2 on 5: Bracket Reactions
What surprised you most about the brackets?
Joe: I know it’s been talked about a lot, and looking at total resumes I don’t have a huge problem with it, but Louisville and Michigan State have to be the best two #4 seeds I’ve ever seen. If I’m a fan of a #1 seed, I’d rather see my favorite team match up against Nova, Wisconsin, Syracuse, even Michigan before seeing either of those teams in the sweet sixteen. So enjoy your number #1 seeds Wichita State and Virginia, I don’t envy your roads to the elite eight, let alone Final Four.
Macgregor: It’s got to be the love for the A10. The A10 got 6 teams in (none of which were Last 4 In) and several teams got over seeded. VCU did not win the regular season or tournament and got a #5. St. Louis lost 4 of their last 5, including getting bounced by the Bonnies in the Conference Tournament and also got a #5. Umass finishes 6th in the conference and gets a seeded a #6 in the NCAA tournament. In all fairness the A10 has a high RPI conference rating and performed well in the tournament last year. Let’s see if they measure up again.
Who’s your Cinderella team that’s going to make a run to the second weekend?
Joe: North Dakota State, led by Taylor Braun averaging 18.3 ppg, North Dakota State leads the country in FG%. This is a veteran group who’s been hungry for a tournament bid if not for Nate Wolters last year, they would have already been here. I think Oklahoma and San Diego State are the weakest 5/4 combination as well.
Macgregor: Is a #7 seed Cinderella enough? How about Uconn? Guard play wins in the tournament and there aren’t many backcourts better than Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. This team is playing very well right now including (2) wins over Cincinnati and a win over Memphis all this month. Plus they ran into the Louisville buzz saw in the American Championship and held their own pretty well only losing by 10. Villanova is easily the weakest #2 seed and is all that stands in their path.
How about your dark horse final four team?
Joe: Baylor, they were written off after losing 7 of 8 in January/February. They’ve now won 10 of 12 in a tough Big 12. The way this team is playing, I think they’re better right now than Creighton or Wisconsin (Their biggest competition early on) and have the athleticism to matchup with Arizona.
Macgregor: I’m not sure there’s ever been a team that won a power conference regular season and conference tournament and gets a #1 seed that is talked less about than Virginia. Is it crazy to pick a #1 seed as a dark horse? Perhaps. But how many people are actually picking them to get there? It’s not a flashy name, they would have to go through the uber flavor of the month Michigan State, but this team is real. Take a look at your bracket pool and see how many people have them getting there. My bet is not many.
What’s the toughest call in your bracket?
Joe: What to do with Virginia. In my opinion, they’re the best team I’ve watched this year, but I’m worried about the “Pitt factor” – a well-coached, defense first team that falls flat. I’m also worried about if they play Michigan State, another well-coached team to say the least, which looms in the Sweet Sixteen
Macgregor: The #7v#10 matchups. NM is under seeded, but Stanford matches up well. Oregon can score a TON, but BYU is crafty and makes you work on defense. Uconn should move on, but St. Joe’s is riding high off an A10 Championship. I don’t know if there’s a more difficult game to pick than Texas v Arizona St. ASU guard Jahii Carson can win a game single handedly, but can easily lose it as well. There may not be a team colder than Texas right now.
So who’s cutting down the nets on Monday Night?
Joe: I’ve never seen a more wide open field from #1 through #6 seeds. I’m tempted to pick Louisville, and I think they make a run, but something tells me they don’t repeat. I’m going with my gut and taking Virginia to make a run and beat Louisville in the title game. I believe in you Tony Bennett!
Macgregor: Does Zona capitalize on easy draw? Do the scorching Cardinals repeat? Does Michigan State keep the Final Four streak alive and go all the way? Does Joel Embiid come back healthy? So many questions, which means I’m going with the most consistent team all year: Florida. Only 2 losses on the year: Wisconsin when they were half strength and Uconn on a buzzer beater. They have wins over Kansas and Memphis, plus ran the SEC table. They’re veteran, they’re steady, they may get Kansas not at full strength, and the Gators will make it three straight Championships for the Overall #1 seed.