A Very Early NCAA College Basketball 2015-16 Top 5

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The NCAA Basketball season has not been over for even a week and odds makers have had futures out since 24 hours after the last Monday’s national championship win by Duke.

This is an early look at my top 5 for 2015-16 season. It is likely Duke will reload for another run at a national title under coach Mike Krzyzewski but possibly not next season, while Bo Ryan the Wisconsin head coach will get another shot at the title, but not likely for a couple of years.

Sam Dekker and player of the year Frank Kaminksy will both be playing for an NBA team next season. Therefore is could take Ryan a couple of years to replicate the team’s talent he had assembled the past two years. Wisconsin will still be a team to beat in the Big 10, but not likely amongst the contenders for a national title.

  1. Virginia: The Cavaliers will have the best team starting the season this fall. They might not be all that exciting, by they will have a suffocating defense and lost only Darion Atknes amongst this past season’s contributors. Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon will be huge as seniors for the Cavaliers.
  2. Maryland: Melo Trimble has announced he is not going to the NBA, while Diamond Stone an incoming freshman who is 6-foot-10 will likely be well known in a hurry. Robert Carter has transferred from Georgia Tech and Jake Layman completes a strong frontcourt. They could be amongst the elite in the nation.
  3. North Carolina: The Tar Heels will have Joel James, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson all back for their senior year. Kennedy Meeks will be a junior, which is the core of the team that reached the Sweet 16 before losing to Wisconsin. The Tar Heels will be strong.
  4. Arkansas: This depends if Bobby Portis turns pro. He is the reigning player of the year in the SEC. Michael Qualls their wing man also must decide to stay or go. If both return, the team is an instant national contender.
  5. Kentucky: The Wildcats lost seven players to the NBA draft. Last week Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson and the Harrison twins all announced their intention to enter the NBA draft. However, coach John Calipari will have Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress all returning and Isaiah Briscoe and Skal Labissiere two of the top recruits have committed to the Wildcats. Battling for an undefeated season will likely not be in the cards, but a title contender will.
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Final Thoughts From Monday’s National Title Game

Bo
Bo

Bo Ryan had reasons to be upset following his loss to Duke but he should have left the "rent-a-player" comment for another time.

What Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan said after his team’s loss Monday night wasn’t inaccurate. It was ill-timed, but not wrong in any sense. Ryan made a comment during the post-game press conference in which he said, “We don’t do rent-a-player.”

Ryan was obviously referring to the fact that Duke has at least two players who will make the quick transition from college basketball to the NBA. Duke Head Coach Mike Kryzyewski took exception by saying he wished Ryan didn’t say it like that. “One and done is fine, but rent-a-player sounds like your doing something illegal,” said Coach K.

The five-time champion coach can spin it any way he wants to but Ryan isn’t wrong. Kryzyewski is no different than John Calipari who could lose as many as seven players who have played two years or less. I give credit to both Ryan and Coach K because they’ve done things the best way they’ve seen fit. I believe Ryan’s method is more honorable but Kryzyewski is playing by the rules and I can’t blame him for that.

I do wish Ryan would have chosen another time to make the comment he did because he came off like a sore loser. What he should have been harping on is what I’m talking about next.

“Official” Mess

If you need any more proof that the officiating in college basketball is bad then you need look no further than the National Championship game. Where Bo Ryan should have spent more of his time complaining was about the fact his team went from being whistled for just two fouls in the first half to 13 in the second half. The disparity is the result of one thing and anyone who knows college basketball knows it has nothing to do with Duke being more aggressive.

While Ryan has a great deal of respect as a coach, no one can manipulate the officials like Coach K can. His ability to wear down refs is legendary and it was on full display Monday night.

JW

The correct call may not have changed the outcome but I guess we'll never know.

If you recall his comments coming off the court to CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, he started with a sarcastic barb about the fouls called on his team. In fairness, he had a right to be upset because the disparity was clearly in favor of the Badgers. What should happen is that there should be a little more balance in foul calls but not in every case. What shouldn’t happen is a total reversal like we saw in the title game.

My firm belief is that college officials call games with one goal in mind, to control it. They are intimated by the players and the coaches so rather than let the kids play they over-officiate and turn the game into a free throw shooting contest. This is all done to keep trash-talking and rough play to a minimum. The officials have to seek some balance and stop blowing the whistle for everything that “looks” too rough.

