Apparently losing in a conference tournament when you’re a big-name team has little meaning. Kansas lost to TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City and didn’t drop one iota in the eyes of the committee. It was the No. 2 team in the field going in, the No. 2 team coming out.
The same was basically true of Louisville, which also failed to win a game last week. It lost to a good team — Duke — but should have dropped at least behind UCLA to the three-line after that loss. But the Cardinals didn’t. The committee evidently liked Pitinos.
In truth, Oregon should have been the No. 2 seed here but lost Chris Boucher for the season Friday night — and the spot. Kansas will play the winner of N.C. Central-UC Davis first (The Eagles have arguably the most experienced team in the country with nine seniors) and then will have a tough game against either Michigan State or Miami.
The last time a Jim Larranaga team played the Spartans in the first round was 2006, when he was coaching George Mason. Everyone remembers what happened that year, including Tom Izzo. This is not one of Izzo’s better teams: too young, too small, too injured. But it’s still Izzo, and he’s still smarting from last year’s first-round upset at the hands of Middle Tennessee State. This should be one of the first round’s best games, and the winner will give Kansas all it wants.
Everyone loves to tout 5-12 matchups for upsets, and this region has one that’s possible: Nevada is one of the best under-the-radar teams in the country. Iowa State is hot, but beware of teams coming off an unexpected conference tournament win. The Cyclones could be vulnerable.
Purdue should make the Sweet 16 because it will be too big for a good Vermont team that has won 21 straight games, and then should handle Nevada or Iowa State. Should.
Louisville will beat first-timer Jacksonville State, which has one noteworthy former coach (Mark Turgeon) and one noteworthy alum (Masters champion Danny Willett). Michigan is another team that could be primed to lose in the first round after its draining week en route to a remarkable Big Ten tournament title. Oklahoma State is good enough to beat the Wolverines, although you never know about a team on a mission. John Beilein’s team gave new meaning to the phrase “survive-and-advance” this past week.
Oregon and Louisville would be a superb round-of-16 game, the difference perhaps being Louisville’s superior health. Kansas and Louisville makes sense as the regional final but for some reason it isn’t computing here.
Someone’s going to make a run. It could be Purdue, it could be the Miami-Michigan State winner and it could be Michigan. If the Wolverines somehow make it to Phoenix, it won’t be a book. It will be a Disney movie.