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Date and time: Tue, 11 Jan 2022 08:20:46 GMT
Lunardi: My heart says it’s extremely fair to point out that three Jesuit basketball schools — Gonzaga, Creighton and Loyola Chicago — remain in the Sweet 16, which is more than the Big Ten and Big 12 combined(!). My head knows that the vagaries of March produce these seemingly inexplicable outcomes pretty much every year.
Gasaway: If either the Big Ten or the Big 12 had advanced as many teams as the brackets would allow to the second weekend, that league’s head office would be churning out news releases right now about this historically great tournament performance. This is the way the game is played, reputations are made in March. I don’t suppose the Pac-12 is one of the greatest conferences of all time, but it sure has recorded one of the best tournament performances we’ve seen in a very long while. The Big Ten and the Big 12 had lofty ambitions, and the nature of the NCAA tournament is that we see those expectations crushed within an incredibly short period of time. It’s shocking, and the reactions you hear echo that fact. The criticism won’t always be fair, no, but it is entirely understandable.
Medcalf: UCLA. Alabama has won eight in a row. All but three of those games were decided by double-digit margins. Alabama is a difficult matchup for any team in America because of its defensive versatility. I think the Crimson Tide will have a game plan to slow Johnny Juzang down. The Bruins have played at one of the slowest tempos in the league, contrasting Alabama’s up-and-down style. But the beauty of Alabama’s success this season is that it plays fast without being sloppy. What Mick Cronin has done with a group that lost key standout Chris Smith months ago has been impressive. But Alabama plays at a different level.
‘We’re not done yet’: Loyola Chicago happy to stay in NCAA bubble
Gasaway: Even among the double-digit seeds, maybe we’re talking about two different levels of underdogs. Already on Selection Sunday night, for example, it was clear that ESPN.com’s Giant Killers model loved UCLA’s chances against BYU. Once the Bruins were in the round of 32, they faced a No. 14 seed in Abilene Christian. A similar process has played out with Syracuse, which absolutely flummoxed San Diego State with a zone defense and then survived a three-point game against West Virginia.
Looking ahead, the KenPom model gives UCLA the best chance to advance among the remaining double-digit seeds. But I’m going with Syracuse. Although Houston has to be considered a slight favorite to emerge from the Napoleon (blown-apart, get it. ) Midwest Region, we’ve seen this movie quite a few times in recent years. And it’s always Jim Boeheim left smirking at the closing credits, this time with a Buddy by his side.
Boeheim’s 25 send Syracuse, dad into Sweet 16
Medcalf: I don’t know if there is a logical explanation, to be honest. I do think the truncated preseason and nonconference season meant that we didn’t get the typical two-month snapshot of these teams. Think about Loyola Chicago. Its only Power 5 opportunity before the NCAA tournament came against Wisconsin. And the only reason that happened was Northern Iowa had to withdraw from its scheduled matchup with the Badgers due to COVID-19. So Loyola Chicago played on short notice and lost by double digits. The lopsided nature of that game suggested the Ramblers couldn’t play with the top-tier teams. But maybe it was just Porter Moser having only a few hours — the Ramblers had played Illinois Chicago 48 hours before that loss — to prepare for a good team. With a traditional season, we might have had more time to see the flaws in these teams that could become greater challenges down the line.
I’m not completely sold that we’ll see any double-digit seeds in the Elite Eight. I think Oregon State and Oral Roberts will both fall in the Sweet 16, with the best shots for a double-digit seed advancing coming from UCLA and Syracuse. If UCLA can continue getting excellent perimeter production from Jaime Jaquez and Johnny Juzang, the Bruins will have a shot at Alabama — but I just think the Crimson Tide are too good defensively and can make too many 3s to lose. Then there’s Syracuse. Houston has struggled at times against zones this season, most notably against Tulsa in the first meeting against the Golden Hurricane, but I think Kelvin Sampson having a few extra days to prepare should help.