Hoops observations after first weekend of NCAA tourney
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.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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.