Saturday, March 17, 2007

First Round Thoughts

I know that I haven't had too much commentary of the Tournament so far, but I've been spending my time preparing the 2007-08 previews. As with last year, expect all conference previews and the new BP65 to be out within a week of the National Championship game. Also, with so much coverage, there's really nothing intelligent to be said about these games that isn't repeated ad nauseam. So just a few overarching issues:

Where are the upsets?
Only two double-digit teams made the second round. I don't even want to hear the "five upsets" number by counting the #9 seeds. Historically, #9 seeds have won 54% of their games. It's an "upset" if they lose. Never in the history of the 64/65 team bracket have there been only two double-digit teams in the second round. In fact, in order to find only two teams in the second round you have to go all the way back to 1980, when the concept of a 13, 14, 15 and 16 seed didn't even exist. Back then those double digit seeds all went to the worst conference champions. Only one double digit team (Arkansas, from the SWC) came from what you can define as a Major Conference.

Does this portend more upsets in the second round?
It's very possible that a lack of first round upsets will put some elite teams at ease. Also, the fact that so many 4, 5, 6, 7 seeds got through means that the top teams will have tougher opponents from here on out. Plus, even though we've found that teams like USC and Maryland were able to show enough maturity to play to their best in the first round, some of the elite teams haven't. Kansas and Ohio State both missed the Sweet 16 last year, and neither has been tested yet. And Memphis is a great upset pick - I'd have picked Nevada or Creighton to beat them straight up in the second round.

If we want to see an example of this occuring in history, I point you to the 2000 Tournament. That year was the closest to this year in terms of an upset-free first round. Only three double-digit seeds made the second round, two 10s and an 11. But in the second round, all hell broke loose. Two #1 seeds and three #2 seeds and two #3 seeds all went down. That's right, more than half (7 of 12) of the top twelve teams went down in the second round. That year's Final Four included a 5 and two 8 seeds. Without a doubt, a real "bracket busting" second round. For the sake of fun, let's hope that history repeats.

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