2021 NCAA Tournament Preview: Friday, Early Afternoon Games

After a year without the Tournament, this is awesome!  So, let’s get right to the games…

#7 Florida (-1) vs. #10 Virginia Tech
12:15 pm, CBS
I love the first game of the Tournament.  It’s always interesting to think of what two teams are gonna tip us off.  And, this year, it’s a pretty good one.  Or, at least a competitive one.

The Gators come stumbling into this Tournament and, I think, are one of the few major seeding mistakes that the Committee made in what was a rather well-seeded tournament, in general.  This team is not a 7-seed especially after losing 3 of their last 4 with that only win a close one over a bad Vandy team in the SEC Tournament that they easily could have lost.  The big story of the UF season is the loss of Keyontae Johnson after he had a TERRIFYING collapse in a game at FSU in November.  Johnson, the preseason SEC POY, was the best and most important player on this team, and their ceiling is definitely lowered without him.  But, most importantly, it looks like he’s going to be okay.  Before the recent swoon, the Gators had been pretty good considering they lost their best player.  They are top-40 in both offense and defense, and have one of the most unsung stars of the SEC in the 6’5” SO Tre Mann (15.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 45/39/84%), who is a stud on both ends.  He is probably the best player that no one ever talks about.  They also have former McDonald’s All-American in 6’5″ SO Scottie Lewis (7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 spg), but he has been surprisingly slow to emerge in now his sophomore year in Gainesville.  They have a couple of decent wings in Reisterstown’s own 6’3” JR sharpshooter Noah Locke (10.5 ppg, 41% from three) and 6’1” JR transfer from Cleve State Tyree Appleby (11.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg),.  And, losing Johnson has forced Mike White to go big and allowed for 6’11” JR transfer from Michigan Colin Castleton (12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 59% FG) to emerge as a really good SEC big.  The Gators are 8-0 this year when Castleton scores 14 or more.

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The New Year Report: Conference Previews – Part One

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner.  Some people think of resolutions.  Others think of champagne corks.  Still others reflect back on another year gone by.  But, for me, one of the things I think of first when I think of the calendar changing is the start of the college hoops conference season.  We have almost 2 months of non-conference play in the books (some of which has been spectacular), and now we get to go into the meat of the season.  And, not to leave any stone unturned, we are going to give quick previews of all 32 D-1 conferences as to what has happened in the noncon schedule, as well as what to possibly expect going forward for the next 3 months.  This will be a 4-part series with 4 conferences previewed in each.  So, with 32 conferences to do, let’s get started with the 4 best basketball conferences in America this year – the Big Ten, ACC, Big XII, and Pac-12.

Big Ten

The best league top to bottom in America last year – by a somewhat wide margin – is, again, the best league in America this year.  With several legit national title contenders, the Big Ten goes at least 8-deep as far as tournament-caliber teams.  But, possibly the real strength of this league is that there is never a night off.  All 12 teams are solid, with tough styles of play and strong homecourt advantages.  The Big Ten may have fallen off on the gridiron, but it is thriving on the hardwood.

