We haven't really taken an extended look at the brackets since they were unveiled, so, uh, let's do that...
First things first: I owe the committee an apology. I predicted that this would be the most hotly contested (read: worst) bracket of all-time, and the truth was the exact opposite. We can argue over seeds and the last two or three teams left in or out for hours, but it's hard for even the most cynical among us to say that the committee didn't earn their paychecks this year.
First, on Louisville's draw:
I'm basically hearing people who either love the draw, or think the East is the hardest region in the history of the NCAA Tournament. The truth, as it is with most things, is probably somewhere in the middle.
I do think that we couldn't have asked for a more difficult 1/2 seed combo. For the last month I've been saying the three teams that I wanted to avoid in the tournament were Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, and now here we are with two of them in our quadrant. A lot of people are putting down the Volunteers, and I'm among the group that doesn't think they're a real threat to win a national title, but that doesn't mean that I'm not terrified of the way they match up with us. The teams that we have the hardest time with are the ones that are ridiculously talented offensively, but whose perceived weakness is lack of focus on defense. UT and UNC both fit this bill. Either one of these teams are going to put up points no matter how well we play defensively, and we're going to struggle to keep up with teams like that regardless of how lax they are on the other end.
On the flip side, I think we were very fortunate when it comes to our potential road to the Sweet 16. Nothing against either team, but I would much rather play the winner of Oklahoma/St. Joe's than the winner of Indiana/Arkansas or Butler/South Alabama. Nothing is a given in the dance, but I'm not going to try and act like I wouldn't be more nervous on Sunday afternoon if I knew we were playing IU or Butler than I will be if we're taking on the Sooners or Hawks.
The West sucks. It's awful. I know this is old news, but every time I look at a bracket, I'm blown away by just how easy UCLA's road to San Antonio is.
People keep talking about what a great draw Kentucky got with Marquette, and while I think that's true, Marquette also got a great draw with Kentucky.
We've been talking all year about how the Golden Eagles' lack of a post game was going to come back and bite them the same way it did in '07, regardless of how well their trio of guards played. Well, now they've been paired with a team that's hurting on the inside even more than they are.
Both teams are probably in over their heads against Stanford, but I'm not convinced that Cornell isn't going to give the Cardinal all it can handle.
Five first-round games that I wouldn't pay to see - because I'm poor - but that I would gladly accept free tickets to:
1. 6) USC vs. 11) Kansas State
Only so I can be lucky number one million to say the same thing.
2. 5) Notre Dame vs. 12) George Mason
Everyone is already talking about the potential Harangody/Hansbrough showdown in the Sweet 16, but people, if you don't sit back and enjoy Harangody/Thomas then you're going to miss all of the fun.
3. 7) Butler vs. 10) Alabama
I've thought for a while that USA might actually be the mid-major team best-suited for an exciting March run, but after watching them play Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt semis and seeing this draw, I'm not so sure anymore.
4. 2) Xavier vs. 14) Georgia
I am officially intrigued.
5. 7) Gonzaga vs. 10) Davidson
The committee drew a little bit of heat for pairing several of the best mid-majors against one another in last year's tournament, but I'm glad that they made the proper adjustments this year.
If I knew it wouldn't send me into an unspeakably dark depression, I'd totally be cheering for a Boise State/Oklahoma game in the second round.
Best chance for a major first-round upset: 13) Siena over 4) Vanderbilt
I think this is a good draw for the Saints. They've got an athletic enough frontcourt that they won't be dominated by an above average tall guy, and Ubiles and Hasbrouck should both be able to put up some solid numbers against Vandy's guards.
Major first-round upset I really, really want to happen: 15)American over 2) Tennessee
I'm a Patriot League fan for the same reason 90% of non-alumni Patriot League fans are Patriot League fans: I read John Feinstein's The Last Amateurs several years ago. Since then I've spent a couple of hours on the third Thursday or Friday of March rooting on Holy Cross, Bucknell or...well, usually Holy Cross or Bucknell. But now the Eagles are into the dance for the first time in school history, and they're taking on a team as unlikeable as any in the field. It also doesn't hurt that a win would significantly bolster Louisville's prospects.
Least aesthetically pleasing first-round game: 4) Pittsburgh vs. 13) Oral Roberts
It's like the Big East champion vs. the mini-Big East champion. First team to either score 55 points or break an opponent's bone should be declared the winner.