Since it was obviously the most intensely discussed regional of the bracket, we'll start with the Midwest region.
Flyers13: So Justin, did the Selection Committee forget they still had a region to go when they put together the Midwest? Or do you think it's just their special way of trying to ensure Wichita St has the most difficult path possible if they want to achieve undefeated immortality?
JC: The Midwest is one of the toughest regions I've ever seen. Wichita certainly has a tough road paved by his eminence Selection Committee Chairman Ron Wellman. The Shockers should still be able to advance at least as far as a Final Four rematch against 4-seed Louisville. I'm also seeing a potential Duke-Michigan match in the...honestly I have no idea what round it would be. Every game has an asterisk now to explain it because the NCAA claims the play-in games are the First Round*.
Flyers13: Even the 11 seed game between Iowa and Tennessee features two very sneaky good teams who have been down on their luck a bit recently. And the 12 seed NC St/Xavier game features two teams that could win multiple games as well. Some reward for finishing undefeated huh? Did you see Louisville as a 4 seed? I was floored, very much like a Louisville Assistant Coach after hours in an Italian Restaurant who spent a very uncomfortable 30 seconds a few years back listening to his boss conduct business. I thought Louisville was a 2 seed given that they spent the weekend beating teams by 60.
JC: Those play-in games are certifiably insane. Any of those four teams is capable of going on a run and I wouldn't be surprised if both slots see upsets once they're in the tournament proper. Louisville's seed makes very little sense. I assume the seeding process consists primarily of blindfolded selection committee members throwing darts at resumes. The Cardinals have Final Four run written all over them and given the way they played down the stretch, were easily a 2-seed.
Flyers13: Did you see the Vegas assertion that Louisville will be giving points to everyone they play in the tournament until they face Florida or Michigan State?! Speaking of sneaky did you notice how easy Duke's path is to the Sweet 16? Whereas the Shockers have to scuffle their way past the Kentucky power clubs, Duke merely has to defeat a very game Michigan team, but beyond that, they should be in the final eight. There has to be some reform after this year right? Three of last year's Final Four teams in one bracket? There used to be far more outcry over who got snubbed from the tourney, but with all the bracketology becoming so accurate that's kind of died down. Now the battle is over the equity in seeding and match-ups.
JC: It's easy to dismiss Vegas as a horrifying mass of seething debauchery—which it is—but those guys are incredibly good at what they do so that's interesting about Louisville. Is it possible Duke losing in the ACC Championship game was better for them? They appear better off as 2-seed than UVA as a 1. Bizarre, but it just goes to show a big part of winning this tournament is dumb luck. I saw an interview with Arizona State's coach Herb Sendek and he somewhat jokingly suggested eliminating conference tournaments and putting all 351 division I basketball schools in the NCAA Tournament. How would you attempt to reform the process as it stands now?
Flyers13: Duke is actually the 3 seed! I'm not sure how to answer if they'd be better off, because honestly, they might have the weakest group of 8 (in the whole tourney) where they're at. Should be 3 easy wins in my opinion, especially considering Coach K's reputation, and the fact they'll get all the calls.
Why do I feel like that's not the first time the words Herb Sendek and joke (or a variation thereof) have been used in a sentence? No, 350+ teams isn't a good idea. Diluting the live fan experience even more is not what big-time sports needs. I already saw way too many empty seatbacks in the conference tourneys. That said, these play-ins are dumb as situated. I'd like to see 96 teams, with only the top 8 in each bracket getting a bye. I think that's enough good teams, pretty much covers everyone with a winning record. Then again, the NIT (formerly known as the VT Invitational) has it's charm, and I'd hate to see it go the way of the CBI or CIT (shudder). I meant to ask you this earlier, how surprising has Michigan been considering they've been without Mitch McGary? Am I underestimating them?
JC: Michigan's still very good and somewhere along the way they figured out how to play without McGary. Still, I'm not as bullish as a lot of folks are on the Wolverines and I don't know if they'll get past Duke assuming both make it that far. The Blue Devils' weakness is on the interior and Michigan plays a fairly small lineup. Nik Stauskas is a terrific player though and can light it up from outside. I've completely ignored UMass and Saint Louis. Do you think people are underrating the Atlantic 10 teams?
Flyers13: Good question. I think there is that hipster tendency to want to overrate a certain group of mid-majors each year, only to find out that everyone loves how underrated they are, so that they become overrated as a result. Make sense? I think that those teams can play some ball, I just have NO idea which one(s) are going to ride the Mystical Unicorn of Luck to the Sweet 16 level or beyond. This is what they've geared us up for is it not, the sentiment that anyone can beat anyone on any day? I think that there will be noise made by the A-10, but the only one I would openly back is VCU. I had no idea UMass was so good coming into this year, and they were undefeated a while. Next year they add Donte Clark, who would have been a Hokie. It's unbelievable that we've come this far and not discussed Kentucky, the ridiculous "8" seed. I mean whoever comes out of that half the mid-west should probably be crowned half-champs anyway, but do you think the Wildcats are the devil convincing us he doesn't exist? I think there's a possibility they beat Wichita in round 2, then beat familiar foe KY in round 3. That sets up Duke in the Final Eight. Dammit, Dook's going to another Final Four aren't they?
JC: I don't trust Kentucky. They seem to have rounded into shape lately but when I've watched them they play undisciplined basketball. That's to be expected because John Calipari has been playing a half dozen freshmen since he arrived five years ago. I think Wichita State falls to one of the teams from the Bluegrass state, just a matter of which one. Like every year, Duke will make it as far as their outside shooting takes them. They could certainly make the Final Four but I don't see them winning it because I'm always in denial about that sort of thing.
Flyers13: I love Julius Randle's game. His willingness to fill in the gaps for his undisciplined, selfish teammates. It's a Bill Russell mentality, and I wish the Bullets could get their hands on him somehow. I am actively rooting for Wichita St and Roanoke product Gregg Marshall. They screwed him, but I hope he shows them all where they can go. It'd be great if they smoked Calipari, Pitino, and then Coach K in sequence would it not? He could likely run for President in 2016 if he did that couldn't he?
JC: I think President is the next logical step after running that primary gauntlet. He'll lose Kentucky of course. Marshall is a really great coach and Wichita State is very experienced which I think gives them a leg up on most teams. That certainly gives them an advantage against the Wildcats. We all know, if you build momentum there's no telling what can happen and 34-0 means they've got the Mo on their side.
Flyers13: So did the 1991 Runnin Rebs before the refs fouled Greg Anthony out of the Final Four game with five minutes to go! So many daylight robberies occur on the basketball floor. I have to go with Louisville in the mid-west I think. After all, they are the champs and they boast Final Four wins over both the top seeds. As we wrap up the mid-west, who do you like to win the regional?
JC: I also think Louisville is the trendy but correct choice. Anyone but Duke right?
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