Sunday, December 4, 2011

Big East thumps SEC in Challenge

            While the SEC is known first and foremost as a football conference, many people in the college basketball world predicted that this would be the year that the SEC re-established itself as a basketball beast.  With teams such as Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State, the SEC was bound to have a breakout year.
            However, during the Big East-SEC Challenge, Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, and company had something to say about that.  The Big East won eight out of the 12 matchups, some in decisive fashion, and some that came down to the waning seconds. 
            In a highly anticipated matchup, Syracuse beat Florida 72-68, behind 20 points from Brandon Triche and 16 points and seven assists from Scoop Jardine.  The raucous crowd contributed to the statement win for the Orange.  Despite hot shooting from the Gators’ Kenny Boynton, ‘Cuse was able to hang on and remain undefeated.
            UConn missed freshman sensation Ryan Boatright for its first six games.  In his second game, and first at home, the co-player of the year in the state of Illinois showed why he earned the honor, dropping 23 points, five rebounds, and six assists.  Once Boatright entered the game, he righted the ship, so to speak, and the Huskies busted the game open on a 14-2 run.  From there, guards Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb paced the Huskies to a 75-62 triumph.  UConn’s fast break was too much for Arkansas to handle. 
            A defensive-minded battle between Louisville and Vanderbilt came down to the wire in both regulation and overtime.  Despite 27 points from Vandy guard John Jenkins, the Cardinals were able to escape with a 62-60 win, behind a very balanced offensive attack and stellar defense.  Guard Peyton Siva slashed to the basket and made a layup with 1.4 seconds left in overtime, propelling the Cardinals to a win and maintaining their undefeated record.
            All in all, the Big East dominated the SEC, with Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh also picking up wins.  However, there were some bright spots for Kentucky, Mississippi State, LSU, and Ole Miss, as all four teams were able to beat their opponent. Mississippi State improved to 8-1 with a “state”ment win over West Virginia.  Though the Big East exceled over the weekend, the SEC still has the number one team in the country in Kentucky, a team that edged UNC 73-72 thanks in part to a game-saving block from freshman phenom Anthony Davis.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vanderbilt Ranked No. 7 in Coaches Poll

The SEC has three teams in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.  Kentucky (No. 2) and Florida (No. 10) are perennially near the top of the rankings, yet the third team, Vanderbilt, finds itself in unfamiliar territory. 
(Matthew Tosh/Creative Commons)

Coaches feel so strongly about this year’s team that the Commodores are ranked seventh in the nation, ahead of the likes of Louisville, Baylor, and Kansas.

Much of the reason for the high praise is the fact that all five of head coach Kevin Stallings’ starters from last year have returned for another season.  Vanderbilt’s standout superstar is guard John Jenkins.  Jenkins averaged 19.5 points per game in his sophomore season, and could have been drafted by an NBA team.  Instead, he opted to come back for his junior year and is ready to make his mark in Commodore history.

Along with Jenkins, seniors Brad Tinsley, Festus Ezeli, and Lance Goulbourne, and junior Jeffery Taylor round out the starting five. 
A lethal combination of experience and talent has catapulted the Commodores into national contention.  Vandy obtained a No. 5-seed in the NCAA tournament last season, before falling to Richmond, 69-66.  This year, the expectations are loftier, and a first-round departure will not suffice.
In order to succeed and improve upon their 23-11 campaign from a year ago, Vandy will need to fare well in key matchups against out-of-conference and SEC opponents.  Out-of-conference, the Commodores match up against Xavier (No. 15), Louisville (No. 8), and Marquette (No. 21).  In-conference, they face Alabama (No. 17), Florida twice, and Kentucky twice. 
The huzzah surrounding Vandy’s season has not gone unnoticed by ESPN.  The Commodores have fourteen games scheduled on ESPN’s family of networks, including home games against Kentucky and Florida, on February 11th and 28th.
Prior to this season, the Commodores often flew under the radar.  Though they have compiled an impressive five-year streak of 19+ win seasons, there hasn’t been this much hubbub encircling Vandy in quite some time.  In fact, the elite ranking of number seven in the country is the team’s highest since 1966 (No. 5). 
Jenkins and the rest of the starting five are destined for excellence. However, Vandy will need to remain injury-free and get valuable production from the bench as the season unfolds in order to make a tournament run. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WSOC | Freshman Hunsberger fits in well as role player for Syracuse

