Handicapping the Sweet 16
The Feast of St. Ovinton J'Anthony, patron saint of busted brackets, falls during the downtime between the first and second weekends of the NCAA tournament -- a designated period of mourning for wages lost, spouses alienated and Cinderellas spurned.
But it's also a time for contemplation and recommitment. And for those of you looking to get back on the wagon with the regionals looming, SIOC has commissioned this evaluation of the 16 clubs still standing and their odds of cutting down the nets in San Antonio.
Overshadowed by sexier mid-major media darlings for practically the entire year, the Hilltoppers have soaked in the spotlight following the opening-round defeats of No. 5 Drake and No. 13 San Diego. Between three senior backcourt starters who get to end their collegiate careers in style and a coach/alumnus who led the WKU to its previous Sweet 16 appearance as a player, there's a lot to like about this story. But while the Sun Belt champs thrive in up-tempo contests, looming opponent UCLA controls game pace as effectively as any team in the country. For the conference elitists among you: WKU is the only remaining team, besides Kansas and Tennessee, which didn't face a team from a power conference on its Sweet 16 run. Their lone victories against BCS schools came against Michigan and Nebraska in December. Happy trails, 'Toppers.
All week I've listened to Georgetown fans destroy
What's a more impressive coaching job: Making No. 1 in the polls and advancing to the Elite Eight during a "payoff" year like 2006 -- or coaching a mercurial assembly of freshmen and sophomores into the Sweet 16 during a rebuilding season? The Wildcats have been up, down and all around during
Almost two full years into the Pullman renaissance, the enigmatic Cougars remain a mystery to East Coast college hoops fans. Washington State's soporific approach slows down the tempo to a crawl and suffocates opponents on the defensive end. Look no further than opening-weekend victories against Winthrop (held to 11 second-half points) and Notre Dame (limited to a season-low 48 points). The Cougars might seem overmatched in the Sweet 16 against top-overall seed North Carolina -- but so did the similarly deliberate and methodical Hoyas in last year's Elite Eight.
The Mountaineers have looked like a legitimate threat to make a deep tourney run from a statistical standpoint since December, ranking consistently among the nation's top 25 teams in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Until an egregious Jan. 26 home loss to Cincinnati -- former employer of first-year coach
The early decade myth dictating guard play as the keystone to a national championship team has been debunked by a bevy of frontcourt-driven champs in recent years.
Between the program's championship pedigree and the roster's considerable depth and athleticism, the Spartans have the best chance of cutting down the nets beyond the not-so-obvious teams. And considering
Four years after getting categorically jobbed against Duke in the Elite Eight -- their Final Four hopes dashed thanks to a pair of
With the Volunteers having struggled against teams with strong interior presences, a victory Thursday against third-seeded Louisville is hardly a foregone conclusion. And the committee sure didn't do Tennessee any favors placing the Knoxville school in the same bracket as top-overall seed North Carolina. Sure, the Volunteers may be one of the few teams in the nation equipped for the frenetic pace preferred by the Tar Heels. But a date with the nation's premier post player --
The late-breaking Cardinals always seem to enter the tournament with a terrifying head of steam and this year has been no different. A front line consisting of 6-6
Offensively, the Longhorns can trade blows with the nation's best. Texas has a surprisingly navigable draw with Stanford on Friday and a potential Elite Eight showdown Sunday with Memphis or Michigan State, vulnerable teams both. But I just don't trust the Longhorns when it comes to getting defensive stops in crunch time. Even the staunchest Texas fan would concede this team has underperformed defensively by
The super-duper sleeper of the field might not inspire lyric poetry with its unglamorous style, but it wins and wins consistently. If this year's Badgers were an ice cream flavor, that flavor would be cardboard. But whatever shots you want to take about Wisconsin's ho-hum style must include mention of the results. This groups surrenders just 81.1 points per 100 possessions -- tops in the nation by a wide margin -- an efficiency which could throw a wrench into the best-oiled offensive machine. The one thing about
The Tigers aren't exactly the feel-good pick of this tournament. No national champ has shot fouls worse since CCNY in 1950. The dribble-drive offense is still considered an unreliable novelty. As far as a "closer" during gut-check time,
The top-overall seed is the first team since Loyola Marymount in 1990 to crack triple-digits in its first two tourney games. The Tar Heels have run teams ragged throughout the year, dominating a down ACC and losing just twice entering Thursday's clash of styles against Washington State: the nation's fastest-paced team against the slowest. The lone chink in North Carolina's armor last season was the team's dubious mental fortitude late in games -- a flaw which became painfully evident in their come-from-ahead meltdown against Georgetown in the Elite Eight. It's been more of the same this year: The Heels misfired late in a loss to Duke and surrendered scores on the final five possession is a loss to Maryland.
Pain and experience drives these Jayhawks, who returned four of five starters from last year's Elite Eight team. This group's five senior contributors know more about NCAA tournament heartbreak than most after finishing on the wrong end of first-round upsets as freshmen and sophomores. Three true combo guards --
What's not to Love -- besides Kevin's chin strap -- about a team which returned its entire roster from last year's built-tough Final Four squad and added the nation's top-ranked incoming freshman. First-year wunderkind