Field of 68 Projection – February 6, 2019

Updates for the NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket will be every Wednesday and Saturday.  My bracket will be part of the The Bracket Project’s website along with many other brackets that college basketball fans are part of.  Link to The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – February 6, 2019

The 1s: Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan

The 2s: Gonzaga, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina

The 3s: Kansas, Purdue, Marquette, Houston

The 4s: Louisville, Villanova, Wisconsin, Nevada

The 5s: Iowa State, Mississippi State, Iowa, LSU

The 6s: Texas Tech, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Kansas State

The 7s: Florida State,  Baylor, Buffalo, Oklahoma

The 8s: Washington,Cincinnati, Syracuse, Auburn

The 9s: TCU, Ohio State, Texas, St. John’s

The 10s: Mississippi, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota

The 11s: North Carolina State, Butler, Lipscomb, Alabama, Wofford

The 12s: Florida, VCU, UCF, Belmont, Davidson

The 13s: Hofstra, New Mexico State, Vermont, Yale

The 14s: Old Dominion, Georgia State, South Dakota State, UC Irvine

The 15s: Northern Kentucky, Radford, Loyola-Chicago, Montana

The 16s: Lehigh, Rider, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, Robert Morris, Prairie View A&M

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Field of 68 Projection – February 2, 2019

Updates for the NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket will be every Wednesday and Saturday.  My bracket will be part of the The Bracket Project’s website along with many other brackets that college basketball fans are part of.  Link to The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – January 30, 2019

The 1s: Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan

The 2s: Michigan State, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Kansas

The 3s: North Carolina, Marquette, Louisville, Houston

The 4s: Purdue, Texas Tech, Villanova, Wisconsin

The 5s: Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Nevada

The 6s: Maryland, LSU, Florida State, Iowa

The 7s: Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Buffalo, Mississippi State

The 8s: Ole Miss, Baylor, Cincinnati, Auburn

The 9s: Washington, North Carolina State, TCU, Ohio State

The 10s: Nebraska, Indiana, Saint John’s, Syracuse

The 11s: Libscomb, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, VCU

The 12s: Arizona State, Wofford, Seton Hall, Murray State, Vermont

The 13s: Yale, Hofstra, Radford, UC Irvine

The 14s: George Mason, Loyola-Chicago, North Texas, South Dakota State

The 15s: Northern Kentucky, Texas State, Lehigh, Rider

The 16s: Cal State Bakersfield, Northern Colorado, Sam Houston State, Robert Morris, Prairie View A&M, Norfolk State

Field of 68 Projections – January 30, 2019

I will begin updating field of 68 projections two times a week for the remainder of the season.  You can expect updates every Wednesday and Saturday.  My bracket will be part of the The Bracket Project’s website along with many other brackets that college basketball fans are part of.  Link to The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – January 30, 2019

The 1s: Duke, Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan

The 2s: Michigan State, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Kansas

The 3s: North Carolina, Marquette, Louisville, Houston

The 4s: Nevada, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Purdue

The 5s: Villanova, LSU, Maryland, Iowa State

The 6s: Wisconson, Oklahoma, Buffalo, Iowa

The 7s: Mississippi State, Kansas State, Florida State, Cincinnati

The 8s: Auburn, TCU, NC State, Mississippi

The 9s: Nebraska, Washington, Ohio State, Syracuse

The 10s: Minnesota, Baylor, Texas, Indiana

The 11s: St. John’s, Central Florida, Alabama, Seton Hall, Arizona State, Temple

The 12s: Wofford, VCU, Lipscomb, Murray State

The 13s: Hofstra, New Mexico State, Yale, Vermont

The 14s: North Texas, Northern Kentucky, Texas-State San Marcos, Loyola Chicago

The 15s: Radford, South Dakota State, UC-Irvine, Montana

The 16s: Lehigh, Rider, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, Robert Morris, Prairie View A&M

Butler Preview Crossroads Classic – 2018

The Butler Bulldogs take the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse today against the Indiana Hoosiers.  Tip off is slated for 3:45pm, following the conclusion of the Notre Dame vs. Purdue game.

