Monday, March 30, 2009

To the Big Ten bashers: Bite me.
A wise man once said, in reference to the hub-ub about the Big East getting five teams into the Sweet 16, "The Big East might have five teams in, but it won't rule the Final Four. Two get in, at best - mark my words."

Okay, so really I'm not a wise man, but hey, I was right, so I can gloat a bit, can't I?

Yes, the Big East got two in the Final Four. Once was a given since the East Region finale paired Big East teams. But Syracuse got steamrolled in the Sweet 16 and Louisville got Spartan Slapped in the Elite Eight.

Thanks, by the way, for the congrats and well wishes from fellow Big Ten fans. My beloved Spartans are playing inspired ball and are carrying the "Big Ten sucks" chip on their shoulders. Let's see if we can put it to bed and bring home another title!

How it'll play out in Motown
I had Michigan State in my Final Four on my "sheet of integrity." It has me in first place in my pool. If only Pitt had won I'd be a cool 4-for-4 with the Final Four. But I digress.

Back when the brackets came out, I loved the draw for State. Frankly it is the first time I put MSU through to the Final Four in my "original" bracket since 2005. I also honestly had MSU bowing out to UConn in the Semis. But now I'm not so sure.

When I look at this team, I see multiple people stepping up. Raymar off his game or hurt, no worries - DeDe to the rescue. Need a big shot from outside to stem the tide? Allen and Summers have been as consistent as they've been all season. Need a few minutes to spell Suton? Send in Gray or Ibok. Got to have a big shot and Lucas is being denied? Travis will step up.

There is something special about this team and I truly think that the hard part is done. Getting to Detroit carried a ton of pressure. Now all the talk will be about UConn and UNC. Truth be told, I see MSU and Villanova going toe to toe on Monday with the Spartans cutting down the nets.

What is going on in Iowa City?
Poor Todd Lickliter. Just when it looks like he's getting a team together to play his style, three more hit the road. And we're not talking bench warmers or those disgruntled with PT. To lose Jake Kelly is as devastating to the Hawkeyes as it was to lose Tyler Smith a few years ago. Ouch. What is going on? Is Coach a bad guy? Is it the style? Inquiring minds want to know.

Spring Football begins...
Spring football is here and while I won't really write about it, it gets me thinking that before I know it - it will be time to pour through the preseason rags and whip up my predictions. Feel free to report in on the low down from your favorite campus if there is something noteworthy to spill.

In the meantime, GO STATE (as in Penn State and Michigan State) - let's remind the nation that the best ball is played in the Midwest...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet, Sweet 16
I have a question. When did the use of "chalk" become so prevalent in the vernacular of college basketball analysts? Seriously. Chalk. The brackets have gone chalk. No where in the dictionary is chalk defined as "a measure of the amount of top seeds in the NCAA tournament to march on to the Regional Semifinals." I know. I quadruple checked to make sure I wasn't wrong. See for yourself.

Regardless, call it chalk, call it strong seeding, call it what you want... it is, plain and simple, a very sweet, Sweet 16. Add up the seeds left over and you get 49. The best possible is 40. Record aside, you could argue that Arizona is more like a 4 than a 12. Then the number would be 41.

It is amazing. Why? Because there is almost always a Cinderella of sorts come the second weekend of the tournament. But not this time. In fact, there is a general shortage of mid majors, period. Those that remain - Memphis, Gonzaga, and Xavier - are routinely in the mix with the big boys.

Enough about that though. It's been beaten to death by the media already. What I care about is the fact that Michigan State and Purdue have moved on (as I predicted) and are looking very strong right now. Both beat solid Pac-10 foes in round two and are poised to make more noise in the round of 16.

Purdue has the tougher road, but can definitely beat UConn. Michigan State was written off by the pundits before the USC game and now those same knobs are picking Kansas. Let them.

The Big East might have five teams in, but it won't rule the Final Four. Two get in, at best - mark my words.

