WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Gopher basketball. First of all for getting into the tournament. They may have faded down the stretch, and I still don't think the Louisville win was as impressive as it's now given credit for being, but at the start of the year I pegged a successful season as getting a bid to the tournament, and they did it. Not only that, but a #10 seed means they were about two spots better than hated Wisconsin, more on that later. The other awesome part is the matchup, because I think Texas is pretty bad this year. They were 22-11, and just 9-7 in a not very good Big 12 this year. They did beat UCLA and Villanova, but those were early in the season and the Longhorns faded towards the end, redeeming themselves a bit with a win over Oklahoma, but overall not a very impressive conference run. I'll have a more in depth matchup rundown later in a preview on Wednesday, but for now I'll just say that the Gophers can absolutely win this game.
2. USC. Obviously going into a conference tournament when you don't have a bid and then winning the whole thing is great, but the Trojans did it in impressive enough fashion that they likely would have been in even if they lost in the final, as shown by the committee giving them a 10 seed. After a fairly nondescript season that saw the Trojans go 9-9 in the Pac 10, they beat some very good teams in winning the Pac 10 tournament, knocking off three tournament bound teams in Cal, #15 UCLA, and then #23 Arizona State in the final. With a nice matchup - they play BC and then get Michigan State - the Trojans have a legit shot at the sweet 16. Demar Derozan and Taj Gibson are an excellent pair of weapons down low, and Daniel Hackett is an excellent scoring point guard. USC has battled themselves all year (Hackett and another guard almost got in a fight earlier this year) but if they can put it all behind them they could see themselves in the sweet 16.
3. Temple. They were probably good enough that they should have gotten an at-large, but probably didn't have the resume and needed to win the A-10 tournament to get in (although with an 11 seed they have made it anyway). And they did, beating top seed Xavier in the process and suddenly hot Duquesne in the final. Arizona State in the first round is a tough matchup for the Owls, but with Dionte Christmas averaging 19 a game, anything is possible (and if they win expect a slew of Christmas related puns). He's hot right now, scoring 20 against Xavier and 29 against Duquense in the A-10 final. I don't expect Temple to win, but it's going to be a hell of a game.
4. Utah State. Another team that might have gotten an invite either way, but probably needed to win their conference tournament to get in, the Aggies went ahead and did just that, beating Nevada by 10 on their home court to capture the WAC crown and get an 11 seed. I really like the matchup for Utah State against Marquette. The Eagles have been struggling since they lost point guard Dominic James for the year, and their weakness is against bigger and stronger teams. Utah State has some serious bulk and quality post players, so they will probably give the Eagles fits. They also some dead-eye three point shooters, so if Marquette doesn't play good perimeter defense they could get lit up. The Eagles have plenty of firepower on their own even without James, so this should be a pretty good first round matchup.
5. March Madness. It's been great so far, and now the big tournament gets going on Tuesday. I couldn't be happier.
1. The East Region. Ugh, what a nightmare. I have no idea who to take out of this region, and not in a good way. #1 seed is Pitt, and Pitt sucks due to the curse of Brandin Knight. They pretty much choke every year, and I hate them, so I clearly cannot pick the Panthers. The second seed is Duke, and anybody who picks Duke to make the final four is clearly a communist. The third seed is Villanova, and they have Scottie Reynolds who will clearly and obviously shoot them right out of the tournament. My three least favorite college hoops programs are seriously Pitt, Duke, and Villanova, and now they're the top three seeds in a region. I hate to say it, but I might end up having to put Xavier in the Final Four, and that will feel weird. But, I must do what I must do. Stay tuned.
2. The SEC. I knew it was a down year, but holy cow it's bad in SEC land right now. LSU managed a 13-3 regular season record, but still only snagged a eight seed. The only other at-large from the conference was Tennessee, and they got a nine seed. The teams were so awful that they let a pretty horrible Mississippi State team win their tournament and steal a bid from San Diego State, and still only managed a 13 seed. Neither South Carolina at 10-6 or Florida at 9-7 didn't get in, mainly because despite all those conference wins neither team had a win over a top 50 RPI team. There's a reason Ken Pomeroy has this as the worst of the power conferences. And the team with the two of the most impressive non-conference victories, Arkansas with wins over Oklahoma and Texas, somehow managed to go 2-14 in the conference.
