Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welcome to Bracketville, Population 9, Version 2.0

Whew!!! I think I caught my breath after four days of the most entertainment sports can provide. The first two rounds were sensational---unbelievable. We can only hope the Sweet Sixteen and Elite eight are as exciting.

Odds and ends---bits and piece from the first two rounds.

Unlikely heroes, improbable teams, shredded brackets, hopes mangled, spectacular memories. The NCAA Tournament delivers year after year. Maybe you’ll get a bad day or a poor round---but never a bad tournament.

Thirteen games were decided by three or fewer points and four games went into overtime.

The Sweet Sixteen has five mid-major teams, plus Washington who looked like a mid-major all season. It’s wide open. Three double-digit seeds (St. Mary’s #10, Washington #11, Cornell #12), plus a #9 that happened to knock the #1 #1 Kansas. Eleven conferences are represented in the regionals.

For the first time since the Tournament expanded in 1985, three one-bid conferences (Horizon, Ivy and Missouri Valley) had teams advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Six teams in the Sweet Sixteen represent schools where the classroom is as important as the basketball court---Purdue, Duke, Cornell, St. Mary’s, Xavier and Butler.

The Big East was 6-6…the ACC, 5-5 in the first two rounds.

If the dominos fall precisely right, it would be an All-Mid-Major-Final-Four.

There is no reason to assume anything will go according to plan the rest of this Tournament for any team.

Baylor has a most highly athletic core.

Only two teams have made the Sweet Sixteen the past three seasons…Michigan State and Xavier.

Kentucky has yet to break a sweat. They have been the most dominant team in the field. What they did to Wake Forest was nearly criminal.

Syracuse has hardly had to mop their collective brow.

Quote: “Survive and advance.” ---Tom Izzo, Michigan State Head Coach.

Cornell is unusually experienced…nine seniors and three juniors…unheard of these days.

Butler is a Top Ten defensive team…they have held all their opponents since February 6th to less than one point per possession. Butler is bigger than Kansas State or Xavier.

Cornell will be playing about an hour away from its campus. In its upset of Wisconsin, Cornell scored an unreal 1.65 points per possession, while shooting 61.1%. That is the highest field goal percentage Wisconsin has allowed in coach Bo Ryan’s entire nine-year career at Wisconsin.

St. Mary’s just might have the best offensive center on their side of the bracket…Omar Samhan.

Purdue’s Chris Kramer will give Duke’s Jon Scheyer hell in their matchup in Friday night’s late, late show. Purdue is an extremely tough team and well coached. On the other side of the ball, Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore will see relentless coverage from Nolan Smith and Lance Thomas.

Washington is better than I thought. They have lost only twice in their past 16 games.

Wes Johnson of Syracuse can carry his team.

One thing that has worked universally in this tournament is size…exhibit A is Duke’s Brian Zoubek.

If Butler’s front court can avoid foul trouble, they could be in the Final Four in their hometown. That’s a Hollywood ending.

Duke leads the top seeds with a 92 percent graduation success rate. Kansas follows at 73, Syracuse at 55 and Kentucky at 31. Brigham Young, Marquette, Notre Dame, Utah State, Wake Forest and Wofford are the only teams with 100 percent graduation rates.
The five lowest graduation rates are: Maryland (8 percent), California (20), Washington (29), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (29) and Tennessee (30).

Duke has only trailed for 18 seconds so far in the tournament.

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