College football is back with games starting tonight with 16 games. Here is a breakdown of the action. While the top 25 showdowns are there, the number of potential FCS upsets over FBS schools is what I am looking for. Look for three to five FBS schools to embarrass themselves.
Last year’s bracket did fine considering it was a crazy year. Picking Mercer to beat Duke was enough credibility for me to roll my bracket on the internet again.
I have Kentucky winning it all and that sounds boring I know. The Wildcats are just that good. Sure, Kentucky will be tested (I have them playing Wisconsin in the semifinals and Virginia in the title game), but they should pass those tests. This Kentucky team is obviously superior to the team that scrapped past Wisconsin a year ago and came up short in the title game with UConn.
Virginia was the team I struggled with the most as I don’t know how healthy it will be. I just think the Cavaliers have gone too far to have another season end before the Final Four, though Michigan State and even Belmont could give them problems.
To the picks.
My Midwest is crazy outside of Kentucky rolling through. Valpo is a solid team as I have it moving on to the Sweet 16. The Crusaders can defend and shoot 3s and that is a lethal combo. Texas is another surprise team here as the Longhorns are among the leaders in blocks in rebounds. When you look at their losses you see that most came to good Big 12 teams on the road and at Kentucky. Wichita State is the next hidden gem in the region as the Shockers have been waiting for a shot at Kansas for a long time. No way they let this slip.
In contrast the West is more predictable.
The East is about Virginia staying healthy. I added some upsets from the winner of Boise State/Dayton and Louisville having another deep run.
The South can be anyone but I like Utah as it is one of the few squads who can defend and score. This is also Gonzaga’s best chance at a deep tournament run. For a good upset, I’m going with Eastern Washington to shoot the 3 over a bigger Georgetown team.
The first round is all about upsets and mid-majors getting their chance. Sometimes the committee enables the upsets and other times they deny them. Here are some examples.
Love: 13 Seed Eastern Washington vs. 4 Seed Georgetown
Georgetown is becoming the punching bag for Cinderella teams in the past few years (VCU and Florida Gulf Coast) and Eastern Washington gets crack at extending the streak. The team strength of the Hoyas is protecting the rim but the Eagles are a top 10 3-point shooting team and can circumvent the size of the Hoyas. That makes this interesting and a must watch as the opportunity for the upset or a close game is there.
Hate: 12 Seed Wyoming vs. 5 Seed Northern Iowa
See the problem here? Both these mid-majors could top a power conference team but have been denied that opportunity with this pairing. I love Northern Iowa but it would not benefit the exposure and prestige of the program by beating Wyoming. Wish this game was against a Texas or an Indiana team so that the nation would respect UNI more for after a win.
Love: 15 Seed Belmont vs. 2 Seed Virginia
Virginia is one of the best defensive college basketball teams you’ll ever see, but tiny Belmont of the Ohio Valley Conference can score, score, score. Belmont is a top 50 offense and 3-point shooting team. If the Bruins heat up from the field, this little 15 vs. 2 bracket buster could become a very real.
Hate: 8 Seed North Carolina State vs. 9 Seed LSU
Some 8/9 games are compelling but this is not one of them. LSU just lost to a 14-19 Auburn team in its first game of the SEC tournament. NC State was eviscerated by Duke in the ACC tournament in a game that was never competitive. The winner will probably get Villanova but I would rather pass on this game involving two teams combining for 23 losses on the year.
Love: 13 Seed UC Irvine vs. 4 Seed Louisville
Welcome to the block party! Both UC Irvine and Louisville are in the top 50 in blocks per game. The Anteaters have a 7’6” center in Mamadou Ndiaye and if you have a guy like that you have a chance. Louisville is a strong defensive team but UC Irvine can shoot the 3. That’s enough intrigue for me.
Hate: 7 Seed Iowa vs. 10 Seed Davidson
You have no idea how hard it was to write that. How is Davidson the underdog here? The Wildcats went 14-4 in the Atlantic 10 and was rewarded with a 10 seed? Iowa is a 7 seed despite losing to bottom of the conference Penn State team in the Big Ten tournament. The only way this game is worth watching is if Davidson takes to Iowa and blows it out to rectify the poor seeding from the committee.
Selection Sunday is two days away and that means it’s time to see what little schools have the ability to make big waves in March Madness. These are schools from one-bid leagues or have lacked television time. Note Gonzaga, the Missouri Valley, the Mountain West and the Atlantic-10 are not on this list as they should be part of the big boys now.
