Coming into the tournament, pundits and fans alike could agree that this was a weird tournament as there was really no clear favorite...and college basketball's parity would be more on display than ever this year.
It has been...but some of it is self-inflicted.
Gonzaga never deserved a one seed...but their seeding was an obvious representation of a thesis I've had for years: the committee gets brainwashed like everyone else does...and no one, even committee members live in a bubble. Stupid crap spewed by guys like Vitale simply muddied the water and forced the hand of the committee.
The Zags nearly became the first 1 to lose to a 16...then followed it up by getting knocked out by Witchita State. This was one thing I got right in my bracket; I had no faith in Gonzaga. Unlike B1G teams, they simply weren't tested...the pressure is ratcheted up on the biggest stages versus the best teams...hell, it's even a lot of pressure versus an OK team, on national TV in a large, packed house; when you're supposed to win. Mark Few's guys failed the test, but it shocked no one.
Foolishly, I believed that Jamie Dixon would forget who he was this year and take his Pitt Panthers on a lil' run in the tourney. Of course, he did not. And in doing so, he taught me a valuable lesson: Never pick Pitt in March...and Pitt made sure that advice would stick the day after their loss by signing him to a 10 year extension...craziness. I guess they felt his door was getting beaten down; by whom, I don't know. Their conference mate, G'Town also crapped the bed by becoming only the seventh 2 seed to go down to a 15. The good news is Florida Gulf Coast was the assassin's hand, in this case...and we got to meet their coach's wife in the process: Amanda Marcum.
Earlier today, we saw Temple wilt under the pressure of the big stage and Oladipo rise to the occasion (yet again) as IU survived and advanced to the round of 16. Still no word from Bloomington on whether nets were cut down, a new trophy case was built or rings were handed out...I assume the answer to all questions is yes. Hope so, because I think Boeheim's Orange will be a tougher win than the owls were this afternoon. IU struggled versus the zone this season...and no one plays that defense as well as Syracuse.
Another guy that stepped up today was Aaron Craft. I've never been a fan of that guy...but if he wore gold and black, I'm sure I would be. He plays hard, doesn't believe any loose ball is out of his reach and seems to be afraid of no one. He made a few mistakes down the stretch versus The Mayor's Cyclones...but he made up for it with a few huge plays in the closing seconds.
And with aOSU's win, it became pretty obvious to me that the Bucknuts most-assuredly have the easiest road the final four EVER.
They've beaten a 15 and a 10 seed so far...their next two steps will be versus a 6 seed and a 9 or 13. WOW!! Ohio State is good...but the old saying is it's better to be lucky than good...but how about, it's best to be lucky and good. Matta's team has been given a gift in their bracket...a road to Atlanta in which they'll have to only play one ranked opponent...one who was barely ranked at the end of the season.
UCLA officially fired Ben Howland in the wake of their dismantling at the hands of a mediocre Minnesota team. UCLA had one of the nation's best recruiting classes in '12...and they probably acquired it by whatever means necessary...Howland's program had been slipping; and the only reason they had everyone eligible during this season was because an NCAA investigator dropped the ball during the investigation. My question after I heard that this was going to happen last night was how long it will be before Shaka Smart and/or Brad Stevens are contacted? Sure, both bowed out pretty early from the tourney this season...but both are still white hot commodities in the coaching world.
Getting back to the bracket really quickly- I've never had one of mine deemed completely worthless as early as I did this year. For some dumbass reason, I picked New Mexico to go to the Final Four. Steve Alford promptly kicked me in the teeth. The good news is that when your bracket turns to crap, you can watch the tournament and just root for underdogs and programs you like (read as: the cutest mascots). But on Twitter, J and I were asked if we root for B1G programs this time of year.
If you read the site, which I'm quickly learning many of our Twitter followers don't*, you know that we have very little conference loyalty. I wasn't rooting for Wisconsin because I wanted to see Bo Ryan whine. I don't root for MSU because they seem to have a ton of unlikable characters within the program...and I absolutely never root for IU (since Crean was hired). I actually did root for IU to win when Davis was coach; that was the exception.
Here's to IU's run ending soon and Florida Gulf Coast's coach earning another trophy.
*Actually, I don't think many of our Twitter followers think we're anything more than one amazingly-funny and/or brash dude in his parents' basement...they're only half right.