Three Bubble Teams - NFL Draft: Linebackers

THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT - HERE'S THREE TEAMS THAT STILL HAVE "WORK-TO-DO" TO GET INTO THIS YEAR'S NCAA TOURNAMENT ...

PLUS WE DELVE INTO THE NFL DRAFT WITH AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE TOP LINEBACKERS AS BUFFALO'S MACK AND UCLA'S BARR REPRESENT THE TOP STARS HERE

By Jim Hurley:

So, here's where we stand: Save for the annual Penn vs. Princeton finale (see Tuesday), the College Basketball Regular Season comes to a close for everyone else in Division 1 ball this Sunday and then the conference tournies really get revved up into high gear.

In other words, time is growing short for a batch of hoops teams that still have designs on getting into this year's NCAA Tournament and so in today's edition of Jim Sez we'll detail Three (3) teams that have "work-to-do" in order to likely secure a bid.

We're also getting back to the NFL Draft news/notes with a look at the top incoming ILBs (inside linebackers) and OLBs (outside linebackers) and we'll crank it all up in just a moment in this Jim Sez but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through March Madness with loads of College Basketball winners right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - plus don't forget we're banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month. Remember the conference tournaments or so-called mini-tournies are swinging into gear as this week rolls on and there's gonna be day-time action all throughout the month - we'll keep you posted for all the important conference tourney news and notes!

THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT

Want to get into this year's NCAA Tournament? Then here's the plans we lay out for three teams in particular:

LOUISIANA TECH (24-6, 12-3 C-USA) - Gotta say that the past is littered with 25-win teams in mid-major conference who never got a shot to play in NCAA Tournament games in those years and that may well be the case for this uber-talented Louisiana Tech team that owns one gigantic non-league win at Oklahoma back in late December (a 102-98 overtime classic) but otherwise the schedule is filled with so-what wins against the Conference USA likes of Florida Atlantic, Marshall and Tulane ... big deal, right? We believe the L-Tech Bulldogs - at Rice for the regular-season finale tonight - must get to the Conference USA Championship Game in order to nail down a bid because anything short of that is gonna get this Ruston gang lost in the proverbial sauce.
P.S., Tech's won three in a row and seven of its last eight games so at least the Bulldogs' arrow is pointing "up" these days!

BYU (21-10, 13-5 WCC) - There's some sentiment floating around that says the BYU Cougars right now are in "good shape" to land an at-large berth in this month's NCAA Tournament based mainly on the fact the Provo bunch is on the plus side of 20 wins and triumphs over Stanford, Texas and West Coast Conference regular-season champ Gonzaga are considered impressive and, yes, we're well aware of the fact BYU enters the weekend's WCC Tournament having won eight of its last nine games. However, the Coogs better not lose in their first mini-tourney game or they could be spending Selection Sunday (March 16th) with fingers crossed. Note that BYU is the #2 seed in the WCC Tournament and thus - following a first-round bye - will play the winner of Portland vs. Loyola Marymount. Win that and BYU's probably sealed the deal. Beat that #7 vs. #10 game winner and then knock out a win in the semis and the invitation will be extended for sure. But word to the wise with this BYU bunch is don't exactly count those chickens just yet!

LSU (17-11, 8-8 SEC) - There's a glut of bubble teams in the Southeastern Conference these days and as we pointed out in yesterday's Jim Sez there are plenty of head-to-head matchups than can go a long way in clearing up the mess but this is a cut-and-dry case with the Bayou Bengals who's "work-to-do" includes winning at Vanderbilt tonight, then besting Georgia in Baton Rouge on Saturday and then LSU must win one game in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta next week. Do the math and LSU would then be 20-11 and then even a next-round loss wouldn't keep the Tigers from their appointed rounds in the "Big Dance" ... anything short of this scenario likely KOs them. Note that LSU beat Vandy 81-58 back on Jan. 18th while the Tigers' first go-around against Georgia was a 91-78 loss back on Feb. 6th.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
First-round action begins Friday night in Baltimore and will conclude with Monday's championship game on the NBC Sports Network and remember last year when then third-seeded James Madison won the mini-tourney with a 13-point victory over Northeastern but don't expect either of these teams in Monday's title tilt.

Both Delaware (22-9, 14-2) and Towson (22-9, 13-3) are rock-solid teams and one of them should be wearing the crown but beware of a Drexel team that's boned up this year with non-league tilts against the likes of UCLA, Arizona, Alabama and St. Joe's.
The Favorite: Delaware
Dark Horse: Drexel

THE NFL DRAFT REPORT

Our NFL Draft coverage continues in today's edition of Jim Sez and so let's roll on with the top Linebackers:

KHALIL MACK, OLB, BUFFALO - This 6-foot-3, 250-pounder wowed folks at the recent NFL Combine with 4.65 time in the 40 and his skill set is such that he could sneak into the top five draft selections. Mack sports great upper-body strength too and he can really jar enemy QBs and RBs as he forced an FBS-record 16 forced fumbles in his college career. Many forecasts have Mack falling into the laps of the Atlanta Falcons at the sixth overall pick but do not be surprised if someone - possibly Pittsburgh - trades into the top five slots and snags this dynamite defender.

ANTHONY BARR, OLB, UCLA - Another quick climber up the mock draft boards these days, the former 6-foot-5, 255-pound Bruins stud was a real workout warrior in the NFL Combine will running the 40 in a 4.66 time and note Barr managed to overcome double-teaming to have a big senior season last year. The best-case scenario for Barr is to play stand-up OLB in a 3-4 defense and he could be a neat fit at pick #11 with the Tennessee Titans or might inch even higher in this draft should Baltimore trade up from pick #17.

C.J. MOSLEY, ILB, ALABAMA - Most draft forecasters believe this 6-foot-2, 235-pounder will land somewhere in the middle of Round I as he sports keen instincts and is very heady but some folks believe he's not the greatest tackler around and so that could drop Mosley a few pegs in May's NFL Draft. Gut feeling is he could be Baltimore-bound at that aforementioned pick #17 if the Ravens don't trade up or he could be a nice fit on the very next pick (#18) with the New York Jets should Rex Ryan's guys go defense over the glaring need for a top-flight wide receiver.

RYAN SHAZIER, OLB, OHIO STATE - The former Buckeyes star is a borderline Round I pick who still needs to add some bulk to his rather lean 6-foot-1, 237-pound frame. Shazier has great closing speed and comes off a Big 10-best 143 total tackles last year but critics say he loses his cool at inopportune times and isn't the best tackler. New England at pick #29 could snag 'em or he might leak into the early part of Round II.

YAWIN SMALLWOOD, ILB, CONNECTICUT - Here's a player-to-watch guy come Draft Day as the two-time Huskies' leading tackler is more athletic than other inside 'backers in this draft and could wind up shooting up the draft boards into the middle of the second round even though many forecasts claim he's ranked somewhere in the 90-to-100 area of overall selectees. At 6-foot-2, 247 pounds, Smallwood is an absolute hulk and he sports good ability and speed for the position.

CHRIS BORLAND, ILB, WISCONSIN - The motor never shuts off for this 6-0, 247-pounder who plays with major passion and is rarely fooled on the gridiron. Borland's likely a late second-round or early third-round type pick that may lack the athleticism of the LBs presented here but he plays wise (think Carolina's tackling machine Luke Kuechley) and is cat-quick at getting to running backs ever before they get started as evidenced by his 41.5 career tackles for losses. Maybe he'll stay close to home as Green Bay could show second-day interest in this former Badgers' star.

NOTE: Lots more NCAA Basketball coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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