If you’re a true college hoops fan, you just got done watching the March Madness Selection Show. So now that you’ve called your fraternity brothers, washed off your face paint and printed out your bracket, take a couple minutes to read our initial observations including snubs, sleepers and who has the toughest road to the Final Four.
1. Kansas, the No. 1 overall seed, has the toughest road to the Final Four. Whether you thought the Jayhawks were the best team in the country or not, there’s no way that they thought they’d have to battle with Ohio State, Georgetown and Maryland en route. Plus, if you throw in teams such as Michigan State and Tennessee, this bracket is absolutely stacked!
2. Speaking of Tennessee, they have to be the most dangerous No. 6 seed in the country. They knocked off two No. 1 seeds this year – Kansas and Kentucky – so they know how to play the role of giant killer. Watch out!
3. While Syracuse gets to play their first two games in Buffalo, you know Coach Jim Boeheim couldn’t have been happy to see Vermont as their first draw. The last time the Catamounts were in the Big Dance, they beat ‘Cuse in the first round back in 2005. Plus, while many 16 seeds have to play far from home, UVM can hop on a ferry to get to this one. Nonetheless, ‘Cuse should roll in this one.
4. Although some would disagree, there is a debate about whether or not West Virginia should have been seeded ahead of Syracuse. Sure ‘Cuse beat the Mountaineers in the regular season, but West Virginia won the Big East – the toughest conference in America with eight teams in the NCAA Tournament. Although they didn’t get that No. 1 seed, WVU does get to play in the East bracket, while SU is headed out West.
5. At first glance, you gotta love the potential second round match-ups of ‘Cuse and Gonzaga, as well as Butler and Vandy. Gonzaga as an eight seed seems kind of low, and they will be dangerous. Any four of these teams could make a run to the Elite 8.
6. Two underrated teams, Cornell coach Steve Donohue was a LONGTIME assistant under The Genius, Fran Dunphy, when he was at Penn before Temple. While both teams were probably under-seeded, this has to be the best 5-12 match-up in the first round.
7. Just like Kansas, Kentucky has a tough trip to the Final Four. Battling three very tough teams, West Virginia, New Mexico and Wisconsin are all bruisers. Oh yeah, and they’ll also have to face Texas in the second round (who was the No. 1 team in the country and one point this season). One thing all of those teams have that Kentucky doesn’t is upperclassmen.
8. One of the best match-ups in the first round has to be between No. 11 Washington and No. 6 Marquette. In a down year for the Pac-10, UW was one of only two teams to make it, while Marquette is joined by eight of their conference mates. The winner of this game has a legit shot to make it to the Sweet 16, as No. 3 New Mexico could very well lose to Anthony Johnson (who scored 34 in the second half this week to win the game) and No. 14 Montana.
9. If I had to pick a sleeper right now, it’d be have to be No. 13 Siena over No. 4 Purdue. Definitely not the same team after losing Robbie Hummel, Purdue wants no part of a Siena team that defeated Ohio State 74–72 in a double overtime thriller last year, before losing to Louisville in the second round 79-72. Playing the winner of the battle of the Aggies after No. 5 Texas A&M plays No. 12 Utah State, Siena should be a lock for the Sweet 16.
10. While people could argue that Virginia Tech and Illinois were two of the biggest snubs, there is no bigger snub than Mississippi State. Going into the season, the Bulldogs were getting talk as a darkhorse Elite Eight pick – maybe even Final Four depending on how much you liked guards Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson. But the main reason for the initial high expectations was the Bulldogs’ front line, whose size and versatility made them look (on paper) like college basketball’s version of the Lakers: 6-9 senior shot-blocking machine Jarvis Varnado, 7-2 freshman John Riek (Baby Mutombo) and 6-10 frosh Renardo Sidney (Baby Odom). That juggernaut front line never materialized. Varnado posted 13.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 4.8 bpg, Sidney was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, and Riek’s PT was closer to Mbenga than Mutombo. Mississippi State made an inspired run to the SEC tournament final and lost to Kentucky in overtime, but their inconsistency throughout the regular season hurt them.
What do you think? What are your initial observations after the selection show?