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The Real Top 16: Week 3, 2017

The official ranking of American College Football is back and ready to rock thanks to a fluid ranking system designed by our army of nerds stashed in our nerdery.  The system utilizes a simple four step system:

  1. A subjective ranking of every team in the country by our fine braintrust
  2. These rankings give every team a “value” or worth (i.e. the team ranked highest would have the highest value which in our system is equal to 0.99237
  3. These values form a “strength of schedule” for each team, that is to say, the more high value teams you play, the stronger your schedule.
  4. Finally, these schedules give a team a strength of record (SOR) which factors in whether your win/loss was on the road, at home, or on a neutral field as well.  This strength of record is combined with the subjective ranking to give us an official “Power Ranking” which will give us the RT16.

We’re very excited about our system and the rankings it spats out to us as we have developed rankings over the first three weeks of the season.  As we go along, this will help us determine exactly where each team belongs when Bowl Season rolls into town.  For the curious, this system was developed last season and gave us the following four teams in LAST SEASON’S playoff:

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Ohio State
  4. Penn State

And the following four teams were: Oklahoma, Washington, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Listed below are teams 20-17 which just missed the cut this week:

 

#20 Houston Cougars: Rank = 32, SOR =17th, Power Ranking 1.6947

#19 Colorado Buffaloes: Rank = 23, SOR = 21st, Power Ranking 1.7107

#18 Kentucky Wildcats: Rank = 41, SOR = 15th, Power Ranking 1.7313

#17 Iowa HawkeyesRank = 22nd, SOR = 19th, Power Ranking 1.7618

Without any further interruptions other than some grumblings and ramblings by our esteemed author(s), we present the first RT16 of the 2017 College Football Season:

#16 Penn State Nittany Lions, 3-0 (0-0 Big Ten)

Rank = 6th, SOR = 20th, Power Ranking 1.8702

Def. Akron, Pittsburgh, Georgia State

Image result for Penn State logo blank backgroundPenn State is victimized by Strength of Schedule in the early season especially with Pittsburgh’s destruction by Oklahoma State in Week 3.  The Nittany Lions were subjectively ranked sixth, but fall down to #16 with home wins against Akron, Pittsburgh, and Georgia State being the only marks on the resume thus far.  Now, Penn State plays in the unbelievably difficult Big Ten East which means the big time games are coming; however, Penn State might find itself in a similar spot to Washington last season even with a Power Five Conference team on the schedule.  Penn State starts its difficult conference schedule with a trip to Iowa and the pink locker rooms of Kinnick Stadium this weekend where Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley get their first test of the season against the team which finished as the 17th ranked team in the power rankings this week.

#15 Virginia Tech Hokies, 3-0 (0-0 ACC)

Rank = 9th, SOR = 16th, Power Ranking 1.9519

Def. West Virginia (Neutral), Delaware, @ ECU

Image result for Virginia Tech logo blank backgroundVirginia Tech managed a close victory against a high quality opponent in West Virginia week 1 on a neutral field which has allowed the Hokies and freshman quarterback Josh Jackson.  Since, Va Tech has dominated against two Bielema opponents Delaware in Blacksburg and Eastern Carolina on the road.  While those last two aren’t going to help anyone’s Strength of Record, Va Tech plays a mid-tier Old Dominion team this upcoming weekend before getting into Atlantic Coast Conference play and the teeth of the schedule.

#14 Oregon Ducks, 3-0 (0-0 Pacific 12)

Rank = 27th, SOR = 11th, Power Ranking 1.9939

Def. Southern Utah, Nebraska, @Wyoming

Image result for Oregon Ducks logo blank backgroundThe Ducks took down a Power Five opponent in Nebraska in week 2 (a win which lost much value after the Cornhuskers fell into the 60’s in overall rank following the loss to Northern Illinois) before heading into Laramie and downing Wyoming in dominating fashion.  That road victory is more valuable for the Ducks than the home win over Nebraska, but Oregon’s big value games are coming following a game against Arizona State with home games against California and Washington State (not to mention a road contest against Washington coming at the end of 2017).  Oregon and new head coach Willie Taggart are off and running in fashion we haven’t seen since Marcus Mariota left the program.

#13 Wisconsin Badgers, 3-0 (0-0 Big Ten)

Rank = 10th, SOR = 14th, Power Ranking 2.0626

Def. Utah State, Florida Atlantic, @BYU

Image result for wisconsin badgers logo blank backgroundWisconsin’s sum is greater than its parts appear for its Strength of Record as all three of its opponents fall between the 79 and 89 ranked teams in the country.  While none of these teams are bolstering the strength of schedule like Va-Tech’s West Virginia game; the Badgers summation strength of schedule is enough to push it into the RT16.  Alex Hornibrook is coming off his best performance as a Badger against Brigham Young and the offense looks like it will compliment the defense enough to make Wisconsin a viable threat to make the college football playoff (TO THE SYSTEM!).  The Badgers begin Big Ten play against Northwestern in its next contest before taking on what is a pretty unspectacular Big Ten slate the rest of the way with only Michigan the most difficult challenge of the road looking to be either Minnesota or Indiana.

#12 Texas Christian Horned Frogs, 3-0 (0-0 Big 12)

Rank = 11th, SOR = 13th, Power Ranking 2.0672

def. Jackson State, Ar-Kansas (N), @SMU

Image result for TCU Frogs logo blank backgroundThe Most Horn-ed of Frogs and transfer quarterback Kenny the Trillionaire Hill are off to the fastest start in a recovery year following a disappointing 2016 campaign.  TCU’s defense came to play against the Hoges and utilized a Bielema Clause victory against Jackson State earlier in the year before capitalizing with an impressive home victory in a trap game against an underrated (64th for the Braintrust this week) Southern Methodist team in Dallas.  The Frogs now welcome Mason Rudolph and Oklahoma State in what the Braintrust has decided is the RT16 Game of the Week for this upcoming Saturday.

#11 Ohio State Buckeyes, 2-1 (1-0 Big Ten)

Rank = 8th, SOR = 12th, Power Ranking 2.1145

def. @ Indiana, lost Oklahoma, def. Army

Image result for Ohio State logo blank backgroundAn early season loss to Oklahoma certainly hasn’t ruined Ohio State’s season, but the Buckeyes are needing to win the Big Ten in an undefeated fashion to make the playoff (most likely) and will certainly need to beat Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State (and whomever the Buckeyes potentially would meet in the Big Ten Championship Game) in order to have any hope.  Ohio State’s road win at Indiana impressed, but the Hoosiers are only ranked 51st in the power rankings following a week 3 cancellation against Central Florida.  Already 1-0 in conference, the Buckeyes are given a nice easy contest against Nevada Las Vegas in the Horseshoe this weekend before resuming Big Ten play against Rutgers in New Jersey the following weekend.