Contributing Writer
Published: Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 23:10
Syracuse and Villanova were in a scoreless tie in the 56th minute and neither team was breaking through. The Orange, two games below .500 at the time, needed a boost.
That's when freshman Megan Hunsberger stepped up and scored the decisive goal, propelling the team to a 1-0 victory.
"Tina (Romagnuolo) played her a great ball down the left side, and she took a great touch across the defender," SU head coach Phil Wheddon said. "The defender had a choice to either bring her down and foul her or let her go. She chose to let her go, and Megan struck the ball past the goalkeeper in the top corner."
Hunsberger's game-winning goal, the first of her Syracuse career, started a four-game winning streak and helped to turn the team's season around. The next game, she scored a goal against Seton Hall and contributed with an assist to Romagnuolo in a 4-1 triumph. Her recent success, combined with her experience playing competitive soccer in high school, has given her a significant spot on the roster of a Syracuse (7-6-3, 6-4 Big East) team that has qualified for the Big East tournament.
"She's done really well," said Romagnuolo, a junior midfielder. "Obviously, when she first got here I think she was a little nervous, but now she's coming out of her shell and playing really well. She's really good at crossing the ball."
Hunsberger's positive energy and ability to contribute at multiple positions has enabled her to play in 14 games this season in her first year. She started against Central Connecticut and Big East opponent Pittsburgh. She has played primarily in the midfield, but is flexible to other positions, such as outside back.
"She's fought hard in every training session, and when she gets on the field she's a very good technical player," Wheddon said. "She's played a lot of different positions, which is a coach's luxury."
Soccer has been at the forefront of Hunsberger's life ever since she was a child. As a teenager, she was a member of the U-15 United States national team, a team that traveled to California to play elite club teams.
"The U-15 national team was an outrageous experience," Hunsberger said. "It prepared me for the speed of play in college soccer and playing with that level of competition was unbelievable."
Along with the national team, Hunsberger participated in the Olympic Development program, played for club teams Albertson Fury and AC Perugia, and excelled at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pa.
"Soccer, friends, that's pretty much it," she said.
Along with her soccer skills, Hunsberger's sense of humor and infectious personality off the field also keep her teammates laughing.
"She's really funny," assistant coach Abby Crumpton said. "She's a great soccer player, but is also really great for chemistry. She keeps us laughing and keeps our spirits high at the right times."
Certain aspects of the transition to collegiate-level soccer have been difficult, such as the physical style of play and fast-paced action. But Hunsberger has seamlessly made the jump from being a high school star to a Syracuse role player to start her career.
"Playing every day definitely helps you, and playing with different players expands your horizon and knowledge of the game," she said. "You understand it more. It's a different experience. It helps you out."
Although Hunsberger has already started two games and scored two goals, she has higher aspirations. "I definitely want to get into the NCAA tournament and maybe after college play for a professional team."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gators ready to chomp

By Trevor Hass

(AP Photo/Bill Haber)
Last season the Florida Gators finished with the best record in the SEC at 29-8, including a 13-3 mark in-conference. PF Chandler Parsons, PF Alex Tyus, PF/C Vernon Macklin, G Erving Walker, and G Kenny Boynton fueled the well-balanced Gators, all averaging over 10 points per game.
     Though Parsons, Macklin, and Tyus graduated, Walker and Boynton are back to fill the void and carry the Gators this season.
      Florida won back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2006 and 2007. Despite failing to qualify in 2008 and 2009, head coach Billy Donovan led the Gators to the Elite Eight this past season.
      While most programs would be satisfied with two titles in the past six years, the University of Florida has high expectations. The Gators are eager to chomp away at SEC foes and devour opponents en route to another championship.

      The Gators have a menacing out-of-conference schedule this upcoming season, filled with the likes of Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, and Florida State.
      Last year, SEC rival Kentucky got the best of the Gators in two out of three meetings, but this year Florida will look to regain dominance. Kentucky and Florida are the favorites in the SEC and will square off in February, as well as on March 4th, the final day of the regular season.
      To defeat Kentucky and make a strong push in the NCAA tourney, the Gators will rely heavily on Kenny Boynton. Boynton averaged 14 points per game in each of his first two seasons, yet his shooting percentage was a lowly .381. Shooting a higher percentage will open up other facets of Boynton’s game. Once defenders respect his three point shot, he can utilize his quick first step to slash toward the basket and convert on easy layups.
      Jackson State travels to Gainesville to kick off Florida’s season on November 11th and the Gators commence their quest for a third national championship in seven years.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ortiz powers Sox - By Trevor Hass

