Bracketology 2018: Chaos Everywhere

Apologies for the last two inactive weeks. Life is a thing, and despite some others’ indications, I have one. Moving on. College basketball’s season is winding down, but the excitement is just beginning. To map the chaos, After the Whistle premiers a long-requested topic, bracketology.

I won’t bother with regions, because the selection committee always decides to mess it up. Comments, questions, and disputes are always welcomed in the comments. On with the chaos!

This week’s statement win belongs to. . . Wichita State. In a massive game against Cincinnati for control of the American, the Shockers came out on top. Landry Shamet led the way with 19 points, five assists, and four rebounds. The sophomore flamethrower also canned three triples, continuing a worrying trend. . . for his opponents.

It’s time to start talking about. . . Texas Tech. The Red Raiders lead the Big 12 at 10-4 in the conference, and hold the tiebreaker over fellow 10-4 Kansas due to a twelve point win in Lawrence. Add in Tech’s 16-0 record at home, and the Red Raiders are a legitimate national championship threat.

A mid-major rising is. . . Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders are dominating a solid Conference USA at 14-1 in the conference, and I have them at a 7 seed. Those in front of MTSU can’t afford to lose, or their seed will be taken by the Blue Raiders

 

1 seeds (Ranked #1-4)

Virginia
Villanova
Xavier
Texas Tech

2 seeds (#5-8)
Kansas
Auburn
Michigan State
Duke

3 seeds (#9-12)
Clemson
Tennessee
North Carolina
Purdue

4 seeds (13-16)
Wichita St
Cincinnati
Ohio St
Arizona

5 seeds (17-20)
Rhode Island
Gonzaga
W Virginia
Missouri

6 seeds (21-24)
Alabama
Creighton
Texas A&M
Florida

7 seeds (25-28)
St. Mary’s
Nevada
Middle Tennessee
Houston

8 seeds (29-32)
Michigan
Oklahoma
Kentucky
Miami

9 seeds (33-36)
Arkansas
Florida State
Arizona State
TCU

10 seeds (37-40)
Seton Hall
Butler
NC State
Virginia Tech

11 seeds (41-44)
Providence
Kansas St
St. Bonaventure
Loyola-Chicago

12 seeds (45-48)
Syracuse/Nebraska*
Texas/Louisville*
Vermont
East Tennessee State

*denotes play-in game.

13 seeds (49-52)
New Mexico St
Buffalo
UL-Lafayette
South Dakota St

14 seeds (53-56)
Charleston
Belmont
Rider
Bucknell

15 seeds (57-60)
Montana
UCSB
N Kentucky
FGCU

16 seeds (61-64)
Pennsylvania
UNC-Asheville
Wagner/Arkansas-Pine Bluff*
Nicholls State/Savannah State*

*denotes play-in game

 

Last four in

Syracuse
Texas
Louisville
Nebraska

First four out

Baylor
Boise St
UCLA
USC

Next four out

Washington
Temple
Penn St
Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 Wins and the Race to March

While college basketball’s consistent chaos reigns, there is a constant for power conference teams. Generally, 20 wins send a team to play in March. For mid-majors, an at-large bid is almost impossible, and requires a higher win total.

While 20 wins seem to be the metronome, factors also include non-conference success, strength of schedule, and most importantly, conference record. After the Whistle sets the stage for the teams that have clinched tickets to the NCAA Tournament.

Clinched (a month early)

This section includes teams who could lose every remaining game and still make the tournament. However, 20 wins are not the only factor. It’s a short list one month prior to March Madness.

Villanova (20-1, 7-1 Big East)

A terrific non-conference run highlighted by a win over a really good Tennessee team continued, as the Wildcats destroyed Xavier by 24 en route to a 20-1 record. The sole blemish is a loss to Butler, who always seems to beat the nation’s current #1.

Virginia (20-1, 9-0 ACC)

After limiting red-hot Clemson to 36(!!!) points, the Cavaliers stand undefeated in the best league in basketball. Virginia hasn’t lost since December 5th at West Virginia. Re-read. Other teams run away. Continuing!

Purdue (21-2, 10-0 Big Ten)

Non-conference losses to Tennessee (understandable) and Western Kentucky (less so) have vanished into oblivion, as the Boilermakers are tearing up the Big Ten. Ohio State (9-1) and Michigan State (8-2) are the only teams close to the conference leaders.

