It looks bad. I'll give you that. Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed in the 2009 NCAA tournament, and in the second round the Cardinals could play Ohio State ... in Dayton, Ohio. Which is about an hour from Ohio State's campus.
|Rick Pitino is seeking his second NCAA tournament title. (US Presswire)|
But it's not. And here's why:
Louisville is only 2½ hours from Dayton, which means Louisville fans can get to Dayton easily enough. And that's important, because there are a lot more fans of Louisville basketball than there are of Ohio State basketball.
Key word in that last sentence: basketball. Ohio State hoops has its fan base, but this isn't football. The Buckeyes travel to the ends of the earth for football, but their basketball fan base isn't nearly as rabid. OSU fans will try to get their hands on tickets to Dayton, don't get me wrong.
But they won't try as hard as Louisville's fans. They won't be willing to pay scalpers as much. They won't go the extra mile, is what I'm saying. And Louisville fans, who will need to go about 120 extra miles, will.
1. But I do feel bad for Siena: Ohio State fans won't overrun Louisville in the second round. But Ohio State will get to the second round in large part because its fans will outnumber Siena's by a 100-to-1 ratio. At least. Siena is in up-state New York, and while those people would love to get out of their miserable town and spend a few days in my lovely state, they won't be able to get their hands on the tickets available to Buckeyes fans in Ohio. Poor Siena. Seriously. That's a school that surely entered Sunday morning on the tips of lots of fans' tongues as a potential Final Four sleeper, but it's hard to be a sleeper when 15,000 OSU fans are going off like alarm clocks.
2. Arizona? What the hell? Arizona doesn't belong in this tournament. Not ahead of several bubble teams, including Davidson and Penn State and Creighton. And more. Lots more. Arizona had a bad record (19-13) and a bad RPI (62) and a bad finish (five losses in its last six games). Arizona is done with its bad coach (Lute Olson), but still. Arizona? In the NCAA tournament? The selection committee did a fine job this year with the exception of Arizona, which belonged in the NIT, and not among the NIT's top 10 teams, either. Arizona. Jeez. Now I'm muttering ...
3. Izzo and BG, sitting in a tree ... Dayton's Brian Gregory spent many of the early years of his coaching career on Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State. One of the cool things about the NCAA tournament is the potential for such teacher-pupil meetings, and if both teams win twice, Dayton and Michigan State will meet in the Sweet 16. In my bracket, which you can find in our "experts" section, I'll have the pupil winning that game. Because I'm an expert. Plus I'm taller than Izzo.
Midwest Regional picks
Who will win: Louisville will win this thing for a lot of reasons, namely its enormous frontcourt and depth at backcourt. Oh, and also because the rest of this region sucks. Michigan State as a two? Wake Forest at four?
Dark-horse pick: I came dadgum close to putting Dayton into the Final Four. Yes, I did. As it is, I've got Dayton beating West Virginia, Kansas and Michigan State to get into the region final, but I didn't have the guts to pick the Flyers over Louisville.
Most likely upset: Clearly Dayton over West Virginia, and not just because I'm picking the Flyers. West Virginia shoots a ton of 3-pointers, and if it's missing ... well, game over. Dayton has great athletes who score close to the basket, and they will do that against the Mountaineers.
Best mascot: Siena's mascot is a Saint, which means the team is embodied by a 40-year-old woman who has stayed married to her husband despite his bad job and physical inadequacies, who raises her kids and works a job and also volunteers at her local church. At least, I assume that's the kind of Saint who is acting as Siena's mascot. Life's too short to look that crap up.
Best point guard: Sherron Collins is an athletic dynamo who averages 18.2 points and five assists per game after spending the previous two seasons behind Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson. He doesn't have the greatest assist-turnover ratio -- it's a lot less than 2-to-1 -- but, honestly, this region was weak for point guards. So Collins is it.
Best post player: Lots of good choices for this one, like Kansas' Cole Aldrich, Louisville's Samardo Samuels and Southern California's Taj Gibson. But I'm going with the biggest of the bunch, 7-feet-2 Luke Nevill of Utah, who averaged 16.9 ppg, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots. And shot 60.7 percent from the floor and 79.1 percent from the line. I could go on and on. Must I?
Best coach: If I'm starting a program tomorrow and going forward, I want Thad Matta of Ohio State or Bill Self of Kansas. Nothing wrong with Tom Izzo, either. But if we're talking about the most accomplished coach in this region, it's Rick Pitino. He has taken three different schools to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville) and he has won a national title.
Best reputation: Louisville, Kansas and Michigan State all have won two national titles. Louisville had Darrell Griffith, Kansas had Danny Manning, and Michigan State had Magic. This one's tough. But only Kansas had Wilt Chamberlain. So Kansas wins this category. Don't cry to me, you big baby. Everyone knows the Wilt Chamberlain Rule.
Five stars on display
1. Chris Wright (Dayton): He averages 12.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg, but that's not why he's on here. He's on here because he's a freaking freak. Maybe the most athletic player in college basketball. And he's 6-8. Yikes.
2. Kenny Hasbrouck (Siena): If Siena reaches the Elite Eight, he'll probably break the 2,000-point barrier. On a more realistic note, the 6-3 senior guard is six points away from reaching 1,900.
3. Tyrese Rice (BC): Speaking of 2,000 points ... this guy got there. The 6-1 guard has 2,090 entering the tournament, and is the leading scorer in this region. Unless North Dakota State has a guy with more. Like you'd know.
4. DeMar DeRozan (USC): Nobody has more capital letters in his name than DeMar DeRozan, and few players in college hoops have his hype, either. If the NBA didn't have that one-year rule, he would have turned pro out of high school.
5. Jeff Teague (Wake Forest): NBA scouts love this guy. He has great scoring range and also can finish above the rim. Watch this. You're welcome.
Five random notes
1. You see Fargo? I did, and all I remember was how close the Dakotas seemed to be to Minneapolis. So how disconcerting it must be for Kansas to earn the No. 3 seed and have to play 14th-seeded North Dakota State in Minneapolis.
2. If he gets to the Final Four -- and he will -- Louisville's Rick Pitino will get out of his four-way tie (with Guy Lewis, Lute Olson and Roy Williams) for sixth among coaches with five Final Four trips ... and into a three-way tie for fourth, at six appearances, with Denny Crum and Adolph Rupp. Unless Williams gets there, too, and then the math is just too difficult to figure out at the moment.
3. Utah coach Jim Boylen is a lifer assistant, most of it in the NBA, before getting his first shot as a head coach last year at age 43. He spent the previous two seasons on Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State, but Utah isn't getting past Louisville to set up a meeting with Michigan State.
4. The Louisville-Ohio State game has the obligatory NCAA tournament storyline of the fickle player who has been connected to both schools. Sort of. Josh Chichester, a 6-8 stud forward from West Chester, Ohio, verbally committed to Ohio State but ended up at Louisville. But he stopped played basketball and is focusing only on football. No, not a great note. But better than the next one.
5. Bob Huggins spent most of his career about 40 minutes from Dayton at Cincinnati. Now he faces Dayton as coach of West Virginia. Told you -- not a great note. See why I made it fifth?