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Now that the Oscar’s are out of the way, it is time to lock our focus in on the NCAA Tournament. If you want to read about what teams are on the bubble, seedings, and in-depth stat analysis, head over to Luke Winn (Badger alum) or Seth Davis of SI.com, or Joe Lunardi or Andy Katz (a Badger alum!) from ESPN. What you’ll get here is which team has an Erika Christensen front court, a Kim Kardashian backcourt and Lt. Aldo Raine (Inglorious Basterds) leadship combined with some real basketball knowledge. That is basically The Sports Addict all wrapped up in one paragraph.
Before we dig into the hoops stuff, a quick story……..I was walking through Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon, and walked past a few barber shops. In the window of both places was a sign full of different haircuts, each with a number below the picture (similar to the picture on the right). Is this how lazy and unoriginal we have become in this country? We can’t even explain to our barber how we want our hair cut so we have to order our haircut like we’re ordering Chinese food? Yeah, I could really go for the #12 today – oh, you mean you want the beef & brocolli haircut? Or this time do you want the #32 – Kung Pow Chicken ‘do? And what happens when you order a #17 – Chong Qing Spicy Beef haircut and the barber tells you that your hair isn’t long enough?
Time to break down the top 25 teams based purely on their upside potential in the tournament next week. I will break down the teams and determine why they will advance deep in the tourney, why they won’t, and make a way-too-early prediction how far they can go. Obviously a tremendous amount of a team’s success in the tournament depends upon the brackets and matchups, but this will get us started. Overall, there is not that dominant team this year, and there is a deep list of teams that probably goes 15 deep that could win the championship, but the drop off is pretty severe in talent once you get past 30, which is why the bubble is full of below average teams like Arizona State, Washington, and UConn.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Why They Will: They are the Bar Rafaeli in that they have the full package of talent, depth, and experience – a solid frontcourt and a dominant backcourt. They also qualify under the “Fat Point Guard” rule with Sheron Collins, which has led Mateen Cleaves, Sherman Douglas and Khalid Al-Amin to the Final Four.
Why They Won’t: Bill Self. Yes, he finally won a title a few years ago, but he still does not have a strong record in the NCAA tournament. The other reason they could falter is that they do not play the lock-down defense that is typical of national championships.
Bottom Line: They have the ability to win it all and should make it to the sweet 16 without breaking a sweat, but they could lose once they’re there.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Why They Will: They are Miley Cyrus, young, talented and kind of annoying. They also have an overexposed leaders (Billy Ray Cyrus & John Calipari), but you can’t deny the fact that they have a dedicated fan base and they have star talent with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.
Why They Won’t: Their youth is their blessing and their curse. Can they keep their focus and their poise and not be rattled? John Wall is not Derrick Rose, who played like a senior during his run to the Finals with Memphis.
Bottom Line: See Kansas – they have the talent to win the title, and should not have issues before the sweet 16 where it might get closer. Still likely to at least make the elite eight.
3. Syracuse Orange
Why They Will: The Jim Boeheim zone defense is dangerous in the post season when they play teams that are not used to seeing anything other than man-to-man. In addition, they are a true team, not a collection of stars. Kind of like Rachel McAdams – no stand out quality, but solid all around game that stacks up against anyone.
Why They Won’t: They might match up with Louisville at some point, and Louisville is responsible for 2 of the Orange’s 3 losses this season. Can another team take that template and make it work for them? They will need an athletic big man like Louisville’s Samardo Samuel, and strong guard play like Jerry Smith & Edgar Sosa (or the backup guard that dropped 22 in the second half when Smith got hurt).
Bottom Line: A serious contender for the final four, but they could also be the first top seed eliminated by a hot shooting #8/#9 seed in the second round.
4. Duke Blue Devils
Why They Will: Like Anna Kendrick, they appear to be smart, reserved, and well-managed/coached. Unfortunately, that got Kendrick a nomination, but she couldn’t compete with the title contenders. Duke has an experienced team with a coach that is not a stranger to the big game.
