The NCAA Tournament bracket is out and here is The Monk's #1 observation: the Committee got its #4 and #3 seeds reversed. Here are the #4 seeds: C-USA Champ Louisville (29-4), Big East Champ Syracuse (27-6, nice to write that again), SEC Champ Florida (23-7) and Big East regular season champ Boston College (28-4).
Here are the #3 seeds: oversold Gonzaga (25-4), Big 12 semi-final loser Oklahoma (24-7), Big 12 semi-final loser Kansas (23-6) and Pac-10 runner-up Arizona (27-6). Two of the #3 seeds should NOT be ranked higher than their respective #4 seeds: Gonzaga-Louisville, Oklahoma-Syracuse; Arizona-BC is a coin flip -- BC won the regular season title of a much better conference; and KU>Florida is legit for that bracket because KU's record is skewed downward by losses it suffered whilst missing injured players. Overall, the #1 seeds potentially have tougher regional semifinal games than the #2 seeds in those regions. So where's the benefit to getting a top seed (unless you're Illinois playing in Chicago)?
We all know The Monk is a Syracuse fan, but winning the Big East title, holding its opponents under 60 ppg in that run, and drubbing UConn for 35 minutes (including physically beating the Huskies), combined with 27 wins should count for a bit more. Nonetheless, SU showed its new lineup could bang with physical teams, something that it will need to do to get past Michigan State and/or Duke, if the Orange can escape Vermont.
#2 observation: there are some very gaudy records this year. Last year, Maryland was a #4 seed with just 19 pre-tournament wins; this year the #4 seeds AVERAGE almost 27 wins each.
#3 observation: a #5 seed always loses to a #12. The only #5 seed I think is basically safe is Michigan State. I would not be surprised if any of the other #5's lost, especially Georgia Tech -- somehow A-10 teams seem to pull an upset out of their hat every year.
Other observations: if Gonzaga is EVER going to do what the ESPN talking heads have been dying for it to do -- get to the Final Four, then THIS is the year. The 'Zags are in by far the weakest bracket, with a #2 seed that doesn't play defense (Wake), and a #1 seed (Washington) that only attained that slot because so many other teams in line for it honked (KU, Ok. State, Kentucky). The second round matchup against Texas Tech should be interesting.
WEAKEST Bracket: Albuquerque (West)
STRONGEST Bracket: I say Syracuse (East) but ONLY because the Chicago (Midwest) bracket has Illinois potentially playing pseudo-home games in the regional semis and finals.
First #1 out, I'd love for Duke to fall to Syracuse, but it's more likely that Washington will be the first out, and possibly in the second round to Pacific.
First-look Final Eight (and I'm not saying that this is in my pool picks): Illinois-Ok State, UNC-KU, Duke-Utah, Louisville-Wake. If I'm even CLOSE, you heard it here first. If I completely whiff -- well, I've picked the whole Final Four twice and also lost half of my teams in the first weekend once in the past; so picks happen.