Sunday, March 10, 2013

2013 March Madness Update: March 10

VCU travels to Philadelphia on Sunday to face off against Temple in the Atlantic 10 regular season finale. The Rams are in the field of 68 without question but the Owls still have some work to do. Fran Dunphy's squad holds impressive wins over Syracuse and St. Louis, but they also lost to Canisius, Duquesne, and St. Bons at home (all as double digit chalk), which are three bad losses. If the Owls can knock off VCU at the Liacouras Center tomorrow afternoon they will most likely have punched their ticket considering they have other quality wins at Mass, at Nova, and vs. La Salle. Additionally, Dunphy did himself a favor by not constructing a cupcake non-conference schedule, which should definitely catch the eye of the committee. (Some of Temple's non-conference opponents include Duke, Kansas and Villanova.)

In terms of the A10 tourney, VCU is locked into the No. 2 spot with a first-round bye and will face the winner of St. Joe's-Xavier. If Temple beats VCU they would be the No. 3 seed, earn a first-round bye, and play the winner of GW-Mass. If the Owls lose they clinch the No. 5 seed and will be forced to play Dayton in the first round.

Michigan looks to avenge their Feb. 3 loss at Indiana as they now get a crack at the Hoosiers in Ann Arbor. Despite forcing 18 turnovers in the previous matchup, the Wolverines allowed 1.17 points per possession on defense which tied a season-high. Michigan fell behind early and their only lead in the game lasted for just six seconds after Trey Burke hit a three to put the Wolverines up 3-2 with 18:50 remaining in the first half. There was a large discrepancy in terms of free throw attempts (25-7 in favor of Indiana) in Bloomington and Michigan should make it a priority to get to the charity stripe considering they attempted 16 more three-pointers than foul shots in that last matchup. Glenn Robinson III is shooting 31% (10-32) from the field in Michigan's five loses as opposed to 60% (115-191) in their 25 wins and thus it will be vital for him to step up and have an efficient game tomorrow.

The BIG 10 standings are in a jumble at this point and the league champion will not be determined until the conference games on Sunday come to a close.
Arch Madness: The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, also known as Arch Madness, will come to a close on Sunday with a matchup that features the top two teams in the league. Creighton went from being ranked No. 11 (AP Poll) earlier in the season to 'on the bubble' after that BracketBuster loss at St. Mary's. The Blue Jays cruised through their first two conference tourney games with relative ease, winning by 12 and 21, although Drake did hang around for a while in the first game. Wichita State overcame the 'scissor-kick' revenge factor that was in play on Saturday en route to a 66-51 victory over Illinois St. The Shockers defeated Missouri State 69-59 in the quarterfinals but did not manage to cover the 12.5-point spread as the Bears kept it relatively close from start to finish.

As far as the season series goes between these two, both teams split and covered each game on their respective home floors. Linemakers have yet to release a number on this one but my guess is Creighton will open as a 1.5-point favorite.

Big South: We have our first Cinderella story of March. The Liberty Flames defeated Coastal Carolina (the tournament's host school) by 18 points in the opening round (as a 9-point underdog), but that's just the beginning. Liberty took care of High Point in the quarterfinals as a 3.5-point dog and proceeded to take out Gardner-Webb as a 6-point pup in the semis and they now find themselves in the conference tournament finals. I haven't seen a line for this game and I'm not too sure what to make it considering I don't follow the Big South too closely but some math models I checked out suggest Charleston Southern should be giving 6.5 or 7 points.

West Coast Conference: I actually just finished watching St. Mary's fight back to defeat San Diego thanks to the grit and leadership of Matthew Dellavedova paired with a heroic performance by Brad Waldow. The sophomore forward scored 23 points, grabbed 16 boards, and ended up losing a tooth in the process. Waldow did not sit a minute as he refused to leave the floor despite losing one of his front teeth and he actually ended up setting a career high in points (and tied his career high in rebounds).

Despite being a 20-point favorite, Gonzaga only led Loyola Marymount by one point at halftime, but as expected the Bulldogs came alive in the second half  and took care of business. Elias Harris was a problem down low for LMU and actually scored 12 straight points (for Gonzaga) during a brief stretch in the second half.

Gonzaga defeated St. Mary's twice during the regular season and will go for the sweep on Monday night. The Gaels covered the 9.5-point spread in the first meeting but ended up losing the second game by margin. Oddsmakers have yet to release a line because the St. Mary's game just finished a little while ago but I would imagine the Bulldogs will be laying 5 or 6 points. The Gaels are on the bubble thanks to a weak strength of schedule and they will need to win tomorrow if they want a guaranteed spot in the dance.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

NCAA March Madness Update: March 9

With conference tournaments underway and only eight days remaining before Selection Sunday, it's time to talk March Madness.

First Team In: Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) defeated Mercer 88-75 to seal up the Atlantic Sun automatic bid and clinch the first NCAA tournament birth. FGCU won all three of their conference tourney games by double digits and although they will probably be a 16 seed (according to StatSheet projections), it should not be forgotten that FGCU went into Miami (FL) and defeated the Hurricanes 63-51 back on November 13.

Conference Tourneys: Charleston Southern defeated Virginia Military 71-65 to move on to the Big South Conference Championship. The Buccaneers will face off against the winner of Liberty and Gardner-Webb on ESPN2 tomorrow for the opportunity to clinch an automatic bid.

Belmont and Murray State will square off in the Ohio Valley Conference Final tonight (7:00 PM ET) on ESPN2. Oddsmakers currently have Belmont locked in as a 7.5-point favorite over the Racers despite the fact that Murray State won their lone regular season matchup 79-74. The Racers put on an efficiency clinic last night against Eastern Kentucky as they shot 22-31 (71%) from inside the arc and scored 60 of their 81 points off 1's and 2's. Bubble teams are heavily relying on Belmont to win this game considering the Bruins have an outside shot at an at-large even with a loss tonight. 

The semifinal round of the West Coast Conference tournament kicks off tonight in Vegas with Gonzaga facing off against Loyola Marymount followed by a matchup between St. Mary's and San Diego. Linemakers made Gonzaga a 20-point favorite over a Loyola Marymount squad that went 1-15 in conference during the regular season. If the Lions could pull off the unlikely win it would almost certainly be considered the biggest upset of the season. St. Mary's is listed as a 15-point favorite versus San Diego, so unless some sort of miracle occurs tonight, expect to see Gonzaga and St. Mary's face off for the third time this year.

Bubble Talk: Kentucky came up with a huge win over Florida earlier this afternoon which all but solidified their spot in the NCAA tournament. Even if the Wildcats were to lose their lone SEC tournament game, I'm sure the selection committee will give them the nod. As per the Gators, this team just cannot close out tight games. Florida is currently 0-5 in games decided by single digits which is not good when you are trying to go to the Final Four. Fortunately for the Gators, Will Yuguete has returned to the lineup but it is unclear how healthy he actually is. Florida's problem is depth and it will be tough for them to make a Final Four run while solely relying on starters.

La Salle traveled to St. Louis to take on the Billikens in an A-10 regular season showdown but the Explorers came up short. LaSalle needed a win to solidify their NCAA tournament hopes but now they shift their focus towards their conference tournament. Dr. John Giannini's guard-oriented squad is going to have to win at least one game in the A-10 tournament to keep their chances alive in my opinion.

Despite being nationally ranked, UCLA still has work to do if they want to go dancing. The Bruins could have helped their cause with a win at Washington State the other night, but Ben Howland's squad simply did not show up to play. UCLA is going to have to beat Washington today and do some damage in the Pac-12 tournament, but when it's all said and done I believe the committee will put the Bruins in the field of 68.