After 4 days of wall-to-wall basketball, the field has been whittled to 16. The first round was as dull as it has ever been. There weren’t any memorable moments. But the second round made it up for with upsets galore and a few games that came down to the final possession. The 1981 and 2000 tournaments were the only others where two #1 seeds failed to make it to the Sweet 16.
Below are some fairly random comments on each of the 16 teams that survived. To spice it up I have added the odds you could have got in Vegas before the season started on each team winning it all. 58 teams were listed then, and you got 12 to 1 odds on the field – all of the other 268 teams combined.
West Regional (Phoenix)
Connecticut (4 to 1)…UConn was the preseason favorite, and they may be the favorites today after the wreckage that occurred over the weekend. Ben Gordon is playing like he’s on the And 1 tour and Okafor is back (heh heh, get it).
Vanderbilt (Field)…Vandy came up with the most shocking comeback of the tourney as NC State proved that depth is important sometimes. The Pack were lost after Julius Hodge fouled out with 3 minutes left. I give Vandy no chance against UConn. The Commodores reacted like they had just earned a berth in the Final Four as opposed to the Sweet 16.
Syracuse (18 to 1)…Once again the Orange have made it to the Sweet 16 with little fanfare. Just like last year they draw a much easier opponent than expected and also one from the SEC. Last year it was the 10 seed Auburn, this year the 8 seed Alabama.
Alabama (100 to 1)…Alabama was tied for 39th on the oddsmakers list with such notables as Iowa State, Tulsa, and Villanova. 8 or 9 seeds are 6-4 in their regional semi-final round. So history would say there isn’t much of a hangover after upsetting the number 1. Syracuse dealt with this in ’96 as a 4 seed against 8 seed Georgia. It resulted in one of the best Sweet 16 games ever, a 2 point overtime win for the Orange.
South Regional (Atlanta)
Duke (5 to 1)…Do you remember the big crisis during Selection Sunday last year? It was that the two best teams in basketball, Kentucky and Arizona, would have to meet in the national semi-finals. Neither team made it to the Final Four. Crisis averted. Phew! But this year the committee decided to seed the number 1 seeds anyway, avoiding the possibility of such a calamity ever happening. Well lookee here! The best two teams in basketball may well meet before the final game anyway. Let’s face it, if a Duke/UConn semi-final takes place, it would be the championship.
Illinois (20 to 1)…Benefactor of another tourney flop for the Bearcats.
Texas (15 to 1)…Texas has depth, except at the point guard position where they have nothing.
Xavier (150 to 1)…Xavier has “the look.” Remember how I said Vandy looked like they had just made it to the Final Four? Well Xavier looked like it was just another day at the office against Mississippi State. They were clearly happy at the end, but while they were building their big lead, none of the players were dancing or pounding their heart or waving towels in that way that says “Wow! I can’t believe we’re doing this.” It should be an interesting game with Texas.
East Regional (East Rutherford)
Saint Joseph’s (50 to 1)…Two #1 seeds go down, and one of them wasn’t the Hawks. Imagine that! I’ll have more to say about the Saint Joe’s/Wake Forest game later this week.
Wake Forest (30 to1)…Beating the 12 and 13 seeds by a combined 5 points can’t be taken as a good sign. They could look back to the 1995 Arkansas team for inspiration. The Hogs beat the 15 seed by one point and eventually made it to the final game.
Oklahoma State (60 to 1)…Eddie Sutton was positively giddy at the halftime of the Memphis game. That means something coming from the Gene Keady of the Big 12.
Pittsburgh (75 to 1)…Who will win the Carl Krauser/John Lucas matchup?
Midwest Regional (Saint Louis)
Kansas (12 to 1)…All of a sudden the Final Four is a realistic possibility.
UAB (Field)…Coach Mike Anderson has implemented much of mentor Nolan Richardson’s principles. I prefer to call UAB’s style “40 minute of heck.” It’s not quite to Nolan’s Hell standard yet.
Georgia Tech (Field)…My pick to get out of this region now. They haven’t looked very sharp in their first two games, and might not need to in their next two.
Nevada (500 to 1)…Much like Vandy, they were too happy to advance past Gonzaga.
On a final note, here were the odds Kenneth Massey calculated before the tournament started. Notice that the favorite, Duke was about 4 to 1. This is why you can’t win your office pool. Even the best team only has a 20% chance of winning it all.