            David Ortiz is a lifetime .327 hitter with 11 home runs and 31 RBI against the Minnesota Twins.  Tonight he carried the Red Sox’ offense with four hits, including a mammoth blast to the upper deck in right field and a go-ahead RBI single in the 9th inning.
            Down 5-1 in the sixth, the Sox were in need of some offense.  Carl Crawford started the inning off with a triple to center, getting his 8th hit in 12 at bats.  After Adrian Gonzalez drove Crawford in with a sacrifice fly, Dustin Pedroia singled to center.  With the hit, Pedroia has now hit safely in 45 of 48 games, including four in a row.
            Then came Papi; his roaring two run shot cut the deficit to 5-4.  It was Ortiz’ team-leading 22nd homer of the year.  After that home run, Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed suite by homering to right, knotting the contest up at five apiece.
“That’s David,” said Saltalamacchia.  “He picked us up tonight.  We just go out there and play the game.”
            With the score tied at 6-6 in the top of the ninth, Ortiz delivered yet again.  The slugger showed some finesse and patience, hitting a flair to left center field, driving in pinch runner Darnell McDonald. 
“I just tried to calm down and get that pitch,” said Ortiz.
Similar to what transpired in the 6th, Saltalamacchia produced after Ortiz, providing an insurance run.
            “David wants to see everyone do well,” added Saltalamacchia.  “For him to go out and pick the team up was great.”
            Jonathan Papelbon closed the game out in fashion, striking out Danny Valencia and Delmon Young, and inducing a ground out to second by pinch hitter Ben Revere.  The closer two-stepped his way to his 25th save of the season.
            With the win, the Red Sox improved to 34-21 away from Fenway Park.  They also extended their winning streak to three games, fresh off a thrilling 3-2 walk-off win over the Yankees the night before. 
            Tim Wakefield had a chance to pick up his 200th career win.  The knuckleballer was on his game for the most part, with the exception of a tumultuous third inning where he gave up three runs.  Wakefield struck out four in seven innings and had a chance to pick up number 200.  The 45-year old threw first pitch strikes to 21 out of 28 batters.
            Alfredo Aceves gave up an RBI single to Jason Kubel in the 8th, making the score 6-6, and thus depriving Wakefield of the milestone.  Aceves then settled down and ultimately picked up the win, improving to 8-1 on the season.
            Scott Baker was steady for the Twins through five innings, merely allowing an RBI single to the fuming hot Marco Scutaro in the second.  Scutaro connected on a whopping seventh hit in a row, driving in Ortiz.   With the exception of that lone blemish, Baker was efficient through five, striking out five Red Sox hitters and inducing many ground balls.  Then in the 6th everything fell apart for the right-hander, as he surrendered four runs.
            Baker came into the contest with a tremendous 5-0 record and 0.26 ERA at newly constructed Target Field.  8-6 with a 3.01 ERA on the season, Baker has been a bright spot for the injury-riddled Twins.
The Twins’ offense was paced by right fielder Jason Kubel, who went three for four with a home run to right field off Wakefield.  Trevor Plouffe chipped in with two hits and also scored two runs, while veteran slugger Jim Thome added an RBI double and scored a run.
Jed Lowrie returned for the Red Sox, after being placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury on June 15th.   He went one for four in his return, playing third base.  Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez all ignited the offensive attack with two hits apiece. 
Reliever Glen Perkins (3-2) gave up a single to Gonzalez before being replaced by closer Joe Nathan.  Nathan allowed an infield single to Pedroia as well as the decisive hit to Ortiz and the slicer to left by Saltalamacchia.  Pedroia is batting .331 in the seventh inning or later, including a menacing .388 since May 7th.  


