Brackets will be available in rougly 9 days. It's time to tune up. You need to know who is playing well and who is getting by on smoke and mirrors.
First, UConn was a very legit team on February 11th. Now? They lost Jerome Dyson. Who is Dyson?
1. It's not A.J. Price, but rather Dyson, who plays the role of the featured scorer in this offense, using more possessions and taking more shots than any other Connecticut player.
2. Dyson is on track to record his third consecutive season of incorrigibly iffy shooting from the field.
3. Connecticut's offense is outstanding.
You may be thinking to yourself that (3) doesn't seem to follow from (1) and (2). Darn tootin'. One response to this information is to imagine how good this team would be if Dyson simply made shots at the rate recorded by mere featured-scoring mortals like, I don't know, Jerel McNeal of Marquette or Eric Devendorf of Syracuse. (Answer: unfathomably good.) Another response, however, is to note something very valuable about Dyson: he's Calhoun's only backcourt option who combines a prominent role in the offense with a very low turnover rate. Without Dyson, Connecticut might make a higher percentage of their shots, but they'd almost certainly take fewer shots because of the turnovers.
UConn might not be the team you think they are. Since the injury, they've lost to Pittsburgh, and defeated Seton Hall, South Florida, Depaul, Marquette, and Notre Dame (in a close game, in UConn). How much they miss Dyson is undetermined at this point but they are far from being an excellent 1-seed.
Marquette played their first game without their injured guard, Dominic James, a 90-75 loss to UConn. They do not defend shots well and depend on generating turnovers. Without their top defensive stopper, they are likely 6-seed, Marquette could be an excellent candidate to get bounced early. Make sure the Committee doesn't overreact, however, and do something crazy like making them an 8-seed.
More teams inside...
Avoid the trap 12 seed
Every year, people want to pick a 12 seed to beat a 5, because it's happened in the past. Penn State... ranked 80th in Pomeroy. Additionally, they've been very lucky in conference, and are at best the 8th strongest Big10 team.
Don't let Blake Griffin's concussion could your judgment on Oklahoma.
This team is not that good. A top 20 team? Yes. The best team in their conference? No, try the third best. In fact, this professional gambler calls them the "#1 Pretender". So, why had Oklahoma been held in such high regard? Before losing 3 of their last 4, they had been one of the luckier teams in America, winning 80%+ of their games decided by 6 points or less.
The Oklahoma Sooners hadn't been faced with a real road test while at full strength all season. They didn't play any potential NCAA Tournament teams on the road in non-conference play, and Blake Griffin was injured in the first half of their game in Austin. That finally changed when they went into Columbia, and while they didn't embarrass themselves, the Sooners sure didn't have the look of a national title contender in their 73-64 loss to Mizzou.
A possible tempo note here:
[Missouri's] frantic style clearly flustered the Sooners, both in forcing numerous turnovers and wearing Oklahoma down as the game went on. Griffin could be seen trying to catch his breath before shooting free throws multiple times down the stretch, and he ended up missing his final four shots from the line.
Oklahoma won't be a #1 seed after their recent slide, but don't go thinking they represent value if they are slotted as a #3 seed.
I'll have a few more of these in the coming week, including teams who are Underrated. Tomahawk Nation will also host a bracket contest.