Who Got Snubbed from the NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday has come and gone. Finally, we have a bracket with 68 teams who have a chance to win a national championship. As we spend the next few days dissecting brackets, there are a few names left off that maybe should not have been. It felt like this year the bubble was bigger than ever. This left a lot of room for teams and fans to complain about not getting a bid to the big dance. Teams like Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and Saint Mary’s are among the many teams who were on the wrong side of the bubble.

Saint Mary’s is very talented, and they have one of the best players not many people have seen play. However, their inability to schedule any sort of non-conference schedule is hard to support. The closest they came to putting a resume worthy game on their schedule was with Rhode Island, and both sides could not come to an agreement. That, and failing to get to your conference title game are two big red flags in the eyes of the committee. It makes sense. Again, Saint Mary’s is probably better than may teams in the tournament, but when you’re in the conference you’re in, you have to help your case and schedule accordingly.

For Notre Dame, the case was made that the committee should take into consideration the Irish’s record with and without their All-American, Bonzie Colson. The Irish were 14-5 with Colson this year. They beat Wichita State to win the Maui Invitational, and early on looked like a top team in the country. That said, outside the Wichita win, the Irish beat Virginia Tech and that’s about it in terms of signature wins. Without Colson, they struggled, not surprisingly. Their biggest win without Colson was against Florida State. They had their chances to notch wins over North Carolina or Miami but could not close out the game. Again, I support the idea that the tournament would be better with Notre Dame in, but I also understand the reasoning for leaving them out.

And with that, let’s look at the three teams who have the most to argue:

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Oklahoma State Cowboys quietly put together a great resume late in the season. The Cowboys won all the games they were supposed to. Additionally they tallied wins versus Kansas twice, Texas Tech, at West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma twice. Oklahoma State also only lost to one team this year that did not make the NCAA Tournament. That team was Baylor, another team who was very much on the bubble going into Selection Sunday. No bad losses, coupled with the impressive wins they were able to gather, gives me reason to give Oklahoma State a bid. First year head coach Mike Boynton did an amazing job in his first year, and the tournament will miss seeing Jeffrey Carroll play in at least one game this year.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee is this year’s mascot for all mid-to-low major schools who dominate an entire season and then get upset in their conference tournament. They are not the first, nor will they be the last to have this happen to them. Many remember Middle Tennessee as the team to upset Michigan State two years ago as a 15 seed. Last year the played upset again, beating Minnesota as a 12 seed. They were an early favorite to do the same this year…if they got in. The Blue Raiders dominated Conference USA, only losing to Marshall twice, who ended up getting the automatic bid to the tournament. They were ranked just ahead of USC in the RPI at 33. Does Middle Tennessee have as good of a case as other teams? No. But you have to feel for those teams who dominate an entire season and slip up once in the conference tournament.

USC Trojans

The expectations for the USC Trojans were high this year. Many preseason predictions had them finishing atop, or close to, the top of the Pac 12. Well, the Trojans did finish second, but the Pac 12 proved to be very down this year so the finish appears a bit diluted. Most predictions had the Trojans ahead of the bubble, and in the field of 68 safely. They were a Top 40 team accordingly to KenPom and ranked 34 on the RPI. The Trojans did not help their case with a weak non-conference resume, which includes losses to Texas A&M, SMU, Oklahoma and Princeton. The Princeton loss was probably the death sentence. It’s why Arizona State heard their name called and USC did not. Regardless, many had them safely in, and I’m sure Andy Enfield was surprised not to hear his team’s name on Sunday.

It’s tournament time. It’s the best time of the year. We have a bracket of 68 and nonstop basketball coming our way. While the NCAA Tournament will surely be crazy, based on who got left out, the NIT could be pretty entertaining basketball as well.

Can Notre Dame Prove They Are NCAA Tournament Worthy


It’s resume season. All across the country, media reporters, fans and basketball junnkies everywhere begin looking at programs’ resumes and seeing who belongs in the big dance, and who is NIT bound. In the case of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, they don’t have a resume that jumps off the page. They do, however, have a decent argument as to why they should still be considered. That argument rests in the form of 6’6 Bonzie Colson.

Colson is Notre Dame’s preseason All-American forward who missed six weeks this year with a foot injury. In a conference as tough as the ACC, six weeks could bury a team at the bottom of the standings. Notre Dame isn’t in last, but they certainly aren’t in an ideal position entering the ACC Tournament. The Irish finished conference play 8-10 and are the 10 seed this week at the Barclays Center.

Here’s the argument Notre Dame diehards will make: Nine of those losses came without Colson. And four of those nine came without Colson and Matt Farrell, Notre Dame’s second leading scorer. Since the NCAA Tournament committee says they don’t penalize teams for injuries, a case has to be made for Notre Dame to get a bid, right? But how many losses can be ignored before the committee has to make that call?

