I filled out one bracket for the NCAA tournament and “joked” with friends that I really thought I had them all right. That I would be the first person in history to win all 63 games in the Tournament.
Here is no surprise, it didn’t happen.
In fact, on the initial days of the tournament two of my final four predictions were eliminated, Ohio State and Texas. It is no upset that most people have trouble filling out a bracket that doesn’t quickly need a do-over, but there were some other unexpected results this year.
My 20 picks for clients were only 9-11 against the point spread, the first half figures even worse. Perhaps the Big 10 record was even more disappointing for basketball fans with teams in that conference. Eight Big Ten teams were in the tournament when it started last Friday, and that was after Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans were upset on Thursday in the play-in game by UCLA.
The Bruins win over the Spartans was an indicator for what was to come. UCLA, out of the Pac 12, became the fifth team from that conference to advance to the bracket with their win. The final regular season AP poll had two teams from the Pac 12 in the top 25; Colorado at 22 and Southern California at 23. The Big 10 had four teams ranked in the top eight among the nine conference teams that earned a tournament date.
The knock on the Pac 12 by most basketball pundits this season was that the conference possessed a few good teams but no real power, an assumption supported by the national rankings. But, since the tournament began, three of the four teams listed in the top eight from the Big 10 were quickly sent packing. That list includes Illinois (2), Ohio State (7) and Iowa (8). Only Michigan, ranked fourth in the country, has advanced to the Sweet 16 from the Big 10 while Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland and Purdue also lost in weekend action.
As for the Pac 12, they have had a great tournament with an overall record of 9-1 with the loan defeat suffered by the highest ranked team in the conference based on the final regular season AP poll, Colorado. The Buffalo’s lost on Monday to Florida State, 71-53.
While eight of the nine Big 10 teams have been eliminated, four of five Pac 12 tournament participants have advanced to the Sweet 16. That list includes Oregon State, who entered the field based on winning the Pac 12 Tournament over three other teams still in the hunt for the National Championship, Oregon, USC and UCLA.
While the tournament has had upsets, it does every year, one thing has remained consistent, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the best team and have further solidified their chance of becoming the first undefeated National Champion since the 1976 Indiana Hosiers. Gonzaga took out their first two opponents by double-digits and beat the spread in both first halves and finals during victories over Norfolk State and Oklahoma.
Fifty-two of the 67 games required to determine the NCAA Basketball Champion have been played, and more upsets are likely to come. That assumption would be especially realized if the fifthteenth seed Oral Roberts continues on their improbable journey or UCLA becomes the first team ever to win it all while required to play an extra game to get into the tournament field of 64.
Upsets perhaps to follow, but none more surprising than having only one Big 10 team left in the competition and 25% of the Sweet 16 field manned by Pac 12 teams.