Hoops insider: A early line on Bradley’s 25th Bracket Fiasco

You've got to be strong with the ball to outmuscle Wisconsin. Jared Sullinger was. (AP photo)

You've got to be strong with the ball to outmuscle Wisconsin. Jared Sullinger was. (AP photo)

Hoops Hysterics

1.The silver anniversary — meaning the 25th year — of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco is almost at hand. How about a silvery sliver of a guess as to who’s going to make the Final Four? I’d say Ohio State, Kentucky and Syracuse have stamped themselves as the three best teams, and unless one of them slips they won’t have to play each other in a regional. I’m guessing I’d pick at least two of those to reach New Orleans. As for the fourth team: I’ve been underwhelmed by North Carolina, and I won’t pick Kansas no matter how good Kansas is because I’ve been wrong so many times before. I liked Florida last season because of its guards and I like the Gators again for the same reason. If you’re looking for a unranked major of substance, I’d try West Virginia. For a mid-major, try Wichita State.

2. With big conference games at hand all across the basketball landscape, how do we handicap the league races? With Duke losing twice at home, the ACC will come down to North Carolina or Florida State. But the two don’t meet again, and Carolina still must play the Devils twice. Kentucky is unbeaten in the SEC but has five difficult games remaining, two of them this week. If Ohio State beats Michigan State in Columbus on Saturday, the Buckeyes will seize control of the Big Ten. The Big East is Syracuse’s to lose, which it won’t, and the Big 12 is a mess. Baylor, Kansas and Missouri are tied for first place, and the winner of the Feb. 25 Mizzou-at-KU game could well be the champ.

3. Er, didn’t you forget the Pac-12? Didn’t forget it. Just didn’t feel like lumping it with the other five. The Pac-12 in 2012 is as weak as a major conference ever gets. Washington, which was 7-5 in non-league play, is the leader. UCLA and Southern Cal are an aggregate 19-28, and Herb Sendek, once of North Carolina State, is about to get fired at Arizona State. (His Sun Devils are 7-16.) Even Arizona, usually a Top 25 fixture, is only 16-8. According to ESPN Insider RPI, the top-ranked Pac-12 team, California, would be eighth in the Big East and seventh in the SEC.

My Super Sweet Sixteen

1. Kentucky: Midterm exam week for the Big Blue. The Wildcats face Florida in Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Vandy in Nashville on Saturday.

2. Ohio State: After the grind-it-out win at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will get another test Saturday when Michigan State comes calling.

3. Syracuse: Also midterm exam week for the Orange. Guests at the Carrier Dome will be Georgetown on Wednesday, UConn on Saturday.

4. Missouri: Not really sure how the Tigers took down Kansas on Saturday. But that’s pretty much the story of Mizzou’s giddy season.

5. North Carolina: Also midterm exam week for the Pale Blue. Duke comes to the Dean Dome on Wednesday, then Virginia on Saturday.

6. Baylor: Midterm exam week, with an edge. The Bears get Kansas on Wednesday, Missouri on Saturday. They’ve already lost to both.

7. Murray State: The pressure is mounting on the unbeaten Racers. They trailed at home at the half against Southeast Missouri State. Still won.

8. Florida: The getting-it-together Gators have won seven in a row and will enter Rupp Arena on Tuesday having not lost in a month.

9. Kansas: After squandering an eight-point lead with 2:05 remaining at Missouri, the Jayhawks now get to play Baylor in Waco.

10. Michigan State: After losing one of those Big Ten Specials — 42-41 at Illinois — the Spartans handled Michigan on Super Bowl Sunday.

11. Saint Mary’s: It will be a big Thursday in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels, who’ve won 20 0f 21, play at second-place Gonzaga.

12. Duke: A less-than-super Sunday in Cameron. The Blue Devils trailed unranked Miami by 14 points at the half and lost in overtime.

13. Florida State: Talk about a flipped switch. On Jan. 7 FSU lost to Clemson by 20 and fell to 9-6. The Seminoles haven’t lost since.

14. Georgetown: Hoyas are tied with Marquette for second place in the Big East, and they’ll play first-place Syracuse on Wednesday.

15. Creighton: The Bluejays tripped at Northern Iowa on Saturday, leaving them tied with Wichita State atop the Missouri Valley.

16. San Diego State: It’ll be a big Saturday in the Mountain West. The Aztecs, who beat UNLV by two in January, play the Rebels in Vegas.

Dropped out: Marquette, Virginia.

By Mark Bradley

71 comments Add your comment

lanier

February 7th, 2012
11:23 am

ill win it this year

Mark Bradley

February 7th, 2012
11:24 am

Hope so, lanier. Kudos.

Big Crimson 75

February 7th, 2012
11:29 am

Ky, Syracuse, Mizzu & Ohio St.
Looks like a chalk year.

JSS

February 7th, 2012
11:29 am

Pick Big 10 and Big 12 teams for the Elite 8 or Final 4 at your own bracket risk… Hello St. Marys, if they get a proper seed, look out!