Notre Dame had chances to strengthen their resume. They lost to Louisville in double overtime. TJ Gibbs had a game tying put-back go halfway down before bouncing out against North Carolina. They had two other close losses to Miami and Virginia Tech, two NCAA Tournament teams. One win there goes a long way to helping their case. But they couldn’t win. That’s why we’re here.

Notre Dame does have an argument. Their only real “bad” loss without Colson was against Georgia Tech, and that was without Colson and Farrell. That said, their resume with Colson and Farrell isn’t wowing either. They have a great win over Wichita State in the Maui Invitational Championship. That carries a lot of weight. Outside that though, they have a win over LSU who is ranked 59th in KenPom. Yes, the Irish are better with Colson, but they don’t have the proof. This is why they need to do well in the ACC Tournament. They need to pile up a resume with Bonzie Colson playing.

Notre Dame has Pittsburgh in the first round. Assuming they win, and that’s a safe assumption if you’ve seen Pittsburgh this year, they get Virginia Tech. Tech would be a good win for Mike Brey’s team. They are tournament bound, and a team the Irish played tough at home without their top two players. A win there sets up the biggest test: Duke. If Notre Dame can rattle off wins over Virginia Tech and Duke, I think they have to be considered for an at-large bid. I know you cannot be lenient on every team that suffers injuries, but this was a definite tournament team if they were healthy.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Notre Dame played their way into the ACC Final. This was a team that was picked to finish third in the ACC before thet lost the Preseason ACC Player of the Year. Finally at full strength again, they could easily play themselves in by clinching the automatic bid, or at least getting to the Final and putting pressure on the committee. I think if Notre Dame can get past, or even to Duke in the third round, they deserve heavy consideration. The tournament would be better with them, and the committee knows that.

Upset Week Shows How Much Parity is in College Basketball

It was a crazy week in college basketball this past week. No team in the Top 10 was safe, and we saw a number of highly ranked teams fall. It’s early in the year, and most teams are trying to find their identities, but we are seeing how wide open the NCAA basketball season is this year. Aside from about three teams, the rest of the pack is jumbled together trying to figure themselves out.

Florida Looks Like Two Different Teams

It started Monday with Florida’s loss to the rival FSU Seminoles at home. This loss wasn’t terrible, as Florida State came into the game undefeated, and will likely move into the Top 25 with the win. But after taking Duke to the wire in the championship of the PK80, expectations were raised for Mike White’s club. The Gators’ week got even worse two days later when they suffered another loss. This time to University of Loyola-Chicago. What we learned this week is Florida needs to make shots to compete on an elite level. This may sound obvious but look at how good they looked when they made shots vs Duke, and how bad they looked when they didn’t against Florida State.

Notre Dame Falls in South Bend

The weirdness continued Tuesday with #9 Notre Dame losing to Ball State in South Bend. The Irish got their normal contribution from potential ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colson. The issue was, that they will only be as good as Colson’s supporting cast. Senior Matt Farrell chipped in with 14, and two other starters finished in double digits, but the lack of bench hurts ND. Playing only three bench players for a total of 27 minutes is not a recipe for long term success. The Irish could use some reliable bench help to sure up their rotation before the head into ACC play.

Is Arizona Back?

After Notre Dame suffered their fate, Texas A&M followed up with a loss to Arizona. On paper this loss is not nearly as big of an upset, but Arizona is still going through an identity check. The Wildcats looked to answer a few questions though, and got great support, in addition to another strong game from DeAndre Ayton. The Cats looking to trending upward after this week, but nonetheless this is still another Top 10 upset right now. A&M may have wowed us opening night, but maybe we got greedy with how good they looked

Kansas Gets Exposed

Safe to say it was a bad week for the #2 ranked team in the country. It started Wednesday night when Washington came in and had the perfect game plan for the Jayhawks. It ended Sunday when Arizona State, maybe the hottest team in the country, came into Lawrence and won, something that doesn’t ever happen. Washington’s Mike Hopkins devised a perfect zone defense that contested KU around the three point arc all night long. The two loss week left head coach Bill Self calling this team the softest he’s ever had here at Kansas. It really showed how reliant Kansas is to making shots from deep. Similar to Florida, if they’re falling they look great. But if they’re not, who knows. Kansas could really use Bill Preston, or even Silvio De Sousa to help sure up their front court issues. Meanwhile, for Arizona State…

Down Goes #1

The week of upsets would not be complete without the number one team falling. The young Duke Blue Devils lost their first ACC game of the year, walking into BC and losing to the Eagles. All credit should go to Jim Christian and staff for great execution. Ky Bowman’s 30 point effort and near triple-double doesn’t hurt either. Duke won’t suffer a ton from this, it will likely be a better learning curve for a young team that was getting talked about as maybe going undefeated. It does show however, that every team has their holes, and no one is a sure thing.