One concern for Purdue’s March seeding is the schedule of another B1G contender. With the return of Amir Coffey, Minnesota faces a similar situation to last year, and a similar schedule. If the Golden Gophers go on a similar run to 2017, their B1G tournament semifinal (4 v. 1 seed) could be against Purdue.

 

While some other teams are close to clinching bids to the Tournament, these three can start worrying about seeding. Villanova, Virginia, and Purdue have played terrific basketball en route to strong cases for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Minnesota Miracle Sends the Vikings to Philly

Decades of heartbreak for the Vikings were set to continue after a Will Lutz field goal put the Saints up 24-23 in the divisional round. Bud Grant’s four Super Bowl losses, Gary Anderson’s Falcons miss, and Blair Walsh’s 27-yard whiff were ready to welcome another chapter into the Vikings’ book of misery.

Then Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs did this.

As a Vikings fan, the exhilarating win was indescribable. The players were lost for words, the fans wanted to storm the field, and Bountygate has been avenged. For the first time since 2009-10, the Vikings are heading to the NFC Championship.

Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia hosts the top-seeded Eagles against Case Keenum and Co., and early weather forecasts are predicting a moderate 53 degrees for the clash. The Eagles might lean on the ground game, to avoid letting the Vikings defense get After backup QB Nick Foles. Minnesota is one win away from the Super Bowl. SKOL Vikes!

Raptors, Cavs, and the East’s Crucial Battle

Tonight the Toronto Raptors welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to Canada for a pivotal Eastern Conference clash. A quick snapshot of the East’s standings shows Toronto’s 2.5 game lead over Cleveland in the standings, while the Raptors have only one more loss than the Boston Celtics. A Raptors win launches their top-seed bid, while a Cavs win pulls Cleveland back to 1.5 games behind. . .with the Raptors playing the Warriors in two days.

The Raptors are 14-2 at home on the year, better than the Warriors and Rockets. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will once again lead the charge, although Lowry’s status is in question with a bruised tailbone. OG Anunoby and CJ Miles will combine for the unenviable task of slowing down LeBron James, while Jonas Valanciunas’ mideason surge will need to continue. Starting power forward Serge Ibaka is out due to suspension.

Projected starting lineup: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas

The Cavaliers are on a skid, posting a 4-6 mark over their last ten games. LeBron James’ superhuman efforts will need to be helped on by someone else, and Isaiah Thomas’ shoot-first mentality is not what is needed for Cleveland’s point guard. Kevin Love’s rebounding will be the key, due to the aforementioned Ibaka suspension.

Projected starting lineup: Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.

Although they’re banged up, the Raptors should continue their incredible run with a victory, as Cleveland will face an increasing threat from the surging fourth-placed Heat.

Pick: Raptors 112, Cavaliers 105

Analyzing the NBA Standings at the Start of 2018

2017 is over and done with, and basketball has served up some surprises. After the Whistle takes a look at where teams stand heading into the new year.

Eastern Conference

1. Celtics—32-10

2. Raptors—27-10

3. Cavaliers—25-13

4. Wizards—23-16

5. Heat—21-17

 6. Bucks 20-17

7. Pistons 20-17

8. 76ers 19-19

Just outside: Pacers (19-19) and Knicks (18-21)

Talking points

Celtics on Top

Boston has played the NBA’s most packed schedule since October, and is off to a terrific start. Al Horford might be the most improved player in basketball, and Kyrie Irving’s 24.4 points per game paces the East’s top unit.

Raptor Resurgence

Toronto could be the best team in the East. Level in the loss column with Boston, the Raptors are still paced by DeMar DeRozan (25 PPG), but the bench has transformed into a fearsome unit led by Delon Wright (8.9 PPG, 1.2 SPG).

All-Star Oladipo

The Pacers combo guard has lit up for 24.9 points per game, fueled by a terrific 42.3% clip from the arc. Oladipo is carrying the Pacers within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The East’s current All-Stars. . .

