Report:

Forde Minutes: Mayhem comes before Madness

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (Dancing shoes sold separately at Florida Gulf Coast, Liberty, Belmont, Harvard, Creighton, Iona, Gonzaga, James Madison, Davidson and Western Kentucky):

WHAT MARCH HATH WROUGHT – ALREADY

We still have another five days of conference tournaments to churn through, then the brackets are revealed, and then the world's greatest sporting event gets started. But the Madness waits for none of that. We are off and running (and jumping, shouting, finger-pointing, buzzer-beating and celebrating) already. A brief synopsis of what we have learned in the last week:

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Tom Crean reacts after Indiana's 72-71 victory over Michigan. (Getty)

Tom Crean (1) has been fitted for a black hat in postseason play. Video of the Indiana coach's confrontation with Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer on Sunday – as Yahoo! Sports reported, the continuation of a disagreement in the handshake line – after a thrilling Hoosiers comeback victory was a nationwide buzz item Monday. (Best part: assistant Tim Buckley trying to cover the camera lens with his hand while dragging Crean away from the fray, like a lawyer hustling a celebrity defendant past the paparazzi and into a courthouse.) Crean proactively apologized to Meyer on the phone Sunday and to the public via the Big Ten teleconference Monday morning, but the video will stay in heavy rotation as long as the Hoosiers remain alive over the next month.

Prior to that, Crean caught flak for a net-cutting ceremony in Assembly Hall last Tuesday night to celebrate clinching a share of the Big Ten title – thing is, it followed a loss to Ohio State. Crean also had some words for Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft in the handshake line after that game. All this, coming on the heels of publicly questioning the Big Ten's Player of the Week selection methods and the Cody Zeller/Derrick Nix GroinGate issue, has made Crean the least-liked Hoosier since The General himself. Of course, winning the league and locking up an NCAA No. 1 seed helps breed enemies as well. And frankly, the man is locked in on winning games in March, not winning popularity contests. Whatever the reason, it's safe to assume the rest of the Midwest will be rooting for anybody but Indiana in Chicago this week.

The anarchy of the season (2) has trickled down to the mid-major and low-major levels as well, not just the high-powered leagues. In the 14 conference tourneys that started play last week, No. 1 seeds have lost in seven of them. And in five of those, the No. 1 seed didn't even make the final.

[Infographic: Memorable moments of Big East tournament]

There were 30 one-possession games in the first seven days of league tourney play, including five in the West Coast Conference and four in the Horizon League. Horizon fans have had their hearts tested four times: two games have been won on buzzer-beaters, one on a shot with 1.7 seconds left and another on a shot with 2.5 seconds remaining. When Valparaiso won its semifinal game on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, coach Bryce Drew – who has some fairly memorable March heroism in his past – wound up flat on his back on the sidelines, looking like he'd been shot.

Kentucky (3) is not dead yet, and will be the centerpiece bubble team in the Festival of Desperation that is the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville. The Wildcats' steely, 7 ½-minute shutout of persistent folder Florida on Saturday in Rupp Arena propelled the defending national champions into most armchair bracketologists' tourney fields. For now. A quarterfinal loss Friday in a tourney that promises to be a free-for-all could change all that. There are five bubble teams in the SEC, and the top seven teams in the league have gone a combined 2-28 against each other on the road. The lone wins were Mississippi at Tennessee back in January, and Kentucky at Ole Miss when it still had Nerlens Noel.

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Duke's Ryan Kelly works against UNC's P.J. Hairston. (AP)

Duke (4) is stampeding, laying legitimate claim to the overall No. 1 NCAA seed since Ryan Kelly has returned to health. What the Blue Devils did to a hot North Carolina team in its own gym Saturday night was most impressive. If Tuesday were Selection Sunday, The Minutes' four top seeds would be Duke, Indiana, Georgetown and Louisville. The No. 2 line would include Gonzaga, Michigan and two of the following: Kansas, Ohio State, Michigan State and Miami.

Middle Tennessee (5) will be the selection committee's flashpoint mid-major after being upset in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tournament. Does it reward the Blue Raiders for sustained regular-season excellence – a 28-5 record, 19-1 in league, RPI of 28, a 13-5 road/neutral record? Or does it dismiss a team that owns zero RPI Top 50 wins and now has two RPI 100-plus losses (Arkansas State and Florida International)? The Minutes would prefer to see Middle Tennessee rewarded (like Iona last year) over a mid-pack team from a power league that has blown multiple chances to win enough games, but that is just one columnist's opinion. The anxiety will be heavy in Murfreesboro from now until March 17.

