Monday, March 19, 2012

52 down, just 16 remain

Yep, already torched my brackets, much like the free world, considering Norfolk State and Lehigh blew up plenty of prognostications. Wait, all prognostications. While I bemoan my failed attempts at a perfect bracket, I re-emphasize my absolute love of the tourney.

This is why we watch. We watch for the little guy slugging it out with the big programs. Syracuse almost made dubious history with their opener against UNC-Asheville (yes, UNCA outplayed Syracuse all the way, just had some bad breaks late). That history, of course, would have been the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed in their opening round game. The gap, by the way, is beginning to narrow a bit.

Hats off to UNC and NC State on making the Sweet 16. First the Heels. They are deep enough to get by Ohio in their game on Friday, should Kendall Marshall be ruled out. Marshall underwent successful wrist surgery on Monday. Will he play? Anybody's guess on a Monday night. If he is doing ANYTHING basketball related on Wednesday or Thursday, I don't know how Roy Williams doesn't play him. Mind you, I am speaking from the outsider perspective. I would say this: If Marshall can play Friday, he will,but in limited minutes. If UNC wins that one, and plays for a Regional title, that experience will help him there. It's not an easy spot to be in, but UNC is equipped to handle it. To a point.

As for NC State, I am proud to say I had them through to the Sweet 16 in my brackets. If State was playing with house money when they beat San Diego, they are on a high-roller's weekend in the Gateway City. No one, and I mean NO ONE, expected NC State to be a Sweet 16 team this year, with a new coach, ideas,etc. Yet, down the stretch, they played their best basketball, and got the attention of the selection committee. All they needed was a chance. They got it, and have taken full advantage of it. They are confident, and facing Kansas may seem like a horrible assignment, but the Jayhawks barely got to St. Louis. The Pack have a legit chance to beat the Jayhawks.

Duke going down may seem like a bad loss, but factor in the great guard play of CJ McCollum, and the absence of Ryan Kelly in the Duke lineup. Right there are two key factors in a five point defeat. Not making excuses, as Lehigh played great, but Duke was not themselves, and simply couldn't overcome Kelly's loss, along with stop McCollum. In the end, Lehigh was the better team on that night. End of story, and Duke will be just fine going forward.

I won't make any predictions regarding the Sweet 16, as I am already down two of my Final Four picks, but I will say that my National Championship teams are still alive.

Kentucky and North Carolina.

More in the days ahead.

Mike Solarte

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