What did I tell you?! The March Madness tournament this year will be a) one of the most competitive we have ever seen, and b) LOADED with upset potential.
Day One did not disappoint! Congratulations to Old Dominion, Murray State, Ohio, Washington, and St. Mary’s for pulling off very exciting (and very entertaining) upsets yesterday, and for screwing up a lot of brackets around the country!
Speaking of screw-ups, the Big East had a TERRIBLE showing yesterday. In four games during the first day of competition, the Big East was LUCKY to finish at 1-3, with Notre Dame, Marquette, and Georgetown on the losing end of MAJOR upsets while Villanova was fortunate to escape with their tournament lives in order to avoid a sweep!
Now that the alleged depth of the Big East has once again been exposed for what it really is – overblown hype from having too many teams in the conference – we can move forward and take a look at which region is shaping up to be the toughest of the tournament.
Even with the early departure of the Georgetown Hoyas at the hands of a “lowly” mid-major MAC team (in case you haven’t learned yet, I am a supporter of the mid-major programs), the toughest region of the tournament is the Midwest.
To start with, the Midwest Region features the Kansas Jayhawks, who entered the tournament as the top team in the country. That fact alone means that 15 out of the 16 teams in that region would have go through the best team in the country just make it out of the region and into the Final Four!
Beyond the strength of the top seed in this region the Midwest is stocked with some of the strongest teams in the tournament.
Sitting opposite Kansas in the bracket is the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are led by the favorite for the NCAA Player of the Year award, Evan Turner. The Buckeyes, fresh off of claiming the Big Ten championship, were among the teams being tossed around as possible one seeds for the tournament, and have been playing some of the best basketball in the country over the last two months of the season.
Traveling further down the region, the road doesn’t get any easier. Sitting in the fourth position in the region is the second place team out of the ACC – Maryland. In a year where the overall performance of the ACC has been down, Maryland has been one of the two teams within that conference that still played exceptionally well this season, even defeating Duke earlier this month.
After Maryland comes fifth-seeded Michigan State. Although the Spartans struggled against many of the highly ranked teams they faced throughout the 2010 season, they are led by arguably the greatest tournament coach of the last decade in Tom Izzo (Editor’s note: Stay tuned next week for that debate). Under Izzo’s leadership the Spartans are now entering their THIRTEENTH consecutive NCAA appearance. During that run of thirteen straight NCAA Tournament berths, Izzo has reached the Sweet Sixteen EIGHT different times, has been to the Elite Eight SIX times, has FIVE different Final Four appearances, and has been to the championship game twice (WINNING the title in 2000)! If anyone knows how to “dance” it is Izzo.
If that is not tough enough, consider that some of the double-digit seeds in this region are capable of some very impressive feats! Entering the region as the ten seed, Georgia Tech showed during the ACC Tournament that they are capable of playing with and beating many of the top teams in the nation (including a victory over the aforementioned Maryland Terrapins). Then at 14 sits the Ohio Bobcats who already have proven they will run with anybody after they SMOKED Georgetown on Thursday by a score of 97-83.
We learned yesterday that there is no such thing as a free ride in the NCAA Tournament for 2010, and in no region is that more evident than in the Midwest. From top to bottom, the strongest caliber of teams at each level are represented in this corner of the bracket, and the team that ultimately does emerge victorious from this gauntlet will have tested and proven their mettle against the very best that March Madness has to offer!