March 25, 2014

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Sweet 16 Preview

By: Joe Williams

What a weekend that was! The first couple rounds of the NCAA Tournament had it all….upsets, overtimes, controversy….it was everything we hope for. Sadly, the tournament is already 75 percent over, but at least we’ll have some really good match-ups before it is all said and done. What’s going to happen this weekend? I can’t wait to find out.

Can the Huskies pull off yet another upset and make it to the Elite 8?

Best game

I know a lot of people are excited about Louisville vs Kentucky, but to me the best game is Virginia vs Michigan State. Has there ever been a #4 seed get as much love from the media as the Spartans have this year? Has there ever been a less talked about #1 than Virginia? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Michigan State was the #1 seed. This game, more than any other, will make-or-break a lot of brackets out there.

Worst game

Sorry. There are only eight games. They can’t all be a hype-machine. Especially, Wisconsin vs Baylor. Both of these teams have conference rivals that are still alive and getting all the attention so there is still plenty of room on the bandwagons here even though the Badgers and Bears have been two of the most impressive teams so far and the winner has a great shot to reach the Final 4.

Upset special

Connecticut over Iowa State. The Huskies have played a lot of games in Madison Square Garden over the years and should have the crowd on their side. And they’ve got Shabazz Napier, the best name in the tournament and the kind of player that can put a team on his back and get to the Elite 8. It also helps that Iowa State will be without Georges Niang.

Bold prediction

Two #11 seeds will reach the Elite 8. It could happen. Why not? Dayton has already knocked off Ohio State and Syracuse without playing its best. It won’t be afraid of Stanford and if the Flyers get hot from 3-point range, the Cardinal will be in trouble. Tennessee is as hot as anybody after cruising by Iowa, Massachusetts and Mercer but that’s also about as easy as it gets to reach the Sweet 16. The Tennessee big men will need to dominate inside against the Wolverines.

Player to watch

Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. If you watched Gordon and the Wildcats beat Gonzaga, you know what I’m talking about. How many massive dunks did he have in that game? He may or may not be the best player in the tournament, but he provides some of the best highlights for sure. Arizona will need some of those plays against San Diego State to quiet that Anaheim crowd.

Final 4 picks

Florida, Virginia, San Diego State, Michigan

March 19, 2014

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2014 NCAA Tournament Cinderellas

By: Matt Bowen

The table for the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I Championship is now set. March Madness is ubiquitous. The greatest annual sporting event in the world has finally arrived and Fathead can help you do your homework in regards to selecting Cinderellas.

Questioning our credentials? Last year we picked the Wichita State Shockers to make a deep run and they didn’t disappoint. A trip to the 2013 Final Four followed by a clean 34-0 2014 regular season record legitimizes our picking prowess.

The landscape of college basketball has changed recently. No longer are little-known schools like Wichita State perennial Cinderellas. A true tournament sleeper can be nearly any seed these days. Cinderella can be a lower seeded team from a major conference. They can also be a mid-major squad with a healthy seed. These mid-majors can easily be overlooked in your local brackets because of lack of face time in the national spotlight.

This article highlights one sleeper from every region of the tournament.

Let’s dance!

UCLA Bruins

Will UCLA play cinderella in 2014?

The South Region: UCLA Bruins

You may be scratching your head and wondering how one of the most storied teams in college basketball history is a Cinderella.

True, the UCLA Bruins are a No. 4 seed, but they are the forgotten No. 4 seed in this year’s tournament. The other No. 4 seeds are the Louisville Cardinals, San Diego State Aztecs and Michigan State Spartans. These teams all are unhappy with their seeding for one reason or another.

Not UCLA in the South Region. They were the only non-ranked No. 4 seed at the end of the season. The Bruins got hot in the Pac 12 Tournament and stole the show from Arizona in the championship game.

UCLA is a deep team with eight solid contributors playing 17-plus minutes a game. They also have four players averaging 10-plus points. This time of year depth like that trumps most.

Starting point guard Kyle Anderson is a matchup nightmare. At 6’9”, 230 lbs. he’s a dynamic specimen and a true triple-double threat. With the ball in his hands and momentum on their side the Bruins won’t stop dancing until the clock strikes midnight.

The West Region: Baylor Bears

The Baylor Bears are a legitimate Cinderella out of the West Region as the No. 6 seed.

They mirror the previously mentioned UCLA Bruins in terms of depth and scoring. Eight guys play at least 14-plus minutes per game and four average 10-plus points.

They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games and have overcome a rough patch of their season where they lost 7-of-8.  They rebound well and share the rock so look out for the Bears on the fast break.

