– I’m about to blow up my bracket and destroy any chance at success, because God help me, I look at this thing and I have Iowa in the Elite Eight. I know, I know…they are taking on water like the Titanic, Fran transmits stress to his team like nobody’s business, etc. However, given the general tenor of people on this board toward Villanova, would anyone here be REALLY all that shocked if the Hawks were able to beat that team? Nova’s got great guard play but their big kid isn’t 100% and I just have this gut feeling that somehow, some way, Iowa’s going to find at least a little of their early season magic and maybe those terrible shots they take will start falling again.

They could easily lose to Temple right out of the chute but I have them beating the Owls, Nova and an Arizona team I think will beat Miami and then lose to the Hawks. Then KU blasts Iowa in an Elite Eight game to end it. Crazy? Yeah, I know…I feel the same way but that’s what my gut and the numbers are telling me. Iowa’s statistical profile is still VERY healthy in both directions on the court.

– That’s the only region I have some weird stuff happening. For a year with so much parity, I’ve got two 1s (KU and UNC) and two 2s (OU and MSU) getting to Houston, and I have 1 vs. 2 games in all three of those regions. It would be just like the Tournament for chalk to mostly hold in a year where everyone has talked about how there’s so little difference between teams out there. Believe me, I wanted to pick upsets but the part of the parity thing that makes it tough is that so many teams are flawed, I mean REALLY flawed. When that happens, it gets hard to get a feeling about an underdog and I end up letting the profile (which mostly goes along with the seeding) to control.

– Even though I do think both KU and UNC will get through, I think they both got dealt a very tough hand, and it pops up almost immediately for both. UConn is the slightly less consistent version of MSU…whatever the regular season struggles, ignore them in March at your peril, and they’re playing well now. That team hasn’t fit together all year but they do have a lot of talent and a lot of athletes. If the big kid is able to stay out of foul trouble and provide a problem for KU’s big kids inside, I think UConn can give them a real game, provided they get by Colorado. Then if they get by that one, KU is likely looking at the winner of Maryland/Cal, which I think is going to be Maryland. Maryland has more “talent” than KU, not a doubt in my mind. Did their performance yesterday indicate they’re finding something defensively? Can they get anything good out of Trimble? If so, they could push the Jayhawks.

For UNC, it’s maybe even tougher because I think they get tested early and then they have Xavier lurking on the other half for a potential Elite Eight. They could be dealing with Providence, IU or UK and then X in three straight games. That’s not insurmountable by any means but those are real teams and three of them (everyone but IU) can play with grit, something you wonder about with UNC. Providence has been up and down but man, they’ve got some TOUGH guys and Dunn could just take over 40 minutes if the stars are aligned.

– Very clear to me that the talk about the increasing influence of evaluation metrics like KenPom, Sagarin, etc. is overblown. Purdue is 10 in KenPom. UK is 8. Now I understand some real world realities make seeding those two teams as a 3 and a 2 intrude on that, but they were both two lines lower. Oregon is 9, or two lines lower than the actual seed. IU was one line lower than KenPom. Iowa two lower. Of Big Ten teams, only Maryland and Wisconsin got slight breaks, each one line higher than KenPom had them.

What that means, I don’t know. What metrics they actually used, who knows? Glancing at RealTime RPI, it seems that tracks much more closely with the seeding (at least near the top…I didn’t go through everything) than other systems. That directly contradicts what the committee explicitly said last year about RPIs role, but the evidence is what it is. RPI is a bit more byzantine than a system like KenPom, and I’ve rarely heard anyone suggest it gets closer to the “truth,” so given that and the fact that the results here don’t square with what I see or what statistical profiles tell me in a lot of respects, I’m inclined to think this is a mistake if they truly are giving RPI a lot of weight.

– I have 5 Big Ten teams in the Sweet Sixteen, 2 in the Elite Eight and 1 in the Final Four (guess who?). It is very easy to look at this field and see only MSU getting out of the first weekend, but I think teams like Purdue and Maryland may have found some things lately and I think Iowa is overdue to go on a run of good offensive luck, and I don’t think the teams they drew are unbeatable by any stretch for them. IU is the one coin flip. I have them over UK really for only one reason…the SEC was so horrendously bad that I have no faith that UK’s supposed improvement is real. Now this is something of an annual exercise with Kentucky teams but most years, they give you more reason for belief.