The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in men’s college basketball were not that exciting, in truth. Perhaps if officials did not know which team was supposed to win, perhaps there would have been more upsets. Yet it is hard to remove the “human” element from basketball officiating.
With the 12 top teams all advancing to the Sweet 16, there were not a lot of upsets, per se, in the first week/end of action for March Madness. Heck, right here, we even got 13 of the 16 teams advancing correct. Shocker, right?
We misfired on Maryland, which came very close to beating LSU in the Round of 32. We also blew it with Buffalo and Nevada in the West Region. But hey, even Charles Barkley had the Wolf Pack going to the Elite 8, so we don’t feel so bad for that one.
So, which teams are left from our group of seven that can win it all? All seven of them, of course. Do we need to revise this list of teams with balanced offensive and defensive efficiency? Yes!
The seven schools—Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Duke, Michigan, North Carolina, and Kentucky—have been joined by Houston and Virginia Tech, which now both boast Top 20 rankings at both ends of the court.
Technically, that means any one of those nine schools has a decent shot at cutting down the nets. For those who have been reading along, however, we know there is a higher threshold for predicting success: Top 10/11 in both categories.
That criteria reduces our legit field to just five teams: Virginia (2nd on offense, 3rd on defense), Michigan State (4th, 9th), Duke (7th, 6th), North Carolina (8th, 11th), and Kentucky (11th, 8th).
With Duke and Michigan State in the East Region together, and Kentucky and North Carolina in the Midwest Region together, that surely gives Virginia an “edge” right now in not having to face one of the other likely champs in its regional matchups.
Here are the picks now for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games:
East: Michigan State over LSU, Virginia Tech over Duke
MSU over Virginia Tech
South: Virginia over Oregon (barely), Purdue over Tennessee
Virginia over Purdue
West: Gonzaga over Florida State, Texas Tech over Michigan
Gonzaga over Texas Tech
Midwest: North Carolina over Auburn, Houston over Kentucky
Houston over UNC
That leaves the Final Four with four teams that fit our preliminary threshold for title teams—including two teams that meet our top echelon of championship efficiency.
Of course, we have always maintained that a season’s true accomplishment should be reaching the Sweet 16. At this point, so much about “winning it all” comes down to matchups and luck—and officiating. A season’s worth of 35 games means a lot more than just “one shining moment” in March or early April.
It’s a shame the mainstream media and the casual fans put so much emphasis on winning title as a validation for … something, when all these teams have played their hearts out for five months just to get to this moment.
In the end, remember: A lot of these kids on the court are just teenagers. They have mood swings. And when the ball does not bounce their way, a lot changes for them—and not so much for you, at all.