- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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Bracket first impressions:
Someone on the Selection Committee must be a frustrated screenplay writer.
How else to explain the endless plots coursing through some of these regions?
In the South, Kentucky will debut as the No. 1 overall seed against either its in-state neighbor, Western Kentucky, or former Wildcat Sean Woods, the man who would have sent the Unforgettables to the Final Four were it not for a guy named Laettner.
Should the Cats get through that game, next up is defending national champion Connecticut, the team that knocked them out of the Final Four a year ago. Last we took the pulse, former New England rivals Jim Calhoun and John Calipari weren’t double-dating with milkshakes, either.
After that how about a possible Sweet 16 date with Christian Watford, er, Indiana? The Hoosiers, thanks to Watford’s shot that restored a program, are the only team to beat Kentucky in the regular season.
And then to complete the fun down South, there is perhaps an Elite Eight game against Duke (which might have to get UNLV, its program-establishing Final Four foe, first). Twenty years ago this season, the two met in in a sort-of kind-of memorable regional final.
That guy named Laettner again.
Across the way in the Midwest there are some decent storylines, too. Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott could square off in an 1-8 game. The two once, believe it or not, were on the same team. As you might expect, Ames (Iowa) High was pretty good – 53-0 with two state titles in their tenure.
In the Sweet 16, Barnes' Tar Heels could tango with Michigan. If you don’t recall, the two met in the 1993 title game. Chris Webber remembers. He called timeout.
Being a No. 1 seed ain’t what it used to be.
Back when, like last year, you could write the nation’s best through to the Sweet 16 in ink. Maybe you wouldn’t press too hard, but ink was fine.
Now grab a pencil.
The No. 1s were not exactly rewarded with cakewalk 8-9 opponents.
Potentially lining up across from Kentucky: defending national champion Connecticut, a team that started the season ranked No. 4 in the country and sports two NBA first-rounders on its roster.
In line for North Carolina: How about a possible date with Creighton, one of the few teams in the country that can score with the Tar Heels and boasts an All-America candidate in McDermott to boot?
Michigan State could get a matchup with Memphis, a wildly talented No. 8 seed that has won 11 of its past 12 games.
Syracuse might say hello to Kansas State, two-time winners over Missouri.
Some other random observations:
Is it the nickname? If he went by something less intimidating — like his given name, James — would Bruiser Flint be welcomed to the party? His Drexel team did win 27 games after all, and that used to be the goal of the sport — winning games.
As usual, the 5-12 game is where the action is. Wichita State and VCU, mid-major darlings both, meet in the South; New Mexico-Long Beach State in the West and Vanderbilt-Harvard in the East. Tiebreaker in that one is a spelling bee.
Seeded too high: Colorado, Southern Miss.
Seeded too low: Memphis, Murray State, Detroit.
VCU 2012: That would be Iona. Most everyone is screaming about the Gaels being in. Understandable. But the Gaels are talented enough to make everyone eat their words just like the Rams did last year.
First team to 300 wins: That could be Creighton and North Carolina. The Tar Heels average 80 points; the Bluejays 83. Bring your oxygen tank.
Win or you’re out: That goes to all the folks who argued their merit despite failing to finish above .500 in their respective leagues. It’s not an official selection committee rule but de facto works fine by us.
And finally the potential: In October, they were tabbed the two best teams, loaded with the most talent. In December, they played an epic game in Lexington, Ky., decided only by Anthony Davis' incredible reach topping John Henson’s equally impossible wingspan. And on April 2, Kentucky and North Carolina could meet again for the national title.