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Titus’s 12 NCAA Tournament Predictions

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Titus’s Top 12 Ultimate NCAA Basketball Championship Week Mailbag

Is Kentucky's Anthony Davis player of the year? Indiana's Tom Crean coach of the year? Ask and ye shall receive.

Last week I asked you all to send e-mails that didn’t suck for a college basketball mailbag, and you delivered with so many great questions that it was damn near impossible to figure out which ones to use. When the dust settled, these were left standing.

If you were to change one thing about how the NCAA tournament operates, what would it be?

Some thoughts:

1. I would play the first round games in smaller gyms. There’s nothing I can’t stand more than watching half empty “pro” stadiums host opening round games. How cool would it be for games to be played at Indiana or Gonzaga? Those stadiums would rock.

2. There needs to be an opening ceremony (like the Olympics). A big, grand, live show where players come in with their banners waving. Plus I would love to see Bob Costas share a booth with Gus Johnson.
—Sean (Dayton, OH)

The answer everyone gives to this question is to remove automatic bids so that the 68 best teams make the tournament, but that might actually happen, so let’s not even talk about that. I’d rather discuss radical and impractical things that will never happen, like your two ideas. I love the idea of playing the first rounds in smaller and/or historic gyms. In fact, if the fans’ enjoyment — instead of money — determined the NCAA’s decisions, I’d like to think that these would be the sites for the tournament every year:

East — Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke) and the Palestra (Penn) for the first weekend; Madison Square Garden (St. John’s) as the regional host

South — Gallagher-Iba Arena (Oklahoma State) and Memorial Gymnasium (Vanderbilt) for the first weekend; Rupp Arena (Kentucky) as the regional host

Midwest — Assembly Hall (Indiana) and The Barn (Minnesota) for the first weekend; Hinkle Fieldhouse (Butler) as the regional host

West — The Pit (New Mexico) and McArthur Court (Oregon’s old gym, coincidentally also nicknamed The Pit) for the first weekend; Pauley Pavilion (UCLA) as the regional host

Final Four — Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas)

Allen Fieldhouse hosts the Final Four because it’s a badass arena that seats 17,000 people, gets incredibly loud, and is located almost perfectly in the middle of the country. Obviously, with Kansas being a perennial Final Four contender, this might not work because it would give the Jayhawks an unfair advantage, but screw it — this will never happen anyway, so why worry about specifics?

My other idea was to have the committee seed all the teams and then let the no. 1 seeds draft the teams they want in their brackets. As I was writing out my explanation of how it would work, though, I got this e-mail from Josh that is basically a better version of that idea:

Turn tournament selection into a draft. Have the committee rank teams 1-68, and let the coaches pick their seeds, regions, and first-weekend sites in descending order (“Mr. Calipari, you’re on the clock, and be ready to go, Jim”). You pick everything at once: Cal takes the #1 in Atlanta going through Louisville. Syracuse makes its choices so that they won’t see Kentucky until the championship. No arcane rules about who you can and can’t play, and you’re in the slot you pick throughout the tournament.

Televise the thing. You’ve combined something everyone already loves (Selection Sunday) with the only bigger non-competition event in sports (the NFL draft).

How many 3’s and 4’s are filled in other regions before someone dares take the 2 in Kentucky’s? Would Roy Williams duck Kansas, if Kansas was clearly the weakest 1 without a 2? Would a coach at a cash-starved school elect to play in Dayton to squeeze two games worth of paydays?

I love this idea if only because it gives fans another reason to criticize their coaches. Even though this idea has a zero percent chance of happening and Illinois won’t make the tournament this year, I can still hear Illini fans yelling at their TVs, “What the hell is Weber thinking with that pick?!”

What 5 players would you consider x-factors in the tourney (someone who can catch fire and carry a team to the championship)? Obviously someone like Anthony Davis or Harrison Barnes would be an easy choice but how about some players from teams not ranked in the top 5 or 10?

