Blog Entry

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Posted on: January 1, 2009 1:40 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2009 1:42 pm

I was on a radio station in Arkansas yesterday talking about the Hogs' win over Oklahoma when the conversation turned to postseason aspirations. I commented that Arkansas looked as much like an NCAA tournament team as anybody at this point, and that if the goal was a Sweet Sixteen then that seemed possible to me, if only because any tournament team from a power conference will usually be one of the top 12 seeds in a region, and as long as you're not an eight-seed or nine-seed it's reasonable to hope to advance past the first weekend because all you have to do is win what is typically a winnable first game, then hope the bracket breaks in your favor like it did for Western Kentucky last March, when the Hilltoppers beat Drake and San Diego to advance.

So anyway, that was my main point -- not that Arkansas is necessarily one of the best 16 teams in the country, but that a tournament team from a power league almost always has a chance to advance to the second weekend, and now I'm ready to take it a step farther in light of what we've seen this week and suggest that any so-called top 30 team can reasonably hope for a trip to the Final Four because it's clear multiple flawed teams will get there given that there is only one truly elite squad: North Carolina.

Just this week, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 9 Purdue have all gone down while preseason top 10 teams Gonzaga and Louisville took their fourth and third losses, and when you compare what's happening this season to what happened last season it really puts things into perspective. Consider that last season it was easy to identify four elite teams pretty much from the start, specifically Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLA. Those schools were ranked first, second, third and fourth in the preseason poll, and on New Year's Day they were a combined 49-1 with the lone loss of the bunch belonging to UCLA, which had fallen only by two points to No. 8 Texas.

This season, the top four teams in the preseason poll were North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville and UCLA, and on New Year's Day they have a combined record of 42-6. North Carolina is great, obviously, but Connecticut lost its Big East opener at home, Louisville has no good wins and three losses to unranked opponents, and UCLA has no good wins to go with its two defeats. Consequently, I submit -- and I've said this before, but now I have the stats to back it up -- that UNC is better than any team from last season, but that nobody else is even close to as good as Kansas, Memphis, UNC or UCLA was last season, meaning that if you combined all the teams from last season and this season your top five would look like this:

1. North Carolina (2008-2009)
2. Kansas (2007-2008)
3. Memphis (2007-2008)
4. North Carolina (2007-2008)
5. UCLA (2007-2008)

Bottom line, dream big Clemson!

And you too, West Virginia!

And you too, Baylor!

Sure, on the surface, none of you look like Final Four teams in the traditional sense. But the thing about the Final Four is that four schools have to be there, and any combination featuring North Carolina and three other teams seems possible this season because there aren't four teams clearly better than the next 30, and that fact has been on display all week, every night.


Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 11:08 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

the last 8 times Carolina has gone to the NCAA Tourney they've played their first round games at:  2008 #1 seed-Raleigh, 2007 #1 seed-Winston Salem, 2006 #3 seed-Dayton, 2005 #1 seed-Charlotte, 2004 #4 seed-Denver, 2001 #2 seed-New Orleans, 2000 #8 seed-Birmingham, 1999 #3 seed-Seattle, 1998 #1 seed-Hartford.spadeaspade, must be your bowl team lost.  It shows in your voice.  I'm speaking of recent history - just since they screwed the tourney up and went to this POD system.  It's no surprise all #1 seeds went to the FF last year; the committee is conspiring against the little guy, who made the NCAA tournament the best sporting thing going.  You've said it yourself - they play their first round games in the state as #1 seeds.

Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 10:52 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

tyellington, I'm a Tarheel fan myself so I'm not complaining, but they didn't even have to leave the state of NC to make it to the final four last year.  UCLA was another.  Let West Virginia play in their backyard this year, and there's little doubt they'll make it, too.  Of course, you still have to perform when you get the easy road, but it helps.  That's all I was saying.

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 10:12 pm

14-14 or 29-12

Compare UNC's start against Reno to Duke's last game against Loyola-Maryland:

first ten minutes: 29-12

Now that's what I call getting out of the gate.

