Crazie-Talk on ESPN2 SportsNation at 4 pm Today!

HUGE NEWS, Crazie-Talk readers!

In what may be our ‘big bump,’ Crazie-Talk will be featured on the popular show SportsNation today on ESPN2 at 4 PM. Every day the show highlights one sports website that they like, and today that site is us!

Check out the show at 4pm on ESPN2 to see Crazie-Talk go global. I really hope we don’t draw the ire of Colin Cowherd, or god forbid, Skip Bayless make a guest appearance!

Thanks to all of our readers for making Crazie-Talk such a great experience for us to produce. We reached 100,000 total visits this morning – which is mind-blowing, seeing as the five of us started this site just under seven months ago. We appreciate all of your comments and feedback and hope you keep coming back!

March Madness Day 1: Winners and Losers

Before we turn our attention to Arkansas Pine-Bluff, why don’t we recap the first 16 games of the tournament slate with the day’s winners and losers. Filled with upsets, overtimes and plenty of late-game dramatics, the past 15 hours have been one of the more memorable NCAA tournament first days in several years. Find out who the big winners and losers were before you watch another 12 hours of college basketball. THIS… IS… MADNESS!!!

WINNER: 1 KENTUCKY WILDCATS

Kentucky didn’t just “land the plane” on Thursday. The Wildcats did 360s in midair, nosedives and put the plane on autopilot before touching down safely. They did the one thing everyone said was their weakness: hit their shots. “If we’re hitting our shots, we bury people,” said Coach Cal. Exactly. Led by Eric Bledsoe, who went 8-9 from three, Kentucky connected on 15 of 33 shots from long range and assisted on 27 of their 31 made field goals. This was a thorough burial of a vastly inferior team by the Wildcats, who were not bitten by the upset bug that seemed to be the theme of the day. Kentucky turned in the best performance of the day, dropping 100 on hapless East Tennessee State.

LOSER: Damion James and Dexter Pittman, 8 TEXAS LONGHORNS

Remember when these two seniors, James, the ferocious rebounder, and Pittman, fatboy-turned-unstoppable-load in the paint, were thought to be the best low-post tandem in the country. Well, they have finally been put out of their misery, not having much say in their 81-80 overtime loss to Wake Forest. A sense of urgency didn’t seem to be in the upperclassmen’s vocabulary, as Texas’ three dynamic freshmen combined to score 48 points. James shot a miserable 4-14 in his last game in burnt orange and clanked a go-ahead free throw at the end of regulation. Actually, don’t blame Damion James…Blame this guy…

WINNER: Ishmael Smith, 9 WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

Talk about a senior who did not want to play his last game. Smith, he of the 17 assists and 23 turnovers in 5 career games against Duke, was incredible with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists and the game-winning fadeaway 18-footer with 1.3 seconds left. Smith began his career as an out-of-control freshman burdened with the unenviable task of replacing Chris Paul. Four years later, he has became a gutsy, tough, calm and clutch leader for the Demon Deacons. We don’t get a stacked round-of-32 matchup between UT and UK, but we do get another matchup to watch: Smith and John Wall going head to head. Speed vs. Speed.

LOSER: Anthony Johnson, 14 MONTANA GRIZZLIES

A bit harsh to pick on someone from a mid-major, especially given Johnson’s incredible made-for-TV-movie story to get to where he is today. But Johnson provided some bulletin-board material for New Mexico earlier in the week by suggesting that the Grizzlies got off easing by drawing the Lobos instead of possibly a Big East team. Maybe he wished he got the Big East team instead. Against New Mexico, he wound up eating his words, going 1-12 from the field and negating an inspired effort by his teammates to become the second 14-seed to win on the day. And isn’t it ironic that the Big East (1-3) performed worse in the day than the Lobos’ conference, the Mountain West (2-2).

WINNER: Quincy Pondexter, 11 WASHINGTON HUSKIES

So the Pac-10 has, and rightfully so, been the punching bag of the Big Six conferences all season. So of course a Pac-10 team beats a team from the former “best conference” in America. In another example of a senior who did not want to play his last game, Pondexter showed those Pac-10 media members and coaches who did not vote him Player of the Year just how much intestinal fortitude he has. After hitting a tough hanging bank shot from the left wing with 1.7 seconds, Pondexter put another dagger into the Big East’s day by sending Marquette back to Milwaukee. Let’s see what response Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle has against Louisville later tonight.

