Whenever Selection Sunday comes around, people tend to knee jerk their bracket picks, myself I tend to do the selection post it and then go back to it after doing some research. Luckily, my final four is still in place after some third round heart attacks.
Most notably Ohio State who had to rely upon the clutch of Aaron Craft and some poor officiating to advance to the regional semi-final to play Arizona. Iowa State will feel hosed following a questionable offensive charge call on Craft when his feet were moving, however the Cyclones clock management cost them as they allowed Craft the ball with 20 seconds to have a shot, and as he showed on the road at Indiana he is ultra-clutch and drained a three point jumper to win the game with 0.2 seconds remaining.
Kansas Jayhawks had an awful first half shooting against the North Carolina Tar Heels, luckily though so did Roy Williams' side as both combined to miss 50 plus shots in the first half. Kansas exploded at the start of the second half with a 23-8 run to end the game before you knew it. At the start, the Tar Heels crammed Jeff Withey for room in the paint, suffocating him for movement but Travis Releford stepped up in second half. This is the Jayhawks key, they have enough playmakers in Withey, Releford, Ben McLemore and Elijah Johnson that someone will step up.
Unlike say Georgetown, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
All three sides who are seminal names in the College Basketball landscape, yet they all fell to double-digit seeded teams who showed them up to be slow in tempo and stuck in their ways.
Wisconsin lost to Ole Miss, in this instance the Bo Ryan's Badgers can be forgiven as they lost to a team in Ole Miss who had to play hard down the stretch in the SEC to even be considered for the tournament, but a placing in the SEC final where they lost to Florida helped that matter. Led by a vocal Marshall Henderson, who scored double-digits in the second half the Rebels beat Wisconsin 57-46. Wisconsin usually dictate the tempo and make shots from three point range, on this occasion Ole Miss kept up the tempo and the Badgers could not keep up.
Notre Dame have a tradition of being a side who do well week-in,week-out in the Big East and yet come to the Dance they come up short. They lost to #10 Iowa State, the fourth year in succession the Irish have lost to a double digit side, on this occasion it was embarrassing 76-58. For me the Cyclones have the high tempo and great long range shooting to trouble the Irish, and they were my banker first round upset. Don't believe me check my bracket.
Looking at the Notre Dame offensive output of 58 points and a 18 point deficit, this weak offensive output is a staple of Big East play. Whilst I believe Louisville will still win the National title owing to having the best defence, but they have the offensive firepower to explode if need be. Whereas Georgetown Hoyas were overrated and should not have been a 2 seed.
Obviously, losing to Florida Gulf Coast Eagles was a seismic shock of epic proportions, the greatest 15 over 2 seed upset in NCAA history and yet looking back over the seasons of both sides is it really a surprise.
Georgetown average points is 64.6, whereas FGCU average 73.1 which is 49th ranked side in the country. Georgetown's best win all season was a 53-51 win at home to then ranked #5 Louisville. FGCU beat Miami 63-51 in their second game of the season, Miami were ranked top 5 by the end of the season. Georgetown rely too much on Otto Porter Jr who is meant to be a rebounding machine - Porter averages 7.4 boards a game, the team averages 32.9 (247th); the Eagles top rebounder is Sherwood Brown with 6.4 yet the team averges 36.6 (87th) so the team has more rebounds because they shoot more.
The key to the Eagles win was the high-tempo and they got ahead which is always a problem for any Big East side as they then panic and attempt long threes which Big East sides are not renowned for. Gulf Coast play fast and play in space allowing easy dunks and points in the paint, they murdered the Hoyas in transition.
FGCU come from the Atlantic Sun conference, winning the tournament over regular-season champion Mercer 88-75 on Mercer's floor to win the automatic bid. FGCU are tough nuts but want to hang with the best; they beat Miami as mentioned but they also scheduled games against Duke, Iowa State, St. Johns and VCU - all respected teams that they lost to. They themselves have been guilty of complacency losing to Lipscomb (12-18) twice and East Tennessee State (10-22); this indicates a team that if it plays with momentum and now confidence they should not be surprised by their potential and wins, they are on a seven game winning streak (average victory 11.1 points) that started by beating Mercer at home on February 28th, a month later they play inter-state rivals Florida Gators in Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
The beauty of this story involving the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles is that no-one gave them a chance, and that makes it all the more surprising. Florida are an experienced side and Billy Donovan has a few more days to prepare for the four point guard system; a side that have 14 assists a game but they shoot a high field goal percentage of .460, ranked 49th nationally.
This weekend predictions:
WEST: Ohio State over Arizona, Wichita over La Salle - Ohio State to reach Final Four
EAST: Miami over Marquette, Indiana over Syracuse - Indiana to reach Final Four
MIDWEST: Louisville over Oregon, Duke over Michigan State - Louisville to reach Final Four
SOUTH: Kansas over Michigan, Florida over Florida Gulf - Kansas to reach Final Four
I'm sticking with the initial Final Four selections, the only worry will be Michigan State v Duke a close contest and Michigan v Kansas. If the Wolverines back court is consistent and avoids turnvovers, the Jayhawks may have problems but if Withey can control the paint it might be another story.
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