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Archive for March 20th, 2008

Bracket Challenge, Day 1 leaderboard

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 20, 2008

We’re posting the standings on the Bracket Challenge page — I’m trying to update it after each session — but I thought I’d throw out some big props to Tony, whose bracket, “Taylor Rochestie’s Scholarship” was the only one to have 15 of 16 games picked correctly.

Wondering how we’re doing? Jo~Jo and I are sitting in a tie for next to last with just 11 points, although he’s in a little better shape than I am since two of my Sweet Sixteeners and one Elite Eighter already are gone.

Longball’s bringing up the rear with 10 points, but he’s lost just one second-round winner.


Posted in Bracket Challenge, NCAA Tournament | 1 Comment »

One down, five to go

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 20, 2008

So, how about those halftime adjustments?

With WSU and Winthrop tied at the half, I identified five things that were going wrong for the Cougs that allowed the Eagles to hang close. Some of it was Winthrop; most of it was our own doing. TB and the boys must have had the blog on the laptop at halftime, because here’s what happened:

  1. Too many turnovers — 1st half: 5; 2nd half: 3.
  2. Too many offensive rebounds — 1st half 5; 2nd half 1.
  3. Too much Taj McCullough — 1st half 15 points; 2nd half 2 points.
  4. Too many 3s given up — 1st half 4-for-8; 2nd half 2-for-11.
  5. Too little Low — 1st half zero points; 2nd half 11 points.

I honestly don’t have enough superlatives to describe that second half of basketball. What a veteran, gutty performance. It was so calm, so collected, that you’d hardly know they were being threatened by a lesser team. They knew, if they shored up a few things and kept doing what they were doing, that they were going to be able to stop Winthrop and get some things going offensively.

To me, this game illustrates perfectly the difference between last year’s team and this year’s team. With the offense sputtering tonight, Kyle Weaver was able to carry us until the rest of the team got going. Not only that, but our offense was able to keep us in it, even as the other team played out of its collective mind. And of course, Aron Baynes had just the kind of game we all thought he could — some nice post moves against smaller guys and dunks off guard penetration.

That was as dominant a stretch of basketball as you’ll see in this tournament, No. 1 seed or otherwise. To hold any tournament team that’s not a No. 16 seed to single digit points for the vast majority of a half is just spectacular. It even allowed us to get a little rest for the regulars, which is no small thing this time of year.

And don’t take it for granted that that’s what high seeds do — just look at all the trouble Duke had with Belmont and Xavier had with Georgia. (And Wisconsin is having with Cal State-Fullerton. Go Josh Akognon!) This was just what the doctor ordered. If a deep run into this tournament isn’t in the cards, it won’t be because this team isn’t ready.

I’ll probably have some additional thoughts tomorrow once all the stats roll in, but you should be doing what I’m doing right now: Basking in the glow of a tremendous victory.

One down, five to go.

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GAME THREAD: No. 3 WSU vs. No. 14 Winthrop

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 20, 2008

Cougars (24-8) vs. Eagles (22-11)

Pepsi Center (Denver, Colo.), 4:20 p.m. PDT

A lot of national pundits are dreading this game, saying it probably will be the most boring game of the opening round. If you’re a fan of another team and think teams that value every possession on both offense and defense are boring, then I guess you’re probably going to not like this game very much. But since one man’s boring is a Coug fan’s beautiful, this game will positively be eye candy to us, especially since it’s unlikely that any other team is going to beat us at what we do best.

Now, a lot of people have said this game features two teams that mirror each other. That’s probably true in terms of style — Winthrop averages 63.7 possessions (291st nationally) and WSU 59.1 (336th) thanks to patient offense and hard-nosed defense — but that’s where the comparisons ought to end.

While most people associate the Cougs with defense, and rightly so, they often do so at the expense of recognizing the offense, which is one of the best in the country (21st in offensive efficiency). There is no such confusion with Winthrop. The Eagles are one of the most defense-depended teams in the tournament, ranking 14th nationally in defensive efficiency (89.8), but just 228th in offensive efficiency (97.1). Honestly, this is a team the Cougs should have very little difficulty shutting down.