#10 San Diego State Aztecs, 3-0 (0-0 Mountain West)

Rank = 20th, SOR = 9th, Power Ranking 2.1908

Def. UC Davis, @ Arizona State, Stanford

Image result for San Diego STate Aztecs logo blank backgroundThe Aztecs are off to one of the hotter starts in the country and a road win over a Pac-12 opponent added to the home victory over a hobbling Stanford helped trump a win over FCS UC Davis worth zero points toward its strength of record.  San Diego State doesn’t have much outside of a visit from Boise State to bolster its record’s strength from now until the end of the season, but if Stanford can stay toward the top of the Pac-12 and Arizona State stay out of the basement, the Aztecs are the braintrust’s current favorite to represent the Group of 5 in the New Year’s Six Bowls.

#9 California Golden Bears, 3-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Rank = 18th, SOR = 10th, Power Ranking 2.1969

Def. @North Carolina, Weber State, Ole Miss

Image result for california golden bears logo blank backgroundCalifornia’s resume looks a lot like the previous team in these rankings, San Diego State.  The Bears tallied a win over a Power Five conference team in the North Carolina Tar Heels (ranked 57th in the nation) and added a win over a win in Berkeley over another Power Conference team in the Ole Miss Rebels (ranked 45th).  Weber State is not worth its weight in feathers to the strength of record, but those two wins (especially one being on the road) enable California to put itself in the quiet corner conversation being had of the nation’s underrated programs following the non-conference slates.  The true tests for most teams come along with conference play and California will need to add onto its impressive wins against the Heels and Rebels, but the Bears are a team which has garnered almost no national recognition despite having a top 10 strength of record according to the Braintrust.  This weekend, the Bears welcome Southern Cal to Berkeley for the second strongest game according to Braintrust game score this upcoming weekend.

#8 Louisville Cardinals, 2-1 (1-1 ACC)

Rank = 14th, SOR = 7th, Power Ranking 2.3290

Def. Purdue (N), @UNC … Lost Clemson

Image result for Louisville logo blank backgroundThe additional points added to Louisville’s SOR due to the wins against Purdue and North Carolina being on a neutral field and on the road respectively help Louisville stay right in the midst of the conversation for the College Football playoff.  No team in the Power 5 is automatically eliminated by a loss; however, losing to a conference opponent like Clemson hurts much more than Ohio State’s loss to Oklahoma.  The Cardinals will need to recover quickly and thankfully they have Kent State and Murray State the next two games to make it easier for Lamar Jackson and company to get back into rhythm.  Louisville’s only true competition the rest of the way are games against Florida State and Kentucky on the road.  The rest of the ACC should not give Louisville much trouble, so another 9 win season for Petrino and company looks promising; however, anything less than 10 should disappoint a team with college football’s most dominant player at QB.

#7 Oklahoma State Cowboys, 3-0 (0-0 Big 12)

Rank = 4th, SOR = 8th, Power Ranking 2.3588

Def. Tulsa, @South Alabama, @Pittsburgh

Image result for Oklahoma State logo blank backgroundTwo road victories help buttress an Oklahoma State team which looked incredibly impressive in its most recent game against the Pitt Panthers which gave a fight to Penn State only one week earlier.  With a decent showing against its non conference opponents, the Cowpokes get a nice challenge in the strongest game by score in Stillwater against the Texas Christian Most Horn-ed of Frogs this upcoming weekend.  Unfortunately College Gameday is heading to New York, New York this weekend instead of a college campus (we here are not fans of this decision).

#6 Michigan Wolverines, 3-0 (0-0 Big Ten)

Rank = 13th, SOR = 5th, Power Ranking 2.4679

Def. Florida (N), Cincinnati, Air Force

Image result for Michigan Wolverines logo blank backgroundMichigan is now 0-2 in its home games against the spread, but they’re 3-0 overall following a very nice win over Florida and followed that up with a bottom level win over Cincinnati (ranked 104th in the country) and then a mid-tier victory over Air Force (ranked 66th).  The Florida victory is carrying the heaviest part of the load, but Michigan’s offense should be a far bigger concern than its strength of schedule.  The Wolverines struggled to move the ball against Cincinnati and Air Force.   Saying the opponent is better off when Wilton Speight is in control of the ball is becoming less of a punchline and more a truth as Michigan mustered only field goals and a punt return touchdown prior to a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.  The Wolverines mustered one offensive touchdown drive against Air Force…things will need to improve on the offensive side of the ball before athletic, talented defenses like Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State come calling…not to mention trying to keep up in a track meet against a Penn State.  Michigan is officially on upset alert traveling to Purdue this upcoming weekend.

#5 Oklahoma Sooners, 3-0 (0-0 Big 12)

Rank = 1st, SOR = 5th, Power Ranking 2.5771

Def. UTEP, @Ohio State, Tulane

Image result for Oklahoma Sooners logo blank backgroundThe Sooners are leaning heavily on its road victory over Ohio State for its strength of record and that one game still wasn’t enough to push Oklahoma into what would be our current College Football playoff based on power ranking.  The Braintrust ranked the Sooners as the #1 team in the country, but without another quality victory, OU is waltzing along behind four others despite having the best win in the country by our metrics.  Oklahoma plays against the team currently ranked last in the nation (Baylor) this upcoming weekend and then Iowa State before its annual rivalry game against Texas and the bear of the schedule where Oklahoma can work its SOR into the playoff top 4.

#4 Georgia Bulldogs, 3-0 (0-0 SEX-iest)

Rank = 7th, SOR = 3rd, Power Ranking 2.6137

Def. Appalachian State, @ Notre Dame, Samford

Image result for Georgia Bulldogs logo blank backgroundThe Georgia Bulldogs are another surprise from the power rankings as Georgia climbed into the playoff and garnered the #4 ranking after four weeks.  Interestingly, before the zero point victory at home over FCS Samford, the Bulldogs had the #1 Strength of Record after a win over Appalachian State (ranked 47th in the nation) and Notre Dame on the road; furthermore, Georgia was the #1 team after two weeks in the Power Rankings.  Now, after teams earned some more solid victories, the lower ranking of Georgia took its toll a little more and dropped the Bulldogs to fourth; nonetheless, the model built by the Braintrust still ranks Georgia far higher than most experts at this juncture.  Georgia has an opportunity to improve this weekend against Mississippi State in the third best game of the weekend according to RT16 game score.