Big Crimson 75

February 7th, 2012
11:31 am

Wichita St is a good sleeper pick. Hopefully, no Butler this year!!!!!

Mark Bradley

February 7th, 2012
11:32 am

One thing I’ve learned, Big Crimson: Most years look like chalk years — until the upsets come.

Mark Bradley

February 7th, 2012
11:33 am

And I don’t think Butler will make the field. The Bears are 13-12.

ChopAttack

February 7th, 2012
11:38 am

Kentucky won at home against UNC and lost to Indiana on the road. I’m not sure why you’re underwhelmed by UNC who has beat the same number of top 100 RPI teams as Kentucky. Kentucky has only beaten one team in the top 100 in the RPI away from Rupp (2 for UNC).

I’d say the only reason UNC has 3 losses is because they’ve played a more difficult schedule so far.

GTBob

February 7th, 2012
11:43 am

I can’t really see Missouri in the final four. I think UNC or maybe Kansas sneaks in. Good coaching and tournament experience usually mean a lot around March. As an outside pick I would take Michigan St.

juvenal

February 7th, 2012
11:46 am

syracuse…..

Mark Bradley

February 7th, 2012
11:48 am

Kentucky lost a game on the road by one point. Carolina lost by 33 points. Maybe that’s why.

ChopAttack

February 7th, 2012
11:53 am

See… I think a 3 point win against lowly UT on the road is about as unimpressive as a 33 point loss to FSU.

ChopAttack

February 7th, 2012
11:57 am

UK (although their PG could be thier undoing in the tourney), Syracuse, UNC, and OSU.

Although I wouldn’t be surprised if none of the teams I listed above don’t make the Final Four. There’s no dominant team this season. UNC could reach that level if Barnes/Zeller don’t have any off days in March.

DawginLex

February 7th, 2012
11:58 am

unc also lost starter to injury

Mark Bradley

February 7th, 2012
11:59 am

Kentucky against teams rated in the RPI Top 25: 3-1.

Carolina against teams rated in the RPI Top 25: 1-3.

And I seem to remember the Tar Heels going six weeks between road games. Don’t know that these Heels fit the profile of road warriors.

spider

February 7th, 2012
12:03 pm

spider

February 7th, 2012
12:04 pm

and by the way guys DAGMAR MIDCAP is alive and well in san diego doing the weather and looking as good as ever.

Sid

February 7th, 2012
12:28 pm

Mark Bradley February 7th, 2012 11:48 am
Kentucky lost a game on the road by one point. Carolina lost by 33 points. Maybe that’s why.
***************************************************

Cha-Ching

chopattack

February 7th, 2012
12:29 pm

Would Kentucky have beaten UNLV, FSU, and UNC on the road? I can see UK winning two of those games. UNC and UK both beat a top 25 on neutral court. Beating Louisville at home is about all that separates UNC and UK.

UK has the worst SoS (70th) in the top 10 (UNC is 27th). That should improve over the next month for UK.

V

February 7th, 2012
12:33 pm

Mark you should know any given game a team can just play lights out. That’s what happened during the fsu unc game. They missed what 1 3 pointer the whole game. This isn’t football. One bad game doesn’t mean a team isn’t final 4 worthy. And unc usually plays best at the season end while kentucky usually falters.

DawginLex

February 7th, 2012
12:34 pm

UNC had the best talent going into the season but losing a starter to ACL injury moves them back.

UK has the best talent now. Ohio state is the next threat to UK. Syracuse is next.

Teague is playing mistake free right now. If that continues, UK will win it all.

Fort Worth Dawg

February 7th, 2012
12:37 pm

Murray State plays Saint Mary’s. You need to tell the folks a little more about Murray State and their coach. Previous coach is now at Texas A&M with health problems. Current coach will likely be someone else’s coach next year. I think I read that the population of Murray, KY (non-student) is 14K while they manage to pack out a stadium of 9K. Murray State grads and fans are keenly aware that they’re ranked higher than Duke. It may not last long but the Murray folks are stoked. Most recent comment I saw: Basketball in the Commonwealth of KY – UK is #1, Murray State is the only undefeated, Louisville is #23, and Bellarmine is #1 in Division II.

Greg

February 7th, 2012
12:49 pm

How is Carolina 1-3 mark when they beat mich state and wisconsin? I guess wisconsin must be like 27th. lol. Harder schedule and losing a kep player overrides what you say Mark. Unc lost by 1 at kty. Hope they meet again on a neutral floor.

Shug

February 7th, 2012
12:53 pm

Rock Chalk Jay Hawk.

“The greatest college cheer I ever heard,” exclaimed Teddy Roosevelt.

Jesus Christ

February 7th, 2012
12:54 pm

With Bruce Pearl gone from Rocky Top, the Cats will go all the way.

Herschel Talker

February 7th, 2012
1:05 pm

MB:

What about Mark Fox’s dawgs?

HT

Red Stick

February 7th, 2012
1:16 pm

@HT the Dawgs have about as good of a chance as LSU, slim to none.

Geaux Tigers

Wow, 25 years!!!!

