Monday, March 14, 2005

The Best Week of the Sports Year

Get your brackets here: Printable Viewable

For the most part, I think the Selection Committee did a good job. However, I have some minor concerns:

--Louisville got screwed. In a huge way. To finish the season with just 4 losses (two non-conference, to Kentucky and Iowa, and two in conference play), to be the number 4 team in the nation, and to have won 19 of your last 20 games and still be a number 4 seed is a joke. Complete disrespect. If they win over LA-Lafayette (a decent team), a matchup with a hot Georgia Tech team awaits. That's a shame.

--Northern Iowa and UAB should not be in this tournament. Northern Iowa finished 4th in its conference (the overrated Missouri Valley), finished at 21-10, and lost in the quarterfinals of its conference tournament. If you were going to, for some reason, take a third Missouri Valley team (like the Committee did), why not Wichita State? They finished above Northern Iowa in the regular season, and made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament--I know they finished the season poorly, but they were still a better candidate than NIU. As for UAB, show me a big win this year. Memphis doesn't count. DePaul? Marquette? Fact is, they didn't beat a single RPI Top 50 team. I realize they made a nice run last year, but that was last year. UAB should not be in.

Enough with the complaints. Here are my initial thoughts:

--This is the most balanced field I think I've seen since the tourney expanded to 64 teams. So many teams could make runs--the field is wide open.

--Most Entertaining Region: Albuquerque. Almost every team in the entire region can score a lot of points--Washington, Wake Forest, Gonzaga, and Louisville as the top four seeds? You can make a case for any of those teams to make it to the Final Four; you can also make a case for them to be eliminated in the second round. By the way, Washington deserved their #1 seed. They have beaten a lot of good teams, and they are well-coached.

--Toughest Region: Syracuse. Top to bottom, this region is stacked. Top four seeds: North Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, Florida--Villanova and Wisconsin are lurking right behind. All of those teams, at one time or another, have been really hot this season. Think about the potential Regional Final matchup between North Carolina and Kansas--Roy Williams versus his old school? Huge.

--Everything sets up really well for Illinois, except for the fact that Oklahoma State is the two seed in their region. Illinois got the much-expected Greyhound draw--they can take the bus to any of their sites. The matchups are winnable until they get to Oklahoma St. The Cowboys are such a physical team, and Illinois may not be able to deal with that--on the other hand, Illinois' speed and shooting ability will be hard for Oklahoma State to handle. Really interesting.

--Duke is my pick for the first number one seed to be eliminated. They've overachieved to get this far, and they've ridden luck on more than one occasion. I think Syracuse has their number, though. People are calling for Washington to be the first #1 seed out, and I just don't see it. Pacific or Pittsburgh will not beat Washington. Give the Huskies a little respect. Overall, I'm guessing that only two #1 seeds make it to the Final Four. Which ones? I'll give you my predictions later in the week.

--I got the March Madness on Demand package from of the games streaming on your computer with stats and all kinds of extra bells and whistles. I'm pumped. But I'm a nerd. I'll be watching the games on CBS with my laptop right in front of me as I watch the three other games going on. If I had DirecTV, I'd order their Mega March Madness thing that gives you all the games.

--I can't stand Dick Vitale. I know that's not, technically, a tournament thought, but it's my blog, and Dick Vitale is like nails on a chalkboard.

Like I said, I'll have a lot more on the tournament in the days ahead.

Bonus thought: Mike Anderson should be UT's next head coach. Buzz Peterson needed to go; Buzz is a good guy, and I wish him well, but it was time. Mike Anderson's style would excite the fans and hopefully revitalize the moribund UT program.

Bonus thought 2: JEREMY Giambi did 'roids? Guess steroids can't do miracles...

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