Many analysts, sports commentators, so-called experts and everyday fans of March Madness will give their opinions on who will win the Sweet 16 games and advance to the Elite Eight. And most everyone has brackets.
I am going to join in, but I have a twist with mine. Not only am I going to share my (not so expert opinion based on my busted brackets) thoughts on the games but schedule the three officials for the games as they should be.
I wrote an opinion article entitled "March Madness: Whistling 98 for the Dancing 68: Referee Selection" before the tournament started. That article showcased the 98 officials I would have chosen to officiate. Similar to the NCAA, I didn't select which officials would move on past the third round. The reason for that is because no one can accurately evaluate the officials without seeing how they perform in the tournament.
Without going into great detail, the three officials in the Syracuse/UNC-Asheville game need to take responsibility for some missed (and therefore controversial) calls. Two of those officials, Eric Curry and Glenn Tuitt, didn't move on. The crew chief, Ed Corbett, did. Read on to find out if Ed survives.
Officials advance much like teams do. They are evaluated on how well they do in the previous tournament games. From the 36 officials to advance on, the eventual three (plus one alternate) officials working the Championship Game will come from here. So potentially, all 36 officials are still building their resume to get to the big game.
Besides working off my list, I will also evaluate the officials the NCAA selected. There are some issues with how the NCAA schedules the games, which falls in line with how officials work regular season games. That one thing that they are consistent with is that an official can work the same team in two consecutive games. If the NCAA wants to show "fairness" and get away from accusations of officials favoring a team or having it out for a team, they'd discontinue scheduling an official from working the same team in two games consecutively.
That occurrence happened 13 times, one of which two officials worked consecutive games. That instance is Karl Hess and Terry Wymer working the Kansas State/Southern Miss game in Round 2 and then the Kansas State/Syracuse game in Round 3. To some, if they perceive Karl Hess "has it out" for Kansas State, what chance do they think Kansas State has in Round 3?
And conversely, Syracuse fans could also perceive Karl Hess favors Kansas State, so their team has no chance. Those misperceptions could easily be avoided if the NCAA knew or cared how they scheduled officials.
The first seed, Kentucky, is taking on four-seed Indiana. While Indiana has made significant improvements under Tom Crean, their season comes to an end here. This game could prove to be an all-out battle for 35 minutes. In the last five minutes, when it really matters, Kentucky will show complete dominance and take the game over and end it.
Kentucky 86, Indiana 74.
Based on my list of officials: Karl Hess, Gerry Pollard and Jamie Luckie.
Based on the NCAA selected officials, the crew should be: Karl Hess, Mike Nance and Ted Valentine.
In both my list and the NCAA selected list, it would work out best for no repeats of game crews or situations where officials have officiated any one team in the tournament. Therefore, they should go to a different region. That means if they officiated for the South and West region, they are eligible for the Midwest and East Region.
The most ideal situation would be the championship officials would not have officiated the two teams. That may be difficult because the most highlighted qualification in determining the championship crew should be performance (or their rating). If the three highest-rated officials so happen to have officiated the teams in earlier rounds, that is a situation both teams and fans can live with.
For Baylor, there is no sneaking up on anyone. First, with those uniforms, it is impossible. Second, after watching them hit multiple three-point shots at the end of their third-round game, they took over. This should show to be a mismatched game that heavily favors Baylor.
Baylor 80, Xavier 62.
My list of officials: Antinio Petty, Doug Sirmons and Don Daily.
From the NCAA list: Bryan Kersey, Mike Eades and John Higgins.
I would like to say Draymond Green is going to mop up this game, but not sure I can. Louisville is looking like last year's UConn. From their great Big East tournament run and eventual victory to their two tournament games, they have shown toughness.
This game will be about a battle of wills. Two great coaches going against each other, and they both have a great group of athletes on the court. We haven't had any overtime games yet, and this could very well be our first. I will predict an overtime game with a final score of Michigan State 88, Louisville 84.
My list of officials: Les Jones, James Breeding, Dick Cartmell
NCAA list of officials: James Breeding, Michael Irving and Anthony Jordan
For a better part of the season, Marquette seemed to allow themselves to dig a deficit and then come back. That doesn't work in tournament play. Lesson learned in the Big East Tournament. Their coach, Buzz Williams, did one thing that led to their victory against Murray State: He called timeout.
