What's funny? Last year... I was writing how 14 of the top 16 teams made it through... this year? Only 8 of the top 16 teams made it through... including the fall of the heavy favorite, Kansas.
The thing that says the most about this year's tournament... my bracket at work has 10 sweet 16 teams... and that puts me in first place! For perspective, 10 teams is usually average looking back at past year's performances. Flipping coins will get you 8. 11 teams is usually really good, and anything above 11 is sensational... usually. This year? 11 makes you a genius!
Indiana University Transfers
Jamal Crawford - Xavier - Star player in the sweet 16!
Ben Allen - St. Mary's - Role player for St. Mary's... in the sweet 16!
Armon Bassett - Ohio University - Bassett had dominated the MAC Tourney, had shredded Georgetown, but Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl had the perfect plan to stop Bassett... double team him on the perimeter when he gets the ball. Bassett could not get free the entire game and I sadly waited the entire game for the Ohio coach too make an adjustment to get Bassett the ball off a screen (Rip Hamilton style) or run any kind of motion and passing to free up Bassett. Never happened. We were so close to all 3 Indiana transfers making it. It's too bad the IU coach messed up everything. An IU team with these 3 players could have certainly made the sweet 16 this year!
Big East Bubble Burst
In so many ways, it was like the dot-com stock bubble burst. The Big East had a sensational year last year, landing three #1 seeds and two #3 seeds, and four teams in the Elite 8. Before the season began, everyone knew it was going to be a transition year for the entire conference as most of the players from those teams either graduated or went to the NBA. Thus, the conference has very young teams... and most of the teams were maddingly inconsistent. I got sucked into the artificially high ranking of the Big East (2nd according to Sagarin before the tourney). The ranking was clearly due more to its depth (16-team league w/ 13 good teams this year). However, 6 Big East teams got "upset" and crashed out early, including shocking losses from Georgetown to Ohio U., Notre Dame to Old Dominion, Marquette getting stomped on by Washington, and Villanova getting smashed by St. Mary's.
Non-Power Conference Team Notes
Cornell - very interested to see them take on Kentucky. They are disciplined, shoot 44% from 3-point land (as a TEAM!), and have a 7-footer and a 6'8" PF. Cornell & Kentucky were 2 of the more dominant teams the first weekend and their game next week should be a trea.
St. Mary's - 7-footer Omar Samhan's dominance, as well as the beautiful high arcing 3-pointers of McConnell, were a beauty to watch in the 1st two rounds. Baylor, according to SI, has 4 big men that can go one-on-one with Samhan. So... we will see soon enough what Samhan can really do, because honestly neither Richmond or Villanova had competent or even comparable big men to battle Samhan.
Butler - After watching Butler's first two game, I don't believe they have the big men to continue their run. Big man Matt Howard got in foul trouble against Murray State and they barely survived. Against Syracuse??? Forget it.
Northern Iowa - not only did they beat Kansas... but they now get Michigan State who is missing their best player! Pencil them in for the elite 8!
Xavier - Jordan Crawford has been a joy to watch... but they have an insane matchup against a highly skilled tandem from Kansas State.