Here's the question of the day/week/month: How much stock do you put in a team's performance in the conference tournament?
Because if you put any, then you best be avoiding Pitt, Oklahoma, Kansas and UConn going particularly far on your bracket, come Sunday night.
I appreciate the "won't tire themselves out" thing (Pitt), along with the "they played a much more motivated team" thing (Oklahoma), but isn't that mitigated by the idea that it's not like they lost in the conference finals to another heavyweight -- they lost in the quarters. In Kansas' case, they lost to a team that isn't even very good.
Now, West Virginia was probably underrated (no longer a problem), and Syracuse is a very good team that matches up well with UConn.
But you can't help wondering if you should factor these losses in when you're filling out your bracket. It's a huge mind-frak, that's for sure. And it leads today's SN column.
That said, the best thing that could happen to Pitt or to Oklahoma or to Kansas is this:
It's all anyone will, can or should be talking about this morning -- instantly, the most memorable game of the season so far, arguably the greatest Big East Tournament game ever and arguably the most thrilling conference-tournament game in a generation (AI vs. Ray Allen in Big East '96 comes to mind, but you really can't beat the endless amazing of six -- SIX -- overtimes.)
Whether we're talking about Pitt or Oklahoma or Kansas or UConn or Syracuse, there is a lesson to be gleaned from yesterday's games -- a reminder that we'd all be well to consider heading into Selection Sunday:
In the end, no one knows anything. Not you. Not me. Not "experts." Not anyone. It's why the NCAA Tournament is the best event in sports, and it's why the biggest fan can have the worst bracket picks.
Over the season -- even starting before it -- I come up with a couple of bracket biases that I know are going to come into play. My preseason pick of Louisville to win it all. Watching Pitt play so dominantly down the stretch. My unease with picking UNC to win it all after the past three seasons' failures. Even a carry-over from last year's UCLA bias.
I mean, cripes: I was all set to pencil Pitt into the Final Four (obviously depending on their actual path, but I was having a hard time seeing a team that could stop them before the Final Four) -- yesterday's loss rocked my confidence:
Do I take the early exit as a motivator that they will carry through the first 4 games of the NCAA Tournament? Do I take it as foreshadowing that they're going to, once again, fall short of expectations? Do I need to worry when they are bracketed to meet, specifically, a "WVU-like" team? Confidence yields to doubt yields to insanity. It's an annual rite.
In recent years, I have tried not to over-think: To go with my first instinct as much as possible. But maybe this year -- after last year's debacle -- I should go with the "Opposite George" strategy.
Complete SN column here. More later.