How do you sort out Selection Sunday Shenanigans?  It’s tough to piece together a 68-school tournament bracket…but there are always things to nitpick each and every year.  And 2015 is no different…

Chasing Kentucky– the Wildcats to the surprise of absolutely no one receive the #1 overall seed and a three bus rides:  they spend the first weekend in Louisville (78 miles away from Lexington), the second weekend in Cleveland (a 5-hour drive from Rupp Arena) and the third weekend in Indianapolis (a 3-hour drive from campus).  Big Blue Nation can save on hotel rooms…giving the rational fan base more money to throw at “I Still Hate Laettner” t-shirts.

Planting Seeds– Villanova snagged the #1 seed in the East away from Virginia thanks to their roll through the Big East Tournament.  Wisconsin snagged the #1 seed in the West by winning the Big Ten in overtime.  Therefore the fourth #1 seed goes to…Duke?  The Blue Devils finished behind Virginia in the ACC and lost in the conference tournament semifinals.  I would have placed Arizona in the fourth #1 spot.

Who Got Hosed– forget about a school getting a #4 instead of a #3 (Maryland)…which teams got robbed?  Davidson despite entering the Atlantic 10 Tournament ranked 24th (which would generate a 6 seed) gets a #10.  Miami (Fla) misses the field despite a 10-8 ACC record, 7 road wins and a victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor.  Boise State plays Dayton in a First Four game–on Dayton’s home floor.  The First Four is basically the extra helpings of bread I don’t even acknowledge when I eat out at the March Madness Cafe.

 

Maryland (27-6, 13-5 Big Ten, lost in the conference tourney semis)– the Terps get a #4 seed in the Midwest and a first weekend destination of Columbus, Ohio after just about everybody had the team ticketed for a #3 seed in the East playing in Pittsburgh.  I think Notre Dame winning the ACC Tournament moved the Fighting Irish into that spot–forcing the Terps down one slot.  Unfortunately that slot is in the same region as favorite Kentucky (a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup).  Columbus is also an easier commute for #13 seed Valparaiso and #5 seed West Virginia.  Stop complaining Terp fans!  Your school is in the Big Dance for the first time since Gary Williams was mispronouncing Greivis Vasquez (alternating between Greevous and Grayvous).

Player to Watch:  Melo Trimble is the engine that makes this train run.  The freshman transformed a program that was hemorrhaging players last spring into a tournament team…averaging 16 points and 3 assists.  Would he slow down once Big Ten play started?  Hardly.  Will he slow down now that the NCAA Tournament is underway?  Don’t bet on it…

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate: while Dez Wells and Jake Layman are the other two main offensive cogs, the Terps need help from one of the “other guys” on this roster if they’re to make a deep run.  Evan Smotrycz began the year injured and spent most of the season on the fringe–before averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds during two Big Ten Tournament games.  Can the senior build on that and turn around what’s been a difficult final season?

Road to the Penthouse: the Terps use their #4 seed as motivation.  Melo Trimble, Dez Wells and Jake Layman fire on all cylinders as they bounce Valparaiso and West Virginia–before becoming Kentucky’s #3 victim on their march to immortality.

Road to the Outhouse: they never get over getting the shaft–and come out sluggish Friday afternoon against Valparaiso.  The big men come up small.  Their tournament inexperience comes back to haunt them as the Crusaders notch an upset for the ages.

 

Georgetown (21-10, 12-6 Big East, lost in the conference tourney semis)– the Hoyas go west to Portland, Oregon for the first weekend as the #4 seed in the South bracket.  Coach John Thompson III’s team was consistently uneven against elite competition–looking great in 20+ plus wins against Villanova and St. John’s but finishing 4-6 against the top six teams in the Big East.  Xavier and Providence were bad matchups that caused the offense to self-destruct…and away from home Georgetown was 5-4.  Now they have to head all of the way across the country?  Does somebody have it in for the Hoyas?

Player to Watch:  D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.  The junior guard leads the team in scoring and assists while also ranking third on the team in rebounding.  On a team without a true point guard, Smith-Rivera provides a clear head offensively.  On a team with multiple freshman playing major minutes, the upperclassmen provides a steady hand.  If the Hoyas make a run, he’ll be the reason why.

