February 28, 2012

02/28/2012 - 8:12am

Around this time of year, you usually have three types of teams in accordance to the NCAA tournament. The first group is full of the mortal locks, which usually includes most teams in the top 25 right about now and those who did well in both non-conference and conference play. The second group is filled with teams with losing records or barely winning records with RPI's that do not warrant tourney consideration. The third group is full of the teams that are described as being "on the bubble" of a tournament bid. That means that some could rise, some could pop, but not all will make it.

Connecticut is definitely a team on the bubble would be best off to start winning games. With a 17-11 record (7-9 in Big East play), UConn has two very winnable match-ups with Providence and Pittsburgh coming up. Last years NCAA championship Huskies team went 9-9 in Big East play, but eventually won the conference tournament to earn a #3 seed. This years version has lost a few more games and while a harsh schedule likely gives them the benefit of the doubt, they still would be much better safe than sorry by adding some wins to their total.

UConn is not alone on the bubble, as North Carolina State, Mississippi State and Northwestern all are fighting for spots in the NCAA tournament. Northwestern in particular is a school who has never played in a NCAA tournament and will need to bolster there resume. This may be the schools best chance yet, but they are 17-11 (7-9 Big East) and have a tough Ohio State team left to play. Northwestern has a marquee win over Michigan State, but it will be an uphill climb for a team that could sport a losing conference record.

Some other teams on the cusp include Virginia Commonwealth, coached by Shaka Smart. VCU was a controversial NCAA team last season, but ended up making a Cinderella run to the last years Final 4. Still, they may have to beat conference foe Drexel for fear of possibly being on the outside looking in this season.

A more surprising bubble team is typical Atlantic-10 powerhouse, Xavier. The Musketeers won their first 8 games of the year and were seen by many as a possible top 10 team in the nation. However, following a brawl in a win over in-state rival, Cincinnatti, the team has gone 10-10. Currently 18-10 (9-5 in A-10 play), they have no guarantee of grabbing a spot in the big tournament. Definitely has been a disappointing season for the Musketeers and they will have to step up their play these last few weeks to try and cement a NCAA tournament spot.

02/28/2012 - 7:43am

Kentucky has hung on to the #1 ranking in the nation, with a player who many deem to be the likely #1 pick in the 2012 Draft. In an 83-74 Kentucky victory over Vanderbilt, Anthony Davis had a performance that could only be described as dominant. Scoring a career high 28 points (10-11 FG, 8-9 FT) to go with 10 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, it seemed Vanderbilt could do nothing to slow the freshman big man down. Displaying his usual skill for scoring around the basket, Davis also showed excellent form and touch on some jumpers that hit all net.

Anthony Davis is seen as a legitimate candidate and possible front runner for most of the major college basketball awards. The 6'10 freshman is averaging 14.3 ppg (65.8% FG, 71.7% FT), 9.8 rpg and a nation leading 4.8 bpg. Definitely seen as the favorite for Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Davis is neck and neck with Thomas Robinson for the 3 major NCAA Player of the Year awards.

Almost pre-ordained by many to be the odds on favorite for #1 pick in the 2012 Draft, Davis seems to keep building his case. His energy level as a big man is impressive and he seems to be all over the court as a defender. Vanderbilt senior big man Festus Ezeli was still able to score a few post buckets on the smaller Davis, but the freshman obviously got the best of the match-up. Davis is indeed wiry and will need to build strength, but he looks to be in a similar mold to a Chris Bosh. Bosh might have been further along as an offensive player, but Davis' athleticism and defensive acumen may give him even more upside as a prospect.

02/28/2012 - 7:16am

Thomas RobinsonThomas Robinson

With a previous victory over Kansas and a 19 point lead with just over 16 minutes remaining, Missouri had to feel they had a good chance of breaking the dominant force of the Big 12. Instead, Kansas was fuelled by the Allen Fieldhouse crowd to go on a monumental comeback and take the game 87-86 in overtime. Thomas Robinson scored 28 and had 12 rebounds to remain at the forefront of any National Player of the Year discussions with Kentucky's Anthony Davis.

Robinson's shining moment was a monstrous three point play that tied the game 75-75, the score at the end of regulation. Tyshawn Taylor also came up huge for the Jayhawks as 9 of his 24 points came in OT, including sinking a pair of FT's that gave Kansas the W. Missouri fought valiantly, as Marcus Denmon tied Robinson with a game high 28 points. Ricardo Ratliffe finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds with junior guard Michael Dixon scoring 17 points in his usual spark off of the bench.

With their win over Oklahoma State last night, Kansas has clinched their 8th consecutive Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks have rode Robinson and Taylor to a 25-5 record, while going 15-2 in conference. The emergence of Jeff Withey has been huge for Kansas, along with having a number of solid role playing guards. They are the #3 ranked team in the AP poll and look to have an inside shot at a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Missouri has also been fantastic, currently ranked #7 in the nation with a 25-4 record, all of their losses coming against Big 12 opponents. Sporting what may be the most dangerous line-up of guards in the nation, Missouri speed and shooting will make them a tough out in March.