Takeaways from an Entertaining First Weekend in the NCAA Tournament
Everyone still alive after this weekend? Alright, so let’s talk about a real entertaining first weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Whenever Duke loses it becomes one of the more entertaining times on Twitter. Throw in the fact we got two great pictures of Kennard and Coach K to add a caption to and it’s gold.
Before we get into previewing the Sweet 16 (which will be done later in the week) we have to take a moment to go over the takeaways from the past 48 hours.
1. It’s still an incredibly wide open tournament
All season we talked about the parity in college basketball and how there wasn’t a dominant team. That’s still holding serve through the first four days of this thing. Kansas probably has looked like the most dominant team, but now they face a Purdue team that could give them a weird mismatch depending on what Matt Painter does with his lineup. You could make a case that Arizona was the most dominant team with how they beat a good St. Mary’s team. The fact is there are still about 6-8 teams that feel like true national title contenders.
2. Point Guard play still dominates
Take a look at the guards left. There are seven or eight McDonald’s All-Americans (depending if you count Kobi Simmons as a PG). Those guys include De’Aaron Fox, Tyler Lewis, PJ Dozier, Kasey Hill, Lonzo Ball, Nigel Williams-Goss and Joel Berry. Throw in Frank Mason, Bronson Koenig, Derrick Walton Jr., and a guy like Tyler Dorsey and it’s pretty clear. You’ll only advance in the NCAA Tournament with a top point guard. It’s the most important position in this sport and it’s been showcased time and time again. These are the guys who can absolutely take over a game (except for Tyler Lewis) and whoever wins the individual battles will likely advance.
3. The officiating is horrendous
I hate that this is probably the thing that’s been talked about the most. The officiating has absolutely ruined an entertaining tournament. There are too many games being decided by a call or a lack of call. That flagrant foul in the Seton Hall/Arkansas game was one of the most egregious calls I’ve seen. If you really want to use ‘letter of the law’ argument, there would be 6 flagrant fouls every game at a minimum. These refs still don’t know what a charge is or how to call one correctly. They just lack common sense. We’ll spend 6 minutes reviewing if the clock should have an extra second on, but they can’t talk and figure out what a logical call is. They need to make these guys full time, hire a former player to sit on the referee committee and really discuss what needs to be changed to enhance the game.
4. Conference strength being defined
It’s one of the things we hear for football come bowl season and basketball come NCAA Tournament. I don’t buy into the theory that these games completely define a conference. I don’t think the ACC stinks now. I don’t think the SEC and B1G are suddenly powerhouses this year. Teams take advantage of matchups and peak at the right time. It happens all the time. It’s fair to see the ACC didn’t play well in the NCAA Tournament or the SEC and B1G exceeded expectations. But, you can view the entire sample size of the season instead of two games to view it all.
5. Duke has a legitimate gripe with the commitee
I’m the farthest thing from a Duke fan, but they do have a legitimate gripe in having to play what was a true road game. The purpose of the pod system is to reward the better-seeded team. Duke had to play South Carolina in Greenville, which just made no sense. It’s fairly easy to look at the other No. 7 seeds and switch something so you’re not rewarding South Carolina playing in state. Now, it’s not the reason Duke lost. Giving up 65 points in the second half to a team that struggles to score the ball is why they lost. But, it contributed to it.
6. College kids continue to make simple mistakes
It comes with the territory in college basketball. There will be dumb, simple mistakes made. Look at a team like Villanova – one of the best and smartest teams in the country. Eric Paschall made two terrible mistakes on the defensive side of the ball late in the game which led to six points for Wisconsin. The first time while Nova was in a zone, he got turned around and lost Koenig in the corner, which led to an open three. Then a couple possessions later, Wisconsin was inbounding the ball under the basket with less than 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Koenig was inbounding the ball, which meant everyone knew a pindown screen was coming. Paschall got stuck behind the screen instead of jumping the gap, which again led to a Koenig three. There are a million examples of this, but it’s something to remember, especially in close games this week.