2011 March Madness
The 2010-2011 college basketball has been a little more unusual than in seasons past. The defending national champions started the season No.1, but have look very suspect all year long. Even with Lebron gone to South Beach, Ohio still have a No.1 basketball team and the best player in the America. No team has showed signs of invincibility heading into March, and the No.1 spot in college basketball has turned into a game of musical chairs. The college basketball landscape has shown more balance than ever before, leading to potentially one of the greatest NCAA Tournaments in history. Every March, basketball fans face many sleepless night filing out their office pools for the field of 68 as they strive to prove that they know what’s best when it comes to college basketball. Kaboom! Magazine goes in-depth into this year tournament and gives our readers a leg up on the competition. Who’s Final Four-bound? Who’s setting themselves up for an upset?, which player will lead his team to greatest?, and which mid-major will have a magical run? All this and more as Kaboom! Presents to you the 2011 March Madness preview. Follow Kaboom! Magazine or lose yourself in the madness!
Final Four Favorites
Teams that are poised for a run at the Final Four.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes started the season winning their first 24 games and gained a No.1 spot in the coaches poll. Ohio State is led by the best freshmen and best player in the land Jared Sullinger. Ohio State features three former McDonald's All-Americans, junior G William Buford, freshman C/F Jared Sullinger and freshman F Deshaun Thomas, but The Buckeyes also have senior leadership in Jon Dieber and David Lighty. Dieber the Big-Ten all-time 3-point leader and Lighty has 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in a career. The Buckeyes are No. 1 in the Big-Ten in scoring and No. 3 in the country in field goal percentage. Ohio State has a great starting lineup, but if they want to make it all the way to the national championship; they’ll need to establish depth off the bench.
Duke: The defending national champions started the season exactly where they ended 2010….No.1. The Blue Devils played like the No.1 team in the land for the first 15 games of the year, but then took a huge blow when freshmen guard Kryie Irving was lost for the season with an injury. Even with the loss of Irving, from top to bottom Duke is the most complete in the nation led by seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. Duke No. 7 in the nation in scoring led by Smith 21 ppg. Coach K has the best team in the land, but at times this season Duke has seemed disinterested leading to some very weird losses. Even with these losses, the Blue Devils still have the experience and coaching to become the first back to back national champions since the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007.
Kansas: No. 4 in the nation in scoring and No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage…….Ladies and Gentlemen the Jayhawks are back. Kansas started the season 18-0 which has been the best start for the Jayhawks since their 2008 championship season. Coach Bill Self has the best frontline in all of college basketball in his lineup with the Morris brothers Marcus and Markieff. Since winning the national championship, Kansas has not been able to make it out of opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Expect that not to happen this year as more than likely the Jayhawks will be a No. 1 seed, but they will have problems later on in the tournament if guard Tyshawn Taylor continues to be suspended.
Texas: The Longhorns started off the season a bit shaky as they went 8-2 in the first 10 games headlined by a brutal 73-56 loss to USC. After the loss to USC, Texas went on to go 21-3 in the next 23 games with key victories over UNC, Michigan State, Kansas, and Texas A&M. The Longhorns have very strong guard play led by Jordan Hamilton who leads the team in scoring and rebounds a game. Texas is beating teams on avg. by 18 points a game, but is 2-4 in games that have been decided by 5 points or less. If Texas wants to make it to the Final Four, they will have to learn how to win in close games.
Pitt: The Big East has to be the strongest conference in college basketball and the Pitt Panthers are being called the “Beast of the East”. In a conference that has 11 tournament eligible teams and 8 Top 25 teams, Pitt has been on top of the Big East all season long. The Panthers play a traditional grind it out style forcing many teams into submission. Ashton Gibbs leads the Panthers in scoring, 3-point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. Pitt should be the No.1 team coming out of the east; but with a tremendous Big East regular season and a survival of the fittest Big East tournament….will Pitt have enough left in the tank to make it to the Final Four?
Best of the Rest
Teams that also have a legitimate shot at the Final Four.
Arizona: The Pac-10 has not had a lot to cheer about this season, but when they have cheered it usually been because of the play of the Arizona Wildcats. In mid-February, The Wildcats were the talk of college basketball as they had a 20-4 record and got as high as No.10 in the coaches poll. Arizona lead by Sophomore Forward Derrick Williams, Williams leads the team in scoring, field goal percentage, and rebounds. Ever since peaking at No. 10 in the polls, The Wildcats have been on a bit of a downward spiral highlighted by losses to USC and UCLA in the same weekend. The Wildcats have proven all season that they can beat teams when they have the more talented team; but with losses against BYU and Kansas, Arizona will have to prove that they can still win games when they don’t have the most talent.
