Inside College Hoops

2018 Myrtle Beach Invitational Predictions

This season’s other opening eight team bracketed event is the innagural Myrtle Beach Invitational. Based on what we know about each team thus far, this is how I see the tournament playing out.

8. Monmouth – Unfortunately, this years’ Hawks team has fallen off a ways from the competitive teams under King Rice in past years. They come to the Beach with an 0-3 record, all losses by double digits against Lehigh, Colgate, and St. Joe’s. This appears to be a rebuild and learning year for the Hawks. It would be great to see them pull off an upset here but there is no way I am predicting that. More learning experiences this week for Monmouth and hopefully they squeeze in some beach time, it’s a long season.

7. Wake Forest – The Deacs have only played once this year, so this one was pretty tough to gage. But they play three Frosh and two Soph’s fairly heavily. Junior Bandon Childress had a nice opener with 18, 6 Assists, 4 Rebounds. The bench appears to be pretty thin, which can really hurt you in this quick turnaround type of format. Wake has St. Joe’s in the opener and that should be a real tight game, I slightly favor the Hawks in that one, then I have the Deacs getting caught off guard on Day 2 against a veteran team from California (will discuss soon). Finally Wake fans can have a reason to celebrate when they take care of Monmouth in the 7th place game.

6. Cal State Fullerton – Senior Kyle Allman is probably the best player in the Big West, in fact he is the best player in the Big West. Don’t believe me? Call one of your friends at Arizona State and ask them about Mr. Allman. All he did was carry the Titans with 35 points and 7 rebounds, in a crushing double overtime loss on opening night. Fellow senior Khalil Ahmad poured in 31 points. Fullerton does a nice job of mixing small lineups and big lineups. Could be a factor keeping them fresh this week. The Titans drew UCF in round one, which will be pretty interesting. I’m going with UCF in that one because they have to be upset after giving a game away to FAU. More on them later. Then I see CSUF coming out more focused than Wake Forest and hanging on to beat them. On Day three I see them falling short against…

5. Valparaiso – The more and more I dissected this Crusader roster, the more I like what I see. We don’t know much about on the court yet as Valpo has not faced a D1 team. But they brought in veteran Ryan Fazekas from Providence, solid Frosh Javon Freeman-Liberty, another vet Deion Lavender from UAB and SIU, and Bakari Evelyn is now a fourth year junior. I think this should be a much improved season for Valpo. Really interesting draw against WKU who has solid vets as well plus a young phenom. I’ll go with WKU in the opener, but I see Valpo easily taking care of Monmouth and finishing on a two game win streak with a nice win over Fullerton in the 5th place game.

4. Western Kentucky – Here is a team I had in my First Four as part of the preseason bracket exercise I went through. Tons of talent, solid leadership from Jared Savage and DeSean Murray give the Hilltoppers a shot at a special season. They will be a dangerous matchup for anyone in Myrtle Beach. After getting past Valpo, I do not believe they will have enough firepower to beat a hungry West Virginia squad. In the 3rd place game, it should be another battle but I again have them falling short due to seasonality of this roster. But fully expect WKU to pick up a big win or two in December, the opportunities are there.

3. Saint Joseph’s – The Hawks arrive in Myrtle Beach feeling fantastic. They already have a couple of 15 point wins over ODU and Monmouth. Lamarr Kimble and Charlie Brown have looked real good early. Pierfrancesco Oliva is a stat sheet stuffing 6th man. This Hawks team has some nice pieces and I am anxious to see how they fare this week. They drew Wake Forest and I like the Hawks in that one. The game against UCF could really go either way, I like the UCF roster a tad bit better, but I am higher on Phil Martelli coaching vs. Johnny Dawkins. In any event, I have to make a pick, so I have the Hawks here and ending with a really nice high note by beating WKU. The A10 really needs it.

2. UCF – The Golden Knights have the roster to win this tournament. However they have always struggles to realize potential it seems like, and that showed up again last week when they gave away a large lead before losing to Florida Atlantic. Back to the drawing board for the Knights and not an easy draw at all against CS Fullerton. I think the Knights will have just enough to squeeze two tight wins over CSF and St. Joe’s before running into…

1. West Virginia – Sagaba Konate, Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, James Bolden and more. The Mountaineers are again armed with firepower. They will need to take care of the basketball. Blowing the big lead and losing to Buffalo only happened because they got overwhelmed by traps and presses. Something that you would think they have a lot of practice with. Mountaineers get to open with Monmouth and I suspect that will restore their confidence prior to the WKU game, which is dangerous. Ultimately I believe they get that win and jump on a tired UCF team in the Championship game.


2018 Charleston Classic Predictions

It’s prediction time again! This season’s first eight team bracketed event is the Charleston Classic. Based on what we know about each team thus far, this is how I see the tournament playing out.

8. Appalachian State - The Mountaineers have to be coming into Charleston feeling somewhat confident after hanging tough with Alabama last Sunday. Isaac Johnson, Justin Forrest, and Ronshad Shabazz took every shot attempt except for six in that game. So not exactly deep scoring for Appalachian State. I see them being competitive at the Classic, but unfortunately returning back to Boone with no wins to show for it.

7. Ball State - This pick kills me a little bit inside. I really enjoy watching this Cardinals team. You don't find more entertaining players in the MAC than Tayler Persons. Trey Moses has a smooth touch and great high post game. Kyle Mallers, KJ Walton, and Tahjai Teague are solid contributors, and the Cards go nine deep, which is usually a plus in this type of format. A tough draw though leaves them just falling short against V-Tech and Alabama.

6. Alabama - The Tide were one of my at large picks in my preseason bracket. A lot to like on paper for Avery Johnson's roster. However things have not clicked in the early going. The Tide were rolled by Jacksonville State in a charity exhibition game, they struggled most of the game on Sunday vs. App State. By the end of the year, I think they will be much stronger. Now though is a different story, they face an experienced Northeastern team that matches up well against Alabama. After that I see the Tide beating Ball State on day two. And taking a tough loss on the final day against…

5. Davidson - Many people picked the Wildcats to win the A10 this season, and with the rocky start the A10 is off to they could definitely be in line for that opportunity. But the Wildcats have a few kinks to work out. They really had a hard time against Dartmouth, barely winning by three in their last game. They draw Wichita State in the opener, which should be a very tight game.  I am leaning toward Wichita to be able to defend the three point attack well enough to win that game. From there I believe Davidson should win comfortably against Appalachian State, and end on a very nice high note by defeating Alabama.

4. Wichita State - Coach Marshall has a much different roster this year. Markus McDuffie plus a lot of newcomers. The Shockers had a rough home loss in the season opener against Louisiana Tech, but bounced back nicely by beating Providence on a neutral court. Samajae Haynes-Jones (a reserve PG last season) really stepped up with 15 points and 8 dimes against Providence, the need him to continue to play at a high level and provide a secondary threat behind McDuffie. I think Wichita will ride the momentum and win a tight one over Davidson. I then believe Purdue will be too much for them to overcome, and ultimately they finish fourth after losing a war against…

3. Northeastern - The Huskies were red hot last Friday at Harvard, hitting 13 of 23 from three point land which included 7 out of 10 from Jordan Roland off the bench. Northeastern came into the season as the favorites to win the CAA. They will be making three separate visits to Charleston this season. The Charleston Classic, the road game against Charleston, and the CAA Conference Tourney. Head Coach Bill Coen must love it down there, I don't blame him. I believe Northeastern finds a way to get two victories this week. Beating Bama in the opener, and ending with a tight win over Wichita St.

2. Virginia Tech - I was very high on this team until the Chris Clarke news came out. Even still this is a very talented squad especially compared to the competition in Charleston. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is an All-ACC level talent as a Sophomore. Isaiah Wilkins played fantastic in his debut as a true Frosh, scoring 21. And you add the three seniors (Ahmed Hill, Justin Robinson, Ty Outlaw) and you still have a pretty loaded team. I think the Hokies will get a stiff test from Ball State, but find a way to get past the Cardinals. They will be somewhat surprised to see Northeastern in Round 2 and take care of business, before losing in the Championship Game to…

1. Purdue - The Boilermakers have the best player in this field in Carsen Edwards. Players of his caliber can really shine in a three day event. Purdue got a nice test from Ball State last week and I believe that got them mentally prepared to take on this test. The bracket sets up nicely for them as well. Facing Appalachian State in the opener and then the Wichita-Davidson winner. If they can win those two comfortably they should have an advantage of fresher legs in the Final. I believe that will give them just enough of an edge to outlast Virginia Tech and become 2018 Charleston Classic Champions.


Game Coverage - Toledo at Wright State

Nutter Center.JPG

Arrived here in the Greater Dayton area just in time for tip-off between the Toledo Rockets and hosts, Wright State’s Raiders. Toledo comes into the game with a 2-0 record (1-0 vs. D1) and Wright State is looking to recover after being beat by 19 at Murray State. With this game being played at the Nutter Center, I am expecting a tight ballgame.

