March Madness Mailbag

March 8th – 2016: Questions, Updates, Content

Hiatus?

If you look at the last article on the website, it’s from November 2nd. That’s 4 months ago – before the college hoops season had even begun. Yet, here I am posting in March when the NCAA tournament is almost here.

We had various articles and works developed – some even published. However, I decide to take down the Golden Age of Superheroes: 2016 because I’ve done significantly more research about the various superhero franchises since and I want to publish something a little more original than just a preview of all the superhero films in a calendar year (but don’t be fooled, 2016 is a huge year for the genre). We are developing a Kentucky pick-up game draft article (you’ll see it soon) and I’m considering a few other things – a piece on why Kobe Bryant is the NBA player best suited for James Bond, 100 reasons why I’m excited for Captain America: Civil War, and (hoping nobody steals this idea) Katman Begins. 

Without further ado, let’s get into questions and topics we want to have covered.

Is “Parity” really the best way to describe this year’s College Basketball season?

Hate to half-ass an answer here, but the answer is yes and no. There is uncertainty, excitement, and more balance I would say. There is no clearly defined juggernaut – in 2014-15, there was the Goliath of Kentucky, and there were also very talented Duke, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Arizona teams.

Last year I filled out my bracket feeling REALLY good about those five teams and was able to talk myself into those teams – plus Michigan State and Iowa State for potential Final Four teams. This year, I look at it, and I think there are many solid teams, but no team I look at and feel super good about – I see many teams that could make Final Four runs.

This year, the guards have been key. The SplashTag team thought, why not start a tradition? So, for those who haven’t followed College Hoops too closely…

Here are SplashTag’s 2015-16 College Basketball All-Americans2015 Final Four Pregame

First Team: Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Denzel Valentine (Michigan State), Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), Kris Dunn (Providence), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia)

Second Team: Brice Johnson (North Carolina), Grayson Allen (Duke), Ben Simmons (LSU), Jakob Poeltl (Utah), Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa), Jamal Murray (Kentucky)

Third Team: Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Perry Ellis (Kansas), Kay Felder (Oakland), A.J. Hammons (Purdue)

Bubble talk? With Mid-Majors? No way.

I’ve heard many experts and analysts discuss how this year’s selection committee will set a precedent and their decision will be a conclusion to a litmus test question many have asked before – what does the selection committee stick to the most? The resume? The eye-test? Statistics? Or dare I say it… entertainment and fan viewership (picking the most entertaining field)?

So, this year it looks like Monmouth and Wichita State will really be sweating it out, as they are mid-majors who are vying for an at-large bid. Monmouth has a decent resume, but it’s Wichita State that will be an intriguing case for the committee. They have a great double-digit win over Utah – who I predict will be a 3-seed. However, they have some bad losses in the Missouri Valley Conference, and the Utah win is the only top-70 RPI win. Meanwhile, they had a horrible stretch where they lost to high-major bubble teams like Tulsa, Seton Hall (who is probably safely in the field), and Alabama. However, pro-Wichita State arguers will mention that Fred VanVleet was out and wasn’t 100% in some of those games, and that they also missed Anton Grady. They are freakin 10th in KenPom, yet the resume and RPI numbers aren’t pretty. I want to see the Baker and VanVleet senior class/backcourt get one last shot at the tournament, but the selection committee isn’t supposed to take into account history and pedigree. There are only 36 at-large bids, so it gets really interesting, especially with Monmouth trying to get one as well. If Gonzaga doesn’t win the WCC Tournament, MAN it’s going to get interesting.

Verdict: Call me sentimental (I did pick them in my preseason Final Four), but I want the Shockers in one last time with that duo. I realistically see them being sent to Dayton to play in the First Four.