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A great year for sports

       It's really a shame that the NFL and NBA are both in a lockout.  I cry every night before I go to sleep, knowing that, in all likelihood, the NBA will miss its entire season.  Obviously a situation like this would devastate sports fans across the world at any point in time, however I think it's especially inopportune considering the magnificent state of professional sports after a truly splendid calendar year. 
     Taking a look back at the past four champions, none of the teams were the favorite heading into the playoffs.  None of championship squads boasted ludicrous payrolls, had pompous superstars with overblown egos, or were expected to make any sort of run.  That's what makes sports so special.  Fans should always expect the unexpected, but the unexpected always comes from an unexpected place, thus it can't be expected. 
     "Not one, not two not three, not four..."  You're right LeBron, not one, not two, not three, not  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  LeBron James, the heir to the throne, the chosen one, the next Michael Jordan, has yet to win a championship.  You've gotta love it.  The Miami Heat became arguably the most highly-scrutinized team in the history of sports.  Their journey started all the way back in June when LeBron's self-centered "Decision" shook up the entire complexion of the NBA.  The journey ended in June, when Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks defied all odds and stunned the Heat in six games.  It was a woeful ending to a roller coaster year for the Heat, but a perfect ending to a season of consistency and team-first basketball for the Mavs.  
     Dirk had been after a ring (or some other anomalous form of Mark Cuban-inspired jewelry) ever since he entered the league back in 1998.  Though he averaged 23 points per game and developed a plethora of lethal fadeaway moves, critics continued to question his toughness and ability to reach the next level.  This year Dirk silenced those critics, with the help of a strong supporting cast, including the best bench in the league.  Jose Juan Barea, Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Tyson Chandler rounded out the starting five for an experienced Mavs team.  The luxury of having Jason Terry and Shawn Marion coming off the bench proved to be extremely beneficial in crunch time.  Yeah, I’d take Terry and Marion over Mike Bibby and Juwan Howard too.  The newly-adopted terrifying trifecta of the Miami Heat was not enough to overcome the deeper and more poised Dallas Mavericks.  The season ended with a well-deserving champion.
     The Boston Bruins are Stanley Cup Champs!  Like the Mavs, the Bruins entered the playoffs as a three-seed.  They also faced a team in the finals with a few stars, but, like the Heat, the Canucks’ supporting cast melted away like the Tampa Bay ice.  Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Roberto Luongo were deemed to be too much for the Bruins to handle.  Experts came to a consensus that the Heat would win in 5 of 6 and the Canucks would do the same.   The experts were not so expertly, as the balance of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand (and his rather large nose), Dennis Seidenberg, and, of course, the best goalie in hockey Tim Thomas, sparked the B’s to the Cup.  Sports is most exciting when the favorite is knocked out, and the Stanley Cup playoffs were no exception.  It was quite a riot to see Canucks fans in such disarray…literally.
     Pack, Pack, Pack.  Filling the void left by Brett Favre and his frayed jeans and Mississippi swagger is no easy task.  Favre, with his Ripken-esque mentality and copious amount of interceptions, was the face of the Packers since the 1920s.  The retiring schtick got a little old after a while, but Favre himself seemed to never get old, as he became the quintessential iron man in professional sports and the face of the NFL (despite the fact that he really did throw a lot of interceptions).  Then came Aaron Rodgers…
     Rodgers was the complete opposite of Favre in that he kept to himself, went about his business, and didn’t throw nearly as many interceptions.  You could argue that the negative portrayal of Favre is solely a result of the media’s desire to construct convoluted images of potentially intriguing athletes, yet in actuality, Favre had a flair for the dramatics.  When Rodgers replaced Favre, people questioned whether he had what it took and whether he could fill that elusive void.  What the media didn’t focus on was the somehow unimportant fact that Aaron Rodgers is a really, really good quarterback.  His consistency and talent quickly fused into championship-caliber offense, as he fed Greg Jennings and Donald Driver endlessly for repeated touchdowns.  Charles Woodson anchored an aggressive and intelligent defense.  Again, we see the theme of the underdog winning it all, as the Pack entered the playoffs as the six-seed.  You could argue that the underdog always winning provides no consistency to sports, but in my opinion, that’s exactly what makes it such a beautiful thing.
     After the steroids controversy corrupted baseball in the 90s and 00s, baseball is back to being a pitcher-dominated game.  Thus, the San Francisco Giants had exactly what it takes to win the World Series nowadays: pitching.  With Tim Lincecum as the ace and Brian Wilson as the closer, the Giants’ semi-futile offense was enough.  The Beard was most certainly feared.  The Giants’ pitching was stellar and they knocked off the Rangers en route to their first title since 1954 .  San Fran barely even made the playoffs.  They beat out the Padres by a mere two games, but caught fire once October came around.  Like with the Packers, there is a direct parallel between superstars leaving and winning a ring a few years down the road.  Both Favre and Barry Bonds had highly-scrutinized careers.  Bonds finished his steroid-infused run with 762 home runs, 14 all-star game appearances, and 12 silver slugger awards, but never quite got that all-important ring.  The hardware has avoided tremendous athletes like Bonds, James, and Luongo, athletes with controversies and overblown egos. 
     All four winning teams this year fully deserved to win the championship.  The Mavericks, Bruins, Packers, and Giants all have hardworking players and had a team-first mentality.  Very few scandals surrounded these teams.  I think it’s safe to say Deshawn Stevenson driving drunk the day after the Mavs won isn’t as big of a deal as LeBron’s “Decision.”  (I feel the need to put “Decision” in quotes every time because it’s just so important that it deserves quotes---kind of like the asterisk next to Bonds’ name…the quotations give off an ominous “I can’t win a ring” vibe). 
     Professional sports is in a phenomenal place right now, with deserving winners and underdogs shocking the world season after season.  It’s disappointing that the NFL and NBA are locked out following two truly memorable postseason runs.     

