Before you fill out your bracket, I figured I throw a little insight about some important tournament teams.
Duke and Carolina: I’ve heard multiple people, including CBS’s Seth Davis, say that if any conference has a chance at getting two teams to the final four it’s the ACC behind Carolina and Duke. Hogwash!
Let’s start with the Dukies, because they are easy to break down. They have no center and no point guard. The fact that they aren’t going to make the Final Four isn’t shameful. The fact that they had the season they had is a testament to the genius of Coach K. If this team isn’t shooting the lights out, they are very ordinary. I will say that I don’t think anyone got a more favorable draw than Duke, but unfortunately for them, none of these games will be played at Cameron.
And Carolina: After which game did you look at this team and say “they are a great team”? Do you realize that they’ve played three ranked teams all year? Three! Duke twice and Clemson was ranked #19 when the Tar Heels whooped them by two points in overtime back on January 6th. I shouldn’t get pissy about a win at Clemson. The Tigers are solid this year, but how about a one point win at Virginia? How about a one point win at Georgia Tech? Plus a home loss to the Terps and a two point win against Virginia Tech on a neutral/home court. None of these teams are dancing. I’m not sure what to make of the Tar Heels. I can say this, they’ve played some pretty bad games against some pretty bad teams, and against the good teams, oh yeah, they didn’t play any. To say this team is untested is an understatement. Memphis plays in a joke of a conference, but they even played tougher opponents than the Tar Heels. This team isn’t winning it all. No way.
Memphis: I’d say they’re UNLV twenty years later. They could be the most talented team out there, and in the pre-conference schedule they played some quality squads, like Uconn, Oklahoma, Georgetown and USC. The problem is that the only meaningful game they’ve played in’08 was home against Tennessee, and they lost. If they go as far as the rankings would indicate, which would be the championship game, throw out everything you’ve ever heard about playing a tough schedule. I think the chances of this team getting through four real teams in a row to get to the finals are not good.
Wisconsin: The Big Ten’s only hope. (Purdue is talented but really young and Michigan State isn’t that good, I don’t care what anybody says). Their conference is awful, so that hasn’t helped the Badgers, and their style of play is less than exciting. But if anyone has perfected slow, boring, 1956 brand basketball it’s Bo Ryan’s squad. This is going to be one of those teams that no one wants to play. Their discipline against USC’s young talent would be a great second round match-up.
The Big East: I’ve always thought that a sign of conference strength was sending four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. It happens once every few years. This year, with G’Town, Louisville, Uconn, Notre Dame, Pitt and Marquette, these guys could realistically send six, which I’m sure would be unprecedented. I’m not sure if anyone’s ever sent five. Also, if any conference sends two teams to the final four I would put the Big East at the top of my prediction list because they have more than two teams who can actually get there.
ULCA: They’ve obviously good, and everyone in the world loves this team, but remember, less than two weeks ago they should have lost twice in three days but were bailed out by the zebras both times. Did they use up all their good luck too early? Just looking at probability, they’re due for a bad break against them, although there bracket seems to play out nicely in their favor.
Butler: I know that these guys have been ranked high all year, but coming from the Horizon League, just making it to the Sweet Sixteen is a heck of an accomplishment. Don’t expect any miracle runs here. They have a better chance of not winning once than winning twice.
Kansas and Texas: You could talk about East Coast bias here. I think these two have a better chance of both lasting two weeks than Duke and Carolina, but nobody is giving any love to the mid-west. When it comes time to fill out your brackets, don’t forget about these Big 12 powers. There are no early exits here.
My favorite sleeper: USC.
My guaranteed first round loss: Indiana
My bold predictions: This will not be the year that a 16 beats a 1.
This will not be the year that all four #1’s make the Final Four.
At least two Final Four teams will have #3 seeds or higher.