Indiana, 2017-2018 Record:16-15; series record Indiana leads 21-7 Last meeting: December 17, 2016, Butler 83 – Indiana 78

Background:

The Hoosiers (8-2) enter this contest on a three-game win streak with wins over Northwestern, Penn State, and Louisville.  They’ve won those games by a combined five points.  The two losses on the season so far were by one point at Arkansas and at Duke by twenty-one points.  Indiana is led by Senior Juwan Morgan and electric Freshman Romeo Langford.

The Bulldogs will likely have a different look to their squad on Saturday.  Duke transfer, Jordan Tucker will suit up for his first game in a Butler uniform.  The former Duke player has completed his mandatory period of sitting out a year.

Sitting behind a large pool of talent, only playing in a couple games, and not receiving much playing time was the necessary push to find a new home.  In an article written by David Woods for the IndyStar, Tucker noted, “I kinda questioned myself as far as confidence-wise. Me leaving Duke was more of like me going to find myself somewhere rather than staying.”  Tucker has sought growth in more than just basketball development, focusing on maturing, especially in his habit of responsibility.  As he grows, his teammates will continue to grow and evolve with Tucker on the court.  Although Tucker has been with the team for nearly a year and has practiced with the Bulldogs, adding him into a competitive game environment will likely create growing pains.  With those growing pains, we will hopefully see more often the brighter spots and added value Tucker brings to this Bulldog squad.

Finally, if Butler is going to red-shirt any players, we will likely know after this game.  I’m guessing that if Markeese Hastings and Bryce Golden don’t play, they won’t play in a game until next season.  I observed both of them in the team’s warm ups prior to the contest against Brown.  In that warm up, Golden was consistently making 3-pointers.  At one point, I counted that he was 16-20 shooting from beyond the arc, something Bulldog fans can be excited about!

Players to Watch:

The Hoosiers have a two-headed monster in Senior Forward, Juwan Morgan and Freshman Guard, Romeo Langford with an able supporting crew.  Both Morgan and Langford go-to scorers in the paint.  Freshman Guard, Rob Phinisee, continues to impress as he helps create scoring opportunities for this Hoosiers.

For the Bulldogs, Jordan Tucker joins the Bulldogs on the floor today.  Tucker will likely play a smaller number of minutes today unless there’s a match up that benefits Butler.  Sean McDermott will need his spot up three-pointers to fall to help the Bulldogs in today’s contest. He will likely be the difference in this game.

Keys to the Game:

3-pointers  – Live and die by the three-point shot.  Indiana ranks near the bottom in 3-point shots attempted per game and are an above average shooting team from beyond the arc.  Looking closer at the Hoosier three-point numbers, the man to watch out for is Aljami Durham.  Durham has improved his shot over the summer and currently averages 43% for season beyond the three-point arc.

When playing high-level opponents, Kamar Baldwin is shooting just 1-14 from behind the 3-point  line.  He’s a major focus on opponent scouting lists, but Baldwin should be able to knock down a few more with the open opportunities has.  If the Bulldogs can make nine or more threes, they will be in a good spot to win at the end.

Free throws – The disparity in free throw percentage between both teams is vast.  Butler shoots nearly 76% at the charity stripe compared to Indiana’s sub 64% accuracy.  It will be in the Bulldogs best interest to attack the rim and finish strong.

Sharing the ball – In Butler’s two losses, they had 10 assists against Dayton and only 4 against Saint Louis.  In their seven wins on the season, the Bulldogs have averaged 17 assists per game with a game high of 27 against Northern Illinois.  Butler can’t rely on pick-and-roll sets at the top of the key and expect isolation plays to work today.  It may work against inferior opponents, but the Hoosiers match up well.

