John Feinstein's South Region analysis

Duke's drought may end, but watch the Big 12 duo

Monday, March 15, 2010

For all the TV blather about Duke getting the third overall seed in the tournament over Syracuse, who cares? If you're a No. 1 seed, you're a No. 1 seed. That said, committee chairman Dan Guerrero added to the nonsense by saying, "Well, Syracuse is still playing close to home" in the first two rounds in Buffalo. Syracuse was going to Buffalo regardless and couldn't have played in the East Region final because those games will be in . . . Syracuse. So what's the difference between playing in Houston and playing in Salt Lake?

Back to Duke, which could face a difficult second-round game against Louisville. This has a chance to be the ultimate proof that the Big East is vastly superior to the ACC: a middling Big East team beating the ACC champion. Louisville will beat California, which probably shouldn't have made the field out of the pathetic Pacific-10. (At which school is Guerrero the athletic director? Oh yeah, UCLA.)

If Duke gets past that game, its chances of getting to the Final Four for the first time since 2004 still aren't all that great. The Big 12 was the second-best conference in the country. Duke's likely round-of-16 opponent is Texas A&M, assuming it can win in the first round against Utah State, which deserved its at-large bid after it lost to New Mexico State in the WAC final.

Normally, this would be the place to scream about Siena being relegated to a No. 13 seed, but without Robbie Hummel, Purdue is vulnerable as a No. 4. With Hummel, the Boilermakers would be no worse than a No. 2 seed.

A Siena-Utah State second-round game is not out of the question, but the best team of the four on that side of the bracket appears to be Texas A&M. If the Aggies do get to the second week, they get to play in Houston, practically at home.

On the bottom of the draw, Villanova limped into a No. 2 seed, but to count out a team with guards such as Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher is a mistake. Those guys keyed Villanova's Final Four run a year ago and should be good enough to at least get the Wildcats back to the round of 16. Still, the Richmond-St. Mary's winner won't be an easy second-round matchup. Both teams can make three-pointers, and that makes an upset possible.

If Villanova hadn't looked so vulnerable down the stretch, it would be the pick to make the region final. Still, the Wildcats' experience and guards might rescue them.

Don't be shocked to see Baylor and Texas A&M in an all-Big 12 region final in Big 12 territory. Even though Duke won the ACC tournament, its so-called Big Three didn't shoot very well. The Blue Devils can win with their half-court defense, but one more bad shooting night and their coach will be free to focus on this summer's world championships.


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