LOSER: 3 GEORGETOWN HOYAS

Well, this was obvious, wasn’t it? I do remember saying during our annihilation at the hands of Georgetown, “This team ain’t SHIT.” Prophetic words, I know. Especially after losses to South Florida, Rutgers and Notre Dame. But OHIO? People hopped back on the Hoya bandwagon after their run to the Big East finals (this writer included, who had them in the Elite Eight), but they completely forgot how to defend. Now Georgetown makes dubious history by becoming the first team seeded 3 or higher to lose by double digits in the first round. Greg Monroe, SHOULD HAVE COME TO DUKE. Maybe you can transfer here so you can learn what it feels like to win in the tournament. Let me know how those workouts for the Wizards go.

WINNER: Armon Bassett and D.J. Cooper, 14 OHIO BOBCATS

And this was just as obvious. These two small dynamos combined for 55 points and 10 three-pointers made, as they consistently shredded Georgetown’s defense. Bassett, a 6’0 sparkplug who transferred from Indiana after the Kelvin Sampson debacle, hit big shot after big shot to answer Hoya runs. And Cooper, a 5’11 freshman southpaw weighing no more than 170 pounds, drove fearlessly into the lane time after time and was able to finish creatively at the rim against the Hoyas size. No one could have predicted this as we all thought Georgetown had cured its mercurial habits.

LOSER: 1 KANSAS JAYHAWKS

Kansas did not really lose anything, and they were never in danger, as they still remain the odds on favorite to make it to the Final Four from the Midwest Regional. However, Lehigh was able to cover the spread, which makes the Jayhawks a loser. Lehigh bust out of the gate, leading 12-4 with 13:25 left in the 1st half. The Jayhawks only recovered to lead by six at the half. Perhaps the pressure of everyone and Obama picking Kansas to win the championship has worn on them. Kansas’ uninspiring performance paled in comparison to the thorough domination by the other 1-seed in action, Kentucky.

WINNER: Danero Roberts, 13 MURRAY STATE RACERS

Roberts’ buzzer-beater is easily the feel good story of the day and has made his Murray State team the early Cinderella darling of the tournament. You know he’ll be in this year’s “One Shining Moment” montage. Receiving a pass with about three seconds left, Roberts dribbled to a spot and pulled up for a fadeaway 19-footer, hitting nothing but net. Watching the second-half of this game, I heard so many audible “Let’s Go Racers” chants. And their fans had good reason to be so confident in their team. The Racers are probably the most balanced team in the tournament, with six players averaging between 9.7 and 10.6 points. Watch out Butler.

LOSER: A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffery Taylor, 4 VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Ogilvy now has the dubious distinction as someone who has been upset twice at the hands of a 13 seed, having lost to upstart Siena two years ago in the first round. Against a team that had one rotation player taller than 6’7, Vanderbilt’s big men came up small. Ogilvy had only 12 points and 6 rebounds in just 20 minutes while Taylor spent most of the second half on the bench in foul trouble. You had to feel for Ogilvy after he dropped to his knees, devastated. But then again, if you don’t want to get upset, assert yourself and take care of business.

WINNER: 2 KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

K-State’s win over North Texas meant that Wildcat teams turned in the two best performances of the day by a top 4 seed. Personally, I didn’t care about this game as I was so immersed in the Vanderbilt-Murray State classic. But it was good to see that parity hadn’t completely gobbled up the tournament by seeing a 2 seed take care of business with ease, something that wasn’t done earlier in the day (more on that later). Syracuse should watch out for K-State, who have the shooters (Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente) and size (Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels) to give them fits.