The rest and the NIT
The rest of the Big Ten did the league pretty proud in the Dance and NIT. Wisconsin battled back and made a run at the Sweet 16 before losing to a very good Xavier team. Michigan fought adversity in the name of Blake Griffin and made a splash. Minnesota ran into a Texas team that is really better than a 7 seed but was respectable. Ohio State had its chances in a devastating loss to Siena, but the Saints gave Louisville a run for their money. Only Illinois dogged it although WKU is a solid squad.

Kudos to Penn State for advancing to the NIT Semifinals. Bring another one home for the conference.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let the Madness begin!
I love this time of year. Scratch that, I live for this time of year! I'm Andy Gamm, and I am a basketball-aholic. I can't wait for the action to start and to catch every single game via my Directv March Mega Madness package. All in HD. Love it!

I also love that the Big Ten got seven in. I think Penn State got screwed by the likes of Arizona and a Mississippi State run in the SEC, but hey, we can't have everything.

As for my predicted top four seeds per region... I nailed the Midwest, got many of the other teams right but was WAY off on a few. Still fun to play Joe Lunardi once in a while. I also nailed MSU and Michigan, was close on Minnesota and Illinois, even if way off on Wisconsin (holy dangerous 12 Batman) and Ohio State (who got screwed and rewarded all at once).

Before I get into my team by team picks, I will say this - kudos to Buckeye Nation who got 8 of the 10 B10 Tourney games right and correctly had Purdue beating his Bucks in the final. I like what OSU has for the future. MSU and OSU should be battling at the top for the next few years... with a little Purdue sprinkled in!

Michigan State: I hope the Spartans get to Detroit for many, many reasons. The first of which is to shut up the likes of Digger and Dickie V. I do have MSU taking care of business all the way to the Final Four, where they lose to UConn.

Purdue: I like the Boilers to do some damage and it wouldn't shock me to see them pick off UConn. But I have them bowing out in the Sweet 16. Watch out for them next year if they can stay healthy.

Illinois: Illinois got a tricky draw with a Western Kentucky team that pulled an upset from the 12 slot last year, and then there is Gonzaga. If Chester Frazier is able to go in round two, Illinois can advance. If not, it will be a win and a second round exit for the Illini.

Ohio State: As I said above, OSU got screwed and rewarded all at once. This team is better than an 8 seed that has to face a tough mid major in Siena and then if that, play number one overall Louisville. The reward? Home cooking in Dayton. If the Bucks get hot, they can pull off a shocker in round two. But I think they are a season away.

Minnesota: Tough draw for the Gophers, but you know they are happy to be there. I like Texas to do some damage in that bracket, so one and done for Minnesota.

Michigan: Yes, even for a Spartan, I felt good for my U-M friends on Sunday. Clemson is no picnic though, and I think here too it is one and done for the Big Ten.

Wisconsin: Florida State has to be saying things I shouldn't write in a blog to the tournament committee. The Badgers, one of the last teams in? I have them making the Sweet 16.

At the end of the day, the Big Ten shows well and quiets even Bobby Knight, who has been dogging his former conference...

My Final Four is MSU, UConn, Pitt and UNC with UNC beating UConn on Monday night.

Let the Madness ensue!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tourney Time
Before Ohio State and Purdue battle today for the B10 Tourney crown, I thought I would get out my Top 4 seeds by region. Good luck to the Bucks and Boilers. Both are playing solid basketball this weekend.

1 - Pittsburgh
2 - Duke
3 - Mizzou
4 - Tennessee

1 - Louisville
2 - Michigan State
3 - Kansas
4 - Wake Forest

1 - North Carolina
2 - UConn
3 - LSU
4 - Purdue

1 - Memphis
2 - Oklahoma
3 - Washington
4 - Syracuse

The rest of the Big Ten...
Ohio State gets a 5
Illinois gets a 6
Wisconsin gets an 8
Michigan gets a 10
Minnesota gets an 11
Penn State gets a 12

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tourney Time...
We had a very fitting week of upsets to lead us into March Madness. Indiana gave Big Ten Champ MSU all it could handle. Penn State hit a buzzer beater to beat Illinois. Northwestern shocked Purdue on the road. Michigan stunned Minnesota at The Barn. Iowa took out Penn State in double overtime. As a basketball fan, I was loving every minute of it. Even if it meant sweating the Get Gamm title!