#3 Alabama Crimson Tide, 3-0 (0-0, SEX-iest)

Rank = 2nd, SOR = 4th, Power Ranking 2.6366

Def. Florida State (N), Fresno State, Colorado State

Image result for Alabama Crimson Tide logo blank backgroundFollowing a nice victory over Florida State on a neutral field week 1, Alabama has played a couple of easier contests against Fresno and Colorado states.  Jalen Hurts struggling to throw the ball has continued into this season and could ultimately lead to Alabama’s fall from the top of the college football ivory tower this season, but after watching an unranked Mississippi State team demolish Louisiana State and Florida/Tennessee have a limping contest in Gainesville it looks like Alabama is far and away once again the class of the SEX-iest conference in America.  The Tide open conference play with a road trip to Nashville to do battle with a Vanderbilt team which has looked very impressive in 2017 (22nd in the Power Ranking this week) and will give Bama its weekly dose of “best shot”-edness.

#2 Southern California Trojans, 3-0 (1-0 Pac-12)

Rank = 5th, SOR = 2nd, Power Ranking 2.9924

Def. Western Michigan, Stanford, Texas

Image result for Southern Cal Trojans logo blank backgroundUSC has played three quality opponents this season.  Even though all three have been at home, the Trojans easily piled up the second best strength of record with victories over Western Michigan (ranked 40th), Stanford (ranked 39th), and Texas (ranked 48th) in Los Angeles.  USC, which outdrew both Los Angeles NFL teams combined at its home victory against Texas in a thrilling 2OT contest, plays one of the harder first two games in the Pacific 12 with road games against California and Washington State in the next two weekends (the Washington State game is a famous Friday Pacific 12 contest) and will immediately show its playoff snuff.

#1 Clemson Tigers, 3-0 (1-0 ACC)

Rank = 3rd, SOR = 1st, Power Ranking 3.3847

Def. Kent State, Auburn, @Louisville

Image result for Clemson logo blank backgroundIn a year where the Top 25 seems to be muddled following the Top 10, Clemson has benefited from Louisville and Auburn maintaining the respect of the Braintrust.  Clemson limped through its home contest against Auburn 14-7 and left us assuming there was no chance to keep up in a track meet with Lamar Jackson, but Clemson rallied to 47 points and a blowout victory in Papa Johns’ Cardinal Stadium to the second strongest win of the season according to our metrics.  Clemson’s early season dominance of the power ranking (separated by nearly  .4 points which is the largest gap between two teams this week) is aided by playing a high-powered conference road game in Week 3 (oh, and winning that game in impressive fashion), but expect Clemson to stay near the top so long as they keep winning with top-20 games against Virginia Tech (ranked 9th) and Florida State (ranked 17th) remaining on the schedule for Clemson.

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Picks Against the Spread: Week 3, 2017

*** Rankings are based on AP Poll, Not RT16

Game Spread Pick Info
***#1 Alabama vs Colorado State Buhmuh -28.5 CSU There isn’t much to go on with Colorado State’s trend this season.  After walloping Oregon State including 57 points, the Rams limped through a 17-3 loss to rival Colorado.  Alabama, on the other hand, has shown impressive defensive prowess and will likely hold the Rams to single digits; however, the Tide offense takes a week off in an easy win where the Rams meagerly back door cover against the Tide: Alabama 34 – Colorado 7
#2 Oklahoma vs Tulane OSU -35 OU One week following a seemingly important but not really all that important win over Ohio State, Oklahoma gets America Conference basement dweller Tulane for Baker Mayfield to annihilate before Big 12 play begins: Oklahoma 55 – Tulane 14
#3 Clemson @ #14 Louisville Clem -3 UL A team which flew into this season under the radar despite returning last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Louisville looks for a second straight moment in the limelight in the opening of ACC play.  Clemson managed only 14 points in the win over Auburn last week and DeShaun Watson isn’t around to match Lamar Jackson pound-for-pound this season.  The Cardinals overwhelm Clemson: Louisville 34 – Clemson 20
#4 Southern California vs Texas USC -15 USC Texas gave up 51 points to Maryland and USC just dominated a spread against a far superior Stanford defense last weekend.  College Vince Young quakes, but USC dominates this time in Los Angeles: Southern Cal 49 – Texas 27
#5 Penn State vs Georgia State PSU -37 PSU Penn State is already 1-0 against the big number this week (they tied a 19 point spread against Pitt last weekend) and Georgia State doesn’t put the fear of God into anyone: Penn State 56 – Georgia State 10
#6 Washington vs Fresno State Wash -33 FSU Washington already faltered against the spread versus Rutgers earlier this season and the Huskies are likely to be ultra-cautious after Jake Browning was ax-murdered versus the same Scarlet Knights in Week 1: Washington 40 – Fresno State 10
#7 Michigan vs Air Force Mich -23 AF Everyone knows I love triple-option teams against the spread.  Michigan might be looking to make a statement after a flop against Cincy last weekend leaves the offense in question, but Air Force maintains control of the clock and doesn’t turn it over (although, sometimes having the ball in Wilton Speight’s hands is good for the opponent): Michigan 34 – Air Force 20
 #8 Ohio State vs Army OSU -30.5 Bucks Ohio State limps into a contest against an underrated Army team after being manhandled by Oklahoma in the Horseshoe just one week ago.  Like Michigan, Ohio State will be looking to send a message and this one comes through loud and clear in the form of domination on both sides of the ball: Ohio State 52 – Army 7
#9 Oklahoma State @ Pittsburgh Okie St. -11.5 Okie State The Cowboys, already 2-0 against the spread, romp into Pittsburgh as host Pittsburgh attempts to recover from a humdrum spread tie to Penn State.  Mason Rudolph and his weapons are not going to be stopped by Pitt, similar to Penn State’s offense last weekend: Oklahoma State 40 – Pittsburgh 24
#10 Wisconsin @ Brigham Young Wis – 16 BYU Wisconsin has a reputation with the Braintrust of never blowing teams out of the water.  Despite the 49 points destruction of Utah State in Week 1, the Badgers week 2 home spread loss to Florida Atlantic speaks louder to us; therefore, Brigham Young is able to make a tough 16 point cover at home in altitude: Wisconsin 28 – BYU 17

