Injuries to monitor and replacements to consider for March Madness 2021

BY MATT DE SARLE

Nagging injuries and absences still plague the nation’s best college basketball season, despite everyone enduring the virus-plagued season. Here’s a list of the top injuries in college basketball and how replacements are filling some voids. See our top 8 list below.

READ ALSO: Potential Player Matchups or Sons of NBA Players Dancing

  1. Collin Gillespie Suffers MCL Knee Injury, Out for March Madness

This injury update jumped to the number one spot. Collin Gillespie is among the best five point guards in the nation, if not the best. His jump stop into the lane, pivot foot action, is unparalleled by anyone else. And Villanova will now be operating the postseason without him. Villanova was already thin in terms of body count for its normal rotation. A 5-star point guard who was in Villanova’s pipeline and next-up on its bench for one season, Jahvon Quinerly, is now on top ranked Alabama. This injury may demand that Jeremiah Robinson-Earl plays at the Player of the Year level he is capable of. He has POY talents and has had a great season, but he has not been in the discussion with the likes of Luka Garza and Jared Butler at the top of that list. Villanova went limping into the Big Dance on the heels of a Big East Tournament loss to 8 seed Georgetown, so it will definitely need Robinson-Earl to emerge if it still has ambitions for an elite 8.

2. Isaiah Livers Out for 1 Seed Michigan

The term “out indefinitely” can be a fluid situation in college basketball. And so here’s your friendly reminder to Google each specific injury hours before tip off and see where things stand. However, with this important injury, it seems the Wolverines are talking as if the season is over for Isaiah Livers. That’s so unfortunate. What basketball fans can love about Michigan is its mix of veteran program players and newcomers who have had an immediate impact. On the wing, Livers is one of the Wolverines most reliable playmakers and defenders. As the Detroit News reports, he is rehabbing a stress injury to his right foot and is in a walking boot. An obvious player who could and should step up in this absence is sophomore Franz Wagner, someone who has serious NBA aspirations.

3. Jack Nunge’s Season Cut Short for Iowa Hawkeyes

Everyone knows about Luka Garza, but Jack Nunge was quietly having a strong year as an Iowa big man. He offered a true stretch four options and could also spell Garza at the 5 spot. That versatility is sadly gone as Nunge suffered a season ending knee injury in March. Watch for how 6-8 freshman Keegan Murray can respond at the power forward position. He will not start during this roster re-shuffle, but the talented freshman ran the floor well and competed valiantly against bulldog EJ Liddell in a prime matchup against fellow top 10 team Ohio State (early into the adjustment period after Nunge’s loss).

Courtesy: ESPN Networks

4. De’Vion Harmon Tests Positive for COVID-19, Would Miss Oklahoma’s First Two Games

This is about as sad as it gets. Sure, breaking a bone or suffering a serious knee injury must be horrible. But to miss the first two games of a tournament you’ve fought so desperately to enter, on top of that virus stealing your postseason last year, is an inconceivable feeling to imagine. That’s what De’Vion Harmon might be feeling right now. As ESPN reports, De’Vion Harmon tested positive for COVID-19. The Sooners were top 8 or 9 seed earlier this season in the national AP Poll. Now they limp into the NCAA Tournament as an 8/9 seed and without their starting point guard. If you take into consideration Gonzaga would be Oklahoma’s next opponent if it beats Missouri without Harmon, you could make the argument that this is the most important injury of the current tournament.

5. ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright Out for Loyoyla-Chicago Game

Georgia Tech’s leading scorer Moses Wright is also out due to COVID-19 protocols for Georgia Tech in its opening round game against Loyola-Chicago. Loyola-Chicago enters the tournament as a 9 seed, but also ranked as KenPom.com’s ninth best team in the nation. Needless to say, this is a gigantic loss for the Yellow Jackets.

6. Drake Loses Point Guard Amidst Historically Great Season

This one really sucks for college basketball. The Drake Bulldogs were one of college basketball’s early undefeated teams. They and Loyola Chicago both looked like teams that could get at large bids punched for their tickets to the dance. Roman Penn, the Siena transfer and guard guard for Drake, was averaging 5.5 assists to only 2.3 turnovers per game. With just a few games left in the season Drake lost Penn for the season. Guard Joseph Yesufu saw his minutes increase, but responded with 5 assists to his first 10 turnovers in that immediate action. To steal a line from Drake himself, if you are reading this it’s too late for the Bulldogs. The unfortunate truth in college basketball is that taking a point guard away is like taking a starting quarterback away from a football team. Meanwhile, consider how Loyola Chicago might skate more easily in the NCAA Tournament without dueling its in-conference foe for a hard fought championship battle. You can decide (if that happens) whether it helps or hurts the Ramblers get prepped for a Final 4 repeat.

7. Vols Big Man John Fulkerson Catches an Elbow

The Tennessee Volunteers could be without big man John Fulkerson to start the Big Dance. He caught an elbow mid-way through the SEC Tournament and suffered a facial fracture. Like Ayo Dosunmo, maybe we will see him out there with a protective mask around his face. Follow local sites like Knoxnews.com for the latest updates.

8. Fabian White Jr. Clear for Takeoff in Houston?

The Houston Cougars potentially have landed a new addition in the rotation that could rocket them into another stratosphere. Fabian White Jr. is actually one of the most tenured Cougars. And the fact that the power forward (defacto center for this club) is back from an ACL knee injury in February is a game changer. According to The Daily Cougar, White has achieved a heroic effort to expedite his injury recovery in under 12 months. And while he was out, his front court mates really rebounded the ball and defended fantastic in his absence. Houston is a team that can play with great pace, but they have the muscle to hold down a push inside. Watch Fabian White Jr. in March because this is just the beginning of his season with lots of meaning.

Injuries 9 and 10 to Watch: Ankle Injuries Plaguing the Big 10’s Best

Both Big 10 powers Iowa and Michigan are dealing with nagging ankle injuries. Joe Wieskamp of Iowa is day-to-day with an ankle injury and Eli Brooks was nursing an ankle injury as he played in the Big 10 Tournament.