I had a good year for me - my first with finishes at the top in both football and hoops. Congrats to Mayo with the bold pick of the NU over PU upset. We're not playing for records anymore - just pride - but you do get to pick the Big Ten tourney with me...

Here is the full, pretty schedule.

Here is my breakdown...

#8 Minnesota vs. #9 Northwestern - Both teams need wins to go dancing, though NU needs them more. Should be a great, great game. Both come in off of tough losses. Northwestern gets a rare first day win. NORTHWESTERN

#7 Michigan vs. #10 Iowa - Trust me, no one wants to play Iowa in this thing. The Hawkeyes always fare well in these, or so it seems - especially when facing a four in four situation. Iowa won't win this tournament, but they may well put Michigan back on the bubble. IOWA

#6 Penn State vs. #11 Indiana - The Nittany Lions shot themselves in the foot with the loss at Iowa but can make a statement with a big win. IU has nothing whatsoever to lose, which makes them dangerous. Still, Penn State wants to go dancing. PENN STATE

#9 Northwestern vs. #1 Michigan State - The Wildcats have picked off MSU on day one before but the Spartans have championships on their mind. Oh and a little payback for what then seemed like a devastating home loss for the Spartans. MICHIGAN STATE

#5 Ohio State vs. #4 Wisconsin - This should be a great game. Wisconsin is playing well right now and wants a shot to ruin MSU's dreams in the Semi's yet again. In an overtime thriller... WISCONSIN

#10 Iowa vs. #2 Illinois - Illinois has lost two in a row to end the season and has had a lot of time to think about it. I have a feeling about Iowa, but I'm talking myself out of it. ILLINOIS

#6 Penn State vs. #3 Purdue - Purdue is also reeling of late. Penn State could use another win to solidify its spot, but Purdue has something to prove. PURDUE

#4 Wisconsin vs. #1 Michigan State - A must watch game. Wisconsin has stabbed MSU's dreams in the heart so many times over the past several years - this round of the Big Ten Tourney included. This time, MSU wills itself to a scrappy win. MICHIGAN STATE

#3 Purdue vs. #2 Illinois - Illinois is 2-0 against the Boilers this year. The Illini will not make it a three-for. PURDUE

#3 Purdue vs. #1 Michigan State - A rubber match between the two best teams in the Big Ten. Purdue has a bit of an edge playing in its home state. Michigan State has the most recent upper hand though, which could creep into Purdue's mind. MSU is playing for a #1 seed out west. Purdue for a spot on the 4-line. I am tossing a coin. Head it's MSU, Tails it's Purdue... Heads... MICHIGAN STATE

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Big Ten awards time...

Yes, I am aware that there is still a weekend of play remaining, but my ballots are done. I've done my homework (stats) and watched enough games (probably half of at least 75% of the games this year) to know who I want if I am picking my best five players.

Note, I don't believe you pick a player at each position. I believe you pick the five best. I'll also give my defensive player of the year and coach of the year and an update on who will go where for the postseason.

Quickly though, a shout out to NU for the stunner at Mackey. Makes up for the blown lead game at Welsh-Ryan back in January. And that comeback win for Penn State over Illinois? Excellent.

Gamm's All Big Ten:
Evan Turner (G) - Ohio State: Leads the Big Ten in scoring (17.3 ppg), third in rebounds (7.1 rpg), fourth in assists (4.4 apg). Top ten in shooting percentage, top 12 in free throw shooting percentage.

Kalin Lucas (G) - Michigan State: Second in the Big Ten in scoring (16.2 ppg), ninth in assists (3.9 apg). Among the fastest point guards in the nation. Can take a game over with shooting, scoring or passing. Third in free throw percentage.

Talor Battle (G) - Penn State: Fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (15.3 ppg), second in assists (4.5 apg), 16th in rebounding (5.3 rpg). A guy who can take the game over (see last night for instance) with speed and versatility.