College Gameday Drinking Game: Week 3, 2017

CGDG Week 3 2017

To Start:
Take a drink for each person not wearing a black suit coat.
My Friend Game: One person is designated “My friend”.  Each time “NOT SO FAST” is said, everyone starts drinking.  The last person to finish his/her drink becomes Lee Corso’s friend.  The friend must drink each time Lee Corso says “my friend” or names a seemingly irrelevant stat/moment.
Analyst Game: Pick an analyst (Kirk, Lee, or Desmond).  Each time your analyst is shown alone on camera or previews a game take a drink….if you’re analyst leaves the table, the person who takes his place at the table is now your analyst (for better or for worse)
Signs and Flags
Take a drink for any sign referring to Lamar Jackson
Take a drink for any sign referring to Dabo Swinney
Take a drink for any sign referring to the college football playoff
Take a drink for any sign referring to DeShaun Watson
Take a drink for Washington State flag in the background
The Bear Cheers: Each time the Bear is shown, cheers to “The Bear!” and take a drink.
The College Football Playoff Cheers: Each time the college football playoff is mentioned, cheers “To The System” and take a drink.
During the Show:
Make sure to continue following the “My Friend” and “Analyst” games
Take a drink when Jim Harbaugh, Josh Rosen, or Frank Solich is shown
Take a drink each time last season’s Clemson  Louisville game is mentioned
Take a drink each time Clemson’s National Title is mentioned
 Take a drink each time the Heisman Trophy is mentioned
Take a drink every time a stadium is shown
Take a drink each time Hurricane Irma is mentioned
Take a drink each time Oklahoma’s victory over Ohio State is mentioned
Take a drink any time an analyst gives his ranking for anything (i.e. “I think right now Baker Mayfield is the favorite for the Heisman, but Lamar Jackson is right there”).
If the guest picker is Maggie Lawson or Never Nervous Pervis FINISH YOUR BEER
Perform the Saturday Selections.  Each time you agree with your analyst, take a drink.  Each time you disagree, drink for five seconds.  If you fail to make a pick for a game, drink for ten seconds.  (The Guest Picker may be chosen if wanted).
During the Clemson – Lousville Pick, FINISH A BEER if Lee mentions a pick from last season.  If Lee Corso mentions Lamar Jackson during his pick FINISH A BEER. If Lee Corso dons the Louisville Cardinal mascot’s head, FINISH A BEER

College Gameday Drinking Game: Week 1, 2017

Week 1.jpg

To Start:
Take a drink for each person not wearing a black suit coat.
My Friend Game: One person is designated “My friend”.  Each time “NOT SO FAST” is said, everyone starts drinking.  The last person to finish his/her drink becomes Lee Corso’s friend.  The friend must drink each time Lee Corso says “my friend” or names a seemingly irrelevant stat/moment.
Analyst Game: Pick an analyst (Kirk, Lee, or Desmond).  Each time your analyst is shown alone on camera or previews a game take a drink….if you’re analyst leaves the table, the person who takes his place at the table is now your analyst (for better or for worse)
Signs and Flags
Take a drink for any sign referring to Nick Saban
Take a drink for any sign referring to Jameis Winston
Take a drink for any sign referring to the college football playoff
Take a drink for any sign referring to Clemson
Take a drink for Washington State flag in the background
The Samantha Ponder Cheers: When Samantha Ponder is shown, cheers to “Mediocre NFL careers!” and take a drink
The Bear Cheers: Each time the Bear is shown, cheers to “The Bear!” and take a drink.
The College Football Playoff Cheers: Each time the college football playoff is mentioned, cheers “To The System” and take a drink.
During the Show:
Make sure to continue following the “My Friend” and “Analyst” games
Take a drink when Dabo Swinny, Trace McSorely, or Will Muschamp is shown
Take a drink each time “Last Season” is said
Take a drink each time Clemson’s National Title is mentioned
 Take a drink each time a preseason injury is mentioned
Take a drink every time a stadium is shown
Take a drink each time Alabama-Florida State is mentioned as being either the best game of the season or the best opening weekend game in history
Take a drink each time a game which was already played is mentioned
Take a drink each time “As the season goes along” is said
If the guest picker is a current or former ESPN personality, FINISH YOUR BEER
Perform the Saturday Selections.  Each time you agree with your analyst, take a drink.  Each time you disagree, drink for five seconds.  If you fail to make a pick for a game, drink for ten seconds.  (The Guest Picker may be chosen if wanted).
During the Alabama – Florida State pick, if Lee Corso dons the Big Al head FINISH YOUR BEER.  If Kirk Herbstreit plays with the trunk FINISH ANOTHER BEER.  If Lee does a tomahawk chop FINISH YOUR BEER.  If the Seminole war whoop plays FINISH ANOTHER BEER

Picks Against the Spread: Week 1, 2017

Welcome back to College Football, ladies and gentlemen!  With a brand new season, we need a montonous and familiar format for our picks against the spread.  As is tradition, here are our Week 1 Picks with rankings based on the AP preseason poll:

