Early on in this college basketball postseason, the thoughts were that this 2011 NCAA Tournament was ripe for upsets. The brightest of the pundits out there could only talk about the relative parity in college basketball this year, how there were no great teams. On paper, the double-digit seeds seemed a whole lot closer to the top seeds than usual.
And then it didn't turn out that way at first. Despite all that parity talk (and evidence, it wasn't just talk), the first* round barely had more 11-16 upsets than the average tournament, and chalk ruled the day through Friday of week one. The upset pace picked up a bit in the second* round, but the combined seed total was still behind 2010 in the Sweet 16.
Then things, according to plan, started going against the seeded plan. Two one seeds fell in the Sweet 16 to join Pittsburgh, having lost in the second* round, before 11th seeded Virginia Commonwealth -- the team that didn't belong and needed an extra win in an expanded tournament just to make the field of 64 -- stunned Kansas Sunday to knock off the remaining one seed, tying a record for the lowest seed in the Final Four. Meanwhile, after kicking out the Panthers, Butler continued their run of exciting upsets to become just the fourth eight seed to make the Final Four, and the only member to repeat from 2010. (Seriously, who had Butler going to back-to-back Final Fours?!)
So now here we sit with a historic Final Four. With No. 4 Kentucky kicking out North Carolina, that makes this the third Final Four not to feature a single one seed, and the very first ever without either a one or two seed playing. The combined seed total of 26 blows the previous high of 22 set in 2000 out of the water. We are guaranteed just the fourth seed of six or lower to make the National Championship Game; either the second ever eight seed, or the first ever 11 seed (no 7, 10, or 12+ seed has ever even made it this far). Heck, Kentucky, which looks like a high seed in this group, would be a rare player in the Final Four, as only two four seeds have made it to the title game.
This Final Four also has another interesting dynamic. Whoever the night guy on ESPN Radio tonight was talking about how a Championship game between two Cinderella stories would take away the drama of a potential major upset, and give you two teams you have to learn about without a storied background. I agree with that. This sets up perfectly, where we are guaranteed a storied basketball power house and a relatively small, unknown program contending. That works out nicely.
Naturally, with such a crazy Final Four, our brackets here among the staff are in shambles.
SB Nation Dallas-Ft. Worth Staff Pool Standings
- Ponting: 68 (117 Possible)
- Code: 59 (59 Possible)
- Perryman: 53 (53 Possible)
- Starkey: 50 (98 Possible)
- Fittz: 48 (68 Possible)
- London: 48 (48 Possible)
- Griffin: 45 (45 Possible)
Not pretty. Last place is what happens when you try and get cute, as you can see.
In the preview linked above, J.P., in an admittedly homerific moment, asked, in a year like this, why not UConn? Why not indeed, J.P., as picking UConn to go far seems pretty bright now.
The problem is, J.P. wasn't alone. Most of us thought picking UConn to go at least this far was a good idea, with only Maurice, Charlie and myself failing to do so. Christopher even has them making the Final, and Liam, like J.P., has them winning it all.
The difference in our bracket is one man, and one man only, getting two Final Four teams correct, and that man is Liam. He gets major props for having Kentucky and UConn both playing this far. While there is always luck involved in winning your pool, that's not an entirely lucky deal. Both teams were close to the top of their regions in talent, but were low enough seeds they weren't going to be common picks. The risk of not taking the best teams was quite possibly balanced by the reward of scoring relatively likely points that other brackets weren't going to get, thus creating separation. Or he just picked them out of a hat and I'm giving him too much credit. He should lie and tell us he thought this out.
In any case, while, most of the pool still has teams playing, because Liam correctly took the Wildcats while possessing the same champion as J.P., he is our champion, regardless of what happens in the final two rounds of the tournament. Give him your fine meats and cheeses and congratulations.