You know the worst part about NCAA tournament brackets?
Once they turn to garbage they stay garbage.
There's just no real way to recover.
|This play proves UCLA will get the calls -- and non-calls -- necessary to win the national title. (AP)|
Anyway, the Sweet 16 is now set.
Perhaps you heard.
And here's a broad look at what has happened and what's to come as the Road to the Final Four continues.
1. The top seeds are still alive: North Carolina and Kansas cruised. Memphis and UCLA were tested. But all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16, which should come as no surprise. Those four teams were four of -- if not the four -- best teams pretty much all season. And while I know four No. 1 seeds have never made the Final Four, it won't be crazy if it happens this year.
2. Stephen Curry is something serious (and Davidson is, too): You've read plenty about Stephen Curry by now, so I won't waste words describing what he has done. Because you know what he has done, that it is insane what he has done, so insane that the following text message entered my phone Sunday during the second half of Davidson's win over Georgetown:
"Curry has gone totally bananas. Holy Crap."
Really, doesn't that summarize things best? And while there will be better Sweet 16 matchups than Davidson-Wisconsin, I'm not sure anything will be more anticipated than Friday's edition of The Stephen Curry Show, live from Detroit.
3. Ten different leagues are represented in the Sweet 16: It's quite a diverse group, this bunch of Sweet 16 participants. There are big schools (Texas) and small schools (Davidson) and 10 leagues represented in all.
The Pac-10 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State) and Big East (Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova) each have three representatives while the Big Ten (Wisconsin, Michigan State) and Big 12 (Kansas, Texas) have two. The ACC (North Carolina) and SEC (Tennessee) have one each, as do the Atlantic 10 (Xavier), Conference USA (Memphis), Sun Belt (Western Kentucky) and Southern (Davidson).
4. The freshmen are mostly gone: I had three Freshman All-America teams featuring a total of 15 players. Four of the players (Florida's Nick Calathes, Arizona State's James Harden and Syracuse's Donte' Greene and Jonny Flynn) didn't make the NCAA tournament while one (Kentucky's Patrick Patterson) was injured and thus didn't play in the event either.
The other 10 were in on Thursday.
By Sunday night eight of them were gone -- Kansas State's Michael Beasley, USC's O.J. Mayo, Indiana's Eric Gordon, Arizona's Jerryd Bayless, Duke's Kyle Singler, Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, Kansas State's Bill Walker and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.
All that's left is UCLA's Kevin Love and Memphis' Derrick Rose, which just so happens to be the only two I initially told you had a serious chance to make a Carmelo Anthony-type run to the Final Four.
Five crucial questions for, um, Gary Parrish
1. Which Sweet 16 team has been the biggest surprise? Villanova and Western Kentucky are in the Sweet 16, and that's shocking. But the bracket broke in a way where neither had to beat a so-called power to escape the first weekend. Villanova beat Clemson and Siena; Western Kentucky beat Drake and San Diego.
Which No. 1 seed is most likely to lose before the Final Four?
Total Votes: 51,854
So though it's a surprise the Wildcats and Hilltoppers made the Sweet 16, if you look at it on a micro level it is not a surprise that Villanova and Western Kentucky beat the teams they beat. Which makes Davidson the biggest surprise, because it had to beat Gonzaga and Georgetown, and Georgetown is a so-called power by any definition.
2. What's the best Sweet 16 matchup? Louisville vs. Tennessee in Charlotte should be fabulous. Two talented rosters coached by talented men who are both more than willing to let those rosters run up and down the court at a rapid pace. For my money, this is the most intriguing matchup, and it's not even close.
3. Which player is playing best? At the risk of sounding redundant, the answer has to be Curry. He's 22-of-43 from the field and 13-of-25 from 3-point range through two games. That's how he has scored a combined 70 points, meaning he's averaging 35 per contest in this NCAA tournament.
4. Are you sticking with your Final Four picks? Yeah, I think so. I'll go with the two teams I have playing in the national title game (Kansas and UCLA) plus the two teams with home-court advantages in their regions (North Carolina playing in Charlotte and Texas playing in Houston). That remains as reasonable as it did last week. No sense in changing now.
5. And do you still have UCLA winning the national championship? Sure, though I wish the Bruins would score a little more and avoid double-digit deficits. Keep playing like that and they'll eventually dig a hole too deep to escape. But I'm still not getting off UCLA and its starting lineup featuring at least four NBA players (Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love) because down the stretch of a tight game I'll take Collison and Love over any other duo on any other team.
Plus, when push comes to shove -- or hand comes to arm -- it's now pretty clear the Bruins are going to get favorable officiating, and that's a nice advantage to have when the goal is to win it all.
Teams ranked by ability to win the national title
3. North Carolina
11. West Virginia
12. Michigan State
13. Washington State
16. Western Kentucky
Explanation designed to avoid debate: Yes, I have Texas picked to beat Memphis in a possible Elite Eight matchup but Memphis ranked ahead of Texas on this list. The reason is because though I believe Texas would beat Memphis in the Elite Eight based on its home-court advantage in Houston, I still think Memphis is better equipped to win the national title.
In other words, if Texas gets past Memphis I don't think Texas will win it all. But if Memphis gets past Texas then I think Memphis will suddenly be in great shape to win it all, and I hope that makes sense because I don't feel like trying to explain it again.
Final thought: The e-mails started rolling in Sunday afternoon and continued through Monday morning, and I can't say I didn't expect them, you pesky Davidson fans you. By repeatedly discounting the Wildcats' body of work I put myself in a position to be bombarded if Davidson advanced. So Davidson advancing was a nightmare for both my inbox and bracket, which doesn't mean what I was yelling about this team wasn't true when I yelled it, you know?
The Wildcats had not beaten a top 100 opponent all season before Friday.
They were 0-5 against such teams this season.
And winless in their past 13 attempts.
So my assessment of Davidson was based in reality and backed by indisputable evidence. But perhaps this was a case where I relied on numbers more than eyes, on paper more than people. Because though I argued all along that Davidson wasn't a legitimate Top 25 team it's pretty clear at this point that they are indeed worthy of any ranking they currently hold.
And I wish I would have put Curry on an All-America team.
That was stupid, too.
But this month tends to teach lots of people lessons if those people are willing to learn them.
And I, for one, am willing to learn them.
So consider this my apology to Davidson ... (and you can stop e-mailing now, please).