In Notre Dame's past 10 tournament appearances, the Fighting Irish have advanced to the second weekend just once. That's good news for fans of Xavier and Duke.
Was hoping for more out of Georgia this season, but they certainly match the athleticism of the Huskies, who are unquestionably the most talented seven seed in this tournament. I want to see Travis Leslie dunk, and Isaiah Thomas slash. Both teams play games with [the] number of possessions totaling in the high sixties, so I suspect we will get a few opportunities to see these individual backcourt players showcase their talents.
Georgia, one of the "next four teams" in our Friday Bracketology projection (meaning they didn't need to worry about traveling to the Opening Round in Dayton), is in serious trouble of not making the NCAA Tournament now. The Bulldogs had a 14-point lead on Alabama with seven minutes to go in their SEC Tournament quarterfinal in Atlanta, but fell to the Crimson Tide in overtime, 65-59. . . .
With that result, Georgia is out and Alabama is in, right?
Not so fast. Georgia still has a profile that's worthy of some consideration, while Alabama's is still lacking.
The Eagles very much look like a team that peaked before Christmas, as they went 10-2 before the holiday (with a loss to Yale their worst of all) and 8-9 since. Plus, the shine of the Eagles' win over Texas A&M in Orlando, their only victory over a team in the RPI Top 50, has worn off slightly, thanks to the Aggies' up-and-down performance in the Big 12. In the ACC, the Eagles have been less "up-and-down" and more flat out mediocre. Sweeps of Maryland and Virginia Tech, are helpful, but losses at Clemson and Florida State, along with a sweep at the hands of Miami are problematic.
The Eagles final conference game, Sunday's home date with Wake Forest Demon Deacons, will do little to improve their fortunes, which means Boston College has a lot of work to do at the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.
This team has come a long way in a year. We're close & need your help the next 2 games in Stegeman. Go Dawgs!
Even though Georgia appears among the Next Four In, the Bulldogs are considerably safer than the other three teams in that group. As I stressed in a Q&A over at Dawg Sports on Wednesday, they should get in if they avoid the dreaded late bad loss.
The Bulldogs (18-8, 7-5) haven't lost to anyone outside the RPI top 40, but this victory provided a much-needed quality win. It eased some of the sting from squandering a lead against Vanderbilt earlier in the week and marked the Bulldogs' first victory over a likely NCAA tournament team since a win over Kentucky to start SEC play more than a month ago.
When committee got to SEC, according to @aglock , it had Florida, UK and Vandy as locks. Tennessee, UGA and Bama under consideration.
This issue cuts right to the heart of what you think the purpose of the tournament is. Clearly it's not just for determining a champion, or else it would be smaller than 64 teams and the Patriot League wouldn't have a guaranteed spot.
With the thrill of the unexpected, though, comes the unavoidable tradeoff of a certain kind of justice for obviously superior teams -- such as, say, Kansas, which defeated rival Kansas State three times en route to the Big 12's regular season and tournament championships, only to watch the Wildcats move closer to the national championship because their inexplicable lapse against an inferior opponent came at a more convenient time in the season -- whose otherwise brilliant campaigns can go up in a blink. (The classic football example is the 2007 Patriots, arguably the greatest team in NFL history, whose perfect season was extinguished by a six-loss team that not only lost to New England in the regular season but finished three full games behind the champion of its own division.) For all the BCS' faults, producing an "unworthy" champion has never been one of them, as opposed to the occasional Villanova, N.C. State and Arizona in the basketball tournament; the Series' sins have always been at the opposite end, of leaving obviously worthy contenders out of the mix rather than letting stragglers in. . . .
There is a middle ground between those competing poles that recognizes that a playoff should be open enough to allow all worthy contenders, restrictive enough to exclude the riffraff, and designed with the goal of producing a champion that has inherently produced the best season by virtue of winning the playoff. Both Brian Cook's tightly restricted six-team proposal (which swears off automatic bids for anyone) and Dan Wetzel's expansive 16-team scheme (which admits all conference champions, even from the Sun Belt) come pretty close. Of course I have my own preferences somewhere between those two plans, preferably appropriating an Australian Rules format.
But this post isn't about conjuring up specific plans, or we'd be here all day -- the first priority is to spread of the gospel of any playoff; the details can come later. It's only to recognize that March Madness, for all its enthralling surprises, is always an important reminder that whatever makes it through when the time comes -- and I still say it's going to come -- should consciously heed both extremes.