NCAA Tournament: No lead is safe
We're one day into the NCAA Tournament and already madness is all around. Western Kentucky pulled off one of the all time great comebacks by erasing a 16 point deficit in the final five minutes. Comebacks are nothing new to the Hilltoppers who overcame second half double digit deficits twice in the Sun Belt tournament.
BYU followed up with a comeback of their own. The Cougars were down 25 in the first half to Iona but rallied hard for the win. Now BYU faces Marquette in the second round on Thursday.
The two comebacks served as a reminder that while run-and-gun offense is fun to watch it's not necessarily the way to survive and advance in March. BYU averaged nearly 80 points per game during the season so they know how to score.
However, the Cougars rank 21st in the nation in rebounding and that's part of where success is measured in March. You could expect the Marquette-BYU game to be a track meet but if it grinds down the way the Iona game did the Golden Eagles had better bring some intensity under the boards.
Defense is also important this time of year. In fact, it's a must for any deep run. This is where Marquette is in a much better position than last year. The Golden Eagles are a better defensive team now and that will come in handy with BYU and then possible matchups against high-flyers Murray State and Missouri on the horizon.
A few more thoughts on the tournament:
As I tweeted in the early morning hours of Selection Sunday my upset special is New Mexico State. The Aggies dominate on the boards and are riding a wave of momentum, having won nine of their last ten.
Speaking of momentum, is there a more confident team in the field than Florida State?
Best non 8/9 or 7/10 second round matchup? I love Wichita State-VCU and San Diego State-NC State.
If it's defense you're after be sure to keep an eye on Wisconsin and Virginia. Okay, we know the Badgers game. However, Wisconsin tends to struggle against its own kind and that means a third round contest against defensive-minded Harvard could be trouble. Virginia is second in the nation in scoring defense and that sets up a tortoise vs hare matchup in Virginia-Florida.
Everyone looks for an edge in filling out their brackets. Well here's one: try comparing the miles each team has to travel to get to their second round site. West Virginia travels only 75 miles to Pittsburgh for their game versus Gonzaga. How far do the Bulldogs have to travel? 2,247.
My Final Four: Oregon, Mid Tennessee, Drexel and Ole Miss.
A keen observer may note that none of those teams are in the NCAA field. That's because those are my NIT picks.
Here's my real Final Four: Kentucky, Michigan State, Florida State and Kansas.
My NCAA Final Four picks never pan out so maybe I should just stick to the NIT.
Ready for five more days of madness??