Tag Archive | "NCAA"

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Speed guarantees USC win

Posted on 10 September 2008 by Paul Nadolski

One of the most anticipated games of the year is coming up this weekend when No. 3 Ohio State plays No. 1 University of Southern California in Los Angeles. There are not many instances during a college football season that two top five teams play each other so early in a season without belonging to the same conference.

The last time these two teams played was Sept. 29, 1990 in Columbus, Ohio. The Trojans of USC won that game 35-26, though the game was called with 2:36 left due to thunderstorms.

This game is especially important for the Buckeyes. After resounding loses in the past two national championship games, Ohio State is trying to prove that they can beat big programs from outside their conference, or at least hang with them.

USC is looking to make it to three national titles since the turn of the century. The Trojans moved into the number one spot, hopping Georgia, when they soundly defeated Virginia 52-7 at Charlottesville in the opening week.

Even though USC is replacing four players on the offensive line and have a new starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez, it still seems like they are the favorites in this matchup.

To start out with, the Trojans are playing at home. In the past three seasons, USC is 17-1 (.944) at home, with that lone loss being 24-23 to Stanford last year, which was actually one of the biggest upsets in the Pacific-10 Conference history.

Also, one of the Buckeye’s main offensive weapons, running back Chris Wells, was hurt in their season opener against Youngstown State. Though he has not officially been pulled from the game yet, it appears that the foot injury could keep him on the sidelines.
Even if Ohio State had Wells, they would still be the likely underdogs. Until Ohio State can prove that they have speed like USC, then USC should be the favorite. The reason Ohio State lost to Florida and LSU the past two national championships is because those two teams were faster.
Speed kills in the game of college football, and the Trojans’ defense is one of the fastest. USC’s offensive also has speed, easily seen in their tailback Joe McKnight, who some consider to be the next Reggie Bush.

Hopefully the game will live up to the hype, but if the past two years have proven anything, this could be a game to forget for Buckeye fans.

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Four no. 1 seeds to play in the Final Four

Posted on 02 April 2008 by Tim Bucher

Since its 1939 inception no Final Four has ever featured four number one seeded teams.  That is, until now.  This past weekend, top seeds University of North Carolina, Kansas, University of California-Los Angeles and Memphis all clinched a spot in the Final Four.  When the four teams take to the court this weekend it will mark the first time in the history of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament that such a feat has been realized.  The colossal match-ups have the making for one of the most competitive and thrilling Final Fours in recent memory.  The teams will all enter San Antonio with intriguing storylines, high expectations and the desire to leave as the best team in the nation.

Take for instance UNC head coach Roy Williams, who will be faced with the emotion driven task of coaching against a Kansas team that he led to four Final Fours before becoming a Tar Heel in 2003.

Asked in a 2003 Sports Illustrated interview if he would ever schedule a game against his former employer, Williams said, “Nope.  And if we do make the tournament and someone were to schedule us in a first-round game — just one of those ‘miracles’ that happen in the tournament — then I’d strangle everybody on the committee.”

Then the UCLA versus Memphis match-up has both teams with something to prove. UCLA may as well refer to the Final Four as their second home, this year making it three years straight, but leaving each year with disappointment rather than championship hardware.  On the opposite bench will sit undisputed Conference USA Champion Memphis, a team that has had to prove critics wrong all season as well as through the tournament.  Predicted by many to be the first number one seed to go down, the team will no doubt be looking to continue to defy the odds by bringing their up-tempo play against a consistent UCLA squad.

Each team has made a remarkable journey to reach the plateau upon which they currently sit but only one team will leave San Antonio fulfilled by capturing a national championship.  Each of the four team’s journeys, outstanding players and keys to capping off their season with a championship are highlighted below:

The North Carolina Tar Heels season and tournament experience can be summed up by two words.  Tyler Hansbrough.  The junior forward’s performance in the Tourney, as well as all season, has been marked by his steadfast work ethic and tenacious play.  Earning the nickname, “Psycho T,” Hansbrough finds himself averaging 21.0 points and 9.5 rebounds throughout tournament play.  The forward’s determination and passionate play helped guide the Tar Heels to victory over Mount St. Mary’s, Arkansas, Washington State and Louisville.  In the previous Elite Eight game against a Louisville team noted for their defense, Hansbrough hit four deep jump shots and scored 28 points.  Hansbrough will have to set the tone early on in an emotion filled game for UNC, the best transition team in basketball, to be able to pull away from Kansas.

