year the Wolverines of Michigan are trying to repeat their success this year and have teams in their way and could be upset by Tennessee. Michigan led by a talented roster that features Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glen Robinson III, are poised to make a big run, but I believe they will be the next powerhouse to be upset in this year’s tournament. The Volunteers play in rough SEC divison, where they finished 3rd despite taking their bumps and bruises against the Kentucky’s and Florida’s. The Vols play some of the stingiest D in the nation only allowing 61 points a game and should give a the Michigan a problem led by Jarnell Stokes who is cleaning the glass with 3 consecutive games in double digit rebounding. Watch out for the upset.

Draft Stock: My bold prediction in which many might stone me for but I believe that Julius Randle should be selected before Andrew Wiggins, if they both declare for the draft this season. My reasons are that Randle despite his teams struggles at time has always remained a outstanding prospect averaging 15 and 10 looking the most NBA ready other Jabari Parker and Doug McDermott. Out of all the outstanding freshman and great players this season, Randle still is in the tournament and plays a play on a talented team. After entering the tournament with 19 and 15 against Kansas State then returning the following game with 13, 10 and 6 versus a great Wichita State team, Randle has proved that he is beyond NBA ready. With the skill set of already polished big man in the league and the ability to handle the ball along with knock the 15 footer, there is no doubt that he should be a top -2 pick in this year’s draft.  

Although no has a perfect bracket and cannot qualify for the 1 billion dollars, Warren Buffett has put out there, thanks to Duke, there are still many chances for you to win your bracket challenges hopefully your bracket is still intact after those heartbreaking losses. Tune into some great basketball games during the Sweet 16 games, which will be interesting to say the least. 

Let The Madness Begin!

Image

 

By Stefan Anderson

It’s that time of year of again, where many legends are born and brackets are shredded from heartbreaking defeats and unexpected challengers, The 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. The 64 teams have been chosen and now it’s time for the big dance bay-bee (in my best Dick Vitale voice). The play in game between the Albany Great Danes and the Mount St. Mary Mountaineers will have the opening game as they play for one the final four spots, against the #1 overall seed Florida Gators. The best time of the year for die hard basketball fans, March Madness.

After all the teams were selected on Sunday, the big dance is set for a great tournament in these upcoming weeks. The 4 #1 seed’s in this year’s bracket include Florida in the south, Arizona in the west, and Wichita State in the Midwest and Virginia in the East. In most cases seeding can play a great but in this case it has nothing to do with it. For instance, Wichita State had an impressive undefeated season but play in a section that features Kentucky, Duke, last year’s runner up Michigan and the eventual champion Louisville.  But it doesn’t matter about what teams you have to face , the most important thing to do is to win. With that there is always room for underdog to sneak up and make a name for themselves and becomes this year “Cinderella team” during the tournament.

These following teams are on the Upset Alert Watch:

#5 in the Eastern Bracket: Cincinnati

The Bearcats had an impressive year, winning 27 games this season including 15 wins in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Led by the well rounded scorer in Sean Kilpatrick, Cincy has been very efficient thus far playing great defense, ranking in the top 10 in Steals and Points Allowed. But I do believe that they will be the first big upset in the first round of the tournament when they face off against Harvard. The Crimson’s high scoring offense and great coaching by Tommy Amaker will ultimately be too much for the Bearcats to handle and will certainly be a bracket buster.

#5 in the South Bracket: VCU

After making their impact in college basketball two seasons ago, making it to the Final Four and becoming America’s Cinderella team, the Rams are bound to get a taste of their own medicine this year. Coming off a great season finishing 31-2, Stephen F. Austin can serve the VCU their first dose of upset medicine.  Averaging over 16 assist per game the Lumberjacks can share the pumpkin well. Nearly 5 players on their roster average double digits this season which can cause trouble for the Rams. The Lumberjacks will shock, Shaka Smart and send the Rams back to Shockoe Bottom.

#2 in the Midwest Bracket: Wisconsin

The Badgers led by legendary coach Bo Ryan, have had a great season this year, with wins over Michigan State, Florida, Michigan, and Iowa. But they are on the upset alert due to 5 of 7 losses this year coming from unranked opponents. They have played well against great competition but struggle with the games they are supposed to win. Which means the American and their efficient offense that is shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, 7th in the nation, along with their lockdown defense that is ranked 8th in Points Allowed, can give Wisconsin a run for their money.

With so many games to choose from and so many selections for your bracket, always beware of the upset that can help win the pool or take you completely out of it. The indecisiveness along with constant guessing is one the reasons I love the NCAA Tournament. Let the Madness Begin!