Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 9:22 AM
It sounds catchy but only one team in this year's NCAA Tournament is gonna be good enough - lucky enough? - to win six consecutive games (okay, seven if you happen to include the teams that are forced to be part of the first-round or play-in games Tuesday/Wednesday nights in Dayton) and cut down the nets in Atlanta next month.
Right now you have the tourney brackets spread out on your dining room table or maybe you're working on 'em online but, whatever the case, you know it's just not easy to pick one team and be sure it's gonna win the national championship.
From the sounds of the so-called experts on ESPN during its verbose two-hour NCAA Tournament Show on Sunday night, you got the sense that the #1 and #2 seeds - for the most part - are gonna blast their way through to the Elite 8 and/or Final Four with #1 overall seed Louisville and Big 10 Tournament champion Ohio State the popular picks but stop for a moment if you seem to remember those same guys saying a month ago that "10-or-12 teams could win the whole thing this year".
Hey, maybe they were not saying that on Sunday night but - in our humble Jim Sez opinion - that's still what we believe:
Maybe the super-duper talent that comprises this year's #1 and #2 seed lines - that's Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga at #1 and Miami, Ohio State, Duke and Georgetown at the No. 2 seeds - all can stake a claim to getting hot and staying hot right through the NCAA Championship Game on April 8th but there's only a handful (or less) teams besides this "super eight" that can win it and gut feeling is none of the other 35 non-power conference teams outside of Gonzaga can pull off the feat nor can anyone seeded #6 or lower do so simply because the odds are they would have to beat two superior teams in the Sweet 16/Elite 8 rounds and that ain't happening, folks!
Okay, so we have no major beef with the NCAA Tournament Committee folks for their #1 seeds - they matched perfectly with our foursome listed this past weekend right here in a Jim Sez column - and no problems with the No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed line teams for that matter and a "hats off" to the committee folks for once again doling out 36 overall berths to non-power conference teams (the same number as last year, you might recall) and coming close to that 50-50 split we asked for a couple of weeks back when tourney talk was just heatin' up.
Also - for the most part - the committee was quite fair in its travel arrangements as aforementioned Louisville will get to play in Indianapolis should the Big East Tournament champion Cardinals advance past their first two "Big Dance" games. No question that the 'Ville deserved the venue of Lucas Oil Stadium over another No. 1 seed Indiana.
And good for Gonzaga that it gets to stay on the left coast through the first two weeks of play as the 'Zags will go from two games in Salt Lake City to Los Angeles for Sweet 16/Elite 8 games. Than again, nobody thought Mark Few's crew would get shifted out of the West region, right?
Even some of the "geographical advantages" that come into play in the Second/Third Round games don't bother us:
Top seed Kansas belongs in Kansas City for the first week/weekend of play and both No. 4 seed Michigan and No. 3 seed Michigan State have a solid body of work that gives 'em the right to play their opening game(s) in nearby Auburn Hills. No doubt those games will be sellouts - and that's what the committee folks desire instead of a slew of empty seats for the opening rounds of play.
And three cheers for seeding five non-power conferences teams in the top 25 overall seeds - that's Gonzaga, #3 New Mexico, #4 Saint Louis and #5 seeds VCU and UNLV and so that suggests those handful of clubs were more than just token high seeds: They earned 'em with all but the UNLV Runnin' Rebels part of the Top 25 for the majority of the 2012-13 season.
Still, the NCAA Tournament Committee didn't hit a home run at all times.
We'll get to a couple of formal complaints we would like to formally lodge but first this key reminder:
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Okay, so maybe ESPN's Joe Lunardi - Mr. Bracketologist himself - should be lauded today for getting all 68 teams correct but that doesn't mean he was right!
In short, we believe that the Committee - and Mr. Lunardi - blew it with a pair of SEC teams as both Alabama and Tennessee should have been part of this field and Middle Tennessee State, Boise State and Minnesota all should have been kept on the NCAA Tournament sidelines. We would have put Virginia in too and thus it would have been a 34-34 split of power conference vs. non-power conference teams in this tourney.
Did the Committee folks punish the SEC too much this year?
We say it did and we must admit that we gave Kentucky a real shot to make this field of 68 teams too and they were relegated to an NIT road game!
