The NCAA Tournament bracket is set. For UConn fans this means a Round of 64 date with a pretty good St. Josephs team in Buffalo this Thursday. If the Huskies can win that one, we could see a Big East reunion against Villanova for the right to play at MSG in the Sweet Sixteen. Bring it on.
That was the good news. The bad news is that UConn, along with the rest of the American Athletic Conference, didn't get very much respect from the Selection Committee. Louisville, a team ranked fifth in the country before cruising to the AAC Tournament championship, received a 4-seed. SMU, ranked 25th in the country before the conference tournaments, was left out after losing to Houston last week. Those two schools have a much bigger beef than UConn does.
UConn was ranked 21st in the country going into the AAC Tournament and was tabbed by most bracketologists as a 6 or 7 seed. After crushing No. 19 Memphis on the Tigers own home court, the Huskies beat No. 13 Cincinnati to advance to the tournament finals where they lost by ten to a red-hot Louisville team. The names on the non-conference schedule looked pretty good at first glance, but disappointing or down seasons from Maryland, BC, Indiana and Washington hurt the cause. Nevertheless, UConn has beaten current No. 1 overall seed Florida (a game which stands as the Gators most recent loss) and also beat a pretty good Harvard team. In conference play, they suffered an inexcusable loss against Houston, but also managed three wins against Memphis and two against Cincinnati.
The conference regular season schedule included six games against teams who are going to be in the Top 25 in tomorrows polls. In those six games they were 3-3, and they beat two of those teams in the AAC Tournament. I think we deserved a 5 or 6 seed on the strength of adding two wins against ranked teams, including one that was a road game, but since I don't mind our draw and the seeding wasn't way off I'm not losing too much sleep over it (ignore the timestamp on this post).
I am concerned about the lack of respect for the American, which ain't getting better any time soon. Louisville is leaving and three C-USA teams are joining. This experience certainly underscores the need to get the hell out of this conference and work on scheduling good teams for the non-conference slate. Obviously the AAC is a far cry from the old Big East, but at the same time the ten team conference had five Top 40 teams and we played everyone twice. Eight regular season conference games against quality competition is a lot more than Villanova, Wichita State or Pittsburgh can claim.
St. Josephs is definitely not a team to look past- for whatever it's worth both Jay Bilas and Seth Greenberg picked them to beat us. But it's hard not to because if we win that game we get a chance to watch UConn play Villanova, a 2-seed, in the Round of 32 with the winner advancing to a Sweet 16 game which will be played at Madison Square Garden. That's fun.
I have been perplexed all season by Villanova's ranking. They were ranked third in the country last week... um, what?! How does the third best team in the country get destroyed twice by Creighton? Would anybody in the world pick them to beat Louisville, Michigan State, Duke or Syracuse? Each of those four teams is either a 3 or 4 seed. I was certain that losing to Seton Hall in the first round of the Fake Big East tournament while other top teams earned resume building wins in their respective conference tournament would knock the Wildcats down a few pegs (by the way, Providence/Creighton in the Finals? LOL. All it took was West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, UConn, Louisville and Cincinnati leaving for Providence to win their first "Big East" Tournament since 1994). My point is, they're a very beatable 2-seed.
At the end of the day, UConn is one seed lower than they probably should have been but would you rather be the 7-seed in the East or a 6 in the West? Let's move on. This is an experienced UConn team that plays great defense, shoots the ball well and is capable of extraordinary guard play. Those qualities go a long way in the post-season. We can definitely make a deep run in this tournament and the opportunity to play at MSG in the Sweet Sixteen is amazing.
Last years college basketball season was one of the worst experiences of my sports fan life. The tournament ban coupled with the end of the Big East as we know was devastating. UConn fans have had to wait two years to get the taste of 2012's opening round loss out of their mouth. We actually might even be able to get a re-match against the Cyclones who are a 3-seed in the East.
Be very excited Husky fans, Thursday through Saturday of this week is one of the most exciting times in the world of sport and we're right in the thick of things. Here's to a deep tournament run in Kevin Ollie's first NCAA Tournament appearance.
How far do you think the Huskies can go this year? Who's your pick for champion? Thoughts on seeding? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section!