10 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after the first 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament
B1G letdown? B1G surprise? B1G disappointment? Or was the B1G collapse really just another annual B1G dose of reality?
Based on the reaction this weekend, most of the country was far more surprised at the Big Ten’s performance than I was. I’ve seen the movie and all of its sequels.
The B1G blunder is 1 of 10 things I’m overreacting to after the first 2 rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
10. What if Michigan wins it all?
Caveat: I don’t think the Wolverines will, but they are capable. They have ingredients that work in March, specifically quality guard play. It’s not quite take-over-a-game quality, but the Wolverines also don’t rely on a singular scoring star. That’s an underrated bonus in March, when great defenses clamp down on proven scorers and force unsungs to be the hero.
I’m not convinced Michigan beats Florida State in the Sweet 16, but let’s pretend the magic ends with a confetti shower in Lucas Oil Stadium.
If that happens — again, it’s a huge if — that has to change the narrative surrounding the Big Ten’s 2021 performance. This collapse is all anybody is talking about now, but in 2 years, nobody will remember that 8 of the 9 teams lost in the first or second round. They’ll only remember that Michigan ended the Big Ten’s NCAA Tournament drought.
That’s the thing about conference-wide generalities. SEC football wasn’t crowned king of the land because of what Ole Miss, Kentucky and Georgia were doing. They earned the title because Florida, LSU, Alabama and Auburn won 7 consecutive national titles and 11 in 15 years. Finebaum couldn’t even tell you the SEC’s bowl record for any year during that stretch.
Having said that, if Michigan flames out in the Sweet 16, everybody will remember the year that the B1G failed to get a team into the Elite Eight after starting the tournament with the most teams in the field.
The B1G's average margin of defeat in its five losses in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was 12.6 points per game.
Rutgers was the only team to have a single-digit loss, losing 63-60 to Houston.
Again, not just losses. Ass kickings.
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) March 23, 2021
9. “Kansasing” is a real thing
You remember “Clemsoning.” Dabo, Deshaun and Trevor completely flipped the script on what that used to mean. Now, Clemson is synonymous with champion, not choking.
Kansas basketball, however …
I follow several absolute bracket rules, and No. 1 on the list is: Do not pick Kansas.
I think Kansas is the most overrated basketball program in the country. It’s not hate-speak. It’s evidence-based.
In the past 20 NCAA Tournaments, including this year, Kansas has won 1 national title and reached the Final Four 4 other times.
During that stretch, they have never been seeded worse than No. 4.
- No. 1 seed: 9 times
- No. 2 seed: 4 times
- No. 3 seed: 3 times
- No. 4 seed: 4 times
During that stretch, they’ve also been eliminated during the first or second round 7 times, including this year.
So, no, I’m never surprised when Kansas is “upset” in the NCAA Tournament.
If you still are, I want you in my pool. Every year.
8. Gonzaga is the most underrated program in college basketball … still
They are the Zags to Kansas’ zig.
All of those years that Kansas underperformed relative to its seed, the Zags have been seeded No. 4 or better just 9 times.
They’re No. 1 this year, though, and absolutely looked the part in the first 2 rounds.
The Zags are in the Sweet 16 for the 6th consecutive time. During those previous 5 tournaments, they reached the championship game once and Elite 8 2 other times.
They entered the NCAA Tournament 26-0. If they win it all, they’ll finish 32-0. That’s the same record Indiana had when it became the most recent undefeated national champion in 1976.
Don’t even try to attach an asterisk to anything the Zags are doing.
Just enjoy the brand of ball Mark Few has developed as he tries to chase down the ghosts of 1976 Indiana.
7. Sister Jean, The Sequel
Is there anything more adorable than a 101-year-old nun sitting courtside and rooting on her favorite team as it makes another surprising run to the Sweet 16 (and maybe beyond)?
She was the inspirational star of Loyola’s 2018 Final Four run … and I’m not about to say her pregame prayer didn’t help propel the Ramblers’ to an upset over No. 1 seeded Illinois this year.
She is the face of the program.
SISTER JEAN CALLED IT.
She prayed for Illinois to shoot under 30% from 3PT and they did pic.twitter.com/tUdm8NysEr
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 21, 2021
6. Nate Oats is the best coach in the SEC
Overreaction? Possibly, but that is in the mission statement.
However, I’m not simply overreacting to the Tide’s run.