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate:  freshman Isaac Copeland appeared to have turned the corner in January–averaging 11 points over a 10-game stretch where he became the secondary offensive option  (we won’t even discuss how center Joshua Smith’s inability to be an offensive factor thanks to continual foul trouble).  Then he suffered not a “freshman 15″ but a “freshman 16″–managing 16 points over the next four games as Copeland suffered a 4-21 shooting slump.  Could a 15-point effort in the Big East Semifinals against Xavier be the start of a monster March?

Road to the Penthouse:  the Hoyas find their offensive identity and scrape past Eastern Washington before benefitting by Stephen F. Austin’s upset of Utah.  The Lumberjacks are no match for the Coach John Thompson III’s team–who reach the second weekend of the big dance for the first time 2007.  Even a loss to top-seeded Duke doesn’t dim the shine of a fantastic tournament run.

Road to the Outhouse:  Eastern Washington travels well to nearby Portland, Oregon.  The Hoyas offense stagnates and Joshua Smith gets into early foul trouble.  Eagles sophomore guard Tyler Harvey (23ppg) goes off and the Hoyas D can’t contain him.  Another agonizing defeat to a double-digit seed for coach John Thompson III.

 

Virginia (29-3, 16-2 ACC, lost in the conference tourney semis)– the Cavaliers get a #2 seed in the East after being ranked in the top five for most of the season.  You could make the case for UVa being in the same bracket as the softest of the #1’s (Villanova has looked suspect in losses and capitalized on a not-as-good-as-you-think Big East).  While defense was the difference this winter–the Cavaliers led the nation in scoring defense (50.8 points allowed per game)–Tony Bennett’s offense is highly effective–ranking 53rd in shooting.  Last year coach Tony Bennett guided the Cavaliers to their first ACC Regular Season Title since 1983 and their first ACC Tournament championship since 1976.  Can he lead the UVa to their first Final Four since 1984?

Player to Watch:  Malcolm Brogdon tallied 25 points (including 12 straight at one point) in the ACC loss to North Carolina–and remains the #1 offensive option on a team that doesn’t score a lot (225th in Division I).  They need the 6-foot-5 matchup nightmare to produce from the perimeter  with Justin Anderson still working his way back from injury.

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate: can you be a breakout candidate if you’re the team’s best player?  Justin Anderson missed eight games–the first seven with a broken pinkie and the eighth because of an appendectomy.  In two ACC Tournament games the junior shot 0-for-6 in 26 minutes played…if he can regain his previous form (13ppg, 47% three-point shooting) the Cavaliers will suddenly have that necessary extra gear for the Big Dance.

Road to the Penthouse:  Anderson is fully healed and gives the stagnating offense exactly what it was missing.  The Cavaliers cruise into the Final Four after disposing of an overseeded Villanova in the Elite Eight.  Once there, they face a spent Wisconsin team that has nothing left in the tank after upsetting Kentucky. BANNER!

Road to the Outhouse:  The offense stays in neutral and Justin Anderson fails to regain his pre-injury form.  Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans bounce the Cavaliers for the second straight year–only this time in the round of 32.  A heartbreaking loss made even worse by Duke advancing to the Sweet 16 in the same building hours before…and the Blue Devil faithful stay to cheer on the Cavaliers’ collapse.

 

VCU (26-9, 12-6 Atlantic 10, won conference tournament)– the Rams locked up an automatic bid by winning four games over four days in Brooklyn.  Coach Shaka Smart’s team gets a #7 seed in the West and plays Ohio State in Portland Thursday.  Who’s ready for another tournament run?

Player to Watch:  Treveon Graham leads the Rams in scoring and rebounding–while ranking second on the team in three-point shooting.  With Briante Weber in streetclothes it’s imperative that VCU’s alpha dog shoulders the burden.

Darkhorse Breakout Candidate: JeQuan Lewis was thrust into the starting lineup  when Weber went down with a season-ending knee injury.  During the A-10 Tournament the sophomore averaged 11 points and 3 assists–while also turning the ball over 3 times a game.  The Rams need Lewis to take better care of the ball in the Big Dance.

Road to the Penthouse:  the Rams bounce Ohio State in the first round and coach Shaka Smart’s havoc defense shocks Arizona to get to the sweet sixteen. Shaka Smart signs a 10-year contract with such a ridiculous buyout there’s no way he’d ever leave for greener pastures.

Road to the Outhouse:  The A-10 run was merely a mirage as Ohio State exposes the Rams deficiencies that were evident in their 5-6 finish.  The Buckeyes D’Aangelo Russell has a field day and VCU heads home...only to lose Shaka Smart to the Alabama vacancy.  