Tweet College Basketball Eye Test on Twitter for a retweet about your observations.

Post-Super Bowl College Basketball Season Summary

BY MATT DE SARLE

In case you’ve been in a cave, or dedicated your winter viewing to NFL football, you may have missed some major developments in college basketball. Let’s get you caught up!

Runaway Trains Baylor and Gonzaga Basketball on Collision Course

The first thing you need to know about the first 3 months of this college basketball season is the dominance of Baylor and Gonzaga. As always, Gonzaga has tested itself out of conference. And as of right now, they’re undefeated. They lost Filip PetruŇ°ev from last season but replaced his talent with Jalen Suggs. Suggs played high level football in high school and is giving the Bulldogs an intimidation element at guard they’ve rarely had. Speaking of intimidating guards, Baylor has also been unstoppable. With the addition of junior college transfer Adam Flagler, they now have 4 guards who can go for 15-20 points any night. And, the Baylor Bears still have the muscle down low that sometimes resembles its football team. To stick with the football analogies, Baylor and Gonzaga are seemingly runaway trains set for a Super Bowl collision in early April. In fact, they were supposed to play in December, but COVID-19 canceled that. The status of the game has ironically remained “postponed,” as it’s the odds-on favorite to happen as a National Championship.

Big 10 Can Send 10 Final Four Worthy Teams to the Tournament

After the dominance of Baylor and Gonzaga, the national landscape is relatively wide open. The SEC has a few top 20 teams (Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri) and the Big East returns a veteran Villanova and Creighton team. However, the Big 10 is really crazy talented. Every team in the Big 10 has a big man who can take over a game. The NCAA recently announced its final 13 finalists for the best center in the game. That’s the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. Three of those finalists are from the Big 10. The frontrunner for player of the year is also from the Big 10: Luka Garza. Baylor and Gonzaga might get the top two seeds, but Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan might snatch up the next 2 and 3 seeds. Michigan was undefeated for the first two months of the season. Ohio State returned a great core and is having some great talent come off the bench. Illinois might have the most dangerous 1-2 punch in Ayo Disunmo and Kofi Cockburn. Meantime, teams like Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers, and Purdue will all only just squeeze into the tournament in the 6-10 seed range because of how difficult it is to get wins in the conference. Read other Big 10 roster rotation movements of note here.

Mid-majors and other non-Power 5 Programs to Watch in College Hoops

If you include the Big East, college basketball really has six power conferences. As usual, there are multiple teams outside of the major conferences who can disrupt March Madness. This year there’s Houston as a perennial top 10 team. They look like a lock to win the American Conference. You also have Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference. They were recently ranked in the top 25 with their undefeated record before losing to Valpairaso. Other mid-major teams putting together tournament-worthy resumes include Western Kentucky, Belmont, and Winthrop, to name a few. The Mountain West has 4 or 5 teams that could make the tournament. They’d all be dangerous. Right now San Diego State, Boise State, and Colorado State are flirting with an 8 or 9 seed. You also have a very veteran bunch in Utah State with a legit 7 footer with skill in Neemias Queta. An interesting trend to watch is how many of these smaller conferences are managing the COVID-19 risk by playing back-to-back games. Or, one team will visit an opponent’s city and even play back-to-back days. That’s the story in Conference USA where North Texas, for example, just split a Friday-Saturday pairing with LA Tech. What’s interesting about this dynamic is that it mimics the NCAA Tournament.

Winthrop is one of the mid-major schools in 2020-2021 set to make noise in March Madness

How College Basketball Postseason Looks During COVID-19

The NCAA has decided to host its entire March Madness event in the Indianapolis area. The thought is that these smaller bubbles of players, staff, and supporters will mitigate the risk while traveling in smaller circles. The games will be held in some of the area’s iconic basketball venues (ex. Assembly Hall and Hinkle Fieldhouse). When it comes to Conference Championships, each conference is navigating the travel and fan participation in its own unique way. Here is a weblink where we are tracking all of the Championship Week updates.

College Basketball Traditions Continue Despite COVID-19

Even though fans can’t be in attendance in most cases, college basketball is still doing a great job at continuing many of its tradition. One recent tradition that continues is the college game’s presence of second generation talent. Here’s a full list of this year’s sons of NBA players in college basketball. Thank you for reading!

Case Study: How to Hedge College Basketball Futures

How and When to Hedge College Basketball Futures Odds

It’s the great debate. That is, at least in sports books around late March. “Hey, I have XYZ team at 80-1 to win a title. Now that they’re in the Sweet 16, should I start hedging?” said every amateur bettor in this position, ever (even if to himself).

So, what’s the best answer?

Like everything else in 2020-2021, there is no simple answer. However, below is a great case study to help structure our debate…

Futures odds listed in January of 2021 at a William Hill Sports Book.

Best Time to Pick College Basketball Futures Values

Let’s simulate a bettor making futures picks at the start of the season with $100 bucks. Or, in this case, $108 to be exact. In November when these picks are made, there are naturally some good values. For example, the Houston Cougars out of the American Athletic Conference were 50-1. Although they play in a non-power 5 school, Houston would ascend into the AP Top 10 throughout that season. The team’s value increased to 12-1 by February.

So when do you hedge?
Should you sell a ticket that doubled in value on a secondary market, such as PropSwap?
If you had two future tickets like it, and sold one on ProSwap, that would be considered hedging your bet.

When to Hedge College Basketball Futures

Let’s fast forward. Now that games have been played and you can use your eye test to analyze teams, who do you like? In our case study, the longest shot odd of North Texas (above) is having a difficult year. Meanwhile, in its conference, UAB and Western Kentucky are piecing together a quality resume. In fact, it’s within the realm of possibilities that one of those teams get an at-large bid. And so, instead of throwing out the North Texas bet that could win $10,000, we hedge it by also investing in the other in-conference rivals. This way, it becomes a statistically likelihood the bettor will have a Conference USA team in March Madness.

