There were lots to love about the first weekend of the 2015 NCAA Tournament: a few upsets here, a couple of shockers there (sorry Kansas). And my bracket has officially been shot to hell (gee thanks Michigan State for eliminating my Final Four pick).
Meanwhile, I think what stands out the most is the following:
The Big 12 Conference may have been a bit overrated.
Save me the rhetoric over the conference’s high RPI rating as a whole (it’s the best). And yeah seven of those teams made the tournament, and rightfully so based on the regular season.
But no conference worth its weight would have only two of its seven teams make it to the Sweet 16. I mean, let’s count the ways – shall we…
- Kansas getting smacked by 7th seeded Wichita State in the second round*.
- Oklahoma State (whose presence was a bit debatable) losing to Oregon.
- Baylor and Iowa State being upset by two double-digit seeds (Georgia State and UAB, respectively).
- Texas getting spanked by Butler.
I mean after all, such a MIGHTY conference shouldn’t be losing to such teams – especially in the first round*. Speaking of Kansas, think Bill Self and company are still looking down their noses at Wichita State? Then again, the Jayhawks would probably be more afraid to schedule the Shockers.
The Atlantic Coast Conference may have been a bit underrated.
All I have been hearing all season is how the ACC is so damn top-heavy, that outside of the conference’s top five teams (Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame, UNC and Louisville). In fact, some of those same “experts” claimed that the sorry-ass Big Ten was more “balanced” (really?).
But as my alma mater NC State would demonstrate, teams in the second-tier of the ACC are not exactly chopped liver. Just ask Villanova.
Besides, there is a reason why the ACC is 11-1 in the tournament, with five of its six teams in the Sweet 16. The Big 12 nor Big 10 could make the same claim.
The so-called mid-majors represented yet again.
As with the case of prior years, the mid-majors made some noise in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. UAB beating Big 12 tournament champ Iowa State. Georgia State beating Baylor (sorry Big 12 fans). My alma mater NC State beating top-seeded Villanova. UCLA beating SMU on a “turrible” goaltending call.
While Gonzaga was not that big of a surprise per se, seeing Xavier and Wichita State in the Sweet 16 was cool to see. The latter doing it had to be especially sweet to fans of the Shockers (see my clowning of Kansas above).
The Pac-12 Conference acquitted itself pretty well.
Three of the four teams from the Pac-12 are in the Sweet 16, which is one fewer than the so-called “tougher” Big 12 and Big 10 conferences combined. Arizona, Utah, and UCLA are playing good basketball right now.
Speaking of UCLA, it had been intriguing to see the Bruins advance to the Sweet 16 – bad goaltending call notwithstanding. While it is probably going to get curb-stomped by Gonzaga in their Sweet 16 matchup, UCLA is having a good tournament run nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Arizona might have something to say about Kentucky’s unbeaten streak. It is playing in LA for the Sweet 16, which is not only a Pac-12 hotbed, but it will be a HUGE homecourt advantage for the Wildcats. I’d be shocked if Wisconsin beats them in the Elite Eight, should both advance that far.
Never bet against Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.
Another year, another year Coach Izzo has his Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16. This year has been more impressive because this year’s squad is nowhere near his best.
His Spartans beat a #2-seed Virginia team that on paper is light years better than this #7-seeded Michigan State. The Cavaliers do what his Spartans do best, and do it better. However, the Spartans were in control of the game from start to finish in winning what was essentially a road game in the second round*.
Once again, Izzo proved to be one of the best coaches in college basketball. Tom Izzo is the man. Period.
*- I do not believe the play-in games in Dayton are part of the tournament. All four games feature mediocre teams who may have no business in the tournament, let alone advancing very far. They do call them “play-in games” for a reason…