*Webmaster note -- I apologize for the consistent MailChimp malfunctions - working with them to get it figured out, but no one likes a spammer, and that's what we've become last 2 days...
What's that they say about best intentions? There was an intent to get you a developed set of notes on the Bracket. It didn't happen, full stop.
Yesterday morning, which we touch on yesterday, but when you drop 51 on the conference co-champ and 2-seed, you get a rehash. We saw the spirit of Isaiah Thomas manifest itself through the body of Chris Clemons. You probably wouldn't have given Campbell a punchers chance in this one. Campbell came into the Big South tournament under .500, had lost to the Bulldogs twice by 29 points total. Asheville had won 15 of 17, claimed a share of the regular season title. These teams were going in opposite directions. But, guess what, when the puncher is Chris Clemsons, it's not your usual punchers chance.
When you score all 9 of your team's first 9, you might be on to something. But then, Asheville went on a 16-0 run, and it seemed whatever Clemons might be up would be overshadowed by a impending blow out. Then a 5'9 Sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina decided he wasn't just going to have a big game, he was going to take over the game. A Mogga Lado dunk and Clemons 3 stopped the Asheville scoring run. Then this happened...
That's 5'9 on 6'9, and that's when a game turns for good. For those scoring at home, that's 14 of his team's 16 points in 12 minutes, a ridiculously athletic block, and his stamp on the Big South tournament before we hit the under 8 timeout. 37 points later - we've got 51 and Campbell is still playing and the co-champs are still trying to figure out the train that just ran through them
Chris Clemons scored 24 points per game as a senior at Millbrook High School in Raleigh -- he held offers from UNC-Greensboro, Gardner-Webb and his eventual choice - Campbell. His athleticism allowed him to do things like this:
This actually may be more impressive (though the first video made ESPN top plays) because it was more in the flow of the game, with opponent "resistance"...
The name Dennis Smith, Jr. may be familiar to you. He's a money basketball player at NC State, guess what Chris Clemons did against his squad in high school? Dropped 32 points.
"If Chris was 6-3 or 6-4, he would be starting in the ACC right now. He's special." - that's a quote from his high school coach. Hey NC State - maybe you ought to have given a call to both players in that Trinity/Millbrook game...
TJ LEAF UPDATE: According to report from Ben Bolch at the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/la-sp-ucla-tj-leaf-injury-20170302-story.html) -- TJ Leaf, through his father, Brad, is said to be aiming for a return to the lineup by the time the Pac12 tournament tips off. Whether that proves to be true remains to be seen, but it at least gives the indication the sprain isn't a severe one, and at a minimum he should be healed up in a pair of weeks when the NCAA tournament starts.
What is the BOOP? It's that section of this website that you all skip by, after checking out the latest bracket and skimming the newest edition of Today's Specials. So with a brand new BOOP posted, thought we dive in it a bit.
Essentially, you can track who the BOOP predicts will be in the field by noting where consensus bracket start to delineate from at-large invitees to automatic qualifiers. That appears to be at about the end of the 12-line (or the 50th team in the rankings). According to the current BOOP, that would be Illinois, Providence, Seton Hall as the formulas predicted last few in. Of course, you look above, and you'll see Rhode Island, Kansas State, Clemson, Georgia all in, with Syracuse and Illinois State below that line. Of note, Wake Forest, Xavier, USC are all more safely in that the most recently Buffetology suggests.
At the top, the BOOP loves Florida. But the line is slim - between Florida, Gonzaga, Kentucky and North Carolina the difference is no greater than 2.7 points, that when you factor the games remaining and who they'll likely face means a single win for all of them (or in Gonzaga's case, winning the WCC tournament).
In the scrum that has been seeding the Pac12 teams, you can go to BracketMatrix.com and see the consensus look, each of the three is slotted somewhere different from prognosticator to prognosticator. Buffet has consistently had Arizona, by the slimmest of margins, ahead of the other 2. They traded road wins with UCLA, and while they were hammered by Oregon, they beat them in McKale, and Oregon will not likely shoot from deep like they did in that game again (60+% from 3, 62% overall), or else they're going to be national champions. Arizona is still considered the conference leader, and because of where they sit in the BOOP explains their position in the latest bracket.
When the ratings are updated Sunday evening -- will get a good sense of where/how individual games can really really affect the field's bottom line.