 

Portions previously appeared on WTOP.COM.

Selection Sunday…Zero Hour is nigh.  Little time to look around with only a handful of games on tap.  Sadly, the ACC Championship is not one of them.  Since the early 80’s this was a Sunday afternoon staple–and now it’s a Saturday night special.  I always thought the Big East made a major mistake in the 90’s when they moved their title tilt from one of a few games being played Sunday afternoon to one of the many games played in an overcrowded Saturday.  I mean, when wrapping up the conference tournament season wouldn’t you rather see the ACC than the AAC?  Although the American Athletic Conference of America has the defending champ in their midst. 

The Insiders:

Virginia– ESPN has the Cavaliers as a #2 seed in the East…playing Belmont in Charlotte.  CBS sends UVa to Charlotte as the South’s #1 seed–facing North Florida or Manhattan.  A lot could hinge on if Wisconsin wins the Big Ten Championship. 

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern.  No real change over the last week…

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #5 seed in the West playing Wofford in Jacksonville, while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Mississippi or Temple in Pittsburgh.  Meaning they’d face Maryland in the round of 32.  Not the same as Anaheim, but we’ll take it.

VCU– the Rams are a #8 seed in both models: CBS sends Shaka Smart’s team to Pittsburgh where they’ll play Ohio State…while ESPN has VCU facing St. John’s in Charlotte.  Could the Rams get a bump with a win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Finals?

 

On Tap Today–

1PM–Atlantic 10 Finals–VCU plays Dayton– the Rams lost to the Flyers 59-55 at home February 28th in a game where they shot 34% and only forced 8 turnovers.  The 1-2 combination of Treveon Graham (16pts and 9reb) and Melvin Johnson (16ppg, 11-24 from 3pt range) has powered the reconfigured (minus Briante Weber) Rams during the A-10 Tournament.  Can they contain Jordan Sibert?  The Flyers leading scorer dropped 19 points on VCU in February.  Rout Watch:  if the game gets out of hand, look for a walk-on named Joey Gruden–#44 in your program.  The sophomore is the son of Redskins coach Jay Gruden… and does a great Jon Gruden imitation.

One day until Selection Sunday…with a few bubbles bursting across the beltway and a few eggs cracking as well for the top of the bracket as Virginia and Duke lost ACC Semifinal games.   

The Insiders:

Virginia–#1 seed in the West (ESPN) or South (CBS), headed to Charlotte in both models while facing Montana (ESPN) or UAB (CBS).  Nothing like conjuring up ghosts of Cavaliers’ tournaments past (they lost to Alabama-Birmingham in the 1982 Sweet 16).

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern (ESPN) or Albany (CBS).  Can the Terps steal a #2 seed if they take the Big Ten?

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #5 seed in the West playing BYU or Tulsa in Jacksonville, while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Texas in Pittsburgh.  Meaning they’d face Maryland in the round of 32.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Charlotte as the #8 seed in the South Bracket, facing Texas.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the Midwest where they will meet Michigan State.  Unless the Rams regain their mojo in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

 

Over and Out–

George Washington (21-12, 10-8 Atlantic 10) came up short in a 71-58 loss to Rhode Island.  The mystery is, what turned a 16-4 contender into this team.  Will they be invited by the NIT, CBI or CIT?

Richmond (19-13, 12-6 Atlantic 10) lost 70-67 to VCU…missing a chance to get that 20th win.  Here’s a case where finishing 4th instead of 5th in the A-10 may have hurt a team…as the Spiders didn’t have a first round game to pad their resume with another win.

 

On Tap Today–

1:30PM–Atlantic 10 Semifinals–VCU plays Davidson–both teams are fortunate to be here as the Rams needed a 15-7 finishing kick to bounce Richmond and Davidson needed a last-second shot to nip LaSalle.  VCU lost the regular season matchup by 27…and one would think that this game will be much closer.

3:25PM–Big Ten Quarterfinals–Maryland meets Michigan State– the Terps swept the regular season series…the win in East Lansing notable because that was the school’s first Big Ten victory.  That game was also notable because the halftime score was 17-14. 

Two days until Selection Sunday…with bubbles bursting across the nation as Texas can’t hold on to a double-digit lead and Miami can’t completing a miracle comeback against Notre Dame.  At 7pm this evening there will be an odd feel, as Maryland and Virginia will be playing conference tournament games at the same time for the first time ever.

