As soon as the bracket was revealed, the HOOS Place writers pulled together some random thoughts:
Robert Elder, Guest Contributor:
We all knew it coming in, but it was just nice to hear the committee name Virginia as the No. 1 overall seed. But for a lot of Cavalier fans, that is where the fun ended. Not only is Virginia not playing against a first four team in the round of 64, but it was also seeded with two other power-5 conference champions in the same half of its region. Did Virginia get hosed? My take is somewhere in the middle. The Hoos certainly didn't get the full benefit of the No. 1 overall seed, but UVa will also avoid strong No. 2 and No. 3 seeds (Duke, Michigan State, Michigan, etc.) and some scary mid-seeds (West Virginia, Rhode Island, etc.). Arizona is really the only team that scares me in Virginia's bracket. It sucks that'd be a Sweet 16 matchup, but this is a Final Four or bust tourney for Bennett and the Hoos. If Virginia gets past Sean Miller and the Wildcats, go ahead and book your tickets to San Antonio.
Pulling for Texas Tech & Villanova. None of the matchups are particularly interesting to me in this region although I wouldn't mind seeing Buzz get housed by Jay Wright and company.
West Virginia & Villanova has potential to be a fun game too if it works out.
Kansas got a better draw than they deserved. They won't make the Final 4 however.
Rooting for Clemson in this region. Easy choice to make. Rhode Island would be my number two team to pull for.
I'll be rooting for Michigan, Xavier, and Gonzaga here, probably in that order.
I don't see Xavier winning the region.
Missouri-FSU has the potential to be a fun first round matchup if FSU decides to show up.
Davidson will have a good plan to beat Kentucky. Excellent offense and McKillop's coaching will give Davidson a fighting chance. If I'm Calipari, I hate that McKillop has so much time to study our film and assemble a game plan.
Likewise Buffalo and Arizona. Buffalo has single digit points losses at Cincy and at Syracuse. They also had a respectable outing at Texas A&M. They won't be intimidated by the Arizona name on the jersey. The Texas A&M game gave them a chance to play against a big expected to be picked in the first half of the first round in the upcoming NBA daft. Robert Williams isn't in DeAndre Ayton.
Nevada has the potential to bust the bottom half of the bracket in the South.
Hated the Selection Show this year. The change in format was terrible and the execution of the new format was worse. Hopefully it's scratched for 2019 and the show returns to normal. You have to try hard to mess this show up and CBS/Turner Sports did just that.
I would have elected to take St. Mary's and Middle Tennessee as at large teams especially when compared to teams like Syracuse, Arizona State, Texas, and Oklahoma. A mid major with a gaudy record, however unproven, is more interesting than a major conference team with a losing record in its league.
Knowing Duke wouldn't be in our region, there were two other teams I really wanted to avoid: Michigan State and Arizona. Womp, womp. (Not gonna lie, I fear the top-end talent on a hot streak.)
You knew the NCAA was going to fuck us however they reasonably could; they'd bend over backward to put one-and-done talent in front of us, trying to prevent a Virginia run to the Final Four. Thus, Kentucky and Zona in our half of the South bracket. I'm just shocked we didn't get Oklahoma or Alabama as our 9 and Michigan State as our 2 or 3.
Speaking of our 8/9... I think Creighton/K-State is a softer landing for us than would have been anything involving Bama, Seton Hall, Mizzou, or Texas. So I'm grateful for the cakewalk to the Sweet Sixteen.
I'm also grateful for Cincy/Tennessee as our 2/3 pairing. If we get past that UK/AZ game in the Sweet Sixteen, I think we're going to San Antonio.
Cut the bullshit. The ACC regular season and tournament championships were awesome, but true program validation (for those of us who crave such things - myself included) lies over the course of the next three weeks. Gotta win four. Anything less is falling short. Final Four or bust.
At this point I think we KNOW that Jim Boeheim has pictures of Mark Emmert doing lines of coke off of a hooker's cock.
Villanova got the bracket that we earned and deserved.
Fuck all these cheaters in the Big Dance. Arizona chief among them. Seriously, fuck them.
Pencil me in with whoever else is bitching about Oklahoma getting an at-large bid.
I'd be pretty pissed right now if I were a Duke fan. *shudder* Thank God I'm not a Duke fan.
Calling my shot on a few big first round upsets:
South Dakota State over Ohio State
Murray State over West Virginia
College of Charleston over Auburn
UCLA over Florida
The biggest one -- Cal State Fullerton over Purdue
Also, Buffalo over Arizona AND Davidson over Kentucky, natch
My Final Four as of right now: Virginia, Michigan, Villanova, Michigan State.
