NCAA West Region – Elite 8
On the surface, it appears we have chalk in the West region. The number one and two seeds stand alone in an upcoming elite eight showdown. However, there were definitely some non-chalk matchups along the way. Now, I know you’re brackets are all busted. And if you say it’s not, you’re lying. This region, however, may provide some safe haven for you purists of seeding. The chalk started in the second round of the tournament, but not without a scare or two. Take Duke for example. Duke was cruising to an easy trip to the sweet 16 after jumping out to a 27 point lead against the Cinderella Yale Bulldogs. While Goliath decided to take a nap in the second half, David would not be silenced. Yale pushed the deficit to just seven points after a 15-0 run early in the second half. By the one minute mark, we had ourselves a three point game. Yale could never recapture the lead, and Duke ended up winning by seven. Duke’s short bench limped into the sweet 16, but proved to be inferior against Oregon in their next matchup. Oregon, you ask? Ahh yes, Oregon: the team that everyone said was obviously the weakest of the one seeds, yet everyone just penciled into the sweet 16 because “Why not? They’re a one seed.” As you can probably tell, conventional wisdom frustrates me, and I enjoy being a contrarian. As you may remember from my preview article, I said that Saint Joseph’s would beat Oregon in the round of 32. I was actually really confident in this pick, and confident in my boy Deandre Bembry and his potential for a breakout performance. With just five minutes left in the game, Saint Joe’s had a seven point lead, and I was sweating with excitement. But then, Dillon Brooks got hot, and Oregon proceeded to end the game on a 18-6 run in the final five minutes. Earth to Saint Joseph’s University: How do you give up that lead?! You want to know how to REALLY blow a lead? Ask Northern Iowa. Boy oh boy, nearly a week later and this one must still hurt for UNI fans. Northern Iowa was up by 12 with just 44 seconds to go. Guaranteed win, right? The announcers sure thought so. Words won’t do this justice, you have to watch the video. But be sure to pay attention at the beginning, you can hear the announcers virtually pronouncing this game as over. I still can’t believe it. Some footnotes here: this was the largest comeback with under a minute to go in the entire history of men’s division 1 basketball. The ENTIRE history. To add insult to injury, Northern Iowa’s win percentage was estimated at 99.99 percent when they had that 12 point lead. As you can imagine, Northern Iowa lost in double overtime. I mean, how can you expect those kids to recover after literally giving the game to Texas A&M? I couldn’t even make a 12 point comeback with that amount of time in 2K. Just an epic collapse. And if you couldn’t tell, yes I blame Northern Iowa over crediting Texas A&M. A&M’s celebration was short lived though, as they got taken to the cleaners by Oklahoma. Nothing too noteworthy on Oklahoma, except they have been seriously torching their opponents after a first round scare. Now, don’t let the game against VCU fool you. Despite the fact that Oklahoma only won by four, this is a game they weren’t losing. Any given day when the three guard combination of Woodard, Cousins, and Hield are shooting the rock well, they aren’t losing. Those three happened to combine for 68 points on the day, so it was really easy money at that point. Consistent guard play has given me revised optimism in this Sooners team. The elite eight matchup between Oklahoma and Oregon should be at least a high scoring affair. The winner here? I refuse to call anymore matchups in this region, too much bitterness (still looking at you, Baylor). Oklahoma and Oregon face off for a spot in the Final Four at 6:09pm EST on CBS.