Posted on: March 8, 2009 4:03 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2009 4:05 pm

The Obtuse East

Big East Fans Dreaming Too Big

No conference is capable, or deserving, of three #1 seeds in a field of 64 teams

If you are reading this, you are probably acquainted with the view many in the media hold -- that there is an argument to be made for Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Louisville to be seeded among the best four teams in the NCAA Tournament.

The tournament committee will be meeting this week to consider how the national championship will be decided. It is a beautiful system that has been as intriguing as it has been beneficial to the NCAA. 64 teams. 4 regions. 1 vs. 16, and so on and so on. March's madness is actually brilliance. 

That being said, the committee should not be short-sided enough to grant a #1 seed to three teams from each conference and here's why


  • Louisville is the regular season champion; should Pitt or UConn instead win the conference tournament, one of these three teams will be a team who has won neither the Big East regular season title, nor the Big East conference tournament
  • Big East teams do not play each team twice, leaving a question mark in terms of establishing true hierarchy; "good" teams are not forced to beat up on each other as they are in other power conferences
  • Conference RPI is as arbitrary as the RPI in general; is the Big East the best conference, or does it simply have the greatest number of good teams due to its larger than life population?

In the end, talk of three #1 seeds is indeed premature as it doesn't take into account the results of the conference tournaments. It is, however, shortsighted to believe that awarding teams from the same conference is somehow laudable, or even practically possible.

Posted on: March 24, 2008 5:16 pm

The Demise of UCLA?

C'mon. Let's take a step back. Whatever. Call the block/foul bogus, UCLA is still dancing. Their demise? Greatly exaggerated.

From here on in, let's cede the Bruins a little benefit as far as doubt is concerned with respect to the Texas A&M outcome.

Despite any of the officiating in the game, it wasn't a fluke or an accident that UCLA came back from 10 down on Texas A&M, who by the way, put up one hell of a fight. Seeing this team come up clutch over the last three years, you have to refuse to throw in the towel on them until the buzzer sounds. But the Aggies had this game. I honestly thought that the 9 seed (who played on a level far beyond it) was in total control and on the way to the Sweet 16.

Silly me.

And silly media.

This team has comeback on several opponents this year, but the media's attention is on the late games in conference play and not the entire body of work. Fair enough, but walk-through this with me:

2007-2008 Thrillers
11/20/07: Down 36-25 at the half after being physically and literally dominated by Michigan State, UCLA wins a pre-season tourney over the Sweet 16 bound Spartans.

12/2/07: Getting their sorry hats handed to them by a superior Texas squad by 16 points, the Bruins come all the way back only to lose to the Longhorns on a last second Damion James dunk.

12/8/07: Less than a week later UCLA covers an 18 point deficit and goes on to blast another Sweet 16 sweetheart in Davidson 75-63. A 30 point swing.

2/23/08: Down 11 in the second half, UCLA comes back and then jumps all over a NCAA tournament team in Oregon, besting the Ducks by 10.

These guys are tough and are being lambasted as lucky and even cheaters. Not entirely fair.

Ben Howland does not let his teams quit. The brand of defense he has instilled (a defense that held their first two opponents to an average 39 ppg) is the sort of thing championships are made of. The guy turned Ryan Hollins from a stiff into a solid shot-blocking machine and 2006 West Region MVP. They haven't yet played their monstrous trap defense this tournament though it is still practiced. Their coach is the force that propels this team from first-half somnambulance and their D is the reason vaunted opponent's shooting percentage plummets while turnovers multiply.

I shouldn't bring up a 17-point comeback vs. Gonzaga in tourney play 2 years ago or the fact that UCLA has defeated both Memphis and Kansas (respectively) en route to their two most recent Final Four's. I won't cite controversial regular season-closing wins over Stanford & Cal.

I did because pundits are now and will continue to harp on West Virginia's two wins over UCLA in as many seasons as evidence they will pull off a third this year (should they meet). Blah blah UCLA came from 20 down in the 1st and only lost by 4 in the closing plays and yada yada played without Darren Collison in the second ... etc. etc.

Let's not count them out. They're a legit #1 and are most definitely for real.
Posted on: March 24, 2008 3:15 pm

Pac-10 Tourney Play

The Pac-10 is a lot better than most people want to give it credit for, but it still isn't the premier conference nationwide.

The truth is that there may not be a premier conference in Men's College Basketball. Just a handful of great ones.

As far as the Pac-10 goes, they have proved their mettle thus far. Oregon and Arizona were both lower seeds and U$C, or, excuse me, the University of Southern California, ran into a tough match-up in Michael Beasley and Kansas State. I expect Stanford and Washington State will both have trouble advancing to the Elite 8 ... but is that really an indictment on the Pac-10? Stanford will go to Houston, Texas to play an extremely tough Longhorns squad and Washington State will have their hands full with seemingly unbeatable North Carolina ... yes, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It's fun getting to see which conference will get bragging rights at the end of all this, but this tournament isn't about that. It's about the players, the individual match-ups, and intense competition. And fun! And your brackets. And the last two minutes, buzzer beaters, and Billy Packer's shiny head. It would be nice if the top-tier media would keep its focus towards the games played and cease making the dance into a cross-regional pissing contest.

But as long as it is, it looks as though the Pac-10's fortunes will once again hang on the success of UCLA in their third consecutive Final Four.
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