Sunday, March 31, 2013

Grading the Elite Eight: An upset goes a long way

I do not count a No. 4 over a No. 3 to be an upset, but it technically counts. However, the West No. 9 Wichita State win over No. 2 Ohio State is definitely an upset and the best game of the Elite Eight.

Overall, there were a few great performances and moments but the games were quite average from the fan’s perspective.

It wasn’t the best, wasn’t the worst and the Wichita State upset was good enough to make it memorable for the average fan.

But in terms of brackets, the winner is the West. That bracket had upsets, good matchups, buzzer beaters and it has the lowest seed in the Final Four with Wichita State.

And although the Elite Eight was average, the tournament as a whole has been very good.

Here are my Elite Eight and final bracket grades:


No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 2 Duke – B -

This game was back-and-forth until 12 minutes to go in the game. That is when Louisville took over and never looked back.

But the game was very exciting until that point, and the Louisville takeover was very impressive, especially with the loss of sophomore guard Kevin Ware to a horrific broken-bone injury.

Ware was not a huge contributor, but a loss like that could have caused minds o not be in the game. That didn’t happen.

Duke just couldn’t solve the defense, only hitting eight of 24 shots in the second half. That ultimately did them in and took away any possibility of an exciting finish.

The game wasn’t horrible, and it could have very easily have been a National Championship game.

Louisville just lived up to its overall No. 1 seeding, the only seed higher than No. 4 left in the tournament.

MIDWEST overall grade – C

The matchups had potential, but none of them really lived up to it. This bracket only had two upsets, and with Oregon being the No. 12 to make the Sweet 16, I would hardly even count those games as upsets.

Oregon should have been a No. 4 seed at least, and that makes this bracket the one where teams that were supposed to win did. There were a few good ones, but overall, this bracket was the most boring to watch.


No. 3 Florida vs. No. 4 Michigan (W) – C+

Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke starts strong, and Florida switches to a zone. That is when the 3-pointers rained down – Michigan was 10-for-19 – and when the game had its moments until a 21-point lead for the Wolverines.

Florida cut into the lead a little at the end of the first half, and it definitely stole the momentum at the start of the second, switching to a man-to-man defense and contesting every shot.

But it was too late as Michigan freshman guard Nick Stauskas’ 6-for-6 performance from beyond the arc and 22 overall points was one of key differences in the game.

But the Michigan lead was too much to overcome, and the game was over with 12 minutes to go, especially with the horrendous perimeter shooting of the Gators (2-for-10, 20 percent).

I must brag that I did choose this exact Elite Eight matchup and winner at the start of the tournament.

SOUTH grade – B

There were some great upsets and storylines, and the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds didn’t make it the Elite Eight.

This bracket was only slightly better than the East, but it still didn’t have enough to beat the West.

But there was the first ever No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16, and that is something no one will forget when filling out their brackets next year.


No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 4 Syracuse (W) – C

The Syracuse zone gave Marquette fits in the first few minutes, allowing Syracuse to grab an early 11-point lead, a lead it never lost despite a few runs by the Golden Eagles.

Marquette’s run at the end of the first half that brought it to within three points and one in the second that made it a four-point deficit breathed a little life into this game, but it never really became the Big East thriller some expected.

Poor shooting by both teams also slowed down the pace, but Marquette’s was terrible (12-for-53, 22 percent). This wasn’t the exclamation point the bracket needed to be one of the best of the tournament.

EAST final grade – B –

They say the final games in a bracket are remembered, but there were too many good games early on to pull the grade down too much from the Elite Eight. 

The East might not have been the best, but it had its moments.


No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Wichita State (W) – B+

It wouldn’t have been the West bracket if there weren’t an upset in the Elite Eight.

With all the talk about South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State seemed to be under the radar, and it now had knocked off both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the West bracket.

But what is crazy is that both teams were similar in every stat except 3-pointers. Wichita State knocked down eight of 20 (40 percent), while Ohio State only hit five of 25 (20 percent).

The Shockers jumped out to a 20-point lead, but Ohio State wasn’t going down without a fight, clawing back to trail by only four with two minutes to play.

The upset coupled with the late-game excitement made this game one of the better ones of the Elite Eight.

West overall grade – A –

This was what was dubbed as the weakest bracket of the four, but it had the best matchups and best games of any other bracket.

When the No. 1, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7 seeds do not make the round of 32 and there is a No. 2 vs. No. 9 matchup in the Elite Eight, it just screams excitement.

It was fitting that Wichita State was the team to come out of this bracket, and it deserved it with wins over the best seeds.

NCAA Tournament grade (through Elite Eight) – B

The Midwest bracket definitely kept this grade from an A, but there were some very good games and even better moments in this tournament.

There weren’t tons of overtime games or lots of buzzer beaters. This isn’t the best tournament. But it has been very good so far, and now we have an interesting Final Four.

Louisville/Wichita State and Michigan/Syracuse are games that have potential. I just hope it is true potential.

Next up  –  

Final Four preview, Weds, April 3
Final Four grades, Sun, April 7
National Championship preview, Mon, April 8
National Championship grade, Tues, April 9

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