Why They Won’t: They are not physical, and not athletic enough to play with the top teams. They are 8-4 against the RPI top 50, but their best win away from home was against Clemson.
Bottom Line: Duke will be passed for the final top seed, and they could be in danger as early as the second round.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes
Why The Will: They have the best player in the country in Evan Turner, and he is surrounded with the key factors that can come together for a deep tournament run including a shooter in Jon Diebler, tough defense and second and third scoring options in David Lighty and William Bufford. They are the Victoria’s Secret runway show, with Evan Turner starring as Marisa Miller, and he’s surrounded by quite a bit of talent.
Why They Won’t: They are not deep with Thad Motta typically only going 7 deep in the regular rotation. They could be worn out if they go deep in the Big Ten tourney and then have to grind it out over the two weeks of the tournament.
Bottom Line: They are a title contender (and were my futures bet a few weeks back), yet they have the potential to get knocked out in the sweet 16 by a deep team that uses full court pressure to wear them out – Louisville? Tennessee?
6. Purdue Boilermakers
Why They Will: They have the ‘win it for Robbie” motivation of playing without their emotional leader, and can rally together. They have a premier scorer who can create his own shots in E’Twaan Moore, an inside presence in JuJuan Johnson and a strong defensive scheme. They are Tara Reid – talented but going under the knife has destroyed their future.
Why They Won’t: Missing their double-double machine is a huge hit to their tournament hopes. In addition, they may not have the outside shooting needed to make a long run.
Bottom Line: They still have the talent to make a deep run, but without Hummel, they will not make the final four. Look for them to flame out in the sweet 16.
7. West Virginia Mountaineers
Why They Will: They have Bob Huggins, so you know they are a tough defensive team, which gives them a chance in the tournament. They also have fought their way through the toughest conference in the country, so they are battle-tested. Yet can you name their leading scorer? Can you name anyone on their team? They have the Erika Christensen strong front court, with forwards as their top three scorers – Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones & Devin Ebanks.
Why They Won’t: A lack of strong guard play is the biggest concern for the Mountaineers. They have the experienced coach, but without a coach on the floor, it’s tough to see them getting all the way through the gauntlet of the tournament.
Bottom Line: They are a dark-horse candidate to steal the last #1 seed, which could get them to the sweet 16 with ease. West Virginia could be that team that not many people have advancing deep in the tournament because they don’t know anything about them. This could be one way for you to stand out from the crowd – because you know about Erika Christensen and how her frontcourt can get you on a hot streak.
8. New Mexico
Why They Will: Despite their high ranking, they are an underdog because no one knows anything about them other than they are coached by Steve Alford and he called a BYU player an a$$hole during a post game handshake. They can use that slight as motivation, and they have some strong wins against fringe tournament teams like Cal and Texas A&M in addition to sweeping conference foe BYU. They are the Audrina Patridge – they look good on paper, but they may be doing it with smoke and mirrors (or non-factory-installed parts).
Why They Won’t: They don’t have the elite athletes to compete with the fourth or fifth place teams from the Big East, Big Ten or Big 12, which is what the Lobos will face in the second round if they get a #2 seed.
Bottom Line: They are ripe for the second round upset by a hot #7 or #10 team – much like Wisconsin was beat by Moutain West team UNLV a few years back. I like Steve Alford, but he can’t perform miracles.
9. Kansas State Wildcats
Why They Will: Strong guard play with Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen. They have the ability to score on many teams and are very athletic, which could lead to a long run in the tournament.
Why They Won’t: I’ve written about it before, but the team runs emotionally high based on the high emotion of their coach Frank Martin. As a result, they bring high energy, but can play out of control at times. That will be the downfall for them in the tournament when the lights are brightest and the pressure kicks up to a level they have not seen. The best comparison for this team: Sarah Silverman – they can be entertaining, but they are legit crazy.
Bottom Line: Look for K-State to flame out before the sweet 16 if they get matched up against a disciplined, well-coached team.
