Sweet Emotions: Part II

Well, we can all breath a sigh of relief. At least two of those unbearable B1G teams can’t hurt our eyes anymore.

Thankfully, yesterday saw Syracuse pull out a close one over Wisconsin and those filthy Cards mercy-killed Michigan State. Now we’re left with an Ohio State team that does at least try to score and… Indiana. I feel better, don’t you?

Some sweet hot mama with a face like a gent
Said my get up and go musta got up and went
Well I got good news, she’s a real good liar
Cause the backstage boogie’ll set your pants on fire

Mr. Tyler is talking to you, UNC and UK fans. I think. Let’s move on to today’s games:

10 Xavier vs. 3 Baylor
This would seem like a match-up nightmare on paper for the X-Men. Baylor has a plethora of athletic lottery picks and dead-eye Brady Heslip, who can’t seem to miss when it matters. Thankfully for Xavier, games aren’t played on paper. While Baylor has top 3 talent, they seem to have a bottom 3 motor at times. When the Bears have lost, it’s been to tougher teams that have weathered the storm and delivered the kill shot. Xavier is a team that has been hammered by distractions and disappointments, and has seemed to come out stronger for it. Look for this game to be a lot closer than you might think.

The hat doesn't help, Steven.

13 Ohio vs. 1 UNC
With Wrist-Gate still in full force for the Heels, they must still feel kind of fortunate to draw an over-matched Ohio squad in the round of 16. Even without KM, UNC has an enormous talent advantage at nearly every position. Don’t get me wrong, Ohio is a good team, who has had a great run. There’s just no conceivable reason they should beat North Carolina. You could have said that about VCU and Kansas last year too, though…

4 Indiana vs. 1 Kentucky
As you all know, Indiana delivered the Wildcats one of their two losses on the season in dramatic, buzzer-beater fashion in Bloomington. The shot has been played over and over (and over and over) on ESPN all season long. While Indiana fans might cling to that game as proof that they will arise victorious once again, reality suggests this might be a bloodbath.  Anthony Davis, who played his fewest minutes of the season against IU, has grown into the (likely) player of the year. Marquis Teague, who started the season as a turn-over waiting to happen, has been molded into the poised floor leader that Calipari’s offense thrives on. Outside of the SEC tournament, Kentucky has looked nigh invincible. If teams focus on clogging the middle, then they shoot over them and beat them by double-digits. If opponents play them straight up, the Wildcats dish and dunk to double-digit wins. Add to that the revenge factor that Kentucky players have openly discussed, and you have to like their chances on a neutral floor.

11 NC State vs. 2 Kansas
The Wolfpack is back, or so it would seem. Mark Gottfried, who used to play a coach on TV, has ignited NC State from the last team in to a Sweet 16 success story. Just as admirable, Bill Self has taken a squad with little expectations going into the season and transformed them into a legit Final Four threat. From the outside, this game appears to be a strength on strength match-up of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell versus Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey. If that equates to anything close to a stale-mate, look for the guards to be the difference, as Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson use their new-found assertiveness to put away the Pack.

While not quite as sweet as yesterday’s match-ups, there’s still plenty to watch for with the  ultimate national champion probably emerging from this group.

SELF PLEASURE: A preview of the 2010-2011 Big 12 men’s basketball season – Part II (teams 1-6)

Previously, we have covered the teams that will most likely finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 for the upcoming season. This was done in an effort to provide equal coverage to all conference teams. It should not be implied that anybody gives a crap about those 6 teams, because they don’t.

So on to the teams that matter:

(6). Texas A&M Aggies

Remember when this guy was good at his job? Me neither.

The Aggies, believe it or not, are one of only 2 schools to have made the NCAA Tournament each of the past 5 seasons AND won at least 1 game each year (Pitt being the other). Billy Clyde Gillispie, who actually at one time knew how to coach, started the revival of the Texas A&M program, and Mark Turgeon has continued it. The Aggies lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, including their top 3 scorers and top rebounder. They will depend heavily this season on the leadership of guards Dash Harris and B.J. Holmes. It would seem that A&M would be poised to take a step back this year, but never underestimate Turgeon, who happens to be the only surviving member of the Lollipop Guild. Just as he did with Wichita State, he quietly and consistently puts his teams in position to compete for conference titles and postseason berths. His teams are seldom flashy, but they’re usually good, and this one will be as well.

