Sitting Courtside
Friday, April 01, 2005
  End of an Era

Hey all-

Just a quick post to let you know that this will be the last post on the Sitting Courtside Blog.

I have redesigned MRISports.com to hold all of the Sitting Courtside, On the Field, and Ranking data. As a result, anyone who currently subscribes to this site can subscribe to the main MRISports.com site and receive all postings to your site feed.

Thanks for all who have read me through Blogger. Enjoy the new site at MRISports.com.

B
 
Sunday, March 13, 2005
  Final MRI Tournament Projection has been posted

The final tournament projection with just minutes to go before the announcement is posted.

Check it out here.

The MRI got 20 out of 31 conference tournaments correct and is shooting for 30 of the 34 at large teams.
 
  6 Games...

Six games. That is all that remains between us and the field of 65. Twelve teams, some playing just to get into the field, others playing for a better seed. The winner of the SWAC can pretty much be assured of playing on Tuesday. The winner of the Southland game will know that they have to face one of the top 8 teams in the country, and would have to do something that only 4 teams have ever done. The other games, those are the gravy. Match-ups with teams playing for a banner, a seed a little higher, and the glory that comes with a championship season.

4670 games ago, the players stepped onto the floor, and the season began, and I can't remember a season that has been more dizzying, more heart stopping, more exciting. Teams from the top to bottom of major conferences, all very good. The Top 25 all season was as close as close can be. The MRI has never had more teams vying for spots three through seventeen. Every week, games coming down to the buzzer. Shots flying from half court, some going in, some not. This only intensified in the conference tournaments. Yesterday may have been the greatest day of basketball all season. Every game provided those stand up and cheer moments, and some weren't even finals.

A lot is on the line today for Duke and Oklahoma State. It is entirely possible that the most impressive winner of the two today, if they can even win, will capture a #1 seed. For Illinois, no matter if they win or lose, they will be slotted up at #1. And as for Kentucky and Florida, there would be no more perfect match-up in the finals, especially with the way Florida came back from a shaky start at the beginning of the year to come only a few points away from the regular season conference title.

I sit. I wait. I watch. The bracket is coming...and then the real fun will begin.
 
Monday, February 14, 2005
  Week 10 - Rivalries Expose Pretenders

The emails have started again. You know the ones I am talking about. They are the ones that consistently question how an undefeated Illinois team could possibly be listed below a North Carolina team with 3 losses, including a loss that came this week. There are a couple of responses to this. First, the loss earlier in the week did cause North Carolina to actually lose rating points for the week as a whole. Illinois, therefore, did gain on them in the rankings while pulling even further away from the #3 team, which was Kansas (though that will change again after Monday night's loss to Texas Tech). Second, the performance of Illinois in its wins against Michigan and Wisconsin was not something that shouted out the praises of the team. Sure they came from behind in the Michigan game and yes, they beat a Wisconsin team bent on revenge, yet Illinois was not the dominant team that they had been just a few weeks before which begs the question if they are getting tired.

Another factor in this question is the age old battle about who has the better conference, top to bottom, the ACC or the Big Ten. The MRI has consistently had the ACC as the better conference on average. Looking at the ACC-Big Ten challenge earlier this year, the ACC was the dominant league. The Big Ten has a core of 3 very good teams, and then there are 4 teams which teeter on the edge before you hit the bottom four which have truly been terrible this season. Everyone thought that the ACC would turn in the same mediocre league this year with the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech. Instead, the new additions have shocked everyone and Miami is actually riding its time on the bubble, sitting just out of many predictions for the NCAA tournament with just four weeks to play. The league from top to bottom is better than the Big Ten and with the addition of Boston College next season, the disparity could get even bigger.

So for all of you out there that wonder about the formula and my sanity, let's just wait a few more weeks. The good news for Illini fans is that I did predict that all teams would win a game before the last team lost a game. Well, Savannah State finished their season oh-fer, meaning that for my prediction to hold up, Illinois would need to run the table. Consider me on the band wagon.

