Louisville and Kentucky could be positioned to meet in their second NCAA Tournament games.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Either Louisville (2013), Kentucky (2011) or both teams (2012) have danced into the NCAA Final Four for three consecutive seasons.
This year the sense is that one (Kentucky) or both teams will be gone by the first or second weekend of the tournament.
Of course, I'd argue that every team on the board could be gone by the first or second weekend of the tournament. There's not a single team that I'm prepared to confidently predict will make its way to Dallas.
Florida? Playing great. Deep. Determined. But the Gators don't crackle with the first-round NBA talent that I like to see in an NCAA champion.
Arizona? The Wildcats are one man down after losing forward Brandon Ashley.
Wichita State? I have no issue with giving the unbeaten Shockers a Number One seed, but I do have a problem believing any team from the Missouri Valley Conference is a lock for the Final Four.
Syracuse? Trend-line pointing the wrong way. Kansas? Awfully young. Seven losses. Villanova? Meh. Don't ask me to explain. Just not impressed.
I could go on. But there's no reason. Everybody on the board has issues.
In three of the last four tournaments, at least one team seeded fifth or lower has made the Final Four. Last year, a pair of four-seeds (Michigan, Syracuse) and a nine (Wichita State) made it to Atlanta. In 2010, a pair of five seeds (Butler, Michigan State) arrived in Indianapolis. This smells like one of those years.
What are the sharp folks in Las Vegas saying?
According to this story in the Las Vegas Sun, 15 teams are listed at 25-to-1 or lower to win the tournament two weeks before the event will begin. That group is led by Florida at 9-to-2. It also includes Louisville (10-1) and Kentucky (12-1).
How does that compare to 2013 or 2012? Last year, only a dozen teams were listed at 25-to-1 or less at a similar point in the season and two years ago it was 10 teams.
We are three days into March, so here is something to get the adrenaline percolating: At least one bracket prediction model has Louisville entering the tournament as a four-seed and Kentucky a five.
That would be CrashingTheDance.com. If that projection works out you know what it means: With help from the Tournament Selection Committee, U of L and UK could meet in their second NCAA games.
Works for me.
Of course, Joe Lunardi, lord of the brackets, sees it differently. He projects Louisville as a five-seed and has Kentucky seeded sixth. You're no fun, Joe.
If you don't think basketball computer ranking formulas are a strange beast to understand, consider these numbers:
Louisville sits at Number 2 in Jeff Sagarin's predictor rankings and 33rd in the RPI. The Cards are fifth in the Ken Pomeroy rankings, but they are 27th in another computer formula that is gaining favor – the KPI Index, created by Kevin Pauga, director of operations for Michigan State basketball.
Don't share this with Geno Auriemma and his top-ranked Connecticut women's basketball team, but I asked U of L players Shoni Schimmel and Antonita Slaughter if they were OK with fans storming the court at the KFC Yum! Center if the Cardinals finally succeeding in taking down the Huskies.
"Yes," Slaughter said.
"Yes," Schimmel said.
In fact, Schimmel admitted that she and Slaughter had been discussing that topic before they started a media session last Friday.
Slaughter, for the record, endorsed the idea of playing the powerful Huskies on Senior Night.
"Usually on senior night you play somebody you know you're going to get the W against," Slaughter said. "I think it's kind of cool we've got UConn, someone who's ranked number one in the country that we have wanted to beat."
I asked U of L coach Jeff Walz if it is going to require a perfect game for his team to beat Connecticut.
"I wouldn't say a perfect game," Walz said. "We have to take advantage of every opportunity that's given to us. We can't have breakdowns on defense. They score enough."
Nobody in the world of college basketball commentary is more blunt than former IU coach Dan Dakich. It's a primary reason he's moved to the top of ESPN's analyst pool. Coaches might not like him, but Dakich has his say.
Saturday Dakich had his say about Ted Valentine, the Final Four official who stuck his nose thisclose to the nose of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin after the two men disagreed about a call at Connecticut.
If you watched the game, you knew that Cronin worked the officials relentlessly all afternoon. Hard to blame Valentine if he had heard enough.
But Dakich saved his commentary for Valentine and the way he jumped into Cronin's personal space.
"The issue is Valentine, he's lucky he didn't get punched right there," Dakich said.
"Valentine's always been antagonistic, he's always talked trash to players, he's always acted like the game is above him...he's not even close to being a great official. A great official doesn't do that. But all these guys hire him and I don't understand it. I've never understood it quite frankly. That's totally on him. He's lucky he didn't get hit."