COLUMN: This week in college hoops

Justin Bjorseth, 23 Sports Reporter

With the Sweet Sixteen set, we are beginning to get a feel for the accuracy of seedings, the power of conferences and each team’s chance of going to the Final Four and perhaps beyond.

The first, and most obvious, observation from the first two rounds is that the ACC was this year’s basketball version of Big Ten football. All throughout the year, all I heard was how good the ACC was. When the brackets came out, all I heard was how epic Duke and UNC playing for the National Championship would be. The sad part is, I bought into it. For a conference to send nine teams to the tournament and only have one representative in the Sweet 16 is nothing short of pathetic. It’s about the equivalent of going 3-7 in bowl games and the overall performance of teams like Virginia and Miami is about equal to being shut out in the College Football Playoff.

I’ll spare the rant about how well the Big Ten has performed, but Michigan derailed a big bad ACC team, Wisconsin knocked out the overall No. 1 seed and Purdue out-dueled a team that had just won the Big 12 Tournament. If a correct goaltending call is made and Chris Collins is not T’d up, Northwestern would currently be the story of the tournament. All three Big Ten survivors will likely be underdogs in their next matchups, but that seems to be how they like to play. Wisconsin in particular relishes the role; they are the only team to play in the last four Sweet 16s, and formerly dethroned the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats.

The East region provides the most unexpected matchups in the coming round. I’d like to thank the Florida Gators for saving us all from the 43-39 barnburner that Wisconsin and Virginia would have played. While Wisconsin is definitely playing with a chip on their shoulder, I’m going to take Florida. The SEC has shown up really well this March, and Florida has never failed to reach the Elite Eight as a top-four seed. I think they will meet fellow SEC member South Carolina. The Gamecocks forced 18 turnovers against Duke and they will likely bring the same pressure against a Baylor team who turned the ball over 29 times against West Virginia earlier this season. Baylor allowed USC to shoot over 54 percent from the floor and a better defensive team will not let Baylor live that down.

The West has been slightly more predictable. The way West Virginia handled Notre Dame start to finish, never really allowing the Irish to fight back into the game, makes me believe they will defeat Gonzaga. Notre Dame protects the ball and is a highly efficient offense, and even they were not able to bring enough to beat the press. Gonzaga is well coached and takes care of the ball well, but they haven’t seen anything like what will be coming at them this week. The veteran leadership of Javon Carter and Nathan Adrian will guide the Mountaineers to an Elite Eight birth. The Xavier Musketeers have a couple nice wins, but no team they’ve faced spreads the floor and shares the ball the way that Arizona does.

In the Midwest, I think Kansas should have little to no problem with Purdue. Purdue is a lot easier to prepare for when you have time on your side, and the Jayhawks’ guard play is far superior to that of the Boilermakers. Kansas has taken care of business in their first two games and had perhaps the most dominating second round victory. I think Michigan will continue their impressive March against Oregon. Rhode Island shot just 6-for-22 from behind the arc against the Ducks, a stat line that Michigan is highly unlikely to follow. The Rams also committed 21 fouls, whereas the Wolverines were top five in the country in fewest fouls committed per game. Not to mention, Rhode Island blew the game down the stretch, the time of the game where Michigan has been coming to life the most. Better shooting and staying out of foul trouble is Michigan’s perfect recipe to take down Oregon.

Last but not least, in the chalk region, I think North Carolina will roll over Butler. The Bulldogs are a great team, and they had a truly under appreciated victory over Middle Tennessee State this weekend, but as a team they rank in the 300s in rebounds per game. That’s really bad. The Tar Heels on the other hand? They rank first. The advantage underneath and in second chance points will allow Carolina to slide by despite their non-versatile scoring threats at guard. In the game that will see 400 points, I think UCLA will top Kentucky in a rematch of their December matchup. I had the ‘Cats winning this game when I originally filled out my bracket, but the Bruins have looked so sound this tournament. They have improved drastically on defense and shot 50 percent against a stellar defense in Cincinnati.

Lastly, just a simple observation, seeding matters. It does. Wisconsin was not an eight seed and Michigan was not a seven. Two unrelated teams had to pay for the committees lack of ability to determine where a team belongs. Also, is Wichita State really between the 37th and 40th best team in the country? Because that’s how they were seeded. They were given a very unfair hand from the committee for a 30-win team who has a very good track record. So rather than building excitement of rematches (Michigan and Louisville and Kentucky and Wichita State), the committee should worry more about determining where teams truly belong.