G Victor Oladipo, Pacers

G DeMar DeRozan, Raptors

F LeBron James, Cavaliers

F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

C Al Horford, Celtics

 

Western Conference

1. Warriors—31-8

2. Rockets—27-10

3. Spurs—27-13

4. Timberwolves—24-16

5. Thunder—22-17

6. Nuggets—21-17

7. Trail Blazers—20-18

8. Pelicans—19-18

Just outside: Clippers (17-20) and Jazz (16-23)

Talking points

The Rockets Fall

Houston was on pace for the top seed heading into Christmas weekend, but lost the perch due to losing six of their last ten. To make matters worse, James Harden is out for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury.

The Muddled Five-seed Race

The Thunder have surged up into the five spot, but the Nuggets and Trail Blazers lurk within 1.5 games, and the Pelicans can beat anyone with their Davis-Cousins tandem. Just something to keep an eye on. . .

The (Even More) Muddled 8-seed Race

The Clippers have surged into the picture to contend with the inconsistent Pelicans, and the Jazz have the pieces to string together a long winning streak. Who wants to get blown out by the Warriors?

The West’s current All-Stars. . .

G Russell Westbrook, Thunder

G James Harden, Rockets

F Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves

F Kevin Durant, Warriors

C DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans

Predicting the 2018 NFL Playoffs

After the Whistle’s football focus continues as the playoffs are set. The main surprise story is the Buffalo Bills, who punched their ticket via the Bengals upset of the Ravens. Here are my NFL playoff predictions.

AFC wild card round

(3) Jaguars over (6) Bills

The tale will end for Buffalo. Jacksonville’s elite defense and surprisingly competent offense will carry the Jaguars through to the divisional round.

(4) Chiefs over (5) Titans

Tennessee’s defense has had trouble against multidimensional offenses, and a Chiefs attack led by Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt is a test. Marcus Mariota’s first playoff game will end in defeat.

NFC wild card round

(3) Rams over (6) Falcons

Playoff experience will keep the Falcons close, but another blown lead will end in disaster as the Rams win a high-scoring shootout.

(5) Panthers over (4) Saints

Noticing a pattern? Carolina’s elite defense will defeat the dynamic Saints offense, and the Panthers will head to the divisional round.

Divisional round

(1) Patriots over (4) Chiefs

Andy Reid’s terrible late-game management won’t come into play here, as New England is superior to Kansas City on both sides of the ball.

(3) Jaguars over (2) Steelers 

Surprised? The Jags will pull the upset, as Pittsburgh’s offensive line can’t keep out the “Sacksonville” D-line. Blake Bortles’ competent play will be enough to supplant a terrific running game.

(2) Vikings over (3) Rams

Disclaimer: I’m a die-hard Vikings fan.

We’re not far removed from the Vikings’ 24-7 blowout of the Rams, and Jared Goff is in for another’s rough outing against the league’s best defensive unit. On the other side of the ball, Case Keenum will lead the charge as Adam Thielen goes for over 100 yards.

(5) Panthers over (1) Eagles

Philly’s offense has been downright awful since Carson Wentz tore his ACL, and the Panthers have no such qualms. The Packers, Eagles, and Dolphins won’t stop complaining about their QB injury problems. Whereas the Vikings’ former third-stringer is an MVP candidate.

Conference championship games

(1) Patriots over (3) Jaguars

Tom Brady is heading back to the Super Bowl. Suspect Blake Bortles will finally get found out against the Pats’ experienced defense, and New England’s explosive offense will power them through.

(2) Vikings over (5) Panthers

Carolina won’t beat Minnesota twice, and Cam Newton has a way of folding in NFC Championship games. SKOL Vikes!

*Bashes autocorrect for autocorrecting to Sam Vokes*

SUPER BOWL!!!

Vikings over Patriots

The Vikings fan I am, of course I find reasons for Minnesota to win it all.

New England’s suspect secondary won’t be able to keep up with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and the Patriots’ last-minute comeback will fall short. Harrison Smith picks off Tom Brady to seal a thrilling 27-24 victory.

 

So how did I do? Do you disagree? Post your picks in the comments!

2018 NFL Draft Order and Analysis

The NFL playoffs may be shaping up, but the draft order is another unknown today’s games will solve. After the Whistle takes you through the order and the remaining spots up for grabs. This post will be updated live as results come in.

Confirmed picks 

1. Browns

2. Giants

3. Colts

4. Browns (via the Deshaun Watson trade with the Texans)

5. Broncos

6. Jets

7. Bucs

8. Bears

9-10. Raiders and 49ers (decided by coin flip!)