The second week of the tournament predictions proved somewhat more difficult than the first though I was able to find some information which made the job a little bit easier. Oklahoma State is able to play in Oklahoma City as the Big XII is the official host at the site. This made the pod system a little easier to assemble this week. In addition, my placement of DePaul in the Chicago Region last week was not allowed as they are the host team. Someone should explain how they still are the host team when they play their home games at the Allstate Arena and the tournament is held at the United Center. The same goes for Davidson, who plays in a tiny gym in North Carolina while the tournament games will be held at the Charlotte Coliseum. Granted, fan base for these teams would be a lot greater than normal in these cities, but tell me that wouldn't be the same truth for Oklahoma City and the Cowboys or Chicago and Illinois.

Some thoughts and remember that there are still four weeks left:
 
Monday, February 07, 2005
  Week 9 - The Bubble Forms and Tournament Week 1

It has been quite a couple of weeks since the MRI last graced the pages of Sitting Courtside. The one thing I can say is true is that no team is immune to a lapse right now. North Carolina has been beaten, not in the last two weeks, but they have been beaten. Illinois has had some scary moments when they have looked less than the #1 voted team in the land. In the land of the major conference teams, the bottom has consistently been knocking on the doors of the top teams and coming hard at them, winning some, losing some, but playing hard and upsets are bound to happen.

All this means that we are most likely in for one of the best tournaments in the last few years. With all the teams very close, it will become harder and harder to predict the outcome of all, let alone half, of the tournament games.

However, this week, I endeavor on my task as I do each year and attempt to pick the field of 65. This year, it will look a little different. I did not go straight down the numbers this week, but rather attempted to place the one-bid conference winners a little more strategically. I still placed all at-large winners based on the numbers, but some highly ranked conference leaders were placed lower in the bracket than they would have been when I did this in the past.

And what was I left with are the projections for the first week. It may look like some teams are getting a real big benefit but that is how the numbers stack up at this point. Right now, there are a lot of teams looking in from the outside and they are all just one big win away from getting over the hump and in.

Some thoughts:


Keep on reading and watching. If you want to complain, just drop a comment or an email to bmiraski at mrisports dot com.

 
Monday, January 24, 2005
  Week 7 - Kansas Falls, Army Victorious

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, I have been missing lately. No games to watch, no musings. Not that those things haven't gone on. I just haven't had the chance to write about them.

Well, all that is changed. I am back with a vengeance, and the first thing I have for you in my triumphant return is the review of Week 7.



In other news, I am hard at work on a new look for the site which will allow you to get all of Sitting Courtside, On The Field, and the MRI rankings at one site. Stay tuned, I promise it will be worth it.
 
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  Games to Watch - January 12th

Performed a little better last night in the predictions. Still, not a grand week so far for the MRI. I have to remain positive though. Conference season is sure to provide a number of games that will prove to be upsets. You have to factor in rivalries which are not as common during the non-conference slate. This will cause more upsets than you would figure. Hopefully after this week, things will even out and the MRI will continue its stellar performance so far this year. Gonna be a short night because of the top games of the year will be tonight, though you can say that about any match-up at the top of the ACC.

Wednesday Night:
MRI Performance yesterday: 12-6, 66.67%
MRI Performance this week: 33-23, 58.93%
MRI Performance for the year: 970-304, 76.14%
MRI Performance all time: 3782-1367, 73.45%

