– Baylor getting upset is a bigger deal that it seems: Heading into this weekend, Baylor had all but had their Final Four aspirations deemed null and void by the media majority after getting smacked around by both Kansas and Missouri twice this season. But what those scribes failed to mention was that the Bears had yet to be upset. they may have gone 0-4 against the elite teams in the Big 12, but they were undefeated against everyone else. Not picking them to make the Final Four is acceptable, but it didn’t necessarily make sense to think the Bears would get knocked off the first weekend.
That was until they lost to Kansas State at home on Saturday. For the first time all season long, Baylor lost to a team they were dramatically better than. Perry Jones III, who has proven time and again this season just how little he enjoys physical contact, finished with four points, four boards and five fouls in 22 minutes. On the final possession, Baylor went away from the guy that has provided them with too many clutch baskets to count this season, Pierre Jackson. I guess its safe to say this team can get upset.
– So many good teams fading quickly: The bubble is very, very weak this season, but the blame for that absolutely doesn’t fall on the teams on the bubble. Why? Because if the teams that were supposed to be good were good, the teams currently projecting to be the 37th best at-large would probably fall much lower than that. Think about it like this: the Big East is down this season because Pitt, Villanova and UConn are all having bad seasons. If they don’t struggle this year, that’s three more at-large bids that get eaten up before the likes of Northwestern even at a chance to make an argument. The same could be said for Texas A&M and Texas. There’s two more at-large bids.
Or what about Mississippi State and Alabama? As of now, both of them are probably still in the tournament, but does that continue to last? Alabama is without Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green while Mississippi State has lost three in a row to LSU, Georgia and Auburn and gets Kentucky this week. And don’t worry, I’m not letting the Pac-12 — also known as the third best league on the West Coast — get a free pass here.
The reason the bubble is weak has nothing to do with the bubble teams being bad. Its because there aren’t enough good teams at the top of the at-large pool to knock those bad teams back into irrelevancy.
– The year of the mid-majors: A by-product of the struggles of the high-major programs is that it opens the door for some quality mid-majors to make a run in the tournament. And this season, there are some very good ones. Here’s my prediction: that at least one team from outside the Power Six conferences will make a run to the Final Four. Murray State, Wichita State, New Mexico, one of the top three in the CAA, even a UNLV or a St. Mary’s if they can figure their issues out, all have talent on their rosters.
– Long Beach State a winner even though they lost: Thanks to a couple of unfortunate turnovers down the stretch and a handful of tough, clutch buckets from the Bluejays, Long Beach State lost to Creighton in Omaha in the nightcap of BracketBusters weekend. While disappointing, and the death knell to LBSU’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes, what this game did prove (as if it needed to be proven again) is that the 49ers are going to be a very, very dangerous basketball team in March. Simply put, Casper Ware is a stud. He plays out west and out of the national spotlight, which makes it easy to forget about some of his early season exploits, but leaving him off of a list of the top ten point guards nationally is criminal. Between Larry Anderson, James Ennis and TJ Robinson, LBSU has plenty of experience and athleticism. Throw in Mike Caffey, who is going to be a great mid-major guard down the road, and the 49ers are going to be a nightmare for some four seed.
– Wichita State will win an NCAA Tournament game: I’m convinced of it. I’ve now seen this group play twice in the last week. Both times, they were on the road against quality, NCAA Tournament level opponents in Creighton and Davidson. In the two games, the Shockers scored a combined 180 points and won by an averaged of 19. And while its an extremely small sample size, Kenpom’s numbers — he has the Shockers 10th in the country — back up what my eyes are telling me: that this team will win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament.
They are a balanced and potent squad offensively, with a trio of talented perimeter players surrounding one of the best front lines at the mid-major level. They defend as well as you would expect a Gregg Marshall team to. They are playing at the fastest pace they’ve played at since Marshall left Winthrop to come to the Valley. If there is a knock on this team, its that their defense — whcih is already 25th in the country in efficiency — doesn’t force enough turnovers. I guess they’ll have to survive forcing teams to miss shots and getting the defensive rebounds.
Mid-majors with size and perimeter scoring that can defend are a scary thing. Be informed. Pick the Shockers to win a game.