DOES THE MEDIA LIKE WHITE PLAYERS TOO MUCH?

Lansing (Mich.) State-Journal columnist Graham Couch ignited a race-related imbroglio in late February with a blog post asserting that Ohio State guard Aaron Craft (6) is overly valued by the media because "he's a rosy-cheeked white guy." Couch then doubled down on his stance more recently, and it became a rather hot topic on the greatest radio show in the history of the planet, "Wetzel To Forde," on Yahoo! Sports Radio last week.

The Minutes believes Couch is wrong, and believes Craft has earned all the love he's received. But the notion of excessively hyped white players in college basketball is neither new nor completely out of line.

[Related: The Dagger picks every conference tournament winner]

In a sport dominated by African-Americans, four of the past eight winners of the Naismith Player of the Year award have been white: Andrew Bogut in 2005, J.J. Redick in '06, Tyler Hansbrough in '08, Jimmer Fredette in '11. None won a national title that season, and only Hansbrough made the Final Four. None has gone on to star in the NBA, though all four remain in the league.

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Doug McDermott cuts down the net after Creighton's conference tournament win. (AP)

If 50 percent seems like a rather high ratio, well, it holds true this year as well. The Minutes is a U.S. Basketball Writers Association district representative, and half the top eight All-American vote-getters in the district are white: Doug McDermott (7) of Creighton, Cody Zeller (8) of Indiana, Kelly Olynyk (9) of Gonzaga, and Mason Plumlee (10) of Duke.

They are all very good players have very good seasons on very good teams. But the NBA does not seem to share the college basketball media's view of the four – only Zeller is listed in the top 10 of the current mock drafts at NBADraft.net and ESPN.com.

To be fair, it must be noted that the modern NBA drafts more on potential than what players are producing at the moment. That's why Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein (8.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks on a mediocre team) is higher on the NBADraft.net draft board than senior Plumlee (17.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks on a really good team).

The other element to this may be the fact that black players tend to go pro early at a much higher rate than white players, thus abdicating the stage to the older guys. Plumlee is a senior, Olynyk a fourth-year junior, McDermott a junior, Zeller a sophomore. They have stayed in college and improved both their games and the fortunes of their teams, whereas players like Shabazz Muhammad and Ben McLemore will never see a second season on campus. Muhammad and McLemore are solid bets to be better pros than any of the white players listed above, but they haven't been better thus far in 2012-13.

So there are some logical, non-racial explanations for why white guys have received a seemingly disproportionate number of accolades and awards in recent seasons, and this year as well. But you also wonder if there isn't at least a small element of championing the Caucasian going on, too.

LITTLE DANCE, PART II

Previewing and predicting the remainder of the conference tournaments:

ATLANTIC COAST: March 14-17 in Greensboro, N.C.

In the Dance: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State.
On the bubble: Virginia, Maryland (barely).
Everyone else must win the tournament.

Top seed: Miami. The Hurricanes have won their first ACC championship, incomprehensibly beating the football program to that feat.

Hot team: Duke. The Blue Devils have won their last three games, capped off by a brutal beat down of what had been a hot North Carolina squad in the Dean Dome on Saturday.

Best player: Shane Larkin (11) of Miami. You can certainly make an argument for Ryan "Unbeaten" Kelly and Mason Plumlee, or even Virginia Tech's Erick Green. But Larkin has the ball in his hands more and has played more minutes. Larkin has been in a 3-point shooting slump the last few weeks, but don't expect him to stay there.

Best coach: Mike Krzyzewski (12). Four national titles, 11 Final Fours, 13 ACC tournament titles and another upcoming No. 1 NCAA seed make this fact inarguable.

[Also: Frantic Tom Crean polarizes, puts Indiana back on the map]

Coach on the hot seat: Jeff Bzdelik (13), Wake Forest. There was an ad in the Wake student paper Friday urging the ouster of the third-year coach, who is 34-59 during his tenure. The Demon Deacons have had their moments this year – two, actually, home wins over North Carolina State and Miami – but remain uncompetitive in the ACC race. Aside from bussing 30 minutes to beat UNC-Greensboro in December, Wake has lost 15 straight on the road dating to January 2012.