  • Preseason Favorite:  Michigan State
    The Spartans were everyone’s pick to be the class of this league from the jump and when they beat Kentucky at the Champions Classic, it looked like they were the clear-cut best team in the country.  But, they struggled against some inferior competition (Columbia and Oakland, in particular) and were soundly beaten on their home floor by UNC.  This is still a team that should be right there in the end, but they have shown some alarming signs, particularly lack of leadership (which is odd considering they are a veteran team with a Hall of Fame coach) and lack of frontcourt depth.
  • Most Impressive:  Ohio State, Wisconsin
    Both the Buckeyes and Badgers are undefeated so far and #3 and #4, respectively, in the AP Poll.  Whether they have supplanted MSU as the Big Ten favorites or not, these two teams have certainly added some real intrigue to the Big Ten race
  • Most Disappointing:  Michigan
    The disappointment in Ann Arbor is because of other people’s expectations.  I, honestly, am not surprised by the Wolverines apparent struggles because they have played a rough schedule and aren’t really all that good.  Remember they had to replace two NBA draft picks, including the national POY (who was their point guard).  Despite the apparent “experience” from bringing back most of the team that played for a national title last year, the Wolverines are much younger than people think – #336 out of 351 in experience.
  • “My” Favorite:  Iowa
    This is the spot where I will just spend time on the team I like most in any particular conference.  I love this Hawkeye team and honestly think that they are Sweet 16 good.  They have a TON of depth and are very, VERY well-coached.  I’m not sure they can win this league, but I’m also not sure they should be completely ruled out.
  • Potential Sleepers:  Minnesota, Indiana
    No one is talking about this Gopher team, but they do have talent.  The Hollinses are special and now that Tubby is gone, maybe they won’t underachieve.  As for the Hoosiers – it’s strange to think they are a “sleeper,” but they are under the radar and still VERY good (I am smitten for both Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleigh, so I might be biased here).
  • Also Relevant:  Illinois
    The Illini are doing again what they did last year – flying under the radar and winning, despite little to no hype.  I’m not entirely sure it will sustain itself, but I wouldn’t rule them out of national relevancy just yet.
  • Dregs: None
    That is what makes this conference so good.  While Northwestern, Penn State, and Nebraska won’t be competing for any conference titles, they are still really solid teams that could beat anyone on any given night.  Northwestern is probably the worst of the bunch, as they are in total rebuild mode, but Coach Collins should turn them around quickly.  Penn State is the typical cellar-dweller here, but they have Tim Frazier, who is one of the best players in the country.
  • The Pick:  Ohio State
    It is hard for me to pick against Tom Izzo, particularly with the level of talent he has there, but I see alarming signs from the Spartans and am totally sold on the OSU defense.  I think MSU is the better Final Four contender, but OSU is the better pick for Big Ten champ…if that makes any sense.


The self-proclaimed “best conference ever” might be just that next year when they add Louisville to the fold and currently down programs like Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and freshman-laden programs at N.C. State and Miami continue to rebuild.  As for this year, they’re knocking on the door, but I still think they are second to the Big Ten.

  • Preseason Favorite:  Duke
    Ho-hum…another year, another ELITE team for Coach K down in Durham.  But, being elite isn’t the only familiar feel to this Blue Devil team.  They also have a very familiar flaw – they are so top-heavy on athletic wings…yet again…without a dynamic point guard or big man.  I’ve heard this comment (I think Doogan may have made it actually) – “Duke is so good this year that Rasheed Sulaimon comes off the bench.”  That is a good point, but one that is a little weakened by the fact that they have to start Josh Hairston or Amile Jefferson at the 5.  Sulaimon is clearly one of their 5 best players, but his skills are totally overlapped by guys like Parker and Hood.  Even Dawkins and Thornton are rendered somewhat useless because Hood and Parker are so good.  Now, this is a total nitpick because this team is fantastic.  But, another concern might be greater – they have been pretty bad defensively (#101 in DefEff).  Now, that is partially inflated because of the atrocious performance against Vermont, but still it’s very un-K-like.
  • Most Impressive:  Syracuse
    If you take the Duke flaws seriously, then you have to consider Syracuse a real threat to the Devils in the Orange’s first ACC campaign.  They are special.  I don’t understand why no one is talking more about C.J. Fair because he is as good an all-around scorer as there is in the country.  And, with the incredible breakouts of freshman Tyler Ennis and, to a lesser extent, sophomore Trevor Cooney, this team is loaded for bear.
  • Most Disappointing:  Boston College
    I considered putting Noter Dame here, but only briefly because it’s pretty obviously who the biggest ACC disappointment is so far.  The Eagles were supposed to be on the brink of contention here, but are just 4-6 right now.  Granted, their losses to UMass, UConn, and even Toledo don’t look as bad as they did at the time because all three of those teams are better than advertised, but still this team should not be 4-6 right now no matter what.  Even their wins were unimpressive (a 3-point win over a bad FAU team, an overtime win over a worse Sacred Heart team, and an unimpressive win over an NAIA school). 
  • “My” Favorite:  Pittsburgh
    Jamie Dixon is on that short list of coaches that I believe in implicitly.  Now, it’s hard to tell just how good this team is because the only tough game they’ve played was their 1-point loss to Cincinnati.  But, I expect this team to be right in the thick of things all year.
  • Potential Sleepers:  Virginia
    It was hard to pick a sleeper here because I think the top of the league is clearly at the top, and there probably won’t be much challenge from the “others.”  But, I like the Cavs here because I love Coach Bennett, and I think they will cause issues all year.
  • Also Relevant:  North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame, Maryland, Clemson
    This conference has a ton of relevant teams, including the Jeckyll & Hyde Tar Heels, the gigantic Seminole team, the disappointing-but-talented Irish, the incredibly-well-coached Terrapins, and the sneaky Tigers.
  • Dregs: Virginia Tech, Miami
    Total rebuilds in Blacksburg and Coral Gables will lead to some bad basketball in each place.  Last year’s Miami season seems like a strange blip in the program’s trajectory, but maybe Larranega can make that not so.
  • The Pick:  Duke
    I thought long and hard about taking the ‘Cuse, but I think that the Dukies come through in the end and win this conference.  It’s just so hard to make all these road trips for the first time, so that might catch up to Boeheim’s team.  Then again, many guys in this conference are seeing that zone for the first time, so the edge might actually be with the Orange.  I still trust the talent in Durham, though, to win this league.


