March 12, 2012
This year's bracket will be madness
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Confidence might be at an all-time low for those picking NCAA tournament brackets this year.
After all, the top four teams ó No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, and fellow No. 1ís Syracuse, and North Carolina, as well as No. 2 Kansas ó all bowed out of their conference tourneys early this weekend.
Kentucky fell to Vanderbilt 71-64 on Sunday in the Southeastern Conference tournament title game, UNC fell by three to No. 17 Florida State, while Kansas was thumped 83-66 by Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals and Syracuse fell 71-68 to Cincinnati in the Big East semifinals.
If it seems like picking the winners is harder than ever, well, it might be because it is.
This is the second time in 13 months the top four teams in the Associated Pressí Top 25 poll lost in the same week. It hadnít happened before then since November of 2003.
Though Kentucky deserves its top billing, there are no perfect teams in this field.
Kentucky canít shoot from outside particularly well, Syracuse has looked shaky at times, North Carolina has stumbled a lot for a top seed and Michigan State has overachieved thanks largely to the best coach in the business, Tom Izzo.
Still, it says here, Kentucky remains the class of the field and has the best shot at cutting down the net in New Orleans in a few weeks. The defensive tenacity of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be too much for opponents. In that duo, the Wildcats boast a pair of defensive dynamos who will give NBA stars trouble from Day One in the league.
If mercurial forward Terrence Jones finds his top gear along with talented freshman guard Marquis Teague, John Calipariís deep squad will be that much tougher to upset.
Of course weíve been wrong about this before (the last two years in fact, thanks Brandon Knight, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and especially Coach Cal).
The Tar Heels seemed like the wise pick when the season began, but John Henson has missed recent games due to injury and clearly isnít 100% and Harrison Barnes continues to underwhelm, considering how talented he is. With Henson, UNC still has a shot due to its size, but we canít see them topping Syracuse or possibly even Ohio State just to get to the title game.
As for the No. 2 seeds, itís hard to understand why Duke was gifted with such a plum spot. Sure Kentucky would await down the line, but this isnít a second seed. Missouri and Kansas are better than Duke, but look out for Ohio State, the best regular-season team a year ago. The Buckeyes took a step back this year, but still have Jared Sullinger who is one of the best low post players college basketball has seen in years ... Of the three seeds, look out for Florida State.
WE QUIBBLE WITH
Besides the Duke issue, seems a little weird that Kentucky will have to take out defending champion Connecticut in just the third round (formerly the second round). Thatís early for such a big matchup, a Final Four rematch, though NBA scouts will be salivating over a Davis-Andre Drummond matchup. Both could be franchise big men, though Davis is much more of a big thing Ö Seven seems a tad low for Billy Donovanís Florida Gators. To top it off, theyíd have to take on ultra-tough Missouri in game No. 2 Ö The group of death appears to be in the East. Ohio State is good, but good enough to potentially beat Gonzaga and its standout Canadians, then quite likely the defensively stellar Florida State Seminoles? All that to possibly make a date with the Orange in order to reach the Final Four? Seems like too much of a mountain to climb for the Buckeyes.
BEEN A WHILE
Iowa State made the tournament for the first time since 2005, St. Bonaventure for the first time since 2000. Harvard is in for the first time since 1946 and just the second time ever. South Florida had not made it since 1992; Southern Mississipi since 1991; Detroit since 1999; Loyola Maryland since 1994 while Norfolk State and South Dakota will participate for the first time ever.