For all the craziness, the upsets, the buzzer-beaters and the monumental comebacks, when the smoke cleared Sunday night we’re still pretty close to form in the NCAA Tournament.
There truly were some amazing games during the first week of March Madness, such as Texas A & M’s comeback Sunday against Northern Iowa and Notre Dame rallying to nip Brad Underwood’s Stephen F. Austin team on a tip-in with 1.2 seconds left to deny the Lumberjacks of being the Queen of all Cinderellas at the ball.
As it turned out, two of the regionals things were pretty mundane.
In the South Regional, the top four seeds moved on except for No. 4 California, which can be given a pass since it lost one of its top players just before the tournament began.
In the West, the top four teams were spared the upset bug as form prevailed.
North Carolina, No. 1 in the East, is still alive, but Indiana (No. 5), Notre Dame (No. 6) and Wisconsin (No. 7) shook things up a bit as No. 2 Xavier was stunned and was No. 3 West Virginia and No. 4 Kentucky, which was my pick.
The Midwest Regional had the most upheaval, though No. 1 Virgina managed to escape the upset clutches. The big shocker here was No. 2 Michigan State (my pick to win it all) going out in the first round. Iowa State (No. 4) held up, but the other two teams are double-digit seeds No. 10 Syracuse and No. 11 Gonzaga (which meet this week).
I did have a couple of the early upsets picked. I had Baylor and Texas of the Big 12 going out in the first round to Yale and Northern Iowa, respectively. Baylor just struck me as a team that might not be focused, while I’ve never been sold on Texas, not to mention Northern Iowa always makes things difficult for teams because it can control tempo.
I still like Kansas’ chances to make the Final Four. The Jayhawks did what they were supposed to do in the first week, winning their games by double digits. I wasn’t overwhelmed by their next opponent, Maryland. I look for Villanova to take care of Miami to set up a 1 vs. 2 regional final.
In the West, I’m sticking with my pick of Duke. I believe it will topple No. 1 seed Oregon and then outlast OU in the regional final.
In the East, since Kentucky is gone for me, so I’m hitching up to North Carolina. A lot of the so-called experts believe they’re the team to beat. I liked how Xavier looked, but Carolina has too much size if the teams meet.
Michigan State killed me in the Midwest, so the Sweet 16 winner of Virginia and Iowa State advances as neither Syracuse or Gonzaga can make it to Houston. I’d love to see the Cyclones, but I’m not sure about their depth.
I’m sure this week will produce the usual thrills. By this time next week we’ll know who’s teeing it up in Houston and I’ll probably had to adjust my picks again.