Game Spread Pick Info
#1 Alabama vs #3 Florida State Buhmuh -7 Florida State Alabama owned the spread last season en route to a shocking loss in the National Championship to DeShaun Watson and Clemson.  Enter this season’s ACC favorite in a neutral site game…the first ever played in scintillating Mercedes-Benz in Atlanta.  Deondre Francois gives Florida State a quarterback advantage over a weakness exposed in Alabama during the end of last season with Jalen Hurts inability to consistently provide danger in the passing game.  This is enough to keep the game close and Francois makes a final drive to win the game for Florida State: Florida State 28 – Alabama 27
#2 Ohio State @ Indiana OSU -20.5 Indiana Sure, Kevin Wilson’s early season return to Bloomington is a story, but honestly its how his offense looks on the field which will draw intrigue after Ohio State’s unfathomable collapse from early season juggernaut to season-ending goose egg.  JT Barrett and company have all the returning tools to blow Indiana out of the water, but a Week 1 road game against a program known for giving fits hardly seems promising against the number: Ohio State 37 – Indiana 20
Western Michigan @ #4 Southern California USC -28 USC With the expectation meter turned up for the first time since Pete Carroll, Southern Cal and Heisman favorite Sam Darnold welcome last season’s cinderella Group of Five champ.  There’s no more rowing the boat and Western Michigan does not have the talent to test Southern Cal with the lengthy travel across the country: USC 48 – Western Michigan 17
Kent State @ #5 Clemson Clem -38.5 Clemson Clemson, last season’s national champions, were just okay against the spread en route to the title and lost their emotional and actual leader in DeShaun Watson; therefore, it’s safe to say Clemson will be looking to make an early season statement against a cupcake Kent State: Clemson 58 – Kent state 10
Akron @ #6 Penn State PSU -32 PSU A disappointing end to a very nice season for Penn State in 2017 with being left out of the College Football Playoff before watching a great comeback erode into a loss in the Rose Bowl against Southern Cal.  Akron comes in as another MAC cupcake looking for its payday as the warm-up for one of the nation’s more explosive offensive teams: Penn State 56 – Akron 20
UTEP @ #7 Oklahoma OU – 44.5 UTEP A number which is quite large for Oklahoma in its first game without the stability of head coach Bob Stoops.  Baker Mayfield was overall ineffective when he wasn’t throwing to Dede Westbrook or Joe Mixon last season (both of whom are gone to the NFL).  Oklahoma is not in danger of a Week 1 upset (unlike others), but won’t surpass the number: Oklahoma 45 – UTEP 10
#8 Washington @ Rutgers Wash -30.5 Rutgers Traveling east from Seattle to play on a Friday night will be no joke for the Huskies despite the game being against a known punchline in the Big Ten, Rutgers.  The Scarlet Knights lost to Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State,, and Penn State by a combined score of 224-0 last season or an average of 56-0; however, in a week 1 contest against eventual CFP participant Washington, the Knights managed to stay within 35 in Seattle.  Rutgers manages to hold the spread against a strong Washington team: Washington 39 – Rutgers 10
 Utah State @ #9 Wisconsin Wisc -28 Wisc Wisconsin is a trendy pick for the Big Ten Championship Game and CFP appearance with the East looking cloudy thanks to the hefty amount of talent on the other side of the conference, but there is no denying Wisconsin has the capability to go along with the schedule to succeed this season: Wisconsin 45 – Utah State 13
Tulsa @ #10 Oklahoma State Okla St. -17 Okie State Oklahoma State returns one of the more exciting teams in the country and there is no reason to expect a letdown against a team which was good in a mediocre conference last season: Oklahoma State 55 – Tulsa 20
#11 Michigan vs #17 Florida Mich -4 UF Michigan is replacing 10 starters on defense and a host of talent on an offense which struggled down the stretch against some healthier competition last season.  Florida is, as always, the early season favorite to win a perennial disturbing SEX-iest East.  The neutral field competition, in the truest of SEX-iest fashions, should provide as much entertainment as any game on opening weekend: Florida 30 – Michigan 27

2017 NCAA Tournament Picks: East Region

This year’s tournament is likely to be characterized by two things: early upsets by high seeds and dominant runs by major programs.  The teams seeded 1-3 seem unstoppable this season without much strength on the 4, 5, and 6 lines; however, the mid majors stashed at the 11 and 12 seeds are talented and tough with little pressure and a lot of glory to play for.  Keep your eyes and ears open for teams such as Middle Tennessee, Road Island, and UNC Wilmington making runs toward the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

With Villanova shedding its curse and winning the National Title a season ago, the Braintrust has prepped itself for similar type runs from teams with similar historical failure; therefore, keep your attention on Kansas, Gonzaga, and Virginia who seem to lose at the oddest and most inopportune times throughout the seasons.  Villanova also makes its home in the East region, so we might as well get started on all the information you need to know.

What the Selection Committee Got Wrong

It’s also possible to split hairs and criticize the work of the NCAA Tournament Committee and people will occasionally tell you its unnecessary and the cost of time isn’t worth the satisfaction of people agreeing with you in comment sections, BUT those people are entirely wrong.

First, you’ll notice Wisconsin is in the East Region as a #8 seed.  The Badgers finished the season at 25-9 including a run to the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan.  Wisconsin finished #2 over the course of the season in the Big Ten; however, the Badgers are the fifth highest seed from the conference in the tournament where Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland, and Michigan all were seeded higher.  Northwestern also attained the standing of 8 seed while Michigan State was given a #9 seed for its 19-14 season.  Wisconsin is incredibly under-seeded (should’ve hovered between the 5-6 line where Minnesota ended up) and this might be Villanova’s loss as the Badgers look like the likely opponent for the Wildcats in the second round.  Wisconsin is physical and talented and a terrible match-up for the fast-paced and guard-heavy #1 seed.

Also, Duke being on the #2 line compared to North Carolina OR Gonzaga makes little sense; after all, the Blue Devils beat North Carolina twice (and won the ACC Tournament) while racking up the most Top 50 wins in the country and finishing only a single loss behind North Carolina on the season.  Gonzaga defeated a hobbled Arizona team and St. Mary’s twice.  We’ve seen it play out with the Zags and Wichita State at the one line and it is never worthwhile for either the mid majors OR the tournament with those teams losing in the second round to 8 seeds both seasons.

Finally, I would have liked to see UNC Wilmington put in the same half of the bracket as Duke.  UNC-W did not deserve a seed low enough to play Duke in the first round, but having a possible Sweet Sixteen game between the two would have made a great storyline, but even we admit this is nitpicky since the Seahawks are not likely to advance to the second weekend even at an 11 seed.

What the Selection Committee Got Right

Putting USC in the field was the proper call over a 14 loss Syracuse team which lost all but two game played outside of the Carrier Dome.  The Orange were almost given the ACC-benefit-of-the-doubt which they received last season and ran to the Final Four, but history doesn’t mandate repetition and Syracuse’s resume simply was not good enough to demand entry.

Also, Florida getting a #4 is also proper.  The Gators slumped at season’s end and many knocked them to the 5 or even the 6 line, but the teams below them are simply not worthy of being lifted to the 4 line over Florida.  The Gators have immense talent and should be a Sweet Sixteen team over flailing Virginia OR UNC-Wilington in the second round.

The Favorite -#2 Duke Blue Devils

Duke’s incredible run through the ACC Tournament is nothing to sneeze at and the Dukies are looking like a potential National Champion at the proper time.  As stated above, the Blue Devils could have been a a #1 seed (in my Barack-o-tology or whatever, Duke was the #3 overall team in the field behind Villanova and Kansas).  Luke Kennard, Greyson Allen, and Jayson Tatumn are not only the nation’s best trio of players on any given team (with apologies to UCLA), but all can create for teammates as Tatum has become an very capable and willing passer over the past few weeks.  If Harry Giles, Amile Jefferson, Frank Jackson, and Matt Jones produce as the capable role players they are alongside the trio of wing players then Duke is formidable as the nation’s preseason #1 team.

The Dark Horse – #6 Southern Methodist Mustangs

SMU is fresh off an American Conference Championship which apparently means just as little as their 29-4 record to the tournament committee.  The Stangs were placed below such upstarts as Virginia, Purdue, Butler, Baylor, and Florida who won a combined 1 game in their respective conference tournaments.  SMU has six players who play large minutes and any injuries or foul trouble will severely hamper advancement, but those talented players match SMU against any of the teams in the region outside of Duke.

