The first weekend of the men's NCAA basketball tournament has concluded, and boy do we have chalk.
For those that may not know, chalk means all the top seeds, the best teams, won the games they were supposed to win. For example, in the East, West and Midwest region, the four teams left are seeded 1-4. The only high seeded team left is Oregon, who is a 12. But, they are from a major conference, they were a preseason top 15 team, and they are a lot better than their record shows. But, in the rest of the South region, we have the 1, 2 and 3rd seeded teams. So, of the 15 teams in the Sweet Sixteen, they were all, seemingly, seeded correctly, and they did what they were supposed to do.
That doesn't mean we didn't have some solid, to great games. Just last night we had that great Duke-UCF game. I need to say right off the bat, Duke got away with 2 fouls on the game winning play. When Zion drove to the lane he pushed off his primary defender, and for the refs to call Tacko Fall for his fifth and final foul on that play, that was absurd. Then, after Zion missed the free throw, RJ Barrett pushed off for the rebound. It is on tape, and it is clear as day. But, even after all of that, UCF had a chance, and they got screwed by the basketball gods. It's hilarious to me that all the Duke fan boys keep saying that the basketball gods were with them. So, I suppose that means they were against UCF. I still cannot believe that one of those layups didn't fall. That is such a brutal way to lose a game that they should have won. I mean, it is obvious that the NCAA, CBS, ESPN, pretty much every sports outlet for that matter, wants Duke in the Final Four. But dammit, UCF should have won. Such a bummer. It was a great game though. Back and forth all the way through. Big players making plays. And UCF exposing Duke as human. It was fun, especially for someone who has no skin in the game. I mean, I loathe Duke, but that game was exciting.
We also had the introduction of Ja Morant, who I wrote about on Friday. I know Murray State got crushed by FSU in round 2, but Morant still showed out, and I adore that kid.
As for the rest of the first two rounds (the real ones), we did have other upsets too. Liberty beat Mississippi State. Florida beat a much better Nevada team. UC Irvine got their first ever tourney win. And Minnesota beat Louisville. In round 2 we had some solid games besides the Duke-UCF classic. LSU won on a layup with 1 second left after Maryland tied with a miracle three. It reminded me of when UCLA beat Missouri, sorry to my brothers Ross and RD, when Tyus Edney drove the length of the court to win in the last second. Tennessee was throttling Iowa for about 32 minutes, then blew a 25 point lead, only to save themselves in overtime. And Kentucky was given all they could handle from Wofford. Had Wofford's star shooter made 2 of his 12 attempted threes, they would have won. He missed them all though. There were also some surprises, at least to me, on other outcomes. I thought Minnesota would have showed up a bit against Michigan State. They did not MSU crushed them from start to finish. Auburn absolutely trashed Kansas. I know this Kansas team isn't nearly as good as usual, but they put up no fight at all. That game was done 10 minutes in. Auburn looks so good right now. I mentioned Florida State ending Ja Morant and Murray State's season, and boy are they coming together at the absolute right time. They look good, especially on defense. Texas Tech looks as complete as I thought they would. They smothered Buffalo yesterday. Their next opponent, my team, Michigan, has looked sloppy on offense, but their defense has been smothering too. UNC, after a little scare, is really coming together nicely. Coby White is so so good too. I feel like he’s their best player. Purdue looks dominant. They pulled away from Old Dominion in round one, then Carsen Edwards exploded for 42 points against the defending champs Villanova in round 2. They routed Villanova too. Houston looks solid. They can score in bunches. Virginia Tech is the ACC version of Michigan. Gonzaga has won both of their games with relative ease. Virginia, who also got a little scare in round one, has looked totally dominant in both wins, especially starting in the second half of their round one game. And Oregon, who’ve I mentioned already, might be one of the best 12 seeds ever.
In the end, we have chalk. We have, probably, the best 16 teams in college basketball this year left. And if this continues, all four #1 seeds will be in the Final Four, which is absolutely possible. Projecting from here on out, I don’t think all 4 #1 seeds will be there. After seeing Duke get pushed to the brink yesterday, I think they’ll struggle mightily with the winner of LSU-MSU. But, I think the refs will make sure they make the Final Four. They want Zion there, by any means necessary. In the West, I’m going to stick with Texas Tech. I’ll be rooting so hard against them Thursday night, but they look really good on both ends of the floor, and Michigan is too inconsistent on offense, and the winner of Gonzaga-FSU will struggle to keep up with Culver, and they’ll find it hard to score on Tech’s defense. In the South, I’m sticking with Virginia. They weathered the storm in round one, and then easily handled Oklahoma. I don’t trust Tennessee anymore. Oregon isn’t going to get the easy shots they got in the first 2 rounds and I feel like Purdue just played the best game they could, they’ll regress. As for the Midwest, I really want to stick with Auburn, but I feel like they’re exactly like Purdue. They just played the best they’ll play all year. I don’t see that happening again. But, that doesn’t mean I have UNC. I still think Auburn beats them, but after watching Houston yesterday, I think they’re going to win that region. They’re more consistent. They have more athletes. I think they’ll cruise by Kentucky, and then they’ll beat Auburn in a great, close game.
That means my new Final Four, now that we have the Sweet Sixteen set, is Duke, Texas Tech, Virginia and Houston. And now, after watching basketball for four straight days, I’ve got Virginia finally beating Duke in the title game. Like I’ve been saying, Virginia is on a mission, I love the way they play defense and Duke got exposed yesterday. I’m also sticking with DeAndre Hunter as MOP. He’s starting to hit shots now.
Now let’s get back to the games. I cannot wait for Thursday.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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