Thursday, January 31, 2008

NCAA Tournament Stock Report

Welcome back to another installment of March Madness All Season’s new feature, “NCAA Tournament Stock Watch”. Essentially, it is a compilation of teams that are rising and falling with an eye on the NCAA Tournament. It will discuss teams whose potential seed is rising or falling, as well as clubs that are making moves either in or out of the at-large picture or could make noise in the coming weeks.

Once we get closer to March, this will be replaced with “Road to Selection Sunday”, which will be released every Sunday night from mid-February until March 16.


The Blue Devils came into the season looking like the second-best team in the ACC – but a clear notch below North Carolina. Well, Duke now has the inside track towards a No. 1 seed if it can stay at the top of the ACC.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies continue to find a way to win games, no matter the circumstances. They are now 4-3 in the ACC, with wins in five of their last seven games. Could they continue to creep back towards the bubble?

Connecticut: Despite the indefinite suspensions of Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins, the Huskies have won four in a row to move into third place in the Big East. More wins could be ahead, as three of the next four are at home.

Notre Dame: Everyone was waiting to see if the Fighting Irish could win on the road – and they did it, beating Villanova by 10 on Saturday. With three of the next four at home, Notre Dame could solidify itself in the conference race.

Seton Hall: The Pirates could be a team to watch in the second half of the Big East season. They have won five in a row, and still have four sub-100 opponents left on their conference schedule. Double-digit BE wins are a definite possibility.

Oklahoma: As soon as Blake Griffin came back early from his injury, the Sooners took off again. They went into Waco and knocked off a very hot Baylor team, then came home and won the “Bedlam” rivalry game against Oklahoma State.

Kansas State: The Wildcats are quickly rising in terms of their seeding, and should continue to shoot up the charts with a relatively easy upcoming schedule. The huge win over Kansas was their sixth victory in a row, and 10th in 11 games.

Purdue: Looking at the top of the Big Ten standings, it is clear that one team doesn’t seem to belong. The Boilermakers are 7-1 in the conference and have won nine of their last ten. They have a manageable schedule the rest of the way, as well.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes have bounced back nicely from their three-game losing streak two weeks ago. They have now won three in a row, and have two of their next three at home before going on the road four times in five games.

Stanford: The Cardinal might be the most underappreciated top-15 or top-20 team in the country. They are tied for second in the Pac-10 at 5-2 and look like a legitimate conference contender. The next two are on the road, though.

Arizona: The Wildcats are a completely different team with Jerryd Bayless healthy. Since dropping three of four with him out, ‘Zona has won four of its last five. The No. 7 RPI and No. 1 SOS make this team even more attractive.

USC: The Trojans are another extremely hot Pac-10 team looking to make a move in the standings. USC started 0-3 in conference play, but have picked up four consecutive wins, including three straight victories on the road.

Mississippi State: Despite the blowout loss to Arkansas last night, the Bulldogs are still the leaders in the SEC West and have a chance to make-up for the defeat with a victory at home Saturday against Tennessee. MSU had won nine in a row.

Florida: Look who’s back in the top-25. The two-time defending champs improved to 5-1 in the SEC on Sunday with a 22-point pasting of Vanderbilt. The young Gators are just a two-point loss at Mississippi from being undefeated in the SEC.

Arkansas: Are the preseason SEC West favorites ready to make a run in the conference? With a dominating performance against Mississippi State last night, the Razorbacks are 4-2 in the SEC and have won six of their last eight. The next two are at home.

Xavier: Although some cooled on Xavier after its loss to Temple by 19, the Musketeers are back to their winning ways. They have won three in a row, including a 26-point win over Dayton and a 13-point victory at Massachusetts.

Saint Joseph’s: Although some of the other Atlantic-10 contenders are fading, St. Joe’s seems to be hitting its stride. It has won nine of its last ten and sits in a tie for first place with Xavier. The Hawks own a sweep of bubble team Massachusetts.

