Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Big XII Tournament Preview, Part 2

News on the TV front

Recent USA today
Sports TV article has some surprising revelations:

- Tom Arnold will no longer host the Best Damn Sports Show Period when his contract expires in April. Thank God! The long national nightmare is over.
- Thea Andrews and Kit Hoover have been let go from Cold Pizza. Andrews is still with ESPN and will produce a sort of Access Hollywood-type show. Hoover is still on Dream Job as far as anyone can tell, but when that's done, so is she.
Now, I know Cold Pizza's suffering from low ratings, but Thea and Kit were not the problem. They actually worked as eye candy. The first problem is, it's on ESPN2 and not ESPN. That may not seem like much of a difference, but ESPN is on more basic cable households. Secondly, Jay Crawford contributes nothing and is infinitely replaceable. Every time he goes on vacation you don't notice he's gone. He's the one that should have been fired. Finally, Woody Paige, whom I used to like on Around the Horn, has become a horrible parody of himself.
Which leaves Skip Bayless having to hold up what's left of that show.

Texas Tech Bracketology Watch

Joe Lunardi (ESPN)
Projected Seed: #9 Chicago (Midwest) Regional
Projected Opponent: #8 Stanford
Highest seed in Pod: #1 Illinois

If we're going to get stuck in the 8/9 game, this is probably a good team to get stuck with. Stanford's Dan Grunfeld could cause some problems because he's a tall guard, though, but the Cardinal are sneaking in to the tournament rather than going in on a roll, so I like the matchup.
And no, this Tech team is not knocking off Illinois. Illinois has great guard play, but I've seen too many cases where people play good perimeter defense, and get burned by the two inside guys.
I still don't trust Lunardi, though.

Stewart Mandel (SI.com)
Projected Seed: #8 Syracuse (East) Regional
Projected Opponent: #9 Minnesota
Highest Seed in pod: #1 North Carolina

Here's another case of "first round good, second round bad." Minnesota is a weak bubble team at this point and may not even crack the field. So that's comforting from a Tech standpoint. Besides, Bob Knight schedules as many Big 10 teams as he can in non-conference, so he knows the territory. The big problem for tech here is in the second round, when Tech has to defend Sean May and the Tar Heels. They are going to kill us.
What is interesting about Mandel's bracket is that he has the P.J. Tucker-less Longhorns ahead of the Red Raiders, even though Texas Tech beat Texas in the only meeting where Tucker was suspended.

Big XII Tournament Preview, Part 2

The Middle Four

Record: 7-9 conference, 14-13 overall.
Key Players: Linus Kleiza (14.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG); Jason Conley (10.5 PPG)
Summary: Up. Down. Up. Down. Nobody knows which Missouri team will show up at a given time. They beat Kansas, but got swept by Kansas State. Beat Gonzaga, but lose to Arkansas. That's not good coming into tournament play. Yes, they come in with a win over the #7 Jayhawks, but there's enough time to cool off between now and their first tournament game. And Missouri had better be on it's game because they barely escaped Lincoln with a win the last time they played Nebraska.
Draw: If they can get by Nebraska, which is a big if, they might beat Oklahoma. Then again, as inconsistent as they have been, they might not. Heck, they probably won't get past the first game.
Prediction: Upset by Nebraska

Texas A&M
Record: 8-8 Conference, 19-8 Overall
Key Players: Antoine Wright (17.6 PPG); Acie Law (13.0 PPG, 5.1 APG) ;Joseph Jones (12.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG)
Summary: Billy Gillespie, Big XII Coach of the Year, has done an excellent job this year with a young team. That's not to say this team doesn't have talent, they were just young last year. This year, the combination of Gillespie's coaching and the maturing of Antoine Wright and Acie Law has produced wonders for this A&M team. The better news for A&M is that with another year of experience for this core of Wright, Law, and Jones, and the fact that Gillespie can easily get a shooting guard out of the Houston area, this team will be tournament-bound next year.
Draw: Unfortunately, this year's road to the finals goes through Kansas and Player of the Year Wayne Simien. Yikes.
Prediction: Second-round loss

Record: 9-7 conference, 20-9 overall (6-6 since P.J. Tucker's suspension)
Key Player: Daniel Gibson (14.5 PPG, 4.1 APG); Brad Buckman (12.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG)
Summary: Yes, this team made a statement when beating Oklahoma State at home. It doesn't quite erase the key losses they have suffered since losing P.J. Tucker: Kansas, Iowa State, Colorado, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma.
Draw: Rough draw. Colorado beat them already. Oklahoma State wants their head, and if they get past those two, Kansas awaits.
Prediction: Second-round loss, at-large Berth

Iowa State
Record: 9-7 conference, 17-10 overall
Key Players: Curtis Stinson (17.3 PPG, 4.4 APG); Jason Homan(13.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG); Will Blalock(12.9 PPG, 4.8 APG).
Summary: Iowa State has come on late in the year after a less than impressive non-conference schedule, and early struggles in the Big 12. They need to play well to secure a 6th berth for the Big 12
Draw: Fortunately, the draw sets up favorably for them, as they have beaten Baylor, Texas Tech and OU this year.
Prediction: Win 2 games, lose to OU, and get the at-large tournament berth

Tomorow: Tournament Preview, Part 3
Later Today: Conference Tournament Watch
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