It's finally here. This day is the Christmas of college basketball, the epicenter around which the season spins. Xavier isn't going to hear their name called, but there is no reason not to tune in and see what happens. After a season that started in aborted games on aircraft carries, we are finally here. Stay locked in to @BannersParkway on Twitter for our live Selection Show coverage.
Joel: Well, first things first: we're headed to the NIT. Are you still down on the whole thing, or are you going to get on board?
Brad: Still down on it, as are a lot of the big writers we follow on Twitter. It's a pointless exercise. Still, I'll watch Xavier's games, just none of the rest of it.
Joel: Just taking your pulse on that one. I see nothing has changed. We've got less than 30 hours until the Selection Show right now and probably 6 hours by the time it posts; what are you looking for? I'd like to see enough chalk drop that UK misses the tournament. We aren't in; might as well be spiteful.
Brad: I'm really curious to see how the committee handles Middle Tennessee State. They have two top 100 wins, but they played a tough non conference schedule and won 28. Still, no really good wins could hurt them. MTSU also exposes the stupidity of the auto bid coming from the conference tournament. The more I look at this, the more ignorant it seems that MTSU is getting a look. 21 sub 150 wins, that's atrocious.
Joel: I also don't like the auto bid coming from the tournament from a competitive standpoint, but it sure is entertaining. For all the people talking about how much better a tournament is than the BCS, it's still not the best way to find out who is the best team. It is, before anybody gets all emotional, still way better than the BCS. I do feel bad for the teams who win the conference and then lose the auto bid. If you change that, though, the conference tournament becomes pretty meaningless. I love games with bids on the line.
Brad: I do too, but it makes no sense. Again, Middle Tennessee went 19-1 in conference but lost in the tournament. Why bother being good in the regular season if it literally makes no difference? I'd love to see any lock teams left lose to bubble teams so UK stays out. Maryland, UMass, So. Miss, and so on.
Joel: Looks like we're about to lose Southern Miss. Obviously, excellence in the regular season isn't entirely meaningless. It helps to establish dominance, and you can get a bye and play some of the worse teams in the conference tournament. It also helps the resume in a good conference. Not going to make a difference in the MEAC or whatever. Mega March Madness solves that problem, kind of. Have I mentioned I love this time of year?
Brad: Right. It's an issue for the small conferences more than the large. Still, if you cancel the tournament and make sure everyone plays everyone, I think you are set. This is, of course, way more fun to watch. Make free throws. It's that simple. Southern Miss was pathetic from the line, so they had to sit and cry at the end of the game. I can't feel bad for them, it's a simple, repeatable skill. Learn it.
Joel: Execution is so big at this time of the year. There generally aren't huge gulfs in talent level between teams in the conference tournament; it's about working for good shots, making your defensive rotations, holding your blockouts, and yes, hitting free throws. That's what makes the tournament so fun to watch; seeing a veteran underdog team make a run because they're playing good, crisp basketball. On the other hand, it's also fun to see a Calipari team gag it away from the line because they thought they were too good to need practice.
Brad: Speaking of mornings [we were], isn't this the best one of the year? Even on Christmas I don't wake up this excited. Any particular storyline you are looking for in the bracket? Any matchup or something that you really want to see? What do you think the most over done story will be?
Joel: Far and away the thing I'm already most tired about is the "end" of the Big East. ESPN is obviously pushing that angle very hard because the Big East tournament was their baby and now FOX is going to have it. The on-court product is still going to be top notch, but someone else is going to be making money off of it, so they're going to crap on it as much as they can. Keep your ear to the ground for a series of stories about how the Conference USA, part II that is about to be put together is going to be the premier college sports conference in the land. Unless someone else swoops in and steals the rights, in which case they'll bury it, too.
Someone is going to go on a six-game win streak, which is (to me) one of the exciting things about filling out the bracket. We just have to figure out who. Duke has been really good with Ryan Kelly; they're about the only team that hasn't shown themselves to be meaningfully flawed. Indiana, sad to say, is soft. Louisville is streaky on offense, though I love their D. Gonzaga hasn't had consistent competition in this calendar year. Drop a little farther down the S-curve and Kansas has definitely shown they can win six in a row against tough teams. I'm excited to see more of New Mexico; they move the ball so well in the half court. As always, I'm pulling for OSU, Syracuse, and about a dozen other teams to lose as early as possible. I love this week.
Any players you think can make themselves some money in the next six games? I'm excited to see Michigan State's Adriean Payne, who not only has too many vowels in his name but, at 6'10", 240, has an inside-outside game that I don't think a lot of teams in the bracket have an answer for. I also like K-State's Rodney McGruder and that Betancourt kid from Akron. On the other side of that coin, I'm hoping Aaron Craft trips over his shoelaces during introductions then gets caught yelling bad words at a little kid. I hate to have to get a little kid's feelings hurt, but man, I can't stand that guy.
Brad: Like I said before, I think Florida can be scary. Their defense can be relentless when they are on. Of course, their shot selection on offense (Kenny Boynton) can be just alarmingly bad. I think Mark Lyons will turn some heads this year. he's away from Tun now and free to run the show as he sees fit. That will lead to some profligacy, but he's also almost a lock to make something amazing happen.
More than anything, I want idiot announcers to quit calling Gonzaga a Cinderella like they were a decade ago, quit calling Butler a mid-major, and quit acting like anyone has anything but contempt for Duke.