Game Most Likely To Bust Your Bracket – #8 Wisconsin vs #1 Villanova, Round 2

The Badgers finished second in the Big Ten this season and, despite the conference being down, this means they are capable of winning games in tough environments with high-intensity and NCAA Tournament feel.  The Badgers might have fallen to Michigan in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, but Wisconsin finished the regular season on a high note and showed its suffocating defense and aptitude for winning over tournament team and #8 seed Northwestern in the semi-finals of the aforementioned tournament.  Villanova and those high on the Wildcats to repeat in 2017 must be weary of the Badgers.

Double Digit Seed Capable of Making the SWEET SIXTEEN – #12 UNC Wilmington

The Seahawks played Duke very tough last season despite the referees continuously calling phantom fouls on UNC-W, which is normally not a surprise for superstar programs, but the 33 fouls on the Seahawks trumped all other mockeries of officiating for teams against the Blue Devils in 2016.  Playing a physical and methodical Virginia team might be a tough match-up for UNC-W, but it should lead to less foul calls on the Hawks which should give more opportunities for its high-scoring and aggressive team to trump the patience of UVA.  Florida is a great team for UNC-W to play in Round 2 as the Gators will keep the game fast-paced and the opportunistic and turn-over hungry defense to make plays.

Second Round Games:

#1 Villanova OVER #8 Wisconsin

The under-seeded Badgers bounce Va-Tech on the backs of clutch Bronson Koenig, trusty Nigel Hayes, and talented Ethan Happ while Villanova easily downs the #16 seed.  Wisconsin is a horrible team for Villanova to have to play in round 2, but the Wildcats will make enough threes to keep the Badgers defense from suffocating them out of the gym and Villanova advances to the Elite Eight.

#4 Florida OVER #12 UNC Wilimington

The Seahawks nearly toppled Duke last season as a 13 seed AND follow up with more success against the ACC this season by downing Tony Bennett and Virginia in the first round as the Hoo’s simply cannot remember how to score late in the season.  Florida out runs East Tennessee State a with a potpourri of solid wing players and three-pointers.  This leads to a high-scoring and high-octane track meet where Florida simply has too much talent and earns another weekend in the tournament to play #1 seeded Villanova keeping the top half’s Sweet Sixteen game as a chalk in the East.

#6 Southern Methodist OVER #3 Baylor

A great game played in Tulsa which the Braintrust nailed (but as a 4-5 game in our Barack-O-tology) holds to chalk in the bottom of the region.  Baylor’s inside game is strong, but the Bears can never seem to put everything together in March and Scott Drew one again fails to see the second weekend in a minor upset.

#2 Duke OVER #7 South Carolina

A Marquette team which snaked into the tournament is kept away from the Second Round by a talented and under-hyped Gamecocks team which will give Duke all it can handle in round 2 until the Blue Devils get hot midway through the second half and South Carolina simply cannot keep pace with the high-scoring Dukies.

Sweet Sixteen Games:

#1 Villanova OVER #4 Florida

Too much scoring and experience on Villanova as the Wildcats are able to secure another Elite Eight bid.  Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart outplay Florida’s wingers and score over 40 combined in order to out-pace a Florida team capable of getting into the high-80’s.

#2 Duke OVER #6 Southern Methodist

The Mustangs benefit from the time off after the two weekend games, but its six studs are simply not as good as those in blue.  The Devils sink SMU thanks to talent able to score points on the vaunted Mustang defense.  A storyline for this game is American Conference POY and SMU forward Semi Ojeleye attended and transferred from Duke after the school simply did not feel like home for him.  The Mustangs have certainly welcomed his 20 points per and talent, but Ojeleye and company cannot stack up with Kennard, Allen, Tatum, Giles, and Jackson.

ELITE EIGHT Game:

#2 Duke OVER #1 Villanova

The Blue Devils are able to defend Villanova on the perimeter in a game promising to be a showcase as both these teams are extremely capable of hoisting a banner to the rafters as National Champions.  The over/under should be hovering around 170 as both these teams shoot and run efficiently, but Duke’s length and athleticism should be problematic inside the paint for a Villanova program consistently lacking in the frontcourt department.  Kennard is the most consistent shooter in the nation and Greyson Allen has become a threat as a bench-scorer for Duke who has embraced a revamped lineup and rotation late in the season en route to the ACC Tournament title.  This game just may end as the best in the tournament.

The Bracket:

2017 East

 

 

2017 Big East Tournament Preview

With respect to the current Big East, I still pour out just a bit of red wine each time I have to type “Big East” these days.  The destruction of America’s scientifically-proven “Best Conference Of All Time + South Florida/DePaul” at the hands of money crushed my heart, but luckily the non-BCS football, religiously-affiliated schools of today’s Big East have done a fine job filling the void left by the its past predecessor.  The Big East faced less surprise than the rest of the Power Conferences; however, Butler’s continued success and Xavier’s fall highlight the season where Marquette returned to the national picture and no one is sure what to make of Creighton/Providence.

Player of the Year – Angel Delgado, Seton Hall

Kris Dunn’s monopoly on Big East P.O.Y. (not to mention being the conference’s best overall player) had to come to an end because…you know…graduation.  This year, I believed Xavier’s Edmond Sumner would take over both titles entering a sophomore season with so much promise; however, the Seton Hall center from the Dominican Republic quickly stole the show in Big East play and helped the pirates to NCAA relevance and the fifth seed in the Big East tournament.

Coach of the Year – Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette

The famous hire of Wojo by Marquette bolstered to both Coach K’s unparalleled coaching tree and the hopes of Golden Eagle fans across the country after the mysterious betrayal of Buzz Williams.  Marquette quietly sustained success under Tom Crean and Williams in the 2000’s and early 2010’s,  but Wojo needed an additional year to recover from Buzz’s bolting to Virginia Tech before Marquette was back in the NCAA Tournament.  The Eagles have surprised and beaten the big boys of the Big East to earn the #4 seed in the conference tournament and look like locks to earn an NCAA bid (especially if it beats Seton Hall in round 1 of the Big East tournament).

The Favorite – #1 Villanova, 28-3 (15-3)

As long as the Wildcats don’t play Butler, its odds of winning the Big East tournament skyrocket.  Nova is 0-2 against Butler in 2017 with its only other loss coming in Marquette in what felt like a classic upset scenario.  Villanova has dominated Big East play since reorganization of the conference (winning all three regular season titles), but the Wildcats only won the conference tournament in 2015 sandwiched between Providence and Seton Hall upsets titles.  Villanova returned many of its players from last year’s National Title winner and its has shown in the Wildcats storming to 28-3.  Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Jalen Brunson are unarguably the conference’s best backcourt and Nova will ride its high-scoring guards the rest of the way.

