3:00pm – Minutes after watching Georgia pull off the shocker versus Arkansas to claim their bid (and potentially knock out a Pac-10 team off the bubble) and seeing Tiger Woods do his usual winning thing by knocking down the birdie on the 18th hole, I switch over to CBS just in time to see Greg Gumbel say hello to the United States as he gets ready to set-up the brackets for all to see.
3:03 – The #1 seeds are announced and there is not a surprise amongst the bunch as North Carolina (the overall #1 seed) is in the East, Kansas in the Midwest, Memphis in the South, and UCLA in the West. In the Final Four, the East champion will play the Midwest winner, while the South survivor takes on the West's king. Thank goodness we didn't see another switch back to naming the regions by city. I just love the directionality of the regions and makes things easier to follow. The regional locations for this year:
East – Charlotte, North Carolina – Charlotte Bobcats Arena
Midwest – Detroit, Michigan – Ford Field
South – Houston, Texas – Reliant Stadium
West – Phoenix, Arizona – US Airways Center (Home of the Phoenix Suns)
3:10 – Washington State is the first Pac-10 team announced as the #4 seed in the East with the first two rounds being played in Denver. They'll battle Winthrop, the #13 Seed out of the Big South. Last year, Winthrop was the #11 and pulled off an upset over Notre Dame, before falling to Oregon. The committee shows their sense of humor in this foursome as Notre Dame is the #5 here, playing #12 George Mason, the Colonial champs, giving the Fighting Irish a chance at revenge if they get past the former Cinderella story from 2006.
3:12 – The East is now all done. Butler got shafted, playing as the #7 seed, despite being 29-3 and the #10 team in the nation according to today's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. If they beat South Alabama, then they get a chance to play Tennessee in the second round. If the seeds hold to form, Louisville versus Tennessee in Charlotte will be one heck of a match-up. North Carolina would take on Washington State in what would be another intriguing battle between two different styles of play.
3:19 – USC is the next Pac-10 team to be slotted in the tournament. They get a #6 seed, which is where most folks were projecting them to be before the draw was announced. They'll get to take on one of the last at-large teams in the field, Kansas State, and play them in Omaha on Thursday. Not exactly what they wanted, but still, a good seed for the Trojans and they may be able to do some damage if they get past the Wildcats. The winner of Wisconsin/Cal State Fullerton awaits the winner of the Trojans/Wildcats game being played on Thursday.
3:21 – The Midwest is now done with their draw. I sort of do wish we were in this region as I thought the teams matched up well there with the Cardinal, but alas, we're probably going to be the #3 seed in the South, playing in Houston. Here we have Kansas, Georgetown, Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt as the top seeds, which will mean some nip-tuck battling in Detroit. Anyone else think Vanderbilt versus Siena could be a race to see which team scores 100 first while Georgetown and Wisconsin would be a battle to see if they reach 100 points combined? My prediction as we move our way to the South region is that the Top 4 seeds aiming for Houston will be Memphis, Texas, Stanford, and Connecticut.
3:26 – Another surprise shows up on the screen as Oregon gets into the field as a #9 seed, playing Mississippi State in Little Rock on Friday. Bracketologists were split on having Oregon in the field, but most didn't have them this high. This could be a good sign for Arizona or Arizona State, as only one will get into the field. The winner of this game will more than likely take on Memphis in the second round.
3:28 – There are the Cardinal as the #3 seed in the South. They'll be taking on the #14 Cornell Big Red, the undefeated Ivy League champions, in Anaheim on Thursday. I'll go deeper into their team in another column, but we know they haven't lost to anyone since an early January game at Duke, where they fell to the Blue Devils 81-67, they shoot 49% from the field, 41% from beyond the arc, and 76% from the charity stripe, while opponents shoot 42% from the field. Cornell also played their last game on March 8th, meaning it'll be a two-week layoff for the team from New York before they get back to the court at the Honda Center. Finally, they easily defeated Yale by at least 20 points on two occasions, but struggled with Harvard at the Crimson, winning by just one point. In the other side awaiting the winner of this game, the #6 seed is Marquette and they'll be facing #11 Kentucky, one of the other last at-large teams to get into the field. This should be another fun game to watch with the Big East facing the SEC. It should also be the first game of the day in Anaheim, meaning Stanford/Cornell will be in the "West Coast Only" TV slot of around 2:00pm on Thursday afternoon.
3:30 – The South 16 is now complete and it seems to set up quite well at first glance for the Longhorns as they would play their games in Little Rock, Houston, and San Antonio. They'll have to get past Austin Peay and then the winner of Miami (FL) and St. Mary's (the latter would be a rematch of a competitive game in Austin where Texas pulled away in the middle of the second half, 81-62) before moving their way back to the Lone Star State where tens of thousands of fans would be waiting for them. A potential #4/#5 game of Pittsburgh versus Michigan State could make for a series of wars worthy of documenting on PBS, but perhaps not as appealing to folks who love up-and-down basketball.
3:36 – Looks like a stronger out of conference schedule wins out over being swept by the Sun Devils as the Arizona Wildcats get into the field as the #10 seed in the West, immediately being branded as the most dangerous double-digit seed in this year's tournament. It looks like the committee also took into consideration the injuries the Wildcats suffered during the season to guards Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless since they were a couple lines above Villanova, who was the last team taken (a #12 seed in the Midwest.) Arizona will take on the #7 seed West Virginia Mountaineers on Thursday in Washington, D.C., who made some noise in the Big East Tournament before falling in the semifinals. The winner of this game most likely takes on Duke, who is the #2 seed, and plays Belmont in the first round.
3:38 – The West is done and all 65 teams have been announced. Teams like Arizona State, Dayton, Illinois State, Mississippi, Ohio State, Virginia Commonwealth, and Virginia Tech just had their bubbles burst. In the West, UCLA could see BYU in the second round in a potentially difficult game, #4 Connecticut takes on a tough San Diego team in Tampa with the winner facing the survivor of #5 Drake and Western Kentucky. And I want to again give major kudos/props/etc. to Georgia for running the gauntlet in the SEC Tournament and winning it all in very, very difficult conditions in Atlanta. Their reward is a #14 seed and playing Xavier in Washington. If they somehow get past the Musketeers, they'd get the winner of #6 Purdue and #11 Baylor, who had this year's distinction of being the last team called to dance. One overall final note is that Washington, D.C. and Birmingham, Alabama are the hosts of the bottom halves of the West and East brackets, respectively, making them the only places where potential Sweet 16 opponents can scout each other without having to leave the area, something that could be helpful to some teams.
4:00 – Another field of 65 is now in the books and we're only four days away
from seeing Stanford play again and be a force to be reckoned with in the NCAA
Tournament! Best of the luck to the boys and let's see if we can break back
into winning column in the Big Dance starting this Thursday vs. Cornell!
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