NCAA 2011 March Madness Primer: Where’s The Beef?

Can we all agree that the 96 team NCAA Tournament proposal was asinine? Seriously, if 2010-2011 doesn’t prove that 64 teams is (was…) plenty, I don’t know what does. Two 8-8 Big XII (X?) teams in a very top heavy conference are currently “locks” according to ESPN analysts. The same goes for three 9-9 Big 10 (12?) teams. Three of those teams have 19 wins overall and one of them (a Michigan State squad that may have played every decent out of conference team in the country) has 17. In a similar ACC situation, two 19 win squads are looking like locks (at least they have winning conference records…at 9-7 each). No team has less than two losses, three current top 5 teams have at least 4 losses and St. Johns and West Virginia are in the top 20 with double digit losses. Huh?

Still, there are some great major conference squads poised to make a Final Four run. Kansas and Ohio State aren’t far and away the best teams in the country but they each have only two losses, none of which are stinkers (indeed all 4 teams they lost to are at least 6 seeds if the tourney starts today). UNC, Notre Dame, and Purdue (in spite of the Iowa loss) have all surged towards top 2 NCAA seeds in February and March. Florida has quietly won 8 of 9 to give the SEC a legitimate Final Four sleeper in one of the stronger conference divisions in the country (which sorts of says a lot about the national scene). Lastly, the MWC could (should?) land two number 2 seeds and three teams (maybe four with a conference tourney upset) in the NCAAs. For that reason, those teams will not appear in the next paragraph, but will be explored a lot more in a few subsequent posts appearing in the next few days.

There are some interesting mid-majors poised to make some noise heading into spring’s craziness. Without going into too much detail, here are some underdogs who could make some noise (in no particular order).

  • George Mason: In spite of VCU loss (the Rams have had GMU’s number in recent years) in the CAA semis, people are still on notice after the 2006 Final Four run.
  • Morehead State: Two words – Kenneth Faried.
  • Belmont: Fourth NCAA tourney appearance since ’05 (0-3 record), and on a 21-1 run with 3 of their four overall losses to SEC teams.
  • Butler: If you don’t know why, I don’t know what to tell you.
  • The A-10 teams: They’ll have as many bids as the MWC with Temple, Xavier (three straight Sweet 16s), and Richmond, all of which made the NCAAs last year.
  • The Conference USA champ: It’s a typically strong one bid league that has five 21+ win teams that all won at least 12 out of conference games. Either they’re all just decent, or all very battle tested in an underrated league.
  • Lastly, Harvard (should they win their one game winner-take-all playoff on Saturday at 4PM): Now hear me out; this team is 3-2 against likely NCAA tourney teams, had a strong push from a 23 win Princeton team in conference and their only really bad loss was to UConn in late December (who was playing tremendous basketball at the time). They were legitimately disappointed in finishing 3rd in a 2010 Ivy League that had three 20 win teams and a Sweet 16 team in Cornell. Might they be hungry for more than just a first round pat on the back?

I hope this stuff helps you all waste time at work this month. Tune in next time for; “Friday Night Lights; I may be late but I’m certainly not sorry,” “How the Big East tournament could make this an even more epic Big East season,” “There are peacocks playing in the NCAAs…seriously,” and “Miami’s 2011 bid to rename themselves the Frio”.


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