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Anyone can win, but only a couple can win it all
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No. 12s will, per the norm, beat No. 5s and don’t be surprised if a 14 seed or two knocks off a No. 3. It’s not out of the question that a second seed bows out over the first few days.
There’s just so little disparity in this field that you can basically toss seeding out the window.
It’s nearly irrelevant.
That’s why it’s unpredictable -- except for one small item.
There are only a few teams that have a legitimate chance at reeling off six straight to win the national title.
Kansas, Kentucky and maybe Syracuse -- and that’s dependent on whether Arinze Onuaku gets healthy soon.
That’s about it.
However, the rest of the field is full of mediocrity, of if you’d rather I use a kinder, gentler term, we’ll say parity.
In what other year would a Villanova team that flopped down the stretch and lost five of its final seven still somehow hang onto a No. 2 seed?
Or see a Pittsburgh team that lost four starters from last season’s Elite Eight team win 24 games and earn a No. 3 seed despite suffering losses to Indiana and South Florida and getting swept by Notre Dame?
New Mexico and its Mountain West counterparts remain a virtual mystery, yet the Lobos also earned a No. 3 seed after winning the league’s regular-season crown.
If I told you Washington would be playing Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament back in November, everyone -- including Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams -- would have said the Huskies would be the No. 6 seed and Marquette would have backed their way in at No. 11.
Instead, it’s the other way around.
Maryland had a terrific season, but no one is afraid of Greivis Vasquez and the Terps. Purdue would likely be a bubble NCAA tournament team if the Boilermakers had played the entire season without Robbie Hummel. Instead, Matt Painter’s club goes in as a No. 4 seed along with Maryland.
Notre Dame went from an NIT lock to a No. 6 seed in the span of three weeks -- and the Irish did most of it without their top player, Luke Harangody.
I think you get the point.
The field is what it is.
Multiple head coaches told me, leading up to the bracket being unveiled on Sunday, that they were shocked to even be on the bubble and that in a normal season they would have been resigned to an NIT appearance.
2010 NCAA Tourney
Final Four results:
Brackets and more:
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- Goodman: Butler can't end script
- National title Studs and Duds
- Check your bracket | Print one
- Flash bracket
Sixty or more decent teams that you can basically toss in a hat and a few that clearly stand above the rest.
Once we get through the uncertainty of the first few rounds, the cream is certain to rise to the top.
That translates into the big boys -- aka Kansas, Kentucky and potentially Syracuse -- surviving and advancing.
They’ll be tested but will find a way to move along.
I just can’t imagine a scenario in which one of Kansas or Kentucky isn’t cutting down the nets on April 5 in Indianapolis. Sure, there’s a chance in a one-and-done tourney like this that Sherron Collins or John Wall could bow out early -- but it’s not likely that both are history.
Syracuse is a close third, but again, without a healthy Onuaku the Orange just aren’t the same team. Duke has the softest road of the four No. 1 seeds, but the Blue Devils are hardly overpowering and could lose just about anywhere along the way.
The No. 2 seeds -- Ohio State, West Virginia, Villanova and Kansas State -- each could win four straight and get to the Final Four. However, it would be difficult to fathom any of them reeling off six consecutive games to win it all.
The Buckeyes have Evan Turner who could carry them deep into the Big Dance, but lack depth and a legitimate post presence. West Virginia’s point guard play -- a critical component to winning a national title -- is sub-par. ‘Nova has limped into the tourney and sorely misses big man Dante Cunningham from a year ago and Kansas State would have to get past a Kansas club that it has lost to three times already this season to get to the championship game.
This tournament is wide open.
But only for a little while.
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