Just a solid all-around league yet again this year, the Big XII has it all – multiple championship contenders, depth (almost) top to bottom, and what should be a great race all year.

  • Preseason Favorite:  Kansas
    All of the talent that descended upon Lawrence this year bolstered them to not just Big XII favorites, but potential championship favorites.  But, KU being the “team to beat” in the Big XII just comes with the season.
  • Most Impressive:  Oklahoma State
    Kansas has sputtered and OK State – who actually received as many 1st-place votes from Big XII coaches as Kansas – has played the best ball in the league so far.  For a while, Marcus Smart looked like far and away the best player in the country.  He has come back to Earth a little, but the rest of the team continues to roll.  With the exception of a Memphis team taking revenge after being dominated two weeks prior, the Cowboys have been VERY impressive.
  • Most Disappointing:  Kansas State
    The Wildcats weren’t really supposed to challenge for a Big XII title, but they have made themselves almost entirely irrelevant.  It is too early to count them out, but there is very little evidence that his team will be anything but an also-ran in the conference race this year.
  • “My” Favorite:  Iowa State
    This team is fantastic.  Mayor Hoiberg has done such a great job assembling talent in Ames and really employing them in a way that completely maximizes his personnel and minimizes his exposure to poor matchups.  It won’t be long until Hoiberg is coaching in the Association, but the Cyclones should enjoy this ride while they’ve got it.
  • Potential Sleepers:  Texas
    Just when it looked like Rick Barnes may go the way of Mack Brown, the Longhorns are putting together quite an impressive non-conference slate here, highlighted by a win in Chapel Hill on Wednesday.  They probably aren’t Big XII title contenders, but they could play themselves into Tournament discussions at this rate.
  • Also Relevant:  Baylor, Oklahoma
    Baylor actually looks really good and should really make that middle-to-top area of the Big XII race incredibly interesting.  And, don’t look now, but the Sooners are 10-1 with their only loss coming to Michigan State.
  • Dregs: TCU, Texas Tech
    Texas Tech is bad, but TCU is utterly dreadful – as evidenced by a HOME loss to LONGWOOD (who will appear in the “Dregs” section of one of the worst conferences in the country).
  • The Pick:  Oklahoma State
    “The Fire Swamp?  We’ll never survive…”
    “Nonsense, you’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
    Beating Kansas in the Big XII?  That is about as tall an order as dragging Princess Buttercup through the fire swamp, but Marcus Smart may just be the Dread Pirate Roberts, and I am going to go out on a limb and take the Cowboys here to more consistently navigate the murky waters of Big XII play than the youthful (and excessively talented) Jayhawks.


The Pac is back, folks.  I think that you could easily make the case that this is the 3rd-best (and possibly the single deepest) conference in the country – all of a sudden.  There won’t be a single easy game this year out West and any number of teams could make a tournament run.  All that said, there is one clear favorite.

