The NCAA Tournament brackets are in and, as usual, there are plenty of questions. Here are the brackets and my thoughts on them:
The number one, no. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks head up the Midwest Bracket and will start off by facing 16 seed Lehigh out of the Patriot League. For being the first no. 1 seed, Kansas has an oddly difficult run to the final four. Their first matchup, should they get past Lehigh, would be the winner of the UNLV/Northern Iowa game. Both teams have the ability to take Kansas down although it would be rather unlikely. The rest of this half of the Midwest bracket includes games between Michigan State and New Mexico State and Maryland and Houston. Either Michigan State or Maryland would formidable opponents for Kansas. So, just getting to the elite 8 could be a very difficult trip for Kansas. Once they get there, they'll be facing the winners of the other half of the Midwest Bracket.
Cameron Rundles and his Wofford teammates cheer after Wofford was picked for the NCAA college basketball tournament, as they watch the selection show in Spartanburg, S.C., on Sunday, March 14, 2010. Wofford plays Wisconsin on Friday. (AP Photo)
Leading the second half of the bracket is no. 2 seed Ohio State. The Buckeyes start their run by facing no. 15 seed California-Santa Barbara hailing from the Big West. Other first round matchups include Tennessee/San Diego State, Georgetown/Ohio U. and Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech. It seems to me that Ohio State has a comparatively easy path forward notwithstanding a possible tough tilt with Georgetown.
In any case, is this really any way to treat the number 1, number 1?
And what about the number 2, number 1 seed, East bracket leader Kentucky? After East Tennessee State, they face the winner of Texas/Wake Forest. That's not going to be an easy trick regardless of which one wins that first round game. If Atlantic 10 winner Temple can beat Cornell and Wisconsin can upend Wofford, we may be looking at one of the most exciting games of the second round. And Kentucky, should they get to the regional semis, would get to face the winner of that contest. Rough.
On the other side of the East bracket, only Montana, who plays 3 seed New Mexico, and Morgan State, who faces 2 seed West Virginia are not strong possibilities to advance. The other two matchups feature Marquette vs. Washington and Clemson vs. Missouri. This half of this bracket promises to be a definite battle royale and the team that claws it's way through, is going to be out for blood.
Clemson forward Trevor Booker reacts after seeing Clemson seeding was announced, as the team watched the NCAA college basketball tournament selection show Sunday, March 14, 2010, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo)
The West is lead by Syracuse, the fourth number 1 seed. As befits the fourth bracket, this may be the weakest field of them all. Or, at the very least, the one most evenly set. I suspect that this will be the bracket that confounds so-called "bracketologists" the most, though. And it might turn out to be the most exciting to watch. The matchups in the West:
1 Syracuse vs. 16 Vermont
8 Gonzaga vs. 9 Florida State
5 Butler vs. 12 Texas-El Paso
4 Vanderbilt vs. 13 Murray State
6 Xavier vs. 11 Minnesota
3 Pittsburgh vs. 14 Oakland, Mich.
7 Brigham Young vs. 10 Florida
2 Kansas St. vs. 15 North Texas
The bracket that surprises me the most, however, is the South bracket headed by number 3, number 1 seed, Duke. Starting with Duke getting the play-in game, I don't really see anyone jumping with with much gusto to knock them off. Who's that impressive? 8 seed California plays 9 seed Louisville. Good teams but final four worthy? 5 Texas A&M starts with Utah State. Um, no. 4 Purdue sees 13 Siena. Depending on which team shows up, Purdue could be in big trouble. Injuries may prove to be too much of a setback for them to deal with. 6 Notre Dame goes up against 11 Old Dominion. 3 Baylor plays 14 Sam Houston State. Expect to see the Irish to be mauled the Bears in round 2. No. 7 Richmond SHOULD beat no. 10 St. Mary's but don't be surprised if they don't. No. 2 'nova should crush 15 Robert Morris and then have little difficulty with either Richmond or St. Mary's. If it gets that far, I can't prognosticate between Baylor and Villanova but can either one beat Duke?
On paper, that is. I know that, in a win-or-go-home situation, anything can happen. That's the beauty of the tournament, I think we all know that. Still, it seems to me that Duke is getting off pretty easy, here. Notwithstanding that, I predict Duke will NOT make it out of the region. Who will? I don't know. But if Duke does, I'll be (mildly) surprised.
But now, who got jobbed? That's always the biggest water cooler discussion prior to the first tip on Thursday. Head scratchers include Minnesota, Florida, UTEP and Houston (IN) and Illinois, Virginia Tech and Mississippi State (OUT). I don't know if they made the right decisions or not but I am glad I wasn't in their position. All I can say is that those teams who had strong cases but didn't make the tournament have no one to blame but themselves. Play better during the season and don't give the committee a chance burst your bubble. Not that it matters, every year someone will complain, rightly or wrongly. It's part of what makes March so much fun.
MOPSquad Sports is renewing it's annual tournament pick-em challenge. It runs through Yahoo! and if anyone is interested in joining, let me know with a private message on the MOPSquad forum no later than noon (CDT) on WEDNESDAY. If there's room, I'll try to get you in. Anyone who tries to enter after noon on Wednesday, however, is out of luck.