I'll go deep and give you my Sweet Sixteen: Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee, Cincinnati (chalk in our bracket, of course), Xavier, South Dakota State, Michigan, North Carolina, Villanova, Wichita State, UCLA, Arkansas, Kansas (barely), Clemson, Michigan State, Duke
This selection committee seems to have made many decisions that are as odd as I hear the tv show was bad. I didn't watch it - I never do. There does not seem to have been a guiding theme this year. Arizona State and Oklahoma got in because of their November/Decembers despite being terrible in January-March, while teams that finished above ASU in the Pac-12 stayed home. Arizona State was 8th in their conference - and the second place team did not get a bid. Syracuse did not beat anybody good in the non-conference season and finished as the 11 seed in the ACC and made the field over Notre Dame that was top 5 at one point in the season and Louisville, the two teams above them in the standings. Why does Arizona State or Oklahoma make it with strong OOC and weak conference and Syracuse make it with weak OOC and weak conference while Notre Dame gets left out with strong OOC and weak conference - even leaving out the Bonzie Colson Factor?
None of this is to complain, because I really don't care. It just looks odd. It all looks odd, just like UVA's draw looks odd. When I first saw it while walking around downtown Seattle, my confidence in getting to the Final Four dropped by about 20% and I felt odd, like I must be missing something because it sure didn't seem like the #1 overall seed's bracket. I kept telling myself to wait until I see the whole bracket before coming to any conclusions, but while my partner and I scouted a strange neighborhood for apartments, I consulted Twitter to see what non-Hoo analysts thought. Tate Frazier said on One Shining Podcast that "the first thing that jumped out at me was Virginia." That accurately summarizes what everybody seemed to say. CBS was even more emphatic about it, and put it in a sarcastic article.
Kentucky and Arizona are precisely the type of team that has generally knocked Virginia out of the post-season: traditional powers with NBA star power. UNC in the ACC tournament two years, Michigan State in the NCAA two years and Syracuse. Teams that may not generally play a high level but that can raise their play to a very high level for one particular game (or 9 minutes). Kentucky and Arizona have both raised their level at the end of the season. While their overall records probably warrant 4 and 5 seeds, they appear to be playing quite a bit higher than that now.
But we'll see. Tony and the team will get 4 days to prepare for whoever shows up in the Sweet Sixteen. I don't want Kentucky and Tennessee making it that far. If they do, we lose much of the advantage of being in Atlanta, because those fan bases will flock. If we get Arizona and Cincinnati (or anyone else, really), it will be Hoolanta. But again, our team just went 9-0 on the road in the ACC.
Ultimately, that's what ends it for me. Yeah, we probably got a shitty draw for the #1 overall seed (I think I'd rather have Kansas' bracket), and we probably did get at least an Elite Eight game in the Sweet Sixteen - again - but this team has been up to every challenge so far, and they look eager for the next one. This is a team that just prepares for and plays the game ahead of it, and that's exactly what they need to do. This year, I just don't care that the committee fucked us again. It is just one more entity on my list for a massive splash of STFUJuice in April. Just another recipient of a giant FUCK YOU at the end of the season.
Virginia vs. Villanova for the title. That's my dream matchup. That will be a phenomenal basketball game.
Virginia Tech could either make a very deep run, or go home right away.
I like Rhode Island to make the Elite Eight. I could see them knocking off Duke and Michigan State.
Watch out for Providence spoiling that Michigan-UNC-Gonzaga-Xavier Sweet Sixteen round. I see Michigan or UNC coming out of that region.
I'm rooting for Davidson to be our Sweet Sixteen opponent. I like how they play. I think I'm adopting the A-10 this year.
If the tournament plays out like the regular season did, there is going to be a chaotic bloodbath in the early rounds while Virginia and Villanova glide above it all, then there will be some classic late round battles between the teams that have survived. Those two will have some rough moments, but they are the two best teams in the country.
I would have taken Louisville and Notre Dame and left Florida State and Syracuse home. The former are, IMO, much better teams than the latter.
We'll see how it all unfolds.
This is an exciting time, to be sure, and also a nerve-wracking one. I, for one, am not going to consider this season a letdown if the team doesn't make it to San Antonio. Going 31-2 in the run-up, reaching #1 in both polls unanimously for the first time in a generation or two, capturing the unified ACC crown, to say nothing of all the individual hardware... these things all still matter to me, and assuming we don't crap the bed in Charlotte, a letdown in Atlanta isn't going to ruin everything that happened prior.
