Monday, March 21, 2011, 10:54 a.m.
By John EisenbergStaff WriterCSNbaltimore.com
Maybe the ACC wasnt so terrible after all.
My bracket was already blown up as the end of the weekend neared, but it was officially declared dead when Florida State took down Notre Dame Sunday night. I had the Irish going all the way, but the Seminoles a team Maryland trounced in February pummeled them.
A lot of people were down on Marylands conference this season, including the NCAA tournament selection committee, which gave it little love with just four bids, as opposed to 11 for the Big East. The ACC was widely regarded as the nations fourth best league this year, behind the Big Ten and Big 12 as well as the Big East an opinion that probably kept ACC bubble teams such as Virginia Tech and Boston College from making the field.
As it turns out, the ACC has more teams in the Sweet 16 (three) than any other conference with Duke, North Carolina and Florida State. Nine of those 11 Big East teams are gone. The Big Ten has two survivors, as many as the Mountain West. Only Kansas is left from the Big 12.
The Terps can't complain about missing the NCAAs this year -- they didn't come anywhere close to doing enough. But the fact that their conference is regaining some respect in the postseason might help them next year.
Good luck, Towson.
The Tigers went 4-26 in the Colonial Athletic Association this season, losing their final 19 games. Not surprisingly, head coach Pat Kennedy was fired after being given seven years to turn around the program and winning just 71 of 215 games.
The school is building a new arena and the athletic director is talking about finding a coach who can challenge for a conference title, but frankly, the Tigers are overmatched in a conference that sent a team (George Mason) to the Final Four a few years ago and is represented in the Sweet 16 this year by Virginia Commonwealth, which battered big-name Purdue Sunday.
The Colonial had just one fewer team in the NCAA field than the ACC this year, and its three teams went a combined 4-2 in the tournaments first week.
Towson should be encouraged that it lost to VCU by just four points at the Towson Center on Jan. 24, but it has a long, long way to go. Its new coach will need to have a thick skin.
Only at-large teams should play in the First Four.
Baltimore basketball fans were excited a few years ago when Coppin State and Mount St. Marys both won their conference tournaments, but the exhilaration was tempered on Selection Sunday when the Eagles and Mountaineers were paired against each other in the dreadful Tuesday night play-in game, which came into existence when the NCAA expanded the field from 64 to 65 teams in 2001.
To add more nights of tournament TV, the NCAA expanded the field again this year, going to 68 teams, which meant four play-in games as opposed to one. Whoo, boy! Nothing like more of a bad thing.
The additional play-in games this year brought nothing to the table, but since the NCAA obviously is going to stick with them (and eventually expand even more), it should at least limit them to at-large invitees, the fringe teams from major conferences that barely sneak in.
Any team that wins its conference tournament should be assured of a place in the 64-team bracket. The accomplishment deserves that much respect.
Best performance by a losing coach.
Pitt fans are down on Jaime Dixon after his top-seeded Panthers were eliminated by a lower seeded team for the fifth straight year Saturday night. Thats a tough record to defend, and for sure, there were missteps in the crazy final seconds of his teams controversial loss to Butler. The foul call on Pitt was, in fact, a foul. Why any Pitt player was even lined up to rebound the free throw is a mystery.
But in the aftermath of a crazy loss, Dixon came up huge, refusing to blame the officials for a call he could easily have complained about. I can think of a number of big-name coaches who wouldnt take that high road, reflexively fingering anyone other than themselves, especially a ref.
Way to be an adult, coach.
My original Final Four picks: Notre Dame, Duke, Syracuse, Pitt.
New picks: Ohio State, Duke, Kansas, Butler.