Monday, March 14, 2005

The Day After

Welcome to "The Day After" The Monday after Selection Sunday The day when every sports fan talks about the NCAA Tournament.

No one cares about NFL free agency today. Spring training is meaningless, even for many hardcore baseball fans. The NBA could have collectively fired their posses, started listening to their coaches, swallowed their egos, and started playing team basketball today and no one would care.

It's all about the brackets on "The Day After"

Selection Snubs

One of the first water cooler topics on "The Day After" is who's in and who's out. This year, I have no problem with who's out. Maryland and Indiana could have gotten in on nothing except reputation but didn't. Notre Dame was done when they lost to Rutgers. Georgetown needed to pull of an upset, as did Texas A&M. DePaul neeeded to pull off consecutive upsets, and couldn't get one. Buffalo, despite a strong RPI, had no quality wins. St. Joseph's probably should have won it's tournament, as should have Davidson, Miami of Ohio, Wichita State, and Holy Cross.

There are a couple teams who make the case that there are one too many at large bids out there: NC State and UAB. NC State has the lowest RPI (65) of all the at-larges, their wins include such powerhouses as Elon, East Carolina, Manhattan, Purdue, Liberty, BYU and Columbia (I guess they couldn't schedule Harvard or Yale that night) and they lost to St. John's, VA Tech, and Florida State, all of which have sub-100 RPIs. UAB has no quality wins, in or out of conference, and losses to USC, Richmond, Tulane and East Carolina.

Clearly the committee had more at large bids to give out than teams that could fill them. Maybe if we have more years like this, there will be groundswell of support to get rid of one at-large bid and eliminate the play in game once and for all.

How the brackets treated the Big 12

Once people get past the "Who's in, Who's out" issue, the next topic is generally "Who is my team playing?" So here's how the draw looks for the Big 12 teams:

(Grading scale, based on how far they get before facing a tough matchup: A-Final Four B-Elite 8, C-Sweet 16, D-Second Round, F-First Round)

Oklahoma State
The draw sets up very well for them. They get Southeast Louisiana in the first round, a team who wasn't even the best in the Southland Conference. Then, They get the survivor of Southern Illinois or St. Mary's of California in the second round, and I say "survivor" because that's a tough matchup for both SIU and St. Mary's. They will most likely get Arizona, a team that cannot match the Cowboys in terms of talent or depth, in the Sweet 16, mainly because Arizona's got a weak pod. Then they get top seed Illinois, who have the talent and defensive intensity to stop Illinois' three guards. Then they face the winner of the Albuquerque regional, the region with the weakest top 4 seeds.
Grade: A+

Kansas
Nice pod for Kansas. They draw Bucknell in the first round, and the Wisconsin-Northern Iowa winner in the second round, both of which are winnable games, though the second one may be tougher. Then they get potentially either UConn or Charlotte in the Sweet 16 round, both of which Kansas will have trouble with. Charlotte has another big, athletic, hard-to-contain Aussie in the middle and UConn, while young, is a bit more athletic.
Grade: C

Oklahoma
They have a good first round opponent in the Niagra Purple Eagles, but they potentially face Player of the Year candidate Andrew Bogut in the second round, and while they have guys down low like Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout, Bogut is head and shoulders above both.
Grade: D

Texas Tech:
I know everyone think UCLA will beat Texas Tech, but they've got a freshman point guard in Jordan Farmar who's going up against a tenacious man-to-man defender in Ronald Ross, and he hasn't had teams get in his face all season. Plus, UCLA doesn't have enough defenders to stop Ross and Jarrious Jackson, and keep an eye out for Martin Zeno on the wing. Where Tech will have it's problems in the second round is Gonzaga. Tech doesn't have anyone to match up with Ronny Turiaf, and he wil go off on the Red Raiders.
Grade: D

Texas
Texas matches up very well with Illinois' guards and they have the interior defenders to match up with James Augustine. The problem is they have to get past Nevada first and that may be a tall order.
Grade: F

Iowa State
Both the Cyclones and their first round opponent, Minnesota backed into the Tournament, which means their first round matchup will be brutally bad to watch, closely contested, and tough on both teams. Should the Cyclones get by that, they face North Carolina.
Grade: F

Filling out your bracket

After all the talk, "The Day After" concludes when people leave the water cooler and fill out office pool brackets at their cubicle.

Some things to keep in mind when filling out your office pool:

  • Size matters. Teams with size will beat teams without.
  • Unusual offenses or defenses will get you a first-round win, but talent carries a team into the Sweet 16 and beyond.
  • In March, It's easier to slow down an up-tempo team than to speed-up a team that works with a slower pace.
  • Teams with bad free-throw percentages will lose close games.
  • No #16 ever beats a #1 ever.

Tomorrow: Pink Slips.

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