LOSER: 12 UTEP MINERS

The team that breezed through Conference USA instead ends the season with two consecutive losses. At least this one was to a team worthy of being in the tournament (unlike Houston). However, with a couple of strong 5 seeds in the field (Michigan State and Temple), UTEP was a trendy pick to pull the common 12-5 upset. And that would have led to the ultimate Cinderella 12 vs. 13 matchup against Murray State, a favorite of mine. Yeah, I’m just ticked because I picked UTEP to be in the Sweet 16, but I’m writing this column. Instead, Butler extended its winning streak to 21 games, as its three point shooting completely overwhelmed the Miners.

WINNER: Michael Loyd Jr., 7 BYU COUGARS

Some people know about Jimmer Fredette, the 6-2 gunner on BYU who dropped 37 to finally drop Florida in double OT. But there’s no way anyway outside of Provo, Utah knows who Michael Loyd is. Michael Loyd, who averages 4.6 points on the season? As much as Fredette did to help the Cougars win, I’m sure he’d tell you this victory would not have come without Loyd’s coming-out party. Loyd actually got some experience against New Mexico earlier this season when Fredette sat out the second half due to sickness. Against the Gators, the 6’1 sophomore guard poured in a career-high 26 points to help his team advance to play Kansas State.

WINNER: Omar Samhan, 10 SAINT MARY’S GAELS

This Samhan is a man. The 6’11, 260-pound beast completely dominated Richmond on the interior. Thanks to his 29 points and 12 rebounds, the Gaels outrebounded the Spiders 39-16. That is a ridiculous number, as in Samhan grabbed almost as many boards as the entire opposing team. He not only forced the issue all day in the paint but also got open looks for St. Mary’s shooters such as Mickey McConnell, who contributed 23 points. You will be seeing Samhan on an NBA team in the near future. He is that damn good.

LOSER: Luke Harangody, 6 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

Digger Phelps must be sick to his stomach right now. Who had Notre Dame in the Sweet 16? Not me. I called those Patties ridiculously overseeded and they were; this wasn’t an upset either.. Old Dominion did beat Georgetown earlier in the season (not as impressive anymore), but they were also a statistically better team than the Fighting Irish. Nothing epitomizes the bad luck of the Irish more than Harangody, the former Big East Player of the Year who ended his career with just 4 points and 7 rebounds. What’s interesting is that Notre Dame played its best basketball of the year without big ol’ Luke. His NBA stock is looking reeeeal good right now.

WINNER: Ekpe Udoh, 3 BAYLOR BEARS

Who the hell said there were no NBA lottery picks in the South region? Although Baylor wasn’t really impressive at all in its win, Udoh certainly was. And I cut Baylor some slack because this was its first tournament win in about a half-century. So it has been a while. Udoh went for 20 points, 13 boards, 2 blocks and even threw in 5 dimes. Baylor looks like a team that can certainly give Villanova fits in the Elite Eight. Maybe St. Mary’s upsets Nova and we get Udoh vs. Samhan in the Sweet 16? What a matchup that would be.

LOSER: Scottie Reynolds, 2 VILLANOVA WILDCATS

I’ve been taking as many potshots as I can on the Big East. Case in point: it took Scottie Reynolds and his army of zebras to turn away Robert Morris’ upset bid and save the Big East from utter humiliation. Reynolds shot an atrocious 2-15 from the field (although one three was big at the end of OT), but took 16 free throws on the day. These Wildcats, unlike Kentucky and Kansas State, limped to the finish and Villanova did nothing in this game to change the perception that it was the weakest 2 seed in the field. Which takes me to one final winner on the day…

WINNER: 1 DUKE BLUE DEVILS

How, you say, do we win by not even playing? Because of the complete carnage that you see on the battlefield that is the South Regional. So originally everyone had the South as the weakest bracket in the field, let by the crummiest 2 seed in Villanova. Then the trendy Final Four pick Baylor has trouble putting away Sam Houston State and both 6 and 7 seeded teams, who many thought were already overseeded, fell. 4 seed Purdue is still smarting from injuries, I believe, and remains a popular choice to be upset by Siena. I hope karma doesn’t bite me in the ass from all the shots I took at the Big East if we have to play Louisville in the round of 32. Everyone may be cowering right now, but they won’t be when they play Duke. Nonetheless, like I said before, there are NO excuses if we do not make the Final Four this year.

