Weekend Hoop Notes
Network Nails Saturday's Kentucky Derby Preps!
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THE JIM SEZ WEEKEND HOOPS UPDATE - NCAA & NBA NEWS/NOTES
Okay, so we're now two full weeks away from Selection Sunday when this year's 68-team NCAA Tournament field will be filled and we can already see the controversies looming in the distance:
- What happens if Gonzaga does not receive a #1 seed?
- What power conference teams get snubbed from getting an at-large bid... and will a one-and-done deal in their respective mini-tournaments cost 'em a slot in the "Big Dance"?
- And which teams will get shipped out of their region - and won't wind up liking it at all?
Okay, let's take 'em one-by-one:
If Gonzaga -- 28-2 upon entering Saturday's home game against lowly Portland (11-19) -- wins its upcoming West Coast Conference Tournament - and beating #2 mini-tourney seed Saint Mary's figures to be the Zags' only real tough test along the way - there is simply no way Mark Few's crew will be denied a #1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament but short of a WCC crown the Bulldogs will have to settle for a spot along the No. 2 seed line.
It's as simple as that and Few and Company know it better than anyone else out there - so there will be no real controversy here but let's weave in our third point above about teams getting shipped out of their respective regions and you can bet the 'Zags won't be happy if they get moved from the West and our initial gut feeling is Gonzaga will play two rounds of NCAA Tournament action in Salt Lake City and then remember the West Regionals will be played at Staples Center in Los Angeles. They'll stay put in the West.
Okay, point #2:
There's a very good possibility that more than a handful of power conference teams won't get extended an invite to this year's NCAA Tournament and amongst the list that rolls off our tongue at this very moment are the following: Maryland, Villanova, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Baylor, Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas.
Again - gut feeling time here:
No matter how these final days of regular-season play goes these clubs better go into mini-tourney play knowing they each need more than one win to secure a potential at-large bid and there might be a couple of these teams than will need to do even better than that and so it's truly put-up or shut-up time for this handful-plus power conference squads - some of which already are lobbying hard for their part in this year's tourney.
And to answer a question from above: Yes, any of them in one-and-done mode in their respective conference tournament will be cooked!
Finally, back to that "shipping out" query that we posed up above:
You heard where we stand with Gonzaga but there will be some high-profile teams that must get sent out of their area and we believe the most likely candidates to do so right now are Miami and Florida. The reason we believe Miami will be sent out West is - to some degree - to "balance out" the regions as the Pac-12 isn't real strong these days and so shipping a top 10 team out to Gonzaga's neighborhood makes perfect sense.
The reason Florida will get shipped out of the South?
First off, the lack of overall strength this year by the Southeastern Conference drops the Gators' overall power rating and so even if Billy Donovan's gang wins the SEC Tournament in Nashville he shouldn't exactly be expecting a "gift" from the NCAA Tourney folks.
Odds are the Gators will be sent to SEC-friendly Lexington for first/second-round NCAA Tournament games but something tells us even with a mini-tourney crown this Florida team will wind up playing in the Midwest Regional (those games will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis) and we'd say there's a good chance Florida would have to beat one and maybe two Big 10 powerhouse teams just to make it to another Final Four.
THE NBA WEEKEND REPORT
The NBA's Sunday menu is chock full of top-notch tilts including the defending champion Miami Heat at the New York Knicks (1 p.m. ET on ABC) along with Oklahoma City at the Los Angeles Clippers (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC) but might all eyes be riveted to the Los Angeles Lakers (29-30) until further notice?
The Lakers exited Thursday's 116-94 runaway win against 10-point underdog Minnesota just two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth in the West and - in case you hadn't noticed - that's four wins in the five games following the All-Star Game break (and Kobe Bryant's playoff guarantee).
Maybe it will be the spirit of late owner Dr. Jerry Buss that moves the Lakers back into the playoff race - they get a shot at climbing back to .500 with a Sunday night game at home against the Atlanta Hawks - and you have to wonder if Bryant's determination to be "more selfish" in the scoring department simply was what this club was missing all along.
In the five games since the break, Bryant has scored 16 points in a win against Boston, 40 points in a triumph over Portland, 38 points in a scintillating road win in Dallas, 29 points in a loss at Denver and than 33 points against the Timberwolves but even TNT's Craig Sager couldn't entice Bryant into any "MVP talk" afterwards as the Lakers' hit-man insisted all it is in LA is about winning championships.
Take a moment and look at what's ahead for the Lakers in the coming days:
Following the Hawks game on Sunday, the Lakers will play 10 of their next 14 games on the road and that includes pit stops in Okie City (this Tuesday) and Indiana (March 15th) but many of these other road affairs are eminently "winnable" and so don't be totally surprised if LAL returns to SoCal as much as a half-dozen games above the .500 mark as of the end of this month. Could happen - and wouldn't a San Antonio Spurs vs. Lakers first-round playoff matchup be a real gas than?
NOTE: We continue to gear up for March Madness with lots more College Basketball News/Notes/Previews all next week right here at Jim Sez.
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