Watch the Cal Bears celebrate on NCAA selection Monday as they earn a #2 seed, the schools highest ever seeding in the NCAA tournament.
DOWNLOAD BRACKET -- So the big news on Selection Monday:
1) Kansas got in;
2) Notre Dame is in Iowa City; and
3) Cal and Stanford might play in the Elite Eight.
In other words, there wasn’t really a lot of drama this year, as the bubble teams weren’t anything special, and only Duquesne could maybe make a case that it should have replaced Kansas. But really, is Kansas going to beat a good Colorado team in Boulder? Would Duquesne?
And as for Notre Dame, some are upset that the Irish, the only No. 1 seed who doesn't start the tournament on its home court, aren’t playing in Columbus, which would at least have been a neutral floor. But it’s not as if hordes of Golden Domers are going to pack any gym to watch their faves pummel a team like Tennessee-Martin – or even the eight-nine winner in the next round. And you know, if 20-12 Iowa is that big a threat, even on its home court, what chance will Notre Dame have in the Sweet 16 against Duke or Texas A&M or Colorado?
Then there are the fans upset that Cal and Stanford could conceivably meet in the Spokane Regional final – but the key word here is “upset.” Both of the Pac-12 powers are very vulnerable (especially if Toni Kokenis is still out for Stanford), and the odds of a Penn State-Gonzaga matchup are not all that much lower than Cal or Stanford.
No, the story here is the dog that didn’t bark – it’s familiar stuff, with the familiar names and faces. Look, there’s Tennessee in Baylor’s bracket again, and there are some SEC teams that got seeded higher than they probably deserved.
The watchdog didn’t even twitch on those revelations; he just rolled over and went back to sleep.
And though there will be upsets, really this year’s tournament looks like it will take a week to generate much traction. There are a lot of mediocre teams in the eight/nine slots (Princeton has the best record), and though maybe big-wallet, low-performance hosts like Texas Tech and Iowa might be able to pull a surprise, it looks like the tournament is going to reflect the regular season – which is to say, “When will Baylor get challenged?”
Tennessee’s the No. 2 in the Bears’ bracket, but these aren’t the Volunteers of yesteryear, and No. 3 UCLA in Baylor’s draw got a boost from its performance in the Pac-12 tournament against two teams the Bruins had already lost to twice each.
Stanford, one of those teams, can see Cal and Penn State down the road, but is undoubtedly more concerned with Gonzaga, which was dropped to 12 to make sure it could host. The Zags aren’t great, but they didn’t give up 70 points to any team this year, and with a frenetic home crowd, they aren’t anyone’s pick to play. In fact, I’ve got Georgia as an underdog should Gonzaga survive Iowa State in the first round.
And speaking of Georgia, and the No. 4s in general, there is plenty of vulnerability after we move past the top six teams (the No. 1s, plus Duke and Kentucky). Tennessee has seven losses and Cal is a terrible perimeter- and free throw-shooting team, so there are two No. 2s that can’t be counted on – and the No. 3s aren’t much better.
All this should make the early rounds entertaining, at least when the big girls aren’t playing, as a team like North Carolina isn’t exactly a beacon of consistency, and a team like Louisville could do pretty much anything.
Overall, though, this bracket didn’t really generate the kind of controversy we’ve had in the past because we already know who the team(s) are who have a chance to win it all, and we knew who they were in December.
Of course, having written that, I’ll probably be dining on those very words when UConn and Stanford go down in flames in the second round –- but if there were ever a year where the top four seeds looked locked in to the Final Four, it’s 2013.
And though that may not fire up the message boards, it should make for a great show in New Orleans.