Turnovers – In their last two games, Butler has turned the ball over only 7 times, or about 10% of their possessions.  It is important for Butler to take care of the ball as they have done well for a majority of the games they have played this season.  Indiana averages turnovers on more than 20% of their possessions each game.

Prediction:

With Indiana’s ability to get into the lane and shoot effectively near the rim, I expect Butler to pack the paint and try some zone during the game if they are getting beat off the dribble.  If Butler continues to have active hands on defense to create turnovers and they share the ball well, Butler will end up the victor in this contest.  However, if the Bulldogs fail to slow down the tandem of Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford, they will be in for a long day.  As basketball is a game of runs, I think this will be a close game throughout.  I have the Bulldogs winning 77 – 74.

Butler Basketball 2018-2019 Season Preview – Part III

With a busier part of the year for work, I have not been able to look closely at the next few teams Butler will play in the next ten days.  I have had the time to look at Northern Illinois, however, and this could be a closer game than Bulldog fans may initially anticipate.

Northern Illinois, 2017-2018 Record: 13-19 ; series record Butler leads 5-3   Last meeting: February 2, 1997

Kenpom Ranking: 148

Background

The Huskies come into Hinkle Fieldhouse this afternoon toting an effective offense and lackluster defense.  As bad as Butler has been to start the season with perimeter defense, Northern Illinois has been worse, allowing their opponents nearly 40% from beyond the 3-point arc.  Opponents look like they are having their way inside too because the Huskies are allowing over 52% made on 2-point baskets one month into the season.  As poor as the Huskies are at defending the three pointer, their ability to score from beyond the arc is on the opposite end of the shooting spectrum.  Northern Illinois shoots nearly 42% from three, yet they don’t take many threes.

Players to watch

Northern Illinois touts a veteran team composed of mostly juniors and seniors.  Eugene German is the go-to guy that takes about one-third of the Huskies shots each game.  German does turn the ball over, about one in every five times he possess the ball.  Levi Bradley is another large contributor for Northern Illinois.  Bradley handles the ball well and he adds another dimension for the Huskies because of his ability to shoot the perimeter.  Currently, Bradley shoots above 50% from beyond the arc.  An interesting visit from the nation’s leading efficiency ranked player (according to Kenpom.com) in sophomore Rod Henry-Hayes will be a treat.  He is ranked so high because he has not turned the ball over and, to this point in the season, has made most of the three pointers he has taken.  In fact, Northern Illinois boasts three of the most efficient players in the nation.  German currently ranks eleventh for players who are used on at least 28% of possessions during a game.

Expected Outcome

Northern Illinois plays at a lethargic tempo, working their half-court offense a majority of their possessions.  German, when provided the opportunity, will take shots from beyond the arc.  Although the Huskies shoot threes at a successful clip, three-point baskets don’t make up a large portion of how they score.  Butler’s perimeter defense has improved over the past month, however that is in large part due to playing below average teams.  The Huskies have three players averaging double figures.  Eugene German leads Northern Illinois with 21.8 points per game.  In two of his last three games, he has scored 30 and 33 points.  Limiting German and Levi Bradley will be keys to Butler’s success.

In their most recent game, the Bulldogs outplayed Brown in the first half with what looked like an uptempo offense.  It seemed clear the message from the coaching staff was to speed the offense up and get shots off quicker in the shot clock.  By halftime, the Bulldogs had grown their lead 36-17.  A couple positives in the result were the seven turnovers and thirteen assists on twenty-four made baskets.  Keeping the number of turnovers in single-digits is a great sign of growth.  Hopefully the Bulldogs continue great play today against the visiting Huskies, a slightly more formidable opponent than Brown.  I have the Bulldogs winning at home 75-67.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Predictions

This year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge looks to result in some memorable games.  Below are the match ups listed for each game.  The team that is italicized is who I predict to win each of the match ups.