The Insiders:

Virginia–#1 seed in the East, headed to Charlotte for the first weekend with a round of 64 matchup against the winner of Manhattan and Robert Morris (ESPN) or Montana (CBS).  Go about your business.

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern (CBS).  An early exit in the Big Ten Tourney might slide a Terps team known for close wins down a slot.

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #4 seed in the Midwest, Yale in Jacksonville while ESPN has Gtown a #5 seed in the East facing Valparaiso in Seattle.  Credit the committee with pitting Princeton man JT3 against an Ivy.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Pittsburgh as the #9 seed in the East Bracket, facing Xavier.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the Midwest where they will meet St. John’s.  After their escape against Fordham–they’re just happy to be playing.

 

On the Outside Looking In—

George Washington (21-11, 10-8 Atlantic 10) got a necessary win over Duquesne in the A-10 Quarterfinals–that is step one.  Step two against Rhode Island will be much tougher.

 

Over and Out–

Old Dominion (24-7, 13-5 Conference USA) — when you need to reach the finals just to be in the conversation, losing in your conference tournament quarterfinal is not ideal.  The Monarchs’ 59-52 loss to Middle Tennessee was crushing because they held the Blue Raiders to 38% from the field…but couldn’t muster the necessary the offense to reachg the semfinal round.  Jeff Jones’ team looks forward to the alphabet soup that is the NIT…CBI and CIT.

Howard (16-16, 10-6 MEAC)– the 65-60 loss to Delaware State was a tough way to end what was a turnaround year for a long-suffering program…as the Hornets close the game on a 14-6 run.  James Daniel closes out his sophomore season by scoring 25 points…while the other two members of the James Gang (Carlton and Miller) shoot a combined 3-of-14.  Hopefully there’s more talent headed to the Burr Gymnasium for coach Kevin Nickelberry…and this is merely a steppingstone.

Richmond (19-13, 12-6 Atlantic 10) was oh so close to reaching the A-10 Semifinals…but couldn’t withstand a 15-7 run by the Rams.  The toughest moment?  When Kendall Anthony slipped on the floor on a fast break with the Spiders trailing by one.    One tough bus-ride home…

 

On Tap Tonight–

6:30PM–Big Ten Quarterfinals–Maryland meets Indiana.  The two games were the classic “best of times, worst of times” vibe of the season.  The Terps lost 89-70 in Bloomington as the Hoosiers shot 60% from the field…before beating IU 68-66 in College Park when Yogi Ferrell’s three-pointer and then putback fell off the mark.  Can the Terrapins tame Ferrell (23.5 ppg in the two games) outside and Troy Wiliams (16.5ppg and 8.5rpg) inside when they meet on a neutral court?

7PM–ACC Semifinals–Virginia plays North Carolina.  Old school UVa fans will say they liked beating Maryland and enjoyed keeping Virginia Tech in their place–but their orange and blue souls fire up when they meet their neighbor to the south.  Both schools boast a bit of popped collar frenzy, as Kippy and Buffy will gossip about Meredith and Peyton (and vice versa).  The Cavaliers beat the Tar Heels by 11 in Chapel Hill–but they’re still working Justin Anderson back into the lineup after the junior missed eight games with injuries.  Despite the “go-kart governor on the UVa offense”, floor is high for Tony Bennett’s team:  UNC is capable of scoring 46 points at home in a loss to NC State.

930PM–Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals–George Washington faces Rhode Island– the Colonials lost to the Rams 59-55 in the lone regular season meeting between two schools.  Can GW build off last night’s victory over Duquesne?  And will the game actually begin at 9:30?

930PM–Big East Semifinals–Georgetown plays Xavier.  To put it mildly, the Musketeers are a matchup nightmare for the Hoyas–they lost by 17 in Cincinnati and by 13 in DC.  Taking care of the ball and poor 3-point shooting proved to be their undoing in both games:  they shot 2-13 and 6-22 from outside the arc while turning the ball over 16 and 17 times.  After avoiding a bullet from last-place Creighton, will the Hoyas be “pressure-free” as they face their recent nemesis?

 

 

Three days until Selection Sunday…as Quarterfinal Quadrupleheaders arrive in half of the multi-bid leagues.  What’s nice outside of the wall-to-wall basketball is that most of the fringe bubble teams need wins to keep at-large hopes alive…with games taking the form of a final exam.  And if you lose today?  It’s like realizing you missed an entire section in the exam with 15 minutes left and there’s no remaining room in the blue book.  Hand your exams in now, please…

 

In with the In Crowd:

Virginia–#1 seed in the East, headed to Charlotte for the first weekend with a round of 64 matchup against the winner of Manhattan and Robert Morris (ESPN) or Montana (CBS).  Barring getting blown out in the ACC Quarterfinals, they’re probably not sliding out of 1-seed land with a loss.

