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Hoops observations after first weekend of NCAA tourney

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I was confident in my pick.

I think everyone who picked Kansas University to win the 2010 NCAA Tournament was confident. It was a realistic and safe choice. I picked KU, my friends picked KU, my family members picked KU, President Obama picked KU and several college hoops gurus picked KU.

Of the 12 ESPN analysts who predicted the Final Four, all 12 of them had Kansas emerging from the Midwest region. No other region had a unanimous Final Four pick from ESPN analysts.

But, as Asher Fusco stated in his latest Going into Overtime blog, it happens. Brackets get busted early in the madness that is March.

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Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo: Tyshawn Taylor consoles Marcus Morris (22)

Northern Iowa is now the talk of the tournament.

With that in mind, here are a few observations from the first weekend of madness:

Northern Iowa should have been seeded better than a 9.

Yeah, I know, easy to say now. But the Panthers won the Missouri Valley Conference title, were 28-4 and sported a No. 17 RPI before the Big Dance started. They were ranked in the top 25 for most of the season.

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Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

Maybe a Feb. 23 loss on the road to Evansville, which finished the year a dismal 9-21, didn't sit well with the selection committee. After watching Northern Iowa for the first time on Saturday, how the heck did these guys lose to Evansville?

My vision of the Sweet 16 being a quarter-dominated by the Big 12 didn't happen.

The conference probably should have had four teams in the Sweet 16. Kansas State and Baylor are already there. Kansas probably beats Northern Iowa eight out of 10 times. And Texas A&M lost in overtime to Purdue in a game the Aggies should have won.

My bracket is pretty hosed.

I still have 10 Sweet 16 teams alive, and five Elite 8 teams alive. Pretty average. But two of my Final Four teams (KU, K-State, Kentucky, Villanova) are gone.

Nonetheless, I'm still 143rd out of 3,369 in the KUSports.com Bracket Challenge. Of our 3,369 entrants, 3,101 picked Kansas to win it all, so that 143 probably doesn't mean much.

Of the six major conferences, the Big Ten put the most teams (three) in the Sweet 16.

Record-wise, the Big Ten is 7-2 (.777), the Pac-10 is 3-1 (.750), the SEC is 4-2 (.667), the Big 12 is 7-5 (.583), the Big East is 6-6 (.500), and the ACC is 5-5 (.500) in this year's tournament.

The two most exciting teams I've watched in the dance: K-State and Cornell.

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AP Photo: Cornell celebrates its victory over Wisconsin on Saturday

I had Kentucky beating Cornell in the Sweet 16, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Big Red advance. And maybe advance some more. Cornell put up 87 points against a defensive-minded Wisconsin Badgers team that only gives up 56.9 points per game. That's fourth in the country.

Cornell's Ryan Wittman has drilled 20 of his last 35 three-point tries (during his last five games) for a sizzling 57 percent. The senior can fill it up from distance.

As for K-State: Jacob Pullen has been one of the best players in the tournament. He had 34 points, including seven three-pointers, against BYU on Saturday and came up with four steals in a difficult matchup against Jimmer Fredette.

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Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo: Pullen had 15 points in K-State's 82-62 victory over North Texas on Thursday

He's been banged up and knocked to the floor against North Texas and BYU, but still has carried the Wildcats into the Sweet 16, a place KSU didn't see two years ago with Michael Beasley and Bill Walker.

Each Big 12 tournament team in two sentences or fewer:

Kansas: Slow starts began to creep up (down 23-11 at Oklahoma State, 17-10 at Missouri, 16-10 vs. Texas A&M in Big 12 tourney, 12-4 to Lehigh in NCAAs, 10-2 to Northern Iowa in NCAAs) toward the end of the season. I didn't think it'd cost the Jayhawks this early in the tournament, though.

Kansas State: Sweet 16 matchup will be against Xavier, a team K-State defeated, 71-56, this year in Manhattan. If Pullen keeps knocking down threes and getting to the foul line (11-of-11 vs. BYU) at this rate, 'Cats could make the Final Four run I predicted.

Baylor: Quietly going about its business in defeating Sam Houston State and Old Dominion. Saint Mary's and potentially Duke stand in way of Final Four berth.

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AP Photo: LaceDarius Dunn (24) will be heavily relied upon to carry Baylor past the Sweet 16

Texas A&M: It seems like every year the Aggies win a game and bow out in the second round. I thought they'd crack the final 16 this year.

Oklahoma State: James Anderson was shut down against Georgia Tech (3-of-12, 0-of-6 from three). The Big 12 player of the year announced today that he will skip his senior season and enter the NBA Draft.

