Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday's Tourney - The Grandest of them All.

Three more teams grabbed bids last night:  Wofford, Manhattan, and Northeastern.  Wofford was the #1 seed and will probably end up somewhere around that 12th seed spot with a legit chance at an upset, depending on the matchup.  Northeastern was a top team in their conference but is most likely going to have to face a #2 seed, and the #2s are very strong this year.  Manhattan cost us Iona.

See, both Manhattan and Iona are super fun teams that like to play circus ball, which means entertainment so on some level we should be happy with either of them.  However, Iona probably would have been like a 14 seed or so, and would have ended up playing someone at least somewhat vulnerable like a Maryland or an Oklahoma (and Iona/Oklahoma would be super fun).  Manhattan, on the other hand, will most likely, unless lots of conference tournaments go sideways, end up in the First Four, so even if they get passed someone like Texas Southern they'll end up playing a one seed, who will probably stomp a hole in them.  Once again, Conference Tournaments are super fun but are also the worst.

Only one tournament gets going today;

Conference realignment has torn the Big East apart and strengthened the ACC, no doubt.  That makes it easy to mourn the Big East Tournament, but I kinda miss the old ACC Tournament as well.  Growing up the Big Ten didn't have a tournament, the ACC was on TV all the time, the programs were really good, and their style of play was a blast so I fell in love with the ACC Tournament.  That super cool court in Greensboro, Randolph Childress destroying everybody, Fire and Ice, and some serious Duke vs. Maryland battles.  It makes me feel like some cranky old man, but I really wish the ACC was the same (and the Big East).  But I now I'm not a cranky old man, because I like lots of other changes.  Not like my friend The Bear.  He hates everything that ever changes.

FAVORITE:  Virginia.  I keep doubting the Cavaliers (well, for the last two years when they've been good) and they keep proving me wrong.  A 28-2 record is no joke, especially going through the ACC where they only lost in close games to Duke and Louisville, both of whom will likely be top 5 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.  The loss of Justin Anderson has them extra vulnerable since he was their one ace shooter and more of the offense will fall to Malcolm Brogdon, but this team does it with defense anyway, so they should be fine.  That defense is amazing.

SLEEPER:  Syracuse.  They can't go to the NCAA Tournament anyway so their motivation might be suspect, and the whole NCAA hammering them thing may make them even more ready to crawl under a rock and be done with this season, but it also could do that thing where it makes a team band together and try harder or whatever they always show us in movies.  They still play great defense, and though the offense has been challenged at best this year what if Trevor Cooney decides "hey you know what? I'm going to mix it up and actually make a bunch of shots now."?  It could happen.  Probably not.  North Carolina State.

THE PICK:  Duke.  Duke is rolling.  After some early conference jitters where they went 3-3 for a stretch, the Blue Devils have rolled off eleven straight included a sweep of the Tar Heels, a 30-point stomping of Notre Dame, and a road win at Virginia - that's impressive.  Jahlil Okafor may have hit a bit of a freshman wall but he's still a beast to deal with, Tyus Jones (sorry) has simply been amazing running that team, and Quinn Cook has transformed himself from offensive afterthought to big time scorer.  They're ready to run the ACC table here.  And they're still perfectly flawed enough to be upset early in the NCAA Tournament.  Win/win.

One billion conference tournaments start tomorrow.  I better get started.

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