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The Sweet 16 tips off Saturday and there's one big surprise, the Pac 12 IS the best basketball conference in the country (can't even believe I just said that), after placing 4 teams in the 16 team field, double the number of any other conference. What was thought to be "one of the strongest conferences of all-time" the Big 10, flamed out, nearly setting a record of losses before the Sweet 16 with 8, Michigan, is now their lone representative to contend for the title.
Just how far off were experts on the Pac 12 success? Take into consideration that in the latest AP Top 25 poll, only TWO Pac 12 schools were ranked, Colorado and USC. I have felt for many years that there is absolutely no reason to use football style rankings in college basketball and this year justifies it. Why use a 25 team ranking when the champion is decided among a 68 team tournament? It just proves to be a waste of time, used more for the purpose of creating highly ranked matchups for TV ratings and conference hype over anything else.
Continuing on with the tournament, outside of the Pac 12 we've seen much of the same stuff we've seen all season, Gonzaga, Baylor absolutely dominating while Michigan looks to be the third best squad, but who could possibly surprise these three behemoths? Let's take a look at a few contenders right now...
Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago (+1600 at FanDuel Sportsbook), the Ramblers have begun this tournament by beating ACC Champion Georgia Tech and destroying Big Ten Champion Illinois, in a game where they led for all 40 minutes. Given the quality of their opponents you'd have to be a fool to overlook them any longer though they face a tough test in the Sweet 16 with a surging Oregon State team.
Alabama (+1000). The Tide are no surprise to anyone this season, and when their three-ball is dropping they have the firepower to put anyone out of work. If they can repeat their 16/33 three point performance in the round of 32, they will be tough to beat, especially for a UCLA squad that at times struggles to score.
Oregon (+4000). Crazy value on a team that got a fast pass to the round of 32 with the VCU forfeit. In the round of 32 they absolutely smoked 2 seed Iowa out of the building with an unbelievable shooting effort. If they can get past USC this weekend they'll likely match up with Gonzaga, and if they somehow beat the Zags and advance to the Final Four, they'd be one of the tourney favorites in my mind.
Arkansas (+2100). The Hogs fell behind Colgate by 14 early in the opener, but stormed back to a dominating victory, then followed it up with a gritty win over a well coached and experienced Texas Tech team. Next up is 15 seed Cinderella, Oral Roberts. Both teams run, so this game will be exciting and high paced. As usual, any Eric Musselman coached team will be a tough out for anyone.
Teams I am not high on: Houston, Creighton, FSU, UCLA, Syracuse, Nova. While these teams have all had a great tourney to this point, they do not have the firepower or superstars to compete with the big boys, think twice before you launch a future on any of these.....
Good luck this weekend and we'll see you next week to talk about the Final Four!