Here are my power rankings of players on teams currently ranked outside of the top 10 in either poll who have the potential to get hot and carry their team further than expected (assuming their teams make the tournament):

1. Isaiah Canaan (Murray State)
2. Doug McDermott (Creighton)
3. Kevin Jones (West Virginia)
4. Mike Scott (Virginia)
5. Casper Ware (Long Beach State)
6. J’Covan Brown (Texas)
7. Will Barton (Memphis)
8. Trey Burke (Michigan)
9. Drew Gordon (New Mexico)
10. Robbie Hummel (Purdue)
11. Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State)
12. Mike Moser (UNLV)

And yes, I listed seven more guys than the requested five because I wanted to increase my chances of predicting the star of this year’s tournament.

I always feel the best chance for a top seed to get upset is in the second round. If they survive the first weekend, they usually realize they are better than every other team left and get back down to business. Since nothing ruins a bracket like your championship team losing to an 8 seed, can you break down which potential 1 and 2 seeds are most likely to induce second round heartburn?
— Troy (Denver, CO)

First, I’ll answer your question. Without seeing the brackets, I’m going to say Missouri is the 1- or 2-seed most likely to get upset in the second round, simply because they are more matchup-dependent than any other elite team. And if not Missouri, I’d probably say Duke for a reason we’ll get to a little later.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain why I disagree that the second round is the most opportune time for a top seed to fall. To me, the four days off between the second round and the Sweet 16 benefits the underdog because it gives them time to prepare. If you were coaching a team like Iowa State, would you rather have to play Kentucky 48 hours after a tough win against Purdue, or after four days to rest your guys and put together a solid scouting report? You could argue that the time off gives Kentucky time to do the same thing, but the underdog will be more devoted to executing a specific game plan because that’s the only way they can beat a team filled with superior players. Plus, the odds say that the top seed’s Sweet 16 opponent will be better than the team they play in the second round. I see the point you were going for, but I think a quick turnaround favors teams with better players, whereas a four- or five-day break benefits teams with better game plans.

It’s a travesty that Gus Johnson won’t be doing play by play for the NCAA tournament. Why doesn’t Grantland totally capitalize on this? A $2.00 live streaming podcast on iTunes of Gus calling whatever game is closest in the last 8 minutes (it expires after every day, so people will keep renewing it). ESPN would make some solid money since everyone loves Gus Johnson and March Madness isn’t the same without him going completely insane. Is there any way you can use your considerable influence to make this happen?

When I tell you that I’ve had this idea since December, I do so not to steal your thunder but to say I wholeheartedly agree that this is a great idea. I like charging $2 per game, but I also think we need to offer a subscription that lasts the entire tournament and costs around $35. And now that I think about it, there’s no reason this idea has to just apply to March Madness. Why not have Gus call every big sporting event throughout the year? A yearly subscription to the Gus Johnson live streaming podcast would cost something like $99 and include the final eight minutes of 25-30 NCAA tournament games, the Super Bowl, the BCS Championship, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup, WrestleMania, The Masters,1 the Olympics and World Cup when applicable, and the final 25 laps of the Indy 500 and Daytona 500. Am I the only one throwing money at my computer right now, hoping that it somehow makes this a reality?

1. Kentucky

(You didn’t think I was going to abandon college basketball’s most powerful power rankings, did you?)

Kentucky went 1-1 against Big Ten teams (assuming you call Penn State’s program a Big Ten team), and 16-0 against the woeful SEC. What’s the over/under for how many losses UK would have if they played in the Big Ten? I say 3.5.

The way to attack this question is to replace the Big Ten’s worst team with Kentucky and speculate wins and losses based on their schedule. Penn State is the 12-seed in the Big Ten tournament, so I’m going to use their schedule to figure out which games Kentucky would’ve won or lost. I’m assuming that Kentucky would’ve won every home game, and even though Northwestern or Purdue could’ve pulled out a miracle upset, I’m saying that the only teams that would’ve had any chance of beating them are Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Here’s how I see those games playing out:

Michigan (December 29) — Both teams would’ve played a bunch of cupcakes leading up to this game, but Kentucky was steamrolling its opponents while Michigan would’ve been coming off of an 11-point win against an awful Bradley team, so I’m seeing a Kentucky win here.