Taking on North Carolina will be an overly athletic Kansas Jayhawks team coached by former Illinois head coach Bill Self who is making his first Final Four appearance.  The Jayhawks are led in scoring by guards Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush, each player averaging roughly 15 points a game.  But it was center Sasha Kaun who came through for Kansas in their two-point victory over Cinderella Davidson in their preceding tournament game.  The big man came up with huge baskets down the stretch as KU dispelled bracket-busting Davidson’s dream run.  The team also defeated Portland State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Villanova.  Perhaps the criticism of Kansas to this point has been the lack of competition they have faced throughout the tournament playing their hardest game against a 10 seed.  Although the team is not to blame, this still may leave them somewhat unprepared for a quick and physical North Carolina team.  If they can play up to their competition, the agile Jayhawks could very easily capture a Final Four victory in this toss-up of a game.

The other game on docket for Saturday features number one seeds UCLA and Memphis.  With the high amount of turnovers in college basketball it has become harder and harder to maintain a consistent level of success.  That is why the Bruins are a bona fide rarity; making it to the Final Four three consecutive years under third-year coach Ben Howland.  The team is led by freshman superstar Kevin Love who enters the game averaging 21.8 points and 11.0 rebounds a game.  Possibly the most NBA ready talent, Love’s repertoire consists of a consistent jump-shot, intense rebounding ability and sound passing skill.

Said Xavier coach Sean Miller of Love, “getting to the Final Four with a go-to player — maybe more so than UCLA has had in the past — could allow them to win the national championship.”  Along with Love, the Bruins have one of the nation’s most talented point guards in junior Darren Collison.  Love, Collison, and a solid core of talent allowed the Bruins to defeat Mississippi Valley State, Western Kentucky, Xavier and barely pulled away from Texas A&M.  The addition of freshman Love to the mix may be what finally gets the Bruins over the hump to bring a 12th national championship back to Los Angeles.

Taking on the Bruins will be a Memphis Tigers team that lost only one game all season.  Due to the team’s lack of schedule strength, Memphis has undoubtedly been the most criticized number one seed in the tournament.  The Tigers responded to the critics by defeating University of Texas-Arlington, Mississippi State, Michigan State and dominating over number two seed Texas.  Memphis head coach John Calipari is making his return to the Final Four after a 12 year absence when he took a one loss UMass team to the land of four.

In tournament play, the Tigers have posted two 20 point scorers in All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman phenom Derrick Rose.  Douglas-Roberts has taken much of the team’s criticism to heart as their leading scorer but responded strongly with a 28 point performance against the Longhorns.  For Derrick Rose, this season and tournament has been a showcasing as to why he has to potential to be selected in the top several picks of next year’s NBA Draft, if in fact he declares. On Sunday, Rose’s stat line sure read like a top pro-prospect, dropping in 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds.  If the Tigers can continue with the same consistent all-around performance they have exhibited throughout the year, expect them to send UCLA packing for the third consecutive year and bring a national championship back to Memphis.

Over the past several days critics have made the argument that the lack of a Cinderella team in the Final Four will hurt ratings and make for a boring set of games.  But the fact is that such a high level of talent amassed on the court at once can only mean a more competitive and fierce contest.

A quote from Highlander says it best, “In the end, there can be only one.”  Indeed. And the battle to determine the best in the nation will surely make for great basketball.

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Bracket fever is sweeping across Marquette

Posted on 28 February 2007 by Paul Connelly

Trying to predict the NCAA Tournament is like trying to predict the winning numbers in the lottery: it’s not easy. So, trying to predict how Marquette will do in the tournament is like trying to predict multiple lotteries

Marquette’s inconsistency lately makes predictions for March a bit foggy. At one point many analyses had Marquette as low as a No. 2 seed, at least until they dropped three-in-a-row to Georgetown, DePaul and Louisville. I believe Marquette could be as low as a No. 4 seed if they have a strong showing in the Big East Tournament. On the flip side, if Marquette continues to struggle down the stretch, they could drop to a No. 7 or No. 8 seed.

