Monday, November 17, 2014

Poll Dancing: TBI's College Basketball Top 25 (Nov. 17 Edition)

We're only three days into the 2014-15 college basketball season, so why the hell not throw together a brand new Top 25 full of snap judgments and overreactions?

None of my Top 25 lost on the opening weekend, thank Buddha, but one did look very shaky against a motivated opponent at home on national TV. Of course, that team was ranked No. 25, so it's been replaced for now, but expect it to be back.

All in all, there's not much change, and I won't bother explaining the ones that stayed stable. After all, most of these teams were gobbling cupcakes over the weekend. However, I will share the rationale behind the few moves that were made, starting with our inaugural Faceplant of the new season.

All that after the jump.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

TBI's College Basketball Opening Weekend Extravaganza: Preseason Bracketometry

Welcome back to the third post of the series that may represent the most prolific this blog gets in three months, thanks to a lot of other stuff demanding some time. We've already talked about my Top 25 picks and my All-American selections, so now it's time to jump to the real important news that will come out in March: the bracket.

If you read my conference previews (Part 1 here and Part 2 here), you'll remember that I projected the teams that I expected to make the NCAA tournament from each league. This is where we put them all together into a tournament format and determine who exactly I'm tabbing as my Final Four picks. Because unlike all those other chicken-droppings bracketologists, Bracketometry will go the extra mile and project some winners. And not just going according to seed, either (I see you out there, Athlon). There will be upsets.

Trust me, you'll all disagree with several picks. I absolutely know it. But before we get to who'll be standing on the final weekend, let's look at the other 64 who'll join them at the party after the jump.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

TBI's College Basketball Opening Weekend Extravaganza: The All-Americans

Most outlets may give you only two teams' worth of All-Americans. Some will give you three. Here at The Back Iron, much like at noted college basketball bible Blue Ribbon, I drop four.

One thing you don't get here that you get literally everywhere else is the unrelenting hype for incoming freshmen. Writers get their All-American ballots confused with an NBA draft board and throw a bunch of one-and-dones on their teams, ignoring the dangerous precedent that was set when they anointed Harrison Barnes back in 2010. Barnes scuffled through his freshman year, bowed by the weight of the expectations, and was forced to return for a second year to salvage his draft stock.

Since then, TBI has had a strict no-freshmen policy on its All-American teams. While Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner and Karl Towns may show up and dominate the game, I prefer to give a little dap to those guys who've proven they can perform at this level.

You'll surely have some other suggestions, and you're encouraged to supply them below. Rest assured, however, that if I left your team's favorite player off, it's not because I "dont know nothin bout ball" or some other unintelligible rant. The more vituperous you get in your rant, the more assured I am that I've watched more basketball games than you've had hot meals. Be civil or be gone.

Now, 20 of the game's best--and a few controversial omissions--await after the jump.

Friday, November 14, 2014

TBI's College Basketball Opening Day Extravaganza: Top 25 Picks

I hate Christmas music, but the sentiment behind this song is valid for today. College basketball's opening day beats the living hell out of Christmas for me because 2 things:

1) There's a metric ton of hoops to watch;
2) No stressful shopping experiences.

As we prepare to tip the season off in some style (Texas Southern v. Eastern Washington = two potential conference champions opening the campaign), sit back and observe TBI's up-to-the-minute preseason top 25 and All-American picks after the jump.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

TBI's Conference Calling 2014-15 College Basketball Conference Previews (Part 2)

Back for more, eh? Expecting that the new guy over at BT Powerhouse, SB Nation's finest stop for all your Big Ten basketball needs, will mindlessly anoint his favorite conference as America's best?

If you expect that a guy who's glossed himself The Professor for the better part of a decade will do anything mindlessly, you obviously haven't passed through here much.

So let's check out Part 2 of TBI's conference rankings and see if the Big Ten does, in fact, reign supreme once more. (BTW, this is also post No. 100 in the sporadic history of this slightly-above-mediocre college basketball repository. So, yay me, I guess.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

TBI's Conference Calling 2014-15 College Basketball Conference Rankings (Part 1)

Oh, hai. Been a long time.