Same time tomorrow, folks.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.crazie-talk.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/March-Madness.mp3″ text=”March Madness” autoplay “1”]

Previewing the South Region

I was on tenterhooks watching the CBS Selection Show Sunday evening. Several questions ran through my head: will we even get a one seed? will West Virginia or Kansas State loom as our 2 seed? will we have to travel across the country?

Duke does have the easiest path to the Final Four. Will the Devils take advantage?

When Duke was placed in the extremely weak South bracket, I kind of sat back in shock. Well, that was easy. Duke has a great opportunity to make a deep run this year—but will we take advantage and make Indianapolis for Coach K’s eleventh Final Four? Let’s find out, with Crazie-Talk’s preview of the “historically weak” South bracket.

Jacksonville, Fl. Pairing

First Round

#1 Duke v. #16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff: OK…Duke will win this one. Moving on.

#8 California v. #9 Louisville: This could be an interesting game. California won the Pac-10 regular season, but that doesn’t mean anything, as there were no elite teams playing anywhere on the West Coast, regardless of conference. But the Bears are no pushover, with several star players, including guard Jerome Randle and big man Patrick Christopher, plus former Duke forward Jamal Boykin contributing 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. Louisville has been an enigma this year, beating top seed Syracuse twice but losing by 20 to St. John’s and Marquette, as well as dropping early season games to Charlotte and Western Carolina. Louisville is a tough draw for the Bears, who just lost forward Omondi Amoke to suspension. Louisville forward Samardo Samuels will be able to take care of business down low, and the Cardinal guards will do enough to slow down Randle. I take Louisville in this game, although I desperately hope I’m wrong.

Second Round

#1 Duke v. #9 Louisville: This is a really scary early round matchup for the Blue Devils. Rick Pitino, adultery aside, is a fantastic motivator, and will get his boys up for a face-off with us. But when it comes down to it, our guard play is better than the Ville’s. Scheyer and Singler will have to take care of business, as the Cards have several quick guards to throw at Nolan. I think our bigs can contain the 6’9” Samuels, who gets frustrated if he can’t get push people around for easy layups. PG Edgar Sosa is very inconsistent, and Duke’s hard on ball pressure should get under his skin. K will win this battle of Hall-of-Fame coaches and Duke will advance to Houston.

Spokane, Wash. Pairing

First Round

#5 Texas A&M v. #12 Utah State: This battle of two Aggie squads could be very interesting. Texas A&M got a difficult draw in the first round after a solid Big

12 season. Utah State play great defense, just like A&M, and score few points, just like A&M. They also won 27 games, including a victory over seventh seeded BYU. They probably would have had a 10 or 9 seed had they not lost to New Mexico St. in the WAC tournament. Moreover,  Texas A&M has been riding the play of star guard Donald Sloan all year, and since Derrick Roland was injured in the fall, haven’t had too much offensive firepower. Still, Crazie-Talk favors playing in good major conferences, and the Big 12 is probably the second best conference in the country. Texas A&M wins a low-scoring game and advances out of this tough first round game.

#4 Purdue v. #13 Siena: Everyone has been railing on Purdue since Robbie Hummel went out with a season-ending ACL injury. But I’m not buying all the Siena hype here. The stars of the Saints’ near ’09 near Sweet 16 run, Kenny Hasbrouck, is gone. Edwin Ubiles and Clarence Jackson are a solid backcourt, but still don’t match up well with Purdue’s Keaton Grant, Chris Kramer, and E’Twaun Moore. Contrary to popular assumption, Purdue has just enough to win this game without Hummel.

Second Round

#5 Texas A&M v. #4 Purdue: Like I said—Purdue will have just enough to beat Siena in the first round. The Boiler gas will run out against A&M, who will stifle Purdue defensively. The Boilers scored just 11 points in the first half of a pitiful Big 10 tournament loss to Minnesota. Look for the same kind of stunted offensive output, and a double digit A&M victory.

