A JERSEY GUY: If You Are A Great Team, Show Us What You've Got

Mark Blaudschun

It's almost March and the NCAA Men's Tournament Selection Committee is looking for a few good men--or teams--to be the prime-time players on Selection Sunday (The Ides of March (15).

Take a look at the 32 conference races, especially the Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12. Lots of quality, lots of tough road losses for the contenders.

But what don't you see?

"I don't see any GREAT teams,'' said Mike Tranghese, whose resume includes being Commissioner of the Big East and a former Chairman of the NCAA men's tournament selection committee. ""I see a lot of very good teams. This is a season in which I could easily see a No. 5 or 6 seed make the Final Four.'

Tranghese see flaws in all the projected No. 1 seeds--Kansas, Baylor, San Diego State and Gonzaga, although none of them fatal. ""People have to simply go out and play each other (in the tournament) and we will see what happens,'' said Tranghese.

With that in mind, (and since March arrives on Sunday, which means its crunch time in college basketball), we will begin our March Madness Phase, culminating in our final brackets on Selection Sunday (we hit the jackpot with 68 of 68 last season).

Let's start with the hottest teams.

Of the 32 conferences, 12 had teams with extended (7 or more games) winning streaks.

America East--Vermont (11)

Atlantic 10--Dayton (14)

Big 12--Baylor (22) Kansas (10)

Big Sky--Montana (9)

Big South--Radford (7)

Big Ten--Maryland (8), Penn State (8)

Mountain West--San Diego State (26)

Southland--Furman (7)

Southland--SF Austin (9)

West Coast--Gonzaga (18)

Western Athletic Conference--New Mexico State (15)

Of that group, Gonzaga looks like the team that could be the most dangerous. The Zags are almost a certainty to be the No. 1 seed in the West, which means they will play first and second round games in their home city (but not home court) of Spokane, Washington) and the Regionals in Los Angeles.

Coach Mark Few has been around the NCAA tournament block a few times, is coming off a 33-4 season in which he lost 80 percent of his offense, but managed to fill in the holes with graduate transfers and one of his best recruiting classes.

Gonzaga hasn't lost since it took the night off against Michigan in the Bahamas in November, is coming off a 30 point road win against one of their prime West Coast Conference rivals in Saint Mary's and is clearly ready for a prime time, afraid of no one.

It's hard to argue against Baylor or Kansas in the Big 12 and no one has yet found a way to beat San Diego State, so it could be a chalk Final Four.

But don't count on it.

Having said that, SOMEONE is going to have to emerge as the hottest of the hot teams in the next few weeks.

***

What's going on in the Big Ten?

Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers as upper tier teams?....Just when Seton Hall looks like it is emerging as the leader in the Big East, the Pirates go on a two game LOSING streak..Colorado on top of the Pac-12?

What's going on in the ACC?

The conference had a bad season in football and now is repeating the process (at least after Duke, Louisville, and Florida State) in basketball. At best, they look like a four-bid league, which gives hope to the mid-major upset victims as at-large teams.

The problem with that is that the Big Ten is so balanced, it may have 11 teams in the field, which is too many, but then again the field of 68 teams has to be filled.

Of the Mid-Majors, Northern Iowa of the Missouri Valley and East Tennessee of the Southern Conference look like the best bets to get at-large bids if either team loses in its conference tournament.

***

Lots of speculation about the future of Boston College coach Jim Christian. I'm saying it now, BC athletic director Martin Jarmond should give him another season.

Granted, this is a down year for the ACC, but the Eagles have become a .500 team in the conference with a 7-8 record, including a road win at North Carolina (more about that below) and a sweep of Virginia Tech, as well as a respectable loss against Duke.

They are 13-13 with regular season games remaining at Virginia, home against Clemson, Notre Dame and Syracuse and a road game at Florida State.

They could go 0-5 which would probably seal Christian's fate, bu they could win all of their home games, which would make them 16-15 and put them in a post season tournament.

That's not bad. Christian is a decent coach and a good guy and the Eagles have improved with limited practice facilities and amenities.

There is one exception to the Keep Christian theory, however, and it is a long, long shot. If current Cleveland Cavalier coach John Beilein is fired (as expected) and he wants to get back into college coaching, BC should pay whatever is necessary to bring him to The Heights.

He is 68, had heart surgery two years ago and doesn't need the job, but if he is available, he would be at the top of almost every wish list in college basketball.

If BC wants to be a player in the ACC, why not go after him?

***

Going into Monday night's game against Notre Dame, North Carolina was 3-12, 15th in the ACC and on a 6-game LOSING streak.

What in the name of Dean Smith and Roy Williams is going on?

And having watched them a few times on television, they are a bad team.

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Mark Blaudschun

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