Normally around this time of year, I'm trying furiously to churn out a full-on conference preview for every league in America. And normally by opening day, I haven't even covered more than a dozen of the 32 conferences. If I were Joe Blow Single Guy writing in his underwear with Cheeto stains on his fingertips, I'd have a lot more time to finish these things, but kids and a wife have this annoying habit of asking for a little time with Daddy. And since none of you are paying any of my bills, the writing is usually let to slide.

Still, I'm always interested in how the conferences stack up at this time of year, which is why TBI is still going to turn out a full set of conference rankings. We all know who the worst league in America is (hint: it's one letter away from being SWAG, something that the conference in question almost totally lacks), and everybody's got their own perspective on who's the best. (Sit down, SEC fan. That ridiculous all-conference second-team ballot says it all.)

But now, here comes The Back Iron to settle it all. Strap in, kids, and prepare to bitch as we unveil the bottom half of the nation's leagues.

Below, you'll find TBI's picks for conference regular-season (and we'll presume tournament) champions, along with each league's expected Player of the Year and a potential Game Changer selection. The Game Changer may be a newcomer or returnee, but he'll certainly be a player who's not getting the publicity he deserves for his ability to shift the balance of power in his league.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Poll Dancing: TBI's Official Top 25 College Basketball Rankings (Feb. 24 Edition)

Jim Boeheim went thermo-f'ing-nuclear. That's about all we need to know about this week.

The stress of the season is getting to everybody, it seems.

But seriously, how surprising is it that ANY coach made it as long as Boeheim has without ever being ejected?

After Boeheim going insane, the top 25 almost seems like an afterthought, but let's take a look at how far the Orange slipped after two losses, one of which is in the running for WTF Moment of the Year.

Faceplants: No. 20 UConn, No. 21 Arizona State, No. 24 UCLA, No. 25 Memphis
--13 teams have made one-week cameos on Poll Dancing, then suffered losses that sent them tumbling right back out again. UConn, ASU and UCLA are the newest members of that club, with the Sun Devils having a particularly rough week. Road losses to Utah and Colorado aren't surprising, but a bit disappointing.
--UCLA can relate to that Utah loss. Meanwhile, a loss at Maples Pavilion isn't a crusher, but it'll remove you from a poll when other candidates post strong victories.
--The Huskies can't solve a bulkier, more athletic SMU team. Keep that in mind when forecasting UConn in your brackets. Connecticut's sweep over Memphis are its only wins against its fellow top-half American sides.
--Speaking of Memphis, they didn't read last week's Poll Dancing, and therefore came in unaware that screwing around against Temple is not good for your national standing. A narrow win at Rutgers + overtime at home against Temple = terrible week. UM joins Gonzaga as our only three-time Faceplants.

Bubbling Under: All the Usual Suspects
--Gonzaga, Memphis, UCLA, VCU, Oklahoma, yada yada yada...they are what they are at this point. All are capable of a good win to break into the ballot and just as capable of a WTF loss to tumble out. It's pretty late in the game to be discovering someone new at this point.

The top 25 after the jump.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Poll Dancing: TBI's Official College Basketball Rankings (Feb. 17 Edition)

It's a weird season in college basketball, to be sure.

We all know there's no superteam out there, but did you know that a couple of weeks ago, 16 of the AP's Top 25 teams took a loss?

This past week was similarly rough, as 12 of the 25 went down at some point during the week, and one (Pitt) likely forfeited any chance of returning to the rankings by missing out on its last potential signature wins.

The bubble is shaky, and the lower reaches of the Poll Dancing Top 25 aren't exactly stable either. For Exhibit A, check out...

Faceplants: No. 22 Pitt, No. 24 SMU, No. 25 George Washington
--Of Pitt's last five games, only Florida State is projected as a tournament team according to TBI's Bracketometry. A strong ACC tournament run may be the only thing that saves the Panthers from the dreaded 8-9 seed line.
--SMU was riding high with four straight double-digit wins, including decisions over Memphis and Cincinnati. Then it lost to Temple Sunday. And this ain't a John Chaney Temple team, to be sure, still ranking among the 10 worst major-conference teams in America.
--Meanwhile, I gave GW a pass for losing to a solid Dayton team while dealing with a ton of backcourt injuries. The Colonials couldn't survive the VCU-UMass double, however, and may have put themselves back in the bubble conversation.

