24 March 2013

Day 3

1) Wichita was only picked this far by about 3% of people, so where people took Gonzaga, don't feel too bad. Having said that, Gonzaga (and Kansas) were both vulnerable 1 seeds, and the West was, as previously mentioned, a screwy region. I was leaning toward knocking them out this early but talked myself down because I had them facing Pitt mostly, and Pitt didn't inspire enough confidence to pull the trigger. Wichita was certainly a good case for the upset by profile and defensive ability, they just had to get past a supposedly tougher Pitt team. The main case against Gonzaga was Mark Few isn't a very good tournament coach, and it seemed to show last night. A secondary case was made after their poor performance in round one against Southern, which is a good indicator that a 1 seed is below par and at risk of an early exit (again, ditto Kansas).

2) Oregon and to a lesser extent Arizona were not common picks this far. I've got no idea why Arizona wasn't. Harvard was pretty obviously not going to sneak up on a loaded Arizona team and New Mexico wasn't that good in the first place. Oregon beating St Louis handily was however a little surprising (but not terribly so, they're a big high scoring team, which is usually when 12s win over 4s).

3) I made some value pick calls on Cal (about 3.5% picked that far), but mostly took Cuse over them. I think I'd rather that Cuse had lost though.

4) Butler blew a lead against Marquette, causing much grumbling from me. I'm not sure how that works if you're Marquette, to have to consistently come back on other teams.

5) UCLA fired their coach after the loss in the first round to Minnesota. To some extent that's not surprising as UCLA hasn't been as good the last couple of years as this year (and certainly as the first few years Howland was there, where they were elite eight or final four worthy on talent grounds). But they partly lost because one of their best players was hurt coming into the game. Seemed an odd time to do it with a good recruiting class having just come in this year.

6) As with the other day, margins of victory were almost more surprising than the events. 3 close games out of 8, and then 5 blowouts (not even close at any point for most of them). For a tournament supposedly about parity, the better teams are smoking the competition. Both the VCU and Memphis losses were impressive displays. The Big 10 and Pac 12 are doing pretty well overall (over-under for Big 10 wins was 13, and they're at 8 already, with OSU and Indiana playing today). VCU-Michigan in particular should have been a much closer matchup (as the only 4-5 that held) and demonstrated a gap between top 2-3 tier teams and the rest of the field (in my mind at least).

7) A very good case can be made that poor tournament coaches are a significant hedge point to consider.
A list of a few serious offenders
Gonzaga- Few out in second round, routinely underachieves when given high seeds.
Missouri- Haith out in first round two years in a row (new coach, but not off to a good start).
Notre Dame- Brey out in first round two years in a row, and lost as a 2 seed the year before that in the second round
Pittsburgh - Dixon out in first round, lost as a 1 and 3 seed in second round last two appearances
New Mexico - Alford prior at Iowa wasn't too impressive either. Lost in first round (and lost in second round as a 3 seed previously, in one of the most obvious upsets in the last few years, even to an 11 seed).
Georgetown - Thompson out in first round, lost as a 6 and 3 seed in first round as well and last year as a 3 seed in the second round (and a few years ago as a 2 seed) Unlike the others on this list, they have at least made a Final Four appearance (Pitt's been to the Elite 8 once under Dixon).

Some of this is that some of these teams routinely are overseeded because of RPI factors. New Mexico hasn't deserved a 3 seed either time. Georgetown was a weak 2 this year and a very weak 3, weak 6, etc. Notre Dame is almost always seeded higher than they should be. Having already weaker teams than the seed expectations carry with them does not help. But if that's the case, it would suggest that these are coaches good enough to make their teams appear to be better all season, and then fail later.

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