Hot shooting on both ends to kickoff the game. Luke Knapke of Toledo has started with three treys already! Mark Hughes has 6 and Loudon Love has 4 in the early going.
1st Media Timeout - Wright St. 12, Toledo 12

Only two points during that sequence, naturally scored by Love. He is so impressive to watch in person and a load to handle down low. Really gives the Raiders an interesting dynamic should they advance back to the NCAA Tournament next season
2nd Media Timeout - Wright St. 14, Toledo 12

Yet another three ball drilled by Knapke. Raiders turn it over, and Jaelan Sanford finishes on the other end. Wright St.'s Billy Wampler draws a foul, makes one of two from the line. Pretty jumper is good from Marreon Jackson of Toledo. Wampler quickly answers with a three.
3rd Media Timeout - Wright St. 24, Toledo 23

TJ Smith gives the Rockets the lead back with a three pointer. Wampler of WSU nails another three on the other end.  After a series of missed shots, Chris Darrington of Toledo steps up and drills a three. I am sensing a theme here (both teams love shooting from deep!). The Raiders' Cole Gentry nails a three to put WSU up 4.
4th Media Timeout: Wright St. 30, Toledo 26

After Knapke made one of two from the line, Gentry came down and nailed another three. Sanford drew a foul, made both FT's. Gentry takes his defender off the dribble and finishes with a beautiful layup. WSU's Skylelar Potter sinks two free throws. Knapke answers with his fifth three of the half! Gentry answers with another three of his own.
Halftime - Wright St. 40, Toledo 32.

Transition layup by Willie Jackson after a Wright State turnover Wampler hits a jumper. Jackson responds with a triple this time. Wampler tries an offbalance heat check, but it rims off. Next time down, Wampler hits a two. Wampler now with 13. Jackson gets to the charity stripe and hits two. Parker Ernsthausen of WSU, draws a foul and makes both FT's. Offensive foul called on Sanford and that creates some pushing and both teams get a double technical foul (WSU - Mark Hughes, Toledo - Marreon Jackson). Potter hits a three that got the Raider bench off of their feet. Rockets turnover. Love with a nifty up and under. Raiders lead by 12, their largest.
1st Media Timeout - Wright St. 51, Toledo 39

Missed shots by Wampler and Sanford to open things in this segment. Gentry with a great driving floater. Sanford misses again, starting to get cold. Wright State wants a timeout after Ernsthausen has blood on his jersey. Darrington draws a foul, only hits one. Next possession for Toledo, Darrington drops in a layup. Gentry answers with a jumper. Teams trade a few missed shots.
2nd Media Timeout - Wright St. 55, Toledo 45

Knapke gets fouled, makes one of two. Gentry knifes through the lane for two more, he has 19 now. Darrington gets fouled shooting a three, and knocks down each free throw. Gentry fouled, makes both. Willie Jackson gets back to the line, hits both. Ten point lead for WSU. Wampler misses a wide open three. Toledo turns it over. Wampler finds an open Potter in the corner for three, and he buries it. Love with a rejection on Willie Jackson.
3rd Media Timeout - Wright St. 63, Toledo 50

Sanford hits a jumper and is fouled in the process, and he completes the three point play. Love backed down on Knapke, sweet turnaround hook is good. Missed threes by Nate Navigato and Spencer Littleton of Toledo.  Sanford with a strong drive, gets fouled, and makes both foul shots. Knapke hits his sixth three, and is 6-6 from downtown. Nice dish from Hughes to Potter. Potter at the line now, makes both. Ernsthausen has fouled out. Navigato cuts the lead to 8. WSU calls timeout. Out of the timeout, the Raiders work it around to Gentry, who hits a big three.
4th Media Timeout - Wright St. 72, Toledo 61

Missed three by Wampler. Toledo's Darrington misses as well. Both teams in the double bonus as Sandler picks up his second foul. Potter makes both. Under two minutes to go. Navigato shooting two, makes em both. Toledo within nine now. Hughes is fouled, makes one. If you like threes and free throws - tonight is your night. Gentry forced to call timeout, 1:27 to go. Wampler was left alone and Hughes found him for an easy layup. Sanford gets a quick layup and fouled. Toledo timeout. Hughes turns it over and Toledo uses another timeout with 1:01 to go and down by 9. Turnover by the Rockets and the foul fest is coming. Up first is Cole Gentry, makes both. Toledo misses, another foul sends Gentry to the line for two more. Gentry fouled again with a chance to hit 30 points, and he does. Naturally Gentry dribbles out the clock and the Raiders faithful are going home happy.

FINAL Wright St. 84, Toledo 74

Game Coverage - #25 Buffalo at SIU


We are set for tip-off here at SIU Arena. It is the first of two meetings between the #25 Buffalo Bulls and the Southern Illinois Salukis. Both teams have high postseason aspirations. Should be an outstanding game tonight!

Note: Armon Fletcher who was injured against Kentucky on Frday, did not dress tonight. Big loss for the Salukis.

Montrell McRae opens up the scoring with a wide open dunk. The teams traded baskets. Kavion Pippin had a sweet stroke, ruled a two. Buffalo’s Davonta Jordan answered with a trey. SIU came right back at the Bulls with a triple from Marcus Bartley. Thik Bol came in off the bench and contributed right away with a beautiful jumper himself. 1st Media Timeout - SIU 13, Buffalo 8

Sean Lloyd keeps things rolling with another Salukis three pointer. Eventually Buffalo would manage to get a couple of stops. CJ Massinburg calmed the storm with a layup and later in the sequence, Nick Perkins had a beautiful post up and layed it in. 2nd Media Timeout - SIU 16, Buffalo 12

Unfortunately notes not saved. 3rd Media Timeout - SIU 20, Buffalo 16.

Caruthers catches SIU sleeping and gets a quick layup. SIU’s McGill continues to play with two early fouls and connects from downtown, giving the Salukis a five point advantage. Perklins continues to be a matchup problem, drew a foul down low. Connected on both free throws. Aaron Cook is impressive. Cook slashed into the lane and dropped a floater in the basket over the outstretched arms of Perkins. Later in the sequence Cook manages to knife into the lane again and connects again. CJ Massinburg hits a corner three to silence the fans. SIU 27, Buffalo 23 - 4th Media Timeout.

Shot clock violation by SIU following an airball by Bartley. Bartley then commits a foul on McRae. McRae makes the first, misses the second - but Bulls get their own rebound and eventually Massinburg hits a pretty floater. Bulls only down by 1. Another stop for Buffalo, Jeenathan Williams takes it strong and is fouled. Williams hits both and Buffalo has its first lead tonight. Aaron Cook picks up his 2nd and Buffalo is in the double bonus for the final 28.6 seconds. Jeremy Harris hits a huge three with 4 seconds left in the half and the Bulls go on an 11-0 run to end the first half. Halftime Buffalo 31, SIU 27.

Pippin opens the 2nd Half scoring with a nice driving layup. Buffalo's Jeremy Harris with a smooth open dunk for the Bulls. Lloyd draws a foul, and makes one of two from the line. UB's Graves hits a silencing three ball. Cook and McGill are both playing with three fouls now. Crowd is vocally upset with the officials. 1st Media Timeout - Buffalo 38, SIU 32.

SIU's Darius Beane finds some open space along the baseline and hits a pretty 15-footer. UB reserve guard Ronaldo Segu answers with a nice driving shot. Bulls back up six. Pippin comes back and drills a nice jumper. But UB's Graves immediately hits a triple. Bulls get a stop, Massinburg jacks a one on one three which was way off, then the Salukis turn it back over. A bit sloppy now. 2nd Media TO Buffalo 43, SIU 36

Perkins commits a foul on Pippin, and Pippin connects on both - cuts the lead to five. Harris answers for the Bulls. Pippin responds with a baby hook in the paint. Jordan hits another big three in the corner. Buffalo has their largest lead at eight. Lloyd draws a foul on Massinburg, Lloyd hits one of two. Salukis left McRae open in the corner for three, and McRae makes them pay. 3rd Media TO Buffalo 51, SIU 41

Bartley fouls Williams and Williams makes both FTs. Pippin responds with a dunk. Incredible vision by Caruthers to hit Williams underneath for an easy deuce on a one handed almost no look pass. Bulls lead by 12. Starting to work the clock on each possession. Thik Bol misses a jumper and on the other end Massinburg serves up an alley-oop to McRae. Bulls by 14.   4th Media TO Buffalo 60, SIU 43

Buffalo finishes the job in the final four minutes. Mostly spending the time running the clock out and forcing more Saluki mistakes. The Bulls defense suffocated SIU for most of the final 30 minutes an impressive showing and anouther huge road win for Buffalo. FINAL Buffalo 62, SIU 53

Pac-12 Tournament Predictions

Early Round Exits:
- Colorado - 
The Buffs haven't won a game away from Boulder since January 13th. The matchup against the Sun Devils isnt bad at all and it should be a much less than electric atmosphere in Vegas on a Wednesday afternoon. Overall - Arizona State is just the better team despite recent struggles.
- Cal - It's been a long tough year for the Bears. They get a chance to knock off their arch nemesis in Round One, the Stanford Cardinal. Throw the records out the window! But in the end I think Stanford pulls away and allows Cal to go home and focus on building up for next season.
- Washington - As a Husky, this is painful and actually I am somewhat hedging my happiness too. The Huskies have been going 1-1 in most weeks lately and it's hard to know which team will show up. Meanwhile the Beavers have started to play better in the final two weeks. This should be a close one and since I have to make a pick here - I'll go with OSU.
- Washington State - This Cougar team actually beat Oregon last week, so you have to give them some chance to do it again. I think they will compete for a while. But the talent and coaching at Oregon outclasses WSU in this one. 

