Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb

The seven (plus one) best bracket tips for casual fans

2 Comments

Hey-o, it’s Wednesday. How does your bracket look?

Time is ticking and, if you haven’t filled out your sheet yet, it’s likely because you’re waiting until the last possible moment to guess your way through the field.

If you need a little nudge, maybe some clarity on a few questions you may have, fear not, here are some good little tips to consider when filling out your bracket.

1) Don’t pick Indiana. Despite a mini-renaissance in Bloomington, the resurgence hasn’t carried too far outside of Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers best win on the road is over Purdue. Their best win outside of the state of Indiana is NC State. That’s not very impressive for a four-seed.

2) Winning your regular season conference title may not really matter, and neither is winning your conference title, but winning one of them does have a bearing on a team’s National Championship hopes. Nine of the last 13 winners have won their conference tournament, while a different variation of nine of the last 13 teams have won their conference’s regular season title. That means you almost must win something. Simply speaking: Duke, or even Ohio State are not winning this thing, but we’ll re-visit the Buckeyes in a moment.

3) Last season, UConn ran the table and won the National Championship as a three-seed , capping off an incredible 14-0 neutral court record. The performance got everyone thinking that winning in that sort of setting could be a good indicator of how a team will play in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a look at every team’s neutral court record this season from Basketball State. Who does this make look good? Missouri, Vanderbilt and even Louisville. Conversely? Kansas, Memphis and Wichita State.

3) No 16-seed has beaten a one-seed, but 15s have beaten twos…just not in the past 10 years. Zero for their last 40, the unlikely 15 over a two is currently in its longest drought since the tournament expanded in 1985. Maybe their due, maybe their not, but streaks were made to be broken.

4) Consult KenPom.com. The national champion has finished either No. 1 or No 2 in his ranking algorithm in all but two seasons since the site was launched in 2003. With the two outliers being the 2011 UConn Huskies (Kemba Walker) and 2003 Syracuse Orange (Carmelo Anthony), the two anomalies were due primarily to one player catching fire and carrying his entire team. With this, I’m basically telling you to strongly consider Kentucky and Ohio State to play for the National Championship.

5) Some people may be looking at Florida as their deep Final Four darkhorse. Pump the brakes right now. No seven seed has ever made the Final Four since the tournament expanded. Sorry, Gators. Your swoon to close out the regular season doomed you, and everything is pointing in Missouri’s final to cruise through that pod.

6) North Carolina’s,  maybe even Florida State’s chances at making the Final Four are great based on history. Twenty-two of the last 28 Final Fours have included an ACC team. Yes, I know, Duke and the Heels are a big part of that, but if you are a numbers guy that has to make a few decisions easier for you. With the Midwest Region looking thin, and the East now wide open both teams have a good chance to win their region, but boy that potential Sweet 16 match-up between the Seminoles and Buckeyes could go either way.

7) Don’t get too crazy. In only five out of 34 cases has the total seed number of the Final Four 20 or more. Most recently was last year, which means that probably won’t happen again this season. Basically: select conservatively this season.

8) Pick Kentucky to win it all.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Key contests in Atlantic 10, Pac-12

Arizona head coach Sean Miller talks with guard Allonzo Trier (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern State in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)  ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; PAC-12 OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; GREEN VALLEY NEWS OUT
Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP
1 Comment

GAME OF THE NIGHT: UCLA at No. 17 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.
The Bruins and Wildcats have already met once this season, with a Bryce Alford three-pointer giving UCLA an 87-84 win. But UCLA has continued to struggle with consistency since then, and the chance at payback should serve as a motivating factor for Arizona. Sean Miller’s team welcomed back Allonzo Trier in Saturday’s win at Washington, and in forward Ryan Anderson they have one of the conference’s best players. The “rivalry” aspect of this game should make it a good one, as UCLA tends to show up for big-name opponents, but it could also be another major blow to the Bruins’ fleeting hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 19 Dayton at Rhode Island, 7:00 p.m.
The Rams have struggled with injuries all season, most recently dealing with Jarvis Garrett’s broken jaw and Kuran Iverson’s concussion. Garrett’s back on the floor, playing with a face mask that appears to be inspired by Hannibal Lecter, and it’s that team toughness that makes URI a serious threat to first-place Dayton at the Ryan Center (Iverson’s been medically cleared but remains a game-time decision). Charles Cooke has been outstanding for the Flyers this season, and Dayton’s depth makes them a tough matchup for any team much less one as banged up as URI.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. As a result of No. 11 Oregon’s loss at Cal last night, No. 23 USC finds itself tied in the loss column atop the Pac-12 standings heading into their game at Arizona State (8:00 p.m.). Outside of keeping opponents off the offensive glass the Sun Devils have had issues defensively in conference play, and with the Trojans’ many scoring options led by guards Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs this will be a tough matchup for the home team.

2. Monmouth looks to maintain its lead atop the MAAC standings, as they visit Rider (9:00 p.m.). The Broncs haven’t been the conference contender many envisioned them being when the season began but they’re still dangerous, with players such as guard Teddy Okereafor capable of giving opponents fits. Justin Robinson, who’s been excellent at the point all season long, leads the way for a Monmouth team that still has hopes of earning an at-large bid should they need it.

3. Having lost to Yale last weekend, Columbia’s in a position where they need to hold serve ahead of the rematch in New York City March 5. That makes games like tonight’s against Penn (7:00 p.m.) that much more important for Kyle Smith’s Lions, who have done a good job of turning opponents over in league play (22.8 TO%). Penn’s had issues taking care of the basketball, and that combined with Columbia’s tandem of Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg could prove to be the difference at Levien Gym.

4. Two teams looking to make a push in the MAC East race meet in Buffalo, as the Bulls host Ohio (7:00 p.m.). Nate Oats’ team had its four-game win streak snapped by Toledo, with the Rockets beating Buffalo by two Wednesday night. They’ll look to rebound with a defense that has been the best in the MAC in conference play (tops in defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage), but they have to take care of the basketball in order to do so.

5. Grand Canyon, which can’t play in the NCAA tournament as they’re still in the Division I transition process, looks to remain a game behind New Mexico State in the WAC standings. Dan Majerle’s Antelopes visit Seattle (10:00 p.m.), which handed GCU its first conference loss 13 days ago. GCU shot just 6-for-23 from three in that game, which they led by ten late in the first half. If Seattle is to win they’ll need to slow down the tandem of sophomore Joshua Braun and senior Grandy Glaze, who combine to average 31.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.