Monday, November 26th

Minnesota at Boston College

Nebraska at Clemson

Tuesday, November 27th

Indiana at Duke

Michigan State at Louisville

NC State at Wisconsin

Illinois at Notre Dame

Pittsburgh at Iowa

Virginia Tech at Penn State

Wednesday, November 28th

Purdue at Florida State

Georgia Tech at Northwestern

Rutgers at Miami

North Carolina at Michigan

Syracuse at Ohio State

Virginia at Maryland

Prediction: ACC beats Big Ten 9-5

NCAA Bracket Prediction – Thanksgiving Edition

I hope to provide a little easy reading  to your Thanksgiving Day!  I’ve updated my field of 68 as well as introduced my Top 25 and 5.  I share what my top 25 college basketball teams are at this date and include the next 5 that are knocking on the door to take another team’s spot.  You can find my blog along with numerous others at The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – November 22, 2018

The 1s: Kansas, Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke

The 2s: Nevada, North Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee

The 3s: Michigan, Florida State, Syracuse, Michigan State

The 4s: Kansas State, Oregon, Kentucky, Villanova

The 5s: Indiana, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Clemson

The 6s: Purdue, Mississippi State, TCU, Buffalo

The 7s: Wisconsin, West Virginia, UCLA, Florida

The 8s: Marquette, Cincinnati, LSU, Texas

The 9s: St. John’s, Miami FL, Texas Tech, Maryland

The 10s: Butler, Washington, Xavier, NC State

The 11s: Iowa State, Georgetown, Central Florida, Arizona, Houston, USC

The 12s: Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, Loyola – Chicago, South Dakota State

The 13s: Belmont, Southern Illinois, Vermont, Penn

The 14s: South Dakota State, Northeastern, New Mexico State, Montana

The 15s: Lipscomb, Rider, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky

The 16s: Radford, Lehigh, St. Francis (PA), Stephen F. Austin, Bethune-Cookman, Grambling State

 

Top 25 and 5

  1. Duke
  2. Kansas
  3. Virginia
  4. Gonzaga
  5. Tennessee
  6. Nevada
  7. North Carolina
  8. Villanova
  9. Auburn
  10. Kentucky
  11. Michigan State
  12. Kansas State
  13. Oregon
  14. Florida State
  15. Syracuse
  16. Virginia Tech
  17. Mississippi State
  18. Michigan
  19. Clemson
  20. UCLA
  21. TCU
  22. LSU
  23. Purdue
  24. Marquette
  25. Buffalo
  26. West Virginia
  27. Indiana
  28. Ohio State
  29. Wisconsin
  30. Washington

Butler Basketball 2018-2019 Season Preview – Part II

The benefit of watching a few games and perusing box scores allows me to better understand the make up of Butler’s opponents.  When developing projections of what to look for game to game or share a prediction, it’s easier with a larger sample size.  For example, prior to Mississippi visiting Hinkle Fieldhouse, their team had only played one game.  At that point, the Rebels led the nation in turnovers forced, about one in five trips down the floor would end in a turnover for the opposing offense.  That game was against Western Michigan, a team that coughs up the ball nearly one in four trips down the floor when they are on offense.  As teams play more games, the averages begin to show themselves and projecting results can become easier to justify.

During their first three games of the season, the Butler Bulldogs have shown moments of brilliance and head-scratching plays that make you wonder “What is going on?”

Brief Recap

Bulldog fans have witnessed the growth center, Joey Brunk.  The Bulldogs created opportunities to score points off turnovers.  The ever compelling idea that head coach LaVall Jordan mentioned about playing at a quicker tempo eludes the Bulldogs from time to time, however.  According to Kenpom.com, Butler plays below the national average pace, holding onto the ball longer than 66% of the body of college basketball teams.

Game 4:  Dayton, 2017-2018 Record: 14-17; series record Butler leads 11-10 Last meeting: March 14, 2013.

