Sunday, March 15, 2009
The Pac 10 Sends a Trojan Horse to the Tournament
I can't even begin to tell you why I think USC's Pac 10 Championship is so cool.
Pac 10 Championship: USC 66, Arizona State 63
It is SO cool. Here you had a team that nobody expected to do anything, the same team on the bubble of getting into the NCAA's at all. Here's a group that lost easily its best player in 25 years, O.J. Mayo, and a considerable underdog going up against teams like UCLA, Washington, and Arizona State.
But here you are! The Trojans, usually not much in basketball, rise to the top and defeat both the Bruins and Sun Devils in the Process. I don't have a dog in the fight. In general, I don't root for other USC Sports, and I've also been pulling for Baylor and Georgia Tech for no good reason. But you know what? I am really, REALLY happy to see the Trojans win the Pac 10. This is the greatest underdog story in the Pac 10; obviously it guarantees the Trojans a berth in the tourney, and who knows? Maybe they'll get a chance to upset someone in the first round.
Other Tournament News and Notes...
How about Cal State Northridge taking care of Pacific to win the Big West? CSUN wins 71-66, despite blowing a 18 point lead and having to go to OT to do it. Pacific with all the hype they've been getting looked like the darling of everyone in the Big West. So too did Long Beach State. Yet it's Northridge who takes it all. That's a big win for Northridge, plus, its the first time they've won the Big West Tournament. Granted, they got an at large bid several years ago, but for the Matadors, a strong season for that group.
...but to think UCSB had them on the ropes three times!!!!!
Michigan State ousted by Ohio State, and it wasn't even close. Ohio State won 82-70, and honestly they were up by much more than that. I'm surprised, but I probably should be. Tony Jimenez tells us the Big Ten is really not that strong this season. Be careful about Big 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament!
North Carolina falls to Florida State, and nobody cares. FSU beat UNC 73-70 on Saturday in the ACC tournament. Boy do the Tarheels miss Ty Lawson!
The end of the Line for Baylor: Baylor gets blown out by Missouri 73-60 in the Big 12 Championship Game Saturday. DaMare Carroll scored 20 points as he carried the Tigers to its first Big 12 title since 1993. It was quite a great ride for Baylor, but Mizzou is simply a better team.
The moment I saw Louisville clobber Providence despite playing their worst game of the week, I knew this was the team to beat in the Big East Tournament. Surely enough, they took the Big East championship on Saturday night as they defeated a worn out Syracuse 76-66. The headline reads "Louisville takes its first ever Big East Title." That's obvious: Louisville didn't join the Big East until 2005. They are good. I know so often we see them choke before making the Final Four, but depending on seed, I can see them making it this year.
The Tournament in a Nutshell...
Off the top of my head, I see these teams being "Final Four" good. Again it depends on how they're seeded later this afternoon:
North Carolina, good, but iffy (depends on Lawson)
UConn, good, but I have a hard time thinking they'll get a #1 seed now. Losing to Pitt Twice, check that, getting EMBARASSED by Pitt Twice and now the deal with Syracuse in the Big East tourney. I just don't see them doing much past the Elite 8.
Duke, good. Once again I think they're a Sweet Sixteeen team at best.
Teams that didn't impress me.
Hey what about Kansas? No way. You don't lose to the worst team in the conference and live to tell about it. They aren't due a top seed anyway, but I'd be really surprised if they even won a game in the tournament. I don't like Kansas.
Most of the Big Ten, except *maybe* Ohio State... nope, even Ohio State! Pretty much any team with a running game will have their way against the Big Ten. I do see two teams with Final Four potential in the Big Ten, but I'll get to that in a moment. Everyone else? They ought to flame out in the first weekend.
Washington. I don't think I ever considered Washington as a legitimate contender in the Pac 10. I know they had the top seed in the Pac 10 tournament, but I just never take them seriously. It's probably my own fault, but that's been how I've seen them, even though they made a nice comeback against Arizona State on Friday.
USC... well I think they'll have a chance to advance a round, and potentially get a huge upset in the second round. That's the extent to which SC would be a "dark horse".
Penn State and Purdue: ok they lost in embarrassing fashion, but since everyone loves to dog the Big Ten (like me), I have to think they'll use that as momentum to make a big run. There's an outisde shot either team makes the Final Four, but as usual, it will take a lot.
Arizona State and UCLA: Both of them have Elite Eight potential. After that, it's a coin flip. UCLA's defense is overrated, but no slouch. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team get into the big dance.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma had been without Blake Griffin for a while, and while they couldn't round the wagons with him back the other day, I still see OU as a legitimate contender. This probably shouldn't even be in the "Dark Horse" category, but if they get a seed lower than 3rd, I think it qualifies.
I think we're in for another good ride here in the NCAAs. For all we know, we could end up with few upsets, but if Conference Week was any indication, man am I ever seeing some huge upsets this time around.
Disclaimer: I watched a limited amount of college basketball this season, so most of these picks are instinctual reactions. Nonetheless, I'm proud to say I made a similar pick when I chose CSUN to win the Big West Tournament. Who's the man? Oh yeah.. I AM!!