A rather busy week has kept me from diving too deep into the nitty gritty of this year’s NCAA tournament field.
It’s the first week of kickball practice, so I’ve been making sure our teams are good to go, balls have been inflated and distributed, and making sure all the stuff I need to clear with the school office before teams get outside has been cleared.
M had her scheduling night at CHS on Tuesday. Really we could have done it at home, but it was interesting to sit through the presentations before hand. It sure seems like there is a ton more support for kids than there was when I was in high school…THIRTY PLUS YEARS AGO. Holy shit. And going gave us a shot to run into the spirit store and buy her first round of uniform shirts.
I’ve also had to deal with contractors. We’ve had some touch-up work done to the projects we did last fall. The crew was supposed to arrive Tuesday, but after waiting around for 90 minutes and no one showing, I made a call and found out they had pushed to Wednesday without informing us. So Wednesday I was in my sit around on the iPad, watch TV, and make sure the painters paint the right stuff mode again.
Long way of setting up I don’t have a ton of deep thoughts about this year’s tournament. I was at the Champions Classic in November. I saw Duke destroy Kentucky. I’ve known what’s up for four-plus months. Even with the randomness of the NCAA tournament, this year is all about Zion and Duke. They can lose. But this is one of those rare years when it will be a monumental upset if they don’t win. Then again, the 2014–15 Kentucky team was supposed to be a sure-thing, and America was saved from that fate…so that Duke could win. Sometimes even when you win you lose.
Looking at the Big 12, I have no idea what to make of this year’s group of tournament squads. My first inclination is to say this will not be a banner year for the conference, certainly not like last year when three teams reached the Elite 8. There are no great teams, every team has significant flaws, and then each team’s performance in the conference tournament highlights different angles of why this time of the year is so hard to predict.
Take Iowa State, for example. Do we evaluate them as the team they were at the tail end of the conference season, when they looked lost? Or do we take them as the team that ran through the conference tournament and decide all their issues are fixed and they’re the most dangerous team of the Big 12’s bunch? Or…do we throw out what happened last weekend because the ‘Clones always play their best ball in the Big 12 tournament?
Texas Tech would seem to be the Big 12 team best suited for a long run. They were simply awesome in February, finally giving Jarrett Culver support on offense while continuing to play their intense defense. But, opposite of ISU, the Red Raiders simply did not show up in KC. Which team is the real Texas Tech?
Kansas State got a great draw, well at least for the first weekend. But they will always struggle on offense and if Dean Wade’s latest injury is as bad as it seems to be and his career is over, they are really going to struggle to score the 55 or so points they need to win even with their defense.
I’m struggling with my picks because I’m not sure what to do with the teams I watch the most. Every Big 12 team going out early would not surprise me. But three or even four teams getting their shit together for a weekend and making it to the Sweet 16 isn’t a completely ridiculous notion, either.
OK, big picture time.
Obviously, I’m picking Duke to go deep. I think their bracket is the weakest of the four, they stay in ACC country the entire time, and if Zion is healthy there’s no one out there who can guard him.
In the West, I feel like I, and a lot of people, just forget about Gonzaga once the conference seasons begin. So I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a return to the Final Four or if they’re still awesome and it’s just because I haven’t seen them play since December. I think Florida State could give them fits. But John Beilein is the current Best Tournament Coach out there. You know what, I’m getting nutty and picking FSU.
The Midwest has the potential to be a treeeeemendous Sweet 16 in Kansas City. I like Carolina and Kentucky to get through, and Calipari to beat Roy in a game that KU fans will struggle to figure out who to root for or against.
I sooooo badly want to jump on Virginia’s bandwagon this year. I generally do not like them, but I’ve loved the way Tony Bennett has handled their loss to UMBC last March. They are a hell of a team, but I’m worried they are a player short of what you need to win four games. The South is, to my eyes, fairly open for the top two seeds. Tennessee playing a regional final in Louisville seems like a good thing. Rick Barnes will remind folks, especially in Texas, that he’s a hell of a coach and get the Vols to the Final Four.
So, Duke, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee. Duke beats Tennessee easily for the title. Count on two of those teams getting beat this weekend…
- I also treated myself to a pretty sweet CHS hat. It was quite a deal, only $25 for a stretch-fit Under Armour cap. I guarantee the exact same hat with Notre Dame on the back instead of Cathedral would cost at least $10 more at Dick’s. ↩