Fingertips

I have no idea what would have happened had the officials gotten the call right where Justise Winslow clearly touched the ball last as it went out of bounds. What I do know is that it should have been the Badgers’ ball and had they been able to get a bucket on their end tings could have been drastically different. Unfortunately, the officiating crew screwed up again.

As has been my argument with using instant replay all along, if you aren’t going to get it right then college and professional sports should not be using it. All it does is create more problems than if it had never been used.

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NCAA National Championship Game Facts

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The NCAA National Championship will be decided on Monday when the Duke Blue Devils meet the Wisconsin Badgers.

Here are a few facts about the National Championship Game.

  • Both Duke and Wisconsin are No. 1 seeds. The Final Four this season had three No. 1 seeds and Michigan State a No. 7 seed.
  • The lowest seed ever to win the National Championship since the tournament field was increased to 64 was Villanova during 1985. That year the Wildcats were seeded No. 8.
  • Last season Connecticut won the national title by defeating Kentucky in the final. Connecticut was a No. 7 seed in that tournament.
  • Kentucky and Connecticut combined to have the highest seed total for a title games at 15, as Kentucky last season was seeded No. 8.
  • As well as UConn, six other schools have won multiple national championships over the past 30 years. Duke has won 4, North Carolina has won 3, Kentucky has won 3 and Louisville, Kansas and Florida have on two each.
  • Since 1985, the National Championship has been won 18 times by a No. 1 seed and this season will be the nineteenth time.
  • The championship game with the highest point spread was in 1996 when the Kentucky Wildcats defeated Kansas by 10 points but failed to cover as 14-point chalk.
  • Over the past 30 seasons, the underdogs are 15-14 ATS.
  • The favorite however has won three of the past four national title games, with two wins by double digits.
  • The 1990 title game did not have a line because betting on a school within the state was not allowed and UNLV was in the title game and Las Vegas is in Nevada.
  • Bettors on the total points have seen the UNDER cash in 16 of the 29 games since 1985 and 4 of the past 5 seasons.

The two teams meeting in this national title game are separated by odds makers by only 1 point or less when it comes to betting. Wisconsin opened as a 1-point favorite but many books have reduced the game to a pick ‘em.

Duke was impressive in its Final Four win over Michigan State. After trailing in the first five minutes of the game by 8 points, Duke outscored Michigan State by 28 points the rest of the way to win 81-61.

By now, everyone knows Wisconsin defeated Kentucky to end the undefeated season of the Wildcats but the Badgers looked like they had won the national title on Saturday and could work against them.

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Bad Calls, Bad Behavior… Just Another NCAA …

Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein

Apparently Willie Caulie-Stein had more important things to do than to properly shake hands with the Badgers.

If you had told me that the Wisconsin Badgers would go seven minutes without a basket in the National Semi-Final game against unbeaten Kentucky I would have asked “How much did they lose by?” That’s exactly what happened but the Badgers scratched and clawed from behind and made the type of plays you’d expect from a veteran team in defeating the Wildcats 71-64.

While Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari was much more gracious in defeat than I had anticipated, a couple of his players went the inappropriate and sore loser route. In a comment that immediately blew up social media, Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison was heard on open microphone saying “F— that n—–” in a response to a teammate getting a question about Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.

Prior to this, which I’ll get back to in a second, Wildcats’ big man Willie Cauley-Stein walked off the court while most his teammates properly and respectfully shook hands with Wisconsin players. I understand he was upset but if you’re going to win 37 times and want respect and attention then lose the same way. Perhaps Cauley-Stein realized just how poor he played for a seven-footer who should have been dominating games. Two points and five rebounds? You want to point fingers Wildcats’ fans then I’d start right there.

Wildcats

John Calipari showed much more class than his players did following their loss to Wisconsin.

As for Harrison, most white players would probably take his comment as a sign of respect these days which is sad commentary on where we are today with that word. Still, can you imagine if Kaminsky had said that about him?

There are plenty of people who want to celebrate the fact that the Badgers are a predominantly white team who beat an overwhelmingly black-dominated team. That’s pretty sad but you and I both know it’s true. Instead of looking at the color of the players, how about just realizing that Wisconsin is a damn good team that does what it does well?

I have no doubt that’s what Harrison’s comment was aimed at and I guarantee his frustration led to it. Unfortunately we live in a world where race and ethnicity will never be 100% accepted. That doesn’t mean we can’t do better though. Regardless, the Badgers did what 37 other opponents could not and now they have chance to win the school’s first national title since 1941.