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jimmer Rat

     While players like Kyle Singler, Jared Sullinger, and Kemba Walker are the best players on their respective teams and are having terrific seasons, there is one superstar who is going above and beyond.  This senior is running away with the title of best player in the country by a long shot...kind of like he runs the fast break and then spots up for a lethal jumper that flows off of his finger tips with the utmost ease and glides through the basket.  His name: Jimmer Fredette.
     I've been pondering some potential nicknames for Jimmer.  Here's what I've come up with.  "Nothin' but net Fredette," "Jiminy Cricket," "Slim Jim," "Jimmer the Jammer."  Pretty decent I think...but I'll let you be the judge. Whatever you want to call "Jimbolaya," it's a fact that he's spicing up college basketball with his ability to score 40+ points on any given night.
     Fredette's BYU Cougars currently sit at 20-1, coming off of an impressive victory over (then #4 in the country) MWC rival San Diego State.  It was just another day at the office for Jimmer, as he dropped 43 points in the win.  No big deal, really.  That scoring output led to his third 40+ point game in the last four, a simply staggering number.  It's not like he's hogging the ball in the process either.
     He averages over four assists per game.  His efficiency is off the charts, as he's shooting over 48% from the field and a whopping 90% from the free throw line.  John Hollinger would like that.
     After listening to Fredette speak twice on ESPN, I have developed the utmost respect for him.  Not only is he a spectacular scorer, but he's an extremely nice kid...polite, well-mannered, and humble.
     One instance where he exemplified his humility was in an interview with John Buccigross on SportsCenter. After Fredette's outburst against San Diego State, Kevin Durant tweeted that Fredette is the best scorer in the world.  Rather than agreeing and saying, "Yeah, I'm the best," Fredette returned the favor, deeming Durant the world's best scorer.  I guarantee you that if Kobe was presented with that same situation during his senior year of high school at Lower Marion he would have praised himself up the wazoo.
     From his Mormon upbringing, to his lethal trademark double crossover, to his Deron Williams-like mid-range jumper, Fredette is certainly an intriguing player and amazingly fun to watch.
     Fredette compares his game to that of D Will.  Though they are both somewhat undersized (Fredette is 6'2 and a tad under 200) they compensate for this trivial deficiency with exceptional ball handling skills and an absolutely dirty stroke.
     You can talk all you want about Fredette's NBA career when he's actually in the league.  Maybe he'll be a massive bust, or maybe he'll be the greatest player to ever play the game.  But for now, rather than analyzing his potential to be an NBA star, focus on the the way he is electrifying college basketball.
     Jimmer Fredette has already accomplished milestones galore in his 3+ years at BYU.  This winter and early spring, however, he has a chance to become one of the greatest college basketball players of all time, by leading his team to a National Championship.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

College Basketball

     From the World Series to the College Football Bowl games, the world of sports never ceases to amaze.  While every sporting event has its perks, the best playoff system in the country is March Madness, hands-down. When a team like St. Mary's stuns a team like Villanova in the second round, it's unbelievably exciting to watch.  Last year, Cinderella Butler shocked Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State, before falling to heavily-favored Duke in one of the best finales the sport has ever witnessed.
     You never know which team will make an incredible run down the stretch.  It's virtually impossible to predict a perfect bracket, which is exactly what makes March Madness so exceptional.  Picking a perfect bracket is about as improbable as the Apocalypse.
     Midway through the season, here are my top 12 teams that are most likely to cut down the nets when it's all said and done.