North Florida: Atlantic Sun Tournament Champion
The North Florida Ospreys played most of their non-conference games on the road and lost most of those as a result but it did beat Purdue. North Florida is in the top 50 in blocks giving it some rim protection thanks to forward Demarcus Daniels. The Ospreys strength though is the 3-point line as they are in the top 50 in shooting percentage and defending the 3. Junior Beau Beech is 6’8” but has made 83 3s this year and is assisted with 80 more from guard Trent Mackey. North Florida’s 75.7 point average is in the top 25 scoring offenses in the nation. A team that can shoot the 3, defend the 3, and rim protect can definitely win a game in March.
Valparaiso: Horizon League Champion
Valparaiso with a top 55 RPI and 28-5 would have been a bubble team for an at-large but thankfully the Crusaders don’t have to worry about that with the automatic bid. Coach Bryce Drew said after his squad beat Green Bay in the tourney final that he hopes to have a better matchup this time. Two years ago, Valpo had to face Michigan State and it was not a good fit. The Crusaders may be more versatile this time as they rank in the top 50 in defense, blocks and 3-point percentage. Valpo holds opponents under 60 points a game and 6’10” senior center Vashil Fernandez averages three blocks a game. If Valpo plays a team that likes to keep the pace down, it should be able to hang around and even knock them off.
New Mexico State: WAC
The Aggies have not won the WAC tournament yet but will be a headache for a team in the first round if they do. New Mexico State tore through the WAC regular season with a 13-1 record. It’s all about defense for the Aggies as they hold opponents under 60 points per game as well. Defending the 3-point line is a big part why as teams shoot less than 30% percent from behind the arc against them. That’s just as good as Virginia and close behind Kentucky. New Mexico State doesn’t bail out offenses either as it is in the top 50 fewest fouls. Rebounding is another team strength so the only problems occur on the offensive end. If the Aggies can heat up just a little from the field it should be an interesting first round game.
The Cougars are on the bubble but they deserve to get in as they are a powder keg waiting to explode on the offensive side. BYU averages 83.6 points per game, and that’s good for No. 2 in the country behind Northwestern State. Contributing to scoring is BYU’s No. 5 ranking in free-throw percentage at 76.8%. The Cougars are also sport a plus 4.9 rebound margin giving them some support on the glass. If BYU can draw fouls, it has a chance to pull off wins in the Big Dance.
Stephen F. Austin: Southland
Stephen F. Austin is still fighting for the automatic bid in the Southland tournament so nothing is set yet. With that said the Lumberjacks are scary with a 27-4 record. A top 15 offense at 79 points per game is contributed from six players who average roughly 40 percent from 3. The big strength though is in forcing turnovers and converting them into easy baskets. The Lumberjacks are in the top 20 in turnover margin and pull off eight steals a game. If Stephen F. Austin can get in and play a team with an inexperienced back-court, the Lumberjacks could be on their way to round two and possibly the Sweet 16.
Honorable mentions: Old Dominion, UC-Irvine and Eastern Washington
College football is down to its final game tonight as the postseason has been underway for weeks. We all know the main headlines such the top SEC teams going down, TCU dominating and Florida State combusting into humiliating defeat in the Rose Bowl. There are facts that are not so prominent like leaving tickets for a celebrity. Trust me, it will make sense soon. Here are 13 overlooked stories from the college football bowl season.
13. Oklahoma Tries to Stay Positive
Oklahoma was pounded by Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl 40-6, but found a way to stay up beat on this Clemson touchdown.
When Oklahoma is clinging to hope of a play being reversed, you know it’s a blowout.
No. 12 Randomly meeting your favorite team on the beach
It was a great New Years for Georgia Tech with its Orange Bowl win, but a Georgia Tech fan had an even better time as she had this chance meeting with her favorite Yellow Jackets.
No. 11 Arkansas and People Watching
Arkansas really enjoyed its 31-7 Texas Bowl win over Texas and that deserves bonus points when you beat a team the bowl is named after. The Razorbacks began giving shout outs to fellow athletic teams and signs from fans that trashed their opponent.
Seriously, you don’t see any other athletic department people watch like this, but when you’re winning you can do whatever you want.
No. 10 Pep Rallies upon pep rallies
Bowl games always try to have some pep rallies for the fans, and there is also the chance of having the pep rallies turn into a band duel. Like here in the Fiesta Bowl between Arizona and Boise State.