The timing of his timeout, at about 8:00 in to the game, cooled Murray State's shooting and allowed Marquette to calm themselves and gain control of the game. I expect they'll learn from that and show dominance with Jae Crowder from the beginning of the game.
Marquette 72, Florida 65.
From my list: Tom Eades, Pat Adams and Tim Clougherty
From NCAA list: Les Jones, Doug Sirmons and Scott Thornley
It seems impossible that without Fab Melo, Syracuse is still in the tournament. That speaks a lot about the resolve of the team and how their coach, Jim Boeheim, has helped overcome many controversies. Syracuse has proven that they can play fundamentally sound basketball and leave all distractions off the court.
Wisconsin on the other hand, can be lethal if they are making their threes. But that is a big if. Wisconsin likes to slow down the game and use all 35 seconds on the shot clock to take the threes. Syracuse is going to play their pace which doesn't benefit Wisconsin (and shouldn't obviously).
Syracuse 79, Wisconsin 61.
From my list: Ted Valentine, Lamar Simpson and John Gaffney
From NCAA: Jamie Luckie, John Gaffney and Mike Roberts
This might be why my bracket was broken in the second round (I selected Mizzou to win it all). I am going to pick an upset that might not happen.
While you can't argue that Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft are excellent players and make OSU a favorite, I think similar to years past, their time in the tournament will end in disappointing fashion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and here is mine: Craft comes across as cocky, not confident. The only thing cockiness will get you in the tournament is an exit. Over-confidence does the same thing.
Cincinnati is a tough team and has some good players of their own. Confidence in the right context is on their side.
Cincinnati 91, Ohio State 87.
From my list: Randy McCall, Michael Irving and Joe DeRosa
From NCAA list: Tom Eades, Michael Greenstein and Tony Padilla
How unlucky does the UNC team have to be to get John Henson back, only to lose Kendall Marshall? UNC has been inconsistent for the year, especially on the perimeter defense. With both players healthy, that was going to be no problem in the tournament.
Now, they have issues. How far can they go missing their point guard? How healthy is Henson?
Now, let's look at Ohio. How did they get here? Ohio? This isn't Ohio State, but Ohio. They can't be overlooked, and especially now that UNC has questions due to injuries.
UNC 68 Ohio 57
Don't let the score fool you, though. It won't get any easier for UNC.
From my list: Scott Thornley, Mike Nance and Mike Reed
From NCAA list: Don Daily, Dick Cartmell and Ron Groover
Kansas has to play in this game to prove they belong and are strong championship contenders. North Carolina State can play like they have nothing to lose. They don't. Not many would have picked them to get this far. They very well could have won the ACC Championship game, and some will argue they should have.
But no matter how hard NC State plays, and they will be a difficult opponent, they won't match up well with Kansas. Bill Self will not allow his players to look past NC State or any matchup therein. They will be focused throughout.
Kansas 70, NC State 62.
From my list: Terry Wymer, Brian Dorsey and Earl Walton
From NCAA list: Pat Adams, Randy McCall and Mike Reed
Not all 36 officials work the Sweet 16; some advance directly to the Elite Eight. When the Final Four arrives, some from the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will make it in. Those who didn't officiate in the Sweet 16 should be the higher rated officials. That doesn't necessarily mean that an official in the Sweet Sixteen can't or won't be in the championship game. Again, they are continuously evaluated and rated. An official rated highly in the Sweet 16 game can and will advance as high as his ratings allow for.
Here are the officials that advanced directly to the Elite Eight as I selected them by region (which would mean the game crew):
East: Verne Harris, Bryan Kersey and Michael Stephens
Midwest: Tony Greene, Pat Driscoll and John Higgins
South: Doug Shows, Mark Whitehead and Mike Eades
West: Mike Stuart, James Breeding and Brian O'Connell
From the NCAA list:
East: Mike Stuart, David Hall and Brian O'Connell
Midwest: Michael Stephens, Terry Wymer and Joe DeRosa
South: Doug Shows, Antinio Petty and Verne Harris.
West: Tony Greene, Mark Whitehead and Pat Driscoll