NCAA Tournament Thoughts

Here's a look at the top NCAA Tournament storylines nationally.

1) Texas got screwed. Yes, we addressed this in the thoughts on Texas's draw article. But it still bears mention here as a national story. The Longhorns are ranked No. 4 in the Ken Pomeroy rankings. They finished second in a power conference with a 13-3 mark, beat one of the No. 1 seeds on the road and took another to a final shot on a neutral court. Texas beat No. 2 seed North Carolina on a hardly-neutral court in Greensboro, N.C. One of the key points that committee members shared with media members this year was that the supposed "last 10 games" criteria was a myth, that teams were only judged by their body of work. But if that were true, why were the Longhorns penalized so heavily for finishing poorly. Certainly, their body of work exceeded that of No. 2 seed Florida, which only claimed one win over a team ranked in the KenPom top 25 (Texas had three). That win was over No. 4 seed Kentucky, which took two of the three other games from the Gators. In fact, only the Longhorns own a victory over a No. 1 seed (Kansas) and a No. 2 seed (North Carolina) this season.

2) Colorado did as well. I'll admit it. I'm a Big 12 homer. I love to watch the local teams and local players do well. But pushing that aside, I thought Colorado achieved enough to go to the tournament. Sure, the Buffs had some bad losses, defeats to scrappy Iowa State and Oklahoma squads. But they also played well against the top part of the conference, going 4-2 against the league's top four teams, including a 3-0 mark against Kansas State, with two of those wins coming during the Wildcats' hot string. The Buffaloes advanced to the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament, where they ran out of gas against future No. 1 seed Kansas. Moreover, if the selection committee was going to penalize the Longhorns for their final games, they should also have given the Buffs credit for going 6-3 over their last nine. Two of those three losses came to Kansas, and the Buffaloes avenged the third, a defeat at Iowa State, at the Big 12 Tournament. But screw the body of work. When you're looking for one of the last few tournament teams, you should search for a squad with a demonstrated history of knocking off top teams. And with the one-on-one skills of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins, and fantastic role players like Levi Knutson and Andre Roberson, the Buffaloes are capable of beating anybody on a given day, and legitimately could have made a run to the Sweet 16. Is Colorado worse than a 19-14 Tennessee team? How about Michigan State and Penn State squads with the same record? What about a Clemson team whose best win came over a Virginia Tech team ranked No. 30 in KenPom? The Buffs, meanwhile, had four higher-rated victories. The bottom line is that having Colorado in your field of 68 improves the play of the tournament.

3) Pittsburgh, welcome to the Final Four. OK, so it's not quite going to be that easy. But the Panthers drew the weakest No. 2 seed by far in Florida, and a manageable 4-5 Sweet 16 opponent in Wisconsin and Kansas State (if they make it there, because both Utah State and Belmont are upset-capable). The No. 3 seed, BYU, has been significantly weakened by the loss of Brandon Davies, the team's second best player only to The Jimmer. With a typical brawling defense and shot-makers like Ashton Gibbs, there isn't a single team that comes across as a scary, scary matchup for Pittsburgh, with an up-and-down Kansas State squad representing arguably the biggest challenge. Old Dominion, who could come out of the 8-9 game, could also bring a tough game. But the bracket lacks the top-end talent, should Pittsburgh avoid the early knockout.

4) Kansas also has an easier road. There are some scary teams for the Jayhawks in the pool, but seemingly none of them made it to the Southwest region. Illinois and UNLV would seem to have the talent and defense, respectively, to provide a challenge. But those two have gone a combined 3-12 against the KenPom top 25, and have gone 1-10 against those teams since January (Illinois claimed the lone win this calendar year, beating No. 9 Wisconsin all the way back on Jan. 2). The 4-5 of Louisville and Vanderbilt isn't anything too scary, and the Jayhawks would seem to match up well against Notre Dame and Purdue in the Elite Eight. The scariest teams might come out of the 6-11 matchup, if Georgetown can regain its steam and or the Trojans — should they win a play-in game vs. Virginia Commonwealth — can find the form that helped them beat Texas and provide rough sledding for the Jayhawks earlier this year.

5) Who's making it to Houston? Kansas and Pittsburgh seem to have the best tracks as No. 1 seeds and would seem to be safe bets. Could Ohio State get pushed out before the Buckeyes get there? You bet. Watch out for a potential matchup with Kentucky in the Sweet 16, as the Wildcats are talented enough to nip anybody (though they could also fall early). North Carolina or Syracuse would also make for tricky Elite Eight match-ups. So much of the West depends on Irving's foot. Arizona or Texas makes for a tough Sweet-16 matchup, while Kemba Walker could be waiting in the Elite Eight.


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