Gone in the Quarters:
- Arizona State - 
The Sun Devils have been a hot topic in Bracketology for the past month due to their drop off in play. Their resume still holds up barely against the bubble, and they have a shot to knock off U of A. But I know better than to pick against the Wildcats in this tournament.
- Stanford - I really want to pick Stanford, but I do not like their matchup against UCLA.  I was impressed with how UCLA wrapped up the year and I think Stanford will actually get a little test from Cal on Wednesday before this one.
- Oregon State - The Beavers didn't fare very well at all this year against USC. I think they are done in this round.
- Oregon - The Ducks/Utes matchup will be a really tight one I'm guessing. Two firey coaches getting their teams to play hard and fighting to get to win this whole tourney. In the end I'll go with David Collette to put this one away late.

Semifinal Send Offs: 
- Arizona - Surprise! If you read my comments about ASU, then I am clearly contradicting myself by sending the Wildcats home in this round. I think when you look at the UCLA/Zona matchup that the Bruins match up very well as evidenced by their eight point win in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. I think Aaron Holliday is coming to Vegas on a mission and going to carry the Briuins to the title game.
- Utah - It's a matchup thing here with the Trojans and Utes as well. When they met in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, the Utes had no answer for Chimezie Metu or Jordan Usher. The Trojans shot the ball very well but they were mostly two pointers. I think Utah will need a brand new gameplan this time around but now the Trojans are in their heads.

Championship Game:
- UCLA over USC - 
Yes, I am going with an unconventional all Los Angeles Final. It's just the way the bracket played out. Anyway I am on the Holliday bandwagon one more time as the Bruins secure their place into the NCAA Tournament. 


Atlantic 10 Tournament Predictions

Early Round Exits:
- UMass - 
The Minutemen have unbelievablly only won one game away from home all season, that was at Dayton over two months ago. They did knock off some good teams in Amherst, but I don't see them suddenly figuring it out and beating a La Salle team who they lost to by 15 a few weeks ago.
- Fordham - In the Rams last six games they did not come within single digits in any of them. Needless to say they finished in last for many reasons. Add in the fact that they have to play against GW in the Nation's Capital and you have a recipe for a quick trip.

Day 2 Exits:
- Dayton - The Flyers are a fantastic team in Dayton. If you've followed this blog all year, you'll know that we covered the Davidson-Dayton game back in January. Dayton also has one of my favorite players I've seen in person this year in Josh Cunningham, he is bulldozer down low. So what is the problem? The Flyers haven't won outside of Dayton since January 9th. VCU has a much shorter trip to Washington DC and I think the Dayton season ends here.
- La Salle - The Explorers make a great case for the 12/5 upset over GMU. In fact they just beat the Patriots two weeks ago. However, since then - GMU won a couple of nice road games against VCU and St. Joe's. Also, GMU is playing nearby in DC, giving them the extra boost. Should be a real close game.
- Saint Louis -  SLU finished the year with a tough road trip to Duquesne and the Bonnies. Ended up losing a chance at earning a bye and landed as the number six seed. That leaves the Billikens a little tired and now in Washington DC to face the local GW Colonials. I think its a formula that results in an early exit for Travis Ford's crew.
- Duquesne - Keith Dambrot's Dukes have been really fun to follow this season. They started 5-2 in league including a couple of OT thrilling wins along the way. But the Dukes hit a serious wall and from that point on, they only won twice to finish at 7-11 in the A10. Now they face a Richmond team that finished pretty strong. Don't be surprised if Dambrot has the Dukes ready for a run, but I'll still pick them to lose here.

Gone in the Quarters:
- VCU - These Rams will come in pretty inspired after eliminating Dayton. But I don't think they can hang with what I believe will be a refocused Rhode Island team. 
- George Mason - The Patriots swept the season series against Saint Joe's. The Pats are playing close to home as well, but I really like the trajectory of Saint Joe's. The Hawks have won six of seven including the blowout of URI and I think they bring too much momentum for GMU to handle.
- George Washington - Davidson and GW met twice earlier in the year and the Wildcats won by 27 and 29 points in those two games. That alone gives me no reason to try to pick an upset here. Nice little run for GW to play three times in front of the home folks.
- Richmond - Spiders come in on mini win streak, but prior to that they had lost five straight. I don't think they have the horses to take down the red hot Bonnies. 

Semifinal Send Offs:
- Rhode Island - 
I am going with an upset pick here. I think after the beatdown Saint Joseph's gave Rhode Island last week, they will have the mental edge in this one. Just more of a gut feel after the way the Rams played last week. Rams end up being an 8/9 seed in the NCAA's.
- St. Bonaventure - Davidson was a really tough matchup for the Bonnies in both games this season. After the 3OT thriller last week, I think the Wildcats are ready to exact some revenge on the Bonnies. I think St. Bonaventure is still looking at an At Large bid however.

Championship Game:
Davidson over Saint Joseph's - 
I expect Davidson to ride the momentum of the Semifinal win over the Bonnies to cut down the nets in DC. I think they will wind up a 12th seeded team should this happen, ruining the dreams of another bubble team. Excellent run for Saint Joseph's, but I can't see them beating the Wildcats here. In the only previous matchup, Davidson won in blowout fashion, 91-62. Should be a fun Semifinal and Title Game in this league!


Mountain West Tournament Predictions

Opening Round Exits:
Air Force - 
I am giving the Falcons a decent shot at winning a game in this tournament for the following reasons: The game is at 11am in Vegas! Only a Military Academy could be ready for that kind of wake up call in Sin City, and UNLV could easily come out flat in that scenario. Also, UNLV has been all over the place since January. The Falcons lost to the Rebels twice, but both were by single digits. Expect an ugly win for UNLV.
Colorado State - With Larry Eustachy out at CSU, this Rams team has looked really uninspired lately. I do not expect a Pepperdine-like performance in this tournament. I think CSU is ready for the offseason.
San Jose State - SJSU finally brioke through with a Conference win over Utah State on Senior night to save themselves from a bagel in conference. They get Wyoming in Round one and that will prove to be too tall of an order to extend the season to Thursday.

Gone in the Quarters:
UNLV - In what should be a heated contest at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV will fall just short against their in-state rivals Nevada. That of course is only if they avoid the first day scare from Air Force. This should be a real fun game to watch on Thursday afternoon. 
San Diego State - Aztecs are a trendy pick to go far in this tournament.and for good reason, they've won six in a row. They finished the season with wins over Boise State and Nevada. However, the Aztecs were not able to beat tougher competition away from Viejas Arena this season, especially in Mountain West play. They run into a fiesty Fresno State club in the Quarters and I think SDSU goes home early.
Boise State - This is my real upset pick. Boise State will face a warm Aggies team who should cruise to victory the day before. Utah State played BSU tough both times this year and split the season series. Boise State has the pressure of needing to win this tournament, and I'm predicting they come out a bit tense and the Aggies capitalize. 
Wyoming - The Cowboys have had a wild ride in the MWC all year and it would not surprise me to see them make a run this weekend. However, they run into a hot New Mexico team that swept them during the regular season. I think New Mexico keeps their win streak going and abruptly ends Wyoming's season.

Semifinal Send Offs:
Fresno State - 
Should be an exciting Semifinal between the Bulldogs and Nevada. Both teams come into the tournament with a thin bench and I think that will have an impact on this semifinal. I believe both teams will have to sweat in the Quarterfinal round as well. In the end, the playmaking and talent of Nevada proves to be too much for Fresno State.
Utah State - This is where the Aggies run out of gas. The Lobos are coming to play in Vegas and USU is a victim of the Lobos along the way. USU can be very proud of a semifinal appearance.

Championship Game:
New Mexico over Nevada - 
Yes, I am predicting a bid thief here. The only meeting between these two teams came way back on December 30th, a 77-74 win in Reno for Nevada. New Mexico has improved quite a bit since then. Nevada's bench is not nearly as deep as UNM's. I expect Nevada to be a bit tired after grinding out wins against UNLV and Fresno. I do not think the Lobos will be nearly as tired coming off wins against Wyoming and Utah State. I am going with the Lobos and this will break the hearts of a bubble team somewhere.


ACC Tournament Predictions

Early Round Exits:
- Georgia Tech - 
The Yellow Jackets come to Brooklyn on a Two-Game Win Streak and it's interesting that their matchup with Boston College is a battle between two teams that did not win a road ACC game besides at Pitt. I like BC just barely in this one to end the Yellow Jackets season.
Wake Forest - The Deacons split the season series this year against the Orange. I expect Wake to come and compete and I give them an outside shot at spoiling Syracuse's NCAA hopes. In the end I see the Deacs falling just short.
- Pittsburgh - Not going to spend a lot of time on this one, the Panthers have been done all season. Nice scrimmage game for Notre Dame.

Day 2 Exits:
- Florida State - 
The Noles and Louisville played two tight games this season with the road team winning each time by four points (subsequently boosting each of their Tournament resume). I think Louisville actually accomplished more overall away from home this year than FSU and they have much more on the line than FSU in this game. I will take the Noles to have a brief stay in Brooklyn.
- Boston College - The Eagles actually matchup decently well against NC State. If Ky Bowman and Jerome Robinson have play well, they have a real shot at making the Quarters. However, this NC State team finished the year winning their last five of six and are simply too hot to pick against at this stage.
- North Carolina - Remember that this tournament is in Brooklyn. Remember that this is March and Jim Boeheim teams are executing the 2-3 zone at a much more effective level than any other time of year. And remember that this Tar Heel team has been known to be streaky and right now they come in on a two game losing streak. I could be dead wrong here, and the Heels are capable of winning four games in four days, but this matchup to me has upset written on it. 
- Virginia Tech - I really like the way the Hokies are playing right now. They are safely in the projected field and maybe looking ahead to the NCAA's. Also, this Notre Dame team is finally healthy and will have a lot to prove after their day one tune up against Pitt. Look for the Irish to open some eyes with a win over Virginia Tech.