Indiana (January 22) — Since this game actually took place (albeit in December instead of January) and the Hoosiers won, this has to be a Kentucky loss.

Ohio State (January 25) — The Buckeyes were hot in late January (this game would have been sandwiched between big wins over Indiana and Michigan), but I have a hard time believing Kentucky would lose two in a row, so I’m calling this one a toss-up.

Michigan State (February 8) — Kentucky humiliated Florida on February 7 (which tells me they were playing really well at the time), but this game would’ve been played while Michigan State was also playing its best basketball, so I’m giving the edge to the home Spartans.

Wisconsin (February 19) — Wisconsin would’ve been an overtime away from entering this game on a three-game losing streak, and four days after this game they lost at Iowa, so this is definitely a win for Kentucky.

Based on that breakdown, I’d set the line at 2.5 losses. I guess if you want to throw in a home loss to one of these five teams you could set the line at 3.5, but Kentucky has beaten some pretty good teams at home this season. Still, your point stands — the SEC had a disappointing year.

Everybody has been saying Kentucky is the best team in the nation and I am sure come tourney time they’re going to be the unanimous “I don’t know about college basketball so I’m going with who I hear a lot about” pick, as well as the favorites. My question is this: What team that will be a 4 seed or lower can beat Kentucky in the tournament?

Since the official bracket hasn’t been released yet, I’ll just reference the latest version of Joe Lunardi’s projection to get an idea of where teams will be seeded. Of the 4- through 16-seeds, the three teams who have the best shot of beating Kentucky are Indiana, Florida State, and Wisconsin. Indiana is an obvious pick since it’s the only team to beat the Wildcats this season (although I have a hard time believing the Hoosiers do it again). Florida State is big, athletic, and plays great defense, so I could see them turning the game into a defensive slugfest, which is the kind of game that always benefits the underdog. Plus, the Seminoles beat Duke on the road and embarrassed North Carolina earlier in the year, so you know they can beat elite teams. Wisconsin would slow down the game, potentially frustrate Kentucky, make them impatient, and force them into dumb shots. I could see the Buzzcuts hang around all game, head into final media timeout down 54-49 or something like that, and then use some March Madness magic to pull off the upset. Of course, I don’t actually think this will happen, but the potential is there.

2. Syracuse

Why is everyone proclaiming UK the best team in the country? Syracuse has only 1 loss, also. The one loss they do have came against a good team with a key player missing. They also play in a tougher conference than UK.
—Rodney (Costa Mesa, CA)

Let’s say Fab Melo is never suspended and the rest of Syracuse’s games go the way that they actually did — except for Notre Dame which Syracuse wins unimpressively in an ugly game by 4 points. What are all the writers and commentators saying about Syracuse and their legacy then, considering that some people are currently making an argument about Kentucky as an all-time great team? What would you say about a team that went undefeated in the Big East and was ranked #1 even though no one really thinks they’re great? Would this ruin the hype on Kentucky, even though their season is not impacted by Syracuse’s at all and wouldn’t be any better or worse because of the change in Syracuse’s fortune?
— Spence(New York, NY)

Most college basketball analysts power rank Kentucky ahead of the Orange because Kentucky has more individual talent. Syracuse also loses style points because of all of its close games. The Big East is stronger than the SEC this year, but not enough to overlook the fact that Kentucky completely embarrassed the rest of their conference while four of Syracuse’s conference wins were by three points or less. And, of course, many people believe Kentucky’s loss to Indiana is more excusable than Syracuse’s loss to Notre Dame, considering the Wildcats lost by one on a last-second shot to the same team that beat two other top-five teams this year and beat Notre Dame by 11 on a neutral floor.

