Sizing up the NCAA Tournament��
Heading into March Madness, a breakdown, by conference, of what is expected and what should be expected.
THE WEST REGIONAL
In San Diego:
No. 1 Stanford (28-2) vs. No. 16 UNC-Greensboro (19-11); No. 4 Indiana (21-12) vs. No. 13 Kent State (23-9); No. 5 Cincinnati (23-9) vs. No. 12 BYU (24-8); No. 8 Georgia Tech (17-12) vs. No. 9 St. Joseph’s (25-6).
No. 2 Iowa State (25-5) vs. No. 15 Hampton (24-6); No. 3 Maryland (21-10) vs. No. 14 George Mason (18-11); No. 6 Wisconsin (18-10) vs. No. 11 Georgia State (28-4); No. 7 Arkansas (20-10) vs. No. 10 Georgetown (23-7).
Cincinnati. Had the Bearcats won the Conference USA Tournament they would’ve been the only league team in the field. That means the conference is weak. So how are the Bearcats a No. 5? But they caught a break for the first round. While BYU is big and shoots almost 80 percent from the line, the Cougars are slow.
St. Joseph’s won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title easily, then faltered in the conference tournament. Obviously, that loss killed the Hawks. But it shouldn’t have, at least not to this extent. Don’t talk to us about Georgetown getting shafted: The Hoyas started hot, but were an average Big East team at best by the end of the season.
Going to the Sweet 16:
From San Diego – Indiana and St. Joseph’s. From Boise – Iowa State and Maryland.
THE SOUTH REGIONAL
No. 1 Michigan State (24-4) vs. No. 16 Alabama State (22-8); No. 4 Oklahoma (26-6) vs. No. 13 Indiana State (21-11); No. 5 Virginia (20-8) vs. No. 12 Gonzaga (24-6); No. 8 California (20-10) vs. No. 9 Fresno State (25-6).
In New Oreleans:
No. 2 North Carolina (25-6) vs. No. 15 Princeton (16-10); No. 3 Florida (23-6) vs. No. 14 Western Kentucky (24-6); No. 6 Texas (25-8) vs. No. 11 Temple (21-12); No. 7 Penn State (19-11) vs. No. 10 Providence (21-9).
Penn State and California each were considered on the bubble late in the season, but the selection committee obviously was swayed by Penn State’s schedule and two victories in the Big 10 Tournament and by Cal’s finish in the Pac-10.
It’s a fine line, but on Saturday, Florida was in the SEC Tournament playing for a potential No. 1 seeding. And after a close loss to Ole Miss, the Gators drop to a No. 3? It might not mean a thing. But if the Gators win, they may have to face another unheralded team in Texas. The Longhorns were arguably the best team in the South Division of the Big 12 and were playing for a conference title Sunday. The selection committee said it would pay great attention to the teams that dominated in the regular season. Fresno State did and still got a tire print on its jersey on Selection Sunday. Jerry Tarkanian’s team’s reward is having to survive a difficult game against Cal – and a likely second-round game with defending national champion Michigan State.
Going to the Sweet 16:
From Memphis – Michigan State and Virginia. From New Orleans – North Carolina and Florida.
THE MIDWEST REGIONAL
No. 1 Illinois (24-7) vs. No. 16 Winthrop (18-12) or Northwestern State (18-12); No. 4 Kansas (24-6) vs. No. 13 Cal State Northridge (22-9); No. 5 Syracuse (24-8) vs. No. 12 Hawaii (17-13); No. 8 Tennessee (22-10) vs. No. 9 UNC-Charlotte (21-10).
In Kansas City:
No. 2 Arizona (23-7) vs. No. 15 Eastern Illinois (21-9); No. 3 Ole Miss (25-7) vs. No. 14 Iona (22-10); No. 6 Notre Dame (19-9) vs. No. 11 Xavier (21-7); No. 7 Wake Forest (19-10) vs. No. 10 Butler (23-7).
Wake Forest started hot, then cooled – considerably. Wake has no consistent scorer and will have a tough time surviving a first-round matchup with Butler.
No one, really. Notre Dame could’ve been a No. 5, and maybe Xavier, Tennessee and Kansas could’ve moved up one spot each, but all in all, this appears to be the best-seeded region.
From Dayton – Illinois and Kansas. From Kansas City – Arizona and Ole Miss.
THE EAST REGIONAL
No. 1 Duke (29-4) vs. No. 16 Monmouth (21-9); No. 4 UCLA (21-8) vs. No. 13 Hofstra (26-4); No. 5 Ohio State (20-10) vs. No. 12 Utah State (27-5); No. 8 Georgia (16-14) vs. No. 9 Missouri (19-12).
No. 2 Kentucky (22-9) vs. No. 15 Holy Cross (22-7); No. 3 Boston College (26-4) vs. No. 14 Southern Utah (25-2); No. 6 USC (21-9) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma State (20-9); No. 7 Iowa (22-11) vs. No. 10 Creighton (24-7).
Georgia and USC. The selection committee made a statement by including Georgia in the field, then went a step further by putting the Bulldogs in the top half of the bracket. Can Jim Harrick’s team, which played the strongest schedule in the country, make the committee into prophets? Two weeks ago, USC was firmly on the bubble. Now the Trojans are one of the best 24 teams in the country?
Popular opinion is that Boston College – the best team in the Big East – took one on the chin by being seeded third instead of second, but there’s a tradeoff. The Eagles are playing two hours from home. Oklahoma State could have been the last team placed in the bracket, by their seeding (11th). The committee, following its charge, gave no thought to the Cowboys’ emotional roller coaster of a year (a plane crash that killed 10, including two players).
Going to the Sweet 16:
From Greensboro – Duke and Ohio State. From Uniondale – Boston College and Creighton.