Missouri: The future is bright for freshman guard Michael Dixon (15 points, 6-of-10 from floor in second-round loss to West Virginia).

Texas: Loss to Wake Forest represented how this season has gone for UT. Up eight points in overtime, only to miss free throws at the end and lose to a less-talented Demon Deacons squad.

Gus Johnson is the man.

There is no one I'd rather have calling a game, plain and simple. My favorite duo has to be Gus and Bill Raftery. Hearing Gus go crazy with close games makes my day.

Favorite Gus moments? The "rise and fire" calls crack me up every time. This Web site is pretty hilarious for picking a favorite Gus phrase.

That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.

Comments

21hoops 11 years, 8 months ago

Honestly, the committee set up Kansas for failure or at least a bunch of close games. TV runs the tournament and unfortunately that means that things are always set up for true and pure competition. The players/kids get slighted because of TV and money. To think that Duke should have been a #1 seed, especially in the easiest bracket is crazy. You have to think that sometimes/many times that something fishy is going on with the refereeing and seedings. The NCAA tournament is somewhere between WWF wrestling and kindergarten basketball at the YMCA in terms of being a true competition.

ozfan 11 years, 8 months ago

"Kansas: Slow starts began to creep up... I didn't think it'd cost the Jayhawks this early in the tournament, though."

Looks like the KU players and Coach did not think so either.

buffhawk 11 years, 8 months ago

Northern Iowa should of gotten a lot better than a 9 seed

John Myers 11 years, 8 months ago

Bill Raftery makes me want to gouge my eardrums out with rusty nails - worst commentator EVER. Stunned that he could be anyone's favorite. He has good things to say, but his delivery is atrocious.

BCRavenJHawkfan 11 years, 8 months ago

I was yelling about the Northern Iowa seed when the brackets first came out. I've kept up with the MVC a little and knew they were good. Why the selection committee couldn't see it is beyond me. I know thay had a loss to Evansville, but KU had a loss to Oklahoma State. I am not equating Evansville to Okie State, but what I am equating is Evansville's standing within the MVC to Okie State's standing in the Big XII, that is BOTH should not have been threats to the top team in their respective conference.

Cornell is really much like Northern Iowa. They are fundementally sound, they are LOADED with seniors, they can light it up from the three point line. And hitting from the three point line is one important component to being a giant killer. Need I remind everyone how Cornell pushed KU to the brink early in the season. And that senior cohesion goes a long way in tournament play.

But now it's all water under the bridge. As a Jayhawk fan all I can do is include in my prayers at night that all our guys stay healthy over the off season, that Xavier returns for another year, and that Self continues to have that competitive confidence.

By the way, a note on that competitive confidence that is a characteristic of Bill Self. If any of you watched any of the post game press conferences you would notice when he was asked about Northern Iowa's key three point shooter (Farokhmanesh) Self had that wry smile spread across his face. I suspect that Self could see part of himself in that kid; the type of player that was never flashy, nothing to write home about, but possessed the same fearlessness that Bill Self possessed when he played. Even though the loss hurt Self deeply, I have a feeling he also really admired what that kid did.

Oh and Gus Johnson, I would like him too but I think he called the Bradley or Bucknell game........................need I say more:(

Dan Harris 11 years, 8 months ago

N Iowa was a top 25 team the other #9 seeds(Louisville,Fl St and W Forest ) were not even ranked in the top 40! Yeah no bias by the committee there, REALLY?

jayloco 11 years, 8 months ago

Wow...this thought crossed my mind just today as I read through more of the stats and info on UNI. How the heck do they go 28-4, win the MVC and its tourney, stay close to or in the top 25 the whole season, but then get slotted 9th in the Midwest?? Great point and yes, does raise the issue of a conspiracy to make the Jayhawks earn that trip to the FInal Four. I guess you ultimately have to win to move on, but yeah, it seems a little odd that UNI was seeded so low...

Mike Kendall 11 years, 8 months ago

Going for K-State and/or Cornell. Yea, my bracket is pretty much hosed, too!

And Gus Johnson is one of my favorite announcers, too, along with Jimmy Dykes.

Rock Chalk!

William Weissbeck 11 years, 8 months ago

Unfortunately, the MVC is the poor step child of the NCAA. Look the A-10 got two teams in. I think the NCAA felt burned by Drake last year eventhough it was a last second shot that beat them. Face it a place like Cedar Rapids doesn't have many people, let alone TV's. Face it, we live in fly-over country. It was a bad seed, but we've had good seeds and blown it, too. In '96, Syracuse was not a force. In '97, we were supposedly playing an underachieving AZ with freshman guards that had lost 3 or it's last 5. As with Roy, Bill needs to instill a killer instinct. Even Duke taunts.

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