Bubbling Under: North Carolina, Gonzaga, New Mexico, SMU
--The Heels are on a tear, but their six-game win streak was largely against the ACC's cream-filled center until they beat Pitt. Gonzaga is becoming the old standby, good to slot into the last couple of spots if no one else looks worthy, but incapable of adding any more signature moments of its own. New Mexico can make a return to the ballot if it takes down UNLV and San Diego State this week. And SMU gets shoved back to the waiting room after apparently swallowing too much of its own hype. Seriously? Temple?

The actual Poll Dancing Top 25 after the jump.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Poll Dancing: TBI's Top 25 College Basketball Rankings (Jan. 27 Edition)

Yeah, it's been four weeks since we published an edition of Poll Dancing. It's going to sound mean, but I blame the new baby that arrived the day after Christmas.

Between radio work, the paid writing gig for Bleacher Report and the new baby, time's at a premium and I've gotten little enough sleep that I've occasionally found myself hallucinating. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must take this upstairs to hide from the angry purple jelly-spitting dragons.

[...]

All right, now that I've safely relocated to the upstairs closet, let's talk some ball before I doze...

Zzzzzzzzzzz...
(snort) Eh? What? Oh, hai. Wow, that's embarrassing. Ahem. Where were we?

I've managed to compile each week's Top 25, just haven't found the time to publish. So, the last week numbers are actually based on where I ranked teams last week, not on Dec. 31. Likewise with our lone Faceplant.

Faceplants: No. 20 Baylor
--Remember when Gary Parrish was reaming people out for slow-rolling Baylor? Yeah, neither does he. Gary wanted evidence as to why observers doubt the abilities of Scott Drew. This 1-5 start in the Big 12 doesn't help the coach's cause, does it? And other than TCU, there aren't any conference games that look like gimmes.

The Bears have plummeted down the BII, sitting at No. 44 BEFORE the latest loss to Texas. At one time, GP was trying to argue that there was no way the Bears could be ranked behind Kentucky. Now, there's not much of a case to claim Baylor should even reach the NCAA tournament.

Bubbling Under: UCLA, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, SMU, Texas
--The Longhorns are the poster children for the Big 12's mad resurgence this season. A conference that we predicted would send only three teams to the Dance this season is now the No. 2 league in America according to the BII average (and less than a quarter-point behind the Big Ten, to boot). The Big 12 has SEVEN of its 10 teams in the latest Bracketometry tournament, at least until Baylor finishes its collapse.

Texas has three straight wins over "ranked" teams (again, one is Baylor and the other is the inexplicably overrated Kansas State), with a home game against Kansas looming Saturday. I expect UT will be in today's AP rankings (UPDATE: it is), but I still need to see that win over KU before I pull the trigger.

Oh, and SMU hosts Memphis Saturday, too. A win there, and I'll gladly rank Larry Brown's collection of mercenaries.

The top 25 after the jump.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Poll Dancing: TBI's Top 25 College Basketball Rankings (Dec. 31 Edition)

Not much movement on this week's top 25, since we only saw about 150 games all week. Hopefully, everyone got good Christmas presents, because Louisville fans only ended up with lumps of coal.

Worst week, however, had to go to St. Mary's. A trip to Hawaii seemed like it was set to be a pleasure cruise in which the Gaels would prove themselves top-25 worthy in an expected championship meeting with Iowa State. Three losses later, SMC ends up in last place behind luminaries like Oregon State and South Carolina. Hardly the mark of a team that will crack the rankings again...ever.

Speaking of teams that weren't expected to make the top 25, let's examine a totally puzzled pair of Faceplants.

Faceplants: Minnesota (No. 24), Florida State (No. 25)
--The Gophers blew out Corpus Christi, and their prior win over Nebraska-Omaha keeps looking better as the Mavericks climb to No. 101 in the new Back Iron Index. However, what did them in was the slow ascent of a team that owns a head-to-head victory over Minnesota. More on them at No. 25.

And of course, it's hard to rank Florida State just ahead of Minnesota when the Gophers own the head-to-head win.

Bubbling Under: Pitt, Missouri, Harvard, Gonzaga, Illinois