Gone in the Quarters:
- Louisviille - 
In a rematch of the insane game last week where Louisville miraculously lost, I believe Virginia will be fresh and prepared for the Cardinals. Louisville will still be playing for potentially their tournament lives and could make this a real good game. But in the end, Cavs get to the Semi's.
- Clemson - It's been a heck of a ride all year for the Tigers and congratulations to Coach Brad Brownell on finally getting Clemson into the Big Dance. As for the ACC's though, I think they are in trouble against NC State. Clemson didn't win an ACC game away from home against a tournament caliber team and I don't see that changing here. 
- Syracuse - The Orange have to comeback after upsetting UNC and face a fresh Miami Hurricane team. Cuse beat them in Miami earlier this year, but I expect this Orange team to fall just short. It wouldn't shock me to see them in the Semifinals, but that is just too much to ask. 
- Notre Dame - Dangerous squad with everything to gain in Brooklyn. I expect them to come in confidentally and give Duke a real test. In the end, the not so great depth of the Irish will catch up to them against the talented fresh legs from Duke. Watch out for the Irish in your NIT Brackets.

Semifinal Send Offs:
- NC State - 
I badly want to pick the Wolfpack to win this game over Virginia. The Pack are playing really solid hoops lately and I'm not sold on the Cavs winning this tournament. But in the end, I'm going to play it safe and predict NC State fall just short. Don't be surprised if NC State makes the Title Game.
- Miami - The Hurricanes come in to this tournament red hot after the buzzer beater at UNC and win over Virginia Tech last week. I think they're ready to battle Duke throughout a great Semifinal. However, Duke will be too strong in the end and Miami will feel good about their NCAA Tournament bid on Sunday.

Championship Game:
Duke over Virginia - 
Obviously two excellent teams meeting up here for a trophy. But so much more to gain for Duke than the Cavs, with potentially a #1 Seed at stake. Beyond that, I think Virginia looked very beatable coming into the tournament and Duke will be looking for revenge. I'll go with the Blue Devils to win their 21st ACC Tournament. 


Big Ten Tournament Predictions

Early Round Exits:
Illinois: The Illini have had the brutal task of finishing with four games in eight days to close out the regular season. They are now going to play again now on just two days rest. Brad Underwood's crew only goes 8 deep. I think they can certainly beat Iowa and maybe hang with Michigan, but my thought is they will be gone on day one.
Minnesota: This is somewhat of a gut feeling I have, but I think the Gophers are ready to put this nightmarish season to bed. Also, Rutgers is the only local team in this tournament and should be motivated to play close to home at MSG. 

Day 2 Exits:
- Maryalnd: 
The Terps have a young but talented roster that just wasn't ready to step up and have a tournament caliber season. I think they have a decent shot to get past the Badgers, but recent play tells me Wisconsin is in great position to end Maryland's season. Good chance at an NIT bid for the Terps.
- Iowa: Hawkeyes won't go home empty handed from NYC, they will have a nice two day trip. However, running into Michigan is not a good draw for the Iowa/Illinois winner. 
- Northwestern: Chris Collins' Wildcats have been through a lot this year. Untimely injuries, some blown leads (see Michigan State last week), and overall simply didn't meet expectations. The opening matchup against Penn State looks fairly even on paper and both teams come in cold. I will go with the metrics on this pick and take Penn State to end Northwestern's season in a close one.
- Rutgers: The cinderella story ends before it really begins. I can't pick Rutgers to beat the Hoosiers after just losing to them by 22 earlier this month. Steve Pikiell's program is slowly improving and help is on the way, unfortunately the Scarlet Knights aren't equipped to capitalize on the localized Big Ten Tournament this year.

Gone in the Quarters:
 - Wisconsin: They come in playing much better basketball, and a Day 1 win should get the blood flowing for the Badgers. I expect them to come at Michigan State hard in an early Noon tipoff setting. This realy gives them a shot at the upset. But much like the Spartans have done down the stretch, I predict Michigan State gets another come from behind win and ends Wisconsin's season (not Postseason eligible).
- Nebraska: The bracketologist in me would appreciate a Quarterfinal loss by the Huskers. However, the Basketball fan in me would love to see this team make a run. James Palmer, Jr. is one of the best players in the league. I got witness his 34 point performance at Ohio State in person, excellent player. But, I like that Michigan comes into this game warm and doesn't have the pressure that the Huskers have, so I'll take the Huskers to lose early.
- Penn State: Fun opportunity here for the Nittany Lions to beat Ohio State for the 3rd time in the same season. Unfortunately I think they won't pull it off. The old tale is a it is hard to beat a team three times int the same season and it holds true here.
- Indiana: I think the Hoosiers are a sleeper team in this tournament and if they hadn't drawn Purdue, there is a good chance I would pick them further. Archie Miller's bunch should be poised for a great NIT run (if they want to). 

Semifinal Send Offs:
- Michigan State: I am tempted to have them losing to Wisconsin, but this is a bit more realistic losing to a Michigan team that exposed them in East Lansing earlier this season. The Spartans were my preseason pick to win the NCAA's, so this is definitely not a hater pick. I just have been unimpressed with their quality of play lately and do not see them winning this tournament. 
- Ohio State: Buckeyes have been an excellent story, and losing in the Semifinals to a real tough Purdue team doesn't diminish that at all. I expect this to be a great semifinal game, if you remember the Buckeyes beat the Boilers 64-63 in West Lafayette a few weeks back. Bates-Diop is POY in the Big Ten and will hit big shots but the Buckeyes fall just shy of making it to Sunday.

Championship Game:
- Purdue defeats Michigan: 
Here we have another scenario where Purdue will be trying to beat Michigan for the 3rd time this season. The first two games were outstanding, with the Boilermakers winning both in the final minute. I think by Sunday, Michigan will be pretty tired and they only go eight deep. This will be their fourth game in four days and they will be feeling great about the upset over Sparty. But, I think Purdue will be too strong, deep, and fresh for Michigan to keep up.

Enjoy the games!


Media Coverage: Davidson @ Dayton

Pregame Notes:

  • Davidson comes in pretty hot tonight. Winners of five in a row, including a 83-73 win over St. Bonaventure on Friday last week.
  • Davidson made some major changes on defense, going to a zone defense, which is highly unusual for legendary Head Coach Bob McKillop. This has led to a much more effective defense primarly inside the arch.
  • Davidson has off the charts numbers in a few catergories. They lead the nation in Assist to Turnover ratio (1.94) and Fewest Turnovers Per Game (9.2)
  • Dayton leads the Atlantic 10 in FG Percentage (48.1%) and Rebounds Allowed per Game (32.2)
  • Dayton easily leads the Atlantic 10 in average attendance (8,935 per game). The next highest team is VCU at 6,121/game.
  • Josh Cunningham is coming off of a fantastic performance against URI. Cunningham had 32 Points (13-18 FG) and 12 Rebounds. It is no surprise he is leading the A10 in FG%.

1st Half Notes:

-Dayton opens the scoring with a pretty three ball in the corner from Darrell Davis
-Next time down court the Flyers work the ball down low to Josh Cunningham for an easy bucket.
-Davidson has worked the ball around in the first few possessions but cannot get anything to fall.
-Jordan Davis connects on a three for the Flyers and its a surprising 8-0 lead for Dayton.

First Media Timeout: Dayton 8, Davidson 0

-Trey Landers (Dayton) hits both free throws.
-Cunningham connects again down low.
-Davidson is ice cold, but finally hits a three pointer by Jon Axel Gudmundsson
-Gudmundsson with another triple!
-Kostas Antetokounpo has checked in for Dayton and yes his wingspan is massive!

Second Media Timeout: Dayton 12, Davidson 6

-Oskar Michelson (Davidson) from Helsinki, Finland - drills an open three
-Peyton Aldridge (Davidson) hits a runner in the lane and the Wildcats are on an 11-0 run.
-Finally an answer as Landers knifes thru the Davidson D for a driving layup.
-Will Magarity (Davidson) gets into the scoring with a nice turnaround jumper in the paint.
-Xeyrius Williams (Dayton) is in the game with an impact. Grabs a rebound and the ball ends up in his hands on the offensive end for a three ball. 
-Peyton Aldridge with a beautiful pump fake to make the defender go airborne and connects on an NBA range three.
-Cunningham with another two down low, followed by a driving two by D. Davis.

Third Media Timeout: Dayton 21, Davidson 18.

-Williams with a tip in after a miss from John Crosby.
-Ugly airball miss from the top of the key by Jalen Crutcher (Dayton)
-Cunningham picks up the slack with another deuce.

Fourth Media Timeout: Dayton 25, Davidson 18

-Aldridge draws a shooting foul and connects on one of two.
-Athletic move to drive to the basket by Darrell Davis, drawing a foul. Makes both FTs.
-Cunningham makes a one handed offbalance bank shot, impressive.
-Aldridge answers with a three. 
-Magarity connects on a two pointer.
-Sloppy finish to the half as neither team could get a final shot off. 

Halftime: Dayton 31, Davidson 26.

