Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ah, the pools and possibilities

In the tournament pool both Wongdoer and I are in, picking the Final Four and especially the games within the Final Four are key: Elite 8 winners are worth 10 points, national semifinal winners are worth 25 and picking the champ is worth 50. So this is the fun part, or so I'm told. But again, it emphasizes why the first round games are minor and The Monk is actually smart (it's been known to happen) for concentrating on the later rounds. If I pick the final game correctly, I finish no worse than 3rd.

The Final Eight this season was the hype machine's favorite input: the possibility of having ALL FOUR #1 seeds in the Final Four for the first time ever! WOW. Indeed, 2007 is the first time all four #1 seeds would play in the Final Eight since 2003 (and yes, The Monk knew that off the top of his head) -- and that year the #1s took a beating when Marquette drilled Kentucky by 14 (UK scored the last eight points to make it less embarrassing), Syracuse creamed Oklahoma by 16 despite a ridiculous 24 turnovers and KU beat Arizona in a tight game to get revenge for 'Zona's 17-point beatdown of the Jayhawks during the regular season. Only Texas, from a chickens**t regional, won.

The strange thing today was the collapse by the losers down the stretch. Unlike Tennessee, Memphis basically imploded down the stretch; similarly Kansas deflated against UCLA. I'm unable to explain it. Watching the early part of the KU/UCLA game I thought KU was clearly the superior team, but UCLA made adjustments at halftime that stagnated KU's offense. Ben Howland is one of the best coaches in the country, and has been an excellent defensive coach throughout his career. I still doubt UCLA has the offense to win the title. I also think KU's relatively soft schedule (remember, it only played the other Big 12 teams that received NCAA bids once each during the regular season) hurt it today. Extra note: Bill Self the KU coach is now 0-4 in the regional finals (2000 loss by Tulsa to UNC, 2001 loss by Illinois to Arizona, 2004 loss by KU to Ga. Tech, and today). Then again, his teams have reached the Final Eight four times in the last eight years -- there are lots of coaches who'd like that record.

As for Ohio State: this was the showcase game for the Bucks. OSU lit Memphis, a very good defensive team, for 92 points and played a high tempo with Oden taking a leading role.

For tomorrow: an Oregon win would be a shock, a Georgetown win would be a surprise. Florida has the inside-outside balance that Oregon lacks -- the Ducks are a perimeter team, period. Georgetown has never beat UNC in the NCAA Tourney. That would say more if tomorrow's meeting wasn't only the third (the Jordan game and the 1995 Sweet 16 in the middle of a UNC Final Four run). Then again, UNC has enough talent to be a one-school feeder for the NBA, Georgetown does not. That said, if Georgetown can roll up a 16-point lead in the second half against UNC like So. Cal. did, it won't choke. Note that if UNC loses, if will be the first time since 1979 and 1980 that the Final Four would have no ACC team in consecutive years.

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