10. Villanova Wildcats
Why They Will: They have a great coach, and strong, veteran guard play. Scottie Reynolds returned to school to get back to the Final Four (and because he won’t be able to cut it in the NBA). They have made it through the obstacle course that is the Big East and are ready for the big stage.
Why They Won’t: They don’t play strong enough defense. Much like Jennifer Aniston, they have all the qualities you are looking for, yet they have no defenses to fend off douchebags from doing whatever they want to them.
Bottom Line: You can’t count them out because they are experienced and have strong leadership. Yet, without the ability to get a defensive stop when needed, they will be dropped in the elite eight.
11. Michigan State Spartans
Why They Will: As much as Tom Izzo cries and whines, the guy can flat out get it done in the tournament. He has the skilled players in Kalen Lucas and Raymar Morgan, and they always play defense. Like Jessica Simpson, they whine too much and have their share of detractors, yet when they are in fighting shape, they can compete with anyone.
Why They Won’t: They are not very athletic and don’t shoot very well from outside the arc. Their matchups will be the key to determining how far they can go in the tournament.
Bottom Line: You can typically pencil them in automatically into the sweet 16 and they have a really good chance to get to the elite eight. If they can somehow get placed in the weak bracket (the committee does a good job, but there are always tougher and weaker brackets) with the last #1 seed (West Virginia?), a weaker #2 seed (New Mexico?) and a struggling #3 seed (Villanova? Pittsburgh?), and an overrated #4 seed (Temple?) then you would have to like Michigan State as a #5 seed.
12. Butler Bulldogs
Why They Will: They won’t.
Why They Won’t: Much like Gonzaga, they have bypassed their role as the mid-major powerhouse that sneaks up on teams that overlook them. They are now a known commodity, which means that teams are prepared for their stingy defense, disciplined plodding offense and ankle-biting guard play. They are just the annoying bug on the windshield of the teams from the major conferences on their way to the next round. Like Rachel Uchitel, their schemes have been exposed for what they are, and they no longer stand out in a crowd.
Bottom Line: Yes, they beat Ohio State (without Evan Turner), but they lost to Georgetown, Clemson and Minnesota. Look for them to be a #4 or #5 seed, and if they get a major conference team in the first round, they are ripe for the picking.
13. Wisconsin Badgers
Why They Will: The Badgers have the strong guard play, hot shooting, stingy defense and an inside presence that can lead to a long tournament run. They also have a great coach capable of developing game plans to stop anyone – and he looks like the Badger mascot when he gets angry. They have played without their best player, Jon Leuer, for a significant portion of the season, so the team is used to having guys step up and make plays. The Reese Witherspoon of the field – they have the classic beauty and talent to be the star of the dance.
Why They Won’t: They are not very deep, and they still have long scoring droughts despite the abilities of Trevon Hughes, Jordan Taylor and Leuer to create their own shots. Reese looked good with Ryan Phillippe and then with Jake Gyleanhaal, and yet both of those relationships didn’t go the distance.
Bottom Line: They have all the tools to make it to the Final Four, but much will be determined by their bracket and matchups. If they end up a #4 seed in the same bracket as a Kansas or Kentucky, the sweet 16 could be the ceiling for this squad.
Well, this has turned into a really long post, and your boss is probably wondering why you’ve been chuckling at your computer when you were supposed to be working on that spreadsheet to determine how to increase the profitability of this new hot product/deal that he’s bringing to the market even though you know it’s going to be a colossal failure. So check back tomorrow for the second half of the top 25 breakdown.
UPDATE: Here's the link to the second half....
(and yes, I had a brain fart and said Tom Crean when I meant Tom Izzo, the coach of Michigan State. My bad. They're both whiney bitches named Tom - Izzo just has been tremendously more successful.)
Make sure to check back on Monday after Selection Sunday - I'll be setting up a free bracket challenge with an opportunity to win swag from your favorite college team.