New Orleans, La. Pairing

First Round

#6 Notre Dame v. #11 Old Dominion: First of all, the Fighting Irish are grossly overseeded. Although they played well without big man Luke Harangody, Notre Dame doesn’t deserve this position, in the weakest region no less. The Irish have been peaking without star player Luke Harangody, playing better defense and getting more players involved, such as Ben Hansbrough the Younger and veteran PG Tory Jackson. However, the committee didn’t do them any favors by matching them up with Old Dominion. The Monarchs took out Georgetown earlier this year at McDonough, proving their ability to play with tough Big East squads. Old Dominion will beat another Big East team in this game, and Notre Dame (and former Duke assistant Coach Mike Brey) goes home early.

#3 Baylor v. #14 Sam Houston State: Each of these teams would love to play in the Houston regional, but Baylor has too much talent. Baylor guards  Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn complement forwards Quincy Acy and Ekpe Udoh. The Bears play high-octane offense, averaging nearly 80 points per game. Baylor advances here.

Second Round

#3 Baylor v. #11 Old Dominion: The Monarchs do not have the offensive potency to match up with the Bears. Forwards Gerald Lee and Frank Hassell meet the towering, athletic Udoh and Acy and are dominated on the blocks. Look for this to be a blowout, with Baylor advancing past ODU to the Sweet 16.

Providence, R.I. Pairing

First Round

#7 Richmond v. #10 St. Mary’s: Oh, we love the Richmond Spiders! St. Mary’s has to travel all the way across the country for this one, and no Patty Mills means no containing Spider guard Kevin Anderson, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. Omar Samhan is a good player for the Gaels, but again, no respect for West Coast teams (as if beating Gonzaga is an accomplishment!). Richmond wins by 10 and moves on.

#2 Villanova v. #15 Robert Morris: The Wildcats haven’t been at their best of late, but Scottie Reynolds and Co. take care of business against Robert Morris and advance to face Richmond. ‘Nova by double digits.

Second Round

#2 Villanova v. #7 Richmond: Here’s the first big upset! Anderson and David Gonzalvez are good enough to match up with the ‘Nova guards Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher, and the aforementioned Reynolds. Villanova has tanked of late, and Richmond barely lost to fifth seeded Temple in the A-10 championship game. Richmond may be the Cinderella of the Tournament, and their first big victim will be Villanova. So long, Taylor King! Have fun chain-smoking all the way back to Philly. Richmond heads to Houston.

Houston Regional

#1 Duke v. #5 Texas A&M: The Aggies are close to home for this game, and their fans (and thousands of Duke haters) will be out in force rooting for an A&M victory. Donald Sloan is a star, and the strength of the Aggies lie on the defensive end. We have struggled against powerful and athletic teams like Georgia Tech and Georgetown this season, and the less-than-stellar run through the ACC Tournament does not inspire too much confidence for this type of opponent. I think Zoubek, LT, and the Plumtrees come up big. A&M doesn’t have too many bigs other than Bryan Davis, and if they can’t shoot the ball, they won’t be getting too many offensive boards over Zoubs. Duke takes this one by 5-10 points.

#3 Baylor v. #7 Richmond: It’s tantalizing to send Richmond to the Elite 8, but that’d be overdoing it. The Cinderella run ends here. Dunn and Carter are too quick and explosive for Richmond’s guards, and Udoh will take all comers on the glass. Anderson has a Steph Curry-like performance, but the Spiders fall short against Baylor in the Bears’ home state,  setting up…

The Regional Final: #1 Duke v. #3 Baylor

OK. Here we are, on the brink of our first Final Four (in six years). Baylor—a team with tremendous speed and athleticism—stands in our way. The Bears have all the elements of team we have sucked against: athletic guards in Dunn and Carter, a powerful 6’10” big man in Udoh, and an upstart young coach in Scott Drew. Sounds like Villanova circa last year? Just replace Dunn and Carter with Reynolds/Fisher/Stokes, and Udoh with Dante Cunningham.

This game will take every last ounce of Duke’s energy, but I believe we can win. And it will have to come on the defensive end. Baylor scores a lot of points, but their guards do not have tremendous size: Carter is 5’11” and Dunn 6’4”. If Nolan Smith can slow down Carter and Scheyer can neutralize Dunn’s scoring, we can win the battle on the perimeter. Duke will have to go deep in its bench—expect the quickness of Baylor to force a lot of early fouls. Dawkins must play and contribute positive minutes. Zoubek will have to play without fouling, as the Plumlees can’t control their hands of late and keep picking up silly touch fouls. Lance Thomas has to keep the ball in his hands and be able to finish on offensive putbacks.

