Can’t wait for this weekend’s games in the Tournament. I’m not a big believer that if a superior team squeaks by this means much of anything. In fact, sometimes I think it acts as a wake-up call. That said, Pitt-Florida and Gonzaga-Arizona are totally confusing to me. Just how good are #1 seeds this year in relative terms? And teams like Pitt and Gonzaga have historically been able to play at the very highest level of the sport.
My picks: Louisville will crush St. Louis (I loved St. Louis last year, so now they’ll probably get on that roll a year later.) I have no idea about Texas-Michigan because I still can’t decide where the Big 10 fits in terms of quality. Then again, with parity, maybe the conference isn’t as important as it used to be. I think Rick Barnes is one of the great coaches, so my heart will be with the Longhorns. I’m not a big fan of San Diego State, but just can’t believe North Dakota State is really any good. Hope I’m wrong. My heart is so much for UD, but Syracuse could be this year’s champ…they sure were playing like it earlier in the year. Even though Dayton won, I don’t think they looked all that good. And maybe Coach K was right about the Atlantic 10. The Oregon-Wisconsin game is really, really interesting. Have no real idea. Just can’t wait to see the game. Many experts who know the game much better than I do say Michigan State’s the real deal. So I defer to their collective judgment. But it is so much fun to watch such an incredibly well-coached and intelligent team like Harvard. UConn-Villanova. Nova should win. A very good basketball team.
Kansas should smack Stanford. My anti-west coast bias and I always tend to overstate how good Kansas is. I had them winning it all last year. Kentucky-Wichita State. This is not one of those special KY teams, so this game might provide a gauge on just how good Wichita State is…or is not. North Carolina-Iowa State should be another one of those really interesting games. Iowa State’s a bit off the radar and may have the potential to get deeper into the tournament than most would have thought. Always scary to go against a great coach and a great heritage team, but hard to get beyond that this is not the ACC of old. I love the Stephen Austin-UCLA game. Love it! My heart says Austin and I can say they’ve lost only two games. No matter how bad their opponents, that’s still a feat. But if the Atlantic 10 is proving to be a mediocre conference, SA’s win over VCU just isn’t that impressive. On the flip side, UCLA was one of the few teams that was dominant in its first game, even if Tulsa is not a great team. So the brain has to pick UCLA. I love Baylor! They’ve proven they can beat anybody on a given day…and on the road. Just huge to me. This means you’re getting healthy odds for a team that truly has the potential, if the stars are aligned, to win anywhere. This is contrasted with those early round upsetters that simply don’t have the talent to keep winning. So here’s the point with Baylor and I’m making up the odds for illustration purposes. If Baylor is 20 – 1 to win it all but they should be 10-1, then they’re a great value. But note that the 10-1 still makes them an underdog, just an undervalued underdog. Lastly, I’m just not sure Creighton is that good a basketball team. Memphis-Virginia: the Cavaliers wake up after a lackluster performance and beat Memphis in good fashion. Gonzaga-Arizona. This is when I love Gonzaga, when they’re the underdog. A great coach. I’m going to let my heart dictate: the Bulldogs win! (I hope.)
I don’t think the Tournament’s ever been better. A year or two from now we may look back at this period of time as when the transition to expansive parity took hold. And that is largely good. However, when parity is the norm and not the exception, we will lose a bit of the fun that takes place when one of the giants goes down to defeat. There simply may be no more giants.