As for the second question, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the way these teams are perceived would be completely different if Syracuse had Melo against Notre Dame and the Orange won. Even though the Big East is having a down year, if ‘Cuse had been able to run the table in college basketball’s most historic conference, they would definitely be the favorite heading into the tournament and there’s no way we wouldn’t be having discussions about the Orange as one of college basketball’s all-time greatest teams. Meanwhile, even though Kentucky would’ve been just a buzzer-beater away from their own undefeated season, I don’t think they’d be getting nearly the same amount of attention. All the “Who can beat Kentucky?” talk would instead be “Who can beat Syracuse?” It’s crazy that not having Melo for one game could have changed the way history will look back on this season in college basketball. But if I’m a Syracuse fan I wouldn’t complain too much, because heading into the NCAA tournament with an enormous target on your back is never a good thing.

3. North Carolina

Player 1’s stats:
14.1 ppg, 9.8 reb, 4.7 blk, 1.5 stls, 66% FG and 31 minutes per game.

Player 2’s stats:
14.2 ppg, 10.3 reb, 3.0 blk, 0.6 stls 50% FG and 29 minutes per game.

One of the above players is the national POY favorite. The blocks give it away that it’s Anthony Davis, but here’s what I don’t get. Yes, Davis is a game changer defensively, but is he that much better than Player 2? Player 2 — John Henson — plays on the same team as Tyler Zeller. The same Zeller that you are so wet on, yet Henson gets no love. Why is it that Henson’s name doesn’t come up?
—Luke (Syracuse, NY)

I don’t have an easy answer for this question. Davis’s defensive stats are considerably better than Henson’s, so I don’t think we need to get too carried away and argue that Henson belongs in the National Player of the Year discussion. But still — Henson is more refined offensively than Davis and is a defensive force in his own right, so it’s a wonder why he’s typically not even among the first three players mentioned when discussing North Carolina.

Here’s my theory: People (including me) dismiss Henson because they think of him as just a less talented, older, and unibrow-less version of Davis. It’s hard to get excited about a guy when a better version of that guy exists. Plus, one could argue that Henson doesn’t have to do as much because his frontcourt teammate is ACC player of the year Tyler Zeller, while Davis’s frontcourt teammate is Terrence “Is this game almost over? I just bought the Cousin Skeeter DVD box set and I’ve got some Totino’s pizza rolls in my freezer calling my name, so let’s wrap this up” Jones.

4. Missouri

The Big 12 coaches have Fred Hoiberg & Bill Self sharing coach of the year honors. The AP has selected Frank Haith at Missouri their coach of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Hoiberg & Self each did great jobs this year, but Iowa State backdoored a third-place finish and Self simply lived up to expectations (picked pre-season by coaches to win the league). Haith took Missouri to 27 wins with only 7 scholarship players (after a losing one of their best players to injury). Is there any valid explanation for this?
—Jordan (Greenwood, MO)

Let me play devil’s advocate for a second. What if Frank Haith didn’t actually overachieve that much? What if Missouri fans, and even the rest of the country, for that matter, just set the bar extremely low because we thought Haith was an average coach who happened to be linked to the Miami football scandal? If we had been absolutely certain that Haith wasn’t incompetent, maybe the expectations for Missouri wouldn’t have been as low as they were, and the Tigers wouldn’t be considered huge overachievers now. The only explanation as to why he didn’t win Big 12 coach of the year is that the conference’s coaches decided that Haith’s team was good to begin with.

