Sunday, March 25, 2012

Final 4

The final 4 is set, and we couldn't ask for two better matchups. We have one of the best rivalries in all of college hoops as Louisville matches up with state rival Kentucky in one game, and in the other matchup, we have two of the best big men in the country on the floor, as Ohio State and Jared Sullinger take on Thomas Robinson and Kansas.

My early thoughts? Despite the magical run U of L is on, UK just has too much talent for the Cards. Peyton Silva will have to play out of his mind to keep his team close. I know the teams played once and Louisville hung with the Cats in Lexington, and I know U of L is playing its best ball of the season, but UK is simply on another level. The Cats look like the most dominant tournament team in years. Since I've followed Ncaa hoops (around 2001) the only team that comes to mind that has dominated like this Kentucky team is the 09 Tar Heels, and even they might night be THIS dominant. The Cats are scoring at such a high level, defending like crazy, and sharing the ball like a bunch of seniors who have nothing to lose. That's scary that Coach Cal has this group of mostly freshman and sophomores playing that well, and that unselfishly. All week the young Cats will hear about how this Louisville team is following the steps of UCONN last year. They will show the country the Cards are not the same team. UK wins 76-65.
(One side note to know: In Coach Cal's first 2 years at Kentucky, he has been eliminated in the NCAA's by the Big East's tournament champ, WVU 10, UConn 11)

NBA scouts will be salivating over the second matchup Saturday night. Earlier in the year, the nation was robbed as Jared Sullinger missed the Buckeyes marquee non conference matchup with Kansas due to injury. Now we all get what we wanted. Sully vs T-Rob. Maybe the nations two best offensive big men will be going one on one all night, and quite frankly I can't wait. While that will be great entertainment, the two key players in my eyes are Aaron Craft and Tyshawn Taylor. Who ever plays better between those two will give their team a great chance to win. I'll take Craft any day of the week over Taylor. The OSU Sophomore is one of the best perimeter defenders in all of college hoops, and will be a major challenge to the Jayhawk guards all night long. Expect him to have a big game. This game has the potential to be one of the better games in the 2012 NCAA tournament, I'll take the Buckeyes 73-70.

Lee Kunkel

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thursday Preview:

Top game: Long Beach St vs New Mexico

Two of the top teams on the west coast will get together in Portland, and both teams come in hot. Long Beach is lead by its dynamic guard Casper Ware who can score against anyone (17.4ppg). The team also has a few other guys who can light it up. Larry Anderson, Eugene Phelps and TJ Robinson will keep teams at bay if they choose to double Ware. Anderson (14.0ppg) may be the best of that group. The senior forward can really shoot the ball.

New Mexico is led by UCLA transfer Drew Gordon. Gordon is averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds and nobody could figure him out in the MWC. Kendall Williams leads the Lobos back court, and is excellent at controlling pace. This game will be a fun one to watch. "The Beach" loves to push it and put up points. New Mexico plays great defense, so who ever can force their style has the best chance to win this one.

Biggest blowout: Kentucky vs Western Kentucky

Kentucky lost 1 game in the regular season, Western Kentucky had a losing record in the regular season (and still does). The Wildcats will be playing in Louisville, and while I'm sure WKU will bring fans, they wont get close to matching Big Blue Nation. WKU has played a lot f games lately, and will be a bit fatigued. UK is coming off a disappointing loss in the SEC title game to Vanderbilt, and won't mess around with the Hilltoppers. This game will be over early.

Lee Kunkel

Who's this years VCU?

(UPDATE: Well the Gaels looked good for the first 16 minutes, but then it all fell apart. Have to give BYU their credit. The Cougars used a 2-3 zone slow the Gaels high powered attack. With that being said, this was still a monumental collapse by the Gaels. We saw they had the potential to be dangerous, but they could not sustain it.)  

 Last year, Virginia Commonwealth captured the attention of the entire nation, as the Rams made a magical run from the First Four to the Final 4. The Rams are back in the field this year, but are not the same team, and will find it much tougher to reach the Final 4 this year. So that begs the question, who is this years VCU? You don't have to look deep into the field to find the team, simply look at where last years VCU team started in the NCAA tournament, and you will have your answer.

     A little over a week ago, the Iona Gaels season seemed like a total waste. The high scoring Gaels, whose minimum goal was a MAAC tournament title and NCAA berth, were defeated in the semifinals of their conference tournament, and seemed a long shot for an at large berth. Head coach Tim Cluess thought his team still deserved in. "Obviously I believe we deserve it," Cluess said to reporters following the upset. "... I don't think because you get knocked off in your playoff game that everything you did all season long should be thrown out the window. We had a very good RPI (38). To me, if that's not going to get you an at-large bid, then what's the sense of ever having a schedule like that? … So I'm hopeful that the NCAA looks at that and rewards us for it." Every "bracketoligist" had the Gaels on the outside looking in. The committee however did not. The Gaels sneaked into the field of 68, and were by far the most surprising team to make the tournament. Sound familiar? Over the past few days, and going forward, the Gaels will hear why they don't belong in the field of 68. Why Drexel was a better mid major candidate.Why Seton Hall played a tougher schedule, and everything in between. Cluess will have this bunch motivated, and that's scary, because the Gaels are not your typical MAAC team. 

     Scott Machado is a NBA point guard. The slick senior leads the nations with 9.9 assist per game, and can get his own shot. He is the type of player who can carry a team in a single game elimination tournament, much like Steph Curry did years back with Davidson. Here's the scary part, his back court mate is no slouch either. MoMo Jones played the Robin role to Derrick Williams Batman last March as Arizona had a surprise run to the elite 8. Jones transferred home this past summer to be closer to his ailing Grandmother, and gave Iona one of the best guard tandems in the country. These two will be a handful, but they aren't Iona's only weapons. Mike Glover is a undersized forward who can really score. He leads the the team with 18.5 points per game. Because of the great guards, he doesn't get the credit he deserves, but teams will soon find out he is just as dangerous. These 3 will give Iona a great shot to make a run, and much like VCU last year they will start their quest in the First Four Tuesday (tonight) vs BYU on truTV. The game is a play-in for a 14 seed, which will make the winners job a lot harder than VCU had last March. Due to BYU's religious request (they don't play sports on Sunday, so they can't be put in any Friday/Sunday locations) this game was forced to be a 14 seed play-in. In reality this there teams are around a 12 seed. 
     I expect the Gaels to make some major noise in the tournament, and can see them making a Sweet 16 appearance easily. They match up well with BYU and should cruise past the Cougars in the First Four. Marquette will be a big challenge; but not one the Gaels will shy away from. Cluess said his team is better than the 8th and 9th team in the Big East, and they will get a chance to prove that vs a top tier Big East opponent. The good news for Iona; the Golden Eagles are an undersized Big East team, and Iona will have the better guards.That back court will gives them a chance in almost every game they play. The Gaels high powered offense will be a sight to see this March, and next year, we will all be wondering "who will be this years Iona?"

Lee Kunkel