Minutes pick: Duke. Still undefeated with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, and playing at a very high level in the three games since he returned from injury. Miami looked a little like a tired team the past couple of weeks, North Carolina State has underachieved, North Carolina simply isn't good enough and Virginia is too erratic.

ATLANTIC 10. March 14-17 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Temple's Khalif Wyatt celebrates after scoring against VCU. (AP)

In the Dance: Saint Louis, VCU, Butler, Temple.
On the bubble: LaSalle, Massachusetts.
Everyone else must win the tournament.

Top seed: Saint Louis. The Billikens winning the league title under interim coach Jim Crews, after the death of former coach Rick Majerus, is one of the most inspiring stories of the year.

Hot team: Temple (14) has won seven straight games, surging safely into the NCAA tourney field with late wins over VCU, UMass, Detroit and Charlotte.

Best player: Khalif Wyatt of Temple. The Owls point guard has been good all year, but especially good in Temple's two biggest wins of the year – over Syracuse in December and over VCU on Saturday. He averaged 31.5 points and was 28-of-31 at the line in those two games. He will be key to the Owls' success in Brooklyn.

Best coach: Brad Stevens (15) of Butler. He's 18-4 in the postseason the last three years. That's pretty good.

Coach on the hot seat: Phil Martelli, St. Joseph's. Hard to imagine Martelli going anywhere, but the glory days are fading further from view. This year's Hawks team was picked to win the A-10 in the preseason but went 8-8 in conference play. Unless they win the tourney, it will be the eighth time in the last nine years that St. Joe's has missed the NCAAs.

Minutes pick: Butler. Bulldogs were bounced out of a first-round bye by Temple on the last day of the regular season and will have to win four games, but that's doable. They finished with two impressive victories over UMass and Xavier, and in case you haven't heard, they have a knack for tournament basketball.

BIG 12: March 13-16 in Kansas City.

In the Dance: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma.
On the bubble: Iowa State, Baylor.
Everyone else must win the tournament.

Top seed: Kansas (16). Who else? The Jayhawks were actually tied for the league title by Kansas State, but still retained the No. 1 seed by sweeping the Wildcats.

[Also: Fan suffers $50K halftime heartbreak at basketball game]

Hot team: Kansas State had won six straight and 10 of its last 11 before a loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday. No shame in a six-point defeat in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Best player: Marcus Smart (17) of Oklahoma State, in a tough call over fellow freshman Ben McLemore of Kansas. Smart has been a bit more well-rounded and is hugely responsible for the Cowboys' improvement from 15-18 last year to 23-7 this year.

Best coach: Bill Self (18) of Kansas. Last year might have been his best coaching job, taking the Jayhawks to the national title game after another Big 12 title. But this year hasn't been too shabby either. Kansas isn't out of the No. 1 seed discussion if it wins this tourney.

Coach on the hot seat: Chris Walker, Texas Tech. Took over before the year for imploding Billy Gillispie, and it's been a debacle. The Red Raiders are 10-19 overall, 3-13 in the Big 12, and have one feel-good win (over Iowa State in January). There is no reason for Walker to be back next fall.

Minutes pick: Iowa State. This could be a carnage tourney, and the Cyclones can light it up from 3-point range. If they're hot for the entire weekend, they're as good as anyone else in Kansas City. If not, well, this is a dumb pick.

BIG EAST. March 12-16 in New York.

In the Dance: Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Villanova.
On the bubble: Cincinnati, Providence (barely).
Everyone else must win the league tournament.

Top seed: Georgetown. The Hoyas' 11-game winning streak in the heart of the Big East schedule was as impressive of a run as any team has had this season.

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Otto Porter looks on during a game. (AP)

Hot team: Louisville is rolling at a high rate of speed into Madison Square Garden, having won seven straight and 10 of its last 11. Half of those 10 victories are over teams that will be in the NCAA field, and the lone loss was the five-overtime carnival at Notre Dame.

Best player: Otto Porter Jr. (19) of Georgetown. Leads the Hoyas in scoring and rebounding, and if you need another example of his value to the team, there's this: he's played 207 out of 210 minutes in Georgetown's last five games.

Best coach: Rick Pitino (20) of Louisville. Over the course of his career he's won 10 conference tournaments in four different leagues, including two in the Big East. That's to go along with a national title and six Final Four appearances.