2nd Half Notes

-Aldridge knocks down a 12 footer to start the second half scoring.
-Open three in the corner drained by Crutcher.
-Cunningham bulldogs' his way in for two.
-Crutcher connects on a driving layup and davidson calls timeout.
-Jordan Davis (Dayton) with a sneaky steal and breakway, but is fouled from behind. Cunningham draws another Davidson foul and heads to the line. Makes both.
-Aldridge answers with a baby hook in the lane.
-Magarity gets a tough offensive rebound and puts the ball in and draws a foul. Will have a FT coming after the break.

First Media Timeout: Dayton 39, Davidson 32

-Magarity completes the three point play.
-Gudmundsson is back at it with another three.
-Magarity with another bucket down low. Timeout Flyers. 
-Landers drills a jumper from inside the arch.
-Crutcher draws a foul and makes both FTs.

Second Media Timeout: Dayton 43, Davidson 40.

-Steal and dunk by Landers, assisted by Darrell Davis.
-Open three drilled by Landers and he leaves his wrist hanging high in the air.
-Gudmundsson again for three. Wildcats love to shoot from deep, that is now 7-16 from three as a team.
-Crutcher hits a jumper and the crowd is really getting loud.
-Magarity quiets the crowd with a three.

Third Media Timeout: Dayton 52, Davidson 46.

-Landers launched a 40 foot three to beat the shot clock and hit it!! But it is now under review. The basket counts, wow what a shot!
-Aldridge wont go down without a fight. Connects on another jumper, he now has 17.
-Michelson picks up a foul and Josh Cunningham picks up a technical foul, not sure on the explanation. Davidson makes both FTs.
-Big-time three by Darrell Davis with a hand in his face.
-Rusty Reigel (Davidson) answers with a layup.
-Kellan Grady (Davidson) gets into the act and hits a jumper.
-Aldridge gets two great looks in the corner for three and makes the second one, wow. Flyers only lead by one.-Grady hits a stepback 17 footer, nothing but net and the Wildcats lead for the first time in a while.
-Darrell Davis makes the Davidson run stop with a nifty basket down low, but right back on the other end Aldridge answers. Timeout Dayton.

Fourth Media Timeout: Davidson 61, Dayton 60. 1:15 Left.

-Crutcher hits a huge three and the entire arena is on their feet. Under a minute left.
-Foul on Darrell Davis, but that is only 4 team fouls for Dayton. Multiple chances at the basket for Davidson, but nothing falls. Ball ends up out of bounds and the refs review and decide possession belongs to the Flyers. Crowd is loving it.
-Grady eventually fouls Landers and that puts Landers on the line for a big one and one: Makes them both. Clutch. Dayton leads by 4. 
-Davidson misses twice from deep and this one looks about done. Dayton leading by 4 with 5.6 seconds left.
-Grady nails a three and its suddenly a one point game. 3.3 seconds remain. Grady then fouls Darrell Davis without anytime coming off the clock.
-Dayton discussing strategy on whether to miss on purpose or not.  He does miss but not on purpose. 
-Halfcourt heave by Grady hits all backboard and Dayton hangs on to win.

FINAL: Dayton 65, Davidson 64.

Media Coverage: Ball State @ Ohio


Pregame Notes:

Ball State
-Ball State is trying to recover from Saturday's 20 point home loss against Buffalo.
-Jontrell Walker was suspended indefinitely just hours before the Buffalo game. Has Ball State moved on mentally?
-If Ball State has the lead late, Ohio is in trouble. Ball State is shooting 75% from the line as a team. Ranked 54th nationally.
-This is Ball State's first Road Game in more than a month. The Cardinals now have six of their next eight on the road in MAC play.
-Ball State has now won nine out of ten following the loss to Buffalo on Saturday.

-Ohio comes in feeling good after a win on Saturday over Northern Illinois 78-68.
-Ohio has picked up significant home wins this year, including a surprise win over At Large contender Western Kentucky on Dec. 10th
-Ohio is still hurting. Preseason All-MAC East Jason Carter remains out with a lower leg injury and has already missed 11 games. Also hurt is frontcourt Frosh Ben Vander Plas who figures to redshirt.
-Mike Laster is coming off of an outstanding performance against NIU where he had 31 Points on 10-12 FG shooting, including 5-6 from 3 Pt. range!

The main reason I am covering this game is to see how legitimate Ball State's NCAA hopes are. Tyler Persons was the hero in the upset over Notre Dame, but hasn't played as well lately. Let's see if the Cardinals get back in the win column tonight.

1st Half Notes:

-Sweet dish from Teyvion Kirk (Ohio) to Jordan Darvis for three to open the scoring.
-Trey Moses (Ball St) answers with a nifty layup down low.
-Another three for the Bobcats, this time from recently red hot Mike Laster.
-Nice steal and drive to draw a foul by Teyvion Kirk (Ohio).

First Media Timeout: Ohio 8, Ball State 4

-Nice offensive rebound and put-back by Kevin Mickle (Ohio)
-Trey Moses answers down low for the Cards.
-Sweet 16-footer is a swish for Laster, shot it in rhythm with his feet set before he caught the pass from Kirk.
-Moses quickly answers again. He is a matchup problem early on for Ohio. Don't be surprised if Ohio coach Saul Phillips switches to some zone soon.
-Zach Butler (Ohio) is in off the bench, comes in with a strong drive and layup  
Second Media Timeout: Ohio 16, Ball State 10.

-Deep three is good for Canadian veteran guard Francis Kiapway (Ball State).
-Strong drive to the hoop and finish by Jeremie Tyler. Tyler missed a lot of action this year and is still getting back in the swing of things.
-Good take by Doug Taylor (Ohio), used a quick slide step to the left to get by the defender and finish. 
-Laster with a nice bank shot from 12.-Persons has now scored on two consecutive possessions. Bobcats cant afford to let him get rolling.
Third Media Timeout: Ball State 22, Ohio 20.

-Sluggish play happening as both teams have been fouling each other, missing shots and turning the ball over.
-Tahjai Teague breaks the ice with a nice jumper.
-Laster answers for the Bobcats on the other end.
-Laster is enfuego! Hits a fade-away three ball from the corner and leaves his hand hanging.
-Persons drains another shot. He now has 11.
-Three point play opportunity coming for Teague. Too strong in the paint.
Fourth Media Timeout: Ball State 28, Ohio 26.

-Teague finishes the three point play for the Cards.
-Good ball movement on a long Ohio possession, but it ends in a missed three by Gavin Block.
-James Gollon hits a three as time expires to give the Bobcats a Halftime lead.
Halftime: Ohio 31, Ball State 29.

Halftime Notes

  • Laster is leading Ohio again with 11 points, but is 4-9 from the field. Still decent, but not like Saturday's performance. Played 18 minutes.
  • Persons had a three reduced to a two, he still has 10 and is a major weapon.
  • Moses has 6 Points, 6 Rebounds.
  • Very even first half: Each team has six assists, six turnovers, and Ball State has a slim 18-17 Rebounding edge.
  • There has only been five total Free Throw Attempts. I imagine that will increase quite a bit in the second half.

2nd Half Notes:

-Doug Taylor rocks the rim with a powerful two hand slam to start the 2nd Half.
-Sweet dish from Kirk to Taylor for a lay in.
-Kirk again penetrates and this time finishes himself. Ohio now on a 9-0 run. Timeout Cards.
-Kyle Mallers (Ball State) makes a much needed three for Ball State.
-Dartis with a layup to answer for Ohio.

First Media Timeout: Ohio 39, Ball State 34.
-Moses draws a foul and makes one of two from the line.
-Mickle hits a nice little baby hook in the lane.
-Mallers with a solid baseline take, connects and draws the foul. Completes the three point play.
-Kirk with another layup in traffic after Laster got his shot blocked.
-Tyler comes in and drains a needed three for the Cards.
-Teague with a tough rebound down low and gets the putback to fall plus earns a trip to the line but misses the three point opportunity.
-Nice pass by Mickle to Butler, but Butler misses the open layup.
-Mallers with a big three and suddenly the Cardinals are on a roll. 10-0 Run.
-Saul Phillips (Ohio HC) is screaming at the officials about no calls.
Second Media Timeout: Ball State 48, Ohio 43.

-Moses gets great position down low and earns a trip to the line. Makes both FT's.
-Teyvion Kirk (Joliet,Ill.) is a fantastic frosh for Ohio. Great moves off the dribble and capable handles.
-Blocked shot by Doug Taylor, swats it Out of Bounds. Tyler responds by hitting a long two.
-Double Technical on Persons/Taylor. That's probably a fight that Persons doesn't want to pick.
-Persons is fired up. He muscles his way into the paint and finishes with a baby floater, then flexes to the Cardinal bench.
-Two quick three balls by Dartis and Ohio is right back in this!
-Gollon passes it away, stolen by Kiapway, but Ball State turns it back over. Crowd is getting into it.
Third Media Timeout: Ball State 55, Ohio 53.

-Persons draws a controversial foul call. Connects on both free throws.
-Laster is back in the mix with a Slam.
-Persons responds with a runner in the lane.
-Tyler drains another three ball - may get reviewed.
-Chippy foul on Persons, his fourth foul, the crows loves it. Persons is not liked in Athens.
-James Whitford (Ball State HC) is having a long discussion with the refs, its unclear why. Crowd is hating this.
-Taylor to the line for One and One. Makes both, Ohio is down by 5.
-Mallers picks up a Player control foul. Ball goes back to the Bobcats.
-Easy pass from Tyler to Teague for a Cardinals layin.
-Dartis answers with a layup.
-Moses draws a shooting foul. Hits both free throws. Moses has a very high arc on his foul shots.
-Kirk with a drive and draws a foul, heading to the line now. Ends up hitting one of two.
-Persons is back in and draws a foul, both teams in the Double Bonus. Ends up missing both.
Last Media Timeout: Ball State 66, Ohio 59.

