First Weekend Storylines. Like most of you guys, we figure we watched approximately 38 hours of basketball last weekend over the first four days of the NCAA Tournament. Since we were in Vegas taking advantage of the sportsbooks’ multiple huge-screen tvs, we pretty much saw pieces of every game on the dance card. Here are some of our thoughts and observations based on the sensory overload (speaking of sensory, that chick making bedroom eyes at the burger in the McDonald’s commercial is ridiculously difficult to remove from the internal hard drive).
Coach K, Your Filet o’ Sole Has Arrived. From our point of view, at least in terms of the elite teams of each conference, there was never any question that the Big East was much stronger than that of the ACC this year. The fact that anyone was even questioning this seemed odd. This year, the Big East had six teams (of seven bids) with a reasonable shot to make a run at the F4 – UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, Villanova and Marquette, and the first five of that group is still standing (the most ever by a single conference in the Sweets, btw); the ACC had three (of seven bids) - Duke, UNC and Wake Forest, but only the twin towers of Tobacco Road royalty are left dancing. The simple fact of the matter is that the ACC’s middle – comprised of Clemson, Florida St., Maryland, BC and Virginia Tech (NIT) - were only “solid” teams that had significant weaknesses due to personnel or other issues. Conversely, the equivalent caliber teams from the Big East (with the notable exception of WVU) were left out of the Big Dance. This group includes Providence, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Notre Dame, and there shouldn’t be any dissent as to the fact that each of these teams would have competed for the middle of the ACC with the above group and several would have also earned bids on the basis of the occasional upset (see: Maryland and BC). Sitting where we are now, with five Big East teams a mere two wins away from the F4, it wouldn’t shock us to see all four slots filled by a BE team. This is still an unlikely scenario, but keep in mind that only Villanova is considered an underdog to reach the next round (Syracuse is a pick’em against Oklahoma), and all five of these teams are more than capable.
#1 Seeds. UConn looked absolutely dominant in its two games, and while not much can be discerned from a 56-pt dismantling of Chattanooga, the 92-66 beatdown of a Texas A&M team that was coming on strong must be viewed with awe. The Huskies will get the best team in the Big Ten next – Purdue - but we have trouble believing that the Boilers will challenge Jim Calhoun’s team at this point. Suddenly a #1/#2 matchup against Memphis in the regional finals looks very appealing. UNC bombed Radford in its first round game before riding a partisan crowd’s energy and Ty Lawson’s toe to a breakaway win over LSU in the second round, 84-70. The Heels should put away Gonzaga easily in the next round (we doubt Heytvelt will dominate Hansbrough this time around), but a regional final against either Oklahoma or Syracuse could present all kinds of problems for the Tar Heels. Louisville and Pittsburgh both struggled to put opponents away in both their first and second round games. Both of these teams sometimes have trouble scoring, and we have to wonder when a prolonged scoring drought against a good team will be enough to end their run to the title. Pitt should have a relatively easy go of it with its next game against Xavier, but we’re looking at Louisville’s next game against Arizona and wondering what might happen if the trio of Budinger, Wise and Hill are all making shots.