Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Nine N' 5 2/28/2007

Teams continue to fight for tournament position as we head down the home stretch of the regular season. Two top teams head into the week on two game losing streaks (UF, Wisc). Whoever wins the Big 12 surely deserves a one seed now that Florida has coughed it up, don't they? The list takes a new look this week as I drop not two but three top tier teams off the list all together after losses this past week. Partially because they don't deserve they're spot and partially because we need some fresh blood in The Nine.

1. Kansas (1) 26-4 13-2
The Jayhawks hold steady at the top spot after blowing out Iowa State and then escaping Oklahoma with a two point victory. I'm beginning to like the Hawks a lot heading into March and a Big 12 tournament title could convince me this team is finally ready for prime time. First though the Hawks must host Texas with the league title on the line in the two's only meeting of the season.
This Week: Regular Season Finale 3/3 Texas

2. UCLA (3) 25-3 14-2
The Bruins continue to be one of, if not the most consistent team in the country with a wins over Cal and Stanford. The Cardinal you may remember knocked off the Bruins earlier this season at their place. Standford didn't even make it much of a game when they traveled to Pauley falling by 14. Wazzu's loss this past week pretty much guaranteed the Bruins the Pac-10 regular season title with a win in either of their final two games. That win they'll get for sure in the season finale at Washington, that is if they don't get it Thursday in Spokane.
This Week: 3/1 @ Washington State, Regular Season Finale 3/3 @ Washington

3. Ohio State (4) 26-3 14-1
The Buckeyes finally find a way to get past Florida and that 26-point beat down the Gators handed them earlier this season after clinching the Big Ten regular season title. They barely got by Wisconsin, squeezing out the narrowest of victories with a one point win. Brian Butch's injury gives them the inside track to the Big Ten tourney title as well as a #1 seed in the dance. I still think they're going down early in the tournament regardless of their regular season achievements. They should be able to handle Michigan on the road to close out the regular season and put an end to the Wolverines season officially.
This Week: Regular Season Finale 3/3 @ Michigan

4. Florida (2) 25-5 12-3
The Gators dropped two more this week but didn't fall too far thanks to losses by the majority of those behind them in the standings. This team is finishing a lot like last years team did but I just don't know if they can pull off the repeat the way they're playing. They're no longer a #1 seed though I think that could be good for a team that would prefer to be the underdog. Al Horford is the only player who still plays defense when they get down and if that continues the Gators will end their repeat bid on the first weekend. The LSU loss in unforgivable though LSU has looked better without Glen Davis in the lineup if you can believe that. The Tennessee loss didn't really surprise me as I was expecting it the way they've played on the road recently. If they lose their finale to Kentucky at home this week and go out early in the conference tourney the Gators could be looking at a #3 seed if those below them can close strong.
This Week: Regular Season Finale 3/4 Kentucky

5. Southern Illinois (9)
The Salukis wrapped up the MVC regular season title last Saturday with a win over Evansville. If they can win the conference tournament they could get as high as a #3 seed, but I see them as a #4. I don't expect them to win "Arch Madness" as it usually features quite a few upsets and a Mo State, or Bradley tourney victory isn't out of the question.
This Week: Conference Tournament 3/1-4

6. Memphis (UNR) 25-3 14-0
I am finally giving the Tigers their due in The Nine with the six spot this week as they have already clinched the Conference USA regular season title and are looking likely to sneak into the dance as a #3 seed. While I think Memphis has talent just like last year I think they benefited from a good draw last season and it's unlikely that happens again. For that reason I think the Tigers go home earlier than they're expecting but the Sweet 16 is not out of the question.
This Week: 3/1 @ UTEP Regular Season Finale 3/3 @ SMU

7. Washington State (5) 23-5 12-4
The loss this week at Oregon really didn't surprise me as the Ducks did beat them in Spokane. The Ducks however had been struggling of late and I expected that to continue but was wrong. I still like Wazzu a lot in the dance and they should still get at the very least a #4 seed. A share of the Pac-10 title would help and they can take a step in that direction with a win over UCLA on Thursday. I think they find a way to beat the Bruins but I like UCLA's chances of knocking off Wazzu's in-state rival on Saturday.
This Week: 3/1 UCLA, Regular Season Finale 3/3 USC

8. Nevada (UNR) 26-2 13-1
The Wolf Pack also garners a little respect this week finally moving from the "Also Considered" into the The Nine after picking up their ninth consecutive win this past week at Boise State. Nevada was shaky in their Bracket Busters game two weeks ago actually trailing Northern Iowa at halftime before cruising to a fifteen point victory. That raised some red flags for me and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pack go down in round one again this season. I'd like to think Nick Fazekas won't go out like that and that Marcellus Kemp won't let him. Only time will tell but I think Nevada absolutely has to win the WAC tourney to try and get themselves a #4 seed to have a better chance to advance in March.
This Week: 3/1 @ Utah State, Regular Season Finale 3/3 New Mexico State, Conference Tourney 3/6-10

9. Texas (UNR) 22-7 12-3
This spot was all A&M's if they had beaten Texas tonight in Austin, they obviously did not. Texas outlasts their in-state rival in double overtime despite some heroics by Acie Law who just did not want to lose. Texas has continued to show improvement over the weeks and qualify as a decent sleeper come dance time. If they do beat Kansas on Saturday that sleeper talk goes by the wayside and Texas is officially a contender. I don't think it happens but I wouldn't be shocked to see Texas in Atlanta come April as they certainly have the talent, they've definitely been tested this season, and that youth seems to be starting to ware off unlike those guys in Columbus. Remember folks Texas A&M blitzed these guys 100-82 less than a month ago tonight ti took two overtime's for A&M to get within four points off 100. The venue certainly plays a factor but I think Texas is playing much better over the last month and I wouldn't want to see Kevin Durant in an elimination situation that's for sure.
This Week: Regular Season Finale 3/3 @ Kansas

Dropped Out: Wisconsin (6), North Carolina (7), Georgetown (8)

Also Considered: BYU, Louisville, Maryland, Drexel

This Weeks 5:
My favorite Bracket Busters if they get into the dance and draw a team like Pittsburgh or Oregon in the first round.
5. San Diego State - What can I say? I like this team and have since last year when they should have beaten Indiana last year.
4. Winthrop - How do you not like a team that barely lost to UNC on the road and took Wisconsin to overtime?
3. Old Dominion - They can play with anyone, need evidence? They beat G'Town in D.C. by 13 earlier this year.
2. Appalachian State - With wins over Vandy, VCU, and Wichita State its hard not to think this team can pull off an upset. They need to win the conference tourney though and Davidson will have something to say about that.
1. Drexel - All I can say is Road Warriors and with the tourney at neutral sites its hard not to like the Dragons. They've knocked off 'Cuse and 'Nova both, and while they're best basketball may be behind them they showed @ Creighton they can still get it done.

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