Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tournament Thoughts

On the eve of Selection Sunday, here are my last minute observations before the greatest 3 weeks (14 if you include the NBA Playoffs) of basketball begin.
  • I'm going with the popular opinion in stating that the four number one seeds should be Pitt, UNC, Louiville, and UConn, in that order. Ever since UConn's Jerome Dyson went down for the season, Pitt and Carolina have been the two best teams in the country. Louiville gets the nod because it won the regular season and post season championship for the 2008-09 Big East, which this year was one of the toughest conferences in the history of College Basketball. UConn gets the fourth number one seed by default because honestly, who else deserves it? Oklahoma didn't play very well at the end of the season, even when Blake Griffin, and they didn't advance very far in the Big 12 tournament. I think Memphis is underrated and I expect them to make the final Four, but there's no reason they should be awarded a number one seed given how soft their schedule was. Michigan State doesn't have enough quality wins to put the Spartans ahead of UConn. But the funniest thing I heard all day was that Duke might sneak in for the final spot. in the immortal words of John McEnroe, "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!!!!!!!!" This year's Duke team has been just like every other Duke team since 2004. They're being overrated because they peaked in December/Jamuary, they have no athleticism, they are suspect defensively, and other then Gerald Henderson (and maybe Nolan Smith) it doesn't appear that anyone on this roster will ever be part of an NBA rotation.
  • One underrated aspect of the Tournament is getting to watch a future NBA lottery pick put a traditionally moribund program on his shoulders and take that team way farther than it has any business going. Examples of this include Greg Oden with Ohio State, Deron Williams with Illinois, Dwayne Wade with Marquette, the Fab Five with Michigan, Magic Johnson with Michigan State, and Larry Bird with Indiana State. It will be fun to watch Oklahoma's Blake Griffin, ASU's James Harden, USC's Demar Derozan, and possibly others attempt to do the same.
  • I thought Kansas really hurt itself by losing to Baylor. The Jayhawks were in play for a two seed (and maybe even a one seed), but now they might slip all the way to a four seed. There's virtually no difference between a one and a two, but there's a significant difference between being a two and a four.
  • I definitely think North Carolina is an elite team and should probably get to the Final Four. But don't fall into the trap of overrating them simply because there are so many seniors. Senior leadership is important for Bracket busting mid majors, who need poised players that aren't intimidated by the prospect of playing against highly touted phenoms. But at a big program like Carolina that's not the case. All of these players came back simply because none of them would've been NBA 1st rounders except for Ty Lawson. I understand why people emphasize the importance of having seniors, but that maxim doesn't apply here.
  • I can already see it now: Butler will once again be disrespected by the Selection Comittee. Last year the 29-3 bulldogs were awarded a 7 seed even though they were probably better than a lot of 5 and 6 seeds. This year Butler will probably get an extremely low seed, and will make for a very tempting bracket buster.
  • Syracuse looks like an upset waiting to happen. They played four games in four nights in the Big East Tournament, and when you factor in the 7 overtimes they played (including 6 in the instant classic against UConn), they basically played 5 games in four nights. They will be exhausted by the time they have to play their 1st round game. Also,if you recall, in 2006 Gerry Macnamara had an incredible run in the Big East Tourney in which he willed his team to a win in the tournament. So what happened in the big dance? The Syracuse Macnamaras were so gassed that they couldn't win a single game.
  • One team that I see as a sleeper is LSU. The Tigers have terrific athleticism, and they really flown under the radar despite dominating the SEC.
  • People need to stop taking the issue of bubble teams so seriously. When was the last time any of those "last four in" teams won anything in the tournament? And does anybody really think that those "first four out" teams had any shot at the sweet 16, let alone the national title?