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Morning Coffee - Even More Madness

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Andrew's touched on some of this in his Madness notes below, but let's start with a recap in the Big 12, where Oklahoma took care of Iowa State, Texas Tech outpaced Colorado, Oklahoma State smothered Nebraska, and Baylor blitzed past Missouri in what was easily the most impressive performance of any Big 12 team on the day.

Tomorrow's lineup is now set:

  • 11:30 a.m. 1. Kansas vs 9. Oklahoma
  • 2:00 p.m. 4. Kansas State vs 5. Texas Tech
  • 6:00 p.m. 2. Texas A&M vs. 7. Oklahoma State
  • 8:20 p.m. 3. Texas vs. 11. Baylor
There's not a single team west of the Rockies that scares me. UCLA has a gaudy 26-5 record thanks to a wonderful coach who gets the most out of his defense, as well as a star guard in Afflalo who can be a versatile scorer, but the team is far too one-dimensional on offense to make a deep tourney run. I know they want to keep the faith right about now, but if I'm a Bruin fan, I'm more than a little nervous about this team's chances to get to Atlanta.

If it's ACC tourney coverage you're seeking, I urge you to keep your eye on Carolina March. Forget the fact that TH is a delicious writer; the man knows his basketball, too. Money quote from his Thursday preview?

For some reason, I think Miami has the greatest potential for an upset. They've slowly gelled into a real team since suspending Denis Clemente for the remainder of the season. . . Miami has a surpisingly potent offense for their record, and I think they can pull off the 12th-seed shocker."

Smart indeed. Plus: bonus postage - TH's Top 10 least favorite Dukies of all time. I personally can't fathom anyone but Laettner at the top of this list - not after the Mashburn stomach stomp that epitomized everything I hate about Duke basketball and Mike Krzyzewski.

I don't know if it's the Garden, or the history of the tournament, or that every game is nationally televised, or what - but the Big East tournament is always at or near the top of my favorites each year. Card Chronicle is live blogging the entire thing, with appropriate breaks to cheer on The Ville. Day Two at MSG saw my dear-to-heart Hoyas erupt with a 26-2 run to start the game - a lead which held up despite a significant Villanova run. Billyzane's got the session report.

A few words on Baylor: the decisive first half run the Bears went on to turn a 28-28 game into a 45-30 lead was simply astonishing. They hit at least six straight field goals during that stretch, scoring more or less at will against the Tigers. AW's been saying it since December and KenPom predicted an 8-8 finish from the Bears before the season got under way. Now that this team is healthy and playing their best basketball of the year, Texas may have their hands full if they don't come prepared to defend.

The big problem with Baylor is Aaron Bruce. The emerging Curtis Jerrells is impressive in his own right, but it's through Bruce that the magic happens. Ninety percent of the time, he's one of the smartest basketball players you'll ever see play the game. (It's almost a given that he'll force 2-3 passes per game that just aren't there, which accounts for his less than perfect evaluation.) He's kind of like Steve Nash, only 100 times slower and less effective as a scorer - he puts his teammates in position to succeed, and utilizes a quick first step better than any guard in the league. He's not physically gifted enough to play in the NBA, but he's got a ridiculous basketball IQ.

How to defend Bruce? Texas should put Abrams on Bruce and tell him to use every ounce of his quickness to keep him in front of him. I'm fine with Bruce scoring 15-20 points, but we can't have him blowing by a flat-footed defender and disrupting the entire defensive rotation. Put Abrams on Bruce, tell AJ it's his primary responsibility for the entire game, stick Mason on Jerrells, and suffocate the Baylor perimeter. Baylor is a tough team, but we match up reasonably well with them; they don't have the interior game to make us pay for expending a lot of defensive capital on the outside.

Congratulations are in order for Bockcara and bklynBEVO, who were the only ones to correctly pick six of our seven games in the spontaneous contest pick 'em. Both will receive t-shirts.

Keep an eye out for a new set of picks for Friday's action.

--PB--