NCAA Tournament Preview

It’s March Madness, my favorite time of the year because I’m a longtime college basketball fanatic. It’s been a weird season from the start and it’s been made even weirder by what I can only assume is someone dropping acid into the coffee of the NCAA selection committee, who made some truly baffling choices in choosing the seeding and brackets of the tournament.

To begin with, two of the four play-in games involve major conference teams rather than small conference teams that have little chance of beating anyone. One of them features North Carolina State vs. Xavier and the other is Iowa vs. Tennessee. Iowa certainly does not belong in a play-in game, that’s a good team and, if they get past Tennessee (and I think they will), they’re going to beat UMass in the first round. UMass is seeded way too high at #6 in the Midwest region.

And I don’t know what Greg Marshall and Wichita State did to piss off the selection committee, but they got hosed bigtime. They’re the #1 seed in the Midwest region but look at the teams behind them: #2 Michigan, #3 Duke and #4 Louisville. And they may have to take on Kentucky, which is seeded way too low at #8 (should be a 5 or 6), just to get to the round of 16. I won’t be at all surprised if they don’t make it out of the first weekend. Wichita State is a good team, but in order to get to the Final Four they’re likely to have to beat Kentucky, then Louisville, then either Duke or Michigan. Let’s just say that would not be a smart bet to make.

And Louisville as a 4 seed? One could make a strong case that they’ve been the best team in the country over the last few weeks, or maybe second behind Florida. Yeah, I know they don’t have a lot of wins over the RPI top 50, but that’s because they play in a weak conference (that changes next year when they join the ACC). But that team is on a roll, with Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell playing out of their minds. They’re my pick to come out of what is by far the toughest region in the tournament.

Michigan State is also seeded too low at #4 in the East region. They should be a 3 seed. Virtually everyone is picking them to come out of that region, and for good reason. They’re finally healthy after losing three of their four best players for long stretches over the last two months and they’re hitting their stride. The Big Ten tournament is exactly what they needed, three straight games to get them time to readjust to one another. There isn’t a more talented starting five in the country and they’ve got experience as well. This is the kind of team Izzo takes to the Final Four. The team that really scares me in that region if I’m MSU is Iowa State. They’ve got two players, Ejim and Kane, who can take over and dominate a game. But I think Brendan Dawson can defend Kane and neutralize him.

There are a bunch of teams that are total feast or famine. What do you do with a team like North Carolina, seeded 6th in the East? They could go down in the first round or make a run to the Final Four, they’re just so up and down. You could say the same thing about Syracuse, which has played terribly over the last three weeks after starting the season 25-0. And Oklahoma State. And UCLA. This is as wide open an NCAA tournament as I can ever remember. There isn’t a single team that I think could be called the favorite and at least a dozen teams with a legitimate reason to believe they can win it all.

Okay, a few first-round upsets: Harvard over Cincinnati. Stephen F. Austin over VCU. Possibly Providence over North Carolina, but again it depends entirely on which Tar Heels team shows up. They can beat anyone and they can lose to anyone.

My Final Four picks, offered very tentatively: Florida, Michigan State, Louisville and Wisconsin. And I won’t be terribly shocked if none of those teams make it.

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  • I don’t get sports, and reaaaaaaaaaaaaalllly don’t get college sports, but that said, are you going to try for the billion dollars?

  • Larry

    Not only does Wichita St have the teams you mentioned in their bracket, they also have the prospect of facing my alma mater, Cal Poly, assuming they win their play-in game with Texas Southern.

    Fear the Mustangs!

  • Just filled out my bracket. My final four: Florida, Iowa State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Florida beats Michigan in the final.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    And I don’t know what Greg Marshall and Wichita State did to piss off the selection committee, but they got hosed bigtime.

    They achieved a perfect winning record by playing a weak schedule.

  • Al Dente

    I’ve never got excited about minor league basketball, not even when I was in college.

  • rationalinks

    I do love some college hoops and NCAA tourney time especially. I haven’t filled out my bracket yet, but like you I totally feel like this year the field is open to anyone. I just hope my Jayhawks can make a decent run, I’d be happy with them just making it to the sweet 16.

  • badgernoonan

    I’m genuinely surprised to hear that opinion on Iowa. They are the prototypical “bounced early” team. Poorly coached (I mean really poorly coached), no set rotation, mostly a disaster down the stretch.