I guess the Boise band did better as the Broncos won a close Fiesta Bowl game.
No. 9 Underdogs Dominate
It was not a good bowl season to be the favorite.
No. 8 Oregon Football Reflected in Rose Bowl Commercial
The Ducks were winners in another area too, promotional advertisements. This ad that aired during the Rose Bowl was among the best commercials for a school during bowl season as it matched the football team to the university seamlessly.
No. 7 Bowl Banners
It’s always interesting to see how the mid-majors promote their bowl teams. It’s pretty much their season for some of these teams. The Mountain West celebrated its postseason thanks to their record number of bowl teams.
The best mid-major conference was actually Conference USA who had a 4-1 mark in bowl season.
No. 6 West Virginia and the King
West Virginia play Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. You can’t visit Memphis without an Elvis joke and that’s what West Virginia did here.
Good thing the King didn’t show as the Mountaineers lost.
No. 5 Missouri Valley Monopoly
The Missouri Valley Football Conference had its way in the FCS playoffs, as MVFC schools North Dakota State and Illinois State met in the FCS Championship game. Now that is a conference that should be boasting more than SEC fans.
North Dakota State would win a close game 29-27 to earn its 4th straight national championship. Check out the trophy presentation. Where else do the fans gather on the field and the players gather in the stands for the celebration.
No. 4 Coconut Shrimp and Bloomin’ Onion
The Outback Bowl was all about giving away bloomin’ onions or coconut shrimp based off of the winner of the bowl game. They even went so far to have people dress up as both foods.
No. 3 Marriage at the Rose Bowl
This Oregon couple had more than just a Rose Bowl victory to celebrate.
No. 2 Houston’s Comeback to Retweet
Houston had a triumphant fourth quarter comeback against Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars wanted everyone to know they came back from 25 points.
No. 1 #MACtion vs. #FunBelt
The MAC and the Sun Belt have all the fun in bowl season. These bowls games are what the conferences are all about in the postseason to the point where it has become a bit of a rivalry. The MAC and the Sun Belt met twice with Bowling Green vs. South Alabama and Toledo vs. Arkansas State. Both games yielded fantastic barbs between the two leagues.
Here is an example of what the Sun Belt did when South Alabama scored a touchdown on Bowling Green.
Here is the MAC after a Toledo touchdown.
In the end the MAC won both games and went into boast mode.
I knew many people in college who hated the idea of having to go through a commencement ceremony and walk on stage for their degree. I wonder if they would have approved of a short commencement on an airplane during a flight to a FCS playoff game? Sounds too specific to makeup doesn’t it? You can thank Sam Houston State for that.
Three members of the Bearkat football team walked the aisle for their diploma as the team flew to Villanova for a FCS quarterfinal. The game took place during winter commencement but the school wanted to make sure the three semester grads could walk like every other student. You could see the players walking into the restroom to change into their cap and gown during the video in the back of the plane.
The ceremony was a snapshot of Sam Houston State’s surprising run in the playoffs. In the first round, it survived what many viewed as a coin-flip game with Southeastern Louisiana 21-17. On December 6, Sam Houston had the biggest upset of the bracket, taking out 3 seeded Jacksonville State 37-26. The result gave the team a shot at 6 seeded Villanova on Saturday as Sam Houston scored another upset win 34-31 to advance to the semifinals.
Take a look at the locker room before the team prayer. Man the FCS playoffs are fun.
The D-1 women’s volleyball tournament is here, and I’m a little late making my picks.
The bracket was not kind to Big Ten powerhouses Penn State and Wisconsin placing them in the same region. This means a rematch of last year’s championship match will most likely occur in the regional final.
Overall, Stanford is the top seed but Texas and Washington are right behind.
Through the RPI, the matches I was able to catch, and the college volleyball social media guide I did in August, I have to pick Washington to win it all over Stanford in the final. The Huskies gave the Cardinal its only loss and can do so again. Plus, Washington was one of the best schools in promoting volleyball over social media.
As far as upsets I think Nebraska is vulnerable to Kansas State, Creighton should have a good chance over Kansas and my big upset special is Long Beach State making it to the Sweet Sixteen through UCLA. My round one upset is Lipscomb over Ohio State.
I really wanted to pick Colorado State over Texas as the Rams have been the best mid-major this season. Just couldn’t do it so prove me wrong Rams. The selection committee did the Rams no favors with a likely meeting with rival Colorado in round 2.
Here are all my picks.