See Western Kentucky and UAB below.

A second round of futures value bets are made with $100 after watching the first half of the season.

You can see that for just $3 dollars and $4 dollars respectively, the odds are probably around 95% at this point that the better will have the Conference USA team among its roster of teams in the actual March Madness bracket. Did we mention this was betting on a budget?

And so at this point the bettor would have 13 teams in play. We are conceding that 2-4 of those teams won’t make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (let’s say two Conference USA teams in addition to one other). So let’s say that 10 teams will be in the tournament and for $200 the bettor can himself to win at least $1,000 in those ten scenarios. And so the next question may be: When would he start hedging if he acknowledges Gonzaga and Baylor look far-and-away like the nation’s best teams (at +350 and 6-1 for their respective futures).

How to Hedge Your Bets on Selection Sunday

Back to reality, on this particular season North Texas did win its conference tournament. And so the bettor brings into the tournament a $10,000 lottery ticket. Should he hedge by immediately taking the opponent of North Texas? Continue reading to review some specific strategies to consider, each with their own nickname, for betting futures on a budget during March Madness.

Don’t Let a Crowded Region Cloud Your Final Four

Let’s say that four of the futures bets made in November land in one region during March. At face value, this could look like a horrible outcome for the budget bettor. However, it you change your mindset as the investor, it could work for you. Let’s say that Texas, Houston, Colorado and West Virginia all entered the same region. Instead of seeing the National Title game, or ever the Final 4 itself, as the climax of the tournament, that person would just have to move up its timeline for the tournament climax. The climax may actually be when all of those teams have an opportunity to cover the spread on the first two days. Or, the climax might be a money line parlay on all of those teams winning outright in the field of 32. Either way, a crowded region should immediately have the bettor move up the finish line in his mind. A textbook parlay in this scenario would be to take the 4 teams to cover a first round spread to win at 10-1. It might also be worth lookin at what factor a money line parlay pays. It can be typed in before canceling the bet on a kiosk. On the flip side, a reverse haymaker wheel could make sense as an insurance policy. For example, two team pairs of underdogs could be bet on in a rotation to hedge two real losses happening for Texas, Houston, Colorado and West Virginia.

Bracketology example from January 22, 2021 courtesy Joe Lunardi/ESPN

In terms of hedging futures, there will likely be a situation where 2 or 3 of the preseason futures teams are in one eighth of a bracket.  In this case it wouldn’t make sense to hedge so that more than three teams are covered.  For example in this eighth of a bracket above, an ideal sweet 16 matchup would be the two futures (Colorado and Houston) against each other in the sweet 16. Chasing both UNC and Texas State on futures here might muddy the water too much with losses.  Perhaps a very small amount on UNC to win a title (because their final 4 odds will likely be in the 6-1 ballpark) and short the high value Texas State single bet as a lone insurance policy.  

Investing in Short, Mid-size, or Long-range College Basketball Futures

With the overview example, this person might have 6 teams in the tournament. Especially if those are high value tickets, the plays has to be hedged in some way: Let’s call it long, single, or mid-sized. In the hypothetical scenario that his North Texas ticket draws Florida State in a 14 seed matched up against a 3, he might go one of three ways. In the long example, he would simply take Florida State as a title contender at 20-1. And so this could become a line in the bracket that he just commits to and invests in, depending on the winner. Betting $100 on Florida State at 20-1 would guarantee that he would have a 1 in 32 shot of winning at least $2,000 for $105 invested ($2,000 if FSU wins title, $10,000 for North Texas). The mid-sized play in this hypothetical would be taking Florida State to win the region. That bet would be roughly one quarter of the title future. So Florida State might be 5-1 to win this region, although they’re more likely to be 4-1. And so betting $25 at 4-1 would pay $100 and, again, guarantee that some investment survives and advances into the field of 32. A short term play would be to just focus on the single game between North Texas and Florida State. It would be easy to just root for North Texas to cover a 13.5 point spread. Another tempting short term play (although one that’s rarely advisable) would be to bet heavy on the chalk. Florida State might be -750ML in this hypothetical, so the bettor would have to put up $150 to win $20 bucks (and profit $15 from his original $5 bet on North Texas).

Standing by to Wait-and-See which Seed Starts Growing in March Madness

There’s no shame is standing by to watch the first two days of the tournament to see who has truly brought their A+ game. We will learn a lot about these teams as we see them live in action. Many of the nagging injuries would be proven a hindrance or a non-factor. If you have high value future bets that have made it to March Madness, that could be an excuse to save money by not betting a single game itself. For example, this bettor might have 6 seed Colorado squaring off against 11 seed Louisville. If Louisville wins the game outright, perhaps it’s time for the bettor to take the Cardinals to win the region or the title. Besides, he bet Colorado because he thinks they’re a good team, so by default he would have to like Louisville if they won this first round matchup.

College Basketball Futures Midseason Movers and Shakers

BY MATT DE SARLE

College Basketball Futures Values Available Midseason

Especially this year, the sports books are currently loaded with people (either in person or online) focused on the NFL Playoffs. This was a historic year where the Super Wildcard Weekend was rolled out for the NFL. It resulted in wall-to-wall football. There were two bonus games this season and fans got their fix. As more casinos slowly welcome more betters to the books for football, the college basketball landscape is quickly coming together. “Bubble teams” are digging bigger holes for themselves. Underdogs for a tournament bid are solidifying their unexpected resumes to get into the dance. And that’s where you can find some amazing values right now while few people are paying attention to these lines.

College basketball betting on a budget

I am your average fan. I own a small business. I am not a high roller throwing around large sums of money at these bets. I am a value player. I enjoy “investing” in the futures preseason and rooting for those teams to make the tournament. By that standard, $100 goes a long way for me. At the start of the season, I broke a hundred bucks into a few teams with a rule of winning at least a thousand dollars. If and when those teams make the tournament, I would re-invest again on their odds to reach a final four. This way, I am set up for the best case scenario (4 of my teams reach the final 4). Also, I can wager a small amount on the worst-case-scenario, and recoup some of my money if I am historically bad.