Looking at Marquette’s NCAA Tournament history under Tom Crean, fans can expect two outcomes: either Marquette is heading to the Final Four or we may witness another first round exit. Under Crean there has not been a middle ground, it’s all or nothing. In 2003, under the leadership of Dwyane Wade, Marquette cruised to a Final Four appearance. Since then, Marquette has made it to the tourney only once and was shown the door by Alabama in the first round.

There is still hope for this year’s team, however. Although they are relatively young, Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dan Fitzgerald and Ousmane Barro have plenty of experience playing together under pressure. Any one of these players can take over a game, whereas last year the team mainly depended on the outside shooting of Steve Novak. A dynamic trio of guards, Fitzgerald’s outside stroke and Barro’s presence in the paint provide numerous options for the offense. McNeal provides a spark on defense and is the most consistent scorer on offense.

Last year I had Marquette beating UCLA in the second round (whoops), but I admit to picking with my heart, not my head. This year, I am going to try to use my head and give a realistic prediction. Marquette is going to be upset by a team in the second round of the Big East Tournament which will hurt the team’s ranking. I think Marquette will be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. This means we are looking at a No. 11 seed in the first round. This may not be as easy as it sounds, considering we could be facing a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference, which could be sending eight teams. If Marquette gets through that, then they are facing either No. 3 or No. 14 in the second round; I assume that it will be the No. 3, but anything can happen.

Some possible opponents include Nevada, Texas A&M, Southern Illinois or Memphis – all very talented teams, but not unbeatable. With maybe the exception of A&M, Marquette can probably come out victorious if Dominic James comes out of his slump.

I believe Marquette will make it to the second round, but will be sent home due to missed free throws down the stretch. Just like in the Louisville game, Marquette will stumble in the final minutes from the line and let the game slip away. I wish I could be more optimistic, but the fact is that the best player is not playing with his usual charisma, nobody can make free throws and Crean isn’t giving Barro enough minutes.

Luckily for Marquette, Big Dance provides teams with a fresh start. Anything can happen in March, just look at last year’s George Mason team going to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. I remember in 2005, Sports Illustrated had No. 3 Kansas winning it all only for the Jayhawks to get knocked out in the first round by No. 14 Bucknell. March Madness is priceless. But, even with a fresh start, unless the team rights the ship quickly Marquette will not be playing when students return from spring break.

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The annual bubble debate: Who’s in and Who’s out

Posted on 28 February 2007 by Peter Worth

Ah, we’ve reached that time of year again. The time when some teams are gearing up for a conference title and a deep run in March, while others prepare to have their fate determined by a large group of middle-aged, balding men. Yep, it’s bubble time.

Here’s a look at the biggest question mark from each major conference, as well as some mid-major candidates, who are on the bubble this year.


Maryland: Many wanted to classify Duke as a bubble team after their astonishing four-game losing streak, but consecutive defeats of Boston College on the road and home victories against Georgia Tech and Clemson probably squashed that theory. The real bubble team of this conference is Maryland, who only has two victories over ranked opponents this year: at home over Duke and then over No. 14 Clemson. North Carolina and Duke still remain on the Terrapins’ schedule and one win in either of those games should make them a probable selection.

Other uncertainties: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State

Big East

DePaul: Other middle of the road teams in the Big East like Villanova have worse conference records than the Blue Demons. The Wildcats, however have the fourth toughest strength of schedule in the nation and DePaul, the 20th. Although that SOS is very good, their overall record doesn’t look too spectacular at 16 – 12. Three straight wins over Marquette, Notre Dame and USF had this team rolling until a blowout loss in a rematch with the Irish last Tuesday. This is a very intriguing and athletic team, but cannot afford any more losses like the one Tuesday if they hope to earn an at-large bid.

