NCAA Tourney Review

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We’ve gotten 68 down to four, so lets take a look back at some of the things that stood out the last two weeks.

The play-in games (I refuse to refer to it as the “first round”) continue to be a potential springboard for an unlikely tournament run.

For the fourth straight year since its inception, a (non – 16 seed) team has buoyed a win in Dayton into an upset a few days later. In 2011, VCU famously stormed their way to the Final Four as an 11 seed after dispatching Southern Cal in a play-in game; South Florida beat 5 seed Temple before being knocked off by Ohio in 2012; last year, La Salle beat Kansas St and Ole Miss before losing to Wichita St in the Sweet 16. This year, Tennessee scraped by Iowa in OT in Dayton and then took care of UMass and Mercer. Only a dodgy officiating decision kept them from the Elite Eight. NC St easily could have made it two teams from Dayton advancing even further; the Wolfpack couldn’t close out St Louis, despite being up 11 with a little over three minutes to play.

If I’m one of the last four teams in, I would be pretty happy heading to Dayton. Get a win there and you have several advantages heading into your next game:

– Confidence. You’re only as good as your last game, so a win gets a team feeling positive and less of an underdog before the next matchup. The first game is out of the way, so any associated jitters should be also.

– You can catch a team that hasn’t played in a while. Georgetown hadn’t played in nine days when they met VCU, and UMass had not played in a week when they faced Tennessee. Coaches prefer their players rested; but give them a choice of four days or a week – my guess is they don’t want a week between games for the first time since probably November.

How did the conferences stack up? Instead of only wins and losses, lets take a look at what the top seven conferences did against each other:

Big Ten: 5-5. Outside of Wisconsin, a disappointing showing.

Pac 12: 1-5. Fell flat on their face, although Arizona beat solid Gonzaga and SD St squads before playing Wisconsin pretty much even.

ACC: 4-5. Only had Virginia in the Sweet 16; Duke and Syracuse underachieved.

AAC: 6-2. Word has it that part of the reason the selection committee had Louisville as a 4 seed was their weak conference. That conference schedule certainly didn’t hurt UConn’s performance.

Big 12: 4-5. Considered the best conference by many, and had the most teams (7). Without an Elite 8 team, and Oklahoma and Kansas were bounced early.

Big East: 0-3. A performance to forget for the newly aligned Big East.

SEC: 7-1. Slammed by many (myself included) as the worst SEC in 25 years top to bottom, the conference responded my mashing all comers save a Tennessee loss to Michigan that could have went either way. I didn’t bother to look at what the rest of the SEC did in the NIT/CBI.

A-10: 4-4. Personally, I fancied St Louis and VCU doing some damage; it was Dayton that surprised with a run to the Elite Eight. Regrettable performance overall.

I wouldn’t call it parity – there are no great teams but quite a few very good teams. Take a look at Thursday and Friday’s eight Sweet 16 games: there was only one blowout, and four of those games came down to a couple possessions. Saturday and Sunday was no different, as only Florida-Dayton wasn’t close with under a minute on the clock. You had to feel bad for an Arizona team that was every bit as good as Wisconsin. The same could be said for Michigan, and if you go back to the Sweet 16 matchups, Virginia is Michigan St’s equal and Tennessee (as mentioned previously) deserved to progress. You can honestly say that when you factor in their pre-tourney body of work, Michigan; Michigan St; Arizona; Iowa St; Louisville; and Virginia are very good teams that were merely outplayed on a possession or two that kept them out of this weekend’s games.

Next up: Final Four breakdown on Friday

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