BOZICH | Monday Muse: Local NCAA Tournament forecast grows mostly cloudy
Will the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament be a quiet time in Kentuckiana? Which college basketball team looks like the fourth Number One seed? Rick Bozich presents his Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Spring training opens next week. We’re less than five weeks from NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday. Football will not surrender the spotlight, not with national signing day, the NFL Scouting Combine and spring practice on deck.
Material for Monday Muse? There’s always plenty. Always.
1. Local NCAA Tournament Forecast: Mostly Cloudy
Two weeks ago we cracked an ugly milestone. For the first time in 11 seasons Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana were all missing from the Associated Press college basketball Top 25 poll. That had not happened in more than 4,000 days, not since the 2006-07 season.
Is anybody fretting that another sour moment college basketball milestone could be equaled next month – no local teams advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? Will our worlds be strangely quiet on the second weekend of the tournament?
Indiana (12-12) is trying to avoid a losing record. The NIT could slip out of reach in Bloomington. Western Kentucky needs to win the Conference USA party to get to the NCAA – and then deliver two upsets on opening weekend.
Louisville projects as a 7, 8 or 9 seed on most forecasts. Translation: The Cards will be playing a very good team in game two -- if they win their opener.
Kentucky appears to be a 5 seed or maybe a 4 – and Ken Pomeroy has the Wildcats listed as underdogs in five of their last eight regular-season games. Four or five more losses would not translate into a 4- or 5-seed. Not with a 21-10 record.
What happened locally in 2007?
Kelvin Sampson’s first Indiana team beat Gonzaga before losing to UCLA, which advanced to the Final Four.
Kentucky beat Villanova before being handled by Kansas. A week later Tubby Smith was gone to Minnesota.
Louisville defeated Stanford and then lost to Billy Gillispie and Texas A&M.
That was the last time this area was pushed into Spectator Mode for the last two weekends of the NCAA Tournament. But the forecast for basketball beyond the opening weekend is mostly cloudy.
2. Who’s Number Four?
Separation is a word bracketologists love when discussing the NCAA field. I believe separation has developed at the top of the bracket.
Villanova, Virginia and Purdue settled in as prime contenders for number one seeds about a month ago – and nothing has changed that narrative.
But who’s number four, the team that will be shipped to the West Regional as the top seed?
Before the season, it was supposed to be Arizona. Three losses in The Bahamas stopped that chatter. A weekend loss to Washington ended it.
Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com prefers Xavier, but the Musketeers figure to lose at least once this week with games at Butler and Creighton. Might lose twice. Ken Pomeroy’s computer numbers continue to tilt toward Duke as the nation’s fourth best team, despite those unforgivable losses to Boston College and St. John’s.
That’s not the profile of a top seed.
Jeff Sagarin’s predictor formula actually has the Blue Devils ranked third overall, behind Villanova and Purdue by ahead of the Virginia team that beat Duke in Durham.
Scratch Duke. Add Michigan State, Kansas and Cincinnati to the conversation with a Xavier.
Who’s your fourth top seed?
Don't discount SEC leader Auburn. And keep reading.
3. What About Bruce Pearl?
I’m innocent on this one. I was not a voter at Southeastern Conference Basketball Media Day.
I did not pick Auburn behind Kentucky, Florida, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and four more SEC teams last October. Ninth place in the SEC?
That is not the way this season has played out. Check the SEC standings. That’s Auburn with a two-game lead on Tennessee and a three-game advantage on Kentucky.
Check Pomeroy’s projections. The Tigers are expected to win the league by two games over the Vols and five over Kentucky.
Five – Auburn at 15-3 and the Wildcats at 10-8.
Hat tip to Pearl for another wonderful stretch of coaching. He's winning at Auburn the way he won at Milwaukee and Tennessee. But will he be able to keep his job? Auburn earned most of its pre-season publicity for its place in the federal investigation of college basketball. Assistant coach Chuck Person lost his job. Two Auburn players have not been cleared to play this season. Two staffers have been placed on indefinite leave. Something smells in Auburn.
Pearl’s role in the mess?
To be determined. Pearl has not said much about the matter. But remember: This is a coach who served a three-year NCAA show cause after he was bounced from the job at Tennessee.
Auburn might keep winning and Pearl could still ultimately lose this job. It's certainly a topic nationally, featured in this New York Post story.
4. Whatever Happened to Northwestern?
Speaking of pre-season predictions that are leaking oil, remember when all 10.3 million Northwestern graduates working in the sports media world (I’m talking to you, Mike Greenberg and Michael Wilbon) were over the moon with Chris Collins and the Northwestern basketball team.
This was the team that made the NCAA Tournament for the first time last season and lost to Gonzaga when the officials made some crazy calls. This is a team that returned three of its best players and was adding another dynamic recruiting class. This was a team that was going to chase Michigan State and Purdue for the Big Ten title.
Northwestern sits 5-6 in the Big Ten and 14-10 overall. They’ll need to win the Big Ten Tournament to avoid the NIT. What happened?
They believed the hype. They’ve already confessed to not working hard enough during the off season as noted in this story by Steve Greenberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. Looks like it's too late.
5. Coldest Tom Brady Dagger
Plenty of love was directed at Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the Super Bowl, but nobody threw an icier dagger than Bridget Moynahan, Brady’s ex-girlfriend as well as the mother of his oldest child, a 10-year-old boy.
Cold. Foles was great. Brady was better, even though the Eagles won. Apparently Moynahan was not impressed. Or she's an Eagles' fan. Or something.
6. SNL For The Win
Apparently, Moynahan and I are not the only ones who have had a bellyful of Brady and the Patriots.
Saturday Night Live knew – delivering one of its best skits in years.
7. New York Post For the Win
Nobody does front page headlines better than the New York Post. The Post’s front-page delivery Monday morning was better than every Super Bowl ad – except for the one that featured Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
Well done, Post. Well done.
8. Recruiting, Recruiting, Recruiting
National Signing Day (Part II) will arrive Wednesday. The addition of the December signing period has eliminated much of the nonsense that surrounded the February period in recent years. But it’s still a lot of out-of-proportion noise.
The recruiting stories that I prefer are ones like the story the Houston Chronicle delivered last week:
They researched the recruiting status of every starter on the Eagles and Patriots.
I think you’ll enjoy the entire story, but I’ll give you this tease: The quarterback who won the Super Bowl was not ranked a 5-star or even a 4-star.
9. Cris Collinsworth & Al Michaels
I thought Al Michaels had a worse night than Cris Collinsworth during NBC’s Super Bowl telecast Sunday night.
Michaels is the guy who identified Eagles’ uber fan Mike Trout as the center fielder for the California Angels, a name the franchise dropped about two decades ago.
Michaels is the guy who announced that the Patriots took their first lead before they kicked the extra point to move ahead, 33-32. Bad move, Al, on a night when each team missed kicks.
But Collinsworth is the guy who took more hits on social media, mostly from Eagles’ fans but also from viewers who wondered if he knew the rules. There was enough grumbling about his work that Bryan Curtis of TheRinger.com wrote an entire story.
10. Poll Results
Are you impressed or turned off by Virginia's style of play?
Impressed 54.6 percent
Turned off 45.4 percent
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