-Mallers drains a jumper from the corner.
-Kirk is at the line again, makes both. He now has 12.
-Moses makes his way to the hoop and finishes with a one hand finger roll. 
-Mallers, Moses, and Persons all have four fouls for Ball State. They lead by 7.
-Mallers fouls out. Mickle to the line. He connects on both, lead is 5 for Ball State.
-Tyler drills another big three. But Kirk comes down and answers with a three of his own. Lead is still five.
-Ball State uses the entire shot clock and gets a violation after an airball by Sean Sellers.
-Laster misses a three. Kiapway makes both FT's on the other end. Ball State dribbles out the clock. Game Over.

Final Score: Ball State 75, Ohio 68.

Media Coverage: USD at Saint Mary's

2nd Half Notes:
-Great no look dish from Tyler Williams (USD) to Wright for a Layup.
-Three point play opportunity for Piniero, after nice agressive move to the hoop. He completes the 3 Pt. play.
-Nice give and go for Saint Mary's finished by Naar for a layup.
-Carter answers with a nice jumper.
-Londale gets back to the line again, what else is new? Floresca now with two fouls. They are piling up for USD.
-Wright again with a 3 point play opportunity, this guy can really play. Transfer from Utah. Wright finishes the three point play.
-Naar answers with a two from ten feet.

First Media Timeout: USD 43, SMC 37.

-Piniero gets back to the line and knocks down both free throws.
-Nice mini drive and jumper made by Gray.
-Neal back in for SMC, and gets back to the line. Makes one of two.
-SMC is now 0 for 7 on threes tonight, which is incredible. Nearly had one there after an in-n-out shot from Hermanson.
-There it is! The first three pointer with 12:20 to go. Made by Krebs. Great ball movement by the Gaels.

Second Media Timeout: USD 49, SMC 45.

-Naar with a sweet driving layup for the Gaels.
-Nice Blocked shot by Fitzner. Wright had to force a no good three. Good stop for SMC.
-Naar another sweet layup after a left handed drive. Game tied at 49. Timeout USD.
-Wright once again makes a move at the end of the shot clock and draws a foul. This time misses both free throws.
-Fitzner cleans up a Londale miss and SMC leads for the first time in a long while.
-Naar with another gritty layup and one. Goes to the line and connects to make the lead for the Gaels suddenly five.
-Piniero gets called for travelling. Tough call, one of those road team calls.
-Surprising offensive foul called against Londale, however it's just his first foul.
-USD playing a bit more timid offensively, crowd is very loud. When SMC makes baskets, its tough for USD to create.
-Flagrant foul on Wright after grabbing Neal's shorts from behind.

Third Media Timeout: SMC 54, USD 49.

-Neal makes both Flagrant Free Throws. Naar gets another crafty basket. Suddenly the lead is 9.
-Piniero gets back to the line and makes both shots.
-Neal has been a pest on defense, draws a charge here.
-Big three pointer by Gray. Cuts the Gaels lead to four. But Londale gets a quick answer to bring the lead up to six.
-Cameron Neubauer (USD) picks up his fourth foul. Floresca is back in. Neal ends up making both.
-Wright back to the line again, but only makes one of two. Gaels lead is five.
-Piniero with a nice 16 foot jumper, cuts the lead to three.
-Fourth foul now on Floresca as Londale continues to back down on any USD player. 

Fourth Media Timeout: SMC 62, USD 59.

-Piniero another big make, this time in the lane after a nice spin move.
-Londale answers with a baby hook down low.
-Neal with a griity drive and finish. Gaels now lead by 6.
-Wright misses a tough layup and SMC is beginning to milk some clock. Londale gets called for a moving screen.
-Naar eventually gets fouled, makes both. SMC lead is 8 with under a minute left.
-Piniero dribbles the ball off of his foot and things are looking dim for the Torreros.
-A few fouls back and forth here. USD trailing by 7 now. Under 30 seconds remain.
-SMC runs out the clock.

Final Score: Saint Mary's 70, San Diego 63.

1st Half Notes:
-Steal and Dunk for Isaiah Piniero (USD) to open the game, heck of a kickoff for the Torreros. 
-Calvin Hermanson (SMC) has a soft left handed touch, beautiful runner in the lane to get SMC on the board.
-SMC has 6 Australians on the roster and 3 of them start (Londale, Naar, Krebs). 
-Pretty sloppy beginning. Great block from behind by Hermanson on Piniero. Londale also with a nice block during that sequence.

SMC leads USD 6-5 at first Media Timeout.

-USD really playing strong defense and creating shots in transition.
-USD Halfcourt offense really relying on Isaiah Wright (USD)to create.
-Tanner Krebs (SMC) Airballed from straight away three land. Ouch.
-Londale is a force down low, USD doing all the can to keep him out of the paint. He got to the line once in this sequence.

USD leads 15-11 at the second Media Timeout.

-Tough offensive foul called aginst Evan Fitzner (SMC). Crowd boos.
-Piniero had a nice take to the hoop and finished.
-Piniero trying to lay into Londale defensively, one quick spin to from Jock and a dunk for SMC.
-Wright draws a foul while shooting a three, makes two of three.
-Nice looking jump hook shot for reserve forward Alex Floresca, good for two (USD)
-Wright gets to the line again and this time it's a 3 point play opportunity.

USD leads SMC 24-17 at the third Media Timeout.

-Great move by Piniero to get by his defender and draw a foul, then he made both free throws
-After a steal by Olin Carter (USD), he missed an open layup, and on the other end Hermanson finishes with a layup of his own.
-Next possession for SMC, Naar takes it to the hole and completes a three point play.
-USD had a nice stop, but Piniero got called with a ticky tack 2nd foul.

USD leads SMC 26-22 at the fourth Media Timeout.

-Piniero picks up another tough foul and he now has three. Londale giving USD issues inside as expected.
-Wright has a very strong left hand dribble, gets into the lane and dishes to Juwan Gray for two.
-Lamont Smith, USD Head Coach throws his jacket off after another call goes the Gaels way. Londale has made 4 Free throws in the last 30 seconds.
-Huge answer by Gray with a Three pointer.
-Cullen Neal (SMC) gets a three point play opportunity and connects. Great back and forth happening right now.
-Neal again uses some fancy footwork to get into the lane and finishes.
-McKeon Pavilion gets incredibly noisy!
-Wright calms the crowd down with a nice driving layup.

Halftime: USD 33, Saint Mary's 31.

Pregame Notes:

This should be a great clash between Saint Mary's highly effective offense, and USD's nationally recognized defense.

- USD's Third Straight Road Game.
- USD is #1 Nationally in 3 pt. Defense (23.6%)
- USD is #2 Nationally in effective FG% Defense (41%)

- St. Mary's has the #3 Nationally ranked Effective offense according to KenPom
- St. Mary's shoots 41% from 3 pt. range - 11th in the Nation.
- St. Mary's is 7th nationally in effective FG% Offense. (59.2%)

Should be quite the clash tonight!

Diamond Head Classic Predictions

Our final Preseason Tournament of the College Hoops season is full of intrigue. Will USC finally live up to expectations? How good is Middle Tennessee? Can Miami continue to dominate? Was the Princeton upset at USC a fluke? Will New Mexico State make some noise? It's all broken down in the predictions. 

8. Akron - The Zips bring a 6-2 record to Honolulu, but have not won a game away from home yet. Their most notable wins are against Fort Wayne and Chattanooga. I expect Akron to be pretty competitive here and can see them getting a win in the losers bracket. Daniel Utomi is off to a huge start, averaging over 20 points and 7 rebounds per game. He will be fun to watch.

7. Davidson - Live by the 3, die by the 3. That's how Bob McKillop's bunch rolls. They also really take care of the basketball. At last check, Davidson is the NCAA leader in Assist to Turnover ratio. If the Wildcats get hot, they can upset anyone in this field. They are a bit small though, and I see them having matchup problems in the opener against NMSU. I think they salvage a victory over Akron to leave Hawaii on a high note.

6. Princeton - The Tigers enter this tournament feeling amazing after the upset overtime win at USC on Tuesday. Tigers have to turn around and face a tough Middle Tennessee team in the tournament opener. Princeton loves to run back cuts and use the shot clock effectively (sounds familiar right?).  Expect all of their games to be tight ones, but I ultimately have them finishing 6th.

5. Hawaii - Hawaii is always tough to beat at home, and they love to knock off Power teams in this tournament. They have their chance right off the bat against Miami. It would be a huge win for Hawaii to win that, I think it stays close but they fall short. Hawaii will bounce back in a strong way by knocking off Davidson and Princeton. 

4. New Mexico State - Texas Southern transfer Zach Lofton has been a blessing this season for the Aggies. He is doing it all, averaging 19.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg. Lofton will look to lead the Aggies on a great run in this tournament, but ultimately they will fall short after winning the opening game over Davidson. 

3. USC - I've had the opportunity to see a lot of USC already this season and I am at the point where I don't feel comfortable picking them to reach the Championship Game. We all know they have the talent, but something is off with this bunch right now. This is a big opportunity for the Trojans to come together and get the season back on track. But I think running into Middle Tennessee is the type of team that will really frustrate USC. I expect them to finish here and take care of NMSU in the finale.

