Wednesday, January 16, 2008

UNC a LOCK to the Final Four...

I came across an interesting tidbit in Seth Davis' insider blog. He was basically saying what we are all coming to realize: The top for seeds for the NCAA Tournament are essentially decided already, unless a major collapse or injury happens. UCLA will be out West. Memphis will be sent South. Kansas in the Midwest. North Carolina in the East. He put this chart together showing how close the sites are to the schools:

North Carolina -- No. 1 in the East
First and second-round site: Raleigh, N.C. (27 miles); Regional -- Charlotte, N.C. (143 miles)

Memphis -- No. 1 in the South
First and second-round site: Little Rock, Ark. (135); Regional -- Houston (568)

Kansas -- No. 1 in the Midwest
First and second-round site: Omaha, Neb. (207); Regional -- Detroit (830).

UCLA -- No. 1 in the West
First and second-round site: Anaheim, Calif. (26); Regional -- Phoenix (372).

Don't miss that first line. UNC gets to play their first two games in NC State's home arena where they play every year and is a short 27 miles from campus. Then the regionals are in Charlotte. OK, Charlotte is a little over two hours away from Chapel Hill, but around 40% of UNC alumni are in the Charlotte area. They are essentially getting four home games on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio. If Roy Williams hadn't won his title, the next sentence would have been "not even Roy Williams could screw this draw up." With the ACC so soft outside of Duke and Clemson, the Heels should lose no more than two games going into the Tournament with no excuses of falling short of a trip to San Antonio.

Meanwhile, the other three #1 seeds will have a haul to get their fans to the regionals. None more than my beloved Kansas Jayhawks who would go 830 miles. The good news for MTAC is that we are a short three hour drive away with mad connections for tickets. You can bet you ass we will be there. As Katz says "Kansas fans travel well so if the Jayhawks go to Detroit it won't be an issue. "

Meanwhile ESPN's Fran Fraschilla lists KU as his #1 team in his insider blog:

No. 1 Kansas

This team has depth, experience and balance.

The Jayhawks have had seven different leading scorers in the last nine games, eight different players average 17 or more minutes and no starter plays more than 29 minutes. A McDonald's All-American and, arguably, Kansas' best player at the end of last season, Sherron Collins comes off the bench. Seven players are averaging 7 points or more and no player is averaging more than 14 points a game, so, the Jayhawks have a similar look to the Florida Gators, who were nit-picked last season for not having a "go-to" guy.

On the defensive end, it's rare to have two guards as good as Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson. Collins and junior Brandon Rush are above average defenders, as well. In fact, the Jayhawks average 11 steals per game. And, if they don't steal the ball or disrupt your offense with a deflection, they defend the lane as well as any, also. They block over 6½ shots per game.

Experience is critical component of Kansas' success. Since a 10-6 start in 2005-2006, the Jayhawks are 65-7 and have won 31 of 32 games. The talented but sometimes erratic young Bill Self teams of the past couple of seasons have matured, in part, because most of them have stuck around instead of jumping to the NBA. Rush and sophomore Darrell Arthur could have been out the door last June, but Rush tore an ACL and Arthur deemed himself not quite ready. And, while a number of players could eventually make NBA rosters, four-year guys Robinson, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun have become critical parts of Kansas' program.

The Jayhawks might not go undefeated in the Big 12 regular season, but it will take a very good effort to beat them. And, while Self has won seven league titles in his last nine years as a head coach, taken three different schools to the Elite Eight (including Kansas twice), NCAA losses to Bradley and Bucknell still weigh heavily on the minds of those who doubt this team. This could be the year the doubters are proven wrong.

Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl unveiled his
annual Magic Eight today. For the last nine years, Wahl has put out the eight teams he thinks have a shot to win it all in mid-January. Other than Syracuse in 2003, the NCAA Champion was named in his list. Interestingly, North Carolina is not on his list. He cites their average defense as the main reason for the eventual undoing. Of course, KU is on his list:

The Jayhawks are just killing teams right now and should be on every college hoops fan's list of DVR musts. Bill Self has done a terrific job convincing NBA-level talent to buy into the team concept, even if it means sacrificing some stats. The result is a suffocating defense (especially on the perimeter), scary depth and the sort of explosive, but team-first attack, that just overwhelms opponents. When a player like Sherron Collins isn't even starting, you know there's something special brewing in Lawrence.

Also on Wahl's list in alphabetical order: Georgetown, Indiana, Louisville, Memphis, Tennessee, UCLA, Xavier.

If we had to make our "Magic Eight" list, we'd have a few changes: Kansas, Indiana, Memphis, North Carolina, UCLA, Washington State, Texas, Xavier.

The way Texas shoots the ball from deep, the versitility of Damion James in the post and the development of Gary Johnson has us thinking they've got a shot. UNC has too much talent to not put them on the list. Wahl can't say with a straight face Louisville, Xavier, and Georgetown have a better shot to win it all than the Tar Heels do.

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