Other uncertainties: Syracuse and Providence.

Big Ten

Michigan: There are a number of possibilities from this conference, but I’ll go with the one that never knows its fate for sure at the end of the year: the Wolverines. Tommy Amaker’s team has underachieved ever since he has arrived, a tenure which includes zero berths in the Big Dance. So, is this finally the year? Michigan scored a big win over Indiana last Saturday, but lost at Illinois the following game in a very unimpressive effort. They’ll need at least one more big win to make a strong case, and consecutive home games against Michigan State and top-ranked Ohio State to close the Big Ten schedule will give them that opportunity.

Other uncertainties: Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue.


Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have been a hard team to gauge all season, especially in conference. After defeating then No. 5 Kansas and No. 6 Texas A & M, they followed it up with five straight losses, including one to lowly Nebraska at home. However, another victory over the Aggies on the road gave them three victories against top 10 opponents, a feat that might just be enough to earn them a bid.

Other uncertainties: Kansas State and Oklahoma.


Arizona: A team with this much talent should be nowhere close to the bubble, but a “soft” label has followed the Wildcats all season. Point guard Mustafa Shakur is electrifying at times and turnover-prone in others, while athletic forward Marcus Williams tends to disappear in big games. A mediocre conference record hurts their resume, but the toughest schedule in the nation certainly helps it. A win or two in the Pac-10 Tournament should lock their bid.

Other uncertainties: Washington, Oregon and Stanford.


Tennessee: The Volunteers have a star in guard Chris Lofton and an over-eccentric, very orange coach in Bruce Pearl. I’m not sure if both of them help the team, but the recent blowout loss to 13-12 South Carolina following a big win over Kentucky certainly doesn’t. With a non-conference schedule that includes Ohio State and North Carolina, Tennessee is battle-tested but just hasn’t won too many big ones. However, a win at home over Florida on Tuesday could be a major boost.

Other uncertainties: Alabama, Georgia


Missouri State, Bradley, Wichita State: The “major” mid-major has turned into a bubble powerhouse and this year is no different. Both Bradley and Wichita State made the Sweet 16 last year, while Missouri State wants to get back after the shock of missing out.

Other teams to keep an eye on: Wright State, Old Dominion, Hofstra, Drexel, UNLV, Bucknell

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Posted on 12 March 2006 by Justin Phillips

Dancing days are here again for Marquette. This evening, MU found out they will be heading west, as the #7 seed in the Oakland regional. Up first for the Warriors is #10 Alabama, who they will play Thursday in San Diego.

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NCAA promotes homogeneous team mascots

Posted on 01 March 2006 by Luke Fuller

In the realm of mascot diversity, the Big East is failing miserably and falling behind many conferences of similar prestige. Of the sixteen teams in the Big East, five are currently represented by human beings: the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Providence Friars, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Seton Hall Pirates. Alarmingly, all five would be classified as Caucasian. That means that valuable members of the Big East basketball viewing audience are left without an ethnic mascot with whom to identify. This disenfranchisement of some American citizens could lead to a defection of fans to other major conferences. Continue Reading

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Marquette Finally Getting Its Due

Posted on 21 February 2006 by Justin Phillips

While the polls may be lagging behind in showing proper respect to this year’s Marquette team, the national media is beginning to jump on the bandwagon. From Bracketologists to TV analysts, the media is beginning to pay attention. In yesterday’s version of Bracketology Joe Lunardi had Marquette as a #6 seed in the NCAA tournament. Sounds pretty good right? Well CBS Sportsline had MU as a #5! In addition all three major sports websites have been gushing over the Warriors performance last week. ESPN, CBS Sportsline, and Fox Sports have all made special mention of Marquette’s post season chances. In fact, ESPN moved MU into their “lock” category come tournament time.

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Fast forward: NCAA or bust

Posted on 01 February 2006 by Charles Rickert

Marquette is 15-6 (5-3 Big East). With eight games left in the regular season, the Golden Eagles are four wins away from decidedly qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. A 9-7 record in the Big East and at least one win in the conference tournament forms a resume fit for March Madness. Continue Reading

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