“It's like the NCAA went out of their way to try and Make it tough for Wichita State. Why is it Wichita State’s fault that all the other teams in their conference suck? They (NCAA) made it almost impossible for them to make it back to the Final Four”.
---Charles Barkley on WSU’s tourney draw
As the brackets were being announced yesterday, I kept wondering what the field in the Midwest Region had done to so irritate the selection committee. Usually there’s some mild disagreement from the pundits on which of the regions are toughest, but there was collective head shaking in unison and audible gasps over the depth and difficulty as the Midwest Region was unveiled last night.
If you’re a Shocker fan, you’re probably grousing that the committee did you no favors and only Arizona, in the West, has a path even half as dangerous as WSU—but how about Louisville? The Cardinals are playing as well as anyone in the country right now, have lost only five times all season and end up with a four seed. Not only that, but a four seed in a region with Michigan, Wichita State, Duke and Kentucky amongst others. Rick Pitino might be within his rights to ask for a recount.
In case you’re counting, the Midwest has three of the Final Four from last year, including the defending National Champion and Duke. Whatever team survives this gauntlet is the one you want to have in a foxhole with you.
As if they needed it---
I can Gregg Marshall playing the conspiracy card with his team. You know, “sure they gave you the number one seed, but they planted it in a minefield”. I really like the Shockers into the Sweet 16, where their matchup with Louisville might end up being the game of the tournament. The most brutal MMA would be tame compared to that struggle, what with their styles of play, their recent history and Wichita State’s claim to unfinished business.
‘Cats and ‘Cats---
Bruce Weber won’t have far to look to find a little chip for his team’s shoulder. I don’t think I heard one analyst over about three hours last night that gave K-State any chance against Kentucky. Never mind that KSU comes from, arguably, the best conference in the country and are facing a team that, inarguably, comes from the nation’s weakest power conference. Kentucky has lost 4 of its last 7 and has questionable guard play, but they’ll have a decided size advantage. K-State has to get back to defending to have a chance in this one, being a four point underdog sounds about right.
Nothing’s easy in the NCAA Tournament, but compared to the Shockers and Wildcats the Jayhawks have the most manageable route to the Final Four. They’ve already handled their most likely third round matchup with New Mexico; the odds would leave them with either Syracuse or Ohio State to reach the Elite Eight, before a likely rematch with Florida to get to Texas.
Best early upset chances by region:
Midwest: Tennessee beats Iowa, then UMass
East: St. Joe’s over UConn or Providence beating North Carolina
South: Stephen F. Austin over VCU is becoming too popular a pick. I love McPherson native Brad Underwood’s team and it’s one to watch against the normal upset darling that is Shaka Smart. Underwood, one of the nicest guys in all of coaching, cut his teeth in the Kansas Jayhawk League before becoming an assistant for Bob Huggins at K-State. He stayed through Frank Martin’s tenure in Manhattan and went with him to South Carolina when he was passed over in favor of Bruce Weber. This in Underwood’s first season at Stephen F. Austin, where he was the Southland Conference coach of the year and where his team has won 28 straight games headed to the tourney. But I digress.
How about Stanford pushing New Mexico?
West: I’m not sure how much conviction I have, but I do like Nebraska’s chances against Baylor.
A high five to Danny Manning, who got Tulsa back to the dance for the first time since 2003. The second year head coach and former KU star lead his team to 11 straight wins to close the season, they’re in tough against a really good offensive team in UCLA, but it’s good to see Manning and Tulsa back in the NCAA.