Bracket Thoughts: Feb. 25


Montrezl Harrell (AP)

Montrezl Harrell (AP)

*It’s appalling that so many reputable bracket projections (ESPN, CBS Sports, USA Today) have Louisville as a No. 5 seed. Look, I get the whole resume and RPI argument, but c’mon. I can’t name four teams in college basketball, let alone one region, playing better ball than Louisville right now.

As ugly as Saturday’s win over Cincinnati appeared, I came away extremely impressed with two things: The Cardinals’ relentless, swarming perimeter defense and the sheer dominance of Montrezl Harrell. It’s a chore to get a decent shot versus Louisville. Neutralizing Harrell is an even greater struggle. Since Chane Behanan was dismissed on Dec. 30, Harrell is averaging 13.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.

Louisville is likely slated as a No. 5 because its resume lacks “quality wins” (half due to inferior AAC competition, half to early-season losses versus Kentucky and North Carolina). The Cards were actually 0-4 against ranked teams prior to Saturday’s win, but that’s likely to change by season’s end. Left on the schedule is Memphis, SMU and UConn followed by the AAC tournament. If Louisville runs the table, a No. 1 seed should still be in play.

And that would stink for me because, I’ll be honest, the Cards are my national championship pick right now. I’d prefer if they were a No. 3 or 4 seed.

*Does it make you feel uneasy if your national title pick is absolutely rolling heading into the Big Dance?

If a team has won 12 or 13 in a row, it seems due for a loss, thus making another six straight wins in the NCAA tournament appear unlikely. I get the theory, sort of.

Recent history doesn’t exactly concur.

Louisville won 10 in a row last season before marching to the national title; UConn won five Big East tourney games in five days en route to the 2011 championship; and Duke won 12 of its final 13 games (including the ACC tournament) in 2010.

*There will be no heavy favorite heading into March, that’s for sure.

I count eight teams with a realistic chance of winning it all (that’s not to say it’ll definitely be one of these eight, because I’m sure in late February, 2011, UConn wasn’t on the list). I break down the odds like this:

Kansas — 16 percent

Florida — 14 percent

Louisville — 14 percent

Michigan State — 14 percent

Arizona — 12 percent

Syracuse — 12 percent

Duke — 8 percent

Wichita State — 6 percent

The Field — 4 percent

*Oh wait…there’s a tournament before the NCAAs. Whoops. Guess we should address that, too.

UConn now must likely win out in order to secure that ever-important No. 3 seed in the AAC tournament. As I wrote Sunday, it’ll come down to matchups more so than seedings for the Huskies. This is a team that has had difficulty against rugged, physical defenses. It’ll have a chance to debunk that notion Saturday versus Cincinnati.

As for NCAA seeding, the 8/9 game is still very much in play for UConn. If it loses to Cincinnati and Louisville and exits early from the AAC tournament, that’ll put the Huskies at either 23-9 or 24-9 (I’m giving them a quarterfinal AAC win in the latter scenario). Either way, that probably puts UConn in an 8/9, which is A.) Not great for the Huskies and B.) Not great for the No. 1 seed, either.

UConn will likely have the best player on the floor in that matchup, an atypical scenario for a No. 1 versus No. 8/9.

Of course, the Huskies can avoid the 8/9 by winning some games. A victory versus Cincinnati AND Louisville removes them permanently from the 8/9 discussion. A split puts them in good position to avoid it. Obviously, their performance in Memphis will influence the seeding, as well.

There’s lots of of basketball to be played, and UConn can legitimately fall anywhere from a No. 4 to a No. 9.

In Joe Lunardi’s current bracket projection, the Huskies are in the 7/10 game versus….Pittsburgh.

That would be fun, wouldn’t it?