SALT LAKE CITY — There's always plenty to talk about during the middle of March Madness . . .
One of the most pleasing aspects of the NCAA Tournament to me so far has been the face-planting by teams from the mighty Big East Conference. Of the record 11 teams from the Big East that were invited to the tournament, only two remain for this week's Sweet 16. And those two teams got in by beating other Big East teams in the second round. Which means without that scheduling, we may not have had any Big East teams make it through. The simple fact is, the Big East is overrated and should never get 11 teams in the tourney again . . .
The Mountain West has to be happy how it compares with the other big leagues in the tournament. Only the ACC has more teams in the Sweet 16 than the MWC and a better overall record (4-1 MWC, 6-1 ACC), if you don't count the Horizon, whose one team, Butler, is 2-0. In all, teams from 10 conferences are in the Sweet 16 and the MWC has more than the Pac-10 and Big 12 and the same as the Big East, Big Ten and SEC . . .
Things are setting up nicely for BYU to get to the Final Four in Houston. The Cougars were fortunate to get placed in what most experts agree is the weakest of the four regions. So far they've played two double-digit seeds and next have Florida, which many folks believed was overrated to be a 2-seed. Then in the other part of the bracket, No. 1 Pitt was eliminated by No. 9 Butler and plays Wisconsin, the least formidable of the 4-seeds. Coming 30 years after their last visit to the Sweet 16, BYU should take advantage this year. As long as they keep making 14 of 28 3-pointers, they could be playing in Houston . . .
It's hard to believe BYU and Gonzaga had only played once before Saturday's NCAA game (a Gongaza win in 1949). Now it will become a regular occurrence and could develop into a nice rivalry over the next few years, (although I can't see BYU staying in the West Coast Conference too long). Next year, the Zags should have the advantage with all but one of its players returning, while the Cougars lose their two best players, including the likely national player of the year, and another starter to a mission . . .
When it went to 65 teams I said this and now that it's 68 I'll say it again: the NCAA Tournament should go back to 64 teams. These silly play-in games don't add much to the tournament and we could do without another four teams crowding the field. Did we really need to see those listless performances by the likes of USC and UAB? On the other hand, VCU would beg to differ as it parlayed its play-in game into an upset over Georgetown, one of those over-rated Big East teams and Purdue. But for the most part, we wouldn't be missing anything by inviting four fewer at-large teams . . .
Did anyone notice the BYU women beat Utah State in a WNIT second round game Saturday afternoon? Now the Cougar women join the Cougar men in the Sweet 16, although it is the bloated 64-team WNIT. Just three more wins and they have a chance to play for the championship. Perhaps if they get to the WNIT finals they can sell out the Marriott Center. That's what happened four years ago when Wyoming made it to the WNIT finals and half the state showed up to fill the 15,000-seat Arena-Auditorium for the title win over Wisconsin . . .
Finally, give the Utah women credit for losing by just 13 to Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday at the U. The Utes were a No. 15 seed playing a 2-seed, yet they led late in the first half and hung around to the end. But now that the Utes and Arizona State are out, do you think anyone will show up for Monday night's NCAA second round game between Notre Dame and Temple at the Huntsman Center? Anyone? Bueller?
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