Manny Harris (Point Forward) - Michigan: Fourth in the league in scoring (15.4 ppg), fifth in rebounding (6.9 rpg), 10th in assists (3.6 apg). Edges out teammate DeShawn Sims who might actually be the better pro prospect.

Robbie Hummel (Forward) - Purdue: Despite the time he missed, when he's on the court, he makes Purdue a great team. Without question, a fully healthy Hummel is the best player in the league. His stats don't tell his story, so I am leaving them out.

Honorable mention: Raymar Morgan, Kevin Coble, DeShawn Sims, Jamelle Cornley.

Player of the Year:
The most valuable player for his team - any team - is Evan Turner. Hands down the best producer this Big Ten season. Without him, the Buckeyes are NIT at best.

Coach of the Year:
Ed DeChellis - Penn State. Tied for their highest win total ever in conference play. Beat Purdue, Michigan State and Illinois (twice). Could garner the two seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Postseason Predictions:
Michigan State - win out and get a #1. Otherwise, a #2 seems like a lock.
Purdue - could go as high as a 4, but more likely a 5.
Illinois - locked in at a 6.
Penn State - could also get to a 6, more likely a 7 or 8.
Ohio State - 8 or 9.
Wisconsin - 10 at best.
Minnesota - 10.

Michigan and Northwestern slide to the NIT as some of the last teams out.

*Note - all stats are conference game stats only

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Get Gamm - last round
We'll take our shots at the postseason too, but this is the last week in the content.

Michigan State at Indiana - MSU is playing this game tournament style - with less than 48 hours to prepare and still on the road after the big win at Illinois. IU will be geared up but Michigan State clinches with a 10 point win.

Ohio State at Iowa - An absolute must-win for the Buckeyes who remain a team that comes on and off the bubble. The Hawkeyes scrap and claw but OSU pulls it out in the end.

Northwestern at Purdue - Northwestern wants to win for the blown opportunity against the Boilers at home earlier this season. No go. Purdue is playing for NCAA position now.

Wisconsin at Minnesota - Another payback opportunity. Wisconsin blew it big time against the Gophers earlier this season. But Minny is playing for its NCAA life. When in doubt, go with the home team.

Illinois at Penn State - Paybacks can be hell. We all know watching the first game between these teams was just that! Illinois gets it back on the road.

Michigan at Minnesota - A must win for Michigan if they want to get back in the NCAA hunt. That's really the case for both teams, which makes this a great game. Minnesota rules the home court...

Penn State at Iowa - Penn State needs one after a home loss to Illinois. And gets it...

Purdue at Michigan State (tiebreaker) - A relaxed Spartans team plays much better than one wound tight. Purdue would love to ruin Senior Day and lay claim to have beaten the outright champs twice - but that won't happen. MSU 68 - Purdue 64.

Northwestern at Ohio State - another one on the Payback Week slate. Northwestern stormed back against OSU a few weeks back and got a huge win. Ohio State needs this one to feel comfortable. Buckeyes win.

Indiana at Wisconsin - no contest. Wisconsin rolls.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Big Ten top is clear, the middle? Not so much...
One more win and that long, painful wait for another Big Ten title is totally over. For those who had their head in the sand last week... Michigan popped Purdue in the mouth and then Michigan State got a rare win on Senior Day in Champaign (first ILL loss at home on said day since 1999) to clinch a tie for the title.

Get Gamm is starting to clear up too. With just this one last week to go, I've got a two game lead on the pack. No one beat me last week so it's just me vs. the field. Can Buckeye Nation pick up the games to beat me and re-claim his title?

Here are the games this week:

Michigan State at Indiana
Ohio State at Iowa

Northwestern at Purdue
Wisconsin at Minnesota

Illinois at Penn State

Michigan at Minnesota
Penn State at Iowa

Purdue at Michigan State (tiebreaker)
Northwestern at Ohio State
Indiana at Wisconsin

And I'll leave you with this... if Travis Walton isn't B10 Defensive Player of the Year, something is seriously wrong. What about B10 PoTY? That one is a wide open race. My vote? Stay tuned!