The Dark Horse – #7 Xavier 19-12 (9-9)

There’s a reason the Musketeers were considered a top-15 team for the early part of the season; they’re superbly talented with scorers and shooters aplenty.  The loss of Edmond Sumner for the season hurts (even more than losing six in a row late in the season) and Xavier showed it cannot play without Sumner throughout this season, but if the shooters get hot and the inside play of Gaston and Goodin continues then the Muskies can compete on a large-scale in the Big East.  Whether you attribute he rise of Marquette, Seton Hall, and Providence in conference play this season to overall weakness or overall depth in the Big East; both of those start with the play of Xavier and Butler who are the flagships outside of Villanova in this conference.  Butler proved the “depth” portion of the equation with two wins against Villanova but stunning losses to lesser quality opponents.  Xavier’s play would lead you to believe the conference is weaker than outside perception dictates, but if the Musketeers can find itself for the stretch run through the Big East tournament, the rest of the country can keep its faith that the Big East’s teams are scary in March.

Team With the Best Chance to Run Deep in March – Villanova

It’s less question and more assumption here for the Big East.  Last season I put my faith in Xavier and got burned by Wisconsin in the second round.  Villanova will be a one seed in the NCAA Tournament this season and its no secret this is a gigantic advantage for seeing the second weekend of the tournament.

Team Which Will Take an Early Exit from the Big Dance – Any Not Named Villanova/Butler

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American Conference Tournament Preview

If there is one thing we know about the American Conference Tournament, it’s that Connecticut will beat Cincinnati at some point.  This is only the fourth edition of the American Conference Tournament, but it is still uncanny that each of the first three the Huskies have eliminated the Bearcats; furthermore, each season Cincinnati has been ranked higher than UConn in the tournament AND each game has come before the championship.  Last year’s classic set a new bar for the ferocity and unfathomable nature of this postseason rivalry…but Bearcats beware.  The out-manned and twice-beaten Huskies lurk in the bottom half of bracket where #2 seeded Cincinnati should slide through to the semifinals without much issue.

Player of the Year – Rob Gray Jr., Houston

Gray and Houston surprised by finishing third in a conference expected to be dominated by three teams (SMU, Cincy, and UConn).  Instead, the Cougars stormed out of the gate and soon became one of the top contenders in the American. The biggest problem for the Cougars was an inability to compete with Cincinnati and Southern Methodist (0-4 against the conference’s two big dogs), but Gray was phenomenal throughout the season and his ability to affect the game in many ways (above all, scoring) place him at the top of the heap in the three-way race between Gray, Memphis big man Dedric Lawson, and UConn guard Jalen Adams.

Coach of the Year – Tim Jankovich, Southern Methodist

Inheriting a talented team from Larry Brown, Jankovich managed to outshine his predecessor and lead SMU to its second American Conference regular season title.  The Mustangs were far from the preseason favorites, but lurked behind UConn and Cincy for just long enough to secure its position as the dark horse candidate out of the American.  While some may not laud Jankovich for “winning with another coach’s players”, the ability to keep the team organized and focused after the departure of a coach of Brown’s stature shows Timmy will maintain a solid program for years to come in Dallas, Texas.

The Favorite – #2 Cincinnati, 27-4 (16-2)

Southern Methodist won the regular season title, but the Bearcats (once again) are the league’s favorites to win the conference tournament.  For the second straight year, I pronounced it necessary for Mick Cronin to push to either a regular season or American Conference Championship to remain in good faith in the Queen City. The success of 2016-2017 cannot be overlooked; however, the Bearcats are the conference’s best team from top to bottom with size, athleticism, and effective role players off the bench.  The biggest question mark is scoring; moreover, the Bearcats have still failed to lure a pure-shooter onto campus since…hard to say…Kenny Satterfield?  Either way, Cincy can use its mind-numbing defensive intensity to win the American, but will need more to run deeper into the NCAA Tournament.

BRACKET FORM:

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South Eastern Conference Tournament Preview

The SEX-iest Conference in America isn’t the behemoth on the basketball court its known to be on the football field, but two of the conference’s teams are Final Four capable and three other teams appear poised for NCAA Tournament appearances (which Vanderbilt, why?  Why so much mediocrity accepted from Power Confernece teams in the tournament?).  The SEX-iest Conference in America often turns into only a few horses and this season is no different.

Player of the Year – Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina

The standout South Carolina guard deserves the bulk of the credit for lifting Cocky to the level it reached nationally this season.  South Carolina managed a 6-5 record against the RPI top 50, and its worst loss came came on the road against a very okay Memphis team.  Thornwell tied Kentucky’s Malik Monk for the conference lead in points per game and added seven boards and three assists each effort out.  Thornwell is the type of senior leader each coach wishes to have on his team and Frank Martin would indubitably admit having Thornwell is an honest blessing.

Coach of the Year – Mike Anderson, Arkansas

You’ve likely noticed over the week (if not the years) we enjoy rewarding coaches and players who exceed expectation rather than meet them.  A player like Thornwell who lifts his team and reaches both personal and team improvement deserves to be reward; similarly, Mike Anderson taking his Hoges and rolling to a 12-6 SEC record, a third-place finish, and a no-doubt NCAA tournament bid deserves to be recognized.  Ar-Kansas has had strong and talented players (more talented than this year’s unit) including current NBA and former Braintrust SEC POY Bobby Portis, but Anderson is having his best season as a coach and getting the most out of his Hoges this season compared to his best finish (2014-2015).

The Favorite – #1 Kentucky 26-5 (16-2)

The Wildcats are another easy filler for the favorite roll in its Power Conference Tournament thanks to the immediate impact (once again) of its (one again) marvelous freshman class.  Unlike the powerhouses of the past, this year’s Kentucky team has its flaws, but watching this less-talented and more team-oriented Kentucky is as entertaining as those great teams of the past.  De’Aaron Fox and Ivan Briscoe are a phenomenal backcourt which dominates through all phases of the game; added to and pure-scorer Malik Monk gives Kentucky one of the more enviable three-guard units in the nation.  Bam Adebayo gives the Wildcats a physical inside presence reminiscent of Julius Randle and the rest of the team isn’t even close to chopped liver.  I’ve just ran out of compliments.  It’s no surprise this was a preseason top-3 team in many circuits and its dominance of the SEC (again) proves it’ll be the team to beat (again).