Truth be told, Duke will have to play its best game of the season to get past Baylor. But I’m confident because of the man in the dark suit on the sideline. Coach K is 10-1 in Elite 8 games. Scott Drew coaches at a program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game, period. Advantage, Duke. We will squeak out a win, probably in the high 70s or low 80s.

Coach K will cut down the nets again, leading Duke to the Final Four for the eleventh time in his career. (courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

See you in Indy.

Crazie-Talk will be tweeting throughout the Big Dance. Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for more solid coverage of Duke’s run to the Final Four.

Section 17: Back to Back

After a good week that included thrashing those Tar Holes in Cameron and receiving a verbal commitment from a 2011 five-star recruit, the Blue Devils took to Greensboro to defend their ACC championship crown.

The Devils hoisted their second consecutive ACC Tournament trophy on Sunday. Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com

Even though none of their three performances was what you’d call pretty, Duke became back-to-back ACC champions for the first time since 2006. Watered-down ACC competition led to anarchy in the opening round and the quarterfinals, as lower seeded teams won three out of the four games in each round. As a result, Duke, as the only team not upset, did not need to face any team seeded higher than 7th to win their record 18th ACC tournament championship, half of which have come in the last 12 years. Let’s recap the ACC tournament and look ahead to this weekend’s 1st and 2nd round games.

– Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a bit. There were two things about our victories in the tournament bothered me. Let’s start with the team’s sluggish first half-performances against Virginia and against Miami. Tied at 27 against a Virginia team that has suspended its star player? And trailing to Miami, the worst team in the ACC? To take nothing away from the fight of an underdog, but there’s a reason Duke was the #1 seed.

– The other thing that scares me is the inability, in the tournament at least, to put teams away. While we stomped on and continued to stomp on UNC in that God-awesome blowout, the boys let double digit leads dwindle against three inferior teams over the weekend. Against UVA, Duke had a 46-35 lead that was cut to two before finally pulling away. Against Miami, a first-half surge led to a 30-18 lead before the Canes scored 17 of the last 19 points of the half. The Miami first-half comeback reminded me an awful lot of the Boston College game we lost in Chestnut Hill last year. In the second half, an explosive burst resulted in a 58-42 lead, and while the result was never really in doubt, it was only a 3-point win. Finally, let’s just say Jon Scheyer should have never had to hit that oh-so-clutch shot at the end of the Georgia Tech game.

– Speaking of our captain’s ability to shut the door, on to the good things: our experience in our lineup (three seniors and two juniors) was evident in the tournament. But Andre Dawkins had three excellent offensive possessions in the final against Georgia Tech. His driving dunk in traffic was a thing of beauty and something we’ve never seen before from him. In fact, the Yellow Jackets were probably so shocked he didn’t pull up for three that they let him go by. What a strong, aggressive play by the freshman. Here’s a great article about Dawkins’ roller coaster freshman season.

– The Plumlees had a good game against Miami, highlighted by a Miles-to-Mason alley-oop. They have been slowly getting less minutes as Brian Zoubek has been consistently able to play 25-30 minutes by staying (relatively) out of foul trouble, a problem for him in the past. Nonetheless, our backup bigs will be important to us if we want to make a run in the NCAAs.

– Kyle Singler. ACC Tournament MVP. That sounds right. Right there with Preseason ACC Player of the Year. Kyle is playing the best ball of his career and peaking at the right time (one more year!)

Tournament MVP Kyle Singler has been playing like a First-Team All American. (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

– Nolan Smith only attempted 4 free throws all tournament. Nolan isn’t playing soft or unaggressive at all, as he was solid in all three tournament games. It’s just surprising he hasn’t been to the line more often.

– Coach K told the Crazies the night before the UNC game that how Jon Scheyer said he believed his “moment” at Duke hasn’t happened yet. After he drained the clutch three against the Jackets in the ACC finals, ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews suggested on the broadcast that this was the “moment” Scheyer was talking about. We hope, Jon, that it wasn’t and that your moment is still to come.

