Posted 03/15/2009 at 04:45 PM
Editor's note: Brian Edwards will be chiming in with thoughts as the day/night progress, so please check back later for updates or hit your refresh button often. Also, Brian will have his annual "Bracket Analysis" column up on VI's college hoops arena later tonight.
The best day of the year has finally arrived - Selection Sunday! There are certainly some anxious moments for the players and coaches at the following schools right now - San Diego St., Saint Mary's, Auburn, Arizona, Penn St., Creighton and Minnesota.
The causes of those schools certainly wasn't helped earlier today when Mississippi St. stole a bid by beating Tennessee in Tampa at the SEC Tournament finals. Furthermore, Cleveland St. (Horizon), USC (Pac 10) and Temple (A-10) stole bids by winning their respective conference crowns.
4:50 p.m. Eastern: Since we're basically in a holding pattern with 70 minutes left until the brackets are revealed, let's talk a little NIT. NIT?! Yes, we can gamble on it, so there's no reason not to talk about it. And seriously, we have some good teams/players in the NIT this year. When you talk about Florida, Kentucky, Miami, Va. Tech, Davidson, Niagara....hell, Baylor and Northwestern have become interesting teams in recent weeks. And what about the players? We've got Stephen Curry, Nick Calathes, Patrick Patterson, Jodie Meeks, Jack McClinton and Va. Tech's three studs. In terms of storylines, we have the Billy Clyde Saga at UK and the possibility of seeing (gasp) empty seats at Rupp Arena. We have a Niagara team that could be poised for a run to Madison Square Garden. Anyway, here's an NIT-based top five for ya (my first of many top fives tonight!)...
Five NIT first-round matchups I want to see:
1-Florida at Miami
2-Va. Tech at Davidson
3-UAB at Auburn
4-Kentucky at Northwestern
5-Niagara at Baylor
5:20 p.m. Eastern: With 40 long minutes left, Purdue is clinging to a 58-55 lead with 1:04 left in the Big Ten Tournament. Let me throw a few links out at ya from my perusing of the national sports pages today:
--Mark Story of the Lexington Herald-Leader explains how Kentucky fans need to wake up and realize that UK is currently an NIT-level program and thoughts of boycotting any NIT home games is ridiculous.
--Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News reports on Auburn making a strong case to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
--This is a football link but interesting nonetheless (pertaining to Lane Kiffin), as Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reports on an e-mail he received from the Oakland Raiders PR Dept.
Oh boy, gamblers are crossing their fingers now. Purdue, a six-point favorite vs. Ohio St., has a five-point lead going to the free-throw line for the double bonus with four seconds left. Kramer's first free throw.....swish. The second for the cover.....good. Ohio State at the horn with a meaningless three.........good! The Buckeyes cover at the buzzer. And that's a GREAT way to cap a marvelous weekend of conference tournaments.
Here's my first-team 'conference-tourney' All-American squad:
G-Toney Douglas (FSU)
G-Jon Scheyer (Duke)
G-Jonny Flynn (Syracuse)
F-Earl Clark (Louisville)
C-Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi St.)
Honorable Mention: Andy Rautins ('Cuse), Dionte Christmas (Temple) and Evan Turner (Ohio St.). I'm sure that leaves a bunch of people out, so please no e-mails. And for any Eric Devendorf fans.....sorry, too much cherry picking (not to mention ink and acting like a complete clown) to make my squad.
5:45 p.m. Eastern: Twenty years after Michigan cut the nets down in Seattle, the Wolverines appear headed back to the Dance. But what about Steve Fisher, the "Michigan Man" (per the late great Bo Schembechler's explanation for why Bill Freider would coach Michigan in the '89 NCAA Tournament after he accepted the Arizona St. job) who led that team past Seton Hall thanks to the hot shooting of Glen Rice and a bad call by John Clougherty against Gerald Greene that put Rumeal Robinson at the charity stripe for his game-winning free throws? Fisher's Aztecs of San Diego St. are on the bubble.
I've said dozens of times this year that the SEC is as bad as it has been in my lifetime. I've also taken shots at people like ESPN's Jimmy Dykes, who have been SEC apologists all season. So I'm not sticking up for the SEC here, but I do want to say this: The Big Ten is not much better, if better at all. And as we're just minutes away from the brackets being revealed, there's a chance the Big Ten could outbid the SEC by a 6-3 count, if not 7-3. And that makes no sense to me. The SEC has seven teams with 20 wins or more, nine with 18 or more. The Big Ten also has seven teams with 20 wins or more. I just can't fathom that the Big Ten gets twice as many teams as the SEC. We shall see....