(5): Texas Longhorns
Talk about an enigma. At one point last season, the Longhorns were 17-0 and ranked #1 in the nation for the first time in school history. They had beaten Michigan State, Pitt, and UNC by double digits and looked like the best team in the country. Then in their 18th game, they were blown out at Kansas State and it triggered a complete collapse that coach Rick Barnes was never able to stop. Barnes, who I’m convinced is also best selling novelist John Grisham, is saying all the right things about this year’s team. Saying last year was a fluke and that it will have no effect on this year’s team. But the fact is that nobody really knows what to expect from Texas this year. They have talent, with Gary Johnson, Jordan Hamilton, and super freshman Tristan Thompson leading the way. But talent doesn’t always correlate to wins, and if it doesn’t again, then Barnes/Grisham will have plenty of time to work on his latest shitty novel.

(4): Missouri Tigers

Best state ever, right?

I have often been unfairly accused of having a bias against Missouri. This hurts my feelings, because I love the state and the school. I don’t know why this perception is out there, but it is – and there seems to be little I can do do change it. So I’m not going to preview Mizzou; instead I’m going to turn it over to someone who knows the team well, a former sports editor for the school newspaper and valedictorian of a recent graduating class. Take it away, Sir:
“Thank you Profit and thank you four the oppertoonity to talk about the Missouri Tigers the college that I love so much and the team is the most faverite that I have. I will say wright off the bats that I don’t agree with you putting them at number for in your rankings I perdict they will win the big 12 confrence this year because their is alot of talent and we will win the confrance this year. This is true because our coach Mike Anderson runs a style of play called the fastest 40 minutes in basketball which means that we are faster then the other teams and trhe resulting in that is that we will win our games. I see the Final For as a vary realisticly goal for our team. Because we play the fastest 40 minutes in basketball. We play it so fast that it only takes us 36 minutes to play it HA HA HA! that was a joke because I know that annidotes are funny. But for really we are the best team in the big 12 again. And we are fast and that is why we will win thank you.”

No, thank you. And because I allowed a respected member of the print media in Columbia to write that preview, I hope it lays to rest the fallacy that I don’t like Missouri.

(3): Baylor Bears
Suddenly, some of the nation’s top recruits are interested in Waco, Tx. Which wouldn’t be that unusual if it weren’t for the fact that suddenly some of the nation’s top recruits are interested in Waco, Tx. Questions are swirling around the recruiting practices of Scott Drew, and the program received yet another broken jaw, er black eye, this summer with the arrest and subsequent suspension of star player ShoeLaceDarius Dunn. Fortunately for Dunn, he plays for a team on which players have been known to murder other players and coaches lie about it to protect themselves. So a little thing like beating in the face of a defenseless teenage girl isn’t that big of a deal. The 3 game suspension for that will be plenty. At any rate, despite all the controversy surrounding this team off the court, they are quite effective on it. Coming off an Elite 8 appearance last season, the Bears have one of the most talented freshmen in the country in Perry Jones, in addition to Dunn who might be the best player in the Big 12. My assertion that this is one of the elite teams in the Big 12 is fact. My belief that this might be a team full of scumbag cheaters is still pending…

(2): Kansas State Wildcats

Beard win.

These are exciting times in the Little Apple. Most experts are predicting K-State will break rival KU’s streak of conference championships. Like Baylor, the Wildcats are coming off an Elite 8 appearance. Unlike Baylor, it appears they are doing it the right way in Manhattan. Their head coach, Frank Martin, has gone from being an obscure Bob Huggins assistant to one of the top coaches in college basketball. Martin, a longtime Don in Miami’s Cuban Mafia who is believed to have assassinated over 300 people, has left the crime syndicate life behind. The Wildcats love their coach and leave everything they have on the court every single game. They do lose the very talented Denis Clemente, but so many other key players return, including Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, and Wally Judge. Pullen, a graduate of the C. Everett Koop School of Beard Trimming, is the Big 12 coaches’ preseason selection for player of the year. The senior guard is the heart and soul of a team that should be better than anyone else in the conference and would then need only to get past Kansas to claim the league title. Of course, that is something they have had trouble doing lately: they were 0-3 against KU last year, and since Big 12 play began their record against the Jayhawks is 2-33. That’s 2 wins and thirty-three losses and that is NOT an exaggerated statistic. And that’s why I have gone against most people and put them #2 in my preseason league rankings. Because until they lose their grip on it, this league’s supremecy still belongs to the:

