Friday, January 16, 2009

Conference calling

People seem to forget this every season, but a team's in-conference play matters. North Carolina (and some overzealous pundits) got an early comeuppance from Boston College, and then another from Wake Forest. Another, less publicized example: Arkansas. They crashed the party a bit with home wins over Oklahoma and Texas, but opened SEC play with losses to Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

When I picked my year-in-advance Final Four, I had no idea they'd play each other in the regular season. Texas lost to Notre Dame and Michigan State, but beat UCLA. And the Fighting Irish will visit the Bruins next month.

This weekend's slate includes Wake Forest-Clemson, Pittsburgh-Louisville, Arizona State-UCLA, Illinois-Michigan State, Notre Dame-Syracuse, and Duke-Georgetown. Special weekend? Nope. Just college basketball.

East Regional (Boston)
01. Pittsburgh: So this is what they're like when healthy.
08. North Carolina: Great? Let's see .500 in ACC first.
09. Louisville: Will home advantage work against Pitt?
16. Texas: Missed 2 of every 3 shots against OU.

South Regional (Memphis)
02. Wake Forest: Team of next year may not have to wait.
07. Georgetown: Should win a title within next 5 years.
10. Michigan State: Beat Illini and create some distance.
15. Notre Dame: St. John's loss threatens top-tier status.

Midwest Regional (Indianapolis)
03. Clemson: Can make a huge statement at home vs. Wake.
06. Connecticut: Has a month to warm up for Pitt.
11. Xavier: Should hover around 3 seed all season.
14. Baylor: Wake loss is looking better and better.

West Regional (Glendale, AZ)
04. Oklahoma: Beat Texas. Blake Griffin > Sam Bradford.
05. Duke: Not entirely convinced. Waiting-and-seeing.
12. UCLA: Each Pac-10 loss should cost them a seed.
13. Minnesota: Winning at Wisconsin still means a lot.

Also considered: Syracuse, Arkansas, Butler, Marquette.


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