7:21 -- Some final thoughts after listening to the riveting ESPN debate about majors vs. mid-majors, which happens every year regardless what happens. I had Penn State in over Arizona, and I stand by that. The Nittany Lions had more wins in a tougher conference than the Wildcats, and their wins came against the top half of the Big Ten. Six of Arizona's nine Pac-10 wins came against the bottom four in the conference.
At the same time, I thought all along that Saint Mary's was the most deserving of those three teams; I just didn't expect the Committee to recognize the Gaels over the Nittany Lions. This is a team that went 26-6, and 24-2 with Patty Mills healthy. If Mills doesn't get hurt, Saint Mary's probably is standing at 30-2 right now, standing as a first-round favorite. The Gaels lost to Gonzaga by two without Mills and beat Utah State. Sure, Arizona passes Hubert Davis' "eye test," largely because guys like Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are likely first-round draft picks. The Wildcats are also a team that lost games because they didn't know what the score was in the final seconds--and I say "games" because it happened TWICE.
So that last part might be a bit of an ad hominem attack. The bottom line, to me, is that Saint Mary's has done more during the course of this season than Arizona considering the limited number of opportunities. Sure, the Wildcats beat Gonzaga when the Gaels went 0-3 against the Bulldogs. But SMC had a healthy halftime lead on the Zags before Mills got hurt in the first meeting, lost by two without him in the second, and sure, got blown out with a recovering Mills in the third. Arizona, facing a similar do-or-die kind of game on a neutral floor in the Pac-10 tournament, also didn't show in a loss to Arizona State.
Either way, it's an argument about teams 65 and 66 (or 45 and 46, depending on how you view the automatic bids). Neither team was going to the Final Four. Speaking of the Final Four, can anyone see a team outside of the ACC or Big East going that far? Memphis has a shot, but I don't expect it to beat Connecticut. Louisville and Wake Forest are the best Final Four contenders in that region, UNC and Syracuse in the South, and Pitt and Duke in the East. Michigan State and Oklahoma to me, are second-round upsets waiting to happen.
All in all, I think the Committee did a good job as far as seeding, and it's going to be an interesting Tournament without a clear favorite. Thursday can't get here soon enough.
6:41 -- I said this about the Tournament beforehand, and it's been borne out as expected: The weird thing about this season is that a lot of six and seven seeds are scarier to me than four and five seeds. Wake Forest is the only 4-seed that I think can make a run to the Final Four, and teams such as Xavier, Washington, Purdue and Illinois won't be scaring any top seeds. Marquette and West Virginia as 6-seeds are very dangerous.
6:37 -- UNC will run into Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, with Illinois probably being the pre-requisite 5-12 upset. Oklahoma probably bows out in the second round, with both Clemson and Michigan (a really fun first-round game) capable of a run to the second weekend. I like Syracuse a lot, but Arizona State could present problems (James Harden could wreck that 2-3 zone). Temple may slip by the Sun Devils in the first round.
6:28 -- Hey, UCLA...have fun with Eric Maynor and VCU. The Collison-Maynor matchup in that game will be fun to watch. I really like Duke's bottom part of the region, with Texas an OK seven and Villanova a manageable three. That being said, I really hope Florida State or Xavier can find a way to knock off Pitt--the Noles did come close earlier in the year in a game in Tallahassee. Wisconsin and Portland State could have something to say about those matchups; it will be interesting to see if the Vikings' fans travel well to Boise.
Want to read up on Duke's first-round opponent. Check out this intriguing NY Times article from a few weeks ago.
6:20 -- UConn has an awfully nice set-up, and I think Marquette, if the Golden Eagles can recapture the magic, has a chance to make the Elite Eight. I'm upset the Blue Devils didn't draw Cal as the 7-seed in their region--a vengeance game for Jamal Boykin could have been fun. BYU and Texas A&M meet in an 8-9 game for the second consecutive year.
Maryland gets a nice lift to a 10, and a favorable first-round matchup. As much as we like to mock him, Gary Williams did a pretty good job with that team. I can see Utah State, Northern Iowa and Mississippi State hanging in their first-round contests, but I doubt I'll be picking any of them to win.
Penn State is likely the odd team out; the last region didn't have two Big Ten teams, meaning only seven made it. Unless the Nittany Lions had passed Minnesota or Michigan on the conference order, they're done.
6:13 -- Ughh...the Committee didn't even build the suspense this year: Arizona, my fourth team out, is in--largely on name recognition. I'm glad West Virginia isn't in Duke's bracket (for obvious reasons), and I can imagine the Mountaineers making an Elite Eight run in that region. The winner of Louisville and Wake Forest--perhaps the best potential Sweet 16 matchup in any region--will likely make the Final Four. Watch out for USC in the second round; the Trojans are red-hot right now, and BC isn't the strongest seven.
6:06 -- Greg Gumbel: "Jim Calhoun certainly smiling [after getting a 1-seed]."
My roommate: "Why not? Have you heard how much money that guy makes?"
6:03 -- With the way the top seeds were ordered, Duke is likely going to be the 2-seed in the East, opposite Pittsburgh in the bracket. Memphis is likely with UConn and Michigan State or Oklahoma will be with UConn.
6:02 -- Louisville as the overall No. 1 seed? I don't think the Cardinals are anyone's favorite to win the whole thing. Right now, I'd prefer to be the fourth No. 1 seed than the third, so I could play Louisville rather than Pitt.
6:00 p.m. -- We're about to get underway. Once again, you can see my bracket by scrolling down just a little. I'll provide thoughts on each region once they're presented. I'm way too excited right now.
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