Two March constants:
- 1. All four No. 1 seeds won’t make it to the Final Four in San Antonio.
- 2. At least one will.
Seeding began in 1979 — and since then, 36 of the 39 Final Fours have included at least one No. 1 seed. Twenty-two have include at least two No. 1 seeds.
Only one, however — the 2008 Final Four — featured all four No. 1 seeds.
Expect those patterns to hold this year, too.
The question is, which No. 1 seeds will fall first?
We’ll get to the art of “Kansasing” momentarily, but let’s start with the fact that the Jayhawks’ Region includes two other national contenders in Duke and Michigan State.
Kansas will only have to deal with one of them, however. Sparty is slated to meet the Blue Devils in the Sweet 16, the winner presumably facing Kansas two days later for a spot in the Final Four.
Will Kansas even make it that far? It’s fair to wonder. These Jayhawks already have 7 losses, including two to an Oklahoma State team that didn’t even make the NCAA field.
Far better Kansas teams have fallen short of the Final Four this decade.
This is the definition of “Kansasing.”
Will they make it to the Final Four? No. Keep an eye on second-round opponent Seton Hall, which knocked off Texas Tech (Big 12) in December and almost toppled Villanova in the Big East Tournament. Big East basketball is no joke, and given the Jayhawks’ propensity for early exits, that potential second-round matchup could be where their road ends.
Virginia is the No. 1-ranked team in the country. Virginia is not the most talented team in the country. There is a distinct and fundamental difference in those two true statements.
Tony Bennett has built an unbelievable system in Charlottesville. His relatively modest recruits buy in early and invest everything toward a common goal. It’s quite amazing that he’s been able to use old-school “Hoosier” methods to dominate a Power 5 league in the me-first AAU age.
But … at some point, Virginia will have to outscore a really talented team. Can they do it? That’s been their downfall the past 2-3 years, as Bennett steadily built this into a national power.
It’s hard to shake the memory of last year’s early exit — scoring 39 points in a second-round loss against Florida.
These Cavs are the best defensive team in the country. They switch, scramble and recover better than anybody. They contest without fouling. They communicate. They are everything on defense that Mike Krzyzewski’s best Duke teams used to be. But the numbers clearly are enhanced by their pace of play. They limit points by limiting opponents’ possessions. They shrink the game and strangle the life out of opponents. They are the boa constrictor of college basketball.
The rub? UVA topped 70 points just four times against Power 5 teams. They scored 61 and 60 in their only two losses.
The potential Sweet 16 date with uber-talented Kentucky again will push Bennett’s system to the breaking point. Kentucky has more talent; Virginia leads the dribbling world in poise. If the Cavs get past the Cats, they’ll get to their second Final Four and first since 1984.
Will they make it to the Final Four? Yes. Virginia is in danger of losing any game that gets in the 60s — but just getting there is difficult. They haven’t given up 70 points this season, and only one team topped 66.
But this is March (that sounds much more dramatic using Gus Johnson’s voice).
Creighton, which averaged 84 points per game, will pose a threat in the second round. And then there’s Kentucky, which is finding its offensive identity, or Arizona, which averages 80.9.
Somebody’s going to push the pace, get hot and force Virginia to answer. This year, the Cavs will.
This just in: Xavier actually won the Big East regular season title. It very nearly got to the Big East Tournament final, too, falling to a dangerous and under-seeded Providence team that lurks in the bottom half of the Musketeers’ West Region.
Would it surprise anybody if these two meet again in the Elite Eight, spot in the Final Four at stake?
It shouldn’t, but that would require both knocking off the two teams that met in last year’s NCAA Championship Game. (Providence would get North Carolina in the second round.)
Everybody is looking forward to Xavier’s potential Sweet 16 shootout vs. Gonzaga. Both teams average 84. First one to 90 advances. Gonzaga ended Xavier’s run last year in the Elite Eight — and the Zags’ 83-59 stomping was the type of dominance that motivates you over the summer.
Will Xavier make it to the Final Four? No. Xavier has been building toward the big breakthrough, but the bracket is stacked with the types of teams that can end dreams. Gonzaga, Providence or North Carolina are capable of doing just that.
Virginia might be the No. 1 overall seed, but Villanova is the favorite to cut down the nets on April 2.
The Wildcats do it all — and unlike last year, this year they’re doing it with offense.
Villanova leads the country in scoring at 87.1 points per game. They’re fourth in the country in 3-pointers made — averaging 11.4 per game.
Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Co. have obliterated whatever outdated image you had of the old, physical, smash-mouth Big East.
And, lest anyone forget, they’re still miffed about losing in the second round last year as a No. 1 seed.
Will they make the Final Four? Yes. They’re on a mission — just like North Carolina was last year. It’s the Redemption Reunion Tour, one Jay Wright knows all of the songs to. He played it perfectly two years ago, reminding the Wildcats of their 2015 second-round NCAA Tournament loss to N.C. State. That fueled Villanova’s run to the 2016 national title.
It’s going to fuel this year’s run to San Antonio.