JOE BIDDLE: Top seeds stayin’ alive

Basketball Sports Generic

As we get closer to paring the NCAA Tournament down to the Final Four, the top seeds have avoided stepping on a mine and blowing the rest of what is left of millions of brackets.

Congratulations to the selection committee.

Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia were still alive as of Saturday when this was written.

Indiana was a nice story. Hoosiers Coach Tom Crean looked as if he was going to blow a gasket every time the Tar Heels exposed his defense Friday night. It was early and often. North Carolina guard Marcus Paige hit his first four 3-pointers and UNC hit 7 of 8 from downtown. The 5-seed Hoosiers were down 11 points at halftime.

“Marcus was making video game shots to start the game,’’ said Crean after they were eliminated, 101-86, in Philadelphia. “I mean seriously.’’

Indiana had no answer for the Tar Heels. They thrived on the foul line and behind the 3-point line.

The scouting report on UNC was its weakness on perimeter shooting. Not this game. However, the Big Ten champions had a nice season and Crean got the most out of them. The former Western Kentucky assistant coach’s job was on the line early at Indiana, but he has stabilized his program and is safe for now.

The SEC’s last hope was Texas A&M, but 2-seed Oklahoma undressed the Aggies flaws and it emphasized how weak from top to bottom the SEC was this year.

I don’t see any of the top seeds losing to teams inside the top 4. That means the selection committee did its job in a season filled with teams with similar records.

There still is not a dominant team you can identify. North Carolina is the hot team now, but they were not from start to finish. Kansas could win it all and would not surprise anyone. Virginia has to prove it is a champion and Oregon would be a dark horse, only because we don’t see much of the Ducks during the season due to their West Coast time zone.

The ACC proved it was the best conference and really didn’t have any competition.

There was some ugly basketball this season. Notre Dame beat Wisconsin 61-56 in a less than thrilling game that was 23-19 at halftime. Now the Irish get North Carolina after escaping the Badgers with a 8-0 run late in the game.

The stunner of the tournament was Coach Kermit Davis’ MTSU Blue Raiders, which was a 15-seed ousting 2-seed Michigan State.

Sparty Coach Tom Izzo certainly didn’t see that one coming, as many predicted his team should have been a one-seed and a favorite to win the tournament.

But when Izzo watches the tape, if he indeed does, he will agree it was no fluke. MTSU outplayed them wire-to-wire.

I see Kansas snipping down the nets on one shining moment. But then if I dared print my bracket, no one would believe me. I’m not even sure of that. One minute I like North Carolina, but I don’t think they can duplicate their shooting percentage against Indiana for two more games.

No matter who wins I, and many others in this area, will always remember MTSU’s one shining moment.

Joe Biddle is a sports columnist. He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame. Contact him at

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