Current Kenpom Rating: 102

The Dayton Flyers look to rebound from an uneven season last year.  Anthony Grant leads a Dayton squad that returns four of their top five scorers from last season.

Players to Watch

Senior Josh Cunningham will be a significant influence for the Flyers as he was one of the most effective shooters in the country last year, ranking fifth in field goal percentage while averaging over 15 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Other key returners that will provide significant impact for the Flyers are junior Trey Landers, and sophomores Jalen Crutcher and Jordan Davis.  These three compliment Josh Cunningham well and will spread the floor.  These three have played significant time in each of their first three games this season.  Josh Cunningham has only played in one game.

One other player to mention is Ryan Mikesell.  He’s been effective in his shooting in the small sample size of this season.  Mikesell is 50% from 3-point range and has been to the free throw line frequently.

Expected Result:

Although we are still early in the season, we begin to see trends for teams.  Dayton looks like their group has a decent defense to go with an average offense.  Butler looks like the opposite, having a decent offense along with an okay defense.

Dayton is shooting just over 60 percent on 2-point shots compared to 29% on 3-point shots.  Basing game prep off of these numbers, look for Dayton to work the ball inside for layups or to draw fouls.  A closer look at Butler’s 3-point defense causes concern, however, even against a Dayton team that currently shoots below 30% from beyond the arc.  Butler is allowing nearly 39% shooting against opponents from 3-point range.  The Bulldogs will continue to improve in this area and the number should decline, but that remains an area for concern on the defensive end.

When comparing second chances, Dayton does not allow many opportunities for opponents to grab offensive rebounds.  Even though they protect their own rim well from second chance opportunities, the Flyers struggle in their own right to grab offensive boards.

For Butler to win, they will need to pack the paint and force Dayton to make shots from beyond 15 feet.  From a fan’s perspective, limiting unnecessary turnovers, the cross-court passes, is a desire to see growth in.  Patience and maturity is required for that in addition to the coaching staff holding the players accountable.

Prediction:  I think Butler gets off to a slow start but wins this game by single digits.  I think the Dawgs win 76-68 and meet Virginia in the semi-final round.

Game 7: Saint Louis, 2017-2018 Record: 17-16; series record St. Louis leads 12-18 Last meeting: December 2, 2017, Butler 75 – St. Louis 45

Kenpom Rating: 74

Background:

Remember last year’s drubbing of the Billikens inside a warm, cozy Hinkle Fieldhouse?  File that fond memory away for now.  Saint Louis has an impressive and formidable team this year.  They did last year too, but last year’s result was the product of unfortunate timing.  With transfers eligible to play and a healthy group, the Billikens are an expected favorite to finish atop the Atlantic 10 Conference and make the NCAA tournament.  Depending on match ups come March, this may be a team you pick through to the Sweet Sixteen.  St. Louis currently sits at 4-1, beating Seton Hall by two on the Pirate’s home floor and recently losing to Pittsburgh today at the Barclay Center by 2 points.

Players to watch:

Jordan Goodwin is a great distributor of the basketball and sets his teammates up for easy buckets.  He draws fouls and gets numerous trips to the free throw line, along with Tramaine Isabell.  Both of them are tough and will fight through contact to get to the basket.

               Javon Bess rarely leaves the game and averages about four 3-point attempts per game.  Though he’s second on the team in 3-point attempts this season, Bess is shooting at 33% from beyond the arc.

               Finally, freshman big man, Carte’Are Gordon is the Billikens shot blocker and interior post.  His matchup with both Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk will be interesting to follow.  The Bulldog big men will be smart to utilize pump fakes while on the low block to encourage Gordon into going for blocks and hope they turn into fouls.

Expected Outcome:

The Billikens play at a slow pace, ranking outside the top 300 in their tempo.  That can be attributed to their desire to find an efficient shot like a layup.  St. Louis scores over half of their points on 2-point baskets.  Although the Billikens do a great job attacking the basketball and drawing fouls, they lack in their free throw percentage.  At the current date of this write up, St. Louis is shooting an abysmal 60% from the free throw line.  That’s not the only weak shooting percentage the Billikens own.  Just as their A-10 rival Dayton had a poor 3-point shooting percentage, St. Louis shoots from beyond the arc at a clip of 28%.

