Bracket reaction (cont.)
Now for the important stuff ...
Contrary to certain apoplectic television analysts, no bubble team was "snubbed" this year, because the committee was basically sifting through a bunch of equally undeserving teams. In fact, they should be commended for continuing to reward those that schedule tough out-of-conference games, like USC (victories over Texas and Tennessee) and VCU (UCLA and Wichita State), at the expense of those that don't. Colorado, one of the purportedly "shocking" exclusions, went 8-8 in the Big 12 and played the nation's 325th toughest non-conference schedule. Alabama's was 284th -- and still the Tide only went 8-6 in those games. There will be no tears shed here.
Despite their continued insistence otherwise, the committee's over-reliance on the simplistic RPI ratings (as opposed to a more advanced system like Pomeroy's) reared its head yet again. It's the only explanation why a team like Kansas State (23rd) would garner a No. 5 seed, and Clemson (57th), which finished without an RPI Top 50 win, would be a No. 12 seed, when it would probably be a Vegas pick 'em if the two teams met. The committee also undervalued late bloomers Kentucky and Louisville as No. 4 seeds, which shouldn't tick the Wildcats and Cardinals off as much as the No. 1 seeds (Ohio State and Kansas, respectively) that might now draw them in the Sweet 16.
Obligatory condolences to ... Virginia Tech
Not that we didn't see this coming, and not that the Hokies (21-11, 9-7 ACC) were overly deserving, but that's just cruel to Malcolm Delaney, Seth Greenberg and Co. Especially if you're going to put RPI-darling UAB in their place.
Best draw: Pittsburgh
If Jamie Dixon can't make the Final Four this year, he can't blame the committee. No. 2 seed Florida, No. 3 BYU (which hasn't been the same without suspended starter Brandon Davies) and No. 5 Kansas State are all at least a spot higher than should probably merit. The trickiest obstacle might be the second round: Butler or Old Dominion.
Worst draw: Duke
There should be no accusations of protecting the Blue Devils this time. Tennessee, should it beat Michigan, is a sneaky second-round foe. Texas, one of the best defensive teams in the country, or overlooked Pac-10 champ Arizona could await in the Sweet 16, and, if the seeds hold, Duke could be facing San Diego State -- that of the rabid student section -- in Anaheim.
Jet lag alert: USC
Congrats on your First Four selection, USC. You get to fly 2,200 miles to Dayton on Monday, play VCU on Wednesday night, then, if you win, go to Chicago and play again two days later. That's three time zones in five days.
Best Round of 64 matchup: St. John's-Gonzaga
Steve Lavin makes his return to the Dance with a veteran team that will be down one key player, injured forward D.J. Kennedy, when it meets Robert Sacre and the Zags, winners of their last nine.
Best potential Round of 32 matchup: North Carolina-Washington
It's not even close. Two run-and-gun teams (though UNC is more deliberate than in past years) with two dynamic point guards -- UW's Isaiah Thomas and Heels freshman Kendall Marshall.
Best potential Sweet 16 matchup: Ohio State-Kentucky
Wow. John Calipari's young Wildcats are scary right now, and they're probably more talented across the board than the Buckeyes -- but the experience gap is substantial.
Runner-up: North Carolina-Syracuse
Best potential Elite 8 matchup: Duke-Connecticut
Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun staged epic Final Four matchups in 1999 and 2004, and we'd welcome a Nolan Smith vs. Kemba Walker edition.
Runner-up: Ohio State-North Carolina
In nearly any other draw, Ohio State would be the pick. But Calipari's team is loaded, peaking at just the right time and actually seems more poised than last year's John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins edition.
Smith is the kind of player that wins championships, and he's getting nice support from Kyle Singler and Seth Curry. While the Blue Devils' road isn't easy, they're more tested than the Aztecs and more complete than anyone else.
The Jayhawks are the most under-the-radar 32-2 team in human history. No one in their region has the size to match up with the Morris brothers, though Purdue's JaJuan Johnson could certainly make it interesting.
Sorry -- just don't have faith in Pitt. Billy Donovan knows a thing or two about Final Fours, and his team has been exceptional away from home.
Kentucky's run ends in the semis, sending preseason favorite Duke to the title game after all. But this Kansas team looks an awful lot like Bill Self's 2008 title team -- deep, fast, explosive and confident. The Jayhawks get another One Shining Moment.
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