The Case For The Field

Louisville, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and North Carolina are probably the four best teams in the country.

Sometimes, they look untouchable. But they've also proven that they can lose at any time, at home or on the road, to teams of any caliber.

For that reason, the rest of the NCAA Tournament field should feel confident this time of year.

The Tar Heels dropped games to Boston College and Maryland, seeded seventh and 10th, respectively. Pitt lost to Providence, which didn't even make the field of 65, while the Huskies fell to Georgetown, a team bound for the NIT.

And Louisville, the Tournament's overall No. 1 seed, lost home games to the likes of Minnesota, Western Kentucky and UNLV, none of which is higher than a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

In March, it only takes one bad day to get bounced from the Big Dance. And in a year that featured six different teams at the top spot in the polls-the four No. 1 seeds plus Duke and Wake Forest-the best team in the country might well be one that never held that lofty position.

That group of challengers begins with No. 2 Memphis, a 31-win team that gets less national press than its rivals because it plays in Conference USA, which earned only one bid to the Big Dance.

Critics contend that the Tigers don't play tough enough competition to merit respect in March. But the same was said of last year's Memphis squad, which marched all the way to the National Championship game. The Tigers are playing their best basketball of the year and come into the Tournament riding an astounding 25-game winning streak.

Fellow No. 2 seed Oklahoma can also pose a threat to any of the Nos. 1. Blake Griffin is arguably the best player in the country, and the Sooners' combination of a dominating interior presence and dynamic guard play match up well for a possible date with North Carolina in the Elite Eight.

Upsets happen in March, and this season has proven the unpredictable nature of college basketball. With so many strong teams in the field, expect to see a squad other than the four top seeds battling in Detroit three weeks from now.


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