We can’t overanalyze the NCAA tournament until we start analyzing it, so here are a few random thoughts on the field upon its initial unveiling:
1. Ohio State got about as bad a draw as could have been expected.
That is not to say the Buckeyes were treated unfairly. A five seed is fine.
But they ended up with one of the tougher mid-majors in South Dakota State, a team that (unlike Ohio State) is already used to the NCAA tournament experience.
The Jackrabbits shouldn’t be intimidated by the stage, and Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann told CBS Sports Network on Sunday night SDSU forward Mike Daum is an NBA-caliber player.
Ohio State headed west to play in NCAA tournament https://t.co/ZjOBfj51cC— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) March 11, 2018
If the Buckeyes win that one, they will probably get a rematch with a Gonzaga team that is eighth in KenPom ratings and already crushed them (so maybe the revenge factor works in OSU’s favor? I always love the revenge factor…), then I believe Xavier is pretty legit.
But that’s why they play the games (#BTWTPTG)!
2. Perhaps the opposite is true of Wright State.
In Tennessee, the Raiders get another defense-first team and one that hasn’t been in the NCAA tournament since going to the Sweet 16 in 2014.
With a couple of big guys in the starting lineup, including imposing redshirt freshman Loudon Love, Wright State could present a unique challenge to a Tennessee team that isn’t overly big.
Plus the Volunteers are coached by former Ohio State assistant Rick Barnes, whose Texas teams had a habit of leaving the NCAA tournament early in the second half of his tenure in Austin.
3. The Atlantic 10 regular season champion didn’t get screwed this year.
Rhode Island got a seven seed and a matchup with the least-deserving at-large team to receive a bid, Oklahoma.
The deep, experienced Rams should take care of the young Sooners, who limped down the stretch then could give Duke some fits at least in the second round.
Last year, Dayton received a seven seed, too, but had to play ridiculously under-seeded Wichita State in the first round. The Shockers won a classic.
4. Mid-major on mid-major crime should be limited.
This is another departure from last year, although Wichita State is again involved in a game we’d have rather seen later in the tournament.
The fourth-seeded Shockers will take on Marshall, a feel-good story after breaking a long tournament drought under new coach Dan D’Antoni.
I guess this WSU isn’t a Cinderella candidate anymore anyway after moving to the AAC.
A quick glance at the First Four matchups coming Tuesday and Wednesday to UD Arena https://t.co/dMogHk9ruJ— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) March 11, 2018
5. Maybe Gonzaga passes the torch on to Xavier.
Gonzaga making its first Final Four last year left some to dub Xavier as the best program yet to achieve that feat.
To do so, the top-seeded Musketeers just might have to go through the Bulldogs. That would be fitting.
They will probably also have to beat North Carolina to get to San Antonio, and a rematch of the UNC-Gonzaga national championship game of a year ago is possible in the regional final.
6. Can Cincinnati break through?
The Bearcats have had a hard time earning national respect because of little success in March recently.
With a No. 2 seed, the path should be clear for them to make the Elite Eight without doing anything out of the ordinary.
Then if the seedings hold, they will get another defense-minded team in Virginia. That might actually be preferable to facing a group of Wildcats from Arizona or Kentucky with more raw talent.