Yesterday’s upsets got me thinking: Is an all mid-major Final Four within reach?
I’m a daydreamer by trade, so it’s pretty easy for me to imagine such a thing based on vibes only. I tried to supplement facts and data to help out where I could, even though it was hard sometimes. Here goes nothing!
Obviously, the fantasy starts and ends in the little 4-13/5-12 pod that sprung one of yesterday’s biggest upsets.
Furman, with good defense, perseverance and a bit of luck, knocked out perennial first-round losers UVA and pushed themselves into the next round on an amazing sequence. They did it without even playing their best game – they shot poorly for almost the entire contest, and their leading scorer Mike Bothwell was limited by foul trouble throughout, he eventually fouled out. And still, the Dins made a run at the end of the game to put them in position to pounce, which they did.
Their win sets up an all-mid-major date with San Diego State, who took down an impressive Charleston team in the midst of a tough run for Mountain West schools. Still, they feel a bit overlooked, with most not putting them through to the Sweet 16, let alone not having picked them to win their first game.
This may be a combination of East Coast bias/lack of West Coast exposure, plus a bit of negative energy surrounding the Mountain West in their recent tournament struggles. However, this year is a new year, and every team is a new team. The Aztecs are ELITE defensively, and defend the paint very well. Offensively they are not quite in the top tier but they have balanced scoring almost down the entire bench, and that could be useful if they’re able to advance deeper in the tournament.
Whoever wins between San Diego State and Furman, they’ll undoubtedly have a very tough matchup against Alabama, one that if played multiple times, they’d lose, well, most of the time. San Diego State probably has a significantly better chance, because their elite defense will keep them in the game against a seriously potent ‘Bama offense. It will be a tough ask, but against other top-10 KenPom defenses, Alabama is 3-2 (close wins over Houston and Mississippi State twice, losses to Tennessee and Gonzaga). And, if there’s a silver lining after Day 1 of action, it’s that Bama’s top scorer Brandon Miller appears to not be at 100%, or at least not for their most recent game in which he scored zero points. If the Aztecs can put together one of their best defensive…
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