Having said that, I’m with you. Iowa State overachieved by getting third in the conference, but their success had more to do with Royce White, Chris Allen, and Chris Babb being better than expected (and teams like Texas A&M and Texas being disappointments), and less to do with Fred Hoiberg’s coaching. And Kansas overachieved on a national scale, but they were still picked to win the Big 12, so it’s hard to pat Self on the back too much. Plus, Self had by far the best player (arguably the best two players) in the conference on his team. Meanwhile, because of Laurence Bowers’s knee injury, Haith’s only big guys were a guy who’s the size of an NBA small forward and Steve Moore’s clichéd tattoos. If conference awards were decided based only on what happened in conference play — which is how they should be decided — it doesn’t make any sense how Haith wasn’t the obvious Big 12 coach of the year winner.

5. Kansas

If you had a vote, who would you vote for POY? Would you vote for Thomas Robinson or Anthony Davis, and what is your criteria? Their numbers are fairly similar, and while Davis is probably the better overall player, Robinson is more important to Kansas than Davis is to Kentucky. What else would you look at when comparing the two?

Questions like this come up every year: What are we looking for in determining the player of the year? Some people think the nod should go to the best player on the best team, some people think it should go to the player who means the most to his team, and some think it should go to the guy with the best stats. My philosophy has always been that the player of the year should be the guy who grabbed the college basketball world by the balls and demanded its attention the most. This is why even though Thomas Robinson has had a phenomenal season, I’d vote for Anthony Davis. Robinson was more valuable, had better statistics, and led his team to a conference championship and a probable 1-seed just like Davis did. But if both of these guys were playing at the same time in two different gyms that were each 15 minutes from my house, nine out of 10 times I’d go see Davis. This isn’t to say that Robinson isn’t exciting to watch, just that Davis is a once-in-a-generation player, which is something that Robinson can’t say since he’s essentially just a muscular Jared Sullinger.2

6. Ohio State

Is it just me or is Jared Sullinger seriously overrated? I think he has a good amount of low-post talent, decent foot work (at times), and knows how to use his body. But he is the most useless low-post defender I’ve seen at OSU in 6-7 years. Part of that is due to his lack of athleticism and the rest is just laziness. And since he’s only 6’8″-ish, he’s too short to get away with it down low. Most annoying of all, the guy whines like it’s his job. He’s an above average rebounder and scorer, but I can’t really say he’s elite in any category. Seems like a middling bench player in the pros to me. Am I off base?

No, you aren’t off base, and I’m guessing most Ohio State fans share the sentiment. But I don’t think it’s quite as bad as you say it is. Sullinger’s problem is that his freshman season set the bar way too high. He’s never been a very good defender, but it didn’t really matter last year because he was so dominant on offense. And so much of his offensive success last year was a result of the players around him. When he was surrounded by shooters and penetrators who spread the floor and prevented defenses from doubling, Sullinger was unstoppable. This season, Ohio State doesn’t have a lights-out shooter like Jon Diebler and they don’t have a slasher like David Lighty. This means defenses can double Sullinger without consequence. Also, because Ohio State’s stagnant offense doesn’t demand a ton of help-side defense, Sullinger’s defenders rarely get pulled out of position down low. As a result, Sullinger has had a much rougher go at things this year, which has prompted his various outbursts. He’s always been a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve — it’s just that last year it wasn’t as obvious because his emotions were usually positive since the team was winning and he was playing well.

Anyway, it’s fair to call him overrated, but that’s because the bar was set impossibly high after last season, not because he’s no longer one of the best players in the country. He’s being asked to do more with less this season, which has caused his production to dip and made people think that his skills have regressed.

7. Duke

Have you ever seen a Duke team with such a high ceiling, but at the same time such potential for disaster? This team is a train wreck to watch. Either we go to UNC and beat Kansas or lose to Miami at home and get blown out by Ohio State. I could see this Duke team going all the way to the Final Four or losing in the 2nd round to Murray State. Anything is possible.
—Adam (Florence, SC)

Is it me or does Duke completely suck? I am a huge fan. They are the third ranked team in the country, and they earned it with a good record and a hard schedule, but as a Duke fan, it seems to me like we just suck and have no chance in the tournament. Why the hell are we good?