Coach on the hot seat: Oliver Purnell, DePaul. Blue Demons aren't in a position to be overly demanding, but six Big East wins in three seasons isn't too impressive. The question is whether Purnell gets a chance to dig out in the new Big East next season.

Minutes pick: Louisville. The only team that can match the Cardinals' high level of play entering this tournament is the Hoyas. They beat Louisville by just two points in D.C. in January, and a finals rematch has the makings of a payback game.

BIG TEN. March 14-17 in Chicago.

In the Dance: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois.
On the bubble: Minnesota, Iowa.
Everyone else must win the league tournament.

Top seed: Indiana. In the toughest Big Ten in years, the Hoosiers won at Ohio State, at Michigan State, at Michigan. That's worth cutting down the nets for, even after a loss.

Hot team: Ohio State has won five in a row, including an upset win at Indiana and solid home victories over Michigan State and Illinois. Unlike many Thad Matta teams at this time of year, the Buckeyes are expanding their rotation instead of shrinking it, playing athletic guard Shannon Scott with Aaron Craft and enjoying the results.

[Also: Injured Saint Mary's forward creeps out his coach]

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Tom Izzo talks to Derrick Nix on the bench. (USA Today Sports)

Best player: Victor Oladipo (21) of Indiana. The Minutes can make a case for Trey Burke of Michigan, but Oladipo's versatility, offensive efficiency and defensive prowess gives him a slight edge. Both are first-team All-Americans.

Best coach: Tom Izzo (22). The other 11 coaches combined do not equal his six Final Fours. Izzo doesn't always put a high premium on this tournament, but he and the Spartans will be a very tough out in the next one.

Coach on the hot seat: Bill Carmody (23), Northwestern. He's now in Year 13 in Evanston without an NCAA bid unless the Wildcats win the tourney. (Spoiler alert: they won't.) By now even Northwestern, after years of high tolerance and low yield, must realize it's time for a change.

Minutes pick: Ohio State. Matta's teams tend to play well in this event, having reached the tourney final five of the last six years and won three of those. The Saturday-Sunday games here could be the best anywhere in the Little Dance.

BIG WEST. March 14-16 in Anaheim, Calif.

Top seed: Long Beach State (24). The 49ers lost eight of their first 13 games and three of their last four. But in between was a 12-1 stretch that locked up the league.

Hot team: Cal Poly has won five straight and eight of its last nine, though the competition over the last nine games has not been stellar.

Minutes pick: Pacific. The Tigers have won their last four games and walloped regular-season champion Long Beach State by 20 to close the regular season. Veteran coach Bob Thomason's team should have plenty of confidence if it plays The Beach in a season rubber game in the final.

CONFERENCE USA. March 13-16 in Tulsa, Okla.

In the Dance: Memphis.
On the bubble: Southern Mississippi.
Everyone else must win the league tournament.

Top seed: Memphis (25). Tigers were 16-0 in the league and only had two games decided by less than seven points.

Hot team: The Tigers lost Feb. 26, but that was a non-conference game against Xavier. They haven't been beaten by C-USA opposition since February of 2012.

Minutes pick: Memphis. Picking anyone else is simply trying too hard to be clever. The real intrigue is whether Southern Miss can advance to the final and give itself a chance for an at-large bid.

MID-AMERICAN. March 11 at campus sites, 13-16 in Cleveland.

Top seed: Akron. The Zips were having a golden year and in the hunt for an at-large berth until losing two of their last three games. They come in as the top seed but perhaps no longer as the team to beat.

Hot team: Kent State (26). The Golden Flashes have won five straight, including knocking off Akron to close the regular season.

Minutes pick: Ohio. Akron's season was thrown off the bubble and into chaos with the marijuana trafficking charge pinned on starting point guard and floor leader Alex Abreu late in the regular season. Without him, the Zips can be beaten by their in-state rivals from Athens.

MEAC. March 11-16 in Norfolk, Va.

Top seed: Norfolk State (27). The Spartans went 16-0 and have won 23 straight against league competition, an amazing run.

Hot team: Norfolk State is the hottest team, but watch out for Morgan State. The Bears' only loss in the last nine games was by two points, and they have played Norfolk State tough twice.

Minutes pick: Norfolk State. This could be a high-quality final between the 16-0 Spartans and 15-1 North Carolina Central, which inexplicably did not play each other during the regular season despite playing several other teams twice. Give the edge to Norfolk State, which is playing in its hometown and has some March experience to fall back on after shocking Missouri in the NCAA tournament last year.

