Well, it's time for the Sweet Sixteen, and the tournament has been it's normal, crazy self. I have a few thoughts and questions to share, other than the yearly reminder that I am absolutely brutal at picking a bracket.
Well, here we go.
1. I don't care how good a conference is, or looks like it is, having any conference get more than half it's members into the Big Dance is rediculous, wrong, unfair, and in this case....undeserved.
The big East had had 23.5% of the teams in the tournament.
They have 12.5% of the Sweet Sixteen, and which teams are they? Their tournament champ, and Marquette who only got in by having the good luck to play another Big East team. I say luck because any underdog is going to have a better chance by playing a team that they know.
Yes, the Big East is a good conference, it was the deepest this year, and there was not all that much separation between the teams. That said, that is the case all over, and the top of their conference was not better than the top of the others. It was in fact, worse, as has been shown in the tournament. Most of the Big East teams do not play great defense this year. They have been exposed in the tournament.
2. How many times do we have to see the teams who come out of the high mid-major conferences beat teams from the "Power" conferences, before those leagues start to get more love. For example, let's look at the Colonial and the Missouri Valley which have a history of making noise in the tournament. We will have to stretch this to the NIT as the top 2 teams in the Valley did not get invites.
George Mason: Round of 32
VCU: Sweet 16 and still playing
Old Dominion: Round of 64
Indiana State: Round of 64
Wichita State: Beat Nebraska by 20+ and won at Va. Tech.
Missouri State: Beat Murray State, play Miami (FL) tonight
If you exclude Indiana State which upset Missouri State in the MVC tournament to get their league's automatic bid, this looks even better. Regardless 4 of 6 teams winning is impressive, including 5 wins over "Power" conference teams combined. These should not be 1 bid conferences. Yes, the worst team in a power conferenc team is probably better than the worst team in these, but the top of the leagues are much closer to equal than people like to admit. It shows every year in the tournament. These are leagues where players are developed and the teams at the top of the conference tend to cycle, but their athletes are just as good, their coaches are just as good, and they should get more bids.
Proof, you want proof?
George Mason over Villanova
VCU over Purdue
VCU over Georgetown
Wichita State over Va. Tech at Va. Tech
and that's just this year, and just these 2 leagues. Then, if you consider the Horizon League with Butler to lead it and the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga and Saint Mary's and soon to be BYU. These are not the Sister's of the poor. These boys can play ball.
3. Coaching and experience, especially at guard, are more important than raw talent. It is not an accident that you see 2 common threads in the teams that succeed in this tournament.
X-Coaches who you see regularly succeed in tournaments. They are not a fluke. Some coaches are smarter than other coaches, and some styles of play lend themselves to tournmanet success.
There are a number of systems that do this, but you can see them every year. Deep, well conditiioned, Benches like what John Calipari and Billy Donovan like to do. Pace control like what Bobby Knight did and John Calhoun still does will also work. Or even, the rare and unique one, that like Boeheim's use of the Zone defense. The Zone has it's weaknesses, but it does preserve energy on the defensive end, and keep players out of foul trouble. The coaches who can find a way to have their players fresher, longer, are probably going to win.
O-Veteran players, especially point guards, make a huge difference. An example of this is VCU. Joey Rodriguez has been through wars and will not be surprised by anything he sees. He has made the game so easy on the offensive end by slicing up opposing defenses.
Ok, well thanks for taking the time to listen to my theories, back rooting for the underdogs.