The NCAAT is a mess of a format, in that single elimination is chaos and sometimes great teams are just going to get snake-bitten. In 2014 we saw Gill turn his ankle minutes into the 2nd half. In 2016 we just couldn't get open shots to fall, having "one of those nights." So while I'm not predicting anything, not yet, I'm not ruling anything out either, and we should all take a deep breath before making any snap judgments about our draw, our performance, etc in the coming weekends.
But I don't get paid to reserve judgment, do I? (Wait, I don't get paid?!?) Oh, well, then, I guess I'll give some thoughts on the draw then.
I think there are a few things about the draw that stink, but nothing I'm getting overly upset about. I don't like that we don't get one of the play-in 16's; having those guys play a quick 2-day turnaround from Dayton to Charlotte would've given us a slightly softer 1st round opponent, meaning less wear and tear on our starters. I also don't like the 9:30 Friday tip, because it means a relatively short turnaround to Sunday afternoon and the K-State/Creighton winner gets (a) a few extra hours to rest relative to us and (b) the ability to shower and come watch some of our game vs UMBC to scout. But there's no reason we shouldn't overcome all of that and get to Atlanta. Creighton is a bit underseeded as an 8: KenPom has them as the #27 team (equates to a 7 seed), and has an all-Big East 1st Teamer in guard Marcus Foster, and a 2nd teamer in guard Khyri Thomas, so they could be a handful. K-State has an all-Big XII big man in Dean Wade and managed to stay over .500 in a brutally tough conference, but may be over-seeded as a 9... KenPom has them #44 which is an 11 seed. That should actually be a good game; hopefully they beat each other up a bit while we can rest starters in the 2nd half against UMBC.
Regarding potential second weekend opponents, I'll admittedly be holding my breath, but I understand that if we were going to make a deep run, somewhere along the line I figured we were going to have to play our way through a traditional powerhouse. We missed out on title-winning heavyweights Duke, UNC, Nova, Michigan State, Kansas, as well as talented Final-Four veteran coached squads like Michigan, WVU, and Gonzaga, in our region. Instead we potentially get one of UK or Arizona. Both are appropriately seeded per their rankings and metrics. Arizona is ranked 15th in this week's Coaches Poll, 21st in KenPom, 20th in Arizona's BPI, and 13th in RPI... that averages to 17.25, which is equivalent to a 5 seed. Kentucky is ranked 20th in this week's Coaches Poll, 18th in KenPom, 21st in BPI, and 10th in RPI, that also averages to 17.25, also a 5 seed. So while you can quibble with the big name programs and players in our 4/5, you can't quibble with the resumes. This isn't quite the 2014 Michigan State draw where the Spartans were borderline Top 10 going into the tourney.
This is a Hoo team that's already faced a lot of Final Four veteran squads, championship coaches, and future NBA 1st rounders. Yes Arizona and Kentucky each boast multiple projected NBA picks (Arizona has freshman 7-footer Ayton, sophomore SG Alkins, and Jr SG Trier; Kentucky has freshman forward Knox, freshman guard Gilgeous-Alexander, and freshman guard Diallo.) But we've already seen 8 players projected to be drafted in the current NBADraft.net 2018 mock (DU's Bagley, Wendell Carter, Allen,and Duval, UNC's Berry, WVU's Jevon Carter, NCSUs Yurtseven, and UM's Walker) plus 3 more that we played last year (VU's Brunson, UF's Hudson, and OSU's Bates-Diop). Future draft picks aren't a new challenge to this squad. So let's not assume UK's or Zona's (remember, we'll only face 1) will rattle this squad.
Elsewhere around the bracket... Xavier similarly has a scary Sweet 16 waiting with the winner of Gonzaga and Ohio State. Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State all in one region is brutal. Yes UNC beat Michigan earlier this year but the Wolverines are playing their best ball right now and should upset Carolina in the Sweet 16. Clemson/Auburn is the weakest of the weak 4/5 pairings, both squads suffered injuries to standout starters mid-season, so at least Kansas has that going for it.
My snap judgment Final Four? Michigan State, Purdue, Xavier, and Virginia, though I reserve the right to change my picks in coming days.
Sorry Notre Dame and Louisville. No, not sorry.
And also, hahaha, Maryland sucks.