Welcome to the second edition of The Buzzer-Beater, my weekly Monday column about college basketball and what’s going on around the country. This week’s column comes to you beachside from Orange Beach, Alabama. I was here calling softball, and the Alabama Crimson Tide started the year 3-0 behind dominant pitching (including a no-hitter from Courtney Gettins in her first college start) and clutch hitting (shout-out to Gabby Callaway against South Alabama and Penn State as well as Merris Schroder for her inside-the-park home run against Lamar). Weather led to the cancellation of games on Saturday and Sunday, though, so I spent the afternoon watching hoops in the hotel. A lot happened this week on the hardwood, so let’s dive right in to the newest version of The Buzzer-Beater.

On Sunday, the NCAA released its early bracket preview of the Top 16 overall seeds. Let’s take a look at what the NCAA Tournament Selection committee revealed:

Naturally, I have some thoughts. First off, I don’t think there’s much on here with which I can argue. Every decision made my the committee has numbers that back up said choice. For example, lots of people on Twitter went off about Michigan State’s slot as a three-seed and as the eleventh-overall team. While I agree that the Spartans are better than that number, the statistics behind Tom Izzo’s squad don’t warrant a higher seeding.

The numbers behind Michigan State don’t support a higher seed…right now.

Michigan State’s strength of schedule numbers are atrocious (97th overall, 243rd in non-conference), and they only have three quadrant one wins (Games at home vs teams ranked 1-30 in the RPI, Neutral vs 1-50, Road vs 1-75). Compare that to Purdue, the team that the Spartans just beat. The Boilermakers have five quadrant one wins, plus an overall strength of schedule about fifty places higher than Michigan State. While I think the Spartans are a really good team and have the look of a national title contender, the numbers don’t provide enough of a foundation for Michigan State to stand on. I was pleasantly surprised to see Duke on the two line, but I don’t think it will last. The Blue Devils have lost some truly puzzling games this season, and I have a feeling they’ll incur at least one more sub-50 RPI loss (my eyes immediately traveled to the road game against Virginia Tech next month). I have a feeling that, come Selection Sunday, we’ll see Duke as a three-seed. At best, they’ll be the lowest two-seed on the board. The only real egregious misfire that I see here is the inclusion of Oklahoma as the final four-seed on the board. I realize that the committee doesn’t take last ten games into consideration, but during the Sooners’ slide they’ve dropped contests to some poorly-rated teams. They’re also 2-6 on the road, which I know the committee takes into account. I figured that we’d see Rhode Island or Gonzaga in this position, not the sliding Oklahoma Sooners.

 

Gray’s Top 10

Here’s my first Top 10 of the season, based on what I’ve seen this year. This doesn’t necessarily reflect where I think teams would be seeded in the NCAA Tournament.

  1. Virginia
  2. Villanova
  3. Michigan State
  4. Xavier
  5. Texas Tech
  6. Purdue
  7. Auburn
  8. Cincinnati
  9. Ohio State
  10. Clemson

Despite the home loss to Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers continue to impress me with their defensive tenacity and ability to suffocate offenses. Villanova had a really impressive win over Butler despite some injuries, and Michigan State showed a lot of heart in holding off Purdue. I got my first taste of Xavier this season when I saw them slip by Creighton on some controversial officiating, and I was impressed. Texas Tech’s defense holds up against anyone in America, but I’m still concerned about the offense. If push comes to shove, do they have the balanced scoring to win games in March? Auburn blew me away with their decisive victory over Georgia despite missing their best player, Bryce Brown. Welcome in Ohio State, who is one of the genuine surprises in basketball this season, and Clemson, who continues to battle even without star Donte Graham.

 

Random Rankings

After our games Friday, I retired to my hotel room and flipped around to see what movies were on. I stopped at E! because I heard the booming voice of Denzel Washington, and watched, transfixed, as Herman Boone led the T.C. Williams Titans to an undefeated season. Yes, Remember the Titans is an absolute classic, and there’s nobody better than Denzel to play the “in your face” coach. That made me think…what are Denzel’s best roles? I’ll admit that I haven’t seen every movie starring the famous actor, but I’ve viewed enough to compile my Top 5 Denzel Washington roles for this week’s Random Rankings. *Usual Disclaimer*: once Random Rankings are posted, they aren’t changing. Sorry. It’s my opinion; if you disagree, then tell my why in the comments.

1. Remember the Titans as Herman Boone

Not only is Remember the Titans one of my favorite sports movies (shout-out to Miracle), but this is my favorite Denzel Washington performance. He’s tough but fair, hard but loving, and he doesn’t take squat from anybody. He also delivers some magnificent speeches, like the one to Ronnie Bass when Bass first comes in a game and this one at Gettysburg:

Herman Boone is a classic movie coach, and I think Denzel is at his best in this movie. If you haven’t seen this movie, then I honestly feel sorry for you.

