Big Ten Wonk
Monday, March 12, 2007
Who did Arkansas sleep with? And other bracket thoughts....
The inclusion of the Razorbacks in the field of 65 frankly surprised me. Sure, they made it to the championship game of their conference tournament but then so too did NC State. And while the Hogs do have the best defense in the SEC, they also have that conference's worst non-LSU offense.

Besides, if we're suddenly feeling charitable toward meh teams from the SEC West, what about Mississippi State? Better conference record, better efficiency margin, and, most importantly, a better-looking dot on the aerial.

But then of course March is supposed to have surprises. So bring it on....

That lovable sextet of dancing Big Ten teams!
I like deference to champions so I have no problem with Florida (Midwest) being the number 1 overall seed, even with their shaky February. And once there's a number 1 overall it really doesn't matter who's 2 and 3 among the 1-seeds. (They'll have to play each other if they get that far and who cares who wears the road uniforms?) But just for the record: Ohio State (South) being made the third overall 1-seed to North Carolina's 2 overall (East) is adventurous seeding, to say the very least. First, these teams played, in Chapel Hill, and the Buckeyes took the Heels to the very limit before losing—without Greg Oden. Second, Ohio State hasn't lost a game since January 9th. Lastly, the Buckeyes haven't lost any game not played on the home floor of a 1- or 2-seed this season. If that's not worthy of a 1a. right behind the Gators, nothing is.

Wisconsin: a 2 in the Midwest, with Florida as the 1. No surprise there. The Badgers can just stay in the bowels of the United Center—that's where they'll play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and, fate willing, the winner of UNLV-Georgia Tech.

Indiana: a 7 in the West. They will play Gonzaga in my old stomping ground, Arco Arena in Sacramento. (Truth be known, in the middle of a field north of Sacramento.) Should they advance the Hoosiers will play the winner of UCLA-Weber St.

Michigan State: a 9 in the East. Tom Izzo will face his former assistant, Tom Crean and Marquette. If the Spartans prevail, they'll get a shot at Carolina.

Purdue: a 9 in the Midwest. The Boilers face Arizona and, if they survive, Florida.

Illinois: a 12 in the West. With that "12" the committee, of course, fairly put a sign on the Illini's back: "Question our inclusion! Please!" But Bruce Weber's men should take the abuse gladly. Compare Purdue's bracket as a 9 (above) with the Illini's: Virginia Tech and, should Illinois prevail, the winner of Southern Illinois-Holy Cross. That is as kind a first two games as a bubble team could wish for.

COMING this week!
The patented Wonk 360 technology goes to work! Each venue hosts, in effect, a couple four-team tournaments. And if there's a Big Ten team involved, Wonk 360 will break the four teams down, starting tomorrow with Lexington (Ohio State, Central Connecticut State, BYU, and Xavier) and Chicago (Wisconsin, TAMU-CC, UNLV, and Georgia Tech). Don't fill in those brackets without Wonk 360!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Ohio State beat Wisconsin 66-49 in the championship game of the Big Ten tournament yesterday. Nobody's paying attention, of course, but if anyone's interested: the Buckeyes took a team that was ranked number 1 in the country this year and disposed of them with casual mastery on a neutral court. Is it possible a team can go 30-3 and be underrated? Apparently. The patented Kelvin Sampson-Thad Matta 2-3 zone forced the Badgers into attempting 23 threes. They made four. Mike Conley scored 18 points on 14 shots and Greg Oden recorded a 12-10 dub-dub in 22 foul-blighted minutes. (Box score.)

I think this one's mentioned in Revelations....
One last thing. If, like me, you've navigated your days on this tiny terrestrial orb serene in the knowledge that the doughty and sagacious hoops analyst Ken Pomeroy could never conceivably have any possible reason to utter the words "Jenn Sterger" in his hitherto earnestly log5-laced blog, well, today is not your day.

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