NCAA Tournament: Don't judge Big East by March misery

Loyola-Chicago basketball

There were a lot of upsets over the weekend in the NCAA Tournament, and for the first time ever, we saw a #16 seed take down a #1 seed. The victor gets either No. 7 Nevada or No. 11 Loyola-Chicago. The 16-seed victor UMBC, falling short in its attempt to extend its historic run as underdog darlings.

The Cavaliers' historic loss to 16-seed UMBC took out the top overall seed and thrust Villanova into the role of favorite, while preseason No. 1 Duke was dominant in its two tournament wins.

The Sweet 16 is here. And while the Aggies shot a blistering 41.7 percent from deep in their stunning victory over the Tar Heels, that showing came against a North Carolina team that ranks in the bottom 50 nationally in 3-point defense.

West Virginia has enjoyed back-to-back laughers against low seeds - but things are about to get a whole lot more hard for the No. 5 Mountaineers as they brace for an East Region third-round encounter with top-seeded Villanova. The Wildcats have played the best the most consistently this season. Look for this game to go under the projected total on Thursday night. This is a really unique group for Bill Self and chances are we'll see star Devonte' Graham play more like he has been the past few weeks and less like he did against Seton Hall. That is the best regular season non-conference winning percentage since 2006-07 (77.4 percent).

The Big 12 moves on with Kansas playing Clemson in the Midwest Regional, Kansas State playing Kentucky in the South Regional, Texas Tech playing Purdue in the East Regional and West Virginia playing Villanova in the East Regional. This is one of America's unhealthy obsessions and arguably the most disgraceful, when one considers who ends up reaping the benefits. It would seem though that the Wildcats roar will be no more as they face Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and 888 Sport agrees and posted lopsided odds of 1.38 for Kentucky, and, 3.05 for Kansas State. Much like Ohio State, the Tigers were considered one of the most vulnerable No. 5 seeds expected to either lose in the first round against a viable mid-major (Clemson handled New Mexico State) or second round by a better-seeded No. 4.

The Blue Devils and Jayhawks will likely meet in the Elite Eight - if the seeds hold, the victor of that matchup would face Villanova in the Final Four.

After knocking off USC in the 11th seed play-in game, the Rams started a rather dominating run at the United Center with back-to-back 18 point wins over sixth-seeded Georgetown and third-seeded Purdue to get to the Sweet 16 in San Antonio.

When the NCAA Tournament comes around and your team is forced to remain on the outside looking in, like a cat locked out of the house scratching at the screen door, does one root for the success of their conference? Now Big Ten champion MI headlines the quartet in Los Angeles.

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The 86-65 trouncing suffered Sunday by Williams's No. 2-seeded North Carolina squad at the hands of No. 7 Texas A&M was the biggest in a tourney career that includes 24 other losses (plus 75 wins and three national titles, including one just last year).

The South champion faces the West champion in the Alamodome, and my pre-tournament West pick was No. 4 Gonzaga.

"I think what you see happening in college basketball, it's nearly like a revolution", FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.

But aside from the moral argument, I think that what the monetization of March Madness does is ruin the principles of sports fandom.

[Compared to Kansas, Gonzaga, and Michigan, Kentucky has] the easiest road, the highest ceiling, and [is] playing the best. Duke averaged 17.8 assists per game during the season - tied for sixth-most in the country - while ranking 48th in assists per made field goal (0.58); that number has climbed to 0.68 through Duke's first two games of March Madness.

In the West Region, the highest-remaining seed is MI.

Before facing Virginia, however, the Cats were supposed to face fourth-seeded Arizona in the second round, but the Wildcats from the desert were also upset in the first round by 13th-seeded Buffalo, losing by 21 points. Their run included two wins over Alabama and a win over Tennessee, which entered the NCAA Tournament as a 3 seed.

"I think it's the new teams, Mississippi State and SC drew really well", Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.


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