  • Preseason Favorite:  Arizona
    The “forgotten” Top-6 team in the preseason because they weren’t invited to the Champions Classic.
  • Most Impressive:  Arizona
    And, it’s not really that close.  The ‘Cats have been the best team in the country, let alone the Pac-12.
  • Most Disappointing:  Washington
    When do we start talking about Lorenzo Romar the same way we talk about Rick Barnes and Tubby Smith?  The dude can flat-out recruit (look at the NBA careers of Romar’s alums – Brandon Roy, Klay Thompson, even Sixers rookie Tony Wroten – just to name a few), but he really struggles to win games.  This team, while very talented all around, doesn’t have that one transcedent talent and might be the worst team in the league.
  • “My” Favorite:  Arizona
    In a strange twist, I am actually picking “the” favorite as “my” favorite because this team is that good, #1 in the polls, and still underrated.  Their frontcourt is off the charts good, and I still believe that Nick Johnson is the most valuable player on that team.  Throw in the enormously underappreciated T.J. McConnell (who I’ve watched a ton of times as a Duquesne Duke) and you have yourself the best team in the nation.
  • Potential Sleepers:  Utah
    I considered pretty much every other team for “sleeper” worthy, but kept coming back to the Utes mainly because of just how under-the-radar they are, as opposed to the other possibilities.  Maybe I’m basing this too much on one single result (an 81-64 pummelling of a really good BYU team), but I am ready to say that the one team that is consistently overlooked in this league that will come up and bite you might be the Runnin’ Utes.
  • Also Relevant:  Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford
    This upper-middle portion of the Pac is sensationally interesting.  Oregon is probably the best of the bunch with transfers James Young and Mike Moser seemlessly folding into this team.  But, UCLA looks exceptional, as well.  ASU has possibly the league’s best player, while Cal has possibly the nation’s best coach, and Stanford is talented enough to save Johnny Dawkins’ job this year.  What a race this is going to be.
  • Dregs:  None
    I’m not a huge fan of the teams in Washington, but it would be hard to characterize them as “dregs.”  Outside of Tempe, this conference doesn’t have the top-notch firepower to really join the conversation of best conference, but in terms of top-to-bottom quality, only the Big Ten even has an argument and they might actually lose it.
  • The Pick:  Arizona
    I would probably pick the ‘Cats in any conference in the country, but here in the Pac, I didn’t even have to think about it.

COMING SOON:  PART TWO (which includes the SEC, Big East, American, and A-10)

Charting a Course to March: 7 Games For the Final Stretch

 As of today, the first day of the 2010 NCAA Basketball Tournament is exactly three weeks away.  That means it’s time for cramming.  Below are listed the seven games over these last few weeks of the regular season that every college hoops fan should try to catch. 

hummel1. February 28th: #14 Michigan State at #3 Purdue

Reasons To Watch:  The loss of Robbie Hummel for the rest of the season with a torn ACL is really sad.  I had become a big believer in Purdue and thought they actually had a shot at winning the national title, but without Hummel, that will be impossible. You have to feel bad for those Purdue fans in Indiana.  I mean, what else do they have going for them?  At least Drew Brees won the Super Bowl.  They do still have guard E’Twaun Moore, who is one of my favorite players in the country.  He’s not the quickest guy or the best shooter, passer, or defender, but he does everything well and he repeatedly makes big shots for the Boilermakers.  JaJuan Johnson is one of the best centers around, and the return of point guard Lewis Jackson from an injury gave them a lift over the past few weeks.  But it all comes back to Hummel, their best all-around player.  They were headed for a #1 seed, and their remaining games will be very important because the selection committee will only have a handful of games to decide how far they drop from the #1 line, and it’s hard to imagine that they won’t drop at least a seed or two. 

Michigan St. came into the season with huge expectations, but also some question marks, and it seems like those questions have not been answered.  They come into this game having lost 4 of their last 6 games.  They don’t have a good road win all year, and they actually only have two wins over tournament locks (Gonzaga and Wisconsin).  They needed Delvon Roe to make a big leap, and it hasn’t happened at all.  Raymar Morgan continues to disappoint.  Kalin Lucas is an elite college guard, and Draymond Green has been one of the most improved big men in the country, but how far can that get them?  If they’re to be taken seriously in the tournament, they need to go to Purdue and beat the Hummel-less Boilermakers in this game.

