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Some disjointed thoughts on some very interesting teams that will play in a very uninteresting NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Field.
Notre Dame A basketball team that completely re-invented itself in the middle of it’s season, faced with the necessity to do so, or to end it’s season early in the Big East tournament. The result: six straight wins in the NCAA’s toughest conference, and a two point loss at the buzzer to Big East Champion West Virginia. Notre Dame enters this tournament as one of the toughest outs anywhere in the bracket, but they’ll have to handle another tough out, Old Dominion, in the first round.
Oklahoma State beat Kansas decisively in Big 12 conference play, so they might be the team best equipped to handle Georgia Tech and Ohio State in the first two rounds. If and when they can get by the two teams they’ll play this weekend, Georgetown is going to be a near reprieve in the sweet sixteen. I think they can come out of this and earn their rematch against Kansas.
Kansas State is the team that first de-throned the Texas Longhorns, and this was before we found out that UT wasn’t going to be much of a threat down the stretch. They’ve been unable to overcome Kansas, but they’ve been a top ten team in the country throughout the year, and they’ve got the best chance to play in the final four of any team that is not a number one seed.
Michigan State is never really not a great pick to make a run in the tournament, as they are pretty much an ACC team stranded in the north. Duke, without the villain aspect. But this year, there’s simply not a whole lot of upside for last year’s runner up. They’re going to be a dead heat with Maryland, and that’s if they can get out of the first round against New Mexico State. And if they happen to make it through to the Sweet 16, which wouldn’t be all that shocking given their history, there’s not a whole lot Michigan State can do to beat Kansas. It wasn’t a good draw for Tom Izzo’s crew, and they’re not playing their best game right now to boot.
Marquette is such a strong team that squeezes the most out of its recruits, and on top of their accomplishments, their draw in the tournament is really good. And yet, I don’t think they are going to be able to travel out to the west coast and beat a less accomplished but more talented Washington team. Marquette will make an early exit before they can get going.
Baylor sports very strong fundamentals this year, which would normally make them a great investment to do well in this tournament. But, if Notre Dame can slip by ODU (and that’s far from a certainty), the culmination of everything they have accomplished in the past three weeks will come to a head against Baylor. And at the end of the day, the number one peripheral value in college sports is program history. Notre Dame has had it’s best tournament season in school history, Baylor is talented but unestablished, and I think they’ll make the exist prior to the sweet 16, one way or another.
[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=jon+scheyer&iid=8234614″ src=”d/c/b/8/ACC_Basketball_Tournament_9590.jpg?adImageId=11303185&imageId=8234614″ width=”234″ height=”366″ /] The Kansas City area media, normally the poster children for midwestern modesty, are nearly unanimous in their assertion that this year’s Kansas team is the best college basketball team any of them have ever seen. Jason Whitlock, in particular, has been notoriously vocal in this assessment. The numbers support them. Kansas appears to be every bit as dangerous as any team has been going into the tournament. I cannot say the same for an overachieving Syracuse, or even a great team like Kentucky. However…
They are not my favorites to take the tournament. The favorites, according to this non-expert, are the Duke Blue Devils. My comment about program strength should have probably given this away, but Duke excels in two critical areas: perimeter shooting, and perimeter defense. For all of what OSU’s Evan Turner can do, I wouldn’t bet against even odds that Jon Scheyer has the best tournament of any player. Duke is a near lock to be in the final four, thanks to their lucky draw, and beyond that point, they will progress purely on merit. I do not feel comfortable picking anyone in this weakened field besides Duke, which makes them the pick.