The Bracket: First Impressions
Posted by Andrew Zercie on March 15, 2009
The big story upon the release of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket was the Big East earning three #1 seeds. Louisville, the outright regular season and tournament champion in the Big East, is the best team headed into the tournament. Pittsburgh and UConn also earned #1 seeds. North Carolina took the remaining #1 seed, coming out of the ACC.
I’ll delve a little deeper into the bracket in its entirety, but first, here are five quick thoughts about the overall bracket.
1. For one of the last teams in, Arizona has things working in their favor. As a #12 seed in the Midwest Region, the Wildcats have a winnable game against #5 seeded Utah. A potential 2nd round matchup against #4 seed Wake Forest is also winnable. There is a considerable amount of experience on Arizona, and they could be the “Cinderella” of the tournament, even though they come from a major conference.
2. Some of the no-brainer selections in the first two rounds, because of geographical advantages: Duke and North Carolina (both play the first two rounds in nearby Greensboro, NC), Villanova (playing their first two games in Philadelphia…may as well be home games), Gonzaga andWashington (playing first two rounds in Portland, Or.).
3. The flavor of the week seems to be Louisville, and deservedly so. The NCAA selection committee stated the Cardinals were the top overall seed in the tournament. Unfortuantely, the committee did Louisville no favors when placing them in Dayton, Ohio in the first two rounds. Of all the top seeds, they could have the most difficult 2nd round game, if Ohio State advances to the 2nd round. The game will be a de facto home game for the Buckeyes. Pittsburgh also opens in Dayton, but their road to the Sweet Sixteen is easier (Oklahoma State or Tennessee). By comparison, UConn starts off in Philadelphia, a Big East hotbed, and North Carolina begins their likely journey to the Final Four in Greensboro, NC, as I highlighted above.
Louisville is a tough team; they were the best team in the Big East this year. But, the Cardinals will put their toughness to the test next weekend, for sure.
4. As great as the #1 seeds are, the #2 seeds are equally accomplished (Oklahoma, Duke, Michigan State and Memphis). Oklahoma has the nation’s best player in Blake Griffin. Michigan State would love nothing more than to reach the Final Four, played at Ford Field in Detroit. Memphis was the national runner-up last season. Duke has only won 9 of the last 12 ACC Tournament titles. The #2s are almost as loaded as the #1s.
5. I’m leaning toward a Final Four that looks like this: Pittsburgh (East, #1 seed), Oklahoma (South, #2 seed), UConn (West, #1 seed), Wake Forest (Midwest, #4 seed). This isn’t set in stone yet, but my reasoning goes like this:
Pittsburgh plays great defense, rebounds well, gets great guard play, and has a lot of motivation to prove themselves as a legitimate national power.
Oklahoma will likely face North Carolina in the Elite Eight, and I get a feeling that Blake Griffin will expose Tyler Hansborough andjust dominate inside.
UConn’s 3 losses since losing Jerome Dyson: Pitt, Pitt, andthe 6-0T thriller to Syracuse. They’ve handled everyone else with ease. Their inside presence can be matched by few teams in the country; only Washington (#4 seed) has someone who can make life difficult for UConn, in my view.
Wake Forest is my sleeper team. They’re a streaky bunch, but they have the most NBA-caliber talent of any team in the tournament. A Sweet 16 matchup against Louisville, and an Elite Eight hookup against Michigan State would be difficult games for the Demon Deacons. Sometimes though, inexperience can be a blessing. I’m thinking Dark Horse here. Besides, it’s no fun to take all the #1 seeds.