Norris Cole’s Fade in full effect!
It is nearly March and we are heading into crunch time for some teams trying to get off the proverbial bubble and guarantee themselves a spot in the big dance. Where I have not yet received my degree in bracketology from the Joe Lunardi institute for higher learning, I do watch enough games to have a solid basis of knowledge on which teams deserve to be in, or at least have a decent chance of goin’ dancin. So I will try to do my best Joey Brackets impersonation and discuss some teams who could not only get in the tourney, but make some noise.
Teams that are in regardless of what Fran Fraschilla or Jimmy Dykes thinks- St. Johns, Alabama, Cincinatti, Baylor & Virginia Tech.
Washington St: 17-8, (7-6) RPI: 74 SOS: 113
Let this be known- I am not a big supporter of anything Pac-10. Year in and year out the pac-10 gripes and complains about how they are overlooked because of an east coast bias. And year in and year out the Pac-10 resoundingly lays an egg. Outside of UCLA, there is never any consistency and now even the Bruins are mediocre at best. That being said, I do like this Washington State team for two reasons: One, Senior guard Klay Thompson (20.6ppg/4.2ast/5.2reb) & Two, they are in the Pac-10 which is a crapshoot that somebody needs to take control of. With their next 3 games against Arizona, Arizona St., & Washington, we will see if the Cougars can step up and take the reins of this much maligned conference.
Duquesne (Doo-Kane): 16-7, (8-2) RPI: 81 SOS: 133
The long lost Dukes have returned! The ghosts of the A-10 have won 11 in a row and are now just one game back of Temple, Richmond, & Xavier. Led by F Damian Saunders, the Dukes are 1st in the nation in assists per game, and 13th in points per game. Duquesne’s sound play keeps them in every game as they look for a signature win down the stretch.
Richmond: 20-6, (9-2) RPI: 71 SOS: 190
I love this team. I have watched a few of the Spiders games this year, and they have all the makings of a Cinderella- great team defense, excellent 3-point shooting, and solid rebounding. Forward Justin Harper (18ppg/2.6ast/7reb) is shooting %50 from 3 land this year as he makes his case for A-10 player of the year. With their signature win against Purdue earlier in the season, a regular season division crown would cement a tournament berth. (Update- Richmond is getting killed by Temple…uh-oh!)
Old Dominion: 20-6, (11-4) RPI: 31 SOS: 67
Where an at-large bid seems unlikely, Big Blue could definitely sweep through the Colonial tournament and guarantee their bid to the dance. Utilizing a physical and relentless attack inside, Old Dominion is 9th in the nation in rebounding with key wins against Xavier, Dayton, Richmond, & Clemson. A win in the bracket buster challenge against Cleveland St. could give the Dukes a big boost.
Saint Mary’s: 22-5, (10-2) RPI: 32 SOS: 141
The only team that stands in St. Mary’s way is St. Mary’s. After a terrible loss last night to San Diego, the Gaels are floundering at a bad time but can bounce back this Saturday against #23 Utah St. & next Thursday against rival Gonzaga. Led by the “Mad-Irishman” Mickey McConnell (17ppg/6ast/ %47 3-point), the always exciting Gaels boast key wins against St. Johns, Long Beach, Mississippi St., & Gonzaga. They are 4th in the nation in FG%, 12th in points per game, and 11th in assists. Saint Mary’s has all the makings of a surprise tourney team that could make a deep run. This team is talented enough to reach the sweet 16 and are my dark horse this year.
Cleveland St. 23-5, (12-4) RPI: 37 SOS: 127
This Vikings team reminds me of the 1999 Miami of Ohio team that featured Wally Szczerbiak. Led by soon-to-be conference player of the year and possible national player of the year candidate Norris Cole (21ppg/6.1ast/5.6reb), Cleveland State won 12 in a row to start the season and is getting hot again as they look to take the Horizon League crown. Norris had a huge game this past weekend putting up an unbelievable 41 points, 20 rebounds, and 9 assists. He is the first player since Blake Griffin to have a 40/20 game. The one knock against the Vikings is a lack of key wins but a conference tourney championship would take care of all doubt.
In honor of Norris Cole’s high top fade, here is a little step down memory lane…..