The crazy thing is that I got both of these e-mails before Duke was humiliated by North Carolina on Saturday night.

8. Marquette

Do you agree that Marquette’s Jae Crowder is as smooth as caramel?
—Gordo (Pittsburgh, PA)

Agree with whom, exactly?

The question isn’t if Marquette can win. It’s if they can continue to win after Kenneth Faried dies from exhaustion after splitting his time playing NBA in Denver and hooping for the Golden Eagles as 2012 Big East POY “Jae Crowder,” right?

I’m not sure you could possibly say, “Jae Crowder and Kenneth Faried kind of resemble each other” in a more roundabout way.

9. Michigan State

I’d like to see you make the case that Michigan State has been the best college basketball program in the past 15 years.

The tone of this e-mail and the fact that it’s from “Bo” makes me feel like Bo Ryan is asking me this while pointing a gun at my face like he’s Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. “Say Michigan State is the best program again, I dare you. I double-dare you, motherfucker. Say Michigan State is the best program in the past 15 years one more goddamn time!”

Last week I threw some money on Kansas and Michigan State to win the tourney. Both were 8-1 odds. What do you think? What odds would you give the top contending teams and what do you think of the current Vegas odds?

The Kansas bet is a good one to take a chance on, but now that Branden Dawson tore his ACL, it looks like that Michigan State bet is lost money because Dawson was probably the Spartans’ most talented player. That said, you can never count out Tom Izzo in March. If I were rich and irresponsible with my money, I’d throw thousands down on North Carolina at 7-1, because I’m so confident that the Tar Heels are going to win the national title that I’d bet on them if their odds were 2-1. I’ve said all season that if North Carolina somehow got a fire lit under their asses, not even Kentucky would be able to hang with them. And judging from Saturday night in Durham, it looks like that fire has finally been lit.

I also like Syracuse at 7-1 because their full team still hasn’t lost, but I’m not sure I’d actually pull the trigger on that bet given their history in the NCAA tournament and the fact that they’ve had a handful of close calls against far inferior teams. And Kentucky at 2-1 and Missouri at 8-1 seem about right, while the fact that Ohio State is tied for the second-best odds at 7-1 makes me question exactly how much college basketball Vegas oddsmakers watched this year.

10. Murray State

I can’t decide if this year’s uprising of mid-majors is good for college basketball. If one or more of these teams make the Final Four, it makes for a fun story, but does it mean that fewer people will watch? What do you think about Murray State, Wichita State and Creighton currently in the top 25?
—John (Nairobi, Kenya)

I’m perfectly fine with mid-majors going up against the big boys, provided that the mid-majors are actually good. Memphis in 2008 and Butler in 2010 didn’t bother me one bit because both of those teams had multiple NBA guys on their rosters, but last year’s VCU-Butler game in the Final Four was bad for college basketball because even fans of the sport weren’t interested. We all love a Cinderella story, but the truth is that none of us actually want a fairy-tale ending. For college basketball, it’s best if Cinderella just goes to the ball, has a good time, and then at night’s end goes back to living in a cellar and talking to mice. The further a mediocre mid-major team advances in the tournament, the more it stops being a cute underdog story and starts becoming evidence that the NCAA tournament is a poor way to determine the best team.

So to answer your question, if Murray State, Wichita State, Creighton, UNLV, San Diego State, Gonzaga, Temple, St. Mary’s, or New Mexico make it to the Final Four, I don’t think it will be bad for college basketball. If Western Kentucky, Detroit, or South Dakota State make it to the Final Four, however, it would definitely not be a good thing.

