January 14, 2007

We talked contenders, lets talk pretenders

Solid? Yes. Best band ever? No chance. Just like these teams below.

The beginning of this list must focus on those teams who are ranked solely based off preseason hype and 2006 results. We have plenty of candidates if I just talk about those who finished well last year or just those receiving hype this year. However, if you combine the two elements you see the full futility of these teams' hopes come March.

The Duke Blue Devils have scheduling down to a science. First step, schedule mid majors from strong conferences and play them at Cameron. Next up, play everyone else at home or in New York, but never on their home floor - that is for conference play. Watch your RPI soar while getting solid wins over teams that you beat before you walk in the door and parlay that into a ridiculously high NCAA seeding and bow out early. Duke circa 2007 is going by the book. The Dookies played all games at Cameron or neutral sites until January 10th - losing at Georgia Tech to start the year 0-2 in the ACC. What isn't going to script are the wins. Losses to Marquette in Kansas City and to Virginia Tech at home have stripped away the luster. This Duke team shouldn't be higher than a 6-seed, but the NCAA Committee will find a way.

Adopting the Duke Scheduling Method are the Connecticut Huskies. The only wrinkle in their system is to play absolute dogs while never leaving the state until after Christmas. The failed plot in their scheme is that they have begun conference play by proving their unworthiness. The Huskies only got their first true road win against a hapless St. John's team last night. In some years, Calhoun has missed the tournament completely after huge years. This could be another.

Texas A&M made a decent run in 2006 - coming within a whisker of defeating LSU and advancing to the Atlanta Regional. In 2007, they have won the games they should have, played close against some big boys, but show absolutely no win that will get you excited. Per their RPI, the Aggies best win to-date is a home victory over Winthrop. A&M needs to reverse its fortunes inside the Big 12 or face life as a double-digit seed in the tournament.

The NCAA Tournament Committee has a real problem. A couple of years ago they selected to have a first-and-second round site in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga was a darling as they are now, and even Lorenzo Romar bringing Washington back to life made it appear as though the NCAA couldn't miss - either getting one or the other to be the main attraction. The problem this year is that the Huskies are 1-5 in conference, 11-6 overall. The Zags are 11-6 as well, and while they head into their conference play and should come out very well, it will be painfully obvious that the NCAA arranged this site to pay back the Zags for a few low seeds in past tournaments. Some 4 or 5 seed is going to wind up getting to play Gonzaga on their virtual home floor thanks to this gaffe by the NCAA. Shame on them.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.