Georgia Tech at North Carolina - When you look at a game between the #2 and #4 team in the MRI, you wouldn't expect there to be this much of an advantage for one team. Still even on paper and through watching both these teams play so far this year, you can see why North Carolina should dominate the game, especially with Georgia Tech lacking the offensive skills of B.J. Elder. When Elder went down in the game against Kansas, Georgia Tech looked like a different team. Jarrett Jack attempted to do what he did when the same thing happened in the NCAA tournament last year. In that game, Jack was the driving force in the victory over the Jayhawks. He was impressive again this year, but wasn't able to quite take the Jackets to the win this time as Kansas and Keith Langford got hot near the end of the game to send it to overtime and to victory. Georgia Tech has been able to bounce back with great wins against Miami and Virginia to keep them undefeated in conference play. The shorthanded Georgia Tech will be taking on the amazing three pronged attack of the Tar Heels. Sean May will be quite a test for Luke Schenscher inside. Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants will have Jack's and Will Bynum's heads spinning as he tries to keep up. With the way that North Carolina was able to pull ahead and then put away Maryland on Saturday, they should be riding a high that it seems unlikely that Georgia Tech can stop. Schenscher will need to turn in the game of the year for his team and keep Sean May out of synch. Most importantly, he will need to move better without the ball, something that he was not doing well in the game against Kansas. Anthony Morrow will again need to be able to shoot well and give the Jackets another option on offense. Last, they will need to generate chances on the break and protect the ball. They don't have a lot of chance to match up well with North Carolina in a set game. They will need to keep running and hope that the Tar Heels get sloppy with the ball while protecting it themselves. MRI Predicts: North Carolina Confidence factor: 77.75%

Kent State at Western Michigan - Tonight's game in the MAC matches the top team in the East with the top team in the West. Seniors Ben Reed and Levy Rost lead a Western Michigan team which is looking to return to the NCAA tournament to avenge their loss to Vanderbilt. Both players have been very consistent. They are the top two players in both scoring and rebounding for the team. Reed hasn't been held under 10 points yet this year and went for a season high of 36 in the Broncos' last game against Akron. Rost is no slouch himself, scoring 31 against a Buffalo team which is also expected to contend in the very difficult MAC. Look for point guard Rickey Willis to feed these two consistently throughout the game. The Kent State Flashes will counter with a very balanced offensive attack including point guard DeAndre Haynes. Helping the all-MAC team candidate will be Kevin Warzynski and Jason Edwins. Both Edwins and Warzynski have been key in the previous two wins for the Flashes when Haynes has not shot as well. This will be a great guard battle between Haynes and Reed, one driving the offense through his ball handling skills, and the other through his dead eye shooting. If you want an advantage, there really isn't any definitive one for either team. The Broncos get the nod at home. MRI Predicts: Western Michigan Confidence factor: 53.37%

UTEP at Nevada - The two top teams in the WAC face off tonight in the first of their two meetings. Given the state of the league, only the winner of the conference tournament may get a chance to dance at the end of the season. Therefore, this game becomes even more important. Should one of these two teams establish itself as the strong leader now and then get upset in the tournament, this game could go a long way towards determining if they will get a shot at a second bid. Don't think that I am counting out Fresno State, Hawaii, and Rice just yet, but currently UTEP and Nevada are the only two teams who have the numbers to get to the dance. Sophomore Nick Fazekas and Kevinn Pinkney lead a strong inside attack for the Nevada Wolfpack. This will be countered by the equally good shooting attack of the Miners. Nevada is not a very good shooting team from beyond the arc. If UTEP gets ahead early, they may have a tough time catching them. If Nevada gets the lead though, look for UTEP to turn to their deep shooters like Miguel Ayala. He is 13-17 in the last three games from deep. This one comes down to which team's game get stopped early, the inside presence of Nevada or the perimeter shooting for UTEP. MRI Predicts: UTEP Confidence factor: 56.83%
 
  Wilkinson Badgers Buckeyes

When you win 36 games in a row and 51 out of 53, you have to have some breaks go your way. When Wisconsin took to the floor on Tuesday night, they were hoping for just that. Earlier in the day, it was decided that leading scorer and second leading rebounder Alando Tucker would be sitting out the game against Ohio State after an ankle and foot injury he suffered on Sunday during practice. Without Tucker, they were losing almost a quarter of their offense.

Instead of Alando Tucker, the Badgers had Mike Wilkinson. Wilkinson was the second leading scorer for the team going into the game and left it after scoring 29, a new career high. Wilkinson was repeatedly fed the ball inside and was very effective thanks to the foul trouble by Ohio State's Terence Dials. With Dials on the bench, Matt Marinchick was unable to contain the faster and more aggressive Wilkinson.

