Monday, March 13, 2017

The Place To Be

There will be eight cities hosting six games each starting Thursday. Which cities have the best slate of games?

"Best" can mean different things to different people. As someone who goes to the games whenever it comes to town, I don't care who we get, but I admit that some slates have more appeal than others.

Personally, I don't really like it when we get a 1 or 2 in town. Not much drama. Yeah, it's cool to see a national title contender at work, and occasionally an 8 will pull an upset in the second round, but more often the 8 or 9 gets pounded. I love getting the 3/6 or 4/5 teams... upset potential (on both games), yet still quality teams if it gets chalky. I saw VCU get national attention when they upset Duke in a 6/11 then take (3) Pitt to overtime ten years ago and it was incredible. Dayton did much the same from the 11 spot in 2014 in Buffalo, knocking off the Buckeyes and then the Orange on their way to the Elite Eight.

So here's the eight cities, ranked by how much drama I think we'll see there. Your mileage may vary. By the way, I'd take the worst of these any day of the week.

Michigan/OKST, Louisville/Jac St
Dayton/Wichita St, Kentucky/NOKY
For a pair of pods headlined by 2 seeds, this actually looks very competitive. Michigan will be a dangerous team for the Cardinals, and underseeded Wichita won't be a pushover to the Wildcats. KY's on a serious roll, but Louisville isn't and we might have some drama if they play the Wolverines.

Nova vs 16's, Badgers or Hokies...
Notre Dame/Princeton, WV/Bucknell
I love these matchups. Underseeded Wisconsin will give Nova (who I think is the best team in the tournament) a game, and both ND and WV are upset candidates or will have a heck of a game against each other on Saturday. Really looking forward to ND-Princeton.

Iowa St/Nevada, Purdue/Vermont
Butler/Winthrop, Minnesota/MTSU
Bracket Buster Central looks to be in Milwaukee this year. All four of those lower seeded teams could certainly pull upsets. Iowa State is playing great now but I think the other three are more vulnerable. There's not a true final four threat here but lots of potential for a double digit seed to get through to the sweet 16, especially MTSU.

Salt Lake City:
Zags/Jackrabbits, NW/Vandy
VCU/St Mary's,  AZ/NoDak
Who's not excited to see NW play their first tourney game? And Vandy is playing better lately, though I think they're a little overseeded for a team with 15 losses. Gonzaga's quest for its first final four makes this interesting. And compare St. Mary's-VCU to SC-Marquette as a 7/10 game. No comparison-the winner will give Arizona a fight. For a site headlined by a 1 and a 2, lots of drama here.

Baylor/NMST, SMU/Prov/USC
Kansas/16, 'Canes or Spartans
If a 6 surviving the first weekend is an upset, then Tulsa might have some excitement. Just not seeing the Bears getting through. Unless Tom Izzo can get his overseeded Spartans in gear, Kansas should roll.

Maryland/Xavier, FSU/FGCU
Not feeling it from Dunk City this year, but Trimble would be great fun to see, and while I think UVA ought to win, I think Florida is vulnerable. Pretty unlikely that anyone but UVA and FSU get out of here alive, and that's not very dramatic.

UCLA/Kent, Cincy/KST/WF
URI/Creighton vs Oregon/Iona
This slate doesn't excite me at all, except for the chance to see Lonzo Ball and Dillon Brooks. I see a lot of chalk in these games despite Oregon's injury loss, though I could see the Rams knocking off Creighton. I guess UCLA's a serious Final Four threat, at least, and UCLA v Cincy would be an interesting contrast in style.

UNC/TxSo - Ark/Seton Hall
Duke/Troy - South Carolina/Marquette
A stinker, though with three teams from the Carolinas involved I'm sure the locals will love it. It'd be exciting to see two seriously talented title contenders and their HoF coaches. SC/Marquette seems like a really weak 7/10 game and neither should threaten Duke. Why is SC even playing in SC as a 7?? I don't see the 8/9 teams giving UNC any trouble, though that might be an interesting game to see who gets thrashed in the second round. There might be two competitive games, but there will be four blowouts.

So I'm excited for the Buffalo games (which I will be at), and would only consider trading them for the Indy games which I think combine really good 7/10 matchups with a true title contender at the top who could plow through them all... or get Shocked (by either team) on Sunday.

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