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February 8, 2008 Columns No Comments




NCAA Tournament Crystal Ball

by Dan Hauptman and Michael Protos

Feb. 8, 2008

The pursuit of perfection is the ultimate chase in sports, as it is in all walks of life. The New England Patriots came oh-so-close to a perfect season this year, until the zero in the loss column suddenly and shockingly became a one Feb. 3. In college basketball, where a title team plays approximately twice as many games as the 19 that New England played this year, an undefeated season is even more unlikely.

Don’t tell that to the Memphis Tigers. John Calipari’s squad is the only team yet to lose this season, and the Tigers’ weak Conference USA schedule has Memphians thinking perfection. If Memphis continues to beat up conference foes — eight regular-season games remain plus the Conference USA Tournament to be held at Memphis’ home, the FedEx Forum — and defeats in-state rival Tennessee in its lone remaining non-conference game, then the pressure to continue the dream season will increase exponentially by round come NCAA Tournament time. By the way, the last undefeated college hoops team was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, coached by the recently resigned Bob Knight.

Perfection is also the goal for Hoopville fortunetellers Dan Hauptman and Michael Protos. Their Crystal Basketballs are heating up and sending them many messages these days, as the games rapidly count down until Selection Sunday March 16. In their second go-around this season, they got the message that despite greater agreement on the field, it will never be easy to finalize the last at-large bids.

After their first attempt produced a variation in five at-large bids, Hauptman and Protos see a more similar field. Hauptman gives the nod to Mississippi State, Illinois State and BYU, while Protos picks Syracuse, Creighton and North Carolina State instead. Although the Atlantic 10 continues to fare well with Hauptman and Protos each awarding three bids to the conference, Massachusetts is on the outside looking in.

The Minutemen have a strong case with a No. 28 RPI and No. 18 strength of schedule. However, the selection committee has snubbed at least one RPI top 30 team for each of the past two seasons — Air Force last year and Missouri State and Hofstra two years ago. Massachusetts seems like a prime candidate to have its bubble burst because the team lacks big wins. The only RPI top 50 victories are against Syracuse and Dayton. The win against the Flyers came when Dayton was missing two of its top scorers. The Houston victory is also solid, but losses to Northern Iowa, IUPUI and St. Louis — even though they are all road losses — will hurt. And a 3-4 conference record as of Feb. 8 doesn’t help the cause.

With Massachusetts out, find out who Hauptman and Protos did see in the field.

Hauptman’s Hoops Horoscope Protos’ Prognostications

Memphis
Kansas
Duke
UCLA

Memphis
Duke
Kansas
UCLA

North Carolina
Tennessee
Georgetown
Michigan State

Tennessee
North Carolina
Georgetown
Xavier

Stanford
Wisconsin
Texas
Pittsburgh

Wisconsin
Texas
Drake
Stanford

Vanderbilt
Connecticut
Kansas State
Drake

Michigan State
Arizona
St. Mary’s
Connecticut

Arizona
Xavier
Indiana
Washington State

Kansas State
Butler
Louisville
Pittsburgh

Clemson
Dayton
Florida
Butler

Washington State
Vanderbilt
Clemson
Marquette

Louisville
Baylor
St. Mary’s
Texas A&M

Indiana
Purdue
Notre Dame
Baylor

Notre Dame
USC
Marquette
Arkansas

Texas A&M
Ohio State
Mississippi
USC

Ohio State
Oklahoma
Maryland
Mississippi State

Rhode Island
Gonzaga
Arkansas
Dayton

Gonzaga
UNLV
Purdue
West Virginia

Maryland
Oklahoma
West Virginia
Florida

Rhode Island
Mississippi
Illinois State
Oregon

South Alabama
George Mason
BYU
Davidson

George Mason
BYU
Davidson
VCU

VCU
Oregon
Creighton
Syracuse

Kent State
South Alabama
Oral Roberts
Utah State

North Carolina State
Kent State
Oral Roberts
Utah State

UNC Asheville
Stephen F. Austin
Cal State Northridge
Lafayette

UNC Asheville
Cornell
Rider
Cal State Northridge

Rider
Hampton
Portland State
Austin Peay

Maryland Baltimore Co.
Austin Peay
Lafayette
Portland State

Cornell
Wagner
Maryland Baltimore Co.
Jacksonville
Alabama State

Lamar
Morgan State
Jacksonville
Wagner
Alabama State
Last 4 In:
Illinois State
Oregon
BYU
VCU
Last 4 In:
Oregon
Creighton
Syracuse
North Carolina State
Last 4 Out:
Massachusetts
Syracuse
Creighton
Arizona State
Last 4 Out:
Massachusetts
Illinois State
Saint Joseph’s
UNLV
Shooting Stars:
Connecticut
Duke
Kansas State
Stanford
Shooting Stars:
Connecticut
Duke
Louisville
Stanford
Sinking Ships:
Oregon
Washington State
Oklahoma
Mississippi
Sinking Ships:
Massachusetts
Mississippi
Oregon
Dayton
Conference Breakdown:
Big East: 7
Big 12: 6
Pac-10: 6
SEC: 6
Big Ten: 5
ACC: 4
Atlantic 10: 3
Colonial: 2
Missouri Valley: 3
Mountain West: 2
West Coast: 2
20 one-bid conferences
Conference Breakdown:
Big East: 8
Big 12: 6
Pac-10: 6
ACC: 5
Big Ten: 5
SEC: 5
Atlantic 10: 3
Colonial: 2
Missouri Valley: 2
West Coast: 2
21 one-bid conferences

Whose field looks more accurate to you? Or are both Hauptman and Protos off target? E-mail us your comments on the Crystal Basketball or give us your own NCAA Tournament prognostications. Then check back throughout the next two months, as Hauptman’s and Protos’ visions for the Big Dance become clearer as the days until Selection Sunday count down. The calendar reads February. In this shortened month, Cinderella has less time to pick out her dancing slippers.

     

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