11. Indiana

How in the world could any other coach be under consideration for National Coach of the Year over Tom Crean? Crean took a 12-20 (3-15 Big Ten) team, added Cody Zeller and turned them a team that knocked off the #1, 2 and 5 teams in the country this year. They’re currently 23-7 (10-7 in an extremely strong Big 10), and they are capable of beating any team in any game. Yes, they’ve had their share of unfortunate losses, but their ability to bounce back from their mid-season swoon to play their best ball of the year only underscores what an incredible job Crean has done. People who counter with Boeheim or Calipari are fooling themselves. Those teams SHOULD win, especially UK, with the pro-level talent they’ve recruited. To me, an admitted homer, Crean is the only choice this year. Thoughts?
—Greg (Indianapolis, IN)

The Indiana fan in me wants to agree with you, but I can’t because the truth is that the “12-20 team plus Cody Zeller” argument doesn’t hold much water now that Zeller has turned out to be one of the three best freshmen in the country. Crean is in the same boat as Bill Self and Fred Hoiberg — he shouldn’t be rewarded just because his players turned out to be much better than we anticipated. I will give Crean credit and say that Indiana wouldn’t have been nearly as good this year if their veterans hadn’t improved considerably in the offseason. For that he definitely deserves to be mentioned in the coach of the year debate. But the Indiana fans I know all agree that the reason for the Hoosiers’ success has been that Zeller is better than expected, not that Crean’s coaching has been extraordinarily brilliant.

If you want to get angry about a coach getting snubbed, grab your torch and pitchfork and go after whoever decided the Big Ten and SEC postseason awards. I mean, Tom Izzo being named Big Ten coach of the year over John Beilein and John Calipari being named SEC coach of the year over Cuonzo Martin are bigger mysteries than Stonehenge and Ryan Seacrest’s sexual orientation. When you compare Michigan’s roster to the rosters of Michigan State and Ohio State, and then consider that the Wolverines won a share of the Big Ten championship, it’s a wonder how Beilein isn’t a shoo-in for national coach of the year, let alone conference coach of the year. And I seem to be the only person outside of Knoxville who noticed that after the Bruce Pearl mess, Tennessee was picked to finish 11th in the SEC this year but Martin somehow led them to a second-place finish. I don’t care how bad the SEC is — even Anne Sullivan thinks Martin was a miracle worker this year.

12. Michigan

As a Michigan fan, after watching their last few games, I couldn’t help but think that maybe they are better without Tim Hardaway Jr. He doesn’t play very good defense, and he turned into a large pussy over the summer. He refuses to do what he does best (slash to the basket) and is content taking 20 footers, which he rarely makes. Is this just a sophomore slump, or is it better for everyone if he leaves early?

Without having any idea how they actually feel toward one another, it wouldn’t surprise me if Hardaway wasn’t a huge Trey Burke fan. Now, I’d rather try to swallow the business end of a shotgun than actively follow any Michigan athletic program,3 but from what I’ve seen this year I’ve got the impression that Hardaway isn’t comfortable playing alongside Burke. This isn’t to say that Hardaway is selfish, but I get the impression that after Darius Morris left for the NBA last year, Hardaway expected to be the man for the Wolverines, and Burke’s emergence as a star prevented this from happening. That said, I share your disappointment with Hardaway. Burke playing well is no excuse for Hardaway’s passive play and tendency to settle for jumpers, especially since he’s shooting less than 30 percent from 3. He still put up decent stats this year, so I don’t know if I’d say he had a sophomore slump, but he certainly didn’t have the breakout year that many people expected from him.

The E-mail of the Week

I was half-heartedly watching Nevada when I heard the announcer say “jizz.” This caught my attention, so I watched more closely and I found out that a Nevada player’s last name is Czyz [Editor’s note: It’s actually pronounced “chizz”]. Think about the announcer possibilities with this name: Czyz is all over the glass tonight! His defense has been great — Czyz has been draped all over him! And my personal favorite: (player x) can’t do anything! Czyz has been in his face all night!
—Hammer (Columbus, OH)

Filed Under: NCAA, Sports

Mark Titus is the founder and author of the blog Club Trillion. His book, Don’t Put Me In, Coach, chronicles his career as a walk-on benchwarmer for the Ohio State basketball team and is on sale now.

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