Watch my picks from early November here on YouTube.

3 midseason college basketball values to invest in

At the start of the season, I took a flyer on Colorado, West Virginia, Houston, Seton Hall, Rutgers and North Texas. Colorado remains the one great value that I see. The Buffs have been spotted in January at anywhere from 75-1 to 175-1. Senior point guard McKinley Wright IV is the most underrated player in America. He should absolutely be on the midseason Wooden Watch for the best player, but is not. Watch how Wright closes games. I love a veteran point guard headed into the tournament with a chip on his shoulder.

The second team I am watching as a possible value is Minnesota. I lament not jumping on them early on. Marcus Carr is one of the country’s best closers. His step back jumper is un-guardable. And in an era where the face of many rosters changes from year to year with one-and-dones, the face of the Gophers has changed with stellar transfer players. Utah transfer Both Gach and Drake big man Liam Robbins are really great compliments to an already talented roster. The Gophers will take their lumps in a historically great Big 10 season. However, I look for them to be a very dangerous value hitting the tournament somewhere in the 25-1 to 40-1 territory. That would break down to a 6-1 or 10-1 futures bet to reach the Final 4. That would be attractive. It would be even more interesting if they end up as a 6 seed, a slot that hasn’t reached the Final 4 since the early 1990s with the Fab Five.

Lastly, a team that I love the value for is UCONN. Barring a total collapse, they have already punched their NCAA Basketball Tournament ticket with the legwork done in (their return to) a mediocre Big East. The Huskies came roaring back from an 18 point deficit at Marquette this winter. They then handled business against Butler and Depaul. The USC win from earlier this season gets better-and-better, as the Trojans are putting together a respectable resume themselves. As of mid-January, UCONN’s only loss was by two points to top 10 team Creighton. Unbelievably, they were spotted at a sports book at 150-1 to win the title.

Movers and shakers in the college basketball futures market

Setting my personal picks aside, there are some interesting lines in the college basketball futures arena. According to Vegas Insider, Drake is 25-1 to win it all. That’s some high level respect for the Missouri Valley Conference team. Let’s see if that’s a misprint. At the same number is Kentucky. The Wildcats are probably the most volatile bet you can make, considering their unreal skid to start the season. A recent performance against the Florida Gators had Kentucky looking like, Kentucky again. They’re 25-1 to win it all as of writing this. Richmond was an early season darling because of its veteran starting 5. They sit at 60-1 if you still like that team after they’ve left the top 25. Oklahoma State has the consensus first overall pick in the NBA draft (Cade Cunningham) and is 100-1. That’s never a bad combo. Gonzaga remains the house favorite at around 3-1 with its challengers like Iowa, Baylor, Villanova, Creighton and Wisconsin all flirting with the single digits (ie 7-1 or 9-1).

Thanks for reading! Learn more about this blog here or join the debate on our Twitter page.

Matty D. of collegebasketballeyetest.com joins The Wallace Way on YouTube.

College Basketball Eye Test Midseason Report 2021

BY MATT DE SARLE

In a “normal year,” this would be the time of the season where college basketball teams are just now getting into conference play. However, there have already been some critical in-conference games that have been played by January 5, 2021. San Francisco already had its crack at blemishing Gonzaga’s perfect record, Texas embarrassed KU in Lawrence, and Northwestern has made itself a tournament team with strong play at the start of the Big 10 schedule.

Here are some of my observations from the last month or so of play.

Gonzaga poised to runaway with NCAA Championship

Right now Gonzaga looks like the Dream Team. And I am not exaggerating. Look at the recent games they played against Iowa and Virginia. A 20+ point loss looks respectable from Virginia. (They are like the Croatia in this metaphor). And Iowa was beat wire-to-wire by Gonzaga. Their 11 point loss on paper is different from what we saw on TV. Gonzaga has something they have not had, perhaps ever. Jalen Suggs has the type of swagger of a top 5 NBA pick. He is great. And he knows it. You’d have to think back to Adam Morrison to envision the type of game-changer that Suggs can be. And, Suggs is just a freshman surrounded by all time great Gonzaga players such as Drew Timme, Corey Kispert, and Joel Ayayi. The fact that Gonzaga landed stud transfer Andrew Nembhard is just evidence that the rich get richer. Sure, Baylor could give Gonzaga a great game if/when they play in a NCAA Championship game. I don’t believe that regular season game will be rescheduled, because there is far too much hype to build on for that to be the title game all broadcasts “tease ahead” to. Alas, Gonzaga is laughable at this moment as a 3 1/2 -to- 1 favorite to win the title. Would you take a bet on the USA Dream Team at 3 to 1? Because that’s what we are starting to watch from Gonzaga. Their WAC conference schedule wins may be taken for granted in January and February, but don’t forget what they looked like against Kansas, Iowa, and Virginia when it comes to March.

Midseason departures shake up College Basketball’s Top 10

In my preseason prediction video, I picked West Virginia and Houston among a shortlist of great value bets. Each team has slowly progressed into the top 10. However, each team has also lost a star player here midseason. Houston’s Caleb Mills has stepped away this past week from the team, citing personal reasons. His status for returning is uncertain. Mills was the pre-season pick as player of the year among American Athletic Conference beat writers. However, most recently in the team’s loss against Tulsa, Mills was coming off the bench. The Cougars rebounded well in a win on the road against a feisty SMU squad. However, it will be tough to replace Mills’s ability to create a basket late in games. Houston has no shortage of wing scorers, but Mills is not the type of offensive firepower you want to lose when you have championship aspirations. The hope, of course, is that his personal situation is not too serious and that the team culture can rally in his absence.

