First things first, for the final time this season, my SEC Power Rankings:
5. Ole Miss
6. Texas A&M
11. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State
NCAA Tournament Thoughts
- Aside from getting the #1 overall seed, Kentucky was practically given a cakewalk to the Final Four. Aside from the Wildcats, I'm guessing that the Midwest bracket will be the perennial bracket that blows up in the first weekend. Cincinnati/Purdue in the 8/9 game isn't a total gift to the Wildcats, but neither of those are among the more dangerous 8/9 seeds, though Purdue's size presents an interesting matchup.
- On the other hand, I would not be surprised if the 2 through 4 seeds in the Midwest are gone before the second weekend. Aside from the current issues with Cliff Alexander, Kansas draws a ridiculously strong 7-seed in Wichita State (who also would love nothing more than to take down the Jayhawks.) Notre Dame is a perennial underachiever who will draw either Butler or a loaded Texas team in the second game. Maryland is a ridiculously weak 4-seed; while the RPI loves the Terps, possession-based metrics don't. Did you know that Maryland did worse against the Big Ten on a per-possession basis than Vanderbilt did against the SEC? My gut prediction for the Sweet 16: Kentucky, Buffalo, Butler, Wichita State, with Kentucky beating Wichita in the final.
- Villanova, on the other hand, gets the #2 overall seed but otherwise catches no breaks from the committee. Their second game will be against one of a pair of talented and potentially dangerous teams (NC State and LSU); both have the size to create matchup problems for 'Nova. Potentially lurking in the Sweet 16 could be a Louisville team that seems somewhat overrated, or perhaps Northern Iowa. Virginia might be the second-best team in the country with a healthy Justin Anderson, and there's also a strong Oklahoma team as the 3-seed. Gut Sweet 16 prediction: Villanova, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Virginia, with Virginia knocking off Villanova in the final.
- Some think Duke got an easy bracket; I don't particularly agree. They catch one break in that the 8-seed (San Diego State) seems incapable of taking advantage of Duke's sometimes bad defense and 9-seed St. John's suddenly does not have Chris Obekpa. Yes, Georgetown is probably overseeded as a 4 (and might lose to Eastern Washington and Tyler Harvey in the first round), but that's balanced out by Utah being considerably underseeded as a 5-seed. On the bottom half of the bracket is perennial underachiever Gonzaga as the 2, but a dangerous Iowa State team is the 3-seed. Gut Sweet 16 prediction: Duke, Utah, Iowa State, Iowa, with Iowa State beating Utah in the final.
- Wisconsin gets the last 1-seed and gets rewarded by potentially having to face 1-seed quality Arizona in the regional final. Both should make it there, though 'Zona gets a potential matchup with Ohio State in the second round followed by, potentially, a tough Baylor squad in the Sweet 16 and Wisconsin might have problems with Oregon in the second round and could draw North Carolina or Arkansas in the Sweet 16. I don't necessarily think it will happen, but Wisconsin vs. Arkansas in the Sweet 16 is a matchup I really want to see. Gut Sweet 16 prediction: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Baylor, Arizona, with Arizona beating Wisconsin in the final.