Syracuse: Jim Boeheim and the Orangemen blew through the non-conference schedule and started the season 18-0. Led by forward Kris Joseph and guard Scoop Jardine, the Orangemen have spent most of the year as one of the top teams in a very competitive Big East. The famous 2-3 zone defense has proved to be very effective for Syracuse this year, their 13th in the nation in opponent’s field goal percentage. Consistency has been Syracuse only problem this year; During their 18-0 start they were 5-0 in Big East play, but then went on to go 7-6 in the next 13 Big East games. Put Syracuse in any other conference in the nation and they would more than likely be a 2 or 3 loss No.1 seed. Expect the Orangemen to make it to the sweet 16 with very little problem, but if up against a fellow Big East team in the later rounds of the tournament…….pray that the team that started 5-0 in the Big East shows up.
Purdue: Usually when you lose your All-American player to a season-ending knee injury before the season starts, visions of contending for a Big-Ten title are not usually insight. The Boilermakers can only imagine what their season would be like if they had All-American forward Robbie Hummel in their lineup. Even without Hummel in the lineup, Purdue has managed to be in the Top 10 of the coaches poll all season long and a contender for a Big-Ten title. In Hummel absence, Forward JaJuan Johnson has played like an All-American all season long averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds a game. Johnson has had help along the way in Senior E’Twaun Moore, the guard is fourth all-time in scoring at Purdue and highlighted his career this season by putting up 38 points on then No. 1 Ohio State. Purdue is almost a lock for a No. 2 seed in the tournament; The Boilermakers are 0-3 in games decided by 7 points or less. If the Boilermakers don’t become a better defensive team in the closing mins of games, expect an earlier exit that Purdue fans hoped.
San Diego State: The Aztecs started their season a school record 20-0 with wins over bracket-busters Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. The record start earned them the highest ranking ever for the Aztec program, as the reach No. 4 in the coaches poll. SDSU is led by sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard, Leonard makes his presence known on both ends of the floor. SDSU is No. 10 in the nation in points allowed only allowing 60 points per game. The Aztecs have only had two losses this season both coming against BYU, in those losses the Aztecs showed lack of offensive firepower to keep up with high scoring teams. Expect the Aztecs to be a lock for a No. 2 seed in the tournament and will play close to home throughout the tournament. SDSU has never won a NCAA tournament game in school history…..in 2011, expect that to change.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Badgers game are slow-paced, low scoring, and not flashy at all…..but the Badgers get the job done. Wisconsin has 20 wins for the eighth time in Bo Ryan's 10 seasons as the Badgers boss. With three talented scorers in Jon Leuer (19.3 points per game), Jordan Taylor (17.8 points per game), and Keaton Nankivil (9.8 points per game) and the nation's leader in assist-to-turnover ratio in Taylor; Wisconsin has enough offensive pieces to compensate for its relatively average defense. Wisconsin owns the nation's most efficient offense with more than 1.23 points per possession. The Badgers belong in the top spot, in part, because they lead Division I in fewest turnovers per game and free-throw accuracy. The Badgers may be point efficient, but if they want to go far in the tournament, they’ll have to improve their scoring avg.
Notre Dame: Losing their top two scorers from last year squad to the NBA, the Fighting Irish were predicted to finish 8th in the Big East. Someone must have forgotten about the luck of the Irish because Notre Dame has been the surprise team of the Big East conference in 2011. Ben Hansbrough has step up and had an All-American season averaging 18 points a game and leads the Fighting Irish in Assists, Steals, and 3-Point Shooting. All of Notre Dame losses have been on the road, if the Fighting Irish want to make it to the Elite Eight or Final Four…..they’ll have to do it in someone else house.
BYU: The award for most exciting team in college basketball in 2011 has to go to the BYU Cougars. No. 5 in the nation in scoring, the cougars have gone over 100 plus points in a game twice this season led by the backcourt duo Jackson Emery and player of the year candidate Jimmer Fredette. Ranked No. 13th in the nation in rebounding, BYU has added defense to a school that is historically known for its offensive scoring. BYU have a chance to receive a No.1 or No. 2 seed in this year tournament, The Cougars have not made it out of opening weekend of the tournament since 1981. Fredette shooting can carry this team out of opening weekend with ease, but if they want to make a run at the Final Four, They will have to find a replacement for forward Brandon Davies who was kick off the team.
Teams that can have some memorable moments before their clock strikes midnight in March.
St. John’s: While at UCLA, Steve Lavin led the Bruins to 5 Sweet 16 appearances. Now the head coach of the Red Storm has his team believing in themselves as they have been the surprise team of 2011. With 10 seniors on the roster, St. John’s has victories over Georgetown, Duke, Notre Dame, Villanova, UCONN, and PITT this season. Getting wins against a top opponents in difficult places sends a signal that the Red Storm are in position to do a lot more in March than simply earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA: After a two-year absence UCLA is back in the hunt for a PAC-10 title. The Bruins were 5-4 going into the BYU game; UCLA shocked the Cougars that night in a 86-79 victory. UCLA went on to go 18-4 the rest of the season with key victories over St. John’s and Arizona. Ben Howland has not lost in the first rd of the NCAA tournament since 2005, and the Bruins have been to the Final Four three times in the past five seasons. They may not have a squad full of All-Americans like they have been accustomed to in the past, but they do have enough talent to surprise everyone with a sweet 16 run.