6:00 p.m.: Here we go.....Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed of the Tournament. With Pitt and UNC falling early in their conference tourneys, that opened the door for Louisville, which won the Big East Tourney and the regular-season title.
UConn is also a top seed (take that Joe Lunardi!) along with Pitt and UNC. This reminds me of 1985 when the Big East had three teams in the Final Four ('Nova, St. John's and Georgetown along with a Memphis team led by Keith Lee, Andre Turner and the late Baskerville Holmes).
6:10 p.m.: Our first bubble team that is "in" is.....Arizona! The Wildcats' NCAA-best streak continues, as they haven't missed the Dance since 1985.
Washington will face Mississippi St. in a 4/13 matchup. There's an upset alert for ya. Florida beat the Huskies back in November. However, the game will be out in Portland, so that's advantageous to Lorenzo Romar's team. After playing for four straight days, the committee shouldn't make MSU play on Thursday and if they do, it should be a night game. Last year Georgia had to play on Thursday AND had to play the noon game which was so unfair.
Tennessee a No. 9 seed? Are you serious? Wow, the committee obviously had a low opinion of the SEC. Here's another bubble team "in" and it's Wisconsin, which will face fifth-seeded FSU.
Bad news for UCLA....the Bruins have to play VCU, which I think will beat the Bruins. If UCLA survives the Rams, it has to play 'Nova in Philly. Oh boy, I can't wait to watch VCU's Eric Maynor school the nation's most overrated point guard Darren Collison, who was such a chump in purposely fouling out of the Memphis game in last year's Final Four when Derrick Rose was destroying him in front of NBA scouts galore.
6:30 p.m.: Wow, the committee really took a dump on the SEC. LSU is only an eighth seed after going 13-3 in the SEC. The Bayou Bengals will face Butler in an excellent 8/9 matchup. If LSU advances, it could present North Carolina some trouble in the second round, especially if Ty Lawson isn't at full speed. What has UNC struggled with this year? Defending big-time scoring guards (think Maryland's Vasquez, BC's Tyrese Rice and FSU's Toney Douglas) with Marcus Ginyard on the sidelines in street clothes. LSU has a big-time scorer similar to Rice in Marcus Thornton. Also, and most importantly, the Tigers have two long defenders in Garrett Temple and Tasmin Mitchell, both of whom played pivotal roles in LSU's run to the Final Four as freshmen, when both completely shut down J.J. Redick in a Sweet 16 win over Duke. Danny Green and Wayne Ellington will face great defense against Temple and Mitchell IF LSU gets past Butler.
Biggest snubs? I'm PISSED if I'm Saint Mary's. I think the Gaels deserved to be in. Allright, many more thoughts to come later but for now, I've got to work on my Bracket Analysis column. The lines from LVSC should be out in the next hour or so.
9:30 p.m.: I'm still working on my Bracket Analysis column, but I did wanna chime in here with some NIT news: UNLV and Kentucky will play each other in the first round. Florida will face Jacksonville in the first round with the winner facing the Miami-Providence winner, so I might get the UF-UM matchup I want. Davidson will play at South Carolina. The four No. 1 seeds for the NIT are Florida, San Diego St., Auburn and Creighton.
A few quick hitters past midnight:
--In honor of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here:
1-Stephen Curry. Seriously, how can we even have a tournament without this stud? It would be like Danny Manning not getting an invite to the '89 Tournament or 'Melo coming back for his sophomore year and not making the '06 Dance. Dayton before Davidson? Give me a break!
2-My GATORS! Two straight seasons of not hearing the alma mater's name called is enough to last me the next decade. Tighten up, fellas. And go win the NIT so I can hang another -- ANOTHER! -- banner in this office.
3-Niagara. The Purple Eagles didn't necessarily deserve a bid because their non-conference slate (other than playing at 'Nova) wasn't formidable. However, this team won 24 games and had to literally play AT Siena in the conference tournament finals in a game that could've gone either way. Siena and Niagara split the regular-season series, so a third game on a neutral site would've been fair. Like Siena, which I think beats Ohio St. in Round 1, Niagara could've pulled a first-round upset.
4-Jack McClinton. Like Dionte Christmas for Temple, McClinton could've carried the 'Canes to one victory (but to be clear, UM didn't deserve a bid).
5-Finally, where have you gone Kevin Mackey? Twenty-three years after leading Cleveland St. to the Sweet 16 by riding the hot shooting of Mouse McFadden, you know Mackey had the straws out for the selection show as the Vikings were invited back to the Dance for the first time since 1986, when they upset Indiana in the first round while John Feinstein was writing the New York Times best seller, "A Season on the Brink."