As far as match ups go, playing a team on their home court is tough.  The Billikens have a stout defense.  Butler will do well to share the ball in this game and not rely heavily on dancing around a big at the top of the key.  Drawing fouls will allow Butler, an effective free throw shooting team, opportunities to score where they have shown areas of struggle in the early portion of the season (namely 3-point shooting).

Result:  I think the Bulldogs squeak out a close win at St. Louis, 66-62.

Early Season Basketball Tournaments

As fans, we were treated to a terrific opening few days of college basketball.  The unexpected upsets of Baylor and Wichita State to the obliteration that Duke laid on Kentucky made for one of the most memorable opening days of college basketball.  That was followed up by exciting games played throughout the week like Buffalo going on the road to West Virginia and winning in overtime.  The loss the Mountaineers incurred was the first home opening loss since the 1989 season.

The growth of early season tournaments in college basketball has rocketed in the past decade.  In quick succession of beginning the season, teams have only played a few games before they ship off to various destinations to compete in early season basketball tournaments.   It seems that this time of year has now becoming saturated with an outlandish number of tournaments.  In this write up, attention will be given to tournaments that have more at stake for the participating teams.  Tournaments where teams that are likely to make the NCAA tournament or those that I anticipate to be on the bubble will be discussed below.

Listed below are just a few of bracketed early season tournaments.  There are an equal amount of non-bracketed early season tournaments as well.  As far as previewing the tournaments, I have mentioned the dates games are played and the location.  For a majority of the tournaments, agreements were made that some teams participating will visit schools that are actually traveling to the tournament site.  Therefore, I have not listed every team that is participating in the actual tournament, only the teams that are traveling to the tournament site.

I look at potential match ups, likely results, and dark horses to win each tournament below.  You will also see a link you may click on that will take you directly to the tournament bracket.

Gildan Charleston Classic

Thurs-Friday and Sunday, Nov. 15-16 and 18 in Charleston, South Carolina. Bracket

Teams participating: Alabama, Appalachian State, Ball State, Davidson, Northeastern, Purdue, Virginia Tech, Wichita State.

As far as quarterfinal games that are of interest, the Alabama/Northeastern final may be a surprise.  Northeastern has a solid squad.  Their season opening loss at home to Boston University does raise some question marks.

Virginia Tech should handle a Ball State team that may surprise some people in the Mid American Conference this year.  The Hokies match up well against both Alabama and Northeastern and I see them moving onto the final against Purdue.

The possible match up between Purdue and Wichita State in the semifinals could be interesting.  However, with the way Wichita State has started the year, I will be surprised if they hang around with Purdue.

Ultimately, the Boilermakers have more play-makers than Virginia Tech does, and with Carsen Edwards leading Purdue, it will be a tough ask to slow him and his supporting offensive cast down.

Favorite to win: Purdue

Dark Horse: Northeastern

U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam

Friday – Monday, November 16-19 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands  Bracket

Teams Participating: Eastern Kentucky, Kansas State, Kennesaw State, Missouri, Old Dominion, Oregon State, Penn, Northern Iowa

There is a clear favorite in this field and it is Kansas State.  Missouri and Old Dominion are the two teams that could challenge Kansas State, but I think that those two teams are a tier below.  Northern Iowa is in a down year, and the likes of Eastern Kentucky, Kennesaw State, Penn, and Oregon State are weak teams.

I think a semi final game between Old Dominion and Missouri would turn out to be a close game with the winner advancing to the final against Kansas State.