Wilkinson added 10 rebounds to his total but by far, the most important board of the game was grabbed by Clayton Hanson with less than a minute remaining in the ball game. On Wisconsin's previous possession, Zach Morley drew a foul, but missed both shots from the free throw line. On the second shot, Hanson grabbed the rebound as Wilkinson blocked out the bigger Dials. Hanson was fouled and went to the line where he hit both shots. The next possession for Ohio State resulted in a turnover as Brandon Fuss-Cheatham threw the ball over the head of the running Dials. Wisconsin made 5 more free throws in the last thirty seconds while Ohio State was only able to counter with one basket of its own.

Despite leading for most of the first half, Ohio State was consistently cold shooting the basketball, especially from three point range. The Buckeyes started the game 2 for 10 from the arc and finished 7 for 23. Tony Stockman, who hit 5 of 7 from three in the Ohio State win against Iowa was especially off from long range and the rest of the floor. He finished 4 for 17 shooting including only 1 of 9 from long distance. Bo Ryan commented after the game that "it was a combination of both" Ohio State missing the open shots they were given and good pressure by the Badger defense.

Still, the best thing that Wisconsin did all night was to take Dials out of the game. He still managed 15 points and 8 rebounds, but it came in only 24 minutes as he repeatedly had to go to the bench, including the last six minutes of the first half when Wisconsin was able to grab the lead from Ohio State and extend it to 5 by the break. Dials picked up his third foul a little over a minute into the second half and was a non-factor on defense especially after he received his next one just 3 minutes later. Without Dials, and given the poor shooting of the Buckeyes, they continued to fall behind. When the shots finally did fall, they were down by 11 and Wisconsin was able to keep ahead just enough to outlast them. J.J. Sullinger and
Matt Sylvester were big in the run that Ohio State tried to make, but it was just not enough.

Not everything Wisconsin did worked. When Wilkinson went out of the game, he was replaced by red shirt freshman Brian Butch. Butch had sat out last season to get stronger and was effective in keeping the Buckeyes in check at the defensive end. Where he still needs to work is in his shot selection. He took two three point shots late in the first half while Dials was sitting on the bench. This was the time when he should have been getting the ball down low as he had the advantage over the Ohio State players. You can be sure that Ryan reminded him of this during a time out after the second shot refused to fall.

With the win, Wisconsin extended its home winning streak to 37 games. Asked about the streak after the game, Ryan was nostalgic for a bit, referring to streaks he had while at Wisconsin-Platteville earlier in his career. Still, Ryan was all business. "I really haven't talked about [the streak]," said Ryan. "This right here, when you have a team coming in the next night...that's all we concentrate on." Ryan will need to have the team concentrating. Their next game is Sunday against Michigan State, who will try and counter Wilkinson with Paul Davis. Wisconsin will be looking to extend the winning streak to an NCAA-leading 38.

Ohio State's next game is a non-conference match against 6-5 LSU.
 
  Couch Musings (1-12-05)

I am seriously thinking that I will need to buy two more television sets at some point and place them all in my living room with their own cable boxes. Trying to flip between the Arkansas-Alabama, Missouri-Oklahoma State, and the end of the Villanova-Providence games, was quite a feat. At least when Louisville played like the Globetrotters against Southern Mississippi doing their best Washington Nationals impression, it left me free to watch the Ohio State-Wisconsin game in its entirety. Musings for last night:
 
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
  Games to Watch - January 11th

I will have to look under the couch. I think I dropped the real MRI back there. Last night, the MRI had its worst single day performance of the year. And yet, it had the Oklahoma win over Connecticut correct. Somehow Oklahoma had been under the national radar until this past week, just breaking into the polls this week and they performed like the very good team they had been all year in that win. I can look to the little conferences such as the Southwest Athletic Conference for the blame. Lots of poor playing teams were on the court last night, and some of the them played better than the other bottom feeders. So tonight, I look to turn this around.

