With two rounds in the books and the “Sweet 16” games beginning tonight, now seems a felicitous time to take stock of where we are in this year’s NCAA Tournament with some winners and losers.
Winner: Florida. The only two teams in their bracket that could’ve provided any reasonable resistance to their march to the Final Four in Arlington were Syracuse and Kansas--and both were bumped off before the regional semifinals. Now the Gators would face either Dayton (11) or Stanford (10) in the regional final. In other words, you can write UF into the Fina Four--in ink, not pencil.
Loser: Since I mentioned them above, let’s go with the Jayhawks and the Orange. ‘Cuse missed a plethora of easy looks near the basket in their loss to Dayton, while KU again proved to be an adroit choke artist. Bill Self’s KU teams have become infamous for their early flameouts--losing in back-to-back years as a four seed to a pair of 13 seeds in Bradley and Bucknell, losing as a one seed to a ninth-seeded Northern Iowa in the second round, and going out to lower-seeded teams in three other years--but this was a self-immolation for the record books. Stanford won despite going 0-for-9 on 3-pointers, tying a 1999 UConn team for the most 3-point attempts without a make in an NCAA Tournament win, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In addition, KU has been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by a double-digit seed four times in the last 10 years, all of which came with the Jayhawks as a top four seed. That's tied with Georgetown for the most such losses over that time frame.
Winner: The Atlantic 10. The conference won by getting six teams into the Dance, and Dayton needs only to beat Stanford to make the “Elite Eight.”
Loser: The “new” Big East. Members Creighton (3) and Villanova (2) were both upset in the round of 32--the Bluejays were eviscerated by Baylor (6)--while Providence and Xavier both failed to win a game.
Winner: The Southeastern Conference. Much-maligned, the SEC got only three teams in, but Tennessee (11) has won three games to join Kentucky (8), and the aforementioned Gators in the round of 16--and UK had to go through top-seeded Wichita State to get there.
Loser: Basketball at Duke. Though we may have obstreperous differences over politics and/or religion, one thing that should unite all of us as Americans is a hatred of Duke, and it’s halcyon times for the legion of Duke-loathers right now. Duke (3) went down in flames without winning a game--being schooled by 14th-seeded Mercer Friday. On the heels of Duke’s recent embarrassment as a two-seed losing to a 15-seeded Lehigh, the “Cameron Crazies” must be feeling blue--and not just from the paint they slather all over themselves. Duke is the only team in NCAA Tournament history with five losses to double digit seeds as a top three seed, and coach Mike Krzyzewski has now lost five games to double-digit seeds, tied for the most by any coach in NCAA Tournament history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And, to rub salt in the wound, the number two seed Duke women were upset by number seven seed DePaul--my alma mater--in the women’s tourney Monday night.
Winner: The Josh Pastner-doubters. Pastner replaced John Calipari in Memphis at a preposterously young age when Cal took the UK job, and he’s been a magnet for criticism since. After failing to make the Big Dance in his first year, he was bounced in the first round in his second year. Since then, a troubling pattern has emerged: he was woefully out-coached by the maestro, Rick Majerus, when St. Louis beat Memphis in a first round game the next year, he was slaughtered by the great Tom Izzo and his Michigan State club in a round of 32 match last year, and his Tigers were again non-competitive in a round of 32 clobbering this year against another tactically-sound team, Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers.
Loser: Ryan Anderson. My picks were so bad this weekend that, had I been alive in the late 1700s and predicted the U.S. would win the Revolutionary War, we’d all be speaking in British accents right now. It was an ignominious performance by yours truly, but I’ll keep firing this weekend (I like Florida, Michigan, and Michigan St.). As noted existentialist Samuel Johnson advised, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Ryan Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or followed on twitter at randerson_ryan