|This story originally published on CollegeHoops.scout.com|
If the first four days of the NCAA Tournament convinced us of anything, it's that the term "mid-major" should be stricken from the college basketball vocabulary.
Instead of labeling teams by the perceived pecking order of the conferences their schools belong to, let's label them by the quality of basketball they play.
With that in mind, it's safe to call the Bradley, George Mason and Wichita State teams that won first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games to advance to the Sweet 16 very good.
Certainly, the coaches at
OK . . . off the soapbox I go.
Sunday, Bradley and George Mason
As for the Braves, who improved to
22-10 after consecutive (and decisive . . . they dominated both games, for the
most part, although the final margins might not indicate such) victories over
They finished in a tie for fifth in
the MVC but, since dropping at 75-63 decision at
That's called peaking at the right time.
Although Pittsburgh took a brief lead early in the second half Sunday, Bradley – with sophomore center Patrick O'Bryant (28 points and seven rebounds) dominating one of the country's most physical teams inside – didn't look anything like a team that was "playing over its head", as it didn't while it was knocking off the Jayhawks in Round 1.
And what about George Mason,
beating a Final Four team from last season
Granted, the Tar Heels were playing
without their top seven players from that national title run. But they were also
the same team that went into
That was very impressive, indeed.
The Patriots' victories over the
Spartans and Tar Heels earned them a spot in the
Their opponent? A team they beat on
That's right – the very same
Other observations from the eight games played Sunday:
*Those who were convinced that the Big Ten Conference was every bit as strong as the Big East this season got a dose of reality in the first two rounds of the tournament.
And that means that there were will no Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996.
The conference's collective record over four days: 3-6.
*If his performances during Big East Conference play or his team's come-from-12-points-behind victory over Albany Friday night didn't convince you that junior point guard Marcus Williams is the most indispensable component for the Connecticut team, his effort in the Huskies' 87-83 win against Kentucky Sunday should have.
*Another reason why how a team
closes its regular season isn't the best barometer as to how it will perform in
Thursday night in
The Longhorns edged West Virginia,
LaMarcus Aldridge's block of a Mike Gansey layup attempt at the buzzer – which some are still convinced should have drawn a whistle for a foul on Aldridge – saved the win for Coach Rick Barnes' team.
*For what it's worth:
But the Tigers, with 16-point decisions over Oral Roberts and Bucknell, had, at 32 points, the largest cumulative margin of victory among the top seeds.
Duke's was 29, with
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of
Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is
also a column for the