A Gonzo Sports Column Lamenting a Devilish Snubbing, Longing for ACC Domination, and Urging You to Take the Tournament Challenge
The field is set, the odds have been estimated and my bracket is complete. Let the games begin … but first, a bit of ranting.
You may not remember due to Spring Break blackouts, but I proclaimed Duke to be the best team in the country in my last column. The Devils then proceeded to lose to Maryland in their first ACC Tournament game on Saturday. The last time that happened was 2007. Despite their top RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) ranking, Duke fell to a two seed in the Midwest, undoubtedly the toughest region of the bracket (see also Louisville, Michigan State, St. Louis and Memphis). Another ACC team, Miami, was snubbed with a two seed in the tournament despite entering the tournament ranked the fourth-best team in the country. Maryland was bounced off the bubble despite beating Duke twice, but didn’t really have much of a resume beyond those two wins. The ACC qualified just four teams to the tourney, the fewest in decades, but I think Duke got the rawest of all deals.
Duke not only beat Louisville, probably the best team in the country right now, but they’ve lost just one game, this last one to Maryland, while at full strength. I’m not ruling them out because they could have entered ACC Tournament play undefeated had they not lost Ryan Kelly. Kelly was cold against Maryland, going 0-6 from three-point range, but I assure you that won’t continue. The Blue Devils should be well-rested for the big dance, but their road to the Final Four may be the toughest in the tourney.
The Midwest region sports three of the best coaches in the history of college basketball: Coach K, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo. And I think the bracketologists did that on purpose. It’ll be great for the league and even better for television. Perhaps America likes to see the Devils suffer. I, however, do not. Duke always has been and will be the best thing about college basketball, because you either love them or hate them. They boast a sort of dominance similar to that of the Chicago Bulls or New York Yankees of the ‘90s. Without their continued dominance you don’t have Devil-haters, and without Devil-haters, you don’t have very good television ratings.
That being said, my Final Four picks are Duke, Kansas, Miami and Ohio State. I like Duke because I think St. Louis can beat Louisville and, if they don’t, I know Duke can because they have already. Kansas really surprised me down the stretch, and the Jayhawks are always athletic. The same goes for Miami. Not too many teams handle Duke like they did this season…ever. I really like how Ohio State is playing defense right now, and Aaron Craft is a quality point guard that takes care of the ball.
Duke will win the whole damn thing, of course, over Miami, in an all-ACC affair, 68-65.
I urge you to join the “MSU Exponent” group on ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge. Submit your bracket and try to beat me. Here are my picks for the outcome of the round of 64.
Midwest: Louisville, Colorado St., Oregon, St. Louis, Memphis, Michigan St., Creighton, Duke
South: Kansas, UNC, VCU, Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, San Diego St., Georgetown
West: Gonzaga, Pitt, Ole Miss, Kansas St., Arizona, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Ohio St.
East: Indiana, NC State, UNLV, Syracuse, Butler, Marquette, Colorado, Miami.