Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bracketology: Georgia Plays Way In; Say UNC-le

The just-released 2008 NCAA Tournament brackets contained no surprises as far as the top four teams were concerned. North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA and Kansas ended up at the top of the heap with #1 seedings.

The Tar Heels received the #1 overall seeding after topping Clemson, 86-81, in the ACC tournament final. UNC will play in the East region, Memphis in the South, UCLA in the West and Kansas in the Midwest. The Final Four will pit East vs. Midwest and South vs. West in the semifinal games.

Georgia turned in the day's best story line, beating Arkansas, 66-57, to capture the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs, 4-12 during the regular season, won four straight in the conference tourney, including wins over both Kentucky and Mississippi State on the same day. Because of the hurricane that ripped through downtown Georgia on Friday night, damaging the Georgia Dome, the scheduled game between Kentucky and Georgia was moved to the Georgia Tech campus and played on Saturday afternoon.

After winning that one, the all-Bulldogs semifinal went to Georgia and the rest, as they say, is history. Somewhat mercifully, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas also received NCAA bids, so nobody from the SEC was the victim of Georgia's fortune.

While Georgia actually earned their way in, a number of teams were very questionable choices, especially four from the Big 12 - Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Baylor.

None of these, nor Kansas State, reached the tournament final. The Aggies lost 5 of their last 7 regular season games; Baylor lost four straight and six of seven before finishing the regular season 3-1, then lost their first game of the conference tournament to last place Colorado.

Oklahoma may have a little better case. After finishing 9-7 in the conference, then, following a first-round bye in the conference tourney, beat Colorado, but were then buried by the Longhorns, 77-49. Texas beat the Sooners 3 times during the season by a total of 55 points. Do they really belong?

As for Kansas State, they've won just three times in their last nine games. The wins were against Missouri, Iowa State and Colorado, the three worst teams in the Big 12.

Realistically, the Big 12 should have sent two or three teams to the tournament, not six. Kansas, Texas and maybe Oklahoma were the only measurably solid choices.

From the Big East, Villanova could easily have been refused a bid. The Wildcats, 9-9 in the Big East regular season, beat two ranked teams, Pitt and UConn, by one and two points, respectively, and both games were at home. After winning their tournament opener over a depleted Syracuse squad, they were rousted by 19 points by Georgetown. At one point during the season, they lost five straight.

Another couple of questionable choices were Arizona and Oregon from the PAC-10. Arizona was 8-10 in the conference, Oregon 8-8

The six or seven teams mentioned here could easily have been replaced by any of the following: Illinois St., Southern Illinois or Creighton - all from the Missouri Valley Conference, which sends only one team, conference champion Drake - Ohio State, Virginia Tech, VCU, Wagner or New Mexico. All of these teams had records equal or better than those selected and would have added some more flavor - and representation by smaller conferences - to the tournament.

Tomorrow: Matchup Madness

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