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GAMES THREAD: NCAA Tournament – Day 1

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 20, 2008

It’s finally here. The greatest weekend in all of sports. I could go on and on and on and on about why I love this game and tournament so much, but then I’d be preaching to the choir, wouldn’t I?

This is your thread for all that you see in the first batch of games. Here’s the slate, along with the picks from my bracket — lots of chalk in this session. All times PDT.

  • (3) Xavier vs. (14) Georgia, 9:20 a.m. — Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the morning. I think Xavier is the most overrated team in the tournament (blown out by ASU, lost twice to St. Joe’s), and Georgia is one of the hottest. Another No. 14 might have snuck up on the Musketeers, but I doubt the Bulldogs have enough left in the tank. Pick: Xavier.
  • (1) Kansas vs. (16) Portland State, 9:25 a.m. — The Vikings are one of the many Tournament teams the Cougs played this year. While others will be competitive, this one gets run over. Pick: Kansas.
  • (5) Michigan State vs. (12) Temple, 9:30 a.m. — This is a dangerous game for the Spartans, if only because of their own inconsistencies. I’m not convinced teams in the Big Ten are as good as advertised, but I’m even less convinced about the A-10. Pick: Michigan State.
  • (6) Marquette vs. (11) Kentucky, 11:30 a.m. — Wildcats did a tremendous job to get this far, but the injuries haven’t magically disappeared. Eagles’ guards just too much in this one, although I wouldn’t be shocked if the Wildcats pulled what I would consider a mild upset. Pick: Marquette.
  • (6) Purdue vs. (11) Baylor, 11:40 a.m. — The feel-good story of the year continues with this opening round upset. Pick: Baylor.
  • (8) UNLV vs. (9) Kent State, 11:45 a.m. — If Kansas wasn’t waiting in the second round, I’d like the Golden Flashes to go to at least the Sweet Sixteen. Their defense will remind you of the Cougs. Pick: Kent State.
  • (4) Pittsburgh vs. (13) Oral Roberts, 11:50 a.m. — Pitt is 17-1 with Lavance Fields in the lineup. Digest that for a second. Pick: Pitt.
  • (3) Stanford vs. (14) Cornell, 1:40 p.m. — No way the undersized Ivy Leaguers can even think about hanging around in this one. Pick: Stanford.

Editor’s note: I decided to add the afternoon session to the morning thread to make one big huge Day 1 thread.

  • (2) Duke vs. (15) Belmont, 4:10 p.m. — This game will be a blowout. Mark it down: Duke will not lose to any team that doesn’t have it dominated with height. Pick: Duke.
  • (6) USC vs. (11) Kansas State, 4:10 p.m. — Everyone is talking about how this will be a game between Mayo and Beasley. They ought to be talking about how this is a game between the other eight guys on the floor. Advantage, Trojans. Pick: USC.
  • (4) WSU vs. (13) Winthrop, 4:20 p.m. — As if you need more analysis on this game. Pick: WSU.
  • (8) BYU vs. (9) Texas A&M, 4:25 p.m. — My, how the Aggies fell this year. They’ve still got more talent than BYU, who I freely admit I know virtually nothing about. Pick: Texas A&M.
  • (3) Wisconsin vs. (14) Cal State-Fullerton, 6:30 p.m. — I want to root for Josh Akognon, I really do. But I don’t see any way Wisconsin loses this game, not with the size advantage they possess. I think the Badgers are a bit overrated, but this isn’t where they lose. Pick: Wisconsin.
  • (7) West Virginia vs. (10) Arizona, 6:30 p.m. — Great coaching job by Bob Huggins, but Arizona’s talent shows up at just the right time. Pick: Arizona.
  • (5) Notre Dame vs. (12) George Mason, 6:40 p.m. — Here’s my No. 12 pick. Notre Dame is overrated after coming from an overrated Big East, plus a little tight after last year’s early exit. Larranaga knows how to coach in the Tournament after the run of two years ago. Pick: George Mason.
  • (1) UCLA vs. (16) Mississippi Valley State, 6:40 p.m. — The Cougs beat MVSU 71-26. Uh oh. Pick: UCLA.

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