With the most glorious time of year for basketball junkies right around the corner, I'm going to be analyzing several tournament teams. This article will focus on facts, breaking down stats and letting readers take from it what they will.
Inevitably things will change as we approach March 19. This is simply the act of an impatient basketball fiend who probably has too much time on his hands. Nevertheless, I hope it gets people amped up and ready to start filling out brackets with visions of buzzer beaters dancing in their dreads.
The order in which I present the teams is irrelevant to RPI or my personal predictions. I'll be covering four teams in each issue of "Mathematics."
Illinois Fighting Illini 21-5 (9-4 in Big 10)
Key Wins - @ Missouri (by 16), Purdue (twice)
Key Losses - Clemson (by 2), @ Michigan St. (by 6)
Big Game Remaining - Michigan St. (March 1)
Player to Watch - Demetri McCamey (12 PPG, 5 APG)
The Illini have battled through a very tough schedule which makes them battle-tested when the madness comes calling.
With four players who average 10 points or more per game, this squad has the kind of depth and team chemistry that it takes to win in March. Huge rematch with the Spartans on March 1.
Dayton Flyers 23-3 (9-2 in Atlantic 10)
Key Wins - @ Marquette (by 14), Xavier (by 13)
Key Loss - @ Creighton (by 18)
Big Game Remaining - @ Xavier (March 5)
Player to Watch - Chris Wright (13 PPG, 7 RPG)
With an impressive record including wins over very good teams, the Flyers could be a Cinderella candidate. They are 16-0 at home this year. The March 5th matchup at Xavier will tells us a lot more about this team.
Louisville Cardinals 19-5 (10-2 in Big East)
Key Wins - @ Villanova, Pittsburgh, @ Syracuse
Key Losses - UConn (by 17), Notre Dame (by 33 - got damn!)
Big Game Remaining - Marquette (March 1)
Player to Watch - Earl Clark (13 PPG, 9 RPG)
Talk about a tough schedule. The Cardinals have already played two teams that have been ranked No. 1 in the nation (Pitt, UConn) not to mention Notre Dame, 'Nova & Syracuse (all wins).
Rick Pitino is one of the best coaches in the game and will have his team ready to play come tourney time. Fowards Samuels and Williams join Clark in a formidable frontcourt.
Pitino's teams always play excellent defense and nobody wants to play this squad in March. The Final Four is well within their potential.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 19-4 (6-4 in ACC)
Key Wins - UNC (by 3), @ Clemson (by 10), Duke (by 2)
Key Loss - Va. Tech (snapped 16 game win streak to open season)
Big Games Remaining - @ Duke (Feb. 22), Clemson (March 8)
Player to Watch - Jeff Teague (20 PPG, 4 APG, 4 RPG)
Teague is one of the nation's most talented players. This team was ranked No. 1 in the country earlier in the year but failed to maintain that level of play, losing four times within their conference to teams not ranked in the top 25.
Still, this is a dangerous team led by three impact players (Teague, Fowards Johnson & Aminu) that have the ability to win a national championship. Expect to see them still around come the Elite Eight. If Teague is on top of his game, the Demon Deacons are capable of cutting down the nets in Detroit.