Let the Madness Begin
Selection Sunday has come and gone and the handiwork of the committee is drawing the usual groans of anguish and cries of joy from some teams.
It's not as bad as it used to be. The expansion of the field to 68 teams, with 8 teams vying for the final four spots in the 64 team field, there aren't as many teams who feel they got boned by the selection process. Instead, the grousing centers on seeding. Michigan appeared to be penalized the most. The Wolverines dropped their Big Ten championship final to rival Michigan State, which apparently prevented them from getting a number one seeding.
Instead, Virginia -- who lost their last regular season game to Maryland -- received the nod for number one seed in the East by going to the ACC finals. Villanova's early exit from the Big East tournament probably played a role in that decision as well.
In addition to Virginia in the East Regional, the number ones include Arizona out West, Florida in the South, and Wichita State in the Midwest. Despite being 32-0, Wichita is felt to be the weak link in the number one seeds. They have the potential to face Kentucky in the third round, followed by a possible match up with Rick Pitino's Louisville squad. If they survive those tests, the Shockers may have to get by Duke in order to reach the Final Four.
A few more notes on the tourney:
* Biggest blow out - 3 Duke vs. 14 Mercer in the opening round. Congrats are in order to little Mercer for getting into the tournament by winning their Atlantic Sun Conference championship. The Bears haven't been to the tourney in 29 years and have only been to the Big Dance twice in their history. Yes, the top seeds will have easy games too, but Mercer is not likely to be in the gym at the end of their game with the Blue Devils, having been blown out the door by halftime. Prediction: Duke 88-34.
* Biggest upset in the first round - 11 seed Dayton over 6 seed Ohio State. Look - the Big Ten always gets 5 or 6 teams in the tourney, and usually only one or two is left standing after the first round. It's in the by laws -- Big Ten teams can't win in March. On the other hand, Dayton has beaten 3 tournament teams in the last 2 weeks and lost a close one to a very good St. Joe's team in the Atlantic 10 tourney. The Flyers have a history of doing well in the Tournament.
* The most entertaining first round game -- 7 Oregon vs. 10 BYU. Yes, 8-9 match-ups can be competitive but this game promises to be a barn burner -- lots of points, lot of athletic players, teams running up and down the court. Neither team is expected to make much noise in the tournament but for sheer fun, I like the Ducks vs. the Cougars.
* Toughest region - Definitely the Midwest. There are 5 teams that have won an NCAA championship in that region with two others that have made multiple Final Four appearances. Whoever emerges from this region will have been blooded sufficiently to win it all.