March 3-6 - Asheville, NC - U.S. Cellular Center - all games ESPN3, Championship ESPN
- Game 1: 8 Western Carolina v. 9 The Citadel
- Game 2: 7 Samford v. 10 VMI
- Game 3: UNC-Greensboro v. Game 1 Winner
- Game 4: 4 Chattanooga v. 5 Wofford
- Game 5: 2 Furman v. Game 2 Winner
- Game 6: 3 ETSU v. 6 Mercer
- Game 3 Winner v Game 4 Winner
- Game 5 Winner v Game 6 Winner
- 3/6 CHAMPIONSHIP - ESPN 7pm ET
Three teams all 14-4 in conference. Furman seemed to be in a straight line for the regular season title until the co-champs showed up opposite of them on the floor and turned a 10 game winning streak into a 2-game winning streak. That put E Tennessee State in the driver's seat, at 13-3, but a season concluding loss in Greensboro, at 72-66, a game that was all square with 3:45 left, turned this in a 3 team co-championship dance.
T.J. Cromer (ETSU), Desonta Bradford (ETSU), Devin Sibley (Furman), Kris Acox (Furman), Francis Alonso (UNCG), and Diante Baldwin (UNCG) -- those are the names to know from your top seeds.
Greensboro walks in as your hottest SoCon team -- having won 7 straight to close to season with a win the win over Furman being at the Paladins. UNC-G swept 3 seed ETSU this year, and took Wake to wire, so the ability to run this table is there. They are also 6-2 against possible opponents prior to the championship game.
Furman was picked to finish dead central (5th) in the preseason poll - and their presence all of the postseason awards demonstrate just the level of season they had. Watching sole possession of the regular season crown snatched away in 2 late season games had to be crushing, but they are primed for a run. They avoid Chattanooga & Wofford, who are the only other team to hang Ls on them, and both UNCG & ETSU know that for both victories can a corresponding earlier defeat. They also stepped out of conference effectively - a 6 point loss at Michigan featured 12 lead change and 8 ties (and needed 3 from Derrick Walton Jr with 25 second left to turn a 3 point game into a 6 point game), led Georgia in Georgia with 8 minutes left before a Bulldog spurt to close the game ran UGA to a 6 point win, took Winthrop to OT in Rock Hill, and gave up a 3 with 3 seconds left to fall by a single point, and routed UAB in Birmingham by 10.
You know TJ Cromer. He's back and ETSU has the bitter taste of a Feb 27 loss to UNC-Greensboro holding them from having the regular season crown to themselves and the top seed this weekend. Before that was a 6 game win streak and true dominant momentum heading into the tournament. On a season-wide look, ETSU is probably the most complete team, being able to both score and defend on a level above the rest of the conference.
Other team to watch is Chattanooga, they were the consensus favorites in the preseason, they did little to dispel that reputation with their non-conference play, going 9-3, with a victory over Tennessee in Knoxville and playing Vanderbilt to a 2-point loss in Nashville. But the Mocs just couldn't leave up to expectations - the tournament is their opportunity to quickly erase those memories.
Also keep tabs on Wofford -- they hold wins over all 3 of the top seeds, and Fletcher Magee can light it up from outside (more on him below). VMI isn't likely going places, but if they do it's be QJ Peterson, the conference's leading scorer, took them to those places.
Prediction: Furman is a great story, a good all around team and the league's most all-around player -- but ETSU's efficiency numbers are on another level, and here's thinking so is this team come March 6.
Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate: Fletcher Magee, Wooford, 103 3s, yep not a typo, on 42% shooting, Wowsers, Fletcher Magee is a Shooter McGee.
MOTOR CITY MADNESS from Joe Louis Arena March 3-7
- Game 1: 8 Cleveland State v. 9 Youngstown St
- Game 2: 7 Detroit v 10 Milwaukee
- Game 3: Game 1 Winner v 1 Oakland
- Game 4: Game 2 Winner v 2 Valparaiso
- Game 5: 4 Northern Kentucky v Wright State
- Game 6: 3 Green Bay v 6 Illinois-Chicago
- Game 3 Winner v Game 5 Winner
- Game 4 Winner v Game 6 Winner
- 3/7 CHAMPIONSHIP ESPN
There was a point in time when the Horizon championship both regular season and tournament seemed preordained for the Crusaders of Valparaiso. 10-3 in non-conference including wins versus Alabama, BYU, Rhode Island and quick MVC sweep of Indiana St and Missouri St. But a 7 point home loss to Santa Clara in late December proved to be subtle harbinger. And a Jan 6 loss to Oakland proved to be omniscient. They did rattle off 8 straight conference wins, but then a 17 point loss at Green Bay, and then giving Oakland the season sweep with an 11 point loss in mid-February, followed up with a 3 gm winning streak snapped with the 4th conference loss to close the season at Northern Kentucky. And suddenly, the preordained will take an upset to achieve. This is still a nicely loaded team, with Horizon player of the year Alec Peters leading the way, with fellow upperclassmen Tevonn Walker and LSU-transfer and Dutch-born (and fellow first teamer) Shane Hammink filling out a formidable top 3. The focus dropped towards the end of the season, and the team that beat all the Waiting Line squads early on most re-emerge.
