This has to be my favorite time of the year. Flowers are dotting the landscape. Temperatures are creeping up. Productivity is dropping rapidly thanks to March Madness and the NCAA tournament. Millions of work hours are lost with employees researching obscure directional schools, while being overly concerned about the tweaked shoulder of the shooting guard of a school they knew nothing about two days ago.
The tournament is such an up-in-the-air, unpredictable, loveable mess, here are my random thoughts on this years bracket.
One is the loneliest number – Much has been made over the rankings of the number one seeds (Florida 1, UNC 2, Ohio State 3, Kansas 4), but honestly how much of that really matters? All number one seeds NEVER make it. Most likely two, three or all four will be upset. Why does it matter that Ohio State is the third number one seed, when they have what looks like one of the easiest paths to the Final Four. Most likely to fall first: Kansas – they are essentially odd man out and have several tough games looming, but North Carolina could easily underachieve early. Most likely to reach the Final Four: Florida – they know what it takes and have the talent to do it.
It takes two – Some of the two seeds almost have a better chance of making it to the Final Four than the ones. UCLA never has to leave California. Georgetown is vastly better than any team on their side of the bracket. Memphis is talented and confident. Which brings me to my Most likely to fall first: Wisconsin – they can’t score and they miss their big man. Sure they play great defense, but you can’t win in the tournament putting up 40-something points. Memphis would be next, basically for the same reason they are strong – talented and confident, sometimes it helps, sometimes it hurts. Most likely to reach the Final Four: Georgetown is hot right now, but UCLA can play off the snub of not being a one seed despite the fact that the committee is saving the Bruins a ton of gas money by keeping them in the sunshine state.
Three’s a crowd – The three seeds are interesting. Most are talented teams that either came on strong at the end jumping up the position or have stumbled from potential one or two seeds. A team like Oregon is hot and could run all the way to Atlanta. Washington State, Texas A&M and Pittsburgh have proven they could win, but have stumbled of late. I think Pitt and WSU will face tough challenges in the opening round. Most likely to fail first: Washington State – if a team can shoot, they can beat WSU. They face a tough Oral Roberts team that is battle tested. ORU played several big time schools in nonconference play, including a win at Kansas. Most likely to reach the Final Four: Oregon is playing lights out right now.
Four more years – The four seeds could not be more different. Texas is riding the Kevin Durant train. If he’s on, they can beat anybody. If he’s off, they might not win a game. Maryland looked to be a team on a mission until they lost in the opening round of the ACC tournament to Miami (?). Southern Illinois is the top seeded mid-major school and faces the pressure of proving themselves that high. Virginia has one of, if not, the best guard duo in the nation, but that’s about it. Most likely to fail first: Maryland went from being a bubble team to a number four seed. Miami proved they still haven’t figured it out. Besides, Davidson is a very tough draw for them to open play. Most likely to reach the Final Four: Texas may be just Durant, but ask Syracuse and Carmelo Anthony if having the most talented freshman in the tournament is enough. As long as Texas doesn’t have to play Kansas, whom they can’t seem to hold a lead against, they can beat anyone in the field.
The others – Every year some lower seed makes a run. Here are the surprise teams (with their seeds) I think have the ability to make it out of the first weekend and into the sweet sixteen.
Midwest: Old Dominion (12), Davidson (13), Winthrop (11), Georgia Tech (10)
West: Duke (6), Gonzaga (10)
South: Long Beach St. (12), Louisville (6), Nevada (7), Creighton (10)
East: George Washington (11), Oral Roberts (14), Texas Tech (10)
Who got surprised/shafted – Illinois and Arkansas have no business in the tournament. Illinois has a losing record against the RPI top 50 (4-9) and the only nonconference win over a tournament team was against Xavier. Arkansas finished with a losing record in the SEC, while playing in the subpar SEC West. They didn’t even play Florida close in the championship. Stanford and Purdue were iffy to get in as well.
The Big Ten, the fourth best conference, put in all their bubble teams. A top heavy league (Ohio State and Wisconsin) with mediocrity everywhere else, the Big Ten should not have gotten six teams in the dance. Those that got in were seeded higher than expected.
The top four teams that were hosed by the selection committee were: 1. Drexel (14 road/neutral wins, killer nonconference RPI (5) and strength of schedule (8), plus top 50 RPI and 22 wins) 2. Syracuse (10 Big East conference wins, 22 overall, top 50 RPI, 6-2 over the last eight, winning road record) 3. Florida State (wins over Florida, Virginia Tech, Maryland and at Duke, 20 wins, ACC tournament win over Clemson, top 50 RPI, all 12 losses to RPI top 50) 4. Air Force (RPI of 30, 22 wins, third in Mountain West, destroyed Stanford on the road, beat Texas Tech and UNLV)
Seeding survey What seed should this team get?
Positives: In the top 25 essentially all season, top 15 RPI, .500 in the toughest conference with the toughest conference schedule, 8-7 against the top 50, number 4 in nonconference RPI, 8 wins over tournament teams including wins over a two seed, six losses to teams seeded 5th or higher.
Negatives: Lost last three, 4-6 over their last ten games, fell out of top 25 in the last poll, two losses to non-tournament teams, lost to a team seeded 8th and one seeded 10th.
I am talking about Duke, my favorite team. Many pundits are claiming that Duke is seeded 6th only because of their name. But from my end, they are only being attacked because of their name. Duke-hating is a featured sport among many college basketball writers.
Look at the other sixes: Louisville, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt. They seem have similar resumes to Duke, which has the highest computer ranking of the bunch.
This is a down year for Duke and it is reflected in a six-seed. I thought Duke would land around there, maybe a five, maybe a seven. But because it is the Blue Devils and Coach K, sports writers have to claim Duke was “given” the seed and claim Duke is an upset special.
This is a crazy year in college basketball. Duke may very well lose to VCU, but they also could go on another Sweet 16 run. I have no idea what will happen to Duke and I have no idea what will happen in the tournament as a whole. I’m just glad I am along for the ride.
Just in case you want to be along for the ride and can’t get away from work. You can watch the games live online at March Madness on Demand.