Bracket Landscape: Be Careful out There
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OK, bracketeers, the Big Dance is ready for you.
No one knows if the NCAA Selection Committee members were drug tested or not -- look for Louisville fans to circulate a petition -- but they've provided an excellent example as to why the yelling and screaming won't stop when college football rolls out a similar process to determine the four national championship candidates next season.
So, ladies and gentlemen, start your bitchin'! Wait a minute. You already have.
One emerging trend among punters seems to be picking two No 4 seeds to advance to the Final Four next month. Those would be a red-hot Louisville and a finally-healed Michigan State. For the Cardinals to get there, unbeaten Witchita State -- a No 1 seed -- would have to fall. That could come down to how angry the Shockers play.
But before we delve into the brackets themselves, let's roll out the first level of rudiments:
The hell of it is, you know she's right. So make the most of it and hit up the hot blonde for her choices, at which time your bracket becomes the secondary objective. Can't hurt. Or if you're too anti-social for that, just try the blue-haired lady who never misses Bingo night. Then if you win, thank your calculus professor.
Florida received the top overall seed, and the Gators (32-2) deserve it. They didn't lose an SEC game all season. Florida got dealt a tough bracket, with teams like Pittsburgh, UCLA, Syracuse, and Kansas, but the Gators haven't lost since December and are a solid favorite to advance to Dallas in April.
The trendy upset squads here look to be Stephen F Austin -- they're on a roll, they've been here before, and they can shoot the lights out -- and Dayton, who must have called in a marker from the basketball gods; Ohio State can't duck the Flyers this time. And the 'Cuse may have lost five of its last seven, but if they can ditch the kryptonite, Jim Boeheim's smothering 2-3 zone is built for this time of year. There's your hunting dog.
Virginia deserved a top seed, winning both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. The Cavaliers (28-6) defeated Duke in the latter, which secured their No 1 spot in the South. They're grouped with Cincinnati, North Carolina, Michigan State, and Villanova to get to the Final Four, and if the Spartans don't spear them, Iowa State just might. The Cavs are so well drilled, though, if they can thaw out at the free throw line, even a physical team like Michigan State would have to be totally on its game to stop them.
There's so much buzz about Harvard as the bracket buster in this division, there's no way Cincinnati will be ambushed. If the Crimson have any chance to repeat last year's tourney upset -- they knocked out a solid New Mexico team -- they'll have to find a way to slow down the Bearcats.
Arizona (30-4) got the top seed in the West, even though it lost to UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game. The Wildcats did take the regular season honors and could face an early struggle in their bracket, as Oklahoma State is a possible third-round match-up. But first, the Cowboys will have to get by Gonzaga. That won't be as much of a given as the national noise seems to think. The Zags built their cred on this time of year, and they're out to atone for last season's early exit. Other roadblocks in the West could be Oklahoma, San Diego State, Creighton, and Wisconsin.
The Aztecs lost to 'Zona in Tucson, 69-60, early in the season. If they get a rematch, watch out. Their defense rivals that of Syracuse, and this time they'd be on a neutral court. And Oregon should be a fashionable pick to bust brackets. The Ducks beat BYU in Eugene when the Cougars were at full strength; they're not now. Their firepower can outshoot Wisconsin, and Coach Dana Altman came from Creighton, so he's über-familiar with the Blue Jays.
The final No 1 seed is the aforementioned Wichita State. The Shockers (34-0) are looking for a return to the Final Four after nearly defeating Louisville in the semi-finals last year. Much is already being made of Wichita State being in the toughest bracket, possibly facing Kentucky in the second round and Louisville after that. Other teams that could ruin the Shockers' undefeated season are Duke, Michigan, and possibly St Louis.
Anyone who's seen Wichita State play this season will dismiss what appears to be conventional thinking that a double dip of Wildcats and Cardinals are too much for them. Get real. The Shockers have more discipline than Kentucky's frosh, and they owe one to Louisville. They've been on a mission all season, and it's these games they've pointed towards. And don't look for a Cinderella in this bracket. The slipper doesn't fit anyone.
And so it goes. Prepare for a sharp decline in office productivity, starting tomorrow with the so-called 'play-in' games in Dayton. North Carolina State vs Xavier? Iowa vs Tennessee on Wednesday? What are teams like these doing invading a round we thought was reserved for the Southwest Nowhere States of this world?
Not cool. Not cool at all.