FREE THOUGHT FRIDAY
I enjoy college basketball but it is a conditional love. I rarely think of it when it isn’t in season and if given truth serum I would admit that it would rank no better than fourth on my list of favorite sports behind college football, Major League Baseball and the NFL. But there is no question the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is still the most enjoyable spectacle in all of sports, especially the first two days of the event and I’m not referencing Dayton. The proof of the pudding is my excitement for the event doesn’t wane if my favorite team is excluded unlike other sports’ major championship events. As usual I am ready for what will almost certainly be days of great drama and enjoyment. Here are some early thoughts on the 2017 tourney:
-The four 5-12 matchups look as if they will prolong the slot’s reputation as the most likely upset spot. With 5-Minnesota vs 12-MTSU; 5-Virginia vs 12-UNC-Wilmington; 12-Princeton vs 5-Notre Dame and 5-Iowa St vs 12-Nevada there could be three higher seeds going home early.
-Recently the 4-13 matchups have proven to be an even bigger minefield for the higher seeds. Five 3s have lost in the first round in the last four years. This season’s 4-13 matchups look to be problematic for the 4s as well with (13s listed second) Florida St-Florida Gulf Coast; Purdue-Vermont; Butler-Winthrop and Florida-ETSU
-I consider longshots to be those teams seeded outside the Top-16. With that as criteria here are some teams I think could make a surprising deep run; 5 seed Notre Dame; 6 seeds Maryland and SMU; 10 seed Wichita State and 12 seed MTSU.
-I have no idea why other than a gut feeling but I believe last season’s champ Villanova will be the first #1 seed eliminated this year. Here are the routes to the Final-4 for all the #1s assuming (almost certainly incorrectly) that the tournament will play out as seeded:
VILLANOVA (EAST): 16-Mt St Mary’s; 8-Wisconsin; 4-Florida; 2-Duke
GONZAGA (WEST): 16-S Dakota St; 8-Northwestern; 4-West Va; 2-Arizona
KANSAS (MIDWEST): 16-UC-Davis; 8-Miami; 4-Purdue; 2-Louisville
NORTH CAROLINA (SOUTH) 16-Texas Sou.; 8-Arkansas; 4-Butler; 2-Kentucky
-Though most view the South as the toughest region (with UCLA and Wichita St joining those mentioned above) if you go strictly by how difficult the road could be for the #1 seed I would rank the East as the most difficult to navigate.
-Would anyone like to argue that Florida State vs FGCU in Orlando; Kentucky-Northern Kentucky and Northwestern-Vandy are not made for television matchups? Not to mention -as Keith Hatfield pointed out- a potential second round matchup between Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils and former player Steve Wojciechowski’s, Marquette Golden Eagles (they’re still the Warriors to me. God bless Jerry Palm who’s fantastic at picking the field (68 for 68) but if he truly believes human things don’t happen behind closed doors of the selection committee meetings and that television matchups don’t come into play I hope Officer Beef never gets his phone number.
-By the way if Vandy and Northwestern go to OT the first player to correctly spell both Krzyzewski and Wojciechowski team should move on to the round of 32. My squad would be eliminated if I had to spell Mike and Steve.
FOR THOSE WITH ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO
HERE ARE MY SWEET-16:
Villanova, ETSU, SMU, Duke, Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Rhode Island, Louisville, N Carolina, MTSU, UCLA, Wichita State
Nova, Duke, Zags, Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, UNC, UCLA
Duke, Zags, Kansas, UNC
I had the pleasure of taking in a few first round games of the Boy’s State Basketball Tournament in Murfreesboro. The intent was to support my Oak Ridge Wildcats but arrived early enough to watch Memphis East play East Hamilton. That brief glimpse of the Mustangs gave the impression that I was watching the best Tennessee high school basketball team I have ever seen. My trip companion -who I’ve mentioned before in this space- Big Game Brant- has seen Oak Hill play on several occasions said ‘I wouldn’t have believed it but that is an Oak Hill level squad”.
The Mustangs have two of the most highly sought after recruits in the state in two-time Mr. Basketball winner Jr PG Alex Lomax and 6-8 Soph forward Chandler Lawson. They also boast 6-8 Soph Center Malcolm Dandridge and 6-5 Sr G Jayden Hardaway. Put former NBA star Penny Hardaway in the head coach’s chair and you have a potential dynasty. I love Oak Ridge’s team but it will take a herculean effort for the Wildcats to get past East in the semis and keep them from winning their 2nd consecutive AAA title and a likely opportunity to make it the trifecta in 2018.
WHERE WERE THE VOL COACHES?
Ran into friend of the program and valued contributor CC Hoops in the Boro. He informed me that to his knowledge Tennessee’s staff was not among the multitude of coaches attending Memphis East’s 2017 tournament debut. I mean What in the wide-wide world of sports is going on here?
I apologize in advance but I will not be appearing with Tony on the Friday Tony Basilio Show
. Oak Ridge will take on the monumental task of playing Memphis East at 12:30 edt and I plan on being in attendance. I appreciate Tony giving me a hall pass and carrying my slack. I guess by now however both you and he are used to that.
FINAL FRIDAY THOUGHT: Enjoy the tournament. It is one of the greatest events in all of sports.
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