3. Teams chasing a #1 seed. Going into the conference tournaments North Carolina, Louisville, Pitt, UCONN, Memphis, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Michigan State were all possible number 1 seeds. Then they almost all dropped the ball, with only Memphis and Louisville winning their conference tournaments, and nobody else even made the conference final. North Carolina lost to Florida State, Pitt to West Virginia, UCONN to Syracuse, Kansas to Baylor, Oklahoma to Oklahoma State, and Michigan State to Ohio State. With all the carnage, it didn't matter much as UCONN, Pitt, and UNC all still grabbed #1s thanks to the losses, and apparently Memphis wasn't quite in line to get a 1 seed since they got a 2 even after winning C-USA - although it is the top #2, so they were close.
4. Team USA. In the World Baseball Classic, the US beat the Netherlands 9-3 on Sunday to avoid elimination, but that can't possibly begin to redeem them for their stinker on Saturday. Against Puerto Rico, they got absolutely destroyed 11-1, with the game ending after just seven innings because of the ten rule (yes they have that), and embarrassment of epic proportions. Jake Peavy went out and got absolutely rocked, giving up six hits and six runs in just two innings of work to put the US behind right away, although it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway. Javier Vazquez (!) completely shut the US down, including holding the first four hitters in the lineup (Shane Victorino, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and Kevin Youkilis) to an 0-12 night. In relief, someone named Matt Thornton tried to close the door and attempted to pitch the seventh inning, but gave up four hits and four runs while recording just 2 outs to end the game thanks to the mercy rule. If the US can recover and end up winning this thing, all will be forgotten, but if they falter again you can bet this game will be the poster child for what went wrong.
5. Andy Glockner. SI.com's bubble watch writer, he managed to really tick Snacks off by saying the Gophers should be out of the tournament, and that Wisconsin was safely in. Clearly this all turned out to not be true, but here is an email exchange between Snacks and Glockner, that shows just how wacked Glockner really is. I have bolded my favorite parts.
First, Snacks writes to Glockner:
Are you kidding me? Please justify how Wisconsin is safe and Minnesota
is out. Minnesota has Wisconsin beat in almost every way - higher RPI,
better record against the top 50, better record against the top 100
AND they swept them. Oh, and Wisconsin beat no one in non-conference
and Minnesota beat Louisville. The only thing Wisconsin has is one
more league win (and they played Iowa twice, Minnesota only once).
There is honestly no justification for putting Wisconsin ahead of
Minnesota. Please look at the numbers and not just the name of the
team. Also, it is laughable to say that Minnesota and Penn State's
resumes couldn't be more the same. 30 spots in the RPI means nothing?
Please. I'd love to hear a response, I don't understand how you have a job doing this with these ridiculous decsions.
And Glockner's response, please pay attention to the ridiculousness:
You got me, man. I just throw darts. :)
I broke down the Big Ten bubble on Monday, after the regular season was complete. Wisconsin has played a much harder schedule overall, played a schedule that at the time was judged to be more difficult in the Big Ten (although including Indiana again seems to have changed that), finished ahead of Minnesota in the league standings (despite being swept, so they were three games better over the other 15 games), and had a better record against the "peer bubble teams" in the league and finished stronger down the stretch.
I'm not 100 percent comfortable with having Wisconsin as high in the bracket as they are, but I do think they're ahead of Penn State and Minnesota. I had them ahead going into the postseason and a win over Northwestern doesn't put Minnesota past them.
Now if you want to debate Minnesota vs. Penn State ...
It would appear they are willing to let pretty much anybody write anything these days. With Minnesota getting a 10 and Wisconsin a 12, it's pretty clear that Glockner is the new Pat Reusse.