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Sunday, March 14, 2010
First reaction to the bracket

By Pat Forde

Rapid-fire reactions to the bracket:

For the overall No. 1 seed, Kansas has a ton of excellent tournament coaches in its path to Indianapolis.

Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo is one of several accomplished coaches that could face Kansas in this tournament.
The second round game could be against UNLV and Lon Kruger, who has taken a No. 7 seed to the Sweet Sixteen (Vegas in 2007), a No. 4 seed to the Elite Eight (Kansas State in 1988) and a No. 3 seed to the Final Four (Florida in 1994).

Then how about a Sweet Sixteen game against Tom Izzo? He’s merely 31-11 in the Big Dance, and evicted last year’s overall No. 1 from the tourney. If not Michigan State, the Jayhawks could draw Maryland, coached by Gary Williams who has a championship ring and two Final Fours under his belt.

If Kansas makes a regional final it could bump into Thad Matta (’07 Final Four), or John Thompson III (also ’07 Final Four). And those guys happen to coach two of the top 10 players in the tournament in Evan Turner and Greg Monroe.

Not an easy draw. Nevertheless, I’ll take the Jayhawks to win it.

And then there’s the draw Duke got.

In a word: How?

How did the Blue Devils get geographic and S-curve preference over Syracuse among the No. 1 seeds? And how did they wind up with what had to be the weakest No. 2 seed in Villanova? Does the selection committee know it doesn’t have to prostrate itself in front of the best team in the ACC every year? Or is it just accustomed to doing so out of habit, and thus it came naturally?

And Duke gets a theoretical Sweet Sixteen game against No. 4 seed Purdue. Right. If you saw Purdue score 11 points in the first half of the Big Ten semis against Minnesota, you saw a team closer to a No. 14 seed than a 4.

A few people have sounded the alarm about a potential second-round matchup between Duke and Louisville. No doubt, the psycho Cardinals could give the Blue Devils quite a game. Of course, they also could lose by 20 to California in the first round.

The entire West Region is softer than Providence’s defense – with the exception of No. 3 seed Baylor. I loved the Bears to reach the Final Four before the bracket came out. Now I love them even more.

I disagree with people forecasting a difficult second-round game for Kentucky. The matchup of Texas and Wake Forest is a pair of dead teams walking – both playing horrible basketball at this point. Everyone loves the Longhorns’ talent – but what has that talent done in the past two months to make anyone believe it is ready to rise up and beat the most talented team in the country?

Wesley Johnson
If Wesley Johnson and Syracuse reach the Sweet 16, they'll have to travel to Salt Lake City.
For the Wildcats, the greater dangers are thereafter. Both fifth-seeded Temple and 12th-seeded Cornell deserved better seeds, and No. 4 seed Wisconsin could potentially frustrate the Cats with tempo. And a West Virginia team I believe deserved a No. 1 seed is looming as possibly the final roadblock to Kentucky’s first Final Four in 12 years.

Syracuse got dumped out west for the regional semis and final, but there aren’t a lot of clear and present dangers in the Orange’s half of that bracket. Butler, a No. 5 seed, might be the toughest team in ‘Cuse’s path until the regional final.

Once there, Kansas State could be waiting to give them a tussle. Beyond that, I’m not feeling a lot of threat to the Orange aside from having to travel to farther to play. If Arinze Onuaku comes back OK and Wesley Johnson rediscovers his shooting stroke, the Orange should be in Indy.

As of right now, give me Kansas, Syracuse, West Virginia and Baylor in the Final Four. With Kansas beating West Virginia in the final. But I reserve the right to bail on the Mountaineers in favor of Kentucky. Either way, the Jayhawks look like the champs to me.

Some other random ruminations:

Seeded too high: Notre Dame as a No. 6, Florida as a No. 10, Wake Forest at No. 9.

Seeded too low: Pretty much all of the Atlantic-10 (Temple, Richmond and Xavier), Cornell at No. 12, and probably Tennessee at No. 6.

Most intriguing first-round games: UNLV-Northern Iowa, Maryland-Houston, Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech, Butler-UTEP, Xavier-Minnesota, Marquette-Wisconsin, California-Louisville, Notre Dame-Old Dominion and Richmond-St. Mary’s.

Great individual star-watch games: Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez, the ACC Player of the Year, against Houston guard Aubrey Coleman, averaging 25.6 points per game; Oklahoma State All-American guard James Anderson against Georgia Tech lottery pick Derrick Favors; Butler forward Gordon Hayward against UTEP forward Derrick Caracter; Texas’ all-purpose forward Damion James against Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu (if Aminu shows up, after finishing the season poorly); Cal guard Jerome Randle against Louisville guard Edgar Sosa.

Next up: Can’t wait to see tip-off times, so we can begin to envision how Thursday and Friday will unfold.