Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Monk's NCAA Tourney preview, part II

The Monk's eye goes west now . . . to the Midwest and West regions.

The Midwest is Florida's region, or better yet, Florida's region to lose. And there's no reason it should -- the #2 seed (Wisco) lacks offense (look at those 53 huge points the Badgers hung on Illinois!), the #3 seed cannot play defense (Oregon), the #4 seed is mercurial (Maryland) and on it goes. The sick thing is that Florida could easily revert to the chokaholic team that existed from 2001-05 when the Gators failed to make the Sweet 16 and lost to a lower seed each year (including some beatdowns: 75-60 as a #5 to a #12 and 68-46 as a #2 to a #7). After all, the Gators were drubbed by LSU, Tennessee and Vandy before shaping up and rolling through some SEC West girls schools in the SEC Tourney.

Teams also rarely repeat Final Four appearances. Even Duke hasn't turned that trick recently. The last team to repeat as a Final Four team is Kansas (2002-03). Think about that -- we've become inured to the notion of Final Four repeaters because we'd had so many that from 1988-2003 completely new Final Fours were less common than Final Fours with a repeat entrant: Maryland (2001-02), Michigan State (1999-2001), UNC ('97-'98), Kentucky ('96-'98), Arkansas ('94-'95), Michigan ('92-'93), Duke ('88-'92), UNLV ('90-'91).

Ultimately, this bracket could be the upset special. With Winthrop, Davidson, ODU and a Gonzaga-lite in Butler, midmajors may go nuts.

Sweet 16 entrants: Florida, ODU, Oregon, Wisconsin

Overseeded: Oregon (#3), Butler (#5), Notre Dame (#6), Ga. Tech (#10)

Underseeded: none

Burn the bracket if . . . Purdue bumps off Florida after whomping a weak Arizona.

No shock if . . . Winthrop or Davidson make the Sweet 16.

The West is again a bit ridiculous. That's because for the second-straight year, UCLA is the #2 seed and can get to the Final Four without leaving California. Not a good thing for the imported #1 seed, Kansas. If that happens, we likely get a national championship game rematch in the national semifinals. Ugh. Worse yet, that's how my bracket currently looks!

Speaking of #1 seed Kansas, there has to be an anomaly either with the RPI or with KU itself because KU has the lowest RPI rank of any #1 seed I can remember -- #11. Last year, the top four in the RPI were the #1 seeds; ditto 2003. In other years, the Committee dipped as low as #7. But Kansas is ranked eight spots below the #2 seed in its region! Shoot: KU has only the third-best RPI in the region because So. Illinois is #7.

I know that RPI is about 30-40% bollocks (just look at the mediocrities So. Illinois played -- and it reached #7?), but this region is ridiculous: seven of the top 19 RPI teams are here. No one is particularly attractive, least of all the #1 seed.

KU lost to three teams outside the RPI top 50, dominated the weaker half of the Big 12 (although there is no split between Big 12 North and South for basketball like there is for football, the conference schedules teams based on their football division -- the B12 North football teams play each other twice in basketball and the Big 12 South teams once, and vice versa; the result is that KU has had an easier B12 schedule than its main conference rivals for years because the best of the rest of the conference are B12 South schools -- Texas, Tech, A&M and the Oklahomans), and has just three wins against RPI top 25 teams. That's something you'd expect from a bubble team.

Meanwhile, UCLA honked its conference tourney quarterfinals -- and no team has ever done that and won a national title. So who can take the place of KU or UCLA in the Final Four? No one. And everyone.

Pitt cannot score consistently (that's 42 in the Big East title game!), and if it makes the Sweet 16, then it will play its mirror-image in UCLA (Howland coached Pitt and its coach, Jamie Dixon, was his main assistant). Southern Illinois and Va. Tech will be an interesting second round game, and that's about it. But Kentucky and Villanova are dangerous, Duke is always a threat and Indiana is the best Big Tenplusone team other than OSU and Wisco.

Sweet 16 = KU, So. Illinois, Duke, UCLA. And I'm not banking on it.

Overseeded = KU (#1), Va. Tech (#5, RPI = 34); Illinois (not in NIT)

Underseeded = UCLA (#2), So. Illinois (#4), Duke (#6), Kentucky (#8), Villanova (#9) -- the Committee was all over the place on this region.

Burn the bracket if . . . the Indiana/Gonzaga winner makes the second weekend.

No shock if . . . KU goes down against the Kentucky/'Nova victor.

No comments: