Although not as a media member, I attended open practices on Final Four Friday in Indianapolis. Indy is a great host city. As many have noted, everything surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium is close by; and considering the large crowds (over 25,000 in attendance, per the NCAA), local fans embrace the event.
Here are a few quick notes and takeaways:
- Kentucky has a forest of trees. When all four teams come out to practice – one after another – you notice certain things. UK’s size is one of those things. Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is mammoth, but as an overall team, the Blue Devils aren’t that big
- Tom Izzo loves March Madness. Not only is the Spartans’ head coach wildly successful this time of year, he seems to relish the experience. Michigan State had the most energetic practice, with Izzo directing the fun while smiling and waving to the crowd. He allowed his players to go through a slam dunk event in the final minutes, bringing the crowd to its feet when they finished.
- Bo Ryan of Wisconsin also made it a fun affair; as two sets of Badgers squared off in a half-court shot contest to wind up UW’s session. Each squad made at least five; so if Saturday’s semifinal comes down to a 50-foot heave, you’ve been forewarned.
- Based on the above two notes, Michigan State and Wisconsin appeared to be the most “relaxed” teams at the open practices.
- Duke ran some rather intense full-court drills and has obvious speed on the wings. The Blue Devils will be one of the smaller teams on the floor, so you have to think they will try to speed up the game, score in transition, and create open space for shooters.
- Kentucky kept its practice short. Despite having the largest contingent of fans on Friday, the Wildcats only practiced for about 30 of their allotted 50 minutes, and a good five minutes or so was free-throw rotations. It was a very business-like approach. Maybe that’s what John Calipari believes is best for his team on the verge of history. At 38-0, they are trying to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to complete an undefeated season.
- On an ironic note, unbeaten UNLV arrived in Indianapolis for the 1991 Final Four (at the former Hoosier Dome). That was the year Duke upset the Rebels in the national semifinals
Coaching Power – Sean Miller at Arizona is the young gun among a group of high-profile coaches in the Elite 8. Think about this list … Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Calipari, Mark Few, Mike Brey, and Miller. If you remove Few, Brey, and Miller, you have a who’s-who list of “elite” coaches – and that’s not to disparage Few’s dominant tenure at Gonzaga or the work that either Brey and Miller has done at Notre Dame or Arizona. Consider these accomplishments:
- Mike Krzyzewski – Four National Championships, 11 Final Four appearances, 31 NCAA tournament bids
- Rick Pitino – Two National Championships, 7 Final Four appearances, 20 NCAA tournament bids
- Tom Izzo – One National Championship, 6 Final Four appearances, 18 NCAA tournament bids (consecutive)
- John Calipari – One National Championship, 5 Final Four appearances, 17 NCAA tournament bids
- Bo Ryan – 1 Final Four appearance, 14 NCAA tournament bids … Note: Won 4 National Championships at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville
However you slice it, those are impressive resumes. We could see four of the five at the Final Four in Indianapolis; and Pitino and Izzo square off for the East Regional final. Read more…
My picks for the 2015 NCAA tournament are posted below. Of course, I went 1-3 while selecting First Four games in Dayton (the Flyers were my only winning pick, and they needed a late-game rally to beat Boise State). In other words, take these picks and run the other direction.
Having watched a lot of college hoops this season, six teams stand out as the most elite: Kentucky, Villanova, Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Virginia. Working through the bracket, my champion was going to come from this group. And I, like most others, settled on Kentucky; not because the Wildcats can’t be beat, rather because they have proven to be the best team.
Here we go – with some early upsets mixed in, including a pick with my head (Texas) and not my heart (Butler) … Read more…
Time to unveil the Madness. One thing we know for sure: Kentucky will lead the 68-team field on its Road to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
This year’s bubble has been, well, quite interesting. And on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve had an intense race for No. 1 seeds. Let’s hope the tournament is as exciting as the season. It generally lives up to expectations, even with a high ceiling.
Down to the wire, nothing was finalized until late this afternoon, with Wisconsin battling for a No. 1 seed in Chicago and Connecticut trying to steal one last bid. Ultimately, the Huskies came up a bit short and will not defend their NCAA title.
As for history, Kentucky begins its final quest for a perfect season. The Wildcats will certainly be the favorite as action begins Tuesday in Dayton. Enjoy the Madness!
It’s been a topic of discussion for several weeks. What would happen if Gonzaga lost? Would they fall? Who would take their place as a No. 1 seed? Following the ‘Zags home loss to BYU – which also vaulted the Cougars into a First Four game in today’s bracket – we have an answer: Villanova, at least for now.
The Wildcats – there are two of them (Kentucky) on the top line – slide into the West Region; following UK, Virginia, and Duke. We say for now, because Wisconsin and Arizona also continue to push for that final spot. And it’s conceivable we could see a shift among spots 2-6 on the Seed List between now and Selection Sunday. We know that either Virginia or Duke will lose at least one more game – both play in the ACC tournament. If Wisconsin, Villanova, and Arizona all win out it’ll be interesting to see how the Committee dissects that group of profiles.
With just under two weeks until Selection Sunday, we have several unclaimed spots in the bracket. Perhaps more than ever, conference tournament games could prove decisive . It’ll be even more interesting should we have an upset winner or two. The Atlantic 10 race is a good example – as of this posting, there are three teams tied atop the standings. There are another three teams – VCU, Richmond, and Massachusetts – all within a game or two of the top. It’s perfectly conceivable that anyone of those teams could grab the automatic bid.
It’s March. The Madness is almost here.
As the calendar turns to March, Kentucky has entrenched itself as the No. 1 overall seed. Unless the Wildcats lose multiple times between now and Selection Sunday – which is highly unlikely – they will stand atop the bracket when the official Field of 68 is unveiled on March 15. UK’s proverbial “march” will begin in Louisville and head through Cleveland in the Midwest Region.
As for the remaining No. 1 seeds, Virginia has a firm grasp on the East. After that, there’s still a bit of a race. If Gonzaga loses, Villanova is next in line to ascend to the top line. We also can’t exclude Wisconsin, Arizona, or even Kansas – although the Jayhawks will need help from the others in front of them. While winning both Big 12 regular season and tournament titles (if it happens) would be mighty impressive, the Jayhawks’ loss total might be too great to push KU ahead of the other three if those teams continue to win.
The bubble/cutline remains a hodge-podge of rotating resumes. The week ahead – leading into conference tournaments – figures to be huge. And it might be Friday or Saturday of Championship Week before the final Field comes into focus.
We’re now a month from Selection Sunday, and Madness continues around the bubble. Weekend results did little to change this scenario, so the same rules apply: If your team is seeded 8th or lower they have work to do. In fact, we have a few teams on the 8/9 seed line that should probably be 11/12 seeds. That’s where we stand. Championship Week will be must-see TV.
Unbeaten Kentucky (25-0) continues to lead the Field of 68. At this point, it would take multiple glitches for UK to lose its reign on the Midwest Region. Elsewhere at the top of the bracket, Virginia, Gonzaga, and Duke continue to hold No. 1 seeds. If Kansas, Villanova, Wisconsin, and Arizona also keep winning, there will be some interesting discussions among Selection Committee members regarding the top two seed lines. Keep this in mind: Although the Committee will “balance” regions for the Top 4 seed lines, geographic preference remains a priority – as long as other bracketing principles can be met. Thus, we’re likely to see Arizona in the West and Wisconsin in the Midwest regardless of their spot on the 2-line, assuming both stay in that group.
We’ll see how much the bottom of the bracket changes by Friday. Until then, enjoy another whacky few days of college hoops.