The Sweet 16 is upon us and the Poor Scholars staff spent some of the weekend catching the NCAA Tournaments “Second and Third Rounds.” Here are some observations from some staffers on the first weekend of action.
1. The first round needs to be viewed as a potential advantage now that a team who has started with a play-in game has pulled off an upset in each of the three years since the tournament expanded to 68 teams. Teams like VCU and LaSalle have gotten valuable chances to prepare for a postseason style of play in a controlled setting and have multiple wins to show for it.
2. Buffalo Wild Wings is an interesting case study in changing perception over time. For those under 21, Buffalo Wild Wings is the perfect place to spend a few hours watching games and eating quality food. For those that are North of the legal drinking age and find themselves in the same situation come tournament time, you may not realize that you have become this.
3. How did one of Bo Ryan’s better teams lose to Ole Miss in the first round? I still don’t understand that one at all. Marshall Henderson is a thug and a chucker, exactly the sort of player that Mike Brusewitz normally smothers with his ginger fro. Frustrating stuff all around.
4. I still don’t think that I would be brave enough to call a 15 over 2 upset. With three of them happening in the last two years, however, there will be those who start trying to call these mega bracket busters and will probably get burned miserably. 15 seeds have only beaten their first round assailants six times in 28 years, so don’t get your hopes up, sports fans.
5. Teams that deserved another (or a single) win- Temple, Davidson, Saint Mary’s, Southern, UNLV.
Teams that I’m glad were sent home in the first (second) round- Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Notre Dame
Teams that I’m tired of picking- Belmont, Mizzou, New Mexico, Gonzaga
1. Either Wichita State or LaSalle will be facing major national powerhouse Arizona or Ohio State and be 40 minutes away from a birth in the Final Four on the same floor that Kobe plays on and Hollywood stars regularly sit courtside. Holy cow. Obviously this is the madness element of “March Madness,” but neither of these teams won their conference tournaments or had a ton of buzz heading into the Tourney like some mid-major programs do.
2. Ben Howland and Tubby Smith faced each other in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the late game on Friday night. By late Monday afternoon they were both fired. Smith and Minnesota won the game but he was ousted after the Golden Gophers lost to Florida. Smith won a national title at Kentucky and Howland won the Pac-12 at UCLA this season and reached three consecutive Final Fours during his tenure. Neither firing is particularly startling — both had issues with players of theirs off the floor — but it shows that you need to win and maintain every year at the highest level.
3. Florida Gulf Coast, the darling 15-seed Sweet 16 team, will certainly not be scared of Florida when the teams tip off this Friday in Arlington, Texas. FGC already owns a regular season victory over fellow Floridan Sweet 16 contestant Miami, and won both of their NCAA tournament games by 10 points, so they won’t be scared of their in-state big brother.
4. I know Michigan and Michigan State looked great in Saturday blowout wins, but be wary of all of the premature Final Four talk. Tom Izzo and John Beilein have their squads playing good ball, but those big wins were in front of a home Auburn Hills, Michigan crowd and are a bit deceptive. Memphis barely played any real competition after some tough early season contests as C-USA was incredibly mediocre, and VCU, while coming from a tough Atlantic 10, are not a Big Ten team that Michigan is used to facing. Now Michigan State faces Duke and a formidable senior-laden front line of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, while Michigan faces an athletic and big Kansas team. They could both certainly advance, but they’ll have real tests.
5. This Louisville run to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16 is eerily similar to their bracket in 2009 — in which they also ended up in Indianapolis. The Cardinals were playing fantastic ball in 2009 and thrashed a 12-seed Arizona in Indy before losing to Michigan State in the Elite 8. Well, Louisville is again facing a 12-seed in Indy (this time it’s Oregon; still Pac-12) and Michigan State is staring at them on the other side of the bracket in a potential rematch.