The Noles are legit
How did the Noles get here? It is a good question, but last night showed a very athletic team with the BEST defense in the country. When some 3's are dropping this team has just enough firepower to believe that there will be more than one game remaining in the season.
There is also the wildcard of Chris Singleton. FSU's top talent is still recovering from injury, but he has played and another 4-5 days off might be just what the doctor ordered. There was genuine concern when Singleton went down that the Nole Cagers would miss the tourney, however a DEEP team responded.
Last night we saw what this team is capable of doing, the hope is that we see that same "game" 2-3-4 times.
The ACC is still the top basketball conference in the country
Four ACC teams made the tourney and their conference record stands at 7-1. Three teams still remain with Duke being amongst the three favorites to win it all and UNC/FSU both carrying the "dangerous tag". Somewhere Seth Greenberg states "I told you so." Greenberg's VT team has been on the wrong end of the bubble a number of times, this year because of the perceived weakness of the ACC.
That "weakness" was way overblown. Sure Maryland, GT, and Wake Forest are not where they once were, but the conference is still tough from top to bottom. It deserves five bids(at least) EVERY year.
The Big East is way over-rated
The Big East got an amazing 11 bids to the tourney, but only have TWO teams still alive. Unbelievably both of those teams beat other Big East teams to get there--in essence they were guaranteed those two spots.
No one doubts that the 16 team league is very deep and that the style of play is physical. But 11 bids seemed extreme when other major conferences are getting just four bids. Marquette is showing that depth by being one of the two teams still alive, they finished 11th in the conference, but there were no top teams in the league. Sometimes you need to remind the media that when two teams meet, someone has to win(a lesson the SEC football teams might want to take note of).
UCONN is in position to make the Final Four however because of the play of Kemba Walker. At least one Final Four berth would ease the pain of the conference.
To add insult to injury, Sir Charles Barkley had an exchange with Louisville HC Rick Pitino before the FSU-ND game where Pitino "guaranteed" an Irish win. Needless to say at half-time there was a little egg on the legendary coach's face.
At this point in the season, these two teams have been the most consistently dominating in the country. Both have just two losses and they are to tourney teams.
Ohio State is one of the most storied programs in the country with 10 Final Fours and a one National Title, but they are also one of the most snake-bitten. The Buckeye's have lost four NC games in their history including one several years ago to UF.
Kansas is one of the "Big 6" programs(with UCLA, Kentucky, UNC, Duke, and Indiana) and is currently the fifth most successful program of all-time with 13 Final Fours and 3 National Titles, but, like OSU, they also carry the label of "underachiever". They have lost FIVE times in the tile game---one each to Duke, Indiana, and North Carolina. Head Coach Bill Self has enjoyed enormous success in Lawrence, but the natives are once again restless after the debacle to Northern Iowa last year. This is seen as a prime opportunity to hang banner #4.
Five Mid-Majors are still alive
Let's take a look at these programs:
Butler: They came within a shot of the National Title a year ago and have been undervalued all year. They have some next level talent and the experience from last year that should pay off. Head Coach Brad Stevens should top the list of "coaches in demand", but he has a good thing going at Butler and the opportunity to play home games in legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse.
San Diego State: In a week that saw the 30for30 special on the "Fab 5", the man who lucked his way into coaching that group(and winning a National Title with the Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught, Terry Mills) is making a name for himself with a very athletic group at SDSU. The man has won some tourney games in his career and this team appears to be as dangerous as some of the great UNLV teams under Jerry Tarkanian.
Virginia Commonwealth: They have bombed USC(59-46), Georgetown(74-56), and Purdue(94-76) thus far. Next up is the nation's best defensive team in FSU. There was plenty of chatter about them getting the bid over VT, but that discussion should focus on another program as the Ram's have proven that they belong. It is a long week til the next game, can they stay hot?
Richmond: We will always remember Richmond for their early round defeat of Bobby Knight's Indiana team in the 80's. They have had the easiest road however; the Spider's held on to beat Vanderbilt and then blasted less talented Morehead State. Up next is heavyweight Kansas.
BYU: The Cougar's have the nations most explosive offensive player in Jimmer Fredette. They were cast off for dead after starting forward Brandon Davies was suspended from the team, but solid wins over Wofford and Gonzaga have BYU back on the tips of peoples tongues. They get UF next and beat the Gators last year in double OT in round one.
Plenty of "blue bloods" remaining
Despite the presence of some upsets, there is plenty of "blue blood" teams remaining. Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky are 4 at the top of the food chain in the annals of college basketball history. Connecticut, Arizona, Wisconsin, Marquette, and Florida have all either won a NC or been to the Final Four on multiple occasions. The cream usually rises to the top.
West- Anaheim, Ca
Thurs, 7:15: UCONN(-1) vs. SDSU
Thurs, 9:45: Duke(-8.5) vs. Arizona
Southeast- New Orleans, La
Thurs, 7:27: UF(-2.5) vs. BYU
Thurs, 9:57: Wisconsin(-4) vs. Butler
East- Newark, NJ
Fri, 7:15: UNC(-4.5) vs. Marquette
Fri, 9:45: OSU(-5) vs. Kentucky
Southwest- San Antonio, Tx
Fri, 7:27: KU(-11) vs. Richmond
Fri, 9:57: FSU(-4) vs. VCU
All Tourney Team- First Two Rounds
G: Kemba Walker, UCONN
G: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
F: Kawhi Leonard, SDSU
F: Markief Morris, Kansas
C: Jared Sullinger, OSU
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