2014 NCAA Tournament Bracket Advice: Hardest March Madness Draws
by Trevor Whenham - 3/18/2014
Not all paths to the Final Four are created equally. Some high seeds are blessed by the college basketball gods, or the selection committee, with a relatively easy path through the tournament. They are clearly better than their opponents, the matchups are reasonable, and they obviously control their own destinies. That doesn’t mean that they will succeed, but they are certainly more likely to.
Other top seeds, though, face a hellish journey to the final weekend of the tournament. Each opponent is feisty and challenging, styles of play change with each round, and the sharks are lurking around every corner. They can still succeed and make it deep, but they could just as easily go home soaked in sadness and frustration too early. Here is my 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket advice for three top-seeded teams with the hardest NCAA Tournament draws this year. Have pity for them:
Wichita State: The Shockers were deservedly given a No. 1 seed. Then they were punished for crashing the party. This is just a ridiculous path for a top seed — especially one that isn’t used to playing with the big boys like this. The only good news is that they aren’t likely to face a major test in their opener. But then it just gets ugly. They are likely to face Kentucky in their second game. The Wildcats have been disappointing, but they are improving and have boatloads of talent. If it’s not Kentucky then it is a dangerous Kansas State team seasoned by a brutal Big 12. Survive that and they likely face Louisville — the defending champs and one of the hottest teams in the country. There is no way that the Cardinals should have been as low as a No. 4, and it is Wichita State that is punished most by that selection committee disrespect. Then they have an Elite Eight date most likely against Michigan or Duke — neither one an attractive opponent. Overall, Wichita State was placed in a region with the second best No. 2 and No. 5 seeds and the best No. 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 seeds. Oh, and there are two No. 11s and both are tough. It’s just plain ridiculous, and makes it very challenging for the Shockers — even if they haven’t lost a game.
Virginia: The Cavaliers absolutely do not deserve to be a No. 1 seed. They won the regular season and conference tournament, but they did it in the ACC, which was a long way from a great conference this year. Outside of the conference they lost to the best teams they played and just weren’t good enough. They just don’t have the body of work to belong on the top line. There is some justice, though — they were given a very rough path to the Final Four. Their opener against Coastal Carolina should be no cause for concern, but then it gets real. Memphis in the second round is a very good team for a No. 8 and one that is certainly capable of beating Virginia. They beat Louisville twice this year, and they beat Gonzaga and Oklahoma State out of conference. They match up well and will give Virginia a big test. Survive that and the Cavaliers run right into a Michigan State team that is way underseeded because they are finally healthy for the first time all year. How good is Michigan State? Sportsbook.ag has them at +500 to win it all, which has them tied as Florida as favorites. I don’t think Virginia can survive that, but if they do then they will face either a very strong Iowa State team or a tough Villanova squad. Tough.
Creighton: Doug McDermott is an absolute pleasure to watch, and it is a shame that the overwhelming choice for National Player of the Year is in the closing days of his college career. Sadly, though, with the draw the Bluejays have, that last day is going to come sooner than it ideally would. Louisiana-Lafayette is the inferior team in the opener, but Creighton would surely have liked to have drawn an easier opponent to start. In the second round they either face a Baylor team that has won 10 of 12 in the tough Big 12 or their rivals from Nebraska who just beat Wisconsin at home and are fired up to be back in the tournament after a very long absence. Survive that and make the second weekend, and Wisconsin likely waits. The Badgers are relentless on defense and averaged a stellar 1.24 points per possession in the Big Ten tournament offensively, so they will be all Creighton can handle — and likely more. As much as I would love to see Creighton in the Final Four, I just don’t see how it is going to happen.
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