UNLV: The Mountain West seems to be there for the taking, and the Rebels seem to be a good a bet as anyone to win it. An impressive road win at San Diego State pushed them to 4-1 (now 5-1) in the MWC. They get home-court for the conference tourney, too.


Miami (Fl.):
The Hurricanes are looking more and more like last year’s Clemson team. A hot 12-0 start has spiraled into four losses in their last five games and a 2-4 record in the ACC. It doesn’t get easier: three of the next four are on the road.

Clemson: The Tigers are doing their best to avoid another late-season collapse. However, they have lost four of their last seven, with only one win coming in regulation. With four of the next six on the road, this team is struggling at the wrong time.

Florida State: What looked so promising after winning at Georgia Tech to open ACC play has quickly developed into a 2-5 conference record. The ‘Noles have five losses in their last six games, and have a date with UNC on Sunday.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers are like the anti-Seton Hall right now. They have lost two of their last four games, including a 13-point defeat at home to Rutgers. Furthermore, Pitt has arguably the toughest remaining Big East schedule. The win over ‘Nova helped.

Villanova: The Wildcats have lost three in a row since getting off to a relatively promising 3-2 Big East start. Moreover, one of those losses was at Rutgers and one was at home to Notre Dame. Three of the next five are on the road for ‘Nova.

Providence: The Friars have completely fallen apart since beating Connecticut on the road by double-digits. They lost by 13 at home to Seton Hall, and then lost to a Syracuse team with just six scholarship players. In a word: ugh.

West Virginia: After its heart-breaking loss to Georgetown on Saturday, most expected the Mountaineers come out and dominate Bob Huggins’ former team at home. However, they were the ones getting dominated, losing by 23 to Cincinnati. Next two are on the road.

DePaul: That hot start in the Big East has quickly deteriorated, as the Blue Demons went from 4-2 to 4-4 and now look more like the non-Big East Tournament team they were expected to be. None of their four Big East victims are above .500 in conference play.

Indiana: Were the Hoosiers exposed on Saturday in their home loss to Connecticut? They haven’t really beaten any teams of note this season, and three of their next four are on the road. This upcoming stretch will tell us a lot about Indy.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils were the talk of the nation just a week and a half ago. Since then, though, they have lost three in a row, including back-to-back home games. Three straight road games won’t help ASU’s woes, either.

California: Despite the Golden Bears’ recent struggles, one might think that playing three straight home games could cure what ailed them. Wrong. Cal lost all three contests, dropping them to 2-5 in the Pac-10. Five of next seven on the road.

Oregon: The Ducks seemed to be turning their season around with three straight wins, but they have plummeted back to the bottom half of the Pac-10 with four straight single-digit losses, two at home. They need to make up ground on the road.

Vanderbilt: Another blowout loss on the road – this time to Mississippi – drops Vandy to 2-4 in the SEC. The ‘Dores have lost four of their last five games, and two of the next three are on the road. They need to turn this around very quickly, or that hot start will mean nothing.

Dayton: Hopefully, the committee takes into account the injuries to Chris Wright and Charles Little when assessing the Flyers. They had lost three straight games before beating Saint Louis last night, including an inexplicable 17-point defeat at the hands of Richmond on Saturday.

Cleveland State: Remember all that talk of the Vikings being this year’s Wright State? After back-to-back road losses, CSU has dropped a half-game back of Butler and still has two more stops on its road trip before returning home.

Illinois State: Similarly, the Redbirds are proving not to be much of a threat to Drake after all. Since their hard-fought loss at the Bulldogs, ISU also lost at Bradley and Northern Iowa and barely knocked off Indiana State at home.

Saint Mary’s: In order for the Gaels to keep up their quest for a top-five or six seed, they couldn’t afford many losses the rest of the way. An eight-point loss at San Diego would be acceptable most years, but this season is not one of them.

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