How far can they go?:  It’s very hard to know what to make of Purdue right now, which is why they’ll be a team worth watching.  Coach Matt Painter will be earning his paycheck, and I think they could still get to the Sweet 16, but any further than that seems doubtful.  Michigan St. is looking like they’d be lucky to make the Sweet 16.

2. March 2nd: Illinois at #9 Ohio State

Reasons to Watch:  A couple of interesting teams here worth gathering some more information about.  Illinois could turnerlock up a tourney berth with a win here, but they probably don’t need it.  They have a load of good wins on their resume, but a couple of bad losses as well.  Point guard Demetri McCamey is one of the lesser-known star players in the country.  He averages 15 points and 7 assists, and racked up 16 assists in a loss to Purdue last week.  But he’s unique because he doesn’t look like your typical assist-machine point guard, with a wide body that allows him to outmuscle a lot of other guards.  The front-court combination of 7-footer Mike Tisdale and super-athletic Mike Davis help to make this team dangerous.

Ohio St. is definitely an interesting team right now.  First off, they have the Player of the Year front-runner in do-everything forward Evan Turner, who is averaging 20 points, 9 boards, and 6 assists.  Secondly, because they lost three games in a 6-game stretch that Turner missed with a back injury, their national stature is probably slightly below what it otherwise could be.  And finally, coach Thad Matta has taken an interesting tactic of shortening his rotation to the point where there IS NO rotation.  Matta has basically just been playing six guys, with Turner and a trio of big, talented guards (David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford) rarely coming off the court.  It seems to be working for them, as they’ve won 9 of 10, with the only loss to Purdue.

How far can they go?:  Illinois will be a prime candidate for a minor first-round upset, and has Sweet 16 potential.  Ohio State has arguably the best player in the country, which means they are capable of beating just about anyone on any given night.  But will they be fatigued from playing so many minutes?  With the injury to Hummel, the Buckeyes might now be the best team in the Big Ten, and don’t rule them out from a trip to the Final Four. 

3. March 3rd: #6 Kansas State at #1 Kansas

Reasons to Watch: I previewed the January 30th game between these teams, which Kansas won in an OT thriller.  That result is one reason to watch this game.  Another is to get a better read on this Kansas St. team.  Right now, they’re looking at a possible #2 seed in the tournament.  They’ve earned that seed, but I’m wondering if, even in a season of parity, there is 2-seed talent on this team.  Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente form an awesome backcourt, but if they’re not making their jump shots, how else does K-State beat you?  Now, they don’t have any bad losses, so it seems like they find a way, but I’ll be watching this game to see how K-State matches up with the #1 team in the country when they don’t have their home crowd behind them.

How far can they go?:  KU is the national title favorite at the moment.  K-State is getting Final Four buzz but I’m not completely buying it.  I see them going down in the Sweet 16, but maybe some favorable matchups could get them to the Elite Eight.  This game will tell us more.

vasquez4. March 3rd: #5 Duke at Maryland

Reasons to Watch:  You wouldn’t guess it if you watched the Duke/Maryland game on February 13th, when Duke demolished the Terrapins, but this game could determine the regular-season ACC champion.  Maryland sits at 10-3 in the conference, a game behind the Dukies.  That alone makes Maryland an interesting team, because when was the last time you saw a team at 10-3 in the ACC, and already at 20 wins on the season, but not ranked in the Top 25?  The bottom line is, they have the resume of a ho-hum solid team.  They’ve been fairly consistent and gotten the job done against the likes of Florida State (twice), Clemson, and Georgia Tech.  They haven’t lost a home game in conference play.  I’ve always been a pretty big fan of versatile senior guard Greivis Vasquez.  His supporting cast features two other solid seniors, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne, and no doubt all three of those guys will be motivated to take down Duke in the final home game of their careers.  Is Maryland a legit 2nd place ACC team that will be heard from next month, or are they an also-ran, unranked non-factor?  This game may be the answer.

How far can they go?:  Duke could end up with a 1-seed, but I’m not a believer.  Their ceiling is probably the Elite Eight.  I’m not completely sure what to make of Maryland yet, but I don’t expect to see them playing in the second week of March Madness. 