    Now teams have pretty much scouted them and “playing fast” and jacking up a 3 and missing isn’t as fun, playing 11 guys stinks because you end up having guys who think they’re great sitting on the bench in crunch time and no one know who gets the ball when they need a bucket late.

  • katzenklavier

    @ Al Dente re “I’ve never got excited about minor league basketball …”

    Wow, thanks for sharing, because I was like … wondering what you thought about it.

    To satisfy your doubtless similar curiosity, I’ll admit I’ve always been kinda “I dunno” about the color brown.

  • flatlander100

    I always look forward to the tourney because it means in only a couple of weeks, tv sports channels will no longer be clogged with young men with pituitary problems running around in their skivies bouncing balls.

  • lynxreign

    I only follow the tournament casually, but I don’t understand how everyone gets placed into a region. How is Michigan State in the East while UMass is in the Midwest?

  • Loqi

    It’s always important to let the author of a post know how much you don’t care about whatever topic it was that you just finished reading about rather than, say, skipping the post. Bonus points are awarded for making a disparaging remark about the topic and/or the people who enjoy said topic.


    You realize the NBA season doesn’t end at the same time as the NCAA, right?

  • frankb

    I work just a few hundred yards from Kinick Stadium and Carver Hawkeye Arena. My hopes went up after reading Ed’s assessment of Iowa and then plummeted after reading Badgermoonan’s. I didn’t follow the team much so I don’t have an opinoin. But Ed, I hope you are right.

  • nich

    @10: I might be wrong, but I think region has to do with where the regional final is held vice the region the actual teams are from.

    @9, et al: If this was a thread on any other topic, and people hopped in and start bashing the topic of the post while adding nothing of substance, you’d rightly be called out for trolling. And fuck off with the pituitary gland crack. It’s an actual problem that fucks up people’s lives, not a cheap way to make a crack at some tall kids doing something you don’t happen to enjoy, jackass.

  • Zugswang

    The last time Louisville was denied a #1 seed it should have received was in 2005 when they were, coincidentally, also dropped to a #4 seed behind Washington, Gonzaga, and Wake Forest . They proceeded to decimate that region and make the Final Four, led a white-hot Francisco Garcia. I’m not as certain as I was in 2005 (that year they were in the easiest of the four regions), but I do think we may see history repeat.

  • LanceR, JSG

    I’m just happy to see Nebraska make the tournament for the first time in years. Don’t follow basketball much, other than I love to watch the last 5 minutes…

  • @#9:

    I think you touched a nerve. Having said that, I don’t much care for the machinations of the NCAA re: college sports. They remind me, a LOT of the IOC. They hate that people think it’s all about the money, but the hypocritical fucks all like them nice paychecks and perqs Things that are very important to the game–such as not giving FUCKING DUKE the benefit of phantom calls while letting their players maul the opposition under the boards–take up far less of their attention than how they’re gonna max the hype on “Selection Sunday”. Don’t even get me started on Colorado’s “fifth down” against Missouri back in 1990.

    Now I think I need to start a fight. LancR,JSG; how do you feel about Nebraska’s chances against ALabama/MSM after they demolish Baylor, LA-Lafayette and American Uni in the West? Also, too, are the ‘Skers gonna be using the Wishbone or the Power-I?

  • savagemutt

    I’m glad NCSU made the play-in but seriously, the game is on TruTV?!?

    Also, I feel compelled, should the topic arise, to say I have no interest in caber-tossing. And that participants are a bunch of skirt-wearing wankers and NUCT (The National Union of Caber Tossing) is hopelessly corrupt.

  • grignon

    I gotta get started on filling out my billion dollar brackets- I want to get the odds down into the hundreds of quadrillions. Do I have to get the play-in games right?

  • LanceR, JSG

    @democommie #16: I would like to see the Huskers win one game. I’m not hopeful about their chances any further than that… I was surprised to see them come on as strong as they did down the stretch. I do not believe they will survive the first couple rounds…

    Sorry, but there’s no fight here. I’m just happy to see them make the tournament for the first time in ages!

  • @19:

    Oh, I wasn’t trying to start a fight with you, I’m a fan of the Children of the Corn, have been since BEFORE the failed experiment that was Frank Patrick at QB who was THANK YOU Dr. Tom (He’s bigger than GOD in Lincoln) replaced by Jerry Tagge.

    I was looking for some static from Michiganders, Creighton fans (I grew up less than a mile from the campus) or some of the other folks in the bracket.

    Good for Nebraska if they go deep. I would LOVE to see their football team return to greatness, not winning every game, but playing to win every game.