The Bucks clearly had their chances to play their way in. They played a brutal nonconference schedule, but winning a couple of those games—outside of Florida and Syracuse—would have strengthened their resume. So, too, would be eliminating those bad road losses to Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota—just win two out of those three and suddenly OSU has a record of 21-11 and looks pretty solidly in the tourney.
Do I think OSU could beat teams like South Alabama, Saint Mary’s, Arizona, Oregon and Baylor? Yeah, I do. I think there are a lot of teams who made it in, either at large teams or automatic bids, who the Bucks could knock off. But there’s also some other teams who didn’t get in, like Arizona State or Virginia Tech or Dayton, who could do the same.
Anyway, some other thoughts from the tournament field…
1. I can’t believe Baylor made it in. They were a great story early on in the season, but struggled in the middle part and were bounced by Colorado—Colorado!!!—in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. Any team that loses to Colorado (12-20, 3-13 Big 12) should not be allowed in the tournament. And again, I’m not sure about Oregon or Arizona getting in. Even Kentucky, with their 12-4 SEC record, has some questionable credentials overall.
2. I’m very surprised Butler got a seven seed. They went 29-3, and those three losses were by a combined 12 points. (Cleveland State knocked them off once baby!) The Bulldogs were also ranked 12th in one poll and 10th in the other, conceivably meaning they should have earned a fourth seed. Very interesting decision there.
3. How about that USC-Kansas State matchup? That’s a must-watch game right there. Former high school teammates OJ Mayo and Bill Walker going head-to-head, Mayo and Michael Beasley each trying to assert himself as the top freshman in the country…you couldn’t ask for any more drama in a 6-11 game.
(After watching North College Hill win the Ohio D-3 title two years ago, me, my friends Taylor and Kory and their dads went to Champps at OSU to eat, and the victorious Trojans squad walked in to eat. Mayo and Walker were each rocking two cell phones at the same time, talking to God knows who. When we got up to leave, Taylor went up to them and said "Congratulations on winning." They both just stared at him. Taylor repeated himself, and they again just looked at him and didn't say anything. What a moment.)
4. Interesting second round draw for North Carolina, who was awarded the tournament’s top-seed. After they beat whatever clown emerges from the play-in game, they have to get past the winner of Indiana-Arkansas, and then they have potential matchups with Louisville, Washington State, Notre Dame, Butler and Tennessee. Their region is far and away the toughest in the bracket.
5. Teams I really like: Texas, Louisville, Georgetown, UCLA. Just throwing that out there. Of course, I haven’t won a pool since Duke won it in 2001, so my advice might not be relevant. Speaking of Duke, I don’t know what to do with them this year. I always pick them to win, but I just don’t see it happening this year—they have no post presence at all, it’s scary. And I don’t think three-point shooting can carry you through six games over the course of three weeks, especially considering Duke’s struggled from the outside the past few games.
6. For whatever reason, Memphis, Kansas and Tennessee don’t scare me as much as they should. They just seem to be missing something from their teams—past history shows that they can advance pretty far but not get the job done, and I’m just not comfortable having them in my Final Four.
7. A lot of coaches—notably those who didn’t make it into the tournament—want to see the field expanded. Bobby Knight on ESPN (I love him as an analyst, by the way) said to have 128 teams to the field and have number one play 128, two play 127, etc. in a first round, then move on from there. OK, that’s fine, but then you have teams 129-138 upset that they didn’t get in, just as you have teams 66-73 right now upset that they couldn’t get in as the tourney is currently setup. The only way to make everyone happy is to include all 300-plus Division I teams into the field, and that’s not even realistic.
Do I think we have the best 65 times in the country still playing right now? No. But part of the beauty of March Madness is that you never know when a George Mason or a Hampton is going to pull off something incredible that leaves you talking about it for years.