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Let’s Dance!

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Though I nearly suffered an unnecessary heart attack with Purdue being placed in the last game revealed by CBS, I must say that I am very pleased with our draw. The general consensus is that we will learn from our early Big Ten Tournament loss and use it as motivation to buckle down on defense in the real tournament. We also can use the time off and fewer games played to rest tired legs and heal some nagging injuries just enough to make a run. While there is no guarantee this exact scenario will play out, if it does I really like our chances of making a run to the sweet 16, and maybe even the elite 8. Consider the following:

We have been vulnerable to dominant Big Men all season long. It was critical in our losses to Illinois, Indiana, even Ohio State late with Koufos inside. Michigan State didn't have a huge size advantage, but they still had an advantage. Even Clemson caused problems in the second half. We won't face a team with a truly dominant post player (if the seeds play out as normal) until the regional final. Baylor has a pair of 7-footers, but neither contributes a ton and their leading rebounder is only 6'8". Xavier is very quick, but has no one over 6'9". If we control he pace of that game like I know we can they could be ripe for an upset. Many have talked this season about how well we would match up in a hypothetical game with Duke. Many have felt we would match up very well with them, and if we get to the sweet 16 we would get that shot.

Playing deep into the NCAA Tournament is all about matchups, and I feel we have favorable matchups with our style of play in each of the first three rounds. Even for our hypothetical opponents the committee did not do any favors in their games. Xavier must play a Georgia team as a 14 seed that probably believes in itself and its chances more than any other 14 seed in the history of the tournament. Here in Indiana, winning two games in one day used to be required three times just to win the state championship. Even now 16 teams do it every year, meaning there are 32 teams playing two games in one day. What Georgia did, against much better competition, is still pretty amazing considering they were the only team asked to do it. Their own conference tried to screw them over by giving them that path, yet they still overcame (even playing one game in overtime!) and got their auto-bid. A more reasonable scenario would have been to have them play their quarterfinal, then have the two semi-finals played on Sunday before a final to mean both teams would play two games. They will not be scared of Xavier in round one.

As for Duke, a healthy Arizona or West Virginia in round two is not a gimme game. I don't think Arizona belongs in the field since they finished with a losing record in their conference, but how many times has a team barely made the tournament, with others questioning their credentials, and made a big run? One need only look to #10 seed Purdue in 1999. Many considered us the last team in the field that year, while many more said we shouldn't have even gotten in at all. We justified our place by upsetting #7 Texas and #2 Miami to get to the sweet 16. That run also gave me now nine years of bragging rights over my wife's school since we never play the Canes in anything. Of course, this also means I was sweating yesterday's selection show, hoping we wouldn't get paired with them.

Getting back on topic after that tangent; in short, I think Arizona would have a good chance against Duke. West Virginia is a pretty good team as well. With as well as we play defense and no outstanding post presence I think we could definitely hassle the Dookies into quite a ballgame. If our squad last year could give a great Florida team everything it wanted for 40 minutes I think we can certainly play with a team like Duke this year. Past Duke I am not even going to begin dreaming yet. There is no since in thinking about a potential elite 8 matchup because it could be any of 8 teams. Too much can happen before that point to even begin speculating.

While our path is fairly favorable, others in the Big Ten and from the state of Indiana were not so lucky.

Wisconsin -- #3 seed Midwest – I honestly thought the Badgers had a good chance at a 2 seed if they won the Big Ten tourney, but maybe winning it over a weaker Illinois team is the reason they didn't get that. I actually think the Badgers are a sleeper for the Final Four. They are very tough, they only have four losses, and it is not like they played Sisters of the Poor and Blind in their non-conference season. They beat Texas on its home floor and Texas would have been considered a 1 seed if it had beaten Kansas yesterday. Their losses were to Duke, Marquette, and Purdue, who were all tournament teams. They also did not have a single stumble in Big Ten play that would be considered a "bad loss". When everyone else in the conference struggled, they took care of business and haven't lost to a team not named Purdue since December. They also crushed the giant that is Wofford. I like their chances for at least the sweet 16, and they definitely can play with Georgetown in that game.

Michigan State -- #5 seed South – I found this seed interesting, but I think Sparty has the talent to at least get to the sweet 16. There are still those that think they have Final Four talent. With Tom Izzo coaching, would you really be surprised if they did make it that far? They struggled mightily in the Big Ten, but as long as they can avoid the green uniforms (all 8 losses came in green this year) they will be fine. I never trust the Big East tournament champion to do anything in the NCAA's, so they can certainly beat Pittsburgh in round 2. Memphis also has a gaudy record, but is it a product of a weak conference? We will see.

Indiana -- #8 seed East – The Hoosiers have 2 seed talent, but a 12 seed bubble team mentality right now. If they use this week to get in their right frame of mind I certainly believe they have the ability to beat North Carolina in the second round and do some major damage in that region. If they don't, however, I would not be surprised if Arkansas beat them by 20. I think their seed was a little low, but they may have been dropped down to avoid playing another Big Ten team in another region. If Gordon finds his shot, they play as a team, and D.J. White plays like D.J. White can play I can see this team being a major pain in North Carolina's ass.

Notre Dame -- #5 seed East – Most people know of my hatred for Notre Dame football. I actually like their basketball team, though, because they play with honor in a conference. They are also very, very good and play hard each game. They drew a very tough 5/12 game against George Mason. The Patriots have a few guys on their roster who know a little something about pulling upsets, so the Irish do not have an easy game in round one. Harongody is a great player, and I feel like Washington State is a team that got a very undeserving 4 seed after their struggles in Pac-10 play. For crying out loud they lost 7 conference games and we still seeded higher than the Big Ten runner-up! The Irish could be a one and done, or they could be a 16 team that would give North Carolina a good game.

Butler -- #7 seed East – The Bulldogs received the biggest screw job of the tournament except maybe a team like Virginia Commonwealth. I felt the Rams were much more deserving than an 8th team from the Big East like Villanova. They would fight to the death in the tourney, and it's not like Colonial teams have never done anything with at large bids. Butler got screwed with a terrible seed, and they have to play a #10 seed in its home state. This will be followed by a 2 seed less than 200 miles away from its home campus. If the Bulldogs return to the sweet 16, and they are certainly capable, they will earn it. No team that has consistently been in the top 15 all year deserves a 7 seed, even if their only game against an NCAA foe was a loss to Drake. When it comes to Butler you can never count out a senior-dominated team that has tournament experience. The Bulldogs could make the tournament committee rue the day. What basketball fan from this state wouldn't want a Butler, Indiana, and Notre Dame East region in the sweet 16? If you throw 3 seed Louisville in there you have a major regional bragging rights battle on hand too.

Programming note:

If you tried to access the site for most of Sunday you may have gotten a redirect to a default page from GoDaddy.com. I am in the middle of a domain name change right now and having difficulty in telling the internet what to do. Hopefully by the time Purdue tips off on Thursday the domain change will be complete and we will be up and running at the new http://www.offthetracks.org/ address. I'm doing the change for a couple of reasons: 1. It makes it easier for me to be found without having to type in the long blogspot address, and 2. It will make advertisers easier to find me so they can throw some proverbial phat cash in my direction. Once the change happens the old blogspot address will always re-direct to the new domain name, and all commenting will be the same. You won't need to change bookmarks or log-ins in order to comment. Essentially, nothing will really change on the reader's end, and I'll be able to continue posting through blogger to just it re-direct to my domain name. It's just one way I am working for you to make Off the Tracks even better! There will be a more formal announcement the instant things are up and running.