2. Middle Tennessee - The Blue Raiders come into this tournament with two wins over the SEC, four road wins, and a sweep of FGCU. Both of their losses were close ones to Auburn and Belmont. Middle Tennessee in recent years has really risen to the occasion in tournaments or games against "bigger" programs. I expect no different here. Be sure to watch the Semifinal game against USC (baring upsets).

1. Miami - Jim Larranaga's group has been laser focused this season despite potential FBI distractions. The Canes bring a perfect 9-0 record to the Diamond Head Classic. Five players (Dewan Huell, Dejan Vasiljevic, Bryce Brown, Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, and Ja'Quon Newton) all average in double figure scoring.  Miami as a team is fourth in the nation defensive efficiency. The Canes will be really challenging to beat and they are my pick to take home the trophy.


Diamond Head Classic 17.JPG

Great Alaska Shootout Predictions

This is sadly the final year of the Great Alaska Shootout. So many great teams have played here and now it's the forgotten tournament. I have many great memories of watching these games around Thanksgiving. Let's hope it's a great Title Game!

8. Alaska-Anchorage - This just feels mean to put the Seawolves in last place in the final Great Alaska Shootout. But unfortunately this isn't a very strong UAA squad. I expect them to fight hard, but still likely lose every game between by between 8-20 points.

7. Sam Houston State - Bobkat fans are not going to like this projection. The tough part is they have only faced one Division 1 program thus far, a 9 point loss at Idaho. SHSU opens with Central Michigan in what should be a close game. I then have them turning around and losing another close game before beating UAA for 7th place.

6. Santa Clara - This Broncos team comes to Alaska pretty thin. They really only go 7 deep right now and that is not good for this format. KJ Feagin can really light it up, if he gets hot then SCU can make a run. I see them losing a tough one to Idaho in the opener and then bouncing back against UAA before settling for 6th place.

5. Cal Poly - Donovan Fields leads this Mustang club into Alaska on a two game winning streak including an impressive road win at Santa Clara. And funny enough, I am predicting a rematch this Saturday in the 5th/6th Place game between the two. I think Cal Poly may make Charleston sweat a bit in the opener. Charleston has looked sluggish and they had to travel a very long ways to get to Alaska. That's one to keep your eye on. Otherwise I see Cal Poly bouncing back with two wins after a close lose to the Cougars.

4. Central Michigan - I was impressed by the effort CMU gave at Michigan last week. But maybe Michigan isn't as good as we thought either. I still think this CMU team, led by Shawn Roundtree and Luke Meyer can compete with anyone in this field. Roundtree needs to cut down on his turnovers though. I see the Chips escaping the Sam Houston opening game, before losing twice and finishing 4th.

3. Cal St. Bakersfield - This team is a pretty veteran club who starts three Seniors. They have a young Freshman in Jarkel Joiner that is having a lot of success early on in the season. Senior Shon Briggs is the leader of this team though, and they are capable of winning this tournament. I see them falling just short in the Semi's, before taking out CMU for 3rd.

2. Idaho - I'm taking the Vandals to make a run in Anchorage and not being shy about it. This is the most promising team Idaho has had in some time. It will be crucial to get the opening win over Santa Clara, so Idaho can have the off day on Thursday. Vandals rotation is only 7-8 guys deep. I think they then have what it takes to knock off Bakersfield in the Semifinals, before losing the Title Game.

1. Charleston - On paper this is the best team in the field, no question. The preseason pick to win the CAA Regular Season and CAA Tournament titles. But on the court, they have struggled thus far. This trip to Alaska will either help them get on track or could derail them further. I am going to stick with my preseason analysis and take Charleston to win the Great Alaska Shootout. Watch out for Joe Chealey, he can flat out score, he had 29 points on 19 shots in their last game against Charlotte.

Enjoy the final Great Alaska Shootout everyone!


Battle 4 Atlantis Predictions

8. Western Kentucky - WKU should be happy that they are finally just down to playing basketball. A crazy off-season, which saw them recruit 5 star center Mitchell Robinson multiple times and only to see him quit the team to work with a trainer. What's left on the roster is still a middle of the pack Conference USA team, that only goes about 7-8 deep. Not good news for a tournament with this format.

7. Northern Iowa - Ben Jacobson is a fantastic coach and I fully expect this years Panthers club to get stronger as the season progresses. They are led by Seniors Bennett Koch and Klint Carlson. Freshman Tywhon Pickford stands at just 6-4, but can really rebound well - he had 14 rebounds in their last game. I expect UNI to battle hard in all three games and leave the Bahamas with a win over WKU.

6. NC State - Good news for NC State? Braxton Beverly won his appeal and the Wolfpack are deeper now. The bad news? They face Arizona right out of the gate. I anticipate a great losers bracket game between NC State and UNI before falling short in the finale against...

5. Tennessee - The great mystery team of this tournament is the Volunteers. They have enough talent to upset Purdue early, but they also have not been tested and that makes them tough to predict. I am going to play it safe and predict a 5th place finish. The Vols have had 8 days off since their win over High Point and come to the Bahamas fresh. They go 9 deep, so they are setup well for this tournament. Will be an interesting team to watch.

4. SMU -  Much like Tennessee, SMU has not been really tested to this point. But they have at least played 4 games, so they have shown consistency with blowing out inferior opponents. Shake Milton and Ben Emelogu can stroke it from distance, defenses will need to be concerned about them. Emelogu is the only senior and the Mustangs have four freshman in the rotation. I think they run into trouble after getting past UNI in the opener.

3. Purdue - Many college basketball fans want to see Villanova vs. Arizona in the final, so I will comply. However, I can certainly see Purdue knocking off Nova in the Semi's. That should be a great game. Purdue has been impressive early, already rocking a blowout win at Marquette on their resume. Dangerous team here.

2. Arizona - Tough to decide between Arizona and Villanova. That game is virtually a toss up. I love the PG play of Brunson for Nova, and that's my tiebreaker here. Arizona will put on a show in the Bahamas. Allonzo Trier is probably the best player in the tournament and will prove that, Deandre Ayton is the best Freshman in the tournament. And Arizona can go 10 deep easily, so they are setup for success. Championship will be a classic if it happens.

1. Villanova - As mentioned above, I am going with Villanova to win this tournament. They should have no trouble against WKU in the opener and be well rested for the big Semifinal matchup against Purdue. I think that gives them the edge in Round 2.  The title game against Arizona should come down to the final possessions or perhaps go overtime. I expect Jalen Brunson to make clutch plays down the stretch and carry Nova to an impressive tournament championship.


Maui Invitational Predictions

8. Chaminade - This is is a sad ending to Chaminade being invited to the main bracket. The Silver Swords have been a staple in this tournament and have unforgettable upsets (Ralph Sampson and Virginia being the most recognized). Hopefully this decision is reversed in the future. Unfortunately, I don't see Chaminade winning a game in this tournament.

7. California - The Cal Bears are in rebuilding mode besides Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee. Wyking Jones is in his first year at Cal and many predicted the Bears to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12. They had an ugly season opening loss to UC Riverside, but have bounced back with wins against Cal Poly and Wofford. Showing improvement from game to game. So I think this Cal team will put up a fight against the VCU/Marquette loser. But unfortunately wind up in 7th and leaving the islands without a Division 1 win.

6. VCU - The Rams are adjusting to another new coach Mike Rhodes and some fresh faces. I think by the time A10 play begins, they will be in the hunt for another League title and League tournament title. However, Virginia exposed a few weaknesses last Friday. And I think VCU will lose a couple of tough games in the opener against Marquette and in the 5th/6th place game. However they won't come home empty handed, as I see them taking care of business against Cal on Tuesday.

5. LSU - This LSU team came in with low expectations this season and they have ignored them. A solid Samford club got waxed in Baton Rouge last week. So I'm curious to see how LSU does here. Particularly against Michigan in the opener. I can see them winning. I'll pick LSU to lose that game in a close one and then beat Chaminade and VCU to finish in 5th.

4. Marquette - Marquette ran into a tough Purdue team last week and really struggled. I had Marquette as a First Four team preseason, so I will stick with that notion and pick them to beat VCU in the first round. Then I think they struggle again in the Semifinals and the 3rd/4th Place game to finish in Fourth.

3. Michigan - This team has really struggled the past two games but managed to pull out wins over Central Michigan and a bad Southern Miss team. This trip to Maui can really help this team come together. If they can get by LSU in the first game, they are in great shape to finish in 3rd Place.

2. Notre Dame - I like this Irish team. They are setup this season to once again overachieve. Bonzi Colson is an All-American and PG Matt Farrell can really make this offense tick. I think they cruise past Chaminade and handle Michigan before losing to...

1. Wichita State - The Shockers have come flying out of the gates in their Maui tune up games.  Landry Shamet looks recovered from his injury and Shaq Morris is a load down low. This is one of my favorite teams to watch, and they should create a fun Maui experience this year. I fully expect them to win this and impressively. Look for a great Championship game against Notre Dame.


Cayman Islands Classic Predictions

8. Richmond - The Spiders come to the Islands really hurting after a 33 point home loss to Jacksonville State. They have had a full week to prepare for this three day event. Unfortunately for the Spiders there are too many flaws to overcome. I see them losing three straight.

