The field has been drawn and quartered like a heretic, leaving the 15 strongest teams and Arizona. This is the point in the tournament in which great stories of little teams like Cleveland State and Western Kentucky end unlike every Pixar movie. (If Finding Nemo was a 14-seed, the clownfish would have undoubtedly been eaten by the shark.) All that remain are the big boys, and this year every single 1-, 2-, and 3-seed team advanced (a first in tournament history), along with two fours, a five, and that pesky 12th-seeded Arizona.
Time to look at it from a conference perspective, since this is how fans of power conferences traditionally hold confidence-pissing contests.
BIG EAST (5): LOUISVILLE, PITTSBURGH, CONNECTICUT, SYRACUSE, VILLANOVA — Until this year, no conference ever saw more than four of their schools make it this far. Yes, West Virginia got air-bombed in the first round by Dayton, and Marquette just barely fell to Missouri, but those are the only red marks. We could very well see a Big East rematch in the (where else) East region, if Villanova and Pittsburgh win their games. If it's ever happened before — a regional final featuring two teams from the same conference — then it's a very rare occurrence. If it wasn't for UNC, you'd put your eccentric uncle's inheritance on someone from the Big East winning the whole thing.
Tourney Record: 11-2
BIG XII (3): OKLAHOMA, KANSAS, MISSOURI — Ohbytheway, Kansas is still alive. Yes, they lost just about everyone important from their national championship team, and yes, they lost to UMass at home early on in the season. (Still don't know how.) Yet they, along with a couple of their friends, get to brag that the Big XII has the second-best representation in the Sweet 16. And how's this for consistency: nobody lost in the first round. They're the only multiple-bid conference that can claim that. None of their teams are favored to make the Final Four, but based on no first round knockouts, one has to say the Big XII had themselves a pretty damn good showing.
Tourney Record: 9-3
BIG TEN (2): MICHIGAN STATE, PURDUE — We all knew the Spartans would be here. But Purdue? It looks like the Boilermakers' mild upset of Washington gives the Big Ten an extra point over the Pac 10 in terms of which power conference is less disappointing. For bringing in seven teams, the results were definitely a mixed bag. Ohio State and Illinois lost in the first round to lower-seeded teams, Minnesota took a beatin' from Texas, and Michigan and Wisconsin won games they weren't supposed to.
Tourney Record: 6-5
ACC (2): NORTH CAROLINA, DUKE — Of course those two made it. Josh Mandell goes into further detail of the ACC's woes in the tournament, but if the Dukies and Tar Heels were woefully absent, then the bracket you're looking at is actually President Obama's dream college football tournament.
Tourney Record: 5-5
PAC 10 (1): ARIZONA — Of the six teams that entered, it had to be the last team in that's still around, didn't it? Southern Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, and Washington were all taken down in the second round, while California was nipped by Maryland on opening day.
Tourney Record: 6-5
ATLANTIC 10 (1): XAVIER — The A-10 is always a quietly deep conference. They always send out multiple bids, and they always do moderately well. Dayton took out a Big East team in the first round, and Temple lost to Arizona State. XU had a relatively easy path to the Sweet 16, demolishing Portland State and then Wisconsin, and with their eighth NCAA tournament trip in nine years, this is their sixth Sweet 16 in that span. They've even made it to the regional final twice, but they never quite get over the hump. That trend will likely continue this year.
Tourney Record: 3-2
CONFERENCE USA (1): MEMPHIS — Actually, I think only one team even exists in C-USA anymore. Memphis merely spent the conference playing against themselves, practicing, scheming, and waiting for the NCAA tournament.
Tourney Record: 2-0
WEST COAST (1): GONZAGA — Otherwise known as the C-USA of the West. Gonzaga is practically guaranteed a spot in the tournament annually, so it's just a matter of how far they advance and whether or not their All-American player cries in the final seconds of their loss.
Tourney Record: 2-0
SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE (0) — It warrants mention that the best conference in football couldn't get a single team into the final 16. Two of them lost in the first round (both to higher seeds, granted) and LSU predictably lost to top-seeded UNC. But wow, what a way to finish the season for the SEC. When are spring football games?
Tourney Record: 1-3
HORIZON (0) — They weren't meant to have two teams. It was just supposed to be Butler and nobody else. But Cleveland State played their way in, and didn't settle for appearing on productivity-siphoning brackets across the country. They whumped Wake Forest in one of the worst routs by a 13-seed over a 4-seed. Meanwhile, Butler lost their first round game. How about that.
Tourney Record: 1-2
MOUNTAIN WEST (0) — BYU and Utah went down quietly in the first round. But hey, at least the Utes went undefeated in football.
Tourney Record: 0-2
METRO ATLANTIC, SUN BELT — Siena and Western Kentucky were the only one-team conferences to score wins. Hooray for them.Powered by Sidelines