Sunday, March 20, 2011
There Will Be Madness (Bracketology Fails, Little East and Upsets)
I've been watching March Madness for 16 years and this year's version is one of the wackiest since 2000 when 8 of the top 12 teams (2 No. 1's, 3 No. 2's, 3 No. 3's) were gone after the first weekend and we had two No. 8 seeds in the Final Four. Granted we still have 3 No. 1's and all the No. 2's but here's who's still dancing: No. 11 VCU, No. 11 Marquette, No. 10 Florida State, and No. 12 Richmond.
VCU, a First Four team or Florida State will be an Elite Eight team while higher seeds Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pitt will be watching this weekend's games at home. I'll bury the Big East later but think about that. Who honestly had half of those teams advance?
That's the beauty of March. The surprise stories as well as the expected ones which help you almost forget your bracket. I remember past years watching VCU beat Duke with Eric Maynor and nearly beat UCLA the following year. Florida State beat Duke earlier this year with physical play and Marquette hasn't gone this far since I saw Dwyane Wade mess around and get a triple double on Kentucky in 03.
Speaking of my bracket, it looks good if you only count the East and West brackets. I lost a total of three teams, including two Sweet 16 picks. But if you click below and look at the right side, it's got more red than those Red Asphalt tapes they made us watch in driver's ed.
More reason for me to hate the South. Terrible luck picking teams. My Southeast bracket on the bottom right has been shot, including my Final Four pick Pittsburgh. I'm in the bottom half of most of my pools because I took more gambles than I should've and didn't predict the ones that happened (except for being 3rd in one ESPN pool)
Which leads me to the Big East, the 2nd biggest story of the tournament.
11 Teams in, half are gone by the start of the "3rd round" (by the way, is this another casualty of the First Four? Hate it.) and four more to follow. The best conference in America? I sure didn't think so this year when I saw teams besides UConn and Pitt. Syracuse was overrated, Notre Dame was nice but not elite. If St. John's didn't lose their 2nd best player to an ACL injury, they would've been a Sweet 16 team.
Let's all point and laugh at this ineptitude of overhype and comeuppance. If not for Kemba Walker's brilliance and Steve Lavin's resurgence, that conference would be a bigger joke this year. Five of the nine lost by 8 or more points and you can't blame Louisville for losing by one. Pitt's loss will go down as one of the most heartbreaking and surreal 8 seconds I've ever seen.
Big East? More like the Little East. Glad we kicked out the children so the big boys can keep dancing.
- Morehead State's Kenny Faried earned himself a trip to the NBA Draft with his two stellar games this weekend. Amazing rebounder and defender who'll make some team proud.
- Texas/Arizona lived up to the hype of maybe the best 2nd round (excuse me, 3rd round) game besides San Diego State and Temple. The first few hours of the 1st round were probably some of the best excitement I've seen in years.
- UCLA, Michigan and St. John's will be Top 10 teams next year, assuming nobody leaves. I'm proud of my Bruins for hanging tough with Florida after nearly blowing a big lead to Michigan State. Michigan's got a backcourt to watch for 2 years with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris. And St. John's is bringing in another Top-5 recruiting class.
- Kansas is still alive. Surprise, surprise. Not as surprising as Wisconsin
- I'm happy for several LA kids I covered showing up big in the tournament. Jordan Hamilton (Texas), Derrick Williams (Arizona), DJ Gay and Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State), Morris (Michigan), and Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA) all repped the City of Angels proud.
Week 2 of the Madness coming up Thursday. Already looking forward to previewing Duke vs. Arizona - rematch of one of my favorite teen memories. The 2001 National Title Game.