The Pac 12 is at its lowest point ever, mid-majors at their highest.


Wow Nick, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s clear that you’ve done your homework. I appreciate that but alas, your answers are all wrong. Your potatoes got tossed around so much in there that I’m pretty sure all you’ve got is some bland mashed concoction. Allow me to enlighten you with my opinions served au gratin, the way a potato should be.

First, there’s not a snowball’s chance in Tempe that the Pac 12 gets four bids to the NCAA tournament this year. There is a chance that the Pac can get three bids but with every embarrassing loss that the conference keeps accruing, it’s really not out of the realm of possibilities that they only get two. In the end, I think only Stanford and Arizona will be given invitations to participate in March Madness. And by the way, what talent is this that you’re referring to in Westwood?  The talent that lost to both Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State at home by double digits?! Now that the most talented player (Reeves Nelson) on that team is going to spend the next few months playing overseas after getting dismissed from the program, there’s a very slim possibility that UCLA will even finish with a winning record let alone an NCAA tourney berth.

Even though the Pac 12 will only get two (maybe three) tourney berths, I expect at least one of those teams to make a Sweet 16 run.  The entire NCAA is having a “down year” and Pac 12 teams are hard to matchup with in March as evidenced by the fact that the conference seemingly has the best winning percentage in the NCAA tournament year in and year out.  I think Josiah Turner is just starting to get acclimated to playing in Sean Miller’s system and that once he gets on a roll, he’ll lead the talent-loaded Wildcats to a second straight Elite 8 appearance.  Those who have no patience and limit themselves to those nasty instant mashed potatoes out of a box will surely disagree, but the true oven-baked potato lovers among us know what I’m talking about and can see the big picture.

As I’ve said, the current landscape of college basketball is a complete mess so I expect a record number of mid-major teams to get into the NCAA tournament this year.  Will we have two of them represented in the Final Four? Absolutely not.  That will likely never happen again, but the day when a 16-seed beats a 1-seed is fast approaching and I think this will be the year.  The perennial top dogs of college basketball just don’t have as much talent as they used to and conversely, the mid-majors have more than ever. There’s no better example of that than Tommy Amaker’s 10-1 squad at Harvard this season.

Already ranked in the Top 25 of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, the Crimson have a couple of tough matchups next week at Boston College and against St. Joes. After that, however, I expect them to run the table in the Ivy League and finish with no worse than a 27-3 overall record.  If they can knock off both BC and St. Joes, I really think that they could find themselves in the Top 10 of both polls and rewarded with a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAA tourney.  If that happens, there’s no such thing as being “too smart for their own good” as my counterpart Nick has previously opined.  This team goes deep on their bench with a 10-man rotation and is balanced in all phases of the game; they are better than the Cornell team that made it to the Sweet 16 in 2010.  Forwards Kyle Casey (6-7, 225, Jr) and Keith Wright (6-8, 240, Sr) are both very capable big men and guard Brandyn Curry (6-1, 195, Jr) is a playmaker on offense.  They’re still flying under the radar a bit but in a few months, I’m sure you’ll know all about them.

Another team that was mentioned but that I’m going the opposite way on is Xavier. Yes, they’ve now lost two straight since their debacle against Cincinnati but in my experience that type of adversity tends to galvanize a team, especially in pressure-packed situations like the NCAA tournament.  Guard Tu Holloway (6-0, 185, Sr) is one of the best in the country and is joined in the backcourt by Mark Lyons (6-1, 195, Jr) to form arguably the best tandem around.  Center Kenny Frease (7-0, 270, Sr) is a beast in the paint and I guarantee nobody is going to want to get in his way as long as he can stay out of foul trouble.  Chris Mack’s Musketeers are as complete of a team as I’ve seen in the NCAA this season with their blend of both talent and experience and are a lock for the Final Four, in my opinion. If they can avoid a matchup with UNC until the final game, I think you’ll see those two teams fighting for the NCAA championship in Dayton, Ohio in early April.

The only other mid-majors teams that I can envision making a legitimate run this year are Wichita State, Belmont, and Long Beach State. Don’t go crazy with picking the mid-majors in your NCAA bracket because the power conference teams generally have more overall basketball experience on their rosters, their fans generally travel well and the selection committee generally schedules them to play closer to home.  But keep in mind that NCAA Final Four host site, University of Dayton, is just an hour ride up the I-75 from Xavier’s campus. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’, know what I’m sayin’? Put that spud in your pipe and smoke it, Nick!