Tuesday Night:
Current MRI performance for the year: 958-298, 76.27%
MRI Performance this week: 21-17, 55.26%
MRI Performance all time: 3770-1361, 73.47%

Ohio State at Wisconsin - Wisconsin fell under the bus that has been Indiana lately on Saturday. Shooting just 35% from the field for the game and less than 30% in the half, they went down to the Hoosiers who have now won four of their last five. The Badgers were on a five game win streak at the time and Bo Ryan had them looking like they were the second best team in the Big Ten, not Michigan State. They will look to regroup tonight against a surprising Ohio State team. Wisconsin will count on Alando Tucker to continue his hot shooting. He has averaged 18.8 points per game over his last five and failed to score in double digits only one during that time. What Wisconsin will have to improve over the Indiana game is the third option. Mike Wilkinson down low gives them their second option in the post. Someone will have to contribute from outside so that the Badgers will shoot better than 16.7% from beyond 3 point range. That person had been Sharif Chambliss but he went stone cold on Saturday and scored a goose egg, dooming the Badgers. Kammron Taylor, who came off the bench to score 21 against Indiana will also be expected to contribute, but he is not the three point shooter that Chambliss is. While Wisconsin was losing, Ohio State was shocking everyone by beating Iowa, who had looked very good during non-conference games and has fallen twice now that Big Ten play has begun. The Buckeyes will be looking to keep the run going. Led by Terence Dials and Tony Stockman, Ohio State can continue to hang near the top of the Big Ten standings and frustrate everyone with a win tonight. Dials will need to be strong player he has been all season and it will all depend on them getting him the ball. He leads the team in scoring and rebounds but only had five shots against Illinois. Without him leading the team, Ohio State would struggle. If Wilkinson and the other Badger big men can keep a big body on Dials in Bo Ryan's defense, Wisconsin has a great chance of winning should their shooting improve. MRI Predicts: Ohio State Confidence factor: 50.60% MRI Result: LOSS

Villanova at Providence - It is sad to say that the story of a promising season may have turned on Friday, especially this early in the season, but it may just have. Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter injured his knee on in practice before the Notre Dame game and sat out that game. Without their leading scorer and rebounder, the Wildcats were unable to play like they did against West Virginia a few days earlier when they rolled to hand the Mountaineers their first loss of the season. Now they take their game, missing a large piece against a scrappy Providence team who, despite early season struggles, have rebounded to win 5 of their last seven and gave Boston College a run on Saturday. Ryan Gomes will need more help from his teammates though to help the Friars to a win. Given Villanova's loss, they may have an easier time contributing, especially Dwight Brewington. He needs his shots to fall or else he tends to disappear on the court. Without Nova's main inside threat, Brewington should be able to cut into the lane more like he did against Michigan earlier this season and play better. The winner of this one will continue to be look like a contender in the Big East and a team that could squeak in at the tail end of the tournament selections. The loser will have their work cut out for them, even this early in the conference season. MRI says Villanova, but with Sumpter's injury, this one may be an easy steal for Providence. MRI Predicts: Villanova Confidence factor: 64.44% MRI Result: WIN

Missouri at Oklahoma State - Ok, its so cliche. "Maybe all they needed was a little confidence." It might be true in Missouri's case. After barely playing to a victory against Indiana, the Tigers faced an Illinois team which hadn't won by less than double digit margins all season. They played the Illini tough and almost pulled off what would have been the shock of the year. A loss by 6 points giving confidence? Against Illinois, it sure can. Since that loss, Missouri has looked like a different team on the floor. They have won three in a row, knocking off Gonzaga, American, and Iowa State. They have opened up the offense more and no longer need to run the ball through Linas Kleiza to score now that Jason Conley has found his shot. Tonight they take on Oklahoma State, who was unable to beat Gonzaga and had their troubles with Texas Tech before putting them away. Joey Graham will be looking to continue his amazing offensive output so far this season and he has proven that he can shoot from everywhere on the floor. John Lucas and Daniel Bobik will contribute with him. The Cowboys have tons of weapons and it will most likely be too much for Quin Snyder and the rejuvenated Missouri offense. MRI Predicts: Oklahoma State Confidence factor: 93.82% MRI Result: WIN

