I hope you totally went the other way from my picks for the 2012 NCAA Tournament (well at least for Friday, I went 14-16 last Thursday). While the tournament has lacked for buzzer-beaters, it has provided us a great deal of upsets, crazy twists, and unexpected storylines leading to wide open regions for this second weekend of the tournament. Here are a couple of things I observed from last weekend and what you can look for this weekend coming up.
1. College Basketball Sucks: Well let me not be so harsh. The games are not really well-played. They are really intense, which I guess is kind of fun to watch. But when I see teams struggling to get out of the 40s midway through the second half, I know that the defenses can’t be that good. So what’s the problem? Do the players suck? No, blame the guys that are leading them, the coaches. As Pete Prisco from CBS Sports said, let the players play. Coaches are so power-hungry and paranoid, they chain these athletes to their half-court sets.
You would think coaches know that a 2-on-1 fastbreak has a higher success rate than a 5-on-5 halfcourt offense. You would think that coaches would put the ball in their best playmaker’s hands earlier in the shot clock and let him go to work (that’s usually what happens anyway). But that doesn’t happen, especially not in this tournament. Why is that? Prisco says it like this; in the NBA players are the stars, in college its the coaches. Because of this dynamic, coaches want the glory for having the best game preparation, style of play, halftime adjustment, etc. Last I checked, I’ve never seen a coach make a basket. If the NCAA wants better games, put the ball in the hands of players, not the coaches.
Marquette is the best example I have seen so far of a street-ball styled team that can still play great defense that they turn into easy offense (2nd best example is the Murray State Racers who lost to Marquette). That is why the Golden Eagles look like a darkhorse for the Final Four.
2. One free-flowing team looked liked a Final Four lock. The North Carolina Tar Heels looked like at least the 2nd best team in the nation when Kendall Marshall, their floor general, was fouled hard during the 2nd half of their game against Creighton. Marshall was awarded with a broken wrist. UNC could have survived a John Henson wrist injury to make it to the Final Four. But without Marshall? Now the Midwest Region is wide open.
UNC is still the most talented team in the region from top to bottom. But their depth has taken a hit with no Marshall or Dexter Strickland, their best perimeter defender. Ohio brings DJ Cooper, their outstanding guard who said that Tennessee and Baylor tried to steal him away. If they get past the Bobcats, they get the Kansas/NC State winner. Kansas has the player of the year (Thomas Robinson) and NC State almost beat UNC in the ACC Tournament. Keep an eye on the Midwest thanks to this injury.
3. I may never do brackets again. Norfolk State and Lehigh? A VCU who should have beaten Indiana? Florida State doing Florida State things (I probably should have seen that coming)? There’s too much luck, too much bounce of the ball moments to really ever be comfortable with picks. Would Norfolk State beat Missouri again if they play 10 more times? Imagine the refs in the Notre Dame/Xavier game NOT deciding the game with a lane violation call.
Actually, I’ll switch up my strategy next year and you should too. Just flip a coin for each pick. With the way the games are these days, you have a great chance to be correct. You have at least a better chance than listening to me on a blog post.