I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.
“Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively.” – Voltaire
We will undoubtedly be guilty of both this week, as we focus obsessively on college hoops… from one game to the next to the next to the next. From the TO26 perspective, this is also the time of year when Division I’s red-headed stepchildren can become the object of the nation’s attention, if only fleetingly. Which teams are best-positioned to stay in the limelight the longest? Which ones are likely to head home after just the briefest of shining moments? Today, we analyze the chances of all of the TO26 teams the East and Midwest regions, grouping them into four categories based on their chances of advancement. Within each group, we order the teams based on their potential to make a deep run.
These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).
Creighton (#8, Midwest) — Creighton’s first-round matchup against Alabama will be fun to watch. The Bluejays will put their highly efficient offense, led by a potent three-point attack, against Alabama’s stout defense, which defends the three almost as well as anyone in the nation. Things will be uglier at the other end; Creighton’s defense has struggled all season, its mediocrity matched only by Alabama’s offense. The good news for the Bluejays is that they’re a bit tougher inside the arc – I noticed a tendency to collapse their defense to the ball line when it goes inside – which is by and large where Alabama operates. At the end of the day, I like Creighton’s chances, as they have steadier guard play, a legit go-to player, solid free throw shooting, and the ability to knock down the clutch three when needed. And if they get by the Crimson Tide, I wouldn’t be stunned by an upset of UNC. Why? The Tarheels’ defense is particularly vulnerable to the three-point shot (which will also make them susceptible to an upset loss to Michigan should that matchup materialize in the regional semifinals).