After checking my paper bracket, my predictions for each game would have put me as one of the best brackets in the nation. Through 15 games, 15 of my predictions held true. Ready to proclaim myself a bracketologist after missing just one game on day 1, little did I know the wake up call I was in for on day 2. If you were to say that Middle Tennessee State winning in wire-to-wire fashion against a team that was a favorite to win it all was the biggest tournament upset of all time, you would have a fair argument. Through the first round, 27 of 32 games were predicted correctly by the self-proclaimed bracketologist, despite some huge losses (including my predicted champion). Here are the talking points going into the Final Four:
1. In Committee We Trust?
After seeing some of the teams that were snubbed in favor of some of the middle-of-the-pack finishers in the power conferences, the trust in the committee was little. With Syracuse making an improbable run to the Final Four, maybe we should all admit that they may know more than we all give them credit for. One of my favorite talking points when it comes to the tournament is the importance of having a quality coach. We all overlooked Jim Boeheim. Malachi Richardson has been one of the stars of the tournament, and he may never have had this chance to develop if they were relegated to the NIT. Having more teams playing at a higher level in a power conference is good for the sport, so it is easy to see why the committee chose 'Cuse.
2. The Clock Strikes Midnight at the Final Four
It's weird to think of Syracuse as a Cinderella, but that is just what they are in this Final Four field. The other three teams remaining in the bracket all held the number one ranking at some point, leaving 'Cuse in the odd position of being the underdog. Looking back to recent Cinderellas - or at least underdogs - to make the Final Four, none of them made it over the hump. If you throw Memphis into the "underdog" category, along with George Mason, Butler, and VCU, you'll see that it's not uncommon for one team to sneak into the party. The only one to make it through as an "underdog" in recent memory was UConn as a 7 seed. Maybe 'Cuse can do the same, but expect someone besides 'Cuse (likely North Carolina) to cut down the nets.
3. Two Words: Buddy. Hield.
The NBA is an evolving league. Do you think the '95-'96 Bulls ever thought a team with lanky shooters would challenge their record for wins in a season? Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are running the NBA, and general managers need to take notice. The one guy they should be noticing is Buddy Hield. Nobody has to tell them that though. It's obvious. To me, it's obvious that he should be the number one pick in this summer's draft. The consensus pick, Ben Simmons, has the ability to put up a double-double whenever he wants to, but that does not win games. Points win games. Buddy Hield scored 37 points in the Elite Eight matchup against Oregon. They won the game because the dude has unlimited range. It's simple as that. Pick the guy who can shoot. Defense can be taught. You can't mess with a jump shot.
4. ACC once again showed up
Half of the Elite Eight came from the ACC, and half of the Final Four is from that conference. In one semi-final matchup, the 9th best team in that conference will face one of the best from the regular season. What we learned about the ACC during the madness of March is that you can throw the records out when these teams play each other. We saw 'Cuse take down another giant from the ACC in the Elite Eight, and it could happen again. Maybe 'Cuse was a sleeping giant all season, or maybe they'll get stomped by another giant. That's the beauty of the ACC, and the beauty of March.