MOUNTAIN WEST: March 12-16 in Las Vegas.

In the Dance: New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, Colorado State.
On the bubble: Boise State.
Everyone else must win the league tournament.

Top seed: New Mexico. The Lobos won the league by two games and were undefeated in The Pit in conference play.

Hot team: Boise State has won five of its last six games, including a big win over San Diego State that pushes them closer to an at-large lock.

[Also: Big East was doomed from the beginning]

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CSU's Colton Iverson clutches the ball in a game against New Mexico. (USA Today)

Best player: Colton Iverson (28) of Colorado State. The big Minnesota transfer has stepped up his offensive output over the last five games, averaging 20 points and shooting 72 percent from the field. (If he was better than 59 percent at the line, he'd really be putting up points.) He's the narrow choice in a league rife with good-but-not-great players.

Best coach: Steve Alford (29) of New Mexico. He's got six 20-win seasons in six years with the Lobos, and this team could be his best. The one thing Alford needs to solidify his résumé is a trip to the Sweet 16 or beyond. He's been there one time, in 1999, at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State).

Coach on the hot seat: David Carter, Nevada. There has been no consistency to the Wolf Pack from year to year under Carter: 21-13 to 13-19 to 28-7 to 12-18. To be sure, the Mountain West is a step-up in competition this season over the WAC, but Nevada hasn't won a game since Feb. 9. That's not good.

Minutes pick: New Mexico. In a highly competitive league, the Lobos have clearly been the best team. There could be some surprises on the other side of the bracket, but New Mexico is the solid favorite.

PAC-12. March 13-16 in Las Vegas.

In the Dance: Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, California.
On the bubble: Colorado, Arizona State, Stanford (barely).
Everyone else must win the league tournament.

Top seed: UCLA. The Bruins won five of their last six games to take the league title at 13-5, which ties for the most losses for a Pac-8/10/12 league champion in the last 63 years. But UCLA also worked in a blowout loss down the stretch to a miserable Washington State team, so you never know.

Hot team: California (30). The Golden Bears roared off the bubble with seven straight wins between Feb. 10 and March 2, beating Arizona, UCLA and Oregon along the way. But with a chance to earn a share of a tie for the league title, the Golden Bears were walloped at home by Stanford. So you never know.

Best player: Shabazz Muhammad (31). Freshman averaging 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He's an all-court threat who can score in transition, the low post and from the perimeter. Tough matchup for anyone.

Best coach: Ben Howland. Bill Walton is not a fan, but Howland has been to three Final Fours with the Bruins. In a league rife with coaches who haven't gotten much done lately, Howland at least has the best career body of work.

Coach on the hot seat: With Kevin O'Neill already out of the way, there are several others in the league who are hearing some grumbling from their fans. But The Minutes will go with Oregon State's Craig Robinson, who saw his program regress to last place in his fifth year at the school. Robinson has just one winning season in Corvallis and no NCAA tournament appearances.

Minutes pick: California. Honestly, almost anybody could win this tournament. The top of the league collectively staggered to the finish line, absorbing one bad loss after another, so chaos seems like a good bet.

[Also: Liberty may be worst team ever to secure NCAA tourney bid]

SEC. March 13-17 in Nashville, Tenn.

In the Dance: Florida, Missouri.
On the bubble: Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas.
Everyone else must win the league tournament.

Top seed: Florida (32). The Gators have been the strongest front-runners in the nation, stomping everyone at home and bad teams on the road. It's the close games on the road that have been the problem: Florida is 0-5 in games decided by single digits.

Hot team: Tennessee. The Volunteers have rebounded impressively from the season-long loss of Jeronne Maymon to a knee injury. They have won eight of their last nine games, four of them even on the road.

[Related: The Dagger picks every conference tournament winner]

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope drives against Arkansas. (USA Today Sports)

Best player: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (33) of Georgia. Toiling in virtual anonymity on a 15-16 team, he's very difficult to stop offensively and a tenacious defensive rebounder for a 6-5 guard. The question is whether he'll be around in Nashville for more than one game.

Best coach: Billy Donovan of Florida. Two national titles, three Final Fours, five SEC championships. Florida has no idea how good it has it with Donovan willing to make it a destination job.

