Cardinals' Siva is fouled by Orange's Triche in Big East NCAA men's basketball tournament game in New York

Five teams that won’t win it all


Obviously, 67 eligible teams will fail to win the national title this year. That’s a given. So I’m not going to be ridiculous about this. To be considered for this designation, a team must occupy one of the premium seeding spots: No. 1-No. 4 in other words. These sixteen contenders are expected to win, and will have the blue-chip horses to get it done, in theory.

These are teams who expect to win titles. Teams who will be very disappointed and wonder what on earth went wrong if they don’t at least make it to the Elite Eight.

That said, here they are: five teams who won’t be showered with confetti in Atlanta this April.

No. 1 Louisville (Midwest): I know, I’m as shocked to be writing this as you are to be reading it. Before the seedings came out, I would have called the Cards my pick to cut down the nets without question. But seeing them in the same bracket as No. 2 Duke wrecks my confidence. Lest we forget, Duke beat Louisville 76-71 in November (sans Gorgui Dieng, yes, I know). If the two meet again, the Blue Devils will again have a full-strength Ryan Kelly available to make floor-stretching  jumpshots Dieng can’t easily block, but also a more confident and experienced group of underclassmen backing him up. And that meeting can only happen in the Elite Eight. Louisville has to fight its way out of the top half of the Region of Doom just to get there. Is this how the committee rewards the number one overall seed? Thanks but no thanks.

(CLICK HERE: To browse through the rest of our 2013 NCAA Tournament Previews)

No. 2 Miami (East): I do appreciate that Miami won the ACC tournament title, but I would feel better if they had beat at least one team with a top-notch defense over those three days. With a team this inexperienced in postseason play, it’s tough to know if they’re going to come out like the group that won 14 straight or the one that lost to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech once the end game was in sight. There’s also that 67.7 percent team free throw mark. That’s not going to cut it in the second weekend.

No. 2 Georgetown (South): Otto Porter is a spectacular player, but I’m not sure he can put this team on his back for six straight games. Defensively, the Hoyas are pretty tough, so that could shade things a bit, but the thought of them running an ever narrower gauntlet past teams with diverse talents like Florida or Kansas seems dubious. There just aren’t enough offensive options.

No. 3 Marquette (East): Team Buzz is always so darn scrappy and tough, you kind of want them to succeed (Big East foes excepted). This team has some rather obvious fatal flaws, however, and those are enough to sink them, possibly much earlier than they would prefer. First, they’re a lousy three-point shooting team, barely over 30 percent on the season. Second, they turn the ball over way too often. Both are big March no-nos.

No. 4 Michigan (South): Michigan is a really terrific team, and I hate to pick against them. Trey Burke has been college basketball’s best player this year, and he has a lot of talent around him. But they’re defensively shaky at times. Looking at Kenpom, another odd thing jumps out as well: they don’t get to the free throw line very often. It’s a strange thing to poo-poo a team on, but how many March games get settled at the line? Plenty.

You may notice none of my picks come from the West bracket. That’s because I can honestly see any of the top four seeds in that region either making the Final Four or checking out early, and I can’t in my heart of hearts see any of them hoisting a trophy. So I had to list all of them or none of them, in a way.

If they prove me wrong? Another reason March rules. I ain’t even gonna be mad.

Eric Angevine edits Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.