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern (CBS).  They play the winner of Indiana-Northwestern Friday in the Big Ten Quartefinals;  the Terps beat the Wildcats by 1 and the Hoosiers by 2 in College Park this year while losing on the road at IU by 19.

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #4 seed in the South, playing Stephen F. Austin in Seattle while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Oklahoma State in Pittsburgh.  No word on with all of Georgetown’s troubles against double-digit seeds recently if coach John Thompson III has asked to be seeded 8th or 9th.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Pittsburgh as the #8 seed in the West Bracket, facing North Carolina State.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the East where they will meet Iowa.  I’m surprised that with the Rams finish (5-6) this team isn’t ticketed to Dayton.

 

On the Outside Looking In—

George Washington (20-11, 10-8 Atlantic 10) was once a bubble team in most models, but that was the 16-4 Colonials–not the GW that lost 7 of 11 entering the A-10 Tourney.  Four wins in four days?  Stranger things have happened. 

Richmond (19-12, 12-6 Atlantic 10) enters the A-10 Tourney ahead of VCU in the standings but behind the Rams in the at-large pool.  The Spiders get a chance to go 3-0 against their crosstown nemesis Friday–if VCU wins its second round game.

Old Dominion (24-6, 13-5 Conference USA) just a few years removed from the CAA plays in the C-USA Tournament in Birmingham.  A loss in the finals to league champ Louisiana Tech might be enough to sneak the Monarchs into the field…any less will probably send Jeff Jones’ team to the NIT.

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC)– they are playing this tournament, right?  One more day of preparing and waiting to face Delaware State– this gives all of the other players on the team the chance to legally change their names to James (Daniel, Carlton and Miller currently average 10+ points a game) so they can further confuse DSU in tonight’s quarterfinal. 

 

Over and Out–

American (17-16, 8-10 Patriot League) saw its return trip the NCAA Tournament end one step short as the Eagles lose to Lafayette 65-63.  The Leopards’ Nick Lindner completed his tour de force through the postseason tournament (24ppg, 5apg, 64%FG, 60%3PT) by scoring 25 points against AU.  Coach Mike Brennan’s team hung tough despite allowing 65% shooting while getting outrebounded by 7…helping cause 18 Lafayette turnovers.  Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

George Mason (9-22, 4-14 Atlantic 10) is the first team headed home from Brooklyn…as the Patriots fall 71-65 to Fordham.  Shevon Thompson tallied more turnovers (6) than points (4) and Mason was unable to contain Rams freshman Christian Sengfelder (27 points on 10-of-13 shooting).  The two-possession defeat was GMU’s first loss by single digits since February 7th.

Virginia Tech (11-22, 2-16 ACC)– it had to end sometime…and the Hokies couldn’t duplicate their win over Wake, instead falling to Miami 59-49.  Far from the 21-point blowout last Saturday, Coach Buzz Williams’ team actually took a 38-37 lead with 8:47 left and was within one point with 5:30 remaining.  Unfortunately the Hokies missed their next two shots (both layups) and the Hurricanes pulled away with a 15-6 finishing kick.  Back to spring football and smoked turkey legs in Blacksburg.

 

On Tap Today–

NOON–ACC Quarterfinals–Virginia plays Florida State.  The Seminoles beat Clemson in the noon game Wednesday (it feels like it’s grandfathered into the ACC Tournament that the Tigers or Seminoles HAVE to play in that first noon game) 76-73 and at 17-15 Leonard Hamilton’s team’s only path to the NCAA’s is to win the ACC Tournament.  Please stop laughing.  UVa won the regular season matchup between the two schools 51-41…holding FSU to 33% shooting and 14 turnovers.  Justin Anderson did not play in that game–Anthony Gill paced the Cavaliers with 13 points and 9 rebounds.  Since then Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes has made a name for himself, beginning three days later when he scored 30 of his 35 points against Miami during the last 4:38 of of the game.  Rathan-Mayes began the ACC Tournament with a bang–dropping 30 points against Clemson.  Can the Cavs contain this Canadian–and how much of a factor will Justin Anderson be recovering not only from a broken pinkie but an appendectomy?

