The bubble watch is over and the field for the NCAA Tournament has been set, so here are some of my initial thoughts:
(1) Illinois Homer Analysis – The Illini have been on the edge of the bubble for essentially the entire season, so it wasn’t surprising to see them end up being one of the last 4 at-large invitees to the NCAA Tourney as a #12-seed in the West Region. However, I feel pretty good about the draw with getting placed in the heart of Big Ten country in Columbus against a solid, but certainly not unbeatable, Virginia Tech team. In fact, this is the first time I’m going to be able to pencil in my own team for the annual 12-over-5 upset – we haven’t been pretty, yet any Big Ten team as a 12-seed is going to be a bit dangerous (especially considering that our twin brother Purdue drew a 9-seed). Also, it looks as if though the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has a sense of humor putting Kansas, Illinois, and Southern Illinois in the same bracket considering that Bill Self’s move to Lawrence spurred the Illini to hire Bruce Weber from the Salukis. (Similar situations are in the bottom half of the West bracket with Ben Howland/UCLA/Pitt and the South with Thad Matta/Ohio State/Xavier) Anyway, I’ve felt as negative about Illinois on the court as anyone lately, but a Sweet Sixteen isn’t out of the question as a result of the potential matchups in the first two rounds. Unfortunately, there’s no way that we can get past a team as talented as Kansas, as much as it pains me to say.
(2) Is Georgetown Really That Awesome? – The analysts from across the country seem to be convinced that Georgetown has the easiest road to the regional final round out of anyone. I can see from where they’re coming from – Vanderbilt is way overrated as a 6-seed, while Washington State, Boston College, and Texas Tech all have heavy flaws. That being said, I always feel some bad chi with any team that everyone believes is a lock to advance, particularly since the Hoyas in particular have lost to Ol’ Dirty, er, Old Dominion University (a 12-seed this year) and NIT-bound Syracuse. Maybe Washington State comes out from the bottom half of East bracket? You never know.
(3) UNC Kind of Got Screwed – North Carolina’s “reward” for grabbing a #1 seed was to get placed in a bracket with Texas as a 4-seed. It’s been said everywhere a million times but I’ll need to say it again: Kevin Durant is a monster and there’s no way I’d want to face the Longhorns in the tournament. With the way that Texas has hung in with Kansas, possibly the most loaded team in the country, over the past couple of weeks, a Carmelo Anthony-in-2003-type run for Durant isn’t out of the question.
(4) Ohio State is in Good Shape – The Buckeyes have been clicking straight through to Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, so they got a good draw in the South region. Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. have a great inside-outside combo while the entire team plays fantastic defense. As long as they don’t end up playing Texas A&M in the regional final (which is being held in Aggie-friendly San Antonio), Ohio State is the team that I’m most confident in making it to the Final Four.
(5) Praising Arizona???!!! – If you recall (which I hope you don’t), I picked Arizona to win it all back in November. That led the Wildcats to essentially mail it in for the majority of the Pac-10 season to put them at the 8-seed position to set them up with a potential second round date with defending champ and #1 overall seed Florida. What are the chances of Arizona knocking off Florida to turn me into the sage of the century? Pretty slim, but I will say that Arizona might be the most talented 8-seed that I can ever remember (which is another way of saying that they were massive underachievers this year).
(6) BCS Championship Rematch? Odds Say No, So the Final Four Will Be… – Notwithstanding my misplaced thinking on Arizona above, the obvious pick would be an Ohio State-Florida final, which would create the unprecedented scenario of having the same two schools in the championship games for both football and basketball. However, the odds over the years show that two 1-seeds meeting in the final doesn’t happen very often. So, my 2007 NCAA Tournament prediction is a Final Four of Oregon, Kansas, Texas, and Ohio State (maybe I’m wishing too much for a Durant vs. Oden matchup), with Ohio State beating Kansas for the national championship.
Regardless of what happens, I’m pumped up for the best sporting event of the year. Enjoy filling out your brackets!