7. South Dakota State - The preseason favorites to win The Summit League has much higher hopes than 7th place for this tournament. I see them finishing here after close losses in their first two games. Mike Daum is the real deal, and is a load to defend against, watch out for him in the Caymans.

6. Buffalo - Juniors Nick Perkins, Jeremy Harris, and C.J. Massinburg lead the Bulls and their 2-0 record into the Caymans.  With the weather beginning to get cold in Buffalo, I'm sure they are happy to get some sun for a few days. Buffalo is a contender this season in the MAC. They face a tough draw against Cincinnati, but I see them bouncing back with a Tuesday win over Richmond before finishing in 6th.

5. Louisiana-Lafayette - The Rajun Cajuns are one of the stronger Sun Belt teams and should give Iowa a run for their money in the opener. ULL Starts 2 seniors and 3 juniors and have a spark of the bench with Freshman Guard Cedric Russell. Fun team to watch. They had a rough loss in the season opener at Ole Miss, but are now 2-1. I see them bouncing back nicely after the Iowa game and finishing 5th.

4. Wyoming - It's been a week since the tough road win at3. Oregon State and I'm sure the Wyoming players are ready to get back on the court. I imagine Hayden Dalton is, he had a sensational game in the win at OSU. I think the Cowboys get past S. Dakota. St. in round one, before losing two tough ones, and end up in 4th. But watch out, this team is capable of reaching the final.

3. UAB - So far so good for UAB as they come into this tournament 3-0 and an average winning margin of over 30 PPG. Now the competition stiffens. They draw Richmond, which should be a win, but then run into the favorites Cincinnati in the Semi's. I see them losing there, but turning around and getting a hard fought win over Wyoming to finish in 3rd.

2. Iowa - Fran McCaffery's bunch has had a breeze of a schedule so far. Playing against the #341, #342, and #344 ranked teams out of 351. I had Iowa as a tournament team preseason, and now this will be there first of plenty of chances to prove that. I see them beating Louisiana Lafayette and Wyoming before losing in the final. None of the three will be easy.

1. Cincinnati - Cincy is the class of this tournament coming in. I would be pretty surprised to see them not win this. But with three games in three days anything can happen. The Bearcats have been going with a 10 man rotation, so that should bode well to be fresh throughout the event. Enjoy the tournament!


Paradise Jam Predictions

8. Quinnipiac - First year Head Coach Baker Dunleavy is going to do great things for this Quinnipiac program. Talent is on the way. Unfortunately it's too soon for them to have much success in this competitive tournament and they will have to struggle in three straight losses.

7. Drexel - The Dragons come to Lynchburg, VA a little banged up. To make matters worse, they have to face a formidable Houston squad in Round 1. Fortunately for Drexel, they will get to take out some frustration in the 7th place game against Quinnipiac.

6. Drake - Hard to not love what Niko Medved did as the Head Coach at Furman. Completely turned that program around and almost won the SoCon title last season. Now in his first year at Drake, he looks to repeat the same formula. And they open the Paradise Jam against a struggling Wake Forest team, which could be interesting. I see them falling short, but turning around and beating Quinnipiac before again falling short on Monday.

5. Mercer - The Mercer Bears are a sleeper team to win this tournament. They have a tough draw against the red hot hosts - Liberty. That should be a fun game to watch on opening day. Whoever loses that game is in the drivers seat to take 5th place. Since Liberty is at home, I am going to say Mercer takes 5th.

4. Wake Forest - This team is reeling after home losses to Georgia Southern and Liberty. Coach Danny Manning will bring his team to Lynchburg in search of answers. Luckily they face a rebuilding Drake team to get their confidence going. But after that I think the struggles will resurface and I see them finishing here.

3. Houston - Houston has a quality roster, led by talented Sophomore Armoni Brooks to go along with 6 Juniors and Seniors. This team tasted some success last year but fell short in bigger match-ups. It would do wonders for their confidence to win this tournament. I'm going on a limb and saying they will get stunned in the Semifinals and rebound to finish in 3rd place.

2. Liberty - Here is my boldest pick of the month so far. With Liberty hosting the tournament and coming off a road dismantling of Wake Forest, I see them coming in with a high level of confidence. Enough so to pull of upsets of Mercer and Houston. Let's see how this plays out.

1. Colorado - I've got the Buffaloes winning this tournament despite being the team that had to travel the furthest. I like that they draw Quinnipiac in the First Round which should allow them to keep their guys fresh. In the Semi's I see them handling Wake Forest, before knocking off Liberty in the Final. Overall, any of my top 5 here can win the Paradise Jam.



Islands of the Bahamas Showcase Predictions

8. James Madison - James Madison heads to the Bahamas still licking their wounds after losing by 16 at home against former arch rival Old Dominion. This JMU program is in rebuilding mode, and maybe this trip will help them grow as they look toward an uphill battle in the CAA later this season.  As for predictions, I see them unfortunately losing on three straight days this weekend.

7. UTSA - Head Coach Steve Henson inherited a program last year that finished dead last in the nation in Team Defense. Given that, you'd have to consider last season a major success. The Roadrunners went from 351st in Defense up to 134th.  This year they are off to a quick 2-0 start including a road win at Texas State. I see this team hanging tough throughout the tournament and leaving the Island with a 7th place win over JMU.

6. Weber State - This Wildcat team is hungry after just falling short in overtime last year while knocking on the door of the NCAA Tournament. They enter the Bahamas with a 2-0 record and ready to take on a tough test in Iona. Should be a heck of an opening round battle, but I see Weber State falling just short. Saturday, I think they handle JMU before again losing a tough game on Sunday against... 

5. Bradley - This Braves team is finally maturing after two rebuilding seasons. We will learn a lot about how far along they are by the time this weekend is over. They open up with a rough draw vs. Vermont in what I think will be a highly competitive game. I see them responding well after a tough loss to Vermont and leaving The Bahamas with a Two game winning streak in hand.

4. Coastal Carolina - Coastal comes into this weekend after losing a tough road game at Lamar. A game that was tight throughout and they just let it slip away at the end. I do believe the Chanticleers have enough fire power to take down UTSA on Friday. However, the road gets much tougher after that and I have them finishing here.

3. Iona - Coach Tim Cluess has been known to win preseason holiday tournaments in the past, and it would not surprise me if he won this one. Iona comes in pretty frustrated after close loses at Albany and at Syracuse. I believe here they beat Weber State in a close opening game, lose a heartbreaking Semifinal, and finish out Sunday with a win over CCU.

2. Northern Kentucky - It's hard not to like this Northern Kentucky team. They return the majority of their cast from last year's NCAA Tournament team including their leader Drew McDonald. NKU is off to a fast 2-0 start with a couple of blowouts. This is a great opportunity to get a couple of quality (75-150 RPI) wins. I see them winning a great battle in the Semifinals over Iona.

1.  Vermont - This is Vermont's tournament to lose. They have a quality roster led by Anthony Lamb. Aside from Lamb they have a stud off the bench in Drew Urquhart and key contributors Payton Henson, Trae Bell-Haynes, and Ernie Duncan. Look for the Catamounts to sweat in the opener against Bradley, breeze past Coastal, and win a real good Title game over NKU.


Gildan Charleston Classic Predictions

8. Ohio - The Bobcats are certainly no slouch. This is a Mid-Tier tournament across the board and someone has to finish in 8th. I see Ohio losing three consecutive close games in Charleston. I still expect Ohio to be a top half of the MAC team this season.

7. Indiana State - Coming off their very impressive 21-point win at Indiana, it was difficult to pick ISU 7th in Charleston. That result was directly due to red hot 3-point shooting (16-25 66% from deep). My prediction is they wont be able to get that hot in the early game (11:30am EST) vs. Auburn and again playing in the afternoon on Friday. If the Sycamores stay hot, watch out - they could win this thing.

6. Dayton - Anthony Grant's debut was a thriller as Dayton beat Ball State by one point at the buzzer. Once again they should be in quite a battle as the Flyers open up against Hofstra in Round 1. I see Hofstra squeaking that out and then Dayton taking care of in-state foe Ohio, before eventually landing in 6th after losing to....

5. Old Dominion - I really like this Old Dominion team thus far. They go 8-10 deep which is great for  three day tournament, and play a verteran lineup led by BJ Stith. I see the Monarchs losing a heart breaker in Round 1, but then bouncing back to win two straight over Indiana State and Dayton to leave Charleston feeling good.

4. Hofstra - The Pride got a nice draw here by drawing Dayton in the opener. Dayton is still trying to find themselves, whereas Hofstra has a deep bench and really strong leadership behind Senior's Rokas Gustys and Joel Angus. I see Hofstra getting a nice win over Dayton before running into too much talent against Clemson and Auburn.

3. Auburn - Despite having the most talented roster in the field, I just couldn't pick Auburn to win this tournament given the turmoil. Wiley and Purifoy remain suspended and Bruce Pearl is busy covering his tracks. It's a tough time to focus on getting three straight wins, but could also serve as the perfect getaway, we shall see.

2. Temple - The Owls have still not played a game this year! So I have to stick with where I had them preseason and that would be the 2nd best team in the field. Temple could easily land in any place 1-8 based on the parity of this tournament.

1. Clemson - Dear Clemson, you get to play this tournament in your home state against a slate of teams that you should beat. Please do not ruin this golden opportunity. I'm reluctantly choosing Clemson to beat Ohio, Hofstra, Temple to take the tournament. That would be a nice draw for the Tigers. Enjoy the games!