The Dark Horse – #8 Georgia, 18-13 (9-9)

The Bulldogs were a crowd favorite to acquire an NCAA bid when the season opened, but have gone somewhat quiet of late which is odd considering the substantial ability cornered by the Georgia basketball team.  The success of the Dawgs will rely heavily on all-SEC point guard (hopefully) J.J. Frazier who has sneakily has that Kemba Walker feel to him.  The hardest part of Georgia making an SEC tournament run is playing Kentucky in round 2 (nevermind upset-minded Tennessee in round 1); however, the Dawgs competed with the Wildcats both in Rupp Arena and at home in Athens this season.

Team With the Best Chance to Run Deep in March – Florida

For a plethora of reasons, but one less tangible reason is the committee seems to love drawing up interesting early round games for Kentucky.  Last season the Wildcats had Big Ten regular season champion (in a much better Big Ten) Indiana as the FIVE SEED in its region.  It’s not out of the question that Kentucky garners a two or three and sees an uber-tasty matchup in the second round simply because the committee enjoys the drama of blue blood teams playing each other.  This aside, Florida is a fast-paced, high-scoring, and well-coached ball club (much like Kentucky) who has shown an aptitude for forcing turnovers.  This pesky and high-turnover-forcing style teams are always dangerous come dancing season.  The Gators, like most dangerous teams, can play inside and out AND have a star who is capable of taking the game over when the team needs it.

Team Which Will Take an Early Exit from the Big Dance – Vanderbilt

The Commodores seem a lock to make the tournament despite sporting a 17-14 regular season record and only a seventh place finish in the somewhat-soft SEC (soft as in “not as talented’…not like physically soft).  Vandy played an extremely tough schedule and is being rewarded for that.  We are keen on seeing more scheduling like Vanderbilt’s; however, performing well against such a schedule would be even more ideal (Vandy is only 10-13 against the RPI top 100).

Picks in BRACKET FORM

SEC

2017 Pacific 12 Tournament Preview

The Pacific 12, Bill Walton’s heralded “Conference of Champions”, felt a new breath of air quench the hearts and souls of fans across the western United States after a couple of years of irrelevance.  Oregon, Arizona, and UCLA are all Final Four threats and each would be worthy of a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament should they romp through the Pac-12’s own tournament.  No conference features such a hydra and the dominance of the three programs against the rest of the conference (45-3) epitomizes the dominance.  Oregon claimed the 1-seed in the conference, but few picture the Ducks as the favorite as the conference tourney starts today.

Player of the Year – Lonzo Ball, UCLA

He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Mentioned on the blog contentiously claims Lonzo to be better than Steph Curry; while this claim is silly, Ball is a magnificent piece to add in the upcoming draft and the young star must be brimming knowing the horrific Brooklyn Nets lottery selection rests in the hands of Boston.  Professional prospects aside, Lonzo has dominated the college game with aptitude and arrogance aplenty, but this is far from criticism as the point guard’s fire and demeanor are two of the more attractive aspects as a player.  Statistically, Ball is the best assist-er this season and he has shown an aptitude for making shots in key and clutch situations, especially from three-point range.  While Markelle Fultz is as talented and the favorite for the #1 overall selection come NBA Draft time; Washington’s terrible season keeps him out of the discussion and keeps the award in Ball’s hands.

Coach of the Year – Steve Alford, UCLA

While Oregon and Arizona saw equally impressive seasons, Alford managed to turn around UCLA’s fortunes from a mediocre 2016.  Recruiting Ball and fellow freshman were a massive help, but many key contributors are longer-tenured players such as seniors Bryce Alford, Issac Hamilton, and Thomas Welsh.  UCLA’s ability to stay the course and stick with Alford paid dividends this season and the turnaround from 15-17 to a potential Final Four team is more than simple recruiting victories.

The Favorite – #3 UCLA, 28-3 (15-3)

The Bruins are dominating the headlines for our Pac-12 preview including taking the role of “favorite” into the tournament.  Oregon tops the chances according to ESPN’s heralded “Basketball Power Index”, but UCLA’s current 9-game winning streak epitomizes the Bruins’ unparalleled ability to break the scoreboard and drown out the opposition.  No team in the country (ACC, Big 12, or other) can match the Bruins’ firepower on the offensive side and UCLA has decided at times to play surprising and suffocating defense to keep the line in its favor.  UCLA is by no means a great or even good defensive team, but its length and athleticism allow it to force tough shots and keep opponents off-balance.  Any defensive effort erupts into fast-paced, secondary breaks and relentless scoring.

The Dark Horse – #4 Utah, 20-10 (11-7)

The Utes garnering the #4 seed in the Pac-12 surprised everyone involved in the Braintrust since not a single word has been mentioned about Utah all season.  Admittedly, our knowledge of Utah, its players, and how it won 11 games in the Pac-12 is a complete mystery as we never saw the Utes on television and the team repeatedly denied requests for game film and audited financial statements.  As far as a dark horse is concerned, no team fits the bill better than Utah because who knows anything about this team?  It’s best conference win was against USC in Salt Lake City and 0-4 against UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona.  The Utes supplied Oregon State with its only conference win of the season, for the love of a salmon filet.  Ask me once or ask me a thousand times what Utah’s chances are to win the entire tournament OR to lose its first game to (most likely) California and I’d answer the same: “Only God knows”.

Team with the Best Chance to Run Deep in March – UCLA

The Bruins couldn’t be both the favorite and the dark horse, but as proven by Kansas already in this publication they can be a favorite for both a conference tournament and a March Madness sprint.  The Bruins offensive firepower is reminiscent of Iowa State in 2014; however, the Bruins are more well-rounded and less predictable than those DeAndre Kane led Cyclones.  So long as UCLA avoids a blizzard-esque cold-spell and avoids too many turnovers, they’ll compete with any team in the country.  UCLA’s biggest problem will be on the defensive side, but only if they are lazy and apathetic.  Expect the Bruins to scintillate during the Big Dance.

Team Which Will Take an Early Big Dance Exit – Southern California

Barring a major upset, only four teams from the Pac-12 look primed to make the NCAA Tournament and three of them will be seeing the second weekend.  Only the Trojans will face possible elimination before the Sweet Sixteen (Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona are too immensely talented, well-coached, and hungry to fall victim to the classic #8/9 or #7/10 upset).  USC needs to play its way into a better seed (they look destined for a #10 or even the play-in game) and beating UCLA in the second round of the Pac-12 Tourney would go a long way to making this prediction null.

Predicted Outcome IN BRACKET FORM

Pac-12

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