It’s far more of a cumulative reaction to the complete 180 the Tide have done under Oats’ watch.
Alabama is in the midst of arguably its greatest season ever. At 26-9, they’re 2 wins from matching the program record. And, of course, if they match that, it means they’ll be headed to the Final Four for the first time in program history. They’re already in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004.
You can say that Oats is doing this with Avery Johnson’s recruits.
I’d counter by reminding you Avery Johnson never did this with Avery Johnson’s recruits.
I don’t think John Calipari could do what Oats has done, either. Kermit Davis is an outstanding coach, Bruce Pearl has an impressive résumé, and I like Rick Barnes’ ability to maximize what he has. Maybe that trio could match what Oats has accomplished in 2 short years.
But I’m going to enjoy the moment a bit — Alabama was picked to finish 5th in the SEC, after all — and praise a job extremely well done.
5. Bottom 5 of Power 5 …
1. North Carolina: Roy Williams still needs to hire a defensive coordinator, but this was the worst, most unlike-Roy offense I’ve seen from his Tar Heels. If his teams can’t get to 80, they can’t win. This one couldn’t. And didn’t.
2. Ohio State: Huge win over Michigan, wild loss in overtime to Illinois in the Big Ten Championship … and disastrous opening exit loss to Oral Roberts.
3. Illinois: Big Ten champion, Final Four favorite, trendy national champion pick … and its worst offensive night of the season in a shocking loss to Loyola in Round 2.
4. Florida: Not a fan of Mike White’s coaching performance in this tournament. The Gators overcame it to win the opener, but his decision to slow down the game instead of stepping on the gas led to their demise and exit in Round 2.
5. Kansas: Of all of the early upsets, Kansas scoring a season-low 51 and getting curb-stomped by 34 was … historic. That was the Jayhawks’ largest margin of defeat in its NCAA Tournament history.
4. The Final Four will be …
Gonzaga vs. Alabama: I root for the story. Not sure the Tide will get there, but if you like offense, this is the can’t-miss matchup. We haven’t had a Final Four game with both teams reaching the 80s in regulation since 2007. Can Alabama continue to hit enough 3s?
Baylor vs. Syracuse: If you like contrasting styles, this is the can’t-miss matchup. Among remaining teams, only Gonzaga scores more per game than Baylor. The Bears average 84 points per game. Syracuse is 16-2 when it holds opponents to 73 or less.
3. Why Syracuse is a nightmare matchup
It’s the zone, stupid.
Nobody plays it like Syracuse plays it. It takes time to solve. With multiple looks per season, conference teams eventually figure it out — which explains why Syracuse hasn’t been a threat in the ACC since its debut season.
But in a one-game situation with not a lot of time to prepare?
It’s a nightmare. Syracuse is always long and active on the perimeter. That’s by design. Jim Boeheim doesn’t just recruit — he targets specific measurables. They swarm post feeds, aggressively contest 3s and trap better than any team in the country. There are no easy possessions against that defense.
Nothing about Syracuse’s season or past 7 in the ACC screams “dominant program” — they’re a mere 4 games over .500 in the ACC in that span — but the Orange are in the Sweet 16 for the 3rd time in that span. That’s the same number as Duke. And Kansas.
2. Indiana, who you gonna call?
It’ll never happen, for obvious reasons, but it’s just a reminder of how one of the stupidest, since-changed rules in NCAA history directly led to a decade-plus of disappointment. (And, yes, I know Tom Crean had some good years, but his best teams flopped in March and he never made it past the Sweet 16.)
Kelvin Sampson can coach. And he’s back in the Sweet 16 with yet another team.
Indiana? The Hoosiers haven’t been there since 2016.
1. The sun shining through the windows at Hinkle Fieldhouse … all the feels
I worked in Indianapolis for 7 years and played pick-up ball at Hinkle hundreds of times, always during the day, and one of the first things you notice after walking into the tiny gym is the sun pouring through the windows.
It’s not like this anywhere else.
So, yes, the NCAA Tournament brought back all of those feels — and showcased one of the aspects that makes Hinkle unique, historic, special.
Hinkle Fieldhouse sunlight is the first quirk of this year's #MarchMadness https://t.co/KLBxWur62v
— For The Win (@ForTheWin) March 19, 2021
Bill Raferty didn’t like it. Who cares. Send him home, Jerome.
Nobody gets to rain on Hinkle’s sunny parade.