West Virginia lost Oscar Tshiebwe and he’s not coming back. The Karl Malone watch list candidate (i.e. best power forward candidate) left the team after a shockingly lower-than-expected productivity in the first half of the season. West Virginia quickly transitioned to a smaller team that put up more three point attempts. As this transition took place in real time, West Virginia lost its first game without Tshiebwe to Oklahoma. On TV there were moments where this game looked like a 3-point-shooting contest. The Mountaineers lost. Afterwards, they played another tough road contest against a soon-to-be-bubble-team: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were leading heavily heading into the 2nd half and throughout the 3rd quarter. Then something clicked. The shots started going in. In March, it will be interesting to see if the perimeter shooters like Sean McNeil, Miles McBride, and Taz Sherman meet the moment. Emmitt Matthews Jr. also had a great game on defense and in transition during this pivotal Oklahoma State win. It will be interesting to see if he becomes an X-Factor for their success.

The Big 10 is the best basketball conference ever

I am not a “hot takes” writer. I don’t like making bold predictions in order to get clicks. But if you watch college basketball, you realize that this Big 10 is the best college basketball conference ever. In a season where conference league play will look more like an intra-team scrimmage (as COVID-19 took away offseason, preseason, and all traditional dress rehearsals), Big 10 teams will hit March Madness as dangerous as ever. Just look at the landscape. Michigan is undefeated and blossoming with young talent and transfers to fill what little gaps remained from 2019-2020. Northwestern is winning big games. Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin came into the season as championship hopefuls and remain that. Rutgers has carried on its success from 2019-2020. The Scarlet Knights have basically the same roster as the one that shocked national onlookers last season. Indiana is playing for a bid. And Michigan State is fighting for its life to stay in the top 25 while (Survivor style) battling its allies in each challenge. The big men remain a mainstay of this conference. Marcus Carr looks like a closer who can win clutch games for a Final 4 team (at Minnesota). I didn’t even mention Purdue, which has two giants who play consecutive sessions at center. The ACC has had some great years with double digit teams making the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. But have we ever seriously had this many legitimate Final 4 contenders from one conference? And the irony is that none of these teams will snag a 1 seed, which is a crime. The conference is canabalizing itself. Joe Lunardi’s bracketology on January 5th shows all four 2 seeds as Big 10 teams!

Joe Lunardi’s bracketology predictions on January 5, 2020 show four Big 10 teams as 2 seeds.
College basketball blogger Matty D. dips into his notebook for a midseason report.

Eye Test Analysis for Every Tourney Team

Bradley 
Bradley beat the 7 seed in its conference to win the Missouri Valley Championship.  While its win against Valpairaso was impressive, you could see the 7 seed ran out of gas in its third game in 3 days.  Bradley senior Darrell Brown is the perfect point guard to run circles around you if you are on your heels.  And junior forward Elijah Childs is a prolific finisher and ambidextrous.  I just question if some of the athleticism they put on display during Arch Madness would look as impressive against a March Madness opponent.

East Tennessee State 
Returning only 1 of 5 starters from last season, head coach Steve Forbes deserves all the credit in the world for returning ETSU to March Madness after a one year hiatus.¬† Many people expected ETSU to be in the tourney in 2019.¬† This version of the Buccaneers plays similarly to the other dangerous squads Forbes has overseen.¬† They stretch the floor both by the perimeter and by the way of how they can penetrate.¬† The Bucs shot 42% from 3PT to polish off Wofford in its championship game.¬† But, when you watched, they also gave up some decent looks for Wofford around their perimeter.¬† Luckily, Wofford only hit 6 of 25.¬† The Bucs also lost the turnover battle, being victim to dig outs and surrendering 13.¬† This is a team of runs.¬† In its champ week win against Wofford, it came out hot leading 11-2, then got tied around half, before building a 5 or 6 possession lead early in the second half.¬† In its most high profile game of the season, it suffered a 5:12 minute scoring drought against LSU in the first half.¬† Then the Bucs went nuts.¬† They finished the first half on a 16-7 run and built a 21 point cushion in the second half.¬† (Editor’s note:¬† LSU has been known to have defensive lapses from the perimeter itself this season).¬† The Bucs are a team that can blow a high major team out of the gym.¬† It’s also a team that can suffer from its streakiness.¬† In its last lost, it jacked up 22 threes against Mercer, only hitting three in an otherwise close game (also shot 44% from FT).¬† Buckle up for the Bucs, it will be interesting either way.¬† Their pace of play won’t register high on analytics, in part because of its sound defensive metrics, but it can get hot and excite a neutral crowd.

Hofstra
For a second consecutive year, Hofstra held conference rival Northeastern’s (7th ranked in the nation) scorer Jordan Roland to 11 points in the title game.¬† So there’s that.¬† Hofstra plays like a street ball team.¬† When someone gets hot, they ride the hot hand.¬† They play four guards most of the time, and do thrive on one-on-one creation for shots.¬† The Hofstra Pride can also get creative in the transition game.¬† But heaven help Hofstra if Isaac Kante gets into foul trouble.¬† The 6’7″ junior serves as their lone big man for the most part.

Liberty
You will hear between now and the Thursday of March Madness dozens of times that Liberty beat Mississippi State last year as the 12 seed versus a 5 matchup.¬† That Liberty team lost to a very good Virginia Tech squad.¬† This year’s Liberty team is better.¬† Caleb Homesley is a red-shirt senior who looks like the Atlantic Sun version of Tracy McGrady.¬† He never looks like he is in a rush, but when he accelerates, it’s normally to finish with ease.¬† Power forward Scottie James is an enforcer, Darius McGhee is a high jumper at point guard, and Elijah Cuffee is a shooting guard adding scoring contributions at the right time.¬† This team looks like the 2005-2006 George Mason team.¬† There will be a few of us that believe that, as an 11 or 12 seed, that this team could make a Final Four run.¬† But those who do believe may be rewarded.

