While the majority of the Tournament field rested up for the Madness, the after-thought First Four tipped off in Dayton last night.
The NCAA may not want you to think of this as a 4-pack of play-in games, but common sense will tell you that these four games, laughably called the "first-round" by exactly no one, are exactly that. These eight teams (the bottom four seeds and the final four at-large selections) are competing for the right to make the Tournament as we know it; that screams play-in to me.
While the moniker "play-in" may denote that the teams involved are less-than-quality, that doesn't mean the games played will be. Case in point: neither BYU or Western Kentucky, both come-from-behind winners last evening, has a hope in hell of winning once the real Tournament starts. They both looked like garbage, even in victory (WKU, the only team with a losing record in the field, committed an otherworldly 27 turnovers. BYU? 20). Their frantic comebacks (combined 41 points), however, made for very interesting viewing.
Even bad basketball, at its most shambolic, can appease. It's March afterall.
Some quick thoughts on my bracket picks...
The President and I are on the same line of thinking; a Final Four of UNC, Kentucky, Mizzou, and Ohio State, with the Tar Heels over the Wildcats in the final. I really like Kentucky's length and defensive capabilities, while UNC is probably the most capable team in the field. Efficiency is a huge factor this time of year, and Mizzou and OSU are #1 in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. It all seems like a no-brainer before Thursday morning...
For early upsets, I like Long Beach St (who I saw in Hawai'i way back in December), Ohio, and NC State. In fact, I like a lot of the 11-seeds this year (*cough*). Should Cal win tonight, I also think they could win a game or two in the real bracket.
I would've picked VCU to advance had they not drawn Wichita State. The Shockers are a damn good team that CU fans will remember from Puerto Rico.
I essentially don't like any team in the top portion of the East bracket, and I think the East could be real ugly come Elite Eight weekend.
As always, this is fluid until Thursday morning. These thoughts can change at the drop of a hat before then.