Coach on the hot seat: Andy Kennedy of Mississippi. For the longest time it looked like Year 7 at Ole Miss would finally yield an NCAA tournament berth. Then the Rebels went on a slide, bottoming out in a gruesome loss at awful rival Mississippi State. Losing the Egg Bowl has cost plenty of football coaches their jobs; will losing an NCAA bid to a massively inferior opponent who happens to be the school's archrival cost Kennedy?

Minutes pick: Tennessee. Another complete crapshoot of a tournament, since nobody is reliable away from home. But the Volunteers have actually won four road games in the last month, so give them the half-hearted endorsement.

SOUTHLAND: March 13-16 in Katy, Texas.

Top seed: Stephen F. Austin (34). At 26-3, the Lumberjacks have had a fantastic overall season. Their three losses are by a total of 16 points, and their 11-3 road record is the envy of plenty of teams on all levels of Division I.

Hot team: Northwestern State has won 11 of its last 12 Southland games, with the lone loss by one point at Stephen F. Austin.

Minutes pick: Stephen F. Austin. If this goes down to a rubber match between the Lumberjacks and Northwestern State, expect a doozy. Both teams had to rally at the end to win on their home courts when splitting two tense regular-season meetings, and they play diametrically opposite styles. SFA is methodical and defense-oriented, while Northwestern State is up-tempo and all about offense.

SWAC: March 12-16 in Garland, Texas.

Top seed: Southern (35). The Jaguars served notice that they were a cut above most of the rest of the SWAC by upsetting Texas A&M in College Station on Dec. 22. Since then they have lost just three games.

Hot team: Arkansas-Pine Bluff has won four straight and eight of its last nine, using defensive pressure to compensate for a rickety offense.

Minutes pick: Southern. With regular-season champion Texas Southern ineligible for low APR scores, this should be a walkover for the Jaguars.

WAC: March 12-16 in Las Vegas.

Top seed: Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs had an undefeated conference run going until being swept on a season-ending road trip to New Mexico State and Denver.

Hot team: Denver (36). The Pioneers have won 10 straight games, including triumphs over primary rivals Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State.

Minutes pick: Denver. This is a three-team league, and as long as the Pioneers survive a potential semifinal with New Mexico State they should be able to take down wobbling top seed Louisiana Tech in the final.

MINUTES RANT OF THE WEEK

"Score the basketball."

You hear the phrase all the time now on television. It is the latest example of Prolix Analyst Disease, wherein talking heads add unnecessary words to sentences just to sound like they're saying something important. (This is the hoops version of the Mark Schlereth Football Phenomenon, which states that the word "football" must be uttered in every sentence spoken by an ESPN NFL analyst on every broadcast all season.)

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Liberty's John Caleb Sanders shoots against Charleston Southern. (AP)

"Score" works just as well as "score the basketball." And what else would they be scoring, anyway? Rolled-up tube socks? (The Minutes will admit some hypocrisy here, since the length of this column makes it clear that wordiness can be a problem for writers, too.)

UNDER-THE-RADAR LOVE

John Caleb Sanders (37) of Liberty. He was a nobody until the past week, when Sanders led the Flames to four straight Big South tournament wins and a miracle NCAA berth at 15-20. Sanders averaged 17 points, four rebounds and 3.8 assists in Liberty's improbable run, maxing out with a 27-point performance in the final against Charleston Southern.

Sanders inherited the leading man role this year from his older brother, Jesse, who graduated in 2012. He may not have another unforgettable week like the one that earned Liberty its inevitable place in the First Four, but at least he gets to say he played in the NCAA tournament. Nobody expected that a week ago.

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Ray Harper (38) of Western Kentucky. He is the sultan of Hot Springs, Ark., site of the Sun Belt Conference tournament. Harper is 8-0 in the event, both times taking a team not expected to win and catapulting it into the Big Dance. Harper's record outside of Hot Springs as coach of the Hilltoppers is 23-23, so he might consider asking the team to move all its home games there.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Kermit Davis (39) of Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders are 55-12 the past two seasons, but just 1-2 in the Sun Belt tourney, failing to even make a final when having the regular-season league champion both years. Gruesome.

BUZZER BEATER

When hungry for a good lunch in Bloomington, Ind., The Minutes recommends a visit to the Uptown Café (40) just off the square downtown. Try the cajun meatloaf sandwich and thank The Minutes later.

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