Caleb Homesley courtesy Liberty Mens Basketball

Photo courtesy: Liberty Flames Men’s Basketball/Twitter

Northern Kentucky
Jalen Tate is the straw that stirs the drink for the Norse.¬† He may qualify as their third guard, but he plays like a forward in the way he can get into the paint (then operate).¬† Northern Kentucky, and its three guards, love to shoot the three.¬† What they lack in efficiency, they make up for in shot attempts.¬† Conversely, they have shown some defensive lapses in both guarding the three point line and defending deep post position.¬† This is a team that can probably get embarrassed by a bigger team, but could also upset a smaller at-large if the Norse get hot from deep.¬† ‘

Robert Morris
It’s tough to balance the judgement of Robert Morris after an electric, athletic, energy-filled creciendo of their season with an emphatic conference championship win at home against St. Francis PA.¬† The Colonials share the ball really well.¬† It’s ironic they have two brothers from Akron on the squad, given the brotherly sharing.¬† Robert Morris runs a lot of down screens around the elbow and free throw line, getting action and open shots on the perimeter.¬† They shoot 36% from three, which is top 50 (43rd) in the country.¬† Junior AJ Bramah is a double-double waiting to happen.¬† He crashes the boards for a threat on the offensive glass.¬† This team does not look like a 16 seed.

Utah State
Utah State is a team that looked like it leaped over a hurdle in its win against San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament.¬† Big man Neemias Queta, who missed the first month of the season, was too much for the Aztecs to handle in the closing stanza of this game.¬† And that’s really what the tournament is about.¬† Teams take their advantage and ram it down your throat.¬† Utah State has no shortage of heady perimeter players.¬† Queta is the perfect compliment and the key to a deep run.¬† 23-year-old senior guard Sam Merrill played all 40 minutes, dropped 27 points, and hit the game winning three.¬† And its was the presence of Queta that kept the Aztecs on its heels.¬† This experience on the perimeter and high low combo could make Utah State very dangerous.

Winthrop
The best thing I can say about the Winthrop Eagles is that they can take a punch.¬† Hampton had them down 22-9 in their house after one quarter of play in the Big South Championship game.¬† D.J. Burns is a big with girth and left-handed banger who can produce in a traditional post game.¬† But, at 6’9″, will that size translate on a national stage in the Big Dance?¬† Winthrop’s top scorer is another left-handed shooter, combo guard Hunter Hale.

 

 

 

Feast Week Eye Test Recap

Feast Week Meaning for College Basketball

College basketball’s “feast week” features special out-of-conference match-ups.¬† There are a few factors that make these pairings special.¬† For one, similar to the college basketball tournament itself, these holiday tournaments represent a cross-section of conferences big and small.¬† Another special factor is that games are played on a truly neutral floor.¬† This means that neither team has home court advantage.¬† This very rarely happens during the college basketball regular season.¬† In the case of Kansas playing in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, or Duke playing in New York’s Madison Square Garden, there are times that blue bloods are advertised as playing at a “neutral site,” but those places actually represent a hotbed of fan support for those respective programs.¬† Third, the championship games (and even third place consolation games) often serve as a defacto playoff game.¬† It may determine which teams survive the famed “bubble.”¬† Because of the reasons mentioned above, committee members will be looking back to November’s rare match-ups to decipher which team has a resume worthy of a tournament invite.¬† Lastly, there is the element of rawness to these tournaments.¬† You’ll see a lot of rosters loaded with new talent, but still without ironing the roles within their team.¬† That makes for an exciting watch!

Below are eye test analysis of games, a work-in-progress on 11/24

2K Empire Classic

The 2K Empire Classic’s invite list reads like a veiled excuse to have Georgetown battle Duke in a championship game.¬† And that’s exactly what happened.¬† Coach Patrick Ewing’s Hoya squad looked like a poised group.¬† Its guards went on the offensive in the first half, and Georgetown actually led by about 10 points early.¬† In the end, Duke’s talent (and therefore #1 national ranking at the time) took over.¬† However, Georgetown’s electric play under the bright lights should be noted.¬† Mainly, sophomore point guard James Akinjo accelerated for 19 points and 6 assists in 35 minutes of play.¬† He made the audacious move of wearing #3 as a Georgetown point guard…mildly acceptable.

Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament

The Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament featured a team no one is talking about.¬† Ironically, that team is the national champion.¬† Virginia returns more talent than it gets credit for.¬† Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite are names you’d recognize.¬† But fans should be excited about Jay Huff this season with long-time center Jack Salt graduated.¬† Huff brings more range and scoring pop.¬† Jay Huff had some big points in a pivitol stretch again Vermont.¬† This may be the marquee game worth taking a second look at come March 2020.

Battle for Atlantis

There are many layers of the onion to pull away here from the 2019 Battle for Atlantis.¬† Four teams in the top 13 came to paradise to see whose sand castle would stand up to the rocky waters of stiff competition.¬† UNC’s did not.

You watched as the Tarheels started the tournament with a sleepy performance against the inferior Alabama team.¬† They coughed up 20 turnovers and gave up a lot of easy baskets at the rim.¬† The 38% shooting percentage for Alabama won’t tell the story about some of the lackadaisical plays that UNC allowed.¬† Then they got crushed by Michigan.¬† Finally, they won against Oregon (a team exhausted by two heavyweight battles: Seton Hall and Gonzaga contests decided by a total of 3 points).