Still think the Heels slow starts are a mirage due to the game beginning 0-0?

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 8:17 pm

Look at the Numbers

Sorry, but it’s not that simple, jokool800.  Except on a few occasions (like against KY), the Heels have traded baskets with their opponents for the first ten minutes of the game.  Look at the numbers: in their last game, against a clearly outmatched Nevada team, the score was 14-14 midway through the first half.  Here’s how that game played out.

First ten minutes: 14-14
Next ten minutes: 31-13
Next ten minutes: 21-16
Last ten minutes: 22-18

Why wasn't it 31-13 after the first ten minutes?  Because Nevada came out revved, and the Heels didn't.

My point is you can’t play that way against elite opponents, and the Heels have gotten in the habit of playing that way a lot this past month.  If they keep it up, they could run into a team with a hot hand and a load of adrenaline – the kind of team that could conceivably slam them in the first ten minutes, then hang on through the next 30.  Not likely – but I said it wasn’t likely at the outset.   This is just the one way I could see them getting beat. 

If you are tied with Carolina halfway through the first half, though, forget it – they will kill you.

Since: Nov 21, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 7:30 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

I agree that this year North Carolina is dominant so far, but we have seen many mighty teams fall in the tournament due to an injury or bad shooting night.  Having North Carolina rated #1 in a "Power Poll" with last years Final 4 participants is ignorant.  Thos teams actually won something while Carolina is just getting ahead in the beauty contest which is the regular season.  Carolina got exposed last year to the Jayhwaks and Roy certainly has had dominant teams fall short in the past. 

Since: Jan 30, 2007
Posted on: January 2, 2009 7:26 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

The reason for so called slow starts is that every game starts at 0-0.  Even Carolina has to score 10 points before they have a double digit lead.  Some of their games have been close for the first 12 minutes but thats because they all start at a tie.  Its that simple.

Since: Sep 18, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 7:19 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

I agree that UConn will be a one seed. No reason to think the Huskies are through just because they lost to an obviously very good Georgetown team. Pitt a #1 seed. I can see it. And clearly I'm not disagreeing with the UNC pick. But I don't see UCLA. Unfortunately, they have blown their chances for a good non-conference win. And with the Pac-10 down this year, I don't think they can muster enough power points to get the 1. 2-seed I can see with a conference or tournament title. I think that fourth seed could go to--and I'm gonna choke when I say it--Duke. They've already chalked up two killer road/neutral wins non-con. And, yes, I'm choking.  If not, then why not Georgetown? If a conference was ever going to get three 1 seeds, then this year's Big East is it.

Since: Mar 10, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 6:14 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

If UNC wins at Cameron (dook) this year, Hansborough will be one of the few to win at dook all four years. Just can't get lazy against dook at home like two of last three.

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: January 2, 2009 5:48 pm

Can your team make the Final Four? Sure, why not?

Wahhhhh wahhh wahhhh I don't think there is a chance in the universe we'll see AZ in the finals....:(

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: January 2, 2009 5:21 pm

Heels Turn KY Into Jelly

Spadeaspade, you are right, the Heels did to Kentucky what you would think they would have been doing these last few weeks to Valpo, Rutgers et al.  They led 15-2 and 25-6 before the Jelly ever knew what hit them.  And you are right about them not turning up the speed lately on weaker opponents, but I think that’s a mistake.  They are so good, they can probably afford to have one bad habit, but a bad habit can come back to bite even the best of teams.  One of these days, they could underestimate an opponent that has a surprise in store for them, the way Kansas did last March.

Mind you, this is a very tiny crack in an awesome fortress.  They definitely have a team that could end up with a zero in the loss column.

We can disagree about the Notre Dame game, but I think it really does make a difference if you have your third-stringers on the floor for the final five minutes of the game, the way Carolina did the day before they faced the Irish.

1967?  That’s really cool.  You’ve got 20 years on me.  And my memory is like a steel sieve, but fortunately you can look up all the play-by-plays right here on CBS Sportsline.  What a wonderful world.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or