First, it is imperative that we understand something at this point: a 15 seed would suck. A lot.
Why? In the 15 v 2 game, the 15 seed has only won four times. None of those four teams won a second game. In other words, a 15 seed is a one and done consolation prize for low major conference teams who happened to win their conference tournament.
That’s the primary reason why I personally don’t expect Belmont to be a 15 seed. Even though Belmont earned a 15 seed in their first three tournament appearances, the Bruins have become a well known mid-major staple among those who are “in the know” in college basketball. How ever, in the interest of being thorough, let’s take a brief look at the potential two seeds.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll look at the four projected two seeds according to CBSSports.com: Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan State and Duke.
Missouri is a prolific offensive team. According to StatSheet.com, the Tigers lead the country in points per posession at 1.19. The team is lead by Senior Guard Marcus Denmon who scores 18 points per game on 47% shooting. The Tigers’ Achilles heel is two-fold; first, although the team is 27-4 many of those wins came against far inferior talent and second, Kansas State.
Missouri’s non-conference strength of schedule was 287th – compare that with Belmont’s 66th ranked non-conference strength of schedule. There’s a caveat here: Missouri split the series with Kansas and beat Baylor twice so they can win against superior talent, but the Tigers lost both contests against 21-9 Kansas State. On Feb 21st, the Wildcats went in to Columbia, MO and beat the Tigers on their home court by ten. Aside from these two shortfalls, Missouri could be a one seed and with a Big 12 tournament win, may still earn a one seed. Missouri will go far in the tournament no matter where they are seeded.
Don’t be fooled by Ohio State’s #10 AP ranking, Jared Sullinger and his band of Nuts are good enough to win a national championship – Ken Pomeroy has them at #2. What the Buckeyes lack in flashy stats they make up for in defensive efficiency. They’re one of the best in the nation at limiting their opponents’ chances. Ohio State ranks second in the nation in defensive rebound percentage and first in the nation in opponents’ points per possession.
With a win in yesterday East Lansing over Big Ten front-runner Michigan State, the Buckeyes may have snuck into a one seed for the Big Ten Tournament, but the two teams remain in a three way tie with Michigan. Ohio State does not lack strength of schedule – they’ve played the 14th toughest schedule this year. The Buckeyes’ sole “bad” loss came to Illinois. If Belmont draws Ohio State, we’ll need Scott Saunders, Mick Hedgepeth, Boomer Herndon and Adam Mark on the floor to cover Jared Sullinger.
Who had the toughest schedule in college basketball this season? Michigan State. It’s not only because the Big 10 has been good this year, the Spartans’ non-conference strength of schedule ranks 15th in the country. Michigan State is led by Draymond Green, a Senior Forward who averages 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories.
Michigan State ranks in the Top 10 nationally in only one statistical category: rebound percentage. However, the Spartans are ranked third in the country according to Ken Pomeroy and third in the Massey College Basketball Ranking Comparison. Draymond Green is the heart and soul of this team. For my money, they are the most susceptible to upset of the potential two seeds. If a team develops a scheme to keep the ball out of Green’s hands and force the Spartans to win another way they can be defeated. That, however, will not be an easy task in any round of the tournament. This is another Tom Izzo team that isn’t flashy but manages to win games.
If you think it’s a coincidence that I saved the Blue Devils for last, you’re wrong. I would pay money for Belmont to draw Duke again. Unfortunately, I bet Coach K would pay ten times my wager to avoid Belmont. The Bruins and Blue Devils have faced each other only twice. Duke has claimed both contests but only by a combined two points.
Duke is a big question mark this year for many in the college basketball world. Duke suffered through the 2nd most difficult schedule this year and dropped only five games – only one of those to a sub-50 RPI team (Miami’s RPI was 51). Yet, even with wins over Kansas, UNC, Michigan State, and Michigan the onlookers want more.
Duke always has a chance to win the ACC and that’s what it will take to move the Blue Devils from a two seed to a one seed. This Duke team is like all Duke teams. They’re balanced on offense and they play defense when they feel like it. Duke ranks 62nd nationally in rebounds per game – an area of their game I’m sure Coach Krzyzewski will be working on in the wake of 18 point blowout at home at the hands of Tobacco Road rival UNC; a game in which Duke was out-rebounded 42 to 22.
I’d give anything to watch Belmont take on Duke again. At the same time I hope they don’t. Duke will be a one or a two seed and I do not want Belmont to be a 15 seed.
At the end of the day I don’t want Belmont to play any of these teams. Not because I don’t think Belmont could win, but because these are all teams who believe they have a chance at a national championship and with that in mind, won’t overlook a team like Belmont early in the tournament.
No matter what team lines up against the Bruins in a few weeks, they’ll be wise to prepare heavily. Already comparisons are being drawn to last year’s Belmont team, but the two could not be more different.
I can’t wait for Selection Sunday which, in my opinion, is the single greatest day in all of collegiate sport.