The Holy Month's first weekend of Tournament madness did not disappoint, offering shocking upsets, tense action, last second heroics, and everything in between. We were too busy watching hoops much to post as much analysis on BON as we'd have liked to, but we'll use the next few days to recap what transpired in the first weekend, as well as to look ahead at what we can expect in the regional semifinals and finals. It's hard to believe, but we'll have our four national semifinalists by next Sunday evening.
George Mason: Ridiculed by much of the college hoops intelligentsia for stumbling down the stretch, including two devastating losses to Hofstra, Mason has responded by knocking out half of last year's Final Four. Their strong play hasn't surprised those of us who live in the D.C. area, but not many expected them to knock out Michigan State, let alone North Carolina.
Villanova: This may make you raise your eyebrows, but bear with me. Villanova, undoubtedly deserving of a #1 seed, wasn't playing great basketball down the final stretch of the season. Last night, they ran in to a rapidly improving Arizona team that would have beaten nearly every team in the field last night, the way they were playing. But not Villanova. They surprised me by playing a truly gutty, outstanding game and holding off Arizona. If Allan Ray plays like he did last night, the `Cats will make the Final Four. Count me as impressed.
Bradley: Raise your hand if you had them beating Kansas. Okay, there's a couple of you. And you had them beating Pitt? Liar. Put your hand down. Bradley played as well, or better, than every team in the field, knocking out two top flight opponents. Only George Mason may have had a more impressive road to the Sweet 16, but even there, I'm not so sure. Next up, Memphis, a team that has simply out-athleticized their opponents to death so far. Bradley won't roll over.
West Virginia: Maybe we shouldn't have been, but the Mountaineers have surprised us. Of course, they've only defeated Southern Illinois and Northwestern State, but not many folks had them in the Sweet 16. The `Horns next opponent will try to frustrate Texas with that annoying 1-3-1 zone and dangerous shooting.
The `We Told You So' Group
We've had some truly miserable picks in this tournament (Michigan State in the Elite Eight comes to mind), but we've had a few moments of basketball genius. We correctly ushered Georgetown in to the Sweet 16, foresaw the Washington Huskies taking out Illinois (which most did not), and were smart enough to know that Oklahoma wouldn't make it out of the first round.
In our game by game score predictions, we nailed the George Mason pick over UNC, while correctly predicting that Wichita State would knock out Tennessee.
Still, as always, the tournament is mostly a humbling experience. As a rule, we do not root for our brackets; we root for great games and underdogs, except, of course, when Texas is involved. Here's to hoping that the regional semis and finals are as exciting as the opening rounds. Is there any doubt?