Hello fans. Yes, I skipped a week. Was too busy trying to get ready for selection Sunday. Started by watching the Big East tournament on Tuesday. Some great, great basketball being played. So here are 10 things I learned this past week, all college b-ball style. Hey, what else is going on right now anyways. March Madness is second only to the Super Bowl in my book (and please, nobody bring up the BCS Championship game, either. This right here is the route FBS football should be going).
1) Expanding waistline field - One of the hot (and hot button) topics is expanding the field. Look, if you expand the field to 96, you make the regular season practically irrelevant. Winning 20 games is no longer the bar. Winning 17 and going .400 or better in conference will be enough to do you in most cases. That means all of the garbage teams in the NIT would make the big dance (and sorry, there are some bad teams there. Fancy North Carolina or Connecticut making it this year?). At 96, you're inviting nearly 1/3 of all schools, so why not half? All of them?? Now if you are talking expansion to 68 or 72, I'm fine with that (would prefer 68 so you have one day of 4 play in games and just the number 1 seeds get these teams that have played the extra game). But can we please stop the talk of going past this? It's going to take one of the great things in sports and dilute it to the point of insignificance. Yes, it's all about the money, but at some point, common sense must prevail. Also, this would introduce 32 teams getting one bye (or 24 two, which would be worse). Do you think #7 and #8 seeds deserve byes (or in the second scenario, #12 seeds? Fancy Florida getting a bye? How about Cornell? Could happen if you take 96.)? I am prefectly happy with where we are today, so please, stop the nonsense and think.
2) .1 away - Don't know how many of you saw the SEC tournament, but Mississippi State was .1 second away from making the tournament instead of being a #1 seed in the NIT. Personally, I thought they had played their way into the dance with their run (although not at the expense of Florida as ESPN was suggesting. I want to know how a team you had safely as being in some 7,8 spots up the ladder before beating Auburn [yes, I know, they were supposed to beat Auburn, but still] was suddenly out on Sunday. Did I miss something happening? Am I suprised Florida ended up on the 10 line? Yes I am. I thought they'd be an 11 or 12. But they beat Michigan State on a neutral court, beat Florida State, beat Tennessee, and before losing to the Bulldogs in the tournament, beat them in Starkville. And while you don't want to go in losing 4 of your last 5, the only one of those loses in which they were clear cut favorites was the Georgia game [at Georgia], who had been playing everybody tough the past two months. The last 10 does not count as much as it used to, although maybe it should. But that's an arguement for another day). But, Mississippi State desevred to lose, not for their poor performance from the charity stripe, but their absolute inability to box out when it counted. I haven't played a lick of basketball in my life, but could clearly see the guy missing on purpose to the right. So what are the Mississippi State players doing? Standing around RIGHT AROUND THE CYLINDER. All four were in the paint jammed up against each other. Rebound comes out wide right. Only a UK player there. Then they don't rebound the missed three. Game over.
3) Some gritty conference tournament performances - Hats off to Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, West Virginia, Mississippi State, and Ohio State for some of the statements they made in their conference tournaments (although for the Bulldogs, it didn't amount to much). And for those of your who missed them, the endings of the Ohio State Michigan and West Virginia Cincinnati games were classics.
4) Breaking down the number 1's - No surprise as to the four number one seeds, although I think Syracuse's early exit from the Big East dropped them from #3 overall to #4 and shifted them out West with a potential matchup with Kansas in the Final Four. Honestly, I think Kansas is the most complete, balanced team in the tournament and will be your winner. Kentucky is young, and shows it from time to time. Plus, they are not good from beyond the arc. A team can play zone and pack it and MAKE them try to win from outside. Eventually it will cost them (West Virginia, maybe?) although when Wall wants to take over a game, he does. Duke is Duke. I made the mistake of picking them last year after promising myself never again, and won't anytime soon. They always seem to find a way to choke, and I'm afraid this year will be no different. The Cuse you have to watch out for the injury to Onuaku. They have the talent to get by the first week without him, but not sure how much longer they can last past that. I have them as a Final Four team, but that could easily change.
5) Go West Young Man - Beginning my breakdown of the regions, in the West, I have Syracuse beating Pittsburgh in the Final, although I would not be surprised if A) K State was here instead of Pittsburgh or B) Syracuse isn't, especially if without Onuaku. For everything being equal, though, this is how I think it will shape up.
6) Midwestern Plains - In the Midwest, I have Kansas beating Georgetown, although I would again not be surprised if they beat Ohio State instead. Just think Georgetown has the better all around team from the better all around conference, but Evan Turner is a special kid, as he proved against Michigan.
7) Dirty South - In the South, I have Villanova beating Duke, although it would not surprise me to see Duke gone sooner. Nova, especially if their three point shooting is on, just has too much for ANY of these teams, including Duke.
8) East Coast Bias - In the East, I have Kentucky beating West Virginia, although I originally picked it the other way. No matter what, though, I see these as your two teams in the Final and would be shocked if this wasn't the matchup, regardless of outcome. As a side note, the potential game between Kentucky and Texas could be interesting as Texas was the #1 ranked team earlier this year, and now an 8 seed. That's the first time this has happened (a former #1 seeded so low) in a LONG time.
9) Sweet 16 Predictions - As your teams surviving the first week, I have Kansas, Michigan State*, Georgetown, Ohio State, Syracuse, VillanovaVanderbilt*, Pitt, Kansas State, Kentucky, Temple*, New Mexico, West Virginia, Duke, Texas A&M, Baylor*, and Villanova. The teams with the asterisks are the ones that wouldn't surprise me if they weren't playing into the second week.
10) Final Four Predictions - I have Kansas beating Syracuse 78 - 67 in one game and Villanova beating Kentucky 82 - 78. For the Championship game, give me Kansas 75 Villnova 69.