2:30PM–Atlantic 10 Second Round–VCU faces Fordham in true Rams vs Rams fashion (it’s a bummer the league’s third Ram, Rhode Island, isn’t in that half of the bracket).  The two teams met once during the regular season, with the VCU prevailing 75-58 in a game where they missed more free throws than three point shots (14-30 from the line, 7-22 from outside the arc).  The key stat for that game though was Fordham turning the ball over 28 times.  How will A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber’s teammates make up for his absence in the conference tournament?  This is potentially a bubble-bursting game.

2:30PM–Conference USA Quarterfinals–Old Dominion meets Middle Tennessee as the Monarchs look for a little revenge:  on January 22nd Jeff Jones’ team lost in overtime at Mufreesboro by ten.  What hurt ODU that day was offensive ineffectiveness:  Trey Freeman shot 7-19 from the field (at 37% under his 46% for the season) while the other four starters hit 4 of 19 shots against the Blue Raiders.  All five of the Monarch’s league losses came away from home…how will they deal with a neutral court?

7PM–Big East Quarterfinals–Georgetown plays Creighton as the last-place Blue Jays upset 7th seeded Depaul (shades of Depaul doing the same last year to #7 Georgetown).  The Hoyas won both games handily during the regular season, by 15 at home and by 17 in Omaha.  Defense was the difference on both occasions: Creighton made just 22% of their shots in the two games (21% from 3-point range).  Will D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s knee be good enough for the Hoyas leading scorer to play effectively?

8PM–MEAC Quarterfinals–Howard deals with Delaware State.  The two teams met January with the Hornets prevailing 79-76 thanks to 25 points from freshman Todd Hughes. Amere May remains the main weapon for Delaware State–the senior scores 21 points a game.  Still, the Bison boast the three James (Daniel, Carlton and Miller) who combined for 66 of the team’s 76 points that day.  One should expect more of the same.  How sluggish will the Bison be after eight days off?

9PM–Atlantic 10 Second Round–George Washington takes on Duquesne in what I want to call the first round but is actually the second round thanks to the blasted double-bye bracket.  The Colonials and Dukes split the regular season series, each school winning by double digits on its home floor.  GW’s 74-59 win at the Smith Center saw the Colonials shoot 48% (and 50% from three point range) while Patricio Garino and Joe McDonald combined for 36 points.  Their 78-62 loss in Pittsburgh saw GW shoot 32% (and 28% from outside the arc) while Garino and McDonald combined to make 4 of 22 shots.  Duke to watch:  junior guard Micah Mason tallied a career high 24 points against GW last month and has been scoring 17 points a game since (5 above his season average)

Four days until Selection Sunday… with conferences unveiling “double-bye brackets” in their tournaments, in effect play-in games to get to the play-in games.  Despite a pair of one point games at the ACC Tournament, the upper deck in Greensboro was curtained off.  Progress…

 

First to the in-crowd:

Virginia–#1 seed in the East, headed to Charlotte for the first weekend with a round of 64 matchup against the winner of Manhattan and Robert Morris (ESPN) or Montana (CBS).  I can’t wait until they stop referring to the “First Four” as a round unto itself next year when the “Opening Round” takes its place mercifully.

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern (CBS).  Can the 8th ranked team in the nation sneak into one of the #2’s?

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #4 seed in the South, playing Stephen F. Austin in Seattle while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Oklahoma State in Pittsburgh.  Stephen F. Austin did beat Sam Houston State to win the Southland Conference;  sadly there’s no Jim Bowie A&M or Davy Crockett Tech.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Pittsburgh as the #8 seed in the West Bracket, facing North Carolina State.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the East where they will meet Iowa.  Can the Rams turn around a stretch where they’ve dropped 6 of 11?

 

On the Outside Looking In—

American (17-15, 8-10 Patriot League) faces Lafayette this evening in Easton, PA for the Patriot League Championship.  Even if the Eagles come up short, it’s been a nice run.  More on their matchup below…

 

George Washington (20-11, 10-8 Atlantic 10) awaits the winner of today’s A-10 Opening Round matchup of Duquesne and St. Louis:  GW beat the Billikens by 3 at home in January while splitting with the Dukes–and they’re not too far removed from February 11th’s stinker of a 16-point loss.  Revenge is a dish best served cold–and it’s rather cold right now in Brooklyn.

