College Basketball Thoughts Going Into Championship Week

(Dick Vitale voice) It’s one of the best weeks of the YEAR BABY. The pageantry, the venues, the prime time performers–PTPERS baby–will all be out, playing on big stages from New York to Memphis to Las Vegas. It’s going to be absolutely fantastic, BABY. BIG SHOTS. HUGE IMPLICATIONS. DUKIE DAISY DANDIES, BABY. (/Dick Vitale voice) The best college basketball announcer in America (who live tweets Barry Manilow concerts, yo) is probably salivating right at this very moment thinking about the week to come. And I am too. So here are some college basketball thoughts going into Championship Week:

Can Sean Kilpatrick pull a Kemba Walker?

Can Sean Kilpatrick pull a Kemba Walker?

  • The Providence-St. John’s game on Thursday night will be huge. With both teams clinging to the bubble, the two schools (both are 20-11 and 10-8 in Big East play) might just be playing a virtual play-in game to the NCAA Tournament. The winner will get a shot to take down Villanova while the loser might have their tourney chances dashed. (Side note: I think that both teams should get in–both boast wins over Creighton and their .500+ records in the Big East are impressive.)
  • Team that could make some surprise noise in the ACC Tournament: Miami. The baby Canes have grown up and are playing solid basketball lately.
  • With their win over Yale on Friday night, Harvard became the first team to punch their ticket to the Dance. Harvard (26-4) is a tremendous team at both ends and looks primed to surprise some people in the tourney. They’ll probably get underseeded, but that could just set them up for another New Mexico.
  • It can hardly be described as shocking, but Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams are surging just in time for tea the tourney. With typical swarming defense and perhaps their most talented squad ever, the Rams look poised for a deep run.
  • The cross-state Virginia Cavaliers are also in the midst of a tremendous season, but if the regular season ACC champs want to be a really trendy national title pick, an ACC Tournament Championship is in order.
  • The Big Ten regular season concluded without a Big Ten team finishing inside the top 7. The teams from arguably the nation’s best conference (the Big 12 peeps have a decent claim too) beat up on each other–MSU lost 6, Ohio State lost 8, and Iowa lost 9…and that’s just in conference play. People have been questioning all winter whether the deep conference truly has any strong national title contenders. Now it’s finally time to find out!
  • Kansas’ performance in their recent loss to West Virginia was underwhelming. Andrew Wiggins went off (he’s going to be big time in the NBA), but the Jayhawks gave up 92 points. The easy question: is KU solid enough defensively to win it all?
  • The inverse of that question could be posed regarding Cincinnati. Mick Cronin has gone full on nuts this year but in the process he’s turned the offensively anemic Bearcats into an elite squad. They might have the best man-to-man defense in the nation, but they also only have one consistent scorer. That guy, dynamite guard Sean Kilpatrick, is unreal. But will he be enough? (In other words, can Kilpatrick be for Cincinnati what Kemba was for ’11 UConn?)
  • In past years, the winner of the Big East tournament has always been a hot pick to win it all on people’s brackets. Now that the Big East has fractured into the new school Big East and the top-heavy AAC, there should be two conference champ winners getting love from bracket makers in a week. If Villanova wins the Big East tournament, they’ll probably be set into a one seed and many (including this guy) will have to take a long look at the Wildcats. Meanwhile, the AAC has Cincy, and it also has Louisville. These Cardinals are HOT, much like last year’s team was come March, and Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell have taken sizable leaps forward. If they roll through the AAC tournament, it’ll be real hard not to call for a repeat.
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