It is not as though Oakland's regular season title came out of nowhere, despite Kay Felder graduating to the NBA. They were picked to finish 2nd preseason, but an impressive 9-game win streak to take the crown (technically they were co-champs, but the season sweep of Valpo gets them the top seed). Jalen Hayes and Martez Walker lead this squad who handled Valpo in both games this season, and stepped out of the Horizon to beat Georgia by 7 in late December, so this isn't a mid-major slouch.
If you're looking past the top two for a team that could emerge, best bet there is Northern Kentucky. The Norse finished the season winning 9 of 11, beat Valpo to close the season, and have one of the Horizon's best on their squad in Drew McDonald.
Prediction: It's the old cliche: beating a team 3 times is difficult, especially when everything you know about the teams if you erase the h2h matchups and late February swoon says the team who lost twice is better. Seeing Valparaiso figure life out and get through this tourney as the champs.
Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate: Cole Murray, Northern Kentucky (I told you they're a solid darkhouse to bet on), 96 3s, 42%
CAA Men's Basketball Championship - North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC Mar 3-6
- Game 1: 8 Hofstra v 9 Delaware
- Game 2: 7 James Madison v 10 Drexel
- Game 3: Game 1 Winner v. 1 UNC- Wilmington
- Game 4: 4 William & Mary v 5 Elon
- Game 5: Game 2 Winner v. 2 Charleston
- Game 6: 3 Towson v 6 Northestern
- Game 3 Winner v Game 3 Winner
- Game 5 Winner v Game 6 Winner
- 3/6 CHAMPIONSHIP - CBS Sports Network - 7pm ET
On February 2nd, the CAA was tied at the top. But by the end of the season, Kevin Keatts had the Seahawks of UNC-W where they haven't really been since the days of Brad Brownell & Brett Blizzard (this season's version just set a UNC-W school record for wins in a season) The Seahawks played a just tough enough schedule (135th in the country), to challenge themselves at the level they'd need to be prepared for come CAA play. And they were ready - they blasted out to a 9-0 record, before a midseason 2 game losing streak forged the tie, but then found their footing to a 6 of 7 finish (including 4 straight to close out), to gain the conference championship. UNC-W placed a pair of players on the all conference team, CJ Bryce & Chris Flemmings, who combine for 32 per game, abnd are led down low by the conference's second leading rebounder, Devontae Cacok. They also have outside bomber, Denzel Ingram who with 7 3s in the tourney will get to 100 made on the season...
Charleston, on the other hand, has the whole, home tournament thing going for them, in addition to a strong season. After their Feb 2 upset of UNC-W, Charleston had a direct line to sitting at home as the top seed in their tournament, until their own 2-game losing streak derailed them. The Cougars enter the tournament on a 4 game winning streak of their own. Joe Chealey leads (17ppg) a trio of player who average double digits: Jarrell Brantley (Brantley also pulls down 8.2 rebounds per game) and Grant Riller. And Charleston is the CAA's stingiest team -- having given up the lowest PPG in the conference.
You want a sneaky upset candidate? Look no further than 6th seeded Northeastern. Why would a team coming into the tournament having lost 6 of 8 be on our radar? They boast the conference player of the year in TJ Williams. The CAA leading scorer. They have wins over Michigan State (granted on Dec 18, it was a different looking Spartan team than who's out there today, but still winning in East Lansing is winning in East Lansing), at Vermont, at Connecticut, at Oakland, and here in Charleston over Charleston. That spells not a favorite, but don't be surprised...
Prediction: UNC-Wilmington is the best team in this conference - but, home is home, and that's why we're going Charleston in this one.
Jack Leasure Madbomber Award Candidate: Denzel Ingram, 93 3s, 35% (not the most accurate, but he hoists 'em up)
Time is the ultimate master. And with the schedule being light on tourney implication, we will review Thursday's action tomorrow, and blip over today then as well. Just know Iowa did nice things for themselves yesterday, Illinois State preserved their chances today, and now Monmouth and Wichita State are headlong into action to do the same
A seeding implication in a rare Friday night B12 tilt sees Iowa State try to keep momentum going in West Virginia, who'd really like to stay in protected (top 1-4) seed land, and maybe rise to 3 going into the B12 tournament.