 

Richmond (19-12, 12-6 Atlantic 10) remains the red-haired stepchild in the commonwealth’s capital city.  Aren’t they headed to Brooklyn on a six-game winning streak?  Didn’t they finish ahead of VCU in the standings?  Didn’t they sweep the Rams?  They can beat their crosstown rivals again in the A-10 Quarterfinals Friday—barring a VCU upset.  But enough about the Spiders—can we talk more about Shaka Smart and the Rams havoc?

 

Old Dominion (24-6, 13-5 Conference USA) is listed by ESPN as one of the first four out of the field…meaning the Monarchs need at least to advance to the finals to have any hope of snagging an at-large bid.  Of course, they could eliminate all doubt by winning the tournament.  Coach Jeff Jones’ team has won six straight—and faces the winner of Middle Tennessee and Charlotte Thursday in the first round. They swept the 89’ers while losing to the Blue Raiders on the road during the regular season.  Will Jones grow a mustache ala Blaine Taylor?

 

On the Outside Trying to Look in, only they need binoculars–

George Mason (9-21, 4-14)–  The Patriots need five wins in five days to make a new March miracle happen–and this team has won four games in two months.  More on their matchup with Fordham below… 

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC)– the waiting is the hardest part.  Delaware State won their opening round game Monday–and the two teams won’t tangle until Friday night thanks to the league running its mens and womens tournaments at the same time in the same place.  Hey, a week in Norfolk this time of year is really nice…

Virginia Tech (11-21, 2-16 ACC)– one down, three to go…I was initially concerned when Buzz Williams ditched his jacket early in the first half, the tie would follow and with no vest he’d be down to his t-shirt by halftime.  Thankfully, restraint paid off and the Hokies beat Wake Forest thanks to solid three-point shooting (8-19 from outside the arc) and the ability to limit mistakes (only 4 turnovers).  Onward…

 

 

Bids locked up Tuesday–

Northeast– Robert Morris gets by St Francis (NY) 66-63… denying the Terriers their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.  Along with William & Mary, The Citadel, Army and Northwestern, St. Francis is one of five schools that has been in Division I since 1948 yet to reach the Big Dance.

Horizon– Valparaiso upends Green Bay 54-44…as the Crusaders continue their mini-dynasty with their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years.  The kid who brought Valpo into the limelight–Bryce Drew–is now the school’s head coach.  Not to be confused with his father Homer or brother Scott–each of whom preceded Bryce.  Bush and Clinton families take notice:  this is how you do a family dynasty in the 21st century.

Summit– North Dakota State nips South Dakota State 57-56…I have an Oklahoma fan titled “Sooner Bob” who is quaking right now as the Bison eliminated the Sooners in last year’s round of 64.  Unfortunately without his team in the field Bob became the ultimate wrong-way frontrunner, adopting teams that would lose their next game:  Shocker Bob/Aztec Bob/Wolverine Bob/Badger Bob/Wildcat Bob all met similar fates.

West Coast Conference– #8 Gonzaga beats BYU 91-75…did the Bulldogs make enough of a case to jump back among the #1 seed contenders?  And will this be the year they finally break through the mid-major glass ceiling to reach the Final Four?  Depending on how Arizona fares in the Pac-12, Mark Few’s team could land in Los Angeles for the West Regional–far, far away from Kentucky.  Of course, they have to win two games first–not an easy task recently for this program despite high seeds.

 

On Tap Today–

6:30PM–Atlantic 10 First Round– George Mason faces Fordham– the Patriots lost to the Rams 80-68 in the regular season at home, allowing 50 second half points.  Shevon Thompson tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds but had little help– the rest of the starters shot 9-of-32 and even with the Thompson’s boards Mason was still beaten on the glass by 11.  But the Patriots get a Fordham team that might be minus leading scorer Eric Paschall;  the freshman forward missed the last three regular season games with a high ankle sprain suffered in practice.  Can one begin to dream?

 

730PM–Patriot League Finals– American at Lafayette.  It’s a clash of tempos:  the Leopards rank 2nd in the league at shots per game (55.1) while the Eagles rank dead last in Division I (44.7).  AU swept the season series thanks to a last-second shot by Pee Wee Gardner in Easton and a 20 point effort by Gardner in DC.  Expect major minutes from the starters again–only six players got into Sunday’s game at Colgate and with a few days off it’s not like other Conference Tourneys.  Can the Eagles bigs contain Lafayette’s 6-foot-9 center Dan Trist?  The senior from Sydney scored 25 points in Easton but was held to 12 in DC.

