February 01, 2010
The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 65 (31 automatic and 34 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out a Tourney Pick ‘Em '10 entry today. The Bracket Big Board is updated every Monday/Friday until the dance card is officially unveiled March 14.
On Tuesday, in a Pennsylvania tradition dating back 124 years, a corpulent marmot, blessed with the roundness of Rick Majerus and the meteorological foresight of Al Roker, will be yanked from its comfortable den to reveal a long-range forecast for stir crazy - or just plain crazy - onlookers.
Tournament anxious Villanova fans in attendance are praying a blanket of clouds will envelope Punxsutawney.
Off to its best start in its 90-year history, the Big East pacesetter - and its fans - can't wait for March to arrive. Blemished only by a top-flight Temple team back in early December, the Wildcats have raced out to a 19-1 start, beating the likes of Mississippi, Maryland and Georgetown. In conference play, it seems only Syracuse and West Virginia has a realistic shot of chasing down Jay Wright's unbeaten club.
‘Nova's success stems largely from an explosive four-guard lineup. On the season, Scottie Reynolds and company have netted 1.21 points per possession, the third-best mark in the nation. Though they lack interior size, the ‘Cats are an aggressive rebounding team evident in their top-25 offensive rebounding percentage. Mike Brey, whose mediocre Irish team was throttled 90-72 in Philly a week ago, summed up the Villanova offense best:
"If you're going to beat them, you have to really score it. Because they're going to score it. They really get down the floor."
But the Wildcats, much like Punxsutawney Phil, are masters in the art of deception.
As KenPom fanatics know, a team's defensive efficiency is unequivocally the best predictor of tournament success. Simply put, in college basketball, the adage "defense wins championships" rings true. Over the past decade, no squad has reached the Final Four ranked outside the top 25 in D efficiency. Currently, Villanova clocks in at a ghastly 69th nationally in that category. Opponents have converted numerous charity stripe opportunities and three-point rainbows against the Wildcats.
Unquestionably, ‘Nova possesses the talent, toughness and experience to advance deep into the tournament. Reynolds and the two Coreys (Fisher and Stokes, not jean tight-rollers Haim and Feldman) have the firepower, particularly from distance, to carry this team. But due to their inefficiencies on the opposite end, every offensive performance must be spectacular.
With away games at Georgetown and West Virginia upcoming, ‘Nova's quest to earn its first ever No. 1 regular season ranking may likely fall by the wayside. Unless significant improvements are made, its chances of again reaching the Mecca of college hoops might too.
Here are the movers and shakers in the first edition of this year's Triple-B:
On the Bubble: Louisville (13-8), Wichita St. (19-4), Illinois (14-8), Tulsa (17-4), Seton Hall (12-7), Minnesota (13-8), Virginia (13-6), Arizona St. (15-7), South Carolnia (13-8), UTEP (15-5), San Diego St. (15-6)
Dropped Out: None
Conference Breakdown: American East (1), ACC (7), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (6), Big 12 (7), Big East (7), Big Sky (1), Big South (1), Big Ten (4), Big West (1), Colonial (1), Conference USA (1), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Metro (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (3), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (1), Patriot (1), SEC (5), Southern (1), SWAC (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (2), WAC (1)
Image courtesy of AP