Friday, March 19, 2010

Day 2: And We're Off

East Region
No. 15 Morgan State Bears (27-9, MEAC)
No. 2 West Virginia Mountaineers (27-6 Big East)
12:15 P.M. EST
HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY

After watching the Ohio Bobcats thrash - and yes, it really was a thorough victory - Georgetown and seeing Villanova get the pants-length shorts scared off of them by Robert Morris, one might be inclined to go away from the Mountaineers in this game. When you throw in Marquette's loss at the buzzer, it has not been a good start to the tourney for the Big East.

You might feel even more strongly about betting the underdog when you learn that the Bears hung 76 points per game on opponents this season and boast a 20 points per game scorer (Reggie Holmes), a double-double player in the frontcourt (Kevin Thompson), and a three-point gunner (Dewayne Jackson).

But don't do it. Stick with the Mountaineers. Not only because they could have (read: should have) been awarded a No. 1 seed after winning the Big East Tournament but also because all of the superlative stats that Morgan State has to show for itself seem a lot less impressive when you consider whom they played.

The Bears were the cream of the MEAC this year and didn't face solid competition from within the league. Their schedule was the just the 203rd hardest in Division 1 and 25 of their 27 wins came against teams outside of the top 201 in RPI. And when they went against the big average-sized boys, the Bears didn't fare much better. Morgan State went 0-3 versus teams in the RPI Top 100.

With a 27-7 record and a Big East Tourney title under its coonskin cap, WVU has the fourth best RPI in the land and is 10th according to the KenPom rankings. Bob Huggins may not have dress shirt but his team does have 5 wins over Top 25 RPI clubs this season. They should give the Big East something to cheer about today.'s Joe Lunardi: WVU
SI's Seth Davis: WVU
President Obama: WVU

West Region
No. 11 Minnesota Gophers (21-13 Big Ten)
No. 6 Xavier Muskateers (24-8, Atlantic 10)
12:25 P.M. EST
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

I look at this matchup and see a school with lots of recent tournament experience, a coach with extensive tournament experience, a team that hasn't been here in a while and a coach that hasn't done this before. But these four items are not paired like you might think.

Veteran coach Tubby Smith is leading the neophyte Minnesota club while first-year coach Chris Mack is trying to keep alive Xavier's run of recent success in the Dance.

The Muskateers have won at least one game in the last thre seasons whereas the Gophers haven't gotten to hear a second song at the Dance in more than a decade. What do you go with? Players or coaching?

Because, in spite of his ouster at Kentucky, I do think that Tubby is a solid coach and that he will give his players every chance to win this game. On the other hand, Xavier has that kid who dunked on Lebron over the summer. Remember that?

An explosive combo guard who once dunked over/around LBJ, Jordan Crawford transfered from Indiana and averaged 19.7 points per game. He's the star player. Minnesota does not have one of those. But they've got the coach. And he's not going to let them take this rare opportunity for granted. I'm going against the numbers on this one.'s Joe Lunardi: Xavier
SI's Seth Davis: Xavier
President Obama: Xavier
WWOD?: Minnesota

East Region
No. 12 Cornell Big Red (27-4, Ivy)
No. 5 Temple Owls (29-5, A-10)
12:30 P.M. EST
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL

I had high hopes for last year's Temple squad and senior guard Dionte Christmas. But they were left on the curb by James Harden and Arizona State. No matter how great the A10 was supposed to be this year, I'm not going all in with the Owls again.Especially when they're paired with such an attractive Cinderella.

Those who know me know that I'm partial to redheads, and the Cornell Big Red have a lot to like. For starters they've got a 7 footer in the paint. They've got an NBA prospect in Ryan Whittman and can shoot the three. And all of those guys are probably smart enough to know that they're not going to get another shot at this.'s Joe Lunardi: Temple
SI's Seth Davis: Temple
President Obama: Cornell
WWOD?: Cornell

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