11. Dolphins

12. Bengals

13. Redskins

14. Packers

15. Cardinals

16. Ravens

17. Chargers

18. Seahawks

19. Cowboys

20. Lions

 

The current draft order is here.

Updates will appear below (all times CT). . .

3:25 

The late games have started. Buckle up. It will be a wild ride.

3:54

The 49ers have jumped out to a 10-3 lead against the Rams. A loss could push San Francisco no higher than fifth, while a win could drop them all the way to 11th.

4:08

The Dolphins trail the Bills 10-0, and face a tough 3rd and 5 deep in their own territory. Miami seems locked in to the 12th pick, as the only scenarios that would interrupt this are unlikely:

1. MIA loss + CIN or OAK win (Dolphins move up to #11, and #10 if both win)

OR

2. MIA win + ARZ loss (Dolphins move down to #13 due to strength of schedule)

4:12

The Cardinals just scored another touchdown to put themselves up 17-7 against the Seahawks. Arizona is dead-set on knocking Seattle out of playoff contention.

5:40

Here’s a rundown of the scores currently, with each non-Playoff team’s highest possible pick listed first and their lowest possible pick listed last.

Titans 15-3 Jaguars. . . Jacksonville is locked into the 3-seed in the AFC, while Tennessee is win-and-in.

Bills 22-3 Dolphins. . . Miami’s pick range is 10-13.

Bengals 24-17 Ravens. . . CIN pick range is 6-13, and they’re messing it up!

Chargers 30-10 Raiders. . . OAK pick range is 7-13. If you’re wondering about all the 13s, it’s because 5-15 is a jumbled mess.

5:47

Cardinals 23-14 Seahawks. . . Seattle will pick 16 or 17 if Arizona closes this out.

49ers 34-6 Rams. . . San Francisco is going to knock off LA and pick between ninth and 11th.

Falcons 16-7 Panthers. . . It looks like the NFC South will get three playoff teams. Not sorry, Seahawks. 😀

Chiefs 24-10 Broncos. . . Finally someone doesn’t mess up their draft stock! Barring an improbable comeback, Denver will pick fifth if Tampa Bay wins, but will slide to sixth if the Bucs lose.

Bucs 20-17 Saints. . . The Broncos are pleased. Tampa Bay will pick #5 with a loss and #8 with a win, due to strength of schedule. Thanks, NFC South.

5:56

Hold everything. Drew Brees connects with former Viking Zach Line to put the Saints up 24-20. As it stands, New Orleans will grab the NFC’s 3-seed and Tampa will pick #5 in the draft.

6:03

On a similar note, Blair Walsh drains a 49-yard field goal to shrink the Cardinals’ lead to 6. It’s 23-17 in the fourth. However, the Falcons have the ball with a six-point advantage over Carolina. The Seahawks’ playoff hopes are dwindling.

6:14

Wow, Seahawks. Russell Wilson goes deep to Doug Baldwin to pull Seattle in front, 24-23. Elsewhere, the Bucs pull within 1 of the Saints, also 24-23.

6:20

Haha. The Broncos have come back from two scores down to tie the Chiefs at 24. Elsewhere, a 13-yard scramble on 3rd and 5 by Marcus Mariota might have won the Titans a trip to the playoffs. Tennessee leads the Jaguars 15-10.

6:28

The Niners and Chargers have wrapped up blowout wins, while the Falcons extend their lead to 12. Football.

6:49

The Bills hold off a late Dolphins comeback, while the Falcons kept their lead at 12 all the way through a domination of the Panthers. The Titans, Chiefs, and Cardinals all finished off close wins, and the Bucs pulled off a massive 31-24 upset of the Saints. Week 17 was fun. Oh, and Blair Walsh shanked a potential game-winning kick again.

6:56

Movement in the draft! Picks 1-8 are confirmed, still pending Bengals-Ravens. The Bucs’ win over the Saints reduced their strength of schedule by four thousandths, which is enough to lift Tampa Bay into the #7 pick ahead of the Bears.

7:01

Bedlam in Baltimore! Trailing 27-24, Andy Dalton launches a 49-yard howitzer to Tyler Boyd, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs and giving the Buffalo Bills the #6 seed.

7:18

With that, the top 20 picks in the 2018 NFL draft are confirmed. On to the playoffs! It should be a wild ride.