Now, for that Michigan win.¬† Wow.¬† We saw that this was a team with all the right pieces.¬† Jon Teske was awarded the tournament’s MVP as he shows a lot more skill down low than many people thought.¬† Zavier Simpson is a veteran point guard who can orchestrate and defend.¬† Isaiah Livers looks like a lot of Michigan wings of recent years.¬† He can go inside, he can float out and cause matchup issues.¬† It’s not easy to speed him up.¬† His game looks some like D.J. Wilson, his predecessor at SF/PF who now plays in the NBA.¬† ¬†Coach Juwan Howards looks really comfortable.¬† When the broadcasts show his moments in the timeout, he is loose and sharing the huddle with his fellow coaches and players.¬† He is a pro.¬† Howards has incredible credentials as a professional coach.¬† And, what better motivational speaker for a young Wolverine?¬† This team passes the eye test with flying colors.¬†Battle for Atlantis bracket 2019 results courtesy Wikipedia

Next, you have Oregon and Gonzaga.¬† The two Northwest schools couldn’t be more different.¬† But they’re about equal.¬† Oregon PG Peyton Pritchard is as advertised.¬† Last year’s 16 Sixteen run he led was not a fluke.¬† He is one of college basketball’s best competitors.¬† And Dana Altman’s attitude of just making it work year-to-year with a motley crew of junior college transfers and highly touted recruits is incredible.¬† This guy knows how to cultivate a winning culture on a deadline.¬† On the flip side, Gonzaga has its renowned international basis and the versatility that comes with it.¬† That said, Serbian Filip Petresev looks to be what makes this team go.¬† This is going to sound crazy, but his game resembles a young Kevin Garnett.¬† He is long, lean, crafty, can shoot the midrange jumper, and has a mean streak.¬† Petresev thrives on the jump hook, and likes play with his back to the basket or off the offensive glass.¬† Watch his activity and compare it to a rookie Timberwolf.¬† ¬†All in all, both these Pacific Northwest teams could be playing in an Elite 8.¬† I put the odds in Oregon’s favor given their strength at point guard.¬† But the highlights of this game is worth a re-watch in early March as you’re prepping to fill that bracket.

Maui Invitational

Michigan State losing to Virginia Tech might be the headline of this entire week.¬† We saw glimpses that Michigan State might not be the no-doubter #1 seed as it struggled against Kentucky’s athleticism in the first game of the season.¬† And then Virginia Tech happened.¬† The V-Tech Hokies won wire-to-wire against Michigan State by swinging the ball all around the horn and daring to hit 3’s all night.¬† Spartans coach Tom Izzo sat Cassius Winston midway through the first half as he had 2 fouls.¬† That ended up biting them in the Sparty.¬† Winston committed his second foul at the 9:56 mark.¬† They trailed 17-18 at that point.¬† It looked like Virginia Tech seized all the momentum in the building for the next quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and taking a 32-28 lead into the locker-room.¬† Virginia Tech now gets the luxury of playing the rest of the season with house money, with a 6-0 record at a top 5 win on a neutral floor already on its resume.¬† If the Hokies played to a .500 record in the ACC, it would be hard to argue against them getting into the NCAA tournament.¬† As the broadcasters said on the telecast, this team was put together with 3 players having to reclassify in order to make a roster (after the offseason departure of coach Buzz Williams).¬† New coach Mike Young had made noise during his tenure at tiny Wofford.¬† In this “Maui Wowie,” he proved his cinderella story isn’t done being written yet.

Myrtle Beach Invitational

The championship game from the Myrtle Beach Invitational was HUGE.  The 17th ranked Villanova Wildcats took on the 24th ranked Baylor Bears.  When you do the math, you can see how the winner may be rewarded with a 3 or 4 seed in the Big Dance, and the loser a 5 or 6 seed, if things remain mostly equal going forward.  The winner was Baylor.  And it seemed that the Bears learned from their disappointing loss to the Washington Huskies in another early season yet gigantic non-conference opportunity.  Coach Scott Drew got more shooters into the game late and made defensive subs as needed.  The Bears actually made it look easy in the final four minutes against a very young Villanova bunch.

NBA Mock Draft Stocks Due to Rise

College Players Whose NBA Stock Will Rise

The so-called NBA prospects that rank highly in early February are not always the ones to rock the baseball cap in the first hour of the NBA Draft.

No, stocks rise and fall.  And the whole sports nation watches March Madness.

Modern History Lesson: College Players Whose Stock Rose on NBA Draft Boards Because of March Madness

In 2006, LSU forward Tyrus Thomas was on no one’s radar as a top 10 pick.¬† After his sensational play led the Tigers to the Final Four alongside Glen “Big Baby Davis,” Thomas found himself drafted #4 overall.¬† That was moments before the likes of Rudy Gay, Randy Foye and Brandon Roy that year.¬† A similar scenario happened with Joakim Noah during that era.

Hey, even the great Steph Curry wasn’t really on people’s radars until his Cinderella run with #10 seed Davidson.¬† He was even deemed a risky pick at #7 overall in 2009.

Stock Up for these 5 NBA Prospects Come March 2019

Here are some players who currently don’t rank on the top 10 on the fashionable draft boards, but you’ll be hearing about spring of next year on an NBA roster.

Eric Paschall’s NBA Draft Stock

  1.  Eric Paschall РVillanova G/F

If LeBron James takes to social media to compare you to current NBA pro Paul Millsap, there really isn’t much else to say.¬† I will say this for the people not familiar with Millsap’s game.¬† At first glance, you might make the mistake of thinking he is undersized.¬† Paschall is a tenacious rebounder, scorer, defender, there isn’t an act on the basketball court that this guy does half-ass.

However, currently, he is listed as a second round draft pick by top Google search result, NBA Draft.net.  Those experts have him going 33rd overall to the Orlando Magic as this article premieres on February 3, 2018.

Cameron Johnson’s Draft Stock

2.  Cameron Johnson РNorth Carolina F

Do you know of an NBA team not looking for a “power 4” who can stretch the floor with 3PT-abilities.¬† Johnson has the perfect measurables at 6-8 and 215, and was torching the nets at 47% from 3PT in early February.¬† His teammate Nassir Little ranks in the top 10 on draft boards, but two Tar Heels could soon occupy the top 10.¬† NBA Mock Draft.net currently has him listed at #42 overall.

