Buffs are a dangerous bubble team
Burks leads CU's potent offense.
By: Mitch Light | 3/9/11, 10:14 AM EST
1. Which bubble team would scare you the most as a possible first-round opponent?
Mitch Light: I wouldn’t want to play Colorado — assuming CU gets in to the tournament. First of all, the Buffs have proven they can beat good teams, with a 91–89 victory over Texas in late February and two wins over Kansas State, which went 10–6 in the Big 12. Secondly, Colorado features some skilled players, most notably sophomore guard Alec Burks, who averaged 19.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The Buffs aren’t great on defense, but they can score.
Braden Gall: Facing Richmond, with the sharpshooting Kevin Anderson and big man Justin Harper, would concern me. The Spiders have won eight out of nine and could beat anyone in the nation. Michigan State would also scare me as an 11- or 12-seed. I know the Spartans have played some terrible basketball this season, but they also have enough — or had at one point — talent to be a preseason top-five team. No one wants to see Tom Izzo on the other bench in March.
Nathan Rush: No team wants to see an at-large Alabama squad that plays under-your-jersey defense and is coached by Cinderella Man TKO artist Anthony Grant. Everyone remembers VCU-Duke (79–77 upset win) and VCU-Pitt (84–79 loss in OT) back in 2007, right? The Crimson Tide crested at the end of the season — going 15–4 after a 5–6 start — and will almost certainly crash down on whichever fading, overrated team that the Selection Committee “randomly” matches them with. It won’t happen, but a Brandon Davies-less BYU squad and Bama would be a nice yin-yang 4-13 first-round matchup.
2. If you were on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and had to differentiate between some bubble teams, what would be the most important aspect of team's profile — road wins, lack of bad losses, strength of schedule, etc.?
Mitch: I’m always looking for good wins. All bubble teams are going to have some warts — that is why they are on the bubble. I can overlook some bad losses as long as a team has proven it can beat a quality opponent. Playing a tough schedule is nice, but it doesn’t mean much if you haven’t defeated any of those good teams.
Braden: This may be a cop out, but I look at the entire package. That probably pushes me closest to overall schedule. Certainly, wins are what counts, but generally speaking, a 6–9 team against the RPI top 50 is probably a better overall team than one that went 3–1. I always lean towards the eighth- and ninth-place “power” teams over second- and third-place mid-majors.
Nathan: In my opinion, the last 10 games plus the conference tournament should be weighed the most. If a team is trending in the right direction — a la George Mason in 2006 (despite Billy Packer’s strong and outspoken objections) — it has a better chance of making an NCAA Tournament run. Also, fair or not, I think the coach should be considered. All things being equal or reasonably close, any Tom Izzo team should win a head-to-head argument behind closed doors; he (and his five or so peers) have proven an ability to X-and-O or flat-out beat the heat come Tournament time.
3. Which of the Big Six conference tournaments intrigues you the most?
Mitch: I’m very interested to see what Florida can do in the SEC Tournament. There was a perception early in the league season that the Gators, with three overtime wins, were lucky to be on top of the SEC East standings. Well, after winning the division by three full games over Kentucky, nobody is throwing around the L-word anymore. The Gators, who can put five scorers on the court at the same time, are very hard to guard. If they win the SEC Tournament, they could play their way up to a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs.
Braden: Without a doubt, the Big East Tournament is a special event. The depth and talent level is unlike that of any college basketball league ever assembled. The ninth- and 10th-place teams (UConn and Villanova) in this league were both, at some point this year, in the top-10 nationally. We’ve got the son of a legend (John Thompson III), two Hall of Famers (Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim), one former ESPN analyst (Steve Lavin), the best dressed coach in hoops (Jay Wright), two more potential Hall members (Rick Pitino and Bob Huggins) and the most famous arena in all of sports. There is just nothing like MSG at this time of the year.
Nathan: Mark my words, Vanderbilt, Florida or Kentucky will make a run in the NCAAs. All three are two-faced and flawed. But the talent and coaching are undeniable. If the Commodores, Gators or Wildcats find their rhythm in the SEC Tournament, look out.
4. Do you like the format of the Big East Tournament, with the inclusion of all 16 teams and the double-byes?
Mitch: I do like it. I think it’s good that all 16 teams are invited to the Big East Tournament, and I like how teams that do well in the regular season are rewarded with a bye or a double-bye. The coaches don’t like the double-bye — they voted 16–0 last summer to get rid of it — but I think it is the best format for a 16-team tournament.
Braden: See answer to No. 3.
Nathan: I’m still thrown off by the fact that Big East basketball deserves one-third of the at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament, but Big East football (arguably) doesn’t deserve even one berth in the BCS bowls (Connecticut lost to Oklahoma, 48–20, in the Fiesta Bowl this year, FYI). Honestly, I’m fine with it. The more Madison Square Garden, the better. Double-byes, sure. Six overtimes (see: Connecticut over Syracuse, 127–117, in 2009), even better. Bring it, Big East.
5. Name a player on an automatic qualifier that you are looking forward to watching in the NCAA Tournament (and don't say Kenneth Faried of Morehead State).
Mitch: Wofford’s undersized power forward Noah Dahlman is fun to watch. The brother of former Michigan State Spartan Isaiah Dahlman is averaging 20.0 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting over 60 percent from the floor. Last year, Wofford gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round before losing 53–49, but Dahlman only scored 10 points. He will no doubt be eager to be a bigger factor this time around.
Braden: I am excited to see Nashville’s own Belmont, and its 30 wins, get a shot to knock someone off in the first round. However, with 11 players averaging double-figure minutes, it’s tough to single out one player. Indiana State’s Jake Odum, a freshman from Terre Haute, Ind., has earned the ball-handling duties in the second half of the year for the Sycamores. He is averaging nearly 12 points over the last 11 games and is leading the team in assists — with a very sound 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also plays the baseline in the ISU zone defense — which is impressive for a point guard.
Nathan: I’m looking forward to watching Oakland’s 6’11” NBA first-round prospect Keith Benson — who goes for 17.7 points, 10 rebounds and 3.7 “get that outta heres” on an average night.
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