Just some off-the-cuff commentary on the field of 68 set on Sunday for the NCAA Men's National Basketball Championship:
Oregon, despite winning the PAC-12 tournament was seeded #12 in the Midwest, while UCLA (which the Ducks beat in the tourney final) and Arizona received 6-seeds.
CBS, on their tournament seeding show Sunday evening, flashed "Weakest Region" on the West, which includes top-seeded Gonzaga, #2 Ohio State, #3 New Mexico and #4 Kansas State along with #5 Wisconsin and Notre Dame, seeded 7th. The truth of the matter is that the West is far and away the most competitive of the regions, not even close to the weakest, which would likely be either the South (Kansas #1, Georgetown #2, Florida #3) or the Midwest, which has the woeful Duke squad implanted at #2 and Louisville, #1. The best team in the that region might be the aforementioned Oregon, or #4 St. Louis, champions of the Atlantic 10 (regular season and tournament), #3 Michigan State or #7 Creighton, out of the Missouri Valley.
Miami, which won both the regular season and conference tourney in the ACC, was posted as a #2, in the East region, on a collision course with #1 Indiana. Various bodies on the selection committee must have liked Kansas better than the Hurricanes, or preferred Duke, because, in reality, the Hurricanes got a raw deal, though they will likely waltz through their sub-region.
In the play-in games, there are actually two different flavors. The winner of the North Carolina A&T-Liberty meeting is nothing but cannon fodder for Louisville, as is the LIU-Brooklyn-James Madison match-up, the winner of which will certainly fall to Indiana.
The other two are more compelling, as Middle Tennessee plays St. Mary's (a solid game), the winner advancing to the second round against Memphis, the Conference USA champion which has proven, thus far, nothing. Look for an upset, with Memphis taking it on the chin. Boise State plays LaSalle in the other play-in, the victor moving on to a round two meeting with Kansas State, another vulnerable team. At least the tournament committee has created some excitement in expanding the field and getting teams from smaller conferences.
Key second round games include all of the 8-9 match-ups, which could actually be called toss-ups. Try picking between Missouri and Colorado State in the Midwest, NC State and Temple in the East, Pitt and Wichita State (take the Shockers) in the West, or North Carolina and Villanova (leaning toward the Tar Heels) in the South.
Bracket busters appear all across the landscape. While there's likely little chance that a #1 seed will fall in their opening game, it's bound to happen some time. The best shot at it this year would be Western Kentucky, a team with plenty of experience and tournament savvy (they won four straight games to get in, for the second year in a row, out of the Sun Belt) against the #1 seed in the South, Kansas.
A number of people have mentioned Florida Gulf Coast, the Atlantic Sun champion, as a possible winner over #2 Georgetown in the South, though only because they've been noticed, their chances are diminished.
Sorry, Duke haters, but Albany is not going to knock off Duke, though seven-seed Creighton might in the following round. If the Blue Devils advance to the regionals, look for either Michigan State or Valparaiso to end their 2013 tournament in a hurry. The third round game between Michigan State and Valpo could be a good one to watch as well, and a Spartan win is by no means guaranteed. A 3-seed has fallen to a 14 in each of the last four tournaments, a trend which fits the Valpo-Michigan state scenario.
In the East, #14 Davidson could easily top #3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles were knocked out of the Big East tourney early on and are over-seeded at #3.
Sorry, Ivy Leaguers, but #14 Harvard isn't going to get past #3 New Mexico in the West.
Syracuse, another overseed victim at #4 in the East, may have problems with #13 Montana. As it is, Syracuse is still searching for identity, especially after the 56-point explosion by Louisville in the second half of the Big East final. They, like Michigan and Michigan State, are enigmas which could be gone early or proceed possibly to an unlikely Final Four.
Streakers: The highest-quality streak coming in belongs to the Ohio State Buckeyes, who have won eight straight, including the Big Ten championship with a final win over Wisconsin (the team which last beat them, on February 17), a semi-final win over Michigan State, and regular season wins over Indiana and the Spartans. They are the #2 seed in the rough West region, but any slip up could derail their championship run.
In any case the Buckeyes are hailing from the region which just may produce the overall champion, be it themselves, New Mexico or Gonzaga, the top seed.
The longest streak coming in belongs to Davidson, regular season and tourney champs of the Southern League, at 17 straight, which spells real trouble for Marquette. Interestingly, their closest game during their winning run was a 93-87 overtime win against Montana, at home, no less. Look out, Syracuse.
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