So that wraps up the week. It will likely have Villanova, Michigan State, Duke, Arizona State (yes, really) and Wichita State in the new top 5. This feels like a year that will have a lot of fluctuation within the top part of the polls, but we may not see another week that compares to this week.

Thanksgiving Week Shows Us Why College Basketball is King

It’s rivalry week this weekend in college football, but the rest of this week belonged to college basketball. Thanksgiving week is filled with dozens of early season tournaments that give basketball junkies games to watch throughout the day. You have the Maui Invitational, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the NIT Tip-Off, the new PK80, and many more invitational tournaments going on this week. And with so many tournaments, comes many story headlines. This week showed why college basketball is the best, and not just in March.

Aloha, Maui

Let’s start in Maui. Yes, the championship game between Notre Dame and Wichita State was fantastic. Bonzie Colson looked just like the ACC Player of the Year and Notre Dame erased a 16 point deficit to top the Shockers in Maui. But how about Chaminade blowing out Cal by 24 points? The Division II program, who is 8-92 all time in their host tournament, is used to being on the receiving end of a blowout. Wednesday night though, it was them doing the dominating. Just watch the highlights. No November game will mean as much than Chaminade’s win over Cal this year. It was just awesome to see the sheer joy on their faces.

Upsets in Atlantis

How about the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament? Arizona vs Purdue. Number 2 vs number 18. Sounds like a championship game right? How about last place. Both teams were upset in the first round of the B4A. Purdue by Tennessee, Arizona by NC State. It’s an early taste of Match; An underdog playing with house money facing a Goliath of a team. Now, Purdue by no means is a Goliath and Arizona is missing a key piece in Rawle Alkins, but neither team should be 0-2 in this tournament. Instead you saw coaches like Rick Barnes, Kevin Keatts, Tim Jankovich and Rick Stansbury coach their teams to wins over NCAA tournament teams. 

Happy Thanksgiving to the Hurleys

Still not enough? How about some dramatics. How about Danny and Bobby Hurley holding on to one possession wins on Thanksgiving, in different fashions. Danny and Rhode Island had an absolute battle with #22 Seton Hall. Both teams showed why they were tournament teams next year and expect to finish near the top, if not at the top, of their respective conferences this season. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Bobby Hurley is bringing Arizona State back. The Sun Devils took control in the second half against Kansas State and managed to hold on for a two point victory. Hurley has some players on his roster, that is becoming apparent. Both will play for championships tonight.

And let’s not forget the PK80. Dubbed the biggest early season tournament ever, the first round let the premier teams flex their muscles, setting us up for fantastic semifinal and final games. With six of the Top 20 teams in the country left, we will not be disappointed with how these brackets end.

Close games, upsets, MVP performances, great coaching, Mike Brey in a t-shirt. We’ve seen it all this week.And we’re only at Friday. With another full slate today and tomorrow, you can bet the headlines won’t end yet. This is why college basketball is the best.We’re just getting started and we’re already being spoiled. As Jon Rothstein would say, This is ONLY November.

ACC Basketball: 17-18 Conference Preview

The ACC is often dubbed the best conference in college basketball. With basketball blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame, it’s easy to see why the conference garners the respect it has. This year the ACC has it all: defending champs, potential #1 pick, and additional NBA prospects all over the place. Let’s take a look at how the ACC Conference was voted in the preseason.