Temple: Temple coach Fran Dunphy is one of the best basketball coaches in the country. He proved it at Penn, and he's proving it now while at Temple. To some critics, the Owls have had a fairly easy schedule this season compared to other teams with a similar record. Temple has shown that it can compete with the big boys with a win over Georgetown and a close 4 point loss to Villanova. Expect teams to take Temple for granted in the first two rds. of the tournament; but those teams will end up biting themselves in the ass when they see the Owls taking their spot in the sweet 16.
UNLV: The Running Rebels started the season 9-0 highlighted with a win over Wisconsin, but was overshadowed by San Diego State and BYU. UNLV appears to be hitting its stride at the right time…..in March. The Runnin Rebels are the third best team in a conference that has two Top 10 teams. They may not be in the Top 10, but don’t be surprised if you see UNLV among the last 16 in March.
Utah State: Utah State has won the WAC title, went undefeated at home, and are No. 8 in the nation in points allowed. The Aggies have only suffered three losses this season and two of them came against Top 10 opponents in the early part of the season. You can’t blame Utah State for having to go up against uncompetitive WAC opponents, but their record should be allowed to speak for itself. The Aggies are expected to get a double digit seed in the tournament, but remember a double digit team has made it to the sweet 16 for the past 5 years.
One Man Band:
Teams that can get on these players backs and ride them all the way to the title in March.
Jimmer Fredette BYU: Fredette leads the nation in scoring with 27 points a game. The player of the year candidate has looked unstoppable at times this year, Fredette scored over 40 points in a game three times this season. Jimmer Fever has swept through college basketball and doesn’t plan on going away anytime soon.
Harrison Barnes UNC: Barnes was the first incoming freshmen to earn preseason All-American honors….and he lived up to the bill. The freshman did go through a few growing pains in the beginning of the season, but has come on late in the year scoring at least 20 points four times in the last 10 games. Harrison Barnes loves to shine in the spotlight…..what bigger than the NCAA tournament.
Kemba Walker UCONN: Walker is having the kind of year that makes him a candidate for Big East Player of the Year honors. Connecticut has surprised many this season with its success on the court, and that's due in large part to the play of junior guard Kemba Walker. Averaging over 20 points a game, Kemba Walker is to UCONN what Kobe Bryant is to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ben Hansbrough Notre Dame: Behind Jimmer Fredette, Hansbrough is the 2nd best shooter in the tournament. No one can match Hansbrough intensity, it runs in his family as his brother Tyler had so much intensity; that he had to be named “Psycho T” back when he was winning a championship at North Carolina. Hansbrough led the Fighting Irish back to the top of the Big East which was no easy feat. The best player in the Big East will make everyone green with envy come tournament time.
Jared Sullinger Ohio State: For the first couple months of the season, Ohio State freshman big man Jared Sullinger was a phenomenon. Sullinger posted an array of double-doubles, the Buckeyes' opposition scrambled to try and figure out how to defend him. Teams are still trying to figure out how to guard Sullinger, don’t expect anyone to come up with any answers by the time the NCAA tournament comes around.
Kaboom! Last-Min Tournament Fun Facts! (Things to know when filling out your bracket)
*Only 6 teams since 1979 have started the season No. 1 and entered the tournament ranked No.1 and have gone on to win the tournament.
*Since the NCAA started seeding teams 1979, only once have all #1 seeds made it to the Final Four (2008)
*For the past 20 years; only 4 teams entering the tournament with only one loss have made it to the final four, and none have won a national championship. (Good! no one has that this year)
*Since 2000 no Big East team has made consecutive trips to the Final Four. (Sorry West Virginia!)
*The last time a team that was No.1 overall at the start of the tournament has gone on to win a national championship was North Carolina in 2005
*The lowest seed to win a national championship since 2000 has been a No.3 seed.
* A No. 5 seed has made to the Final Four 5 times since 2000. (3 out of the 5 have been teams from the Big-Ten)
*They only time all 1,2, and 3 seeds made it to the Sweet 16 was in 2009.
*Since 2000, Michigan State has the most Final Four Appearances with five appearances. (They have 7 Sweet 16 appearances in that timeline as well.)
*No team as a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed.
*Only twice in tournament history has a none of the No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four.
*Since 2009 the team that has won the Big East Tournament has made it to the Elite Eight.
*Since 2000, eight times has two teams from the same conference made it to the Final Four in the same year.
*Since 2007, the runner-up in the ACC Tournament Championship have not made it out of opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
*Only one 3 and 4 seed made it to the Sweet 16 last year.
*8 of the past 11 years, the national champion have come out of the Midwest or East region.
Kaboom! Final Floor Picks: Duke, Notre Dame, UCONN, and BYU
Kaboom! 2011 National Champion Pick: DUKE!