Home > Champ Week 2012 > Championship Week Mailbag: Recap of Thursday’s conference tournament action

Championship Week Mailbag: Recap of Thursday’s conference tournament action

By: Kels Dayton

Championship Week has come so fast and furious at us here at Roundball Daily that it’s been hard to keep up with everything that’s going on. That’s why we’re going to get you caught up on everything, Bill Simmons-style, with a mailbag chock-full of college basketball questions from the most loyal of Roundball Daily readers.

Q: Would you be shocked if UConn made another run to the Final Four?

It would be a shock to see these guys repeat their Final Four run of last season without Kemba. (Photo: Hartford

Kels: Yes. This year’s Huskies team has the talent to play with anybody in the country, but that doesn’t mean that they will put it all together for the four most important games of the season. In fact, I’m positive that they won’t. This is the same UConn team that lost to Rutgers and Seton Hall in the same season for the first time since 1969. This is also the same group that lost to Central Florida, got their manhood handed to them by Louisville, lost a huge game to Providence at the end of the season and lost nine of twelve in the middle of the year. Any comparisons to last year’s Huskies are insane. That team had Kemba Walker. They won the Maui Invitational at the beginning of the year, beat 5 ranked teams during the regular season (compared with ZERO this year) and won five games in five days in the Big East tournament in one of the most remarkable runs in NCAA history. Did I mention that team had Kemba Walker? This year’s team is talented enough to upset a top seed in the NCAAs, and a run to the Sweet 16 isn’t out of the question, but the Final Four? That would be shocking considering the inconsistency with which this group of Huskies has played this season.

Q: What would UConn need to do to make a deep tournament run?

Kels: Well, for one thing, Jeremy Lamb would need to forget about that night with Bruno in Secaucus, remove himself from the second-half Witness Protection Program, and actually move to get the ball on the wing when he wants it. Right now, his strategy is to stand as far away from the ball as physically possible, half-heartedly raise one hand, remain completely motionless and then disinterestedly jog back on defense when he doesn’t get it. Shabazz Napier would need to realize that there are 4 other guys on the team, and that a contested 40-footer is not the shot we want after 15 seconds of perfecting the art of the 5-foot chest pass with Ryan Boatright. Alex Oriakhi would need to understand that time did not cease to exist after the 2011 Final Four and that yes, he is still expected to contribute to the team, and Jim Calhoun would have to stay out of the hospital, which is a bit like asking Rick Majerus to stand 50 feet clear of an Arby’s. If all that happens, the Huskies can make a deep NCAA run. It hasn’t come together all year, but it’s not impossible.

Q: Does Northwestern have any chance to reach the NCAA Tournament after their loss to Minnesota on Thursday?

Northwestern blew its chance to clinch a first-ever NCAA Tournament bid with a loss to Minnesota on Thursday. (Brian Spurlock/US Presswire)

Kels: Nope. The loss to Minnesota was, as ESPN’s Dan Dakic put it, “that final blow to the chin.” The Wildcats had been taking a lot of body blows, but they finally got knocked down in that loss to the Gophers in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday. They’ll be playing their postseason basketball in the NIT.

Q: Did Texas wrap up a bid by beating Iowa State Thursday night?

Kels: They probably did; although I’m still not that impressed with the Longhorns. I would much rather see a team like Drexel, which went 16-2 in the CAA, a league that has produced more Final Four teams in the past five years than the Big XII, get in. I think the ‘Horns have separated themselves from teams like Seton Hall and Washington, but Texas still doesn’t have many top-flight wins and shouldn’t be considered a threat to make a deep run in the NCAAs the way a Drexel or even an Iona might.

Q: How many bids will the Mountain West get?

Kels: I think the Mountain West gets four if Colorado State takes out top-seeded San Diego State in the semifinals on Friday. San Diego State and UNLV have wrapped up bids, and New Mexico is right there as well…they just need a late-night win over Wyoming to feel 100 percent confident about their spot in the field. If CSU finds away to defeat the Aztecs and advance to the championship game, it will give them a real chance at cracking the field of 68. But they have no shot if they don’t take out SDSU. Losses to Boise State and TCU in mid-February clinched that.

Q: How good is South Florida?

Anthony Collins and the Bulls have done more than enough to earn an NCAA bid this season. (AP Photo)

Kels: Pretty good. This team won 12 games in the rugged Big East, held opponents to just 40 percent shooting from the floor, and finished eighth in the nation in points allowed at 57.4 per game. The Bulls advanced to the Big East quarterfinals for the first time ever and have mimicked the Pittsburgh blueprint to a ‘T’. This is an NCAA tournament team. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have a player who averages in double figures in scoring, or that they began the year 7-6. They’ve gotten consistently better throughout the season and have had excellent point guard play in freshman Anthony Collins, who could grow into a Big East star. I can’t say this enough: they belong in the NCAA tournament.

Q: Will this year’s tournament be as crazy as last year, when Butler and VCU made the Final Four?

Kels: It certainly could be. With apologies to Kentucky and Syracuse fans, there are no great teams in college basketball this season. There are about 35-40 teams that could potentially get hot and make a run to the Final Four, and that’s just crazy. A lot of it has to do with parity and youth at the top programs, but there’s also just a ton of really good basketball players out there. The difference between teams in the major conferences and the good teams in the mid-major conferences is size and strength. It’s not speed, shooting, or even raw basketball ability, as it once was. For example, Northeast Conference champion Long Island may get a 15-seed, but they are an impressive team to watch. They’re impossibly quick, decisive with the basketball, and have a potential NBA prospect in forward Jamal Olasewere. And they play in the freakin’ Northeast Conference. The NCAA Tournament isn’t going to be crazy. It’s going to be certifiable, just like last season.

Q: Is Washington in trouble after its loss to Oregon State?

Kels: Probably not, although the Huskies won’t have much of a beef if the selection committee does decide to leave them out. Losing in Round 1 of your conference tournament is never a good idea if you’re on the bubble, and Washington fell apart down the stretch, missing four straight free throws to close out an unceremonious loss to Oregon State. Still, U-Dub won 21 games overall and went 14-4 in the Pac-12 this season, which should be good enough to earn them a bid no matter how putrid the league was this season.

Categories: Champ Week 2012
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