 

9PM–ACC Second Round–Virginia Tech plays Miami.  Let’s get this facade over with:  this game will not start at 9pm–in fact it might be 9:30 before the Hokies and Hurricanes finally tip off (yesterday’s “3pm game” with Wake began at 3:40).  The two teams met last Saturday in Blacksburg, and VT was held to 18 first half points en route to an 82-61 defeat.  While the Canes probably won’t be as devastating (15-25) from three point range…there’s a very good chance the Hokies will revert to the play that saw them lose five of their last seven games by double digits.  Miami is a team squarely on the NCAA Tournament Bubble– both models have coach Jim Larranaga’s team as one of the “first four out”.  They need at least two wins to have any case for getting to the big dance–and a loss to the Hokies would be devastating.  Buzz Williams Perspiration Factor: 6.795.

Five days until Selection Sunday…with four area schools headed to the Big Dance regardless of how they perform in their conference tournaments, with a few others hopeful and still others delusional regarding March Madness hopes.

First to the in-crowd:

Virginia–#1 seed in the East, headed to Charlotte for the first weekend with a round of 64 matchup against the winner of Lafayette and North Florida (ESPN) or St. Francis-NY (CBS).  Of course American can bust that bracket with a win over the Leopards Wednesday in the Patriot League Finals.

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Yale (ESPN) or Georgia State (CBS).  Does the committee realize that Lefty Driesell’s retired?

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #4 seed in the East, playing Central Michigan in Seattle while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Oklahoma State in Pittsburgh.  Nothing like rekindling the magic of the Hoyas’ NCAA title 31 years later.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Pittsburgh as the #8 seed in the West Bracket, facing North Carolina State.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the East where they will meet Iowa.  An A-10 flameout might push the one time lock right on the bubble, especially if a team like.

On the Outside Looking In–

American (17-15, 8-10 Patriot League) after wins over Lehigh and Colgate stands one more upset on the road away from a second straight NCAA Tournament bid.  Can they repeat the March Magic that got them to the dance during Mike Brennan’s first season with the Eagles?  The face a Lafayette team (19-12, 9-9) that’s ahead of them in the standings but one they swept during the regular season.  All eyes on Easton, PA, Wednesday night.

George Washington (20-11, 10-8 Atlantic 10) has to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament in a very top-heavy league:  VCU & Dayton are deemed “locks” by the “experts”, Davidson might be the most dangerous, Richmond could be the hottest and Rhode Island might be the best suited for March.

On the Outside Looking in the Opposite Direction–

George Mason (9-21, 4-14)–  Bummer the Patriots didn’t qualify for the A-10 Tourney.  What, there’s a double bye?  They have to play 40 more minutes–against a Fordham team they lost by 12 to in the regular season?  Not even the Green Machine can elevate this team to five wins in five days…

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC)– can the miracle season continue for the Bison?  More on their quarterfinal matchup below…

Virginia Tech (10-21, 2-16 ACC)– At least it’s a relatively short drive from Blacksburg to Greensboro…

Bids locked up Monday–

CAA– Northeastern ended William & Mary’s dream, 72-61.  The Tribe missed a chance to make the Big Dance for the first time ever:  they’re one of 5 schools that have been a part of Division I since its inception in 1948 that haven’t reached the Mens Basketball Tournament (Army, The Citadel, Northwestern and St Francis-NY are the others).

Southern– Wofford holds off Furman, 67-64.  The Paladins almost advanced to the tourney despite a losing record.

MAAC– Manhattan upsets Iona, 79-69.  The Jaspers have busted brackets in the past, shocking Oklahoma in 1995 as a #13 seed and Florida as a #12 seed in 2004.  Pressure defense?  Three-point shooting?  I think having a name like the Jaspers is enough to throw anybody off-balance.

Elsewhere Monday–

Delaware State disposes of Savannah State 64-58, meaning that Howard will face the Hornets Friday in the MEAC Quarterfinals.  The Bison lost the only regular season game January 12th, 79-76 in DC.

On Tap Today–

3PM–ACC First Round–Virginia Tech faces Wake Forest in the famed #11-#14 game.  Somebody has to play Tuesday as long as they’re doing this double-bye bracket…it may as well be the team that’s gone 2-16 for the second straight year in conference play.  Five of the Hokies seven straight losses have come by double digits…and they lost the lone meeting with the Demon Deacons 73-70.  Buzz Williams Perspiration Factor: 8.563.

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