Maryland at Wake Forest - After a dismal performance on Saturday against North Carolina, it became apparent that Maryland is nothing without Ekene Ibekwe contributing with rebounds. Maryland is going to need him tonight when they face Wake Forest. He played only 14 minutes in the game against the Tar Heels and will need to stay out of foul trouble tonight. Wake Forest may try and get into his head and have Chris Paul repeatedly feeding their big men inside to see if they can entice Ibekwe into foul trouble again tonight. The Demon Deacons are not a feared inside team but a strong performance by the big men against Clemson may have given them confidence. Wake Forest was originally pegged as one of the favorites for a National Title this season. While playing at a high level, they are not to the height that both the Illini and North Carolina have set the bar at right now. Don't expect a blow out like both these teams saw this weekend, one on the winning end and one on the losing side, but Wake is playing well enough to handle whatever Maryland chooses to bring. MRI Predicts: Wake Forest Confidence factor: 84.76% MRI Result: WIN

Alabama at Arkansas - Alabama, they confuse me. They play well against weak teams, yet struggle to wins against most of the good teams they have played. Lately though, they have been struggling against those good teams. Losses to Wisconsin and Vanderbilt have dropped the SEC title talk that surrounded this team after their amazing performance last year in the tournament when they knocked off Stanford. Arkansas has meanwhile been rolling, albeit against weak competition, until they tripped against Florida this weekend. Neither team has shown me enough to get me to believe that either one deserves to have a ranking next to their name. Bama continues to be ranked in the national polls, while the MRI loves Arkansas, even if they are slightly riding a bubble right now that could pop at any moment. Look for the turnover battle to be key in this one as Alabama has had trouble handling the ball lately. They also have a short bench which could haunt them, much like it has all season when it hasn't produced. MRI Predicts: Arkansas Confidence factor: 84.76% MRI Result: LOSS

Air Force at St. Mary's - Raise your hand if you know who Paul Marigney is. Or how about Daniel Kickert? They play for the St. Mary's Gaels and were the two top scorers for the team when they did something that no one in the conference had done since February, 2003, beat Gonzaga. The Gaels had been hoping for a victory even longer than that, having lost the last 17 to the Zags. The mighty Gonzaga hasn't been as strong this year as they have in the past despite some big name victories earlier this season. The Gaels hope that they begin a trend in the West Coast Conference and more teams will take down Gonzaga. St. Mary's was touted with Santa Clara at the beginning of the season as the two hopes to unseat Gonzaga. The whole conference came out and played well, though some have fallen off recently. St. Mary's hopes to not see any fall-off when they go out of conference tonight to take on Air Force. The Falcons were the talk of the town last season and have yet to play up to what everyone though coming into the year when there were hopes they would repeat as the conference champs. Nick Welsh will lead the Falcons inside, but as the only big man getting minutes on the team, he has big shoes to fill. St. Mary's beat a tougher stronger team in Gonzaga. This one may come down to how well the Gaels can hold onto the ball, something that Air Force should be able to take advantage of. MRI Predicts: St. Mary's Confidence factor: 73.15% MRI Result: WIN
 
Sitting Courtside is a series of articles and observations based on the world of college basketball. On The Field will appear regularly on MRISports.com.

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Name:Ben Miraski
Location:Chicago, Illinois, United States
Previous Posts
End of an Era
Final MRI Tournament Projection has been posted
6 Games...
Week 10 - Rivalries Expose Pretenders
Week 9 - The Bubble Forms and Tournament Week 1
Week 7 - Kansas Falls, Army Victorious
Games to Watch - January 12th
Wilkinson Badgers Buckeyes
Couch Musings (1-12-05)
Games to Watch - January 11th

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November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 /


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