Individual Performances/Headlines We Want

Tyler Ulis breaks Kentucky’s Single-Season Assist Record in Win – Ulis is 21 assists from breaking Kentucky’s Single-Season Assist Record (currently owned by John Wall with 241). Ulis is at 221, and if they don’t get bounced early in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, Ulis has a great shot of breaking this. That’s great for a 5 foot 9 guy who has proved so many people wrong (and I’ve always been on his corner)!

tyler_ulis

Denzel Valentine Triple Double (Honorable Mention to Kris Dunn too) – Kris Dunn’s almost had a quadruple-double this year, so he’s definitely in the conversation. But Denzel Valentine, because he’s coached by Izzo and is at Michigan State, will inevitably hear Draymond comparisons and a few links to Magic Johnson. When Draymond was coming out of college, he was a 4-year player that many people said was a “tweener” and had no position. Yet look at him now. Draymond also put up 2 triple-doubles in the NCAA tournament. Denzel’s put up 2 this year, wouldn’t it be awesome to see him do it again on the biggest stage, especially during Draymond’s breakout year.

Is he your Buddy or Valentine? Player-of-the-year favorites square off: We saw this last year in the Sweet 16, but this year these two are the front-runners for player of the year. Nuff said.

Buddy-Ball: Though their play styles are different, Buddy Hield and Stephen Curry have some things in common. They have quick quick QUICK releases with zero hesitation on hard shots, and they take shots that you say “WTF” or question for the typical college player, but they go in. Remember how epic the 46 explosion at Kansas was? What if we see another headline like that in the tournament – Hield goes for 50.

I Love Kentucky’s Backcourt and this Wildcat Team, in case you haven’t noticed

First, look at the major freshmen (I know Humphries brings physicality and toughness, but I mean the guys who were the gems of the freshmen class). You all know that I love Ulis, so I won’t gush about him more. Kentucky has a reputation for relying on freshmen, and though freshmen play a role this year, I’d argue that their MVP is a sophomore. Nevertheless, they are vital to this team’s success and should be fun to watch in the tournament.

Jamal Murray – This dude is Hawkeye. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go find a Vine or YouTube clip of his bow and arrow 3-pointer celebration. He’s been hot lately, adapted his role, and he may have surpassed Ben Simmons for SEC Freshman of the Year (he’s at least made a real name for himself). He leads all major-conference freshmen in scoring.

Skal – He struggled to adjust to the college game and gain confidence early on, but lately he’s played well. Can he keep it up? As an NBA team and scout, you’d love to see him continue making the right strides.

Briscoe – Yes, Ulis and Murray are the firepower to Kentucky’s amazing backcourt. Yes, Briscoe can’t really shoot. But, he’s physically ready and built like a bulldog. He straight up hounds dudes on defense and if he can provide decent scoring and solid defense, that certainly makes Ulis and Murray’s offensive show run more smoothly.

Wait, you’re not picking Kentucky to win it all?

Nah. At least, not if I had just one bracket. I certainly see this Kentucky team being capable of it.

OKAY then, enough about Kentucky. Who are you picking then?

Though they’ve hit a tough stretch lately, I gotta stick with my preseason pick. That team would be the Maryland Terrapins. I may have gotten some things wrong, I’m sticking with my preseason pick and my November article The Year of the Terps still speaks some truth. There are few teams that could throw out a starting five more talented than Maryland’s starting lineup.

Which conference was the best this year, and who should I trust for March?

The Big 12 was definitely the deepest and most competitive conference. Though the ACC probably has more NCAA tournament-level teams, the ACC also has bottom dwellers like Boston College. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 is more of a balanced league – the best team is Oregon, who I’d say is not as good as the best 2 teams in both the Big 12 and the ACC.

So, that being said, I see a lot of Pac-12 teams being more of first-weekend teams (though I can see Utah, Cal, Arizona, Oregon making runs), while the ACC, Big 12, and Big Ten certainly are best conferences likely to have multiple 2nd weekend teams and have many teams with legit final four goals.

The Big 12 has had history with being inconsistent in March. Last year they were praised for being so deep and whatnot, yet they were a March disappointment. There’s luck involved, but last year, the Big 12’s best nonconference win was Kansas over Utah (a 5-seed) in Kansas City. This year’s Big 12 is better, as many players have had a year to grow. Furthermore, the best nonconference wins are now Kansas over Kentucky, Oklahoma over Villanova, Texas over North Carolina, and Iowa State over Iowa. (Fingers crossed) I don’t see another UAB over Iowa State or Georgia State over Baylor type of upset brewing for the Big 12.

How excited are you on a scale of 1-10?

Is this even a question? As always, it’s an 11/10. We’ll be back with more work and content.

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