Thoughts on the First 2007-2008 Projected Bracket
Well, the first projected bracket of the new season is up. Many of the preseason invitational tournaments are in the books, and teams are starting to build their “bodies of work” for the Selection Committee. It’s still AWFULLY early to start projecting NCAA Tournament teams; the RPI formula is completely unreliable with so few games to take into account, and the subjectivity factor is high with only four or five games to analyze.
A few observations as I compiled the first bracket this week:
- Texas A&M - Even without Acie Law, the Aggies’ backcourt looks pretty good, and DeAndre Jordan is one of the nation’s top freshmen.
- Illinois - Reports of Bruce Weber’s demise were greatly exaggerated. If Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt stay healthy, the product on the court for the Illini this year might be as good as it’s been since Deron Williams and Luther Head left for the NBA.
- Washington State – the Cougs aren’t necessarily underrated at #9 in the polls, but it still doesn’t seem like they get the media attention they deserve.
- Miami FL - Wins over VCU and Providence have Frank Haith’s club well-positioned for an NCAA bid. Quality games at Mississippi State and against Winthrop loom before ACC play.
- George Mason – America’s favorite Cinderella picked up two really nice wins in the Old Spice Classic over Kansas State and South Carolina. Throw in a win over a Bracket Buster opponent TBD & Jim Larranaga’s crew might get a chance to repeat their miracle run.
- Baylor - The perennial Big XII doormat, just four years removed from the Dave Bliss/Carlton Dotson/Patrick Dennehy debacle, WON the South Padre Island Tournament, with wins over Winthrop and Notre Dame. That Pac-10/Big XII “snoozer” against Wazzu got a whole lot more interesting…
- Montana - Head coach Wayne Tinkle looks to finish what Larry Krystowiak started. The Grizz upset Air Force over the weekend, after a close loss to Washington State; Montana looks to be the team to beat in the Big Sky.
- Vanderbilt - Kevin Stallings’ club picked up a nice win at Bradley, and in a tepid SEC, the ‘Dores have a great chance to make back-to-back NCAA appearances.
- St Mary’s - Randy Bennett’s team DOMINATED Oregon in a fast-paced game on Tuesday, instantly making the Gaels a legitimate NCAA contender. Patty Mills & co. are a legitimate threat to Gonzaga’s WCC supremacy this year.
- Seton Hall – Nice N-win over Virginia at the Palestra this weekend for Eugene Harvey & Co. A trip to Moraga to face the aforementioned Gaels and a home date with NC State are the remaining non-conference highlights for the Pirates.
- Notre Dame – Two close losses to Georgia Tech and Baylor aren’t serious cause for concern, but for a team that returned so many starters from a year ago, I would have expected more.
- USC – From what I’ve seen so far, O.J. Mayo is good, but is not in the same class as Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, or DeAndre Jordan. Losing at home to Mercer is not a great way to start the season, albeit without Daniel Hackett. PATHETIC showing by Trojan “fans” at the Anaheim Classic, by the way. Average attendance might have been 452 (that’s four HUNDRED and fifty-two) for the three games.
- Kentucky – Gardner Webb? in Rupp? Take heart though, ‘Cats fans, the SEC looks pretty weak this year…
- Washington - No time for the Huskies to panic, despite Andy Katz’s assertions in his blog over the weekend. There are still plenty more opportunities for quality non-conference W’s, and the Pac-10 offers even more. They do need to win outside of Hec-Ed Pavilion at some point, though…
- Oregon - Aaron Brooks’ graduation was a much bigger loss to this team than I anticipated, as Tajuan Porter is now a liability at the 2. Can Bryce Taylor run the point when he comes back from injury? Because Kamyron Brown may not be the answer…
- Nevada – Yes, Nick Fazekas is gone, but Ramon Sessions might have been the more important loss for the Pack. Nevada’s at-large hopes are on life support after defeats to Central Florida and UNLV, and a win versus Cal is essential this week.
- NC State - Wolfpack atoned for the “sin” of losing to New Orleans by winning the Old Spice Classic, but greatness was expected of Sidney Lowe’s team after its magical run through the ACC Tournament last year.
- DePaul - Losses to Creighton and North Carolina A&T — yes, the nation’s WORST team two years ago — and a one-point win against lowly Northwestern are not a great way to start the season.
- Congrats to the Atlantic Sun on all of the non-conference W’s on the road(Belmont over Cincinnati and Alabama, Mercer over USC, and Gardner-Webb over Kentucky). The A-Sun will still be a one-bid league, but here’s hoping it pays off in the form of a higher seed for the conference champ.
- The Big XII is going to be really interesting this year. I thought Kansas would run away with things before the season started, but A&M, Texas, and Mizzou have impressed early, and I think the Jayhawks will have their hands full.
- The top of the Big Ten looks pretty good–Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Illinois, and Purdue could all make Final Four runs this year. The bottom of the league is AWFUL, however, with Penn State and Northwestern losing to Rider and Brown, respectively, so far in the early-going.
- By no means am I an East Coast apologist, but the ACC once again looks to me like the nation’s best league. The Pac-10 or Big XII could still prove me wrong, but UNC and Duke are as good as ever, and there’s a lot of new blood in the lower tiers of the league.
- This year’s SEC might be the NCAA version of last year’s NBA Eastern Conference. Tennessee and Vandy look like the only truly quality teams at this point in the season…
- Memphis may not go undefeated in CUSA this year. UCF is playing great basketball right now, Houston is 5-1, and UAB gets Robert Vaden back after his transfer year hiatus.
Billy Gillispie / Mark Turgeon, Texas A&M
Bruce Weber, Illinois
Mike Anderson, Mizzou
Rick Barnes, Texas
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Jim Larranaga, George Mason
John Calipari, Memphis
Sean Miller, Xavier
Mark Few, Gonzaga
Roy Williams, North Carolina
Mike Kryzyzewski, Duke
Trent Johnson, Stanford
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Steve Alford, New Mexico
Al Skinner, Boston College
Noticeably absent from this list is Jim Calhoun, who got his team into the Coaches vs Cancer Tournament, added a neutral game against Gonzaga, and is headed to Indiana in the middle of Big East play. There’s also a game against surprising Central Florida just before New Year’s. No one would ever call the Huskies “Road Warriors,” but there’s significantly more meat on the scheduling bone this year than in the past.
As always, I welcome the comments of BracketNation & rely on you guys to keep me straight!