Favorite to win: Kansas State

Dark horse to win: Old Dominion

Cayman Islands Classic

Monday-Wednesday, November 19-21 George Town, Grand Cayman  Bracket

Teams Participating: Akron, Boise State, Clemson, Creighton, Georgia, Georgia State, Illinois State, St. Bonaventure

The two teams that are favorites heading into this tournament are Clemson and Creighton.  I anticipate both teams meeting each other in the winners bracket final.  There are a couple opportunities for Clemson or Creighton to slip up to their competition though.  If Clemson meets Illinois State in the semifinal, the Redbirds have a good chance of beating Clemson.  Likewise, Georgia State may sneak up on Creighton depending on how well the Panthers prepare for that game.  (It also means they beat St. Bonaventure).  Creighton shouldn’t struggle against either team due to their length and pace of play.

Favorite to win: Clemson

Dark horse: Illinois State

Maui Invitational

Monday-Wednesday, November 19-21 in Lahaina, Hawaii   Bracket

Teams Participating: Arizona, Auburn, Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State, South Dakota State, Xavier

This should turn out to be an exciting few days of games.  In fact, regardless of who wins or loses games, every match up should be entertaining.  We’ll get a great look at what the Xavier Musketeers look like during this three day stretch.  Their opening game against Auburn will be a great test.  The winner of that game will likely play Duke in the semi-final.

Duke has demonstrated their value after their throttling of Kentucky on opening night.  Their semifinal opponent, whomever they play, will want to keep the game close.  That’s really all they can do at this point until trends develop in what coaches can find in Duke to attack their weak areas.

I think Gonzaga has an easy time with Illinois and meets Iowa State in the semi-final after the cyclones take care of a fumbling Arizona squad.

Duke shouldn’t struggle with either Xavier nor Auburn.  One of Duke’s strengths is their uncanny ability to finish in transition.  It will be unwise for either opponent to try and up their tempo.  I think Duke moves on to meet Gonzaga in the final.  Gonzaga, at least for mid-west and east coast college basketball fans, quietly put together another strong squad worthy of being ranked in the top 10.  Mark Few prepares his teams well for each opponent.  I think if Gonzaga and Duke play in the final, Gonzaga will give Duke more of a challenge for the full 40 minutes.

Favorite to win: Duke

Dark horse: Auburn

Battle 4 Atlantis

Wednesday-Friday, November 21-23 in Paradise Island Bahamas    Bracket

Teams Participating: Butler, Dayton, Florida, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma, Stanford, Virginia, Wisconsin

The first game between Florida and Oklahoma looks to be closer than anticipated prior to the season beginning.  I mention that because of the drubbing Florida State put on Florida.  The Gators are comprised of a talented group of players, but they looked lost against Florida State.  If Oklahoma keeps the game close, they’ll likely face Wisconsin in the semi-final.

The Wisconsin Badgers will tip off against Stanford in the second quarterfinal of the day.  The Badgers look to Ethan Happ as their leader with strong offensive and defensive play this season.  They shouldn’t struggle with a weaker Stanford team.

Butler and Dayton square off in the first evening quarterfinal game.  Dayton had an up and down year last year, not winning nor losing more than two consecutive games in a row.  With LaVall Jordan at the helm of a Butler Bulldogs squad that looks to continue their success from last year, this will be an interesting game.

In the last quarterfinal of the day Virginia and Middle Tennessee will play what should be a decided outcome by halftime.  Virginia seems to be in midseason form already with allowing few points, yet not putting many points up themselves.  I see Virginia moving on to play Butler.

In the first semi final game of the winners side of the bracket, I think Wisconsin has a more put-together team at the moment which sees them advance to the final.

In the second semi final game on the winners side, I think Virginia moves on.  Butler’s experience with their coach and on court savvy to attack the zone defense is too much to overcome.  It will be a learning experience that they can take advantage of.  If they do win, it will be because they made a large percentage of the 3-pointers they shot and they didn’t settle for long 2-point jump shots.

I think Oklahoma beats Stanford in the semi final on the losers side of the bracket, and Dayton beats Middle Tennessee State.

