Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Toughest/Easiest Roads to the Final Four


When looking at a bracket right after the pairings are announced, people will always say "Oh, so and so has a cakewalk to the Final Four." It obviously helps to have a fairly easy road to the national semi-finals. On the other hand, some teams get shafted in the seedings and end up with plenty of potential pitfalls. This ranking only took the top four teams in each region into consideration. Here are the teams in each region with the easiest and the hardest roads to the promised land.

Atlanta Region
Easiest Path: Texas. The Longhorns get the winner of California and North Carolina--both teams that they should easily beat. After that, they get the worst of the #3 seeds (Iowa) in terms of talent, or they get an inconsistent-shooting team in West Virginia.
Hardest Path: Iowa. First, Iowa gets an excellent #14 seed in Northwestern State. After that, they play either the athletic, ball-hawking defense of Southern Illinois, or the shooters of West Virginia. In the Sweet Sixteen, they likely get a team that can contend for the title in Texas.

Oakland Region
Easiest Path: UCLA. For a team that shouldn't have been a #2 seed, the Bruins got a nice draw. Marquette and Alabama don't match-up well with UCLA, and Gonzaga is just not that great. UCLA matches up nicely with Indiana, if they get there.
Hardest Path: Memphis. First, they play the best #16 seed of all-time in Oral Roberts, then they get two very solid 8-