We'll be marching through each of the Big Ten teams' potential first and second round opponents this week, but we won't be offering any predictions. We don't want you yelling at us when your bracket has been decimated by Sunday.
The ACC has some great teams. North Carolina and Duke are both legitimate threats to make it to Detroit. Wake Forest has the potential to make a deep tournament run as well. But for some reason, the Committee went ACC-crazy when filling out their bracket. The #10 seed with the lowest conference efficiency margin? Maryland. Lowest margin for a #7 seed? Boston College. #5 seed? That's right, the Florida State Seminoles. What makes this worse for FSU is that the Badgers are criminally underseeded here. Wisconsin had the second best efficiency margin in the Big Ten, yet is seeded like one of the "last teams in. " Want to know why all those 5/12 upsets happen? Bad seeding. There's no 12-seed magic, just plenty of tempo-free cluelessness from the Committee.
That isn't to say FSU is a bad team. They're not. What they are especially good at is defense, specifically swatting shots and creating turnovers, 2 things that generally don't happen to Wisconsin's offense. Something's gotta give. Toney Douglas is Mr. Everything for Florida State - outside of him, there isn't a lot of efficiency in this offense, though 7-1 freshmen Solomon Alabi shoots a high percentage, as you might expect.
For the third year in a row, Xavier finished first in the Atlantic 10, but the truth is, this was Sean Miller's finest performance. The Musketeers returned just 44% of the minutes from last season, which normally results in a significant step back unless you're getting significant contributions from freshmen. But for the most part, this team is led by guys who were on campus last year. And none have played bigger than junior Derrick Brown. Brown was a bit of a role player last season, albeit an efficient one. This year, he's become a go-to player, but he's still kept that high efficiency. He and B.J. Raymond make a lethal combination - both shoot over 40% from 3. Heck, the whole team shoots 40% from 3. The bad news for Badger fans is that Xavier's actually better on the defensive end.
The Vikings are actually a pretty good outside shooting team as well, connecting on 38% of their three pointers. But they aren't very good on the defensive side of the ball, which bad news for facing the offensively gifted Badgers. But that doesn't make these guys pushovers - they beat Gonzaga in Spokane and narrowly lost by a point on Washington's home floor.
The #7 seed is the Longhorns' lowest since 2005, but it's deserved. Texas just wasn't that impressive in conference play, going 9-7 and outscoring Big 12 opponents by just 0.04 points per possession. The problem has been the offense. In fact, this is Rick Barnes' worst offense since the 2001-02 season. Some might be quick to point to the absence of D.J. Augustin or another capable point guard, but the turnovers are still low, and the Longhorns generally don't depend on assists all that much anyways. The real problem has been the shooting, especially from distance, where Texas shoots just 32.1%. If Texas has to make a living inside, that's good news for the Gophers, the best shotblocking team in the country.
Much has been made of Duke's early exits from the Dance in the past 2 seasons, and some even point to specific perceived attributes of Duke as underlying causes, as if the Blue Devils have unveiled the recipe for tournament success that has eluded thousands of bracketologists for decades. Pick any Duke-ish trait - overplay defense, for example - and there's sure to be a logical-sounding reason why a less talented team could beat them (after all, it's happened). But that's not nearly good enough - everyone can be upset - that's why it's been over 30 years since a team last ran the table in college basketball. Duke's first round game against VCU in 2007 probably presented less of a challenge than Clemson on the road, or non-conference games against Indiana and Georgetown (who advanced to the Final Four that season). Sometimes, these things just happen.
This year's version of the Blue Devils is an offensive juggernaut, led by the three-headed monster of Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson, and Jon Scheyer. While all three are excellent shooters, they also excel at getting to the free throw line. But the biggest problem for the Gophers might be Duke's defense, which forces a lot of turnovers. Minnesota hasn't exactly been careful with the rock this season.
There's not much chance of this happening. The Bearcats won the America East Conference tournament and although they swept Vermont, Vermont was probably the better team. The tallest player on the court for Binghamton usually goes about 6-6. If Duke goes down in the first round this year, the pitchforks will be out in Durham.
Penn State won a overtime thriller over George Mason last night, 77-73 in a 69 possession game. Talor Battle hit a 3 as time expired in regulation to send it to overtime, and then scored 8 more points in the extra period. Battle actually had a couple of earlier attempts to try and take the lead in regulation, but didn't convert either of them. But Jim Larranaga learned what the rest of the Big Ten already knows - when the game is on the line, make someone else shoot. The Nittany Lions will go on to face Rhode Island (who defeated Penn State back in November) tomorrow. Battle ended up with 24 points on 18 shots. Box score.