(1): Kansas Jayhawks
Everything points to this being the year somebody else steps up to win the Big 12. The Jayhawks lost All-American Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, and one-and-doner Xavier Henry. But this team seems to have better chemistry and just might surprise a few people this year. The Morris twins, up-and-coming-future-sensation Thomas Robinson, and (in small stretches) Arizona transfer Jeff Withey give the Hawks presence inside, and a rotation of 47 guards will make it difficult for other teams to stay as fresh as Kansas. This will be Bill Self’s fastest team yet, and a very exciting one to watch. There are questions, and then there are also facts. Kansas has:
* the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament Appearances in the country (21);
* the longest current streak of consecutive home victories (61);
* the most winning seasons in Division I history (91);
* the most conference championships in D-1 history (53);
* the most consensus All-Americans in D-1 history (20).
Granted, these numbers have little to do with the upcoming season, but I like throwing them out there anyway. Kind of like these numbers:
* Bill Self, entering his 8th year as the Jayhawks head coach, has a record of 204-43 at the school. And his record at Allen Fieldhouse since becoming head coach? It’s the best home record among all active coaches by far: 115-6.

So to summarize: The Big 12 has several crap teams, 2 of which are thankfully leaving after this year.  There are several very good teams, and potentially 2 or 3 great teams. I have no bias against Missouri. Frank Martin is the greatest mobster/assassin/coach in the country. And after all the dust settles, Kansas is still the team to beat.

The more things change, the more they remain the same…

Al’s out from under the fridge: Predictions for tonight’s Top 25 men’s college hoops action

Al's new year so far

Ah, the new year. The time when panicked product managers realize that they can still charge back their January activity to the previous year. Thanks, guys, for making me work 70 hours last week. I’d also like to thank the anonymous donor of an as-yet unknown “Browser Help Object” that plays ads 24/7 unless I kill my IEEXPLORER.exe process every time I re-boot. This annoying backdoor program is so new that there isn’t a single product out there that can kill it. FML.

Anyway, my daughters fans have been asking when I’d start up my predictions again. Well, that would be right now. The rules are the same as last year’s.

No. 2 Kentucky at Florida. There was a time when I would have considered predicting an upset for this game. Then December arrived and Florida’s hopes of being more than a bubble team most likely to head to the NIT were burst as they bumbled through losses to teams like South Alabama. Now, in a world where a Tennessee team with a significant percentage of their players in jail can beat Kansas, anything is possible, but I don’t see it.

Ohio State at No. 6 Purdue. Although I have been in basic agreement with Big 10 fans that Wisconsin is a force to be reckoned with this year, I was still taken by surprise when they upset Purdue. So, now it’s time to find out if Purdue is for real and can bounce back or if they’re going to end up being another run of the mill Big 10 basketball team–much ballyhooed but with little production to show for it. I was tempted to pick Ohio State for the upset seeing as losses seem to be coming in 2s for a lot of the teams this season, but I think Purdue will prevail at home tonight.

Texas A&M at No. 12 Kansas State. I still don’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to K-State. And I’m furious at them for refusing to lose when I pick them to be upset. So, I figure why buck the trend? I’m giving this one to the Aggies even though Kansas State’s at home and will probably win by 20 points.

No. 24 Baylor at Colorado. I haven’t seen the Bears play this year, but they

So the Baylor Bears do have claws--who knew?

only have one loss so far and some solid Division I wins. They also beat Xavier, the Duke of the mid-majors, so I’ve got to like them for that. I think they’ll get by Colorado.

N.C. State at No. 25 Florida State. It’s interesting that Florida State is ranked when the only team of note that they’ve beaten is Georgia Tech (the mighty Duke killers, yea). This is a tough game to call because it’s an ACC match up and I personally think that the entire ACC is playing at the same level–mediocre to poor. However, State looks horrible right now, so I’m going with FSU.

I see that there are 14 games involving ranked teams tomorrow night. So, I have my work cut out for me tomorrow, which means it’s time to get some rest. See y’all tomorrow.