Bracket 101: Home sweet dome

March 01, 2010 - 9:01 am
Bracket 101 examines the week that was in college basketball and gives you a list of 16 teams that are poised to dance their way into the Round of 16 in the 2010 NCAA tournament. Rapid Rewind Dome-ination. The battle of the beasts in the Big East had been built up for weeks, as Syracuse and Villanova were to meet in front of a record crowd. Let'€™s just say that the Orange, and their fans, lived up to the hype. Before this past weekend, the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., had never hosted a basketball game with this many fans. The Orange faithful set a new on-campus basketball attendance record when a crowd of 34,616 screaming fans packed the '€œLoud House'€ to witness their home team'€™s dismantling of a very good Villanova team.  Even more impressive then the sold-out crowd was the play of the Orange. Balance.  That is the word that best describes the Orange this season, and it was all on display Saturday night '€” everything from their seven-man rotation, sharing of the basketball, 2-3 zone and willingness to adapt to any style of play to best attack their opponent. Even the box score, which showed that six Syracuse players finished in double figures and each narrowly missed a double-double, doesn'€™t tell the whole story. The Orange used their 2-3 zone, which many say is the best ever at Syracuse, to squeeze Villanova into turnovers that led to fast break points. Syracuse can seemingly adjust to any sort of defensive scheme its opponent throws at it. In the first half, it was clear that Villanova wanted to pressure and suffocate Syracuse'€™s leader and sharpshooter, Andy Rautins, so the Orange simply dumped it down to their bigs for easy buckets. In the second half, 'Nova reacted and packed it in, which then opened up shooting and driving lanes for Rautins. When it was all said and done, the Orange racked up 21 assists on 32 baskets. Like the other elite teams in the nation, Syracuse has big-time talent. However, what separates this team is its balance, dedication to defense and genuine unselfish nature. Ranked 25th in the preseason poll, the Orange were expected by many experts to take a step back from their Sweet 16 appearance last season after three of their stars (Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris) departed. Well, after a 95-77 demolition of Villanova, Syracuse finds itself ranked No. 1 in the land for the first time in 20 years. With one win in its final two games, Syracuse will capture its first Big East regular-season title since 1991 and all but lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. So, have the Orange peaked this season after beating 'Nova, securing a share of the Big East Title and a potential No. 1 seed in the field of 64 ?  Not according to their Hall of Fame coach, Jim Boeheim. "We're getting better, but I think we can still get better as a team," Boeheim said. "I anticipate us getting better in the next few weeks." File under: Threat level Orange. Stock Up: Notre Dame Notre Dame had lost three straight games, all without leading scorer and rebounder Luke Harangody, including a double-overtime thriller to another Big East bubble team, Louisville. The Irish could have packed it in, but this past week they beat two ranked teams in Pittsburgh and Georgetown. Notre Dame's two wins, both without Harangody, brought it back to .500 in the Big East and back into the NCAA tournament picture. Notre Dame has been led by Ben Hansbrough (brother of former UNC star Tyler Hansbrough), who has scored 15-plus points in his last three games, including 21-point effort against Georgetown. The Irish have two crucial games left on their regular-season schedule, UConn and Marquette, who both currently reside on the bubble as well. If the Irish win both, one would think they would be a lock for the tournament with a 10-8 Big East record. Stock Down: Wake Forest After beating Georgia Tech 75 -64 on Feb. 13, Wake Forest improved to 8-3 in the ACC and seemed destined to be dancing come March. Since then, the Demon Deacons have lost three straight to unranked ACC opponents, including their most recent loss this past Saturday to UNC '€” a team that had lost 10 out of its last 12. Wake now finds itself in a logjam in the ACC standings, with five teams within one game of each other fighting for tournament bids. The Deacs will face two of them, Florida State and Clemson, before the ACC tournament tips off on March 11.  