Projected Finishes

  1. Duke – No shock. Duke is the Preseason #1, and for good reason. Marvin Bagley is one of the most talented players in the country and Duke has a true point guard in Trevon Duval. Grayson Allen returning to form will be the piece that puts this Duke team over the top.
  2. North Carolina – This will be a different look UNC team, mainly in size. Meeks, Hicks, Bradley and Justin Jackson all leave. Joel Berry is the team’s nucleus but he’s dealing with several injuries to start the year. Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson will be big in Berry’s absence. Fellow senior Theo Pinson is a crucial piece to the puzzle. He’s Roy Williams’s Swiss Army knife and will use a different role every night.
  3. Notre Dame – Bonzie Colson torched ACC bigs for 18 and 10 a night last year. Mike Brey will need an increased effort from TJ Gibbs for his team to compete with the best of the ACC. Improvement there, plus Colson and Matt Farrell, gives the Irish solid foundation going into the year.
  4. Miami – The Hurricanes have a veteran guard in JaQuan Newton, highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker, and potential breakout player in Bruce Brown. The keys for Miami will be Walker’s health; He had ACL surgery over the summer but has been cleared completely. If he is healthy out the gate, Miami will be a nightmare opponent.
  5. Louisville –  I think Deng Adel will be one of the best players in the conference in his senior year. The biggest piece for Louisville will be replacing Donovan Mitchell. VJ King will get the first crack and if he can do an adequate job, Lousiville can possibly have as smooth a transition a possible.
  6. Virginia – UVA will have an exciting back court with Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall. Their issue will be upfront, where they are very thin outside senior Isiah Wilkins. The Cavaliers need to replace their top three scorers in London Perrantes, Austin Nichols and Marial Shayok. Grad transfer Nigel Johnson will help fill some of this loss. A bit of a college journeyman, Johnson averaged 11 points a game last year for Rutgers. He will bring that scoring mentality to Charlottesville, for what will be his third NCAA team.
  7. Virginia Tech – They lose their top 2 two scorers in Seth Allen and Zach LeDay, but they have a solid core returning. Chris Clarke has the ability to lead them in scoring and rebounds. Buzz Williams also has a strong group of guards, including Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Top 100 freshman Wabissa Bede and Nikeil Alexander-Walker.
  8. Florida State – Florida State being eight was a bit of a surprise considering they lost two NBA players and one G-League player. FSU rotated a lot of guys last season, so they do return players who experienced ACC play. None will be more crucial than Terrance Mann. Helping in the back court is highly touted freshman MJ Walker. If the Seminoles can get production out of the great size they have on their roster, they could soldif this pick at eight.
  9. Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech enjoyed a nice NIT run before running into a red hot TCU team in the Championship game. The Yellow Jackets have one of the better one-two punches in the conference in Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, both of whom received preseason All-ACC honors.
  10. Syracuse – Syracuse was a underwhleming team last year to say the least. Not Tyler Lydon or Andrew White leaves them with even less than last year. Tyus Battle will be their best player and they will need junior Frank Howard to be much more consistent than last season. I do think Cuse has a couple of nice freshman that are a year away from really making an impact.
  11. Wake Forest – Bryant Crawford was overshadowed by John Collins at points last year. That will not be the case this year, as he will be shine for the Demon Deacons. Upfront may be somewhat shaky, but strong guard support with Keyshawn Woods, Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin will lead this team.
  12. NC State – It’s year one under Kevin Keatts and that’s good news for Wolfpack fans. Keatts fortunately starts his tenure with a good veteran presence. Abdul-Malik Abu returns and Baylor grad transfer Al Freeman gets added into the mix. NC State also has a great freshman in Lavar Batts that will turn heads. 
  13. Clemson – Clemson loses their all-conference talent in Jarred Blossomgame, but Tigers fans will see a more balanced offense this year. They return four of their top six scorers, all of which averaged 7-10 points last year.
  14. Boston College – I don’t need to tell BC fans about Ky Bowman and Jerom Robinson. Despite the struggles BC’s had, and may have, these two can score with anyone in the conference. Jordan Chatman also returns as the team’s third leading scorer, though there a big drop off between second and third.
  15. Pittsburgh – It will be a tough year for Pitt fans, as they watch Jamie Dixon and TCU flourish and their team struggle. They lose 65 points a game from a team that was bad last year. This year will be a lot of evaluating young players and see who fits for the future.

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year – Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame)

I mentioned it above, Colson dominated last season in the paint. Crowned an undersized post player, Colson proves you don’t need to tower over opponents to have success. Colson has the ability to beat defenders from inside and out. Add to it the fact that Mike Brey is great at putting Colson in positions to best succeed, and you have trouble if you’re on the opposing sideline. Duke has the diaper dandies, UNC may be the returning National Champs, and Louisville and Miami have better NBA prospects, but Notre Dame has the Player of the Year.

Freshman of the Year – Marvin Bagley (Duke)

Again, this is really not a surprise. Duke has a number of talented freshman, and Miami does have a super talented player in Lonnie Walker, but none of them compare to Bagley. Many have called him the best prospect since Lebron, and his arrival has been long awaited. On a loaded Duke team, Bagley’s numbers won’t reach their maximum potential, but you will see his ability to change the course of a game several times throughout the year.

All ACC Teams

First Team 

Bonzie Colson – Notre Dame

Marvin Bagley – Duke 

Joel Berry – UNC

Grayson Allen – Duke

Ben Lammers – Georgia Tech

Second Team 

Bruce Brown – Miami

Quentin Snider – Lousiville

Deng Adel – Lousiville

Josh Okogie – Georgia Tech

Jerome Robinson – Boston College