On Selection Sunday, Duke caught a break from the committee; that’s the truth. Somehow, Duke jumped Syracuse as the third No. 1 seed (seeding is based on a whole season’s work, is it not?). The fact is our region has the weakest No. 2 seed in Villanova, the weakest No. 4 seed in Purdue and the weakest No. 6 in Notre Dame, who was grossly overseeded. Some other musings about the South Regional:

– No excuses if Duke does not reach the Final Four. For those of you who remember the drubbing we took at the hands of the Wildcats last year in the Sweet 16, Villanova simply does not have the size to rebound with us this year. They might even be ripe for an upset at the hands of the Richmond-St. Mary’s winner.

The Blue Devil of War said it best. We're back! (Photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

– Was Digger Phelps in the selection committee? HOW is Notre Dame a 6 seed? In the most recent Coaches poll, the Irish are not only unranked – they’re not even in the “others receiving votes” section (that’s one thing they share with our friends eight miles down the road).

– Should Louisville beat California in the first round, they will give the Blue Devils a fight. Rick Pitino is a master motivator and the Cardinals only get up for big games (ask Syracuse).

– The South Regional games take place in Houston, Texas. Duke could potentially face Texas A&M and Baylor in hostile road environment in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, respectively. Something to think about.

– A little bit on our potential first-round opponents: Arkansas Pine-Bluff played quite a rough non-conference schedule that toughened them up for their conference games, but also left them 0-11 to start the season. They played on the road in their first 13 games of the season, including tilts at UTEP, at Oklahoma State, at Georgia Tech, at Missouri and at Kansas State, all tournament teams. Winthrop, a small school in South Carolina, upset Notre Dame as an 11 seed two years ago. Like AR Pine-Bluff, they started off the season rough as well at 5-9, but won the Big South conference tournament to earn a spot in the opening round.

–  Duke won the ACC regular season and tournament championships this year. Recruiting is on an upswing. All that’s missing is a deep run in the tournament to further cement the fact that Duke is back.

We’ll be back with some tournament predictions later in the week.

A Closer Look: Michael Gbinije

It sure seems like Coach K is doing his best impression of Kevin Garnett and preparing for war. Last week, his squad beat the living daylights out of “rival” North Carolina in Cameron. On Thursday night, victory came in the form of a verbal commitment from Michael Gbinije, a five star small forward prospect in the Class of 2011.

Among the other schools in consideration for the 14th ranked overall prospect and 4th ranked SF (from Scout.com) were North Carolina, Syracuse, Villanova, Virginia, and Wake Forest.

Gbinije is Duke’s best wing prospect since Kyle Singler pledged his allegiance to Pantone 287 back in 2006. He is the elite wing that Coach K and the staff have been looking to acquire ever since Prince Harry gesticulated his way to North Carolina. Armed with a polished offensive game, a pretty jumper, a penchant for getting into the lane, and an awesome last name to boot, Gbinije could very well be a prime time player at Duke.

Gbinije’s commitment came just days after he visited campus and attended the Carolina game in Cameron. He was also in Durham when the Devils played Maryland at home, which happened to be Coach K’s 1000th game and 63rd birthday. The raucous environment at both of those occasions may have been enough to get Gbinije to pull the trigger in favor of the Devils.

As a native of Richmond, VA, Gbinije joins commits Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston as well as current players Andre Dawkins and Nolan Smith as Blue Devils from the D.C, Maryland, and Virginia area. This region has produced a plethora of talent in recent years, from Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley to Duke’s very own “Nasty” Nate James. So it’s not surprising in the least that Coach James, who has been on everywhere on the recruiting trail, landed his first official prospect in Gbinije.

It’s been a while since we’ve been able celebrate a commit, but we’ve got a feeling a few more are on the way. Stay with us as this month looks to be an exciting one for Duke basketball. Here’s to the Devils romping through the ACC Tournament and making this March one to remember.

*     *     *

You can check out some of Gbinije’s highlights from last July at the Nike Peach Jam below.