Breaking Down The Brackets: First Look

Steve O Speak

I know Kansas is the number one overall seed, but my question is does the selection committee know that? I ask because I feel the Jayhawks might have the toughest road to the Championship game of any 1 seed. Kansas should cruise in the first two rounds, but in the Sweet 16 they will face a likely match up against either (4) Maryland or (5) Michigan State. That is by far the toughest 4 or 5 match ups in any of the regions. Looking ahead further their Elite 8 match up will be likely against either Ohio State or Georgetown, which I think you can make a strong case being the best 2-3 seed combo in the regions as well. Probably the only advantage for Kansas is that the bottom of the bracket is probably the toughest you find, and it is quite possible that neither Ohio St. or Georgetown make it to the Elite 8. (6) Tennessee, (7) Oklahoma St., and (10) Georgia Tech all have the talent to make a serious run in the bottom of that bracket.

If Kansas has the hardest road, Duke by far has the easiest path to the Final Four. If they don’t make it to the Elite 8, Duke should just stop playing basketball because they don’t deserve to be in Division 1 if they can’t succeed in the cakewalk of a region they have. First, they got placed in the South, where they should have a good bit of support. Secondly they having nothing in front of them for the first 3 rounds. In the 2nd round they will face either (8) California or (9) Louisville. Cal doesn’t have any impressive wins this season, they lost to top teams, and beat the teams they were supposed to. While they did win the Pac-10 regular season, the Conference was extremely down this year, giving little credence to the belief they can be a threat to Duke. Louisville was able to stay somewhat competitive in the ultra-tough Big East, but with the exception of their two wins against Syracuse, they weren’t able to beat any team that was better than them. They did take a number of teams down to the wire, but weren’t able to close out games. Unfortunately for them they lack the upper-level talent to beat Duke. On paper Duke should have a tough Sweet 16 match up with (4) Purdue (seriously Texas A&M does not impress me as a 5 seed, I think they are completely overrated), but Purdue is really hurting with the loss of star Robbie Hummel. I’m guessing they don’t make it to the Sweet 16 without him, and it wouldn’t shock me if (12) Utah State is Duke’s opponent in the Sweet 16.

Luckily there is some real talent in the bottom of the region, so Duke doesn’t have a coronation into the Final Four. Either (2) Villanova or (3) Baylor should be able to overcome the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight if they make it that far. Both are better all-around teams that should give Duke plenty of problems. Even if there is an upset and one of the lower seeds come out of the bottom of that region, Duke will have a solid opponent. I think (11) Old Dominion, (7) Richmond, and (6) Notre Dame could make a serious run in the region. Overall though Duke really lucked out with their region, they should be well rested by the time they make the Elite Eight, which could be a major advantage.

All-in-all the tournament looks exciting with a number of great match-ups. My one gripe is the omission of Mississippi State. Now I realize you can’t judge a team solely by their Conference Tournament performance, but I think Mississippi State was very deserving of a bid. This team was one-tenth of a second away from earning an automatic bid, and instead has to settle for a 1 seed in the NIT. They took the best team in the nation down to the wire, on a “neutral” court (I think Kentucky fans out numbered Bulldog fans 20-1). And on the way to facing Kentucky, they knocked off Vanderbilt (a ranked team and a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament), and Florida (a bubble team that they should have taken the place of). Now I know they had some bad losses on their schedule, but the Bulldogs can play, and its hard for me to see a team like Florida or Minnesota make it over them. Minnesota seemingly made it because of their tournament run where they knocked off Michigan State and Purdue. But the difference is Purdue was without their best player, and in the Championship game Minnesota lost by almost 30 points against Ohio State. While Ohio State is the 5th or 6th best team in the country they aren’t as good as Kentucky, whom Mississippi State came so close to beating.

What are your thoughts–who was snubbed and who is overranked?

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