Tit for Tat

A lot of Kentucky fans are still screaming today about the shot Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes made as the 35-second clock expired. There’s no question the ball had not left Hayes’ hand yet but under the rules a review was not available. Therefore the shot counted and the play continued.

First let me say how nice it is not to have review for everything in college basketball. These games are already painfully jammed with commercials and adding more stoppages would actually make it worse. That said, perhaps the missed call was a bit of retribution for the Badgers.

Earlier in the second half, Kentucky’s Trey Lyles cleared smacked Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser in the paint with an open hand to the side of Gasser’s face. The officials, who had been shaky all night, decided there was no foul. The fact the officials chose to call nothing is indicative of just how intimidated college officials are of these coaches and players.

This should have been at the very least a flagrant one and possibly a flagrant two and an ejection but nothing? Ultimately this is how basketball justice works if you believe in that sort of thing. The Hayes’ shot should have been called differently and so to should the Lyles’ smackdown.

Both situations are history now and so is the Kentucky run at an unbeaten season.

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Final Four: Kentucky 5-Point Chalk Versus Wisconsin

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The Kentucky Wildcats meet the Wisconsin Badgers in a rematch of last season’s Final Four. The point spread has moved in the direction of the underdog Badgers despite the Wildcats being undefeated on the season.

The current line has Kentucky as 5-point chalk with the point total on 131. The line opened last weekend with Kentucky favored by between -6 and -6.5 but money on Wisconsin has come in to push the line down.

Kentucky was just a No. 8 seed last season in the tournament but defeated the No. 2 seeded Badgers 74-73 as a favorite by 1-points.

Willie Cauley-Stein, who will could be a first round pick in the NBA draft later this month, returns to play for Kentucky after missing last season’s Wisconsin game due to an injury.

Wisconsin has not reached the national championship game since 1941. Kentucky on the other hand, lost last season’s national title game to UConn, but won the national title in 2012.

The OVER has cashed in 3 of the past 4 Wisconsin games, while the UNDER has cashed in each of the past 3 games for Kentucky. Wisconsin is averaging 80 points per game on offense and giving up nearly 72 per game on defense. Kentucky is averaging 70 points a game on offense and allowing just 52 per game on defense.

Kentucky had covered the number in only 1 of its 4 NCAA Tournament games. In their last game, the Wildcats survived a tough battle with Notre Dame 68-66 as 11-point chalk.

A win such as that, which came on two last second foul shots by Andrew Harrison, can either propel a team to victory in its next outing, or cause them to lose focus ad be vulnerable in their next game.

Kentucky has great height with its starters averaging 6-foot-9 with its backcourt tandem of twins at 6-foot-6 each.

Wisconsin is led by All-American Frank Kaminsky, who of late has been helped by forward Sam Dekker. The two have scored more than 55% of Wisconsin’s points during the tournament.

However, against the Kentucky defense scoring will not come easy. The Irish gave the Wildcats the game of their life, but scored just 66 points and in the end lost. Dekker could do damage if he is given space to drive against a bigger player such as Cauley-Smith.

Many bettors have gone with Wisconsin in this one, as Kentucky is just 1-3 ATS during this tournament. The number has been bet down from Kentucky -6.5 to its current -5, which gives value to go with the favorite. Kentucky has been able to cover a number of spreads that have been inflated this season, and now can be had cheap. Take the Wildcats less the 5 points.

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NIT Final: Stanford Meets Miami in the Big Apple

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The Final Four tips off on Saturday with two games that could prove to be two of the best all season in the NCAA. However, two other teams will be taking the hardwood court at famed Madison Square Garden on Thursday when the Stanford Cardinal meet the Miami Hurricanes for the NIT Championship.

Current odds have Stanford as 1.5-point chalk with the total points for the over/under sitting on 134.5.

Already playing minus Angel Rodriguez its starting point guard, Miami lost Tonye Jekiri its 7-foot center during the NIT semifinal against Temple due to a concussion.

Nevertheless, Miami was able to overcome a halftime deficit of 30-25 to beat Temple 60-57 as 1-point chalk Tuesday night in the Big Apple. Both players will miss the game for Miami on Thursday versus Stanford.

Stanford on the season is 23-13 straight up and 16-19-1 against the spread. Miami is 25-12 SU and 17-17-1 ATS.