5. March 6th: #7 West Virginia at #8 Villanova

Reasons to Watch: You look at the rosters for these two teams and it really makes you wonder why programs like St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Rutgers are not a lot better.  8 of the 10 starters for these teams (including all 5 for West Virginia) hail from the greater New York City area, and that’s not including Nova’s talented reserve guard Dominic Cheek.  Despite all that talent, and the fact that these teams have been in the top 10 almost all season, they also both have some flaws. 

Nova lost back-to-back games for the first time this season last week.  They are really deep, but it seems like maybe that’s become part of the problem.  Defensively, they’re not measuring up to Nova teams of the past few years.  In their loss to Georgetown a couple weeks ago, the Hoyas just had their way with them at the offensive end.  The team has loads of talent, but maybe Jay Wright needs to focus on finding the mix that will get some stops.

West Virginia has three forwards that look like future pros in Da’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, and Kevin Jones, but butlerBob Huggins will have to pull off some coaching magic to get a team with guards this mediocre to advance far in the tournament.  Considering it’s been 14 years since a Huggins coached team made it past the Sweet 16, the odds may not be in their favor.  But when Butler is going well he is really special, and he’s the type of player that can put a team on his back and carry them to a win.

How far can they go?:  These two teams are similar in talent-levels, but I like Nova more, especially since they have the experience of a Final Four run last season.  I think they could get that far again, but they probably don’t have a title in them, and I don’t expect them to be playing on that final weekend in Indianapolis.  West Virginia probably doesn’t have the guards to get it done in the tourney, they’ll bow out out in the second or third round.

6. March 6th: #21 Texas at Baylor

Reasons to Watch: This is a matchup between a team that was apparently over-hyped most of the season (Texas) and a team that has probably been under-hyped (Baylor).  The pressure in this game will be on Texas to take some positive momentum into the Big 12 tournament.  All the talk about Texas early in the year was that they had a ridiculous amount of talented depth.  Here we are, on the verge of March, and they have exactly two players that they can count on consistently: F Damion James and G Avery Bradley.  With every other player on the team, either due to injury, foul trouble, or just general inconsistency, they’re left crossing their fingers and hoping for a good performance.

Baylor has one of the top backcourts in the country (talent-wise and name-wise) in PG Tweety Carter and SG LaceDarius Dunn.  At 6-4, and with the ability to score any way he wants, Dunn looks like a future NBA 2-guard.  Also with impressive names and impressive games are forwards Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy, who is one of the better sixth men in the country.

How far can they go?:  Texas just seems to be a mess, so they’re worth watching to see if they get it together in time.  They probably have Final Four talent, but it’s not impossible to see them going down in the first round if they get a bad matchup.  Anyone’s guess right now.  Baylor, on the other hand, looks to be a sleeper pick that could potentially make an Elite Eight run.

w johnson7. March 6th: #4 Syracuse at Louisville

Reasons to Watch: Louisville put themselves on the right side of the bubble with a win at Syracuse a couple weeks ago, and they would definitely nail down a bid with another win in this one.  They’ve had an up and down season, with a home loss to Western Carolina in December, and a blowout loss at St. John’s just before the big ‘Cuse win.  They’re led by three of the key contributors to last year’s team that earned a #1 seed: star big man Samardo Samuels, much-improved Edgar Sosa, and steady 2-guard Jerry Smith.  But despite all the experience and talent, they haven’t been able to put it together.

Syracuse, however, has pretty much had it all put together from Day One this season.  They only have one loss besides the Louisville one, and it would take a couple of stumbles for them to fall off the #1 line come tourney time.  Wesley Johnson is still in the Player of the Year conversation, but his production has dipped a bit in February.  Like Ohio State, ‘Cuse doesn’t go deep (basically a 7-man rotation), so you have to wonder if Johnson is running out of gas, especially considering he sat out last year after transferring.  Besides Johnson, Andy Rautins is one of the best shooters in the country, and two Philly natives who were teammates at St. John Neumann, F Rick Jackson and G Scoop Jardine, have both had breakout seasons. 

How far can they go?:  Syracuse is a national title contender.  Louisville is a tough team to predict, but unless they show something in these last few weeks, they’re probably a team that won’t be able to win more than one game in the tourney.