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March Madness Has Arrived
by: The Cold Hard Truth
The bracket is out! This is one of my two favorite days of the year, the other day being Thursday, the first round of games. It really doesn't get any better than this. We get to watch our favorite blue blood teams, who mysteriously has been positioned within the tournament bracket with the perfect setup to win it all. Of course, we can always cheer for our mid-major favorites, who are seeded unfairly as to achieve an early exit. Finally, we have a new category of teams this year to watch. It's sort of mix between a traditional team Power 5 team and a mid-major team. Yes, you guessed it. We call these teams Pac-12 teams. They really have no chance of winning.
Yes, the Pac-12 Conference and the previous Pac-10 used to be loaded with good teams. Those days are history. Last year, the conference placed Arizona, Arizona St., and UCLA in the tourney. After Round 1, they were all gone. This year, Arizona St. makes a proud return to the play-in game. Washington, who won the league by 3 games, is a 9 seed, and Oregon, who won the conference tournament is a 12 seed. The intriguing thing about the Ducks is that they have won 8 in a row, including two wins each against Washington and the Sun Devils. They might be the best team in their league. However, I wouldn't be shocked if all these teams are gone early again.
What about the "Best in the West"? It was nice to see the committee rewarded Gonzaga, even after losing to St. Mary's in their conference tournament. This team beat Duke by 2 on a neutral court, lost to Tennessee by 3, and lost to North Carolina by 11. They're 30-3 this year. I remember all those years where the committee would find an excuse to lower the Zags seed. This year they got it right. What they got wrong is making Duke the #1 overall seed. Carolina beat them twice. The Zags beat them too. I guess when you have Zion on your team, it is tough for the committee to stay objective. Duke shows flashes of brilliance, but they also are vulnerable against big, experienced teams.
After Gonzaga, I would have to put Nevada and Utah State as the two best teams in the west. Personally, I think Nevada got a raw deal this year. They've consistently been in the top 10 all year. Getting a 7 seed after their performance last year in the tournament and their 28-3 record this year seems wrong. Then again, if the Wolf Pack hadn't lost to Loyola by a point last year in the Sweet 16, I would have won the CBCC. Maybe they deserve everything they are getting!
Do you remember early in the season when Furman took down Villanova? I made a bold prediction and told my oldest son that Furman would make the tournament and only lose 2 games all year. He said I was wrong - common occurrence - and said Furman would lose at least 5 games. Well, I was totally wrong. The Paladins went 25-7, and 13-5 in league. That is a great year, unless you happen to be in the same league as Wofford and UNC Greensboro. Wofford hasn't lost since December 19! Are they worthy of a 7 seed? Who knows? I can tell you that their offense is really good, and they have won 20 straight games. They certainly have a chance to win against Seton Hall. We'll see what happens. In terms of Greensboro, it is a shame that a team with 28 wins with in-conference losses to Wofford twice and Furman doesn't get into the tournament. They deserved a shot more than any other team that was left out.
There are so many good stories this year. Houston went 31-2.They have been overlooked for the most part. How good are they? The Buffalo Bulls, the MAC champs, are also 31 game winners. They have tournament experience. Can they make a run this year?
I love the first round matchup between Marquette and Murray State, a game that will feature two of the best guards in American with Markus Howard and the Racers' Temetrious (Ja)Morant. Murray State has won 11 in a row, mostly because Ja is a total stud. However, I was very happy that the committee rewarded Belmont for their great season too, giving them a play-in game matchup against Temple. Two teams from the Ohio Valley Conference made the tournament. That is terrific!
LSU won the SEC. Apparently that doesn't matter. They are seeded lower than Kentucky and Tennessee. Will the disappointment of the seeding affect them? Auburn seems to be coming together at the right time. Can they make a run?
Finally, the Big 12 has had a quiet season. They have beat themselves up in-conference. Kansas appears slightly down with Udoka Azubuike injured. However, let's not forget the talent in this league. I think the Big 12 and the Big 10 are deep conferences with teams capable of making a run. The ACC is obviously very strong, but could it be a team like Florida State or Virginia Tech who surprises us in the end? When we get to the Final 4, are we looking at Blue Bloods or will this be a year for another mid-major to make a run like Loyola did last year? I can hardly wait to find out!
March Madness has arrived once again. Best of luck on your brackets. While I wish you the very best, I have continued hope that my personal bracket will be at least one point better than all of yours!