February 7th, 2012
2:13 pm

…say it ain’t so – I don’t feel that much older, how ’bout you?…

CrαZy

February 7th, 2012
2:17 pm

If GT and UGA combined rosters the state of GA still wouldn’t have a tournament team. That’s sad for a state with this many athletes.

Beast from the East

February 7th, 2012
3:28 pm

Cuse, UK, Buckeyes and Gators.

Gators take the crown!

Tootsi

February 7th, 2012
3:30 pm

Butler is the Bulldogs not the Bears. Come on Bradley, don’t 2 straight finals appearances at least earn them the proper name?

Kyle

February 7th, 2012
3:52 pm

OK Bradley- where is UGA? and Tech?????????? geez….so sick of ATL sportswriters always picking other teams…….
hahahahahahaahahhahahahaha had to get that one in on you Mark!

Mark Bradley

February 7th, 2012
4:03 pm

Butler Bulldogs. Baylor Bears. Got it.

Bradley’s a boob. But you knew that already.

Beast from the East

February 7th, 2012
4:05 pm

Mark,
Predictions on the UF/UK game tonight? I’m hoping the Gators find a way, but wins at Rupp are pretty rare. We’d have to shoot lights out from beyond the arc to have a legit shot.

Beast from the East

February 7th, 2012
4:07 pm

Mark,
Your predictions on the UF/UK game tonight?

Tootsi

February 7th, 2012
4:19 pm

You’re not a boob, best writer along with DOB that this paper employs. Just correcting the mistake.

A boob would be D. Orlando Ledbetter, the worst beat writer in sports and a disgrace to this newspaper. It is laughable that he is a hall of fame voter.

Keep up the good work Mark.

University of Kentucky

February 7th, 2012
4:34 pm

The only team that can beat Kentucky is Kentucky. Kentucky has really morphed into a beast and only looks to be getting stronger each game.

Gordon

February 7th, 2012
4:49 pm

Paul Hewitt said he took the George Mason job because he thought he could win a championship there and that’s all he has left to do in college basketball, and he’s unlikely to ever have a better roster than he has this year, so I’m going with them.

William Casey

February 7th, 2012
5:26 pm

@Gordon: please don’t bet your kids’ college money on it. LOL

Skeezix

February 7th, 2012
5:32 pm

Wow, it is a bit early for me to be picking the sweet 16, much less the final 4. Mark, I agree with you on UNC–they have played a fairly weak schedule all season and in the Dec. time frame played 9 straight games at home against cupcakes. Hardly what a coach should be doing at that time with the talent Roy Williams has–he should have been doing everything he could to “toughen up” his players to get them ready for the NCAA. I think that is why they were blown out by Fla. St. in Tallahasee. If memory serves me right, I believe that was their first venture out of the Dean Dome after the 9 cupcake games and against a good opponent. Right now if I had to pick a 2012 champion, I’d go with Syracuse first and Kentucky second. UNC is very talented though and there is still time left for them to get tougher, so they may make the run to the final 4.

swarmi

February 7th, 2012
5:56 pm

Not a Dook fan (or Coach K fan), but you never know when they will realize just how good they can be…if they play as a team (and/or hit a streak of threes).

Skeezix

February 7th, 2012
6:07 pm

Duke has a lot of talent but a lot of young kids who are still learning plus no one has established himself yet at the point guard position. Their perimeter defense is not that good either (by Duke standards). If they are hitting their threes, they can beat most teams. I just don’t see them going deep in the NCAA this year.

ormewood

February 7th, 2012
6:46 pm

This is an unusual Duke team. They have no stars, just a bunch of role players. Also, they are dead last in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, a stat they typically lead or finish near the top. I think Sweet 16 is about their max.

Paul in NH

February 7th, 2012
9:24 pm

Carolina seems to have one complete stinker of a game every year. This year it was against FSU. Last year it was against GT. I expect them to win the regular season in the ACC – Ole Roy doesn’t seem to care about the ACC tourney as much. Having said that, although they have a great front line, they don’t have the guards to make the Final Four – their chances of an NC went down with Strickland’s ACL.
Duke is a couple of players short of their usual standards. Their best player is a FR PG and they don’t lock down on D the way the used to. Coach K could really use Parker.

Peach Fuzz

February 7th, 2012
9:27 pm

UNC hasn’t yet locked down like it is capable of doing. They simply have not seemed hungry. Strckland’s replacement (Bullock) has actually made them more lethal. Sleep on UNC and you’ll have a bad dream.

Peach Fuzz

February 7th, 2012
9:29 pm

UNC has the top assist man in the league and Bullock is a rising star. Have to disagree w/Paul about U N C guards.

Final Four

February 7th, 2012
9:33 pm

KY, NC, Syracuse, Missouri

Final Four

February 7th, 2012
9:34 pm

Gordon: A real chuckle

Paul in NH

February 7th, 2012
9:40 pm

Peach Fuzz – UNC has only 2 guards who are any good. You need more than that in the NCAA tourney.

Dostoveyskiy

February 7th, 2012
10:11 pm

So who are KY’s guards. Teague is a liability. How do they get 3?