They have a sharpshooter in Brady Heslip who shoots 47.3 percent beyond the arc. These team attributes combined with Heslip’s range makes them a true contender. An Elite 8 run isn’t out of the question.

The Midwest Region: Iowa Hawkeyes

The Midwest Region is by far the deepest in the tourney and the Iowa Hawkeyes will have to make it through the Tennessee Volunteers in Round 1 to truly put their dancing shoes on.

They’ll be up to the challenge despite losing 6-of-7 to close the season. For that reason alone they’ll be written off by many and left by the roadside on the way to the Final Four.

Think twice before making this mistake on this No. 11 seed. The Hawkeyes are as talented as they come with a unique blend of athleticism. Truth be told, they’re one of the deepest teams in the nation.

They have 10 players who average double-digit minutes and depend on scoring contributions from all. Nine, yes nine Hawkeyes score at least five points per contest. That might not seem like a jaw-dropping stat but every coach in the country desires that type of balance.

The team can score in bunches too. Scoring an impressive 82 points/game and led by senior Roy Devyn Marble they do everything well in every facet of the game. Don’t pass on this well-wounded bunch.

The East Region: Providence Friars

Come this time next week the Providence Friars will be the water cooler kings of college basketball.  Everybody will be talking about them. That’s what wins over admired North Carolina and Iowa State will do for you in the first weekend of the tournament.

On paper they may not be the sexiest car on the lot but they have heart and soul.

They did beat highly respected Creighton twice during the season and point guard Bryce Cotton is one of the best playmakers in the country. Remember his name because he averaged 21.4 points per game this season. Any time a kid averages 20-plus in college means he’s a star. Cotton is no different.

The Friars shoot 78.1 percent from the free throw line which is arguably the most valuable asset this time of year. Something about them screams Cinderella.

Good luck and enjoy the pageantry of the Madness.

March 18, 2014

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Let The Madness Begin

By: Joe Williams

We are just minutes away from the opening tip of the NCAA Turnament (although, to me it still doesn’t start until Thursday). I’ve already filled out my bracket – thrown it away – filled out a new one – used white out to make some changes – and thrown that one away too. Time to start over and make a final attempt. But before I do, there are a few things I’m going to keep in mind.

NCAA Tournament bracket

We try to help you avoid pitfalls as you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

1) A No. 5 seed is going down

You can take that to the bank. Three 12 seeds advanced last year. If you can figure out which one it will be your bracket will look that much better. The obvious pick this year is St. Louis who has lost four straight. They will be taking on a team that has already got a tournament win under its belt (Xavier or N.C. State) and will be feeling good. But that doesn’t mean the other 5 seeds should feel comfortable. Especially you, Oklahoma.

2) A double-digit seed is likely to make the Sweet 16

Some of the best candidates this year are Tennessee, St. Joseph’s, Nebraska, and Stanford. I’m taking Tennessee to get it done. Assuming of course that they catch Duke on a cold-shooting day. (This could be wishful thinking on my part….I was assigned the Vols in a prize pool).

3) Beware of the Mountain West

The Mountain West Conference had a poor showing in 2013 and only got two teams in the field this year. But those two teams (New Mexico and San Diego St.) will pick up at least five wins in 2014.

4) Don’t play the fool

The key to a successful bracket is to avoid picking teams to make a deep run and then they fall to an early-round upset. That’s going to be tough this year with how even the field appears to be. Here’s one team to avoid in each region…Syracuse, Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin.

5) #1’s aren’t always safe

All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. Which top team will go down first? Which will win its region? Florida seems to be a pretty good bet to win the South. All three of the other top seeds could face some pretty difficult opponents. Especially Wichita St. Look for the Shockers to be the first top team to be shocked in the tournament.

December 10, 2013

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Remaining Undefeated NCAA Men’s Basketball Teams

By: Joe Williams

Don’t look now, but the college basketball season is already about a third of the way complete. Who knew? With bowl season and the NFL playoffs closing in, college basketball doesn’t get much attention, but it is shaping up to be a great season. Kentucky, Michigan St., and Arizona have all been ranked No. 1. The defending champions in Louisville have just one loss and are at No. 6. And there are still 15(????) teams that haven’t lost. How long will that last? Let’s take a look.

Louisville Cardinals

The defending champion Cardinals are currently 6th in the standings.

No. 1 Arizona (9-0) – The Wildcats will be tested Saturday at Michigan but I think they survive that one. They may not be so lucky on Jan . 9 at UCLA.

No. 2 Syracuse (9-0) – The Orange should have no trouble in the next two and ought to be 11-0 heading into a showdown with No. 10 Villanova. The Wildcats will probably also be undefeated heading into that game. One streak will end.

