Let me begin by mentioning that no one had a right to truly feel cheated by the selection committee. Syracuse played their typical weak non-conference schedule and then made it worse by losing to almost every decent team out of conference they faced. The Big East was down from last season. Quit your whining Boeheim.
Drexel had the opposite type of season than Syracuse, playing great on the road, when out of conference, but then finished 4th in the CAA. While the CAA is pretty solid at the top, you can’t finish 4th in that league and expect to make the tourney.
Air Force choked down the stretch. Kansas State was another playing a really soft non-conference schedule. On the surface, it appears like the Missouri Valley was hosed, just getting only 2 teams in. The problem was that the league was solid from top to bottom and the bracket busters games were really damaging, with Missouri State, Creighton, Northern Iowa, and Wichita State all losing home games.
Yes, Arkansas, Illinois, and Stanford could just as well be out of the tourney, but they are no less deserving than the 8 teams who missed out. There were about 12 at-large teams trying to fit the last 4 spots. The answer is not to add more teams to the tourney. None of these teams are going to win more than 1 game this year, so let’s focus on the quality.
Generally I do well in the tourney picking lower seeds to beat Pac-10 teams. West Coast basketball is generally softer in style, which allows the teams that play top-notch defense to slow the tempo down and win. Sure there have been exceptions, but overall this has been the case. Not in 2007, though. Ben Howland and Tim Floyd have brought toughness to their respective teams. Playing against Washington State helps the Pac-10 teams in the tourney, as the Dick Bennett-style of basketball is usually what trips up the league during March Madness.
The SEC is really hard for me to figure, as LSU and Alabama appeared like Sweet 16 teams before the year, but didn’t even make the tourney. In the Big 10, it was a year where Ohio State and Wisconsin were the only 2 teams that could win on the road. The Big East was overrated, with Georgetown being the only top-notch team. The depth of the ACC is impressive, but I’m not sure any of them can make the Final 4. It’s hard to say that any conference had 3 top teams as good as Kansas, Texas A&M, and Texas, but the rest of the league was as bad as I can ever remember it.
There is more talent in college basketball this year than has been the case in a long time. The cause behind this upswing is the new NBA rule, not allowing high-schoolers to enter the draft. Having said that, I also think the Elite 8 will have no seeds below a 4 for the first time in quite awhile. Hopefully you enjoyed your George Mason, because this year looks like a chalk walk past the Sweet Sixteen.
Top Number 1 Seed: Florida
Top Number 2 Seed: Georgetown
Top Number 3 Seed: Texas A&M
Top Number 4 Seed: Texas
Top Number 5 Seed: Tennessee
Top Number 6 Seed: Duke
Top Number 7 Seed: Boston College
Top Number 8 Seed: Marquette
Top Number 9 Seed: Michigan State
Top Number 10 Seed: Creighton
Worst: Texas Tech
Top Number 11 Seed: Winthrop
Top Number 12 Seed: Old Dominion
Worst: Long Beach State
Top Number 13 Seed: Davidson
Top Number 14 Seed: Oral Roberts
Top Number 15: North Texas
Worst: Texas A&M C.C.
Top Number 16: Eastern Kentucky
Worst: Jackson State
Best First-Round Games
Purdue/Arizona: Wildcats are far more talented, but Purdue is the type of grind it out team that gives them fits.
Butler/Old Dominion: I live in Indy, so I have a soft-spot in my heart for the Bulldogs, but Butler was playing their best basketball 3 months ago. The Monarchs just might be the last mid-major standing after the first weekend.
Besides these 2 games, the Midwest region has other match-ups that could provide upsets with Miami (OH), Davidson, Winthrop, and Georgia Tech all capable of advancing against the higher seed. Only the top 2 seeds in this region look to be locks.
The West is the weakest of the 4 regions, with Kansas and UCLA looking to be a giant step above the other teams. Besides ODU and Butler, the other 12 over 5 that I think has a good chance of happening is Illinois over Virginia Tech, as Bruce Weber is one of the best when he has this much time to prepare. Kentucky/Villanova is the battle between 2 teams that have disappointed for the latter half of the season.
Marquette/Michigan State: The best first-round game, as both teams use very similar systems. While Crean is really good, Izzo is right there with Coach K and Jim Calhoun in knowing how to build a team for NCAA success. Defensive FG percentage is the most underrated stat to judge how a team will do during March Madness. The Spartans are generally right at the top of this category.
Vanderbilt/George Washington: The Commodores are the most over-seeded team in the whole tourney. They were more like an 11, as I think all the teams seeded 10 or higher would beat them. While GW isn’t as strong as last year, I rate them even with Vandy.
I will give my more extensive review after the games tip-off on Thursday. This year, the prolific Bob Timmerman has created a 2007 NCAA pool . Check it out.