Finally, I think Stanford leaves without a win and loses to MTSU and Dayton beats Oklahoma.

I believe the overall winner will be Virginia after a close game with Wisconsin.  Tony Bennett has developed a system that works so well with the players he recruits that he will consistently have a high winning percentage every season.

Favorite to win: Virginia

Dark horse to win: Wisconsin

NIT Season Tip-Off

Wednesday and Friday, November 21 and 23, in Brooklyn, New York    Bracket

Teams Participating: Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, Tennessee

The match up between Louisville and Tennessee should be great.  With Louisville still feeling the after effects of the FBI probe, recent sanctions, and introduction of new head coach, Chris Mack, it’s amazing to think that the Cardinals can still compete.  This will be a “down year” relatively speaking, but they will play teams tough during the entirety of the game.  I think Tennessee wins by single digits.

In the second game, Kansas is heavily favored to beat Marquette.  The Jayhawks will give Marquette trouble with their height, length, and their guard play.  However, Marquette is set to have one of their most successful seasons in years.  If the Golden Eagles are hitting their threes, win the rebounding battle, and play the transition game well, I think they will play Tennessee in the final.  That isn’t likely so I have Kansas moving on.

Favorite to win: Kansas

Dark horse to win: Marquette

Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational

Thursday and Friday, November 22-23 in Las Vegas, Nevada    Dates and Game Times

Teams Participating: Michigan State, North Carolina, Texas, UCLA

I couldn’t locate a bracket, but did find game times.  UNC and Texas will play in the first game followed by UCLA and Michigan State.  Winners of both games will play each other.  Losers will play against each other.  Michigan State showed some resolve against a deep Kansas team during their Champions Classic game.  Indy native, Kris Wilkes has put up impressive numbers for the Bruins.  I think that the Tom Izzo led Spartans triumph and take on North Carolina in the second game.

Texas saw a wonderful story unfold in seeing Andrew Jones return to the court after being diagnosed with and then beating leukemia.  Shaka Smart needs results as the coach of the Longhorns.  He’s muddled in the Big12 Conference the past few years.  I don’t see him beating North Carolina in their first game, however.  Texas is likely to depart Las Vegas with two losses.

In the championship, I expect a close game, one that the Tar Heels eventually win by single digits.  The key for the Spartans is to remain out of foul trouble.

Favorite to win: North Carolina

Dark Horse: UCLA

Field of 68 Projections – November 10, 2018

Time to drop my first projection of what the seeding looks like come Selection Sunday.  Thanks to The Bracket Project for sharing From the Rafters blog.  This has been a fun outlet to share my passion for college basketball with like-minded fans.  I stumbled upon The Bracket Matrix back in 2010 and have since enjoyed viewing and analyzing the pool of data!  I recommend devoting time to perusing the site!  Link to The Bracket Project

NCAA Field Projection – November 10, 2018

The 1s: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga

The 2s: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Nevada

The 3s: Villanova, Michigan State, Auburn, Kansas State

The 4s: West Virginia, Oregon, Syracuse, Michigan

The 5s: Florida State, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Clemson

The 6s: Purdue, Florida, TCU, LSU

The 7s: Washington, Marquette, UCLA, Indiana

The 8s: Cincinnati, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Butler

The 9s: St. John’s, Miami FL, Texas Tech, Xavier

The 10s: Texas, Central Florida, Maryland, NC State

The 11s: Iowa State, Providence, Loyola – Chicago, Arizona, Houston, USC

The 12s: Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, Buffalo, South Dakota State

The 13s: Northeastern, Harvard, New Mexico State, Montana

The 14s: UNC-Grennsboro, Georgia State, Vermont, Stephen F. Austin

The 15s: Belmont, Rider, UC Irvine, Wright State

The 16s: Lipscomb, Lehigh, St. Francis (PA), Radford, Texas Southern, Bethune-Cookman