Saturday, March 30, 2013

3/31 (Syracuse! Wichita! Who Else?) Quickie

For the record, my 4-year-old son Jonah -- who picked a complete bracket entirely on his own this year (proud dad) -- had Syracuse winning the East region. (Meanwhile, 6-year-old Gabe is beating 80 percent of the country, so there's that.)

Syracuse -- which has busted so many brackets in the decade since Carmelo (pound-for-pound, the single most impactful player in college hoops history) led them to a title -- is a great example of a really good team playing exceptionally well at exactly the right time.

Wichita State is a wonderful story -- in a region that was supposedly "busted," the Shockers beat the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams in the region. For all their close calls the past two weeks, Ohio State was particularly tough. That's earning your way in. There is nothing fluke-ish about Wichita.

Teams seeded in the bottom half of each region almost never make the Final Four -- only three teems seeded higher than Wichita State's 9th have made it (LSU '86, Mason '06 and VCU '11, all 11-seeds). That makes Wichita State's accomplishment all the more special. They are a worthy addition to the exclusive club of Absurdly High Seed Final Four Teams.

Florida is going to beat Michigan, because as good as Michigan's offense is, Florida's defense is better than anything Michigan has seen this season, which includes two losses to Wisconsin and a tough split with Ohio State, both defenses ranked in KenPom's Top 10. For what it's worth, Florida is No. 2, but spent some time at No. 1.

While Michigan's offense falters, Florida's offense -- also ranked in the Top 5 nationally, just like Michigan -- will find Michigan's 45th-ranked defense to be not quite as challenging as, say, Florida Gulf Coast.

It's not that Michigan isn't a really good team -- it's that this match-up particularly favors Florida, including an ideal match-up with Trey Burke (Scottie Wilbekin, one of the Top 3 defensive guards in the country) and Mitch McGary (Patric Young provides the muscle and Erik Murphy's shooting will draw McGary away from the basket).

Louisville will beat Duke, and it won't be close. Duke barely beat Louisville in the non-conference schedule, and that was with UL not having Dieng in the post. Seth Curry -- arguably the best shooter in college basketball -- isn't at his best on a two-day turnaround. And Louisville is playing like a team obsessed with not just making the Final Four, but winning it all.

*Steve Alford to UCLA: Meh. And kind of a jerk. I don't begrudge him leaving for a better job; I begrudge him signing a 10-year extension 10 days ago.

Quick self-indulgent story: A million years ago, I accepted a job offer from to be an editor. The night before I was supposed to start, ESPN came to me with an awesome role at ESPN Magazine. It was something I probably would have enjoyed even more (in fact, a few years later, my boss ultimately left to take the ESPN job I was offered.) But I had committed to SI and there was no question I was going to honor that commitment. It's not quite the same -- again, let's put the emphasis here on self-indulgent story -- but the point is that Alford is an asshole, if a very rich one having the last laugh as he takes over a plum (if not Top 5) college hoops coaching role.

*Kevin Kolb to Buffalo: Not quite the missing piece.

*The MLB season starts tonight: World Series title or bust for my Nationals.

-- D.S.

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