Also - as poorly as the Pac-12 might have played this season - no way in hoop heaven should Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon been handed a #12 seed (we projected the Ducks in one of those famed 8-vs.9 games) and how did Arizona drop all the way to a No. 6 seed when they were considered #2 or #3 seed line material just days before their conference tourney quarterfinal round loss to Colorado? Undoubtedly, the Committee wanted to send a message of sorts but are they gonna sit there and tell you that - with point guard Dominic Artis back in action after a prolonged injury absence - Oregon isn't better than the likes of Oklahoma (a #10 seed), Colorado State (a No. 8 seed) and Villanova (a No. 9 seed) ... among others?
Now here's what else we would have liked to see - and that's some better "Third-Round" or Saturday/Sunday matchups.
Yes, folks are getting all hot-and-bothered about the possibility of New Mexico vs. Arizona showdown, a Kansas vs. North Carolina potential matchup and we could get Florida vs. UCLA too but - when you examine the seeds closely - a Gonzaga vs. UCLA "king of the West" tilt would have been a blast and ditto for more "neighborhood battles" such as Missouri vs. Saint Louis or maybe just a marquee name game like Duke vs. Notre Dame. Just sayin'!
Finally, we brought up the travel topic in our latest Jim Sez column and here's the teams that got the short end of the "flight miles" stick:
Syracuse - a #4 seed in the East - must jet out to San Jose for the first part of this week's tourney and keep in mind the Orange are coming off playing four games in as many days in the Big East Tourney? Advantage Montana?
Hey, none of the four top seeds in any of the regions should be penalized by way of travel but yet Jim Boeheim's guys got hosed.
And San Diego State - albeit a #7 seed - must fly all the way across the country to play #10 seed Oklahoma in Philadelphia - no doubt the longest trip anyone's gotta make in this tourney for just one game. Should the SDSU Aztecs deserve better considering they are the higher seed than the OU Sooners here? Hmmm
RATING THE REGIONS
Just wanted to chime in here on this topic because it has become such a big deal when the NCAA Tournament brackets are first announced. If we heard it once we heard it a thosand times on Sunday night that the Midwest region was "loaded" but hear us out for a second:
True, Louisville, Duke and Michigan State comprise the top three seeds here in this region and that's some heavy-duty firepower but delve a bit deeper and the next handful of seeded teams here are Saint Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton and Colorado State. Do you really think any of these guys will be still standing come Final Four time? Or Elite 8 time, for that matter?
We contend that both the East and the West Regions have better top-to-bottom balance - consider that potential sleeping giant N.C. State is a #8 seed in the East and Pitt, Wichita State and Iowa State make up the #'s 8-9-10 teams in the West Region. So, we'll rate the regions like this:
The West is the toughest, then the East, the Midwest and lastly the South where UCLA is a #6 and aforementioned San Diego State is a #7 - not great.
Finally, everyone's loading up on who will be the first-game upset winners and, boy, hasn't everyone come out of the woodwork talking up Bucknell over Butler and South Dakota State over Michigan but here's one "watch me" team in each of the four regions as they all deserve your NCAA Tournament attention:
EAST -- #10 Colorado (21-11)
The Buffaloes have a super athletic team and a top-flight tourney coach in Tad Boyle. The opening-round game against Illinois is no gimme but Colorado could win that and be a major problem for mighty Miami with those games played in Austin.
WEST -- #9 Wichita State (26-8)
The Shockers snagged an at-large bid from the better-than-you-thin Missouri Valley Conference and they play hardball from start to finish. The opener is against Pittsburgh - a team that can go on massive scoring droughts - and don't sell Wichita State short should they bang heads with Gonzaga in Salt Lake City this weekend.
MIDWEST -- #5 Oklahoma State (24-8)
No doubt everyone's singing the praise of the Atlantic-10 Tourney champs Saint Louis here in this region but might the Okie State Cowboys be the best bet from a #5-or-lower seed to get to this year's Final Four? There's three players who can get their own shots - and make 'em - and beating Oregon and than the St. Loo-New Mexico State winner is quite plausible.
SOUTH -- #10 Oklahoma (20-11)
Any team that's coached by Lon Kruger has a shot at March greatness and this Sooners crew did win 11 games in the Big 12 and three-point marksman Steve Pledger could get hot if left alone.
NOTE: Check with us for Thursday/Friday NCAA Tournament Game Previews plus News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.