2. Flight as Whip Whitaker

This movie netted Denzel an Oscar nomination, and for good reason. As the drug-addicted and alcoholic pilot Whip Whitaker who saves countless lives landing an ill-fated plane, Denzel shows once again that he’s at his best playing conflicted characters who embody the phrase “anti-hero.” He’s got a lot of powerful scenes in this film, but his performance in the gripping, nine-minute landing scene is stunning…especially since his character is drunk throughout the event.

3. Training Day as Dt. Alonzo Harris

“KING KONG AIN’T GOT SH** ON ME!” Denzel won best actor at the 2002 Academy Awards, and for good reason. His portrayal as Dt. Alonzo Harris is startling, and the movie itself is excellent. As the corrupt detective, Denzel gives a performance that makes this film worth watching over and over. Plus, who could forget this scene:

4. Malcolm X as Malcolm X

As Malcolm X, Denzel pulls out another stunning performance. It was early in his career, but Denzel proved to be the perfect actor to portray the historical figure. Denzel was nominated but robbed of his deserved Oscar win for this role, and it’s still one of his best today.

5. Unstoppable as Frank Barnes

A thrilling movie that makes the most of Denzel and Chris Pine, Unstoppable shows once again that Washington’s characters always know what to do in stressful situations. Facing a runaway train filled with a highly toxic and flammable substance that could endanger the lives of thousands if it crashes, Denzel’s retiring engineer Frank Barnes must figure out how to save the day.

 

SEC Bubble Watch

The SEC is one of the Top Two deepest conferences along with the Big 12, and there are plenty of tournament contenders. Let’s break down how each SEC team stands in terms of the NCAA Tournament Bubble. This week, Texas A&M moves up to Safely In after beating Auburn on the road and Kentucky at home. Alabama’s victory over Tennessee bumps it up to Feeling Good as well. So long to Georgia and South Carolina, whose tournament hopes have been done in by recent slides.

 

Safely In

Auburn

Overall: 22-3

Conference: 10-2

RPI: 6

SOS: 57

Non-Con SOS: 91

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 4-3

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): None

Kentucky

Overall: 17-8

Conference: 6-6

RPI: 18

SOS: 6

Non-Con SOS: 6

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 4-6

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): None

Tennessee

Overall: 18-6

Conference: 8-4

RPI: 13

SOS: 26

Non-Con SOS: 34

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 4-6

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): None

Florida

Overall: 17-8

Conference: 8-4

RPI: 43

SOS: 37

Non-Con SOS: 47

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 6-4

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): at Ole Miss

Texas A&M

Overall: 17-8

Conference: 6-6

RPI: 15

SOS: 5

Non-Con SOS: 13

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 7-6

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): None

 

Feeling Good

Alabama

Overall: 16-9

Conference: 7-5

RPI: 32

SOS: 12

Non-Con SOS: 27

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 6-3

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): vs. Minnesota, at Vanderbilt, at Ole Miss

 

On the Right Side of the Bubble

Arkansas

Overall: 17-8

Conference: 6-6

RPI: 30

SOS: 43

Non-Con SOS: 94

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 3-5

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): None

Missouri

Overall: 17-8

Conference: 7-5

RPI: 22

SOS: 18

Non-Con SOS: 81

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 3-5

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): vs. Illinois

 

Work Left to Do

Mississippi State

Overall: 18-7

Conference: 6-6

RPI: 54

SOS: 112

Non-Con SOS: 299

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 3-6

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): at Ole Miss

LSU

Overall: 14-10

Conference: 5-7

RPI: 76

SOS: 56

Non-Con SOS: 184

Record vs. RPI Top-50: 6-5

Bad Losses (sub-100 RPI): Stephen F. Austin, at Vanderbilt

 

No Shot: Vanderbilt, Georgia, South Carolina, Ole Miss

W2W4 This Week

So what’s happening this week in college basketball? Here are the match-ups worth your attention.

Monday

TCU at #20 West Virginia

Tuesday

#21 Texas A&M at Missouri

#23 Oklahoma at Texas Tech

#13 Kansas at Iowa State

#1 Virginia at Miami (FL)

Wednesday

#3 Villanova at Providence

#11 Clemson at Florida State

Virginia Tech at #12 Duke

Kentucky at #10 Auburn

#24 Nevada at Boise State

Thursday

#5 Cincinnati at Houston

#8 Ohio State at Penn State

#17 Arizona at #25 Arizona State

Friday

#16 Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure

Saturday

#21 Texas A&M at Arkansas

#7 Texas Tech at Baylor

#3 Villanova at #4 Xavier

#20 West Virginia at #13 Kansas

Alabama at Kentucky

Missouri at LSU

Sunday

#8 Ohio State at #22 Michigan

#12 Duke at #11 Clemson

#19 Wichita State at #5 Cincinnati

 

So yeah, this week in college basketball could get pretty wild. I’ll be in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, calling some more Alabama softball, but I’ll be watching games when we’re not on the air. Have a great week, folks!

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