Rui Hachimura’s NBA Draft Stock

3.  Rui Hachimura РGonzaga F

In early February, Sports Illustrated updated its mock draft board to reflect the “skyrocketing” prospects.¬† Somehow they fell asleep and didn’t include Rui Hachimura in the top 10.¬† This dude will be a top 7 pick, and has the ceiling of being a top 3 pick.¬† He is one of college basketball’s best mid-range jump shooters.¬† Hachimura is a tough cover, as a slippery 6-8 for bigger guys and a large load to handle for the smaller guys.¬† Rui averages 20¬† points and 6 rebounds a game, on a loaded roster.¬† We get it, this Gonzaga swingman was listed 11th overall by SI.com at the time.¬† However, when this Gonzaga squad gets it rolling in March, look for #Rui trending on a Twitter timeline near you.¬† And he’s just a junior.

Check out #21…

Bruno Fernando’s NBA Draft Stock

4.  Bruno Fernando РMaryland C

If Deandre Ayten can go #1 overall, Fernado is a lock for top 10.  He is not the full court sprinter as much as Ayten, but might compensate with a little more nastiness on the defensive end.  Fernado is becoming more agile as a new age NBA center type.  Ayten is the comparison worth considering.

To pick on SI.com again, they had Fernando going #17th overall to the Brooklyn Nets.

DeAndre Ayten Bruno Fernando Comparison

Markus Howard’s NBA Draft Stock

5.  Okay, this one actually pisses me off.  In world where Trae Young is drafted #5 overall, how the hell is Markus Howard ranking #41 overall as we speak?

If you haven’t seen Howard, it may be because he doesn’t play on ESPN channels.¬† And therefore, the hype machine hasn’t been pumping the way that machinery has been moving since Thanksgiving with Zion Willamson.¬† You rarely see a Markus Howard highlight package on SportsCenter.¬† But this guy is averaging an even 25 points a game, having dropped 45 points on 14th-ranked Buffalo, 53 on Creighton, and 45 on the K-State Wildcats (widely considered on of the nation’s best defenses).

Dude, come on now.

Watch the highlight package…

Related:¬† Does it seem like less sons of NBA players are in the college game today?¬†You’ll be blown away to see how many there were just three years ago!¬† Click here.¬†¬†

NBA Mock Drafts Predicted in February 2018

NBA Mock Draft snapshot nbadraft.net February 3 2019

March Madness game times and locations Thursday

Here are the teams, times and locations for Thursday’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.

All times Eastern Standard. 

(10) Oklahoma vs. (7) Rhode Island
12:15 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(14) Wright State vs. (3) Tennessee
12:40 p.m. in Dallas, TX

(13) UNCG vs. (4) Gonzaga
1:30 p.m. in Boise, ID

(16) Penn vs. (1) Kansas
2 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(15) Iona vs. (2) Duke
2:45 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(11) Loyola-Chicago vs. (6) Miami (Fla.)
3:10 p.m. in Dallas, TX

(12) South Dakota State vs. (5) Ohio State
4 p.m. in Boise, ID

(9) NC State vs. (8) Seton Hall
4:30 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(16) LIU-Brooklyn/Radford vs. (1) Villanova
6:50 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(12) Davidson vs. (5) Kentucky
7:10 p.m. in Boise, ID

(11) San Diego State vs. (6) Houston
7:20 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(14) Stephen F. Austin vs. (3) Texas Tech
7:27 p.m. in Dallas, TX

(9) Alabama vs. (8) Virginia Tech
9:20 p.m. in Pittsburgh, PA

(13) Buffalo vs. (4) Arizona
9:40 p.m. in Boise, ID

(14) Montana vs. (3) Michigan
9:50 p.m. in Wichita, KS

(11) St. Bonaventure/UCLA vs. (6) Florida
9:57 p.m. in Dallas, TX

 

The Real Champions Classic

Each year, ESPN’s Champions Classic is promoted as the real tip-off to the college basketball season. ¬†It always features a rotation of match-ups among these powerhouses: ¬†Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke.

There are also reports that the Champions Classic may literally kick-off the NCAA season next year, with no games tipping off before it. ¬†This year, it featured a sloppy matchup of Kansas versus Kentucky (Jayhawks win 65-61) and a Duke victory over Michigan State that left the viewer asking, “was this really a matchup of number 1 and number 2?”

However, tonight when Florida plays Duke and Michigan State plays North Carolina, it will feel like the Champions Classic that would have been if the planners had the ability to pair the nation’s best four teams.

Kansas’s roster is thinner than recent years. Kentucky’s is even more immature than recent years. ¬†Meanwhile, top 10 ranked teams like (2) Arizona is struggling (losing three consecutive games) and (6) Wichita State is without its primary scoring wing, Markis McDuffie. ¬†Swapping-in defending champion UNC with an incumbent veteran roster of Gators would be the ideal substitute for a Champions Classic.

Luckily, for college basketball fans, they’ll get that final four after a full slate of football Sunday. ¬†It’s the semifinals of the PK80 Invitational!

(1) Duke versus (7) Florida
TIP OFF 10:30 EST 

Let’s start with Florida. ¬†The gators are returning an experienced team, highlighted by its gritty backcourt of KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza. ¬†Add-in Russian-born guard Egor Koulechov, Kevarrius Hayes, and a load of talented underclassmen, and you have a national contender. ¬†The Florida Gators already accomplished a great resume-builder during this tournament. ¬†They beat the defacto hometown team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (games in Portland). ¬†Meanwhile, Duke had an impressive win itself. ¬†They came storming back in the final stanzas against a Texas Longhorns team that looked like it could bring Havoc to teams down the line. ¬†It’s Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s youngest starting roster since 1982-83. ¬†The Blue Devils start senior Grayson Allen with 4 freshmen, headlined by forward Marvin Bagley III.

(4) Michigan State versus (9) North Carolina
TIP OFF 8:30 EST 

UNC is somehow overlooked at number 9. ¬†Yes, they have lost Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley to the NBA draft. ¬†However, they return importance piece of last year’s championship team. ¬†They include Joel Berry II, Luke Maye, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson. ¬†Michigan State has the next coming of Vince Carter in Miles Bridges, along with a huge cast of sophomores who can grow into something special.