No. 3 Ohio State (8-0) - The Buckeyes have a bunch of wins against schools that I have not heard of. So I’m not impressed. But they did hold a ranked Marquette team to 35 points. That is impressive. If they beat Michigan State on Jan. 7 then I’ll really be impressed.

No. 4 Wisconsin (10-0) – The Badgers don’t leave home until 2014 when they face Northwestern. But it will be the Jan. 14 game at Indiana that really gives them trouble.

No. 9 Connecticut (9-0) – The Huskies have three wins by one point and another win by just two. They could get to 16-0, but they won’t make it to 18-0. With games against No. 16 Memphis and No. 6 Louisville coming in a three day span, at least one loss is coming.

No. 10 Villanova (9-0) – Same story here as with Syracuse. If the Wildcats can beat Syracuse, they could go for a long run. There are no other ranked teams left on the schedule.

No. 12 Wichita State (9-0) – The Shockers have only been tested on a couple of occasions. There are no ranked teams on their schedule so they should finish the season with just a couple losses. And the first one will come at Alabama on Dec. 17.

No. 15 Oregon (8-0) – The Ducks have only played one close game and escaped with a win in overtime at Mississippi. They’ll be tested in two of the next three games when they play Illinios and BYU. My gut says they lose one of them.

No. 17 Iowa State (7-0) – The Cyclones are ranked in the top four in the nation in points, rebounds and assists. No wonder they haven’t lost. But they are about to. In-state rival Iowa (ranked in the top nine in the nation in points, rebounds and assists) comes to town on Friday and will give the Cyclones their first L of the season.

No. 22 Massachusetts (8-0) – The Minutemen have an impressive list of wins already. Boston College, LSU, New Mexico, Clemson and BYU gives them a pretty nice early season resume. I’ll be really impressed if they make it to 11-0 because that will require a win over Florida Sate on Dec. 21.

No. 24 Missouri (9-0) – The Tigers are coming off of an impressive win over UCLA. They might not lose until they visit Vanderbilt on Jan. 16.

No. 28 Pittsburgh (9-0) – The Panthers haven’t even played a close game yet. And they might not until 2014. But they start the year on Jan. 4 at North Carolina State and that will be a tough one.

No. 29 Boise State (8-0) – Could Chris Peterson have left Boise State because he didn’t even have the highest ranked team at his own school? When was the last time the basketball team was ranked higher than the football team? The Broncos have the top scoring team in the country. Can they pull the upset at Kentucky tonight?

No. 35 St. Mary’s (7-0) – They don’t have any great wins yet, but St. Mary’s has a shot to pick one up against Boise State on Saturday.

Toledo (8-0) – The Rockets do not even have a vote to be in the top 25 right now. But they can shoot (6th in the country)  and have put up at least 90 points five times already.  A couple more wins should get some people’s attention. Then we’ll see what they can do when they visit No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 30.

March 20, 2013

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Let The Madness Begin

By: Joe Williams

The best tournament of the year is under way. I’ve already filled out my NCAA Tournament bracket – thrown it away – and filled out a new one. But I don’t like this one either. Time to start over and make a final attempt. But before I do, there are a few things I’m going to keep in mind.

There are many factors to keep in mind when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

A No. 5 seed is going down. You can take that to the bank. The hard part is figuring out which one it will be. UNLV looks like the obvious choice because they have a rematch with Cal and it’s only about an hour away from the Bears’ campus. VCU could be in trouble if Akron wasn’t going to play without their star point guard. So the Oklahoma State Cowboys better be on upset alert because they have to play an Oregon team that is better than its 12 seed.

We also know that there is probably going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Some of the best candidates are Colorado, Bucknell, Oregon, Middle Tennessee St., Minnesota, and Iowa St. Look for two of these teams to make it to the second weekend. It’s Bucknell and Iowa St. in my bracket.

The Mountain West Conference will have a good showing. Five teams got in (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego St., Colorado St. and Boise St.) and all five will win at least one game..starting with the Broncos on Wednesday night. The SEC, on the other hand, will struggle to find a W. Florida should get one but that could be it.

The key to a successful bracket is to avoid picking teams to make a deep run and then they fall to an early-round upset. That’s going to be tough this year with how even the field appears to be. Here’s one team to avoid in each region…Florida, Syracuse, Ohio State and Duke.

All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. Which top team will make it to Atlanta? The last nine national champs have had blue for a school color so I will take Gonzaga and Kansas to win their regions. I’ll take St. Louis to shock the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals and win the Midwest. And if I’m sticking with blue then I guess its Marquette out of the East Region. And I better be right. I can’t afford another finish at the bottom of the office pool or I’m the one that’s going to be blue.