With my bracket in ruins, primarily because of the East Region where I have no chance to get additional points, I can now be totally objective when looking at the remaining games. Although it shouldn't be, the ACC getting five teams into the Sweet Sixteen has surprised some people. To me, I thought the Big 12 was really over-seeded in this tournament, so it is very surprising that they couldn't get more than two teams through to this point. With all of the upsets so far, it's a little hard to believe that there isn't more than the single double digit seed left, UCLA at 11 in the South Region. I had Virginia advancing to the final against Kentucky, but a poor shooting night left them to wait another year to try to advance to the Final Four. In fact, poor shooting was a big reason some of the favorites are out of the tourney. It's hard to win when you can't score.
(5) West Virginia vs. (1) Kentucky: A lot of people are saying that the Mountaineer press should be able to give Kentucky problems. Arkansas, who lost to the Wildcats by double digits twice this season, also have a vaunted press. It doesn't produce turnovers at quite the pace as West Virginia's, but it tended to be effective throughout the season. Against Kentucky, it was virtually meaningless. With their size, the top-ranked Wildcats can just throw over it and with their guards, they can simply dribble through it. I have to admit that I haven't seen West Virginia play more than a few minutes this season, but I find it difficult to consider that Kentucky won't be able to neutralize the Mountaineer pressure.
(7) Wichita State vs. (3) Notre Dame: The ACC has shown that it's a formidable conference. It was evident from their performance against Kansas that the Shockers had a chip on their shoulders for being disregarded by their in-state foes for so long. The Irish are a very good basketball team, losing only five games on their way to capturing their league tournament title, defeating fellow Sweet Sixteen team UNC in the final. Wichita State has only four losses, but failed to win their conference title. Northern Iowa, the runner-up to Wichita State in the regular season and winner of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, lost to Louisville, another ACC team in the round of 32. I like Wichita State, but Notre Dame is battle tested and can really shoot well, forcing me to give the Irish the nod in this one.
(4) North Carolina vs. (1) Wisconsin: In a brutal region, the winner of this game potentially has to get past Arizona to advance. But first things first. North Carolina was able to shoot well and control the ball against an inexperienced Arkansas tournament team, something they'll have to do an even better job of if they have a chance to pull off an upset. Wisconsin has been here before, led by possible player of the year Frank Kaminsky. The Big Ten champs will also be facing a Tar Heel squad that will probably be without 6'9" forward Kennedy Meeks who hurt his ankle in the win over the Razorbacks. His size will definitely be missed. However, there have been times this season when the Tar Heels have looked invincible. If they get it going like that, they have a chance against the Badgers. If not, we'll be watching Wisconsin again on Saturday. My money is on the Badgers, my heart in Carolina.
(6) Xavier vs. (2) Arizona: I had Arizona getting to the Final four from the beginning, and I haven't seen anything that makes me think differently now. The Wildcats aren't particularly deep, but they're balanced on offense and have the second tallest team in the NCAA tournament. Xavier, the lone survivor out of the Big East, suddenly looks over-matched, despite two good victories in the tournament. The Musketeers have a fair amount of height, with three regulars at 6'9" or taller. Starters Stainbrook and Reynolds both shoot at better than 60% from the field, but Arizona's height might be able to neutralize those easy shots inside. This doesn't look like a great match-up for Xavier, but if they can get some space under the basket, who knows.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK
Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel",
available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.