Wake will have to try to right the ship on the road starting with Florida State, which has won three in a row, on Wednesday. Heat Check: Greivis Vasquez His name and game resemble that of a Star Wars character. This general Greivis was a veritable whirling dervish this past Saturday as he led Maryland to overtime win against Virginia Tech. The Maryland senior led all scorers with 41 points, the most by a Terp since Joe Smith recorded 40 at Duke in 1995.  The outburst put Vasquez ahead of Albert King for third place (2,059 points) on the school's all-time scoring list. Even more importantly, Vasquez'€™s career day helped the Terps clinch at least second place in the ACC and also earned Maryland a first-round bye in the ACC tournament. Maryland has won five in a row and Vasquez has scored 25-plus points in three of those games. Vasquez, who is second in the ACC in scoring and first in assists, will lead his team vs. Duke at home on Wednesday night. The Dean'€™s 16 Right now, these 16 teams are the ones that have proven that they have the talent to win two games in the NCAA tournament. Check out a complete look at the national polls by clicking here. The contenders Syracuse (27-2) Kansas (27-2) Kentucky (27-2) Duke (25-4) '€” moved up The rest of the Elite Eight Purdue (24-4) '€” moved down Villanova (23-5) Kansas State (24-4) Ohio State (23-7) Sweet for sure Michigan State (22-7) New Mexico (27-3) '€” moved up West Virginia (22-6) Tennessee (21-7) '€” moved in Sweet for now Georgetown (19-8) '€” moved down Wisconsin (21-7) '€” moved down Gonzaga (24-5) Butler (26-4) Eagles Watch Boston College is playing better. Despite losing to a good Georgia Tech team, the Eagles have shown marked improvement over their past three games.  After beating UNC last Saturday, BC embarrassed Virginia Tech at Conte Forum on Wednesday, dealing the Hokies a significant blow to their NCAA tournament hopes. The results coincide with Al Skinner'€™s decision to play Reggie Jackson as the starting point guard. In BC'€™s win over Va. Tech, Jackson didn'€™t have to score, as he dished out a career- high 11 assists and pulled down eight boards. Jackson followed up that performance with a double-double against Georgia Tech on Saturday when he handed out 10 assists to go along with 13 points. Unlike its previous two games, BC was unable to run its flex offense efficiently. BC'€™s offense relies on a regimented series of picks and cuts, but Georgia Tech'€™s defensive game plan was simple '€” disrupt the flow and deny Jackson the ball. Simply put, BC reacted poorly to the Yellow Jackets' game plan, which led to turnovers and easy baskets. BC kept it close, thanks to some great 3-point shooting and junior forward Joe Trapani, who led all scorers with 26 points. BC sits at 14-14 overall and will face Virginia and NC State in its final two regular-season games this week. Couch Potato Fixings (Nationally televised games to watch this week) Monday 7:00 PM (13) Georgetown at (7) West Virginia (ESPN) 9:00 PM Oklahoma at (21) Texas (ESPN) Tuesday 7:00 PM (8) Villanova at Cincinnati (ESPN 2) 7:00 PM (20) Vanderbilt at Florida (ESPN) 9:30 PM Louisville at Marquette (ESPN U) Wednesday 7:00 PM Wake Forest at Florida State (ESPN 2) 7:00 PM Connecticut at Notre Dame (ESPN) 7:00 PM Alabama at South Carolina (ESPN U) 9:00 PM (5) Duke at Maryland (ESPN) 9:00 PM Oklahoma State at (23) Texas A&M (ESPN 2) 9:00 PM Virginia at Boston College (ESPN U) Thursday 9:00 PM Providence at (16) Pittsburgh (ESPN) 7:00 PM Seton Hall at Rutgers (ESPN 2) 9:00 PM LSU at Mississippi (ESPN 2) Friday NONE Saturday 12:00 PM (7) West Virginia at (8) Villanova (CBS) 12:00 PM (23) Texas A&M at Oklahoma (ESPN) 12:00 PM Florida State at Miami (FL) (ESPN 2) 2:00 PM (1) Kansas at Missouri (CBS) 2:00 PM (4) Syracuse at Louisville (ESPN) 2:00 PM South Carolina at (20) Vanderbilt (ESPN 2) 4:00 PM (21) Texas at Baylor (ESPN) 6:00 PM (17) Tennessee at Mississippi State (ESPN) 9:00 PM North Carolina at (5) Duke (ESPN) Sunday 12:00 PM Florida at (2) Kentucky (CBS) Back Door Cuts (recommended reading for Hoopsters) Think zone D is passive and soft? You're as wrong as most coaches By Jay Bilas ( Insider) Season's biggest disappointments: Pac-10, UNC and Willie Warren By Joe Lemire Connect the dots: Calhoun return equals Connecticut return By Gary Parrish Did you know '€¦ Last week, Duke was the only ACC team ranked in the AP Top 25, breaking the conference's 30-year multiple-team streak. Since 1977, at least two ACC teams had been nationally ranked every week. Maryland joined Duke in this week's poll, so the drought didn't last long. Bracket 101 Archives February 8th: Welcome to Bracket 101 February 15th: Oh, how the mighty have fallen February 22nd: A-10-tion, please Poll Question of the Week [poll id="5"]