12) Missouri- The Tigers are always in contention in the Big 12, but I feel that this is the year they will finally get over the hump and make a run in March.  Marcus Denmon is a stellar scorer for Missouri, averaging around 18 points per game.  Missouri has defeated Vanderbilt, Oregon, and Illinois so far this season and the club has a lot of young talent.

11) UConn- Kemba Walker is a sensational player, but UConn simply doesn't have enough depth to contend with powerhouses such as Duke and Kansas.  I expect them to make it to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, but not any further.

10) Michigan State- Tom Izzo's club always makes a run come tourney time.  Despite their recent struggles, I expect the leadership of Kalin Lucas to be instrumental down the stretch in another infamous Izzo run.

9) Kansas State- Jacob Pullen is averaging 18 ppg this season.  I question whether K State has enough depth to make a run in the tourney, but Frank Martin's toughness will lead to another successful season in Wildcat basketball.

8) Brigham Young- Jimmer Fredette is the best scorer in the country.  Period.  Scoring 32 in the first half en route to 47 overall in a romping over in-state rival Utah, Fredette is exceptional from beyond the arc and has a plethora of moves.  BYU makes the tourney every year.  This year will be no different, and I expect them to make the Elite 8, led by Fredette.

7) Villanova- Seniors Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher make up arguably the best backcourt tandem in the country. Stokes is shooting a whopping 94% from the charity stripe and 47% from three-point range.  Fisher's ability to draw double-teams off the dribble often leaves Stokes wide open from downtown, where he's money.  Coach Wright should be "Stoked" that he has the Coreys on his squad.  (That's "Wright," I went there).

6) San Diego State- This team is for real.  They may be the Butler of 2011.  I expect Kawhi Leonard to lead the Aztecs to at least the Sweet 16.  Despite their poise and shooting ability, this team may lack size against physical teams such as Ohio State and Syracuse.

5) Pittsburgh- The Panthers are a top-notch program.  They recently beat down on Georgetown 72-57 in a game that wasn't even that close.  Ashton Gibbs is a terrific three-point shooter and will most likely lead this team to an appearance in the Elite Eight, and possibly even the Final Four.

4) Ohio State- There's no denying that Jared Sullinger is a monster in the paint.  However, he has a tendency to get into foul trouble, which may prove detrimental in the long run.  David Lighty and William Buford are very skillful players, each averaging around 14 per game for the Buckeyes.  Getting to the Sweet 16 is a disappointment for this team.

3) Syracuse- The Orange are led by Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, and Brandon Triche.  Jim Boeheim implements the 2-3 zone to perfection and utilizes his team's size against weaker opponents.  Syracuse often gets out of the gate slowly, yet their tenacious defense keeps them in games.  Foul shooting is a serious liability, as the Orange are shooting 64% as a team from the line.  Despite this obvious weakness, the determination and talent of Jackson and Joseph will lead this team to at least the Elite Eight and possibly to a National Championship.

2) Duke- After exploding to a 15-0 start, the Dukies lost to a fired up Florida State team, 66-61.  Coach K attributed the loss to the strong play of the Seminoles, rather than to a lack of execution from his squad. This loss shows some vulnerability for the Blue Devils.  Though they will likely run the table in the ACC, I expect a slip-up against a team like Florida State that will out hustle you and close out games effectively.

1) Kansas- The Jayhawks have the best team in the country.  You could make a case for Duke, 'Cuse, or Ohio State, but I feel that Kansas is hands-down the best team in college basketball right now.  The dynamic duo of brothers Marcus and Markeef Morris is unguardable.  Cumulatively averaging over 30 points and 15 rebounds per game, the "Morris Monsters" (you heard it here first) make any team quiver in fear.  Explosive Freshman Josh Selby and Junior Tyshawn Taylor give the Jayhawks a formidable backcourt.  Kansas has the highest field goal percentage in the country, currently shooting at over 52% per game.

     March Madness never disappoints.  One or two of these Top 12 teams will undoubtedly lose in the first round.  That's what's so great about it.  It's extremely difficult to pinpoint an early upset.  Maybe all of these 12 teams will make the Sweet 16 and I'll look like a genius.  Maybe only three of them will and I'll resemble a doofus.  These are my Top 12 teams as of now, but you never know which teams will shock the country.  That's the beauty of March Madness.