Sheldon McClellan is Miami’s catalyst and scored 16 points while grabbing 11 boards in the Hurricanes win over Temple. Davon Ravon pitched in with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocked hosts.

Miami has won 7 of its past 8 games overall, while going 5-3 against the number in those same 8 games. The sole loss straight up during that stretch was to Notre Dame during the ACC Tournament.

The Hurricanes have been dogs on 11 occasions this season, with a record of 5-6 SU and 7-4 ATS. Miami has won outright as road dogs this season against Florida, Duke, Syracuse and Pitt.

Stanford reached this final by defeating Old Dominion in the semifinal 67-60, as a favorite by 3.5 points. The combined points of 127 cashed on the UNDER on a line of 133.5.

Stanford went up 15-0 to start the game and 25-4 with under nine minutes remaining in the first half. Old Dominion did rally and at one point led for a brief moment during the middle of the final second half.

Chasson Randle was the leader scorer for the Cardinal with 24 points. He is now the all time leading Stanford scorer after passing Todd Lichti. Stefan Nastic scored 17 points for the Cardinal while Antony Brown ended with 14.

Stanford is 2-1 ATS in its first three games of the NIT. Randle is averaging 19.4 points per game to lead the Cardinal.

After the UNDER cashed in two straight games, it is now 16-14-20 for Miami overall. The UNDER has cashed in 18 of the past 36 games for Stanford overall.

The game will air at 9:00 p.m. ET in New York City.

Prediction: Miami will be too undermanned with two important players missing out. I like Stanford 72-67.

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Memories of the 1991 Final Four as Teams Ascend on Indy

Final Four
Final Four

The 2015 Final Four has some interesting similarities to the one from 1991.

In 1991, the Final Four was held in Indianapolis, Indiana which is the same setting for next weekend’s Final Four as well. While that’s a nice coincidence, they don’t stop there.

The two semifinal games in 1991 featured Kansas versus North Carolina and defending champion UNLV versus Duke. The latter was a rematch of the 1990 National Championship game that saw the Running Rebels run the young Duke Blue Devils out of the gym in a 30-point butt-kicking.

The rematch between Duke and UNLV had been highly anticipated all season long and many wondered if the Blue Devils could get revenge. Much like Kentucky today, the Rebs ran through their regular season and tournament unbeaten and had much less competitive games on their way to the Final Four than has Kentucky.

While Wisconsin and Kentucky didn’t meet in the National Title game last year, they did meet in the National Semis as they will again on Saturday. The Badgers held a four-point lead at the half in 2014 before losing 74-73.

The Wildcats would go on to lose to UConn in the title game.

Certainly there are similarities between 1991 and this coming Final Four but what many often forgot about the UNLV-Duke game was that it was in fact a semi-final game and not for the title. Duke still needed to get past a good Kansas team on that Monday night and did for their first National Championship.

What’s different this time around is that despite the Duke-Michigan State game being extremely overshadowed, the Blue Devils will at least be given a shot at defeating either Kentucky or Wisconsin should the Badgers pull the upset late Saturday night. Can we say the same for this version of Tom Izzo’s team? Personally I don’t think so.

Trice

With everyone paying attention to the other three teams, don't count out Travis Trice and the Spartans.

Even though the Spartans proved they could play with the Badgers in an overtime loss in the Big Ten Title game, they would be overwhelming underdogs should they advance to play Kentucky. The fact that Michigan State will be treated like the red-headed step-child of this Final Four won’t be lost on Izzo and I expect him to use it as motivation for his team heading into their match-up with Duke.

If you want to know what the folks at CBS want to see, it’s safe to say a Wisconsin-Michigan State title game isn’t it. While both teams have talent, they are also typical Big Ten teams who grind out every possession and play with aggressiveness and tenacity that sometimes doesn’t make for great basketball.

Therefore, either a Kentucky-Duke or Wisconsin-Duke title game would certainly be the preference for the television people and probably the NCAA as well. Of those two, a Kentucky-Duke game would probably be ratings gold. You’d have John Calipari going for not just a second national championship but also an unbeaten season.

On the other hand, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski would be going for his fifth title during his record tying 12th Final Four. Coach K is tied with the legendary John Wooden for most Final Four appearances.

While this season’s version of the Final Four is different on many fronts from the 1991 grouping, there are some interesting similarities that couldn’t go unnoticed. Also part of the irony is the fact that former UNLV Head Coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away this year.

Funny how sometimes the stars just align a certain way isn’t it?

 

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