Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Villa-Nosedive and Other Falls from Grace

Things haven't been as easy for Kemba lately (Getty)
After five days of relaxation in Florida, Daily Onions is back! We are a bit caramelized, but more than ready for March. Who's coming with us?

Well apparently there are a few teams out there that don't want their March performances to be something to write home about. Daily Onions will take care of the writing and we'll call out some of those teams that aren't exactly peaking at the right time. Let's start close to home in the Big East.

-Villanova: Jay Wright is all dressed up for the dance but the way his team is playing lately, it looks like his ride will be picking him up for an early exit. The Wildcats have lost five of their last seven, including home games to Syracuse, St. John's and Pitt. They've also lost at Rutgers and got embarrassed Monday night at Notre Dame, when the Irish drained 20 (not a typo) three pointers. There is no doubt that Nova has talent. One of their best players, Corey Stokes missed some time with an injury, but he's been back for the past three games. They'll need some of his hot shooting if they want to end their regular season with a W, at Pitt on Saturday. Good luck with that one. It looks as though, Villanova will be the 11 seed (seriously) in next week's Big East Tournament. If the Cats don't get things back on track quickly, they'll be back in the City of Brotherly Love before the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is even over, just like last year.

-UConn: The Huskies haven't been as bad as Villanova, but the last month of basketball hasn't been that pretty in Storrs. While Kemba Walker has been coming back down to Earth (ahem, told you so), UConn has dropped down the Big East standings as well. Since January 29th, UConn is 4-5. Prior to that, they were 17-2. Things don't get much easier for the Huskies, as they are at West Virginia tonight, which begs the question, if WVU beats #16 UConn, do they storm the court? Kemba and the crew then host the Big East's hottest team, Notre Dame on Saturday. Depending on how they fare, UConn could be in the mix for a double-bye in the Big East tournament, or they could be a 10-11 seed. Those possibilities are on opposites sides of the spectrum, similar to the discrepancy between the beginning and end of the season for the Huskies.
Grant and 'Bama still have some work to do

-Texas: A few March guarantees - St. Patrick's Day, baseball's spring training and grumbling in Texas about the Longhorns tailspin at the end of the season. As we've discussed in the is space before, we aren't confident in Rick Barnes and Texas down the stretch. This year's version of the epidemic includes losing 3 of their last 4 games against unranked teams (at Nebraska, at Colorado and home against a rejuvenated Kansas State) in the last week. We are going to "steer" (athankyou) clear of the Longhorns in the Big Dance not only because of their recent poor track record, but also because of the Daily Onions "Kentucky Corollary," where we stay way from teams that are too young and inexperienced. Four of the top six players for Texas are either freshman or sophomores. One final road test for this squad on Saturday at Baylor. A win would be huge for the youngsters confidence heading into tournament week.

The Crimson Tide will be staying in Sweet Home Alabama if they don't make a run in the SEC tournament. A few weeks ago we were praising 'Bama for being atop the SEC West standings. Well, they will still win the weak West division, but that's no lock to get them in. Back to back losses at Mississippi and Florida (a butt whooping), along with a poor out of conference schedule that included no real quality wins, Bama is now bubbling. Coach Anthony Grant and his perfectly tailored button down shirts need to win against Georgia on Saturday, and then win at least two games in the conference tournament to have a chance to get in to the Big Dance.

The Fighting Illini have a fighter's chance to get into the NCAA tournament. A tough schedule down the stretch hasn't done any favors for Bruce Weber's team. They are 4-7 over their last 11, including loses in 3 of their last 4 (Purdue, OSU, MSU). There is a possibility that Illinois could play Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, which would basically be an elimination game for the loser, with the winner still needing help. Whether Illinois is able to get into the tournament or not, this season has been a bit of a disappointment. With a team full of guys like McCamey, Davis, Tisdale, etc, there is no reason they shouldn't have been just behind OSU and Purdue battling for a Big Ten title.

Coming up in our next post, we'll go the other way around, and look at some of the teams that are starting to peak at the right time.

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