Heart's still racing. Man do I love this day.
The Final Four Will Be: Michigan State, Memphis, Pitt, North Carolina.
The Atlantic 11 Report: As expected, five teams got in from Maryland/D.C./Virginia: Four via automatic berths (Radford, Morgan State, American, VCU) and one with an at-large (Maryland). That's down from 2008 (six teams) and 2007 (seven teams), but up from 2006 (three teams) and 2005 (two teams).
And while the seeds are all low this year (16-15-14-11-10, in that order), both 2005 entries were 12 seeds (Old Dominion and George Washington). So this isn't unprecedented by any means.
Easiest High Seed to Pick Against: It seems too easy, but it's got to be Duke. I mean, we've seen that game before, and VCU and West Virginia won it, the latter while mocking the Blue Devils. Take Texas in the second round and into the Sweet 16.
Most Insufferable Site: Greensboro. UNC, Duke, Hook 'em Horns and Kornheiser's alma mater all in one building? Make mine a double.
ACC-Big 10 Challenge, Again: There are two Big 10-ACC matchups in the first round (Clemson-Michigan, and Florida State-Wisconsin). There could easily be two more in the second round (Duke-Minnesota, and BC-Michigan State). The ACC has never lost the challenge, and went 6-5 head-to-head this year.
I'm Uncollegial, Part I: Did anyone see Eric Prisbell's Maryland blurb in this morning's paper, where he picks the field? "No coach could have done better," he wrote
Really? There's not another coach in America that could have pulled off one legitimate upset (UNC), one moderate upset against an unmotivated team (Wake), one win against a great team missing its leading rebounder (Michigan State), and a grand total of one road win against a team with a winning record? Not one coach could have done that while avoiding a home loss to a MEAC school?
(And this is what I originally had here, though I deleted it for space: If this REALLY was something no one else could have done better, well, a lot of ink was spilled this season asking if this guy was still up to his job. And now, no one could do it better? Not meant as a cheap shot at Gary or at Prisbell; I just think Gary's somewhere in between those two extremes.)
Lock It: Michigan over Clemson.
Upset Watch: As I wrote last year, many of the best upset nods are low-seeded major conference teams, especially those that can shoot the three. (6th-seeded Vanderbilt in 2007, 6th-seeded West Virginia in 2006, 10th-seeded N.C. State in 2005, 7th-seeded West Virginia in 2005, 12th-seeded Missouri in 2002.) Candidates this year? 10th-seeded Michigan, 13th-seeded Mississippi State and 6th-seeded Arizona State. I'll take Arizona State to the Elite Eight, I think.
I'm Uncollegial, Part II: I'm Uncollegial, Part II: Quoting Feinstein: "Will the world truly be a better place because the Big Ten, which has one truly quality team (Michigan State) and one other pretty good team (Purdue), gets eight bids as the experts say it will? Shouldn't Illinois and Penn State have been sent immediately to the NIT the very minute their 38-33 debacle came to a merciful conclusion last month?"
Uh, would San Diego State's inclusion have truly made the world a better place? And are teams not allowed to win postseason games with defense? Should the Super Bowl Ravens have not been invited to the playoffs due to a low-octane offense and ridiculous defense? Also, mid-major favorite Northern Iowa scored 43 against Marquette, 46 against Iowa and 46 against Iowa, all losses.
Mid-Major Gripe: That being said, check this out. San Diego State, which didn't make the tournament, won by 30 against Hampton on a neutral court. THIRTY. (Ok, 29.) Hampton swept Morgan State. And we all know what Morgan State did to the Terps.
More Advice: For nine years in a row, and 12 out of 13 years, the eventual national champion has made at least one recent Final Four appearance. ("Recent" meaning "within the past seven years.") So don't take Pitt, Missouri or Wake Forest to win it all, and I'd be leery of Oklahoma. (The Sooners made the Final Four in '02.)
Best Foreshadowing: The American pep band played the theme song from "Rocky" sometime during the school's Selection Show party, well before the Eagles' trip to Philly to face Villanova was announced.
Ignore Me: Here are last year's Final Four picks. I didn't do so hot. (Only UCLA was correct.) Though I have won a bunch of pools in my day, and got 75 percent of the Final Four correct in '07. My comprehensive advice last year was mostly abysmal, but I still stand by it.
A 6-11 Pick: VCU over UCLA. Duh. Eric Maynor to the Sweet 16 this time, with assists from the Larry Sanders Show. Find me another 11 seed toting a championship belt and maybe I'll reconsider.
Best Sites for Atlantic 11 Fans: American and VCU both head to Philly. Maryland and Morgan State both head to Kansas City.
I'm Uncollegial, Part III: Ok, Michael Wilbon's column last week ended up arguing that conference tournaments are still relevant, despite his doubts. But I can't believe he even doubted. Last week is, without question, more of a rip-roaring good time than this week on the sporting calendar. Last week, every team in the country--or nearly every one--still had a chance, and there was drama day and night for seven days. By this week, strange as it sounds, things are a bit more chill. And trust me, many fans still care very much about conference tournament titles--a lot more so than first-round NCAA wins.
National Championship: Memphis over Pitt.