By Michael Wilbon
Monday, March 12, 2007
I've got Georgetown. You can have anybody else in the 65-team field, including defending champion Florida; give me Georgetown. Give me the team that has won 15 of its past 16 games, including all three in the Big East tournament. Give me the team that played eventual champion Florida tougher than any team in last year's tournament. I'll take the team with a great all-court player, Jeff Green, and a low-post scorer/shot-blocker, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert.
Nobody else has the talent, intelligence, discipline, depth, size, experience and balance of Georgetown. And nobody, this season anyway, has been better coached. The Hoyas are a lot better than Boston College and Texas Tech, one of which Georgetown will play in the second round. The Hoyas are better than Vanderbilt and Washington State, one of which Georgetown could play, better than Marquette and Michigan State and even North Carolina, which are playing in the top half of that East Region that includes Georgetown.
The one team I might take, under different circumstances, would be Texas because it has the single best player in the country, wunderkind native son Kevin Durant. If the Longhorns had a veteran point guard, Durant could be to this tournament what Carmelo Anthony was to the tournament four years ago. But Texas has a freshman point guard who doesn't yet fully understand that every possession he doesn't get the ball to Durant is as good as a turnover, so Texas can't win, which is why they lost the Big 12 final to Kansas in OT yesterday.
Georgetown can win. So can Florida, which I will take coming out of the Midwest. So can Texas A&M, which I will take coming out of the South even though the Aggies would have to survive playing Louisville in Kentucky. So can UCLA, which I will take coming out of the West playing all its games in California.
But still, Georgetown seems better equipped to win six straight games -- better equipped this time around than the Duke Blue Devils, whom I have losing in the very first round to Virginia Commonwealth; better than the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, whom I have losing in the very first round to Winthrop; better equipped than Ohio State, whom I have going out to Texas A&M and Acie Law.
Having said all that, we're very likely in store for the same thrills and joy rides that have marked recent tournaments, despite the fact that the NCAA tournament selection committee put together a field that -- one year after George Mason's run -- stuck it to the little schools, as usual.
Let me now commence with my tirade by saying I hate the selection committee.
Individually, they're fine people, I'm sure. Collectively, I don't want them around me. Their decision to take Arkansas, which went 2-8 on the road this season, over Drexel or Syracuse stinks. Really, it's stupid to the point of being offensive. Arkansas finished 7-9 in the SEC. Syracuse finished 10-6 in the tougher Big East, won seven of its last 10 games, played tough nonconference games against Wichita State, Drexel and Oklahoma State. Here' s what makes even less sense: Syracuse finished ahead of Villanova and Marquette, both of whom were selected at-large.
Even worse, the selection committee took eight mid-majors last year, six this year. And in a totally slimy move, the committee matched two mid-majors, Butler and Old Dominion, against each other in the first round. Please.
Collectively, they annually reward gutlessness. As Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint said, the power conference schools won't play at Drexel -- not ever. Flint took his team on the road, played big conference teams and sometimes even won -- then got the back of the selection committee's hand. The only conclusion you can draw after studying the committee's selections is they simply don't want mid-majors in the tournament. The committee comes frighteningly close to acting as an agent for the power conferences.
Look, I went to a Big Ten school. I love the Big Ten. But slap me right here if the Big Ten deserved to have six teams get in this tournament. Purdue wasn't as deserving as Air Force of a spot in this tournament. The committee showed way too much love to the power conferences. Stanford, at 18-12, doesn't have a résumé that screams out for inclusion. The only people who disgust me more than the selection committee today are the university presidents who indefensibly but arrogantly stand in the way of a college football playoff.
Of course, the power and glory of the NCAA tournament is such that by Thursday we'll pretty much forget about everything except the basketball.
And locally, we should get to see three full weekend's worth, just like last year.
Maryland can beat everybody in its bracket except Florida; the Terrapins, on the other hand, could just as easily be in the trick bag in its very first game against Davidson. Still, I'm going to presume the Terrapins, particularly their freshman point guards, learned something valuable in that dreadful loss to Miami in the first round of the ACC tournament, and will edge out Davidson, then beat the Old Dominion-Butler winner before succumbing to Florida in the region semifinal.
George Washington is going to have its hands full with Vanderbilt out in Sacramento. And Virginia, though a No. 4 seed, had better play well or get bounced by No. 13 Albany.
If you're looking for dark horses, and by that I mean teams seeded No. 6 or lower that can win two games, look at Arizona and Winthrop in the Midwest, Gonzaga and Virginia Commonwealth in the West, Louisville and Creighton in the South. We're not going to see four No. 1 seeds advance to the Final Four. In fact, Florida, a worthy overall No. 1 seed and the team people least want to face in this tournament, might be the only top seed to make it to the Final Four -- only to lose to Georgetown.