March Madness

March Madness

Sam Gangwer/Orance County Register/MCT

Aleck Ryner, Brian Tan and Conor Volpe

With March Madness rapidly approaching, everyone is getting ready to fill out their brackets. But everyone knows you can’t just pick the best seeds; in order to win your bracket you need to know the sleepers, favorites, overachievers and star players. Luckily a few Mirador staff writers have taken it upon themselves to provide an in-depth preview of the upcoming tourney.

Sleeper

Aleck Ryner: St. John’s

My sleeper team is St. John’s. Yes, they are ranked 3rd in the loaded Big East, but they are also one of the most inconsistent teams that will be in the tournament field. They have quality wins against Georgetown, Duke, Notre Dame, UConn and Pitt, all ranked in the top 15. However, they have very bad losses against St. Bonaventure and Fordham, two teams that have a grand total of 21 wins between the two. But I’m guessing they’re going to put it all together in the tournament and will be a very scary team to play.

Brian Tan: St. John’s

St. John’s has upset so many top seeds this year that they have earned themselves a top-25 ranking.  They have wins over Georgetown, Notre Dame, UConn, Pitt, Duke and Villanova, all highly ranked opponents.  However, they have also lost to lower tier teams like the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the Fordham Rams.  They probably will not win the tournament, but don’t count them out for a few upsets, a la George Mason 2006 and Butler 2010.  The Red Storm plays an efficient, balanced offensive system, with three seniors averaging double digits in scoring.  They play in the toughest Big East conference of all time that will likely send more than eight teams to the tournament as the first ever conference to do so.  Keep an eye on Kansas State, who has rebounded from a slower than expected start to defeat Kansas, Missouri and Texas in recent weeks under senior guard Jacob Pullen.

Conor Volpe: UConn

UConn has been on everyone’s radar since they ran through the Maui Invitational to open the season. They went undefeated in non-conference play, running through Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. They’ve taken seven losses in Big East play, but none of them were to bad teams. They lost to five top 20 teams, and an unranked St. John’s at Madison Square Garden where the Red Storm is 5-1 against ranked opponents so that loss is forgivable. Kemba Walker is arguably the best player in the best conference in the country, and they have a number of other players who can contribute on a nightly basis. Walker shines in the spotlight, so look for UCONN to make a run in March.

Overrated

Aleck Ryner: Arizona

Most would probably discount the seasons San Diego State and BYU have had because they don’t play in a “power conference,” but I truly believe both of these teams are legit. The most overrated team that will play in the tournament is the University of Arizona Wildcats. They play in the Pac-10, which is, to put it nicely, having a down year. They have played three games against teams in the Top 25 and have lost them all, which includes a 22-point blowout at the hands of BYU. Even though they don’t have any terrible losses, their worst coming against a decent Oregon State team, I really don’t think anyone should count on this team in the tournament.

Brian Tan: Florida

For some reason, Florida is very highly ranked, and are becoming a favorite to make a surprise run in March.  But how will a team that lost to unranked teams like Central Florida, Jacksonville, South Carolina and Mississippi State string together consecutive wins?  The Gators rank outside the top hundred in points scored and are far from their championship form when Joakim Noah and his interesting hairstyle won two national championships for the Gators.  In the Mountain West Conference, San Diego State has been swept by Brigham Young, losing both times by double digits led by the Player of the Year.

Conor Volpe: Villanova

As a Big East team, they get respect by default. Villanova and the rest of the Big East play the toughest conference schedule in the nation night in and night out so they can be given some slack. But Villanova has struggled mightily at times in conference play. They lost to unranked teams in Providence, South Florida, and Rutgers, a Georgetown team that was struggling mightily at the time, and a reeling Syracuse team. They also had trouble putting away Seton Hall and Depaul, who are a combined 6-23 in Big East play. They also lost 10 of their last 15 games. They have great guards and wings, maybe some of the best in the country, but they consistently get burned by opposing wings, and a good big man can tear them up. They don’t shoot particularly well, making only 42% of their shots. Just like last year when Saint Mary’s beat them in the second round, Villanova is very vulnerable.

Best Player

Aleck Ryner: Norris Cole

This player’s team will not be in this year’s tournament field, but I felt that he deserved some praise. Cleveland State guard Norris Cole is one of the most exciting players in the nation. His old-school flat top would look a bit ridiculous on a mediocre player, but Cole has the skills to match his looks. In a game against Youngstown State this year, he put up 41 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, which is one of the best performances in recent memory. His Cleveland State team should be able to get pretty far in the NIT, but it all pretty much falls on Cole’s shoulders, and his flat top. If you happen to get bored or depressed about the big tournament, search for a Cleveland State game, it will probably be more interesting than whoever plays Ohio State in the first round anyways. NIT MVP, you heard it here first.

Brian Tan: Jimmer Fredette

The word “Jimmer” is defined by urbandictionary.com as “one who is in range as soon as he steps off the bus.”  That is an accurate description of the best player in the nation, BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.  He was lights out against then number four San Diego State and dropped 43 points on them.  Jimmer frequently pulls up for threes closer to half court than the three-point line, which leads to BYU chants of “You got Jimmered.”  Jimmer averages 27 points per game and makes more than 40% of his threes.  He has led BYU to a 27-2 record, a sweep of San Diego State, and has put his name in the Player of the Year conversation.

Conor Volpe: Jordan Hamilton

Who? The 6’7” University of Texas star wing has flown mostly under the radar this year despite being in the top five in the Big 12 in scoring, rebounding, and 3-pointers made. Hamilton was the sixth ranked player in the country coming out of high school, and though he struggled at times last year he has lived up to that billing this year. He is averaging over 18 points per game, seven and a half boards, and shoots 40% from deep on the best team in the Big 12. He has risen to the occasion when Texas plays tough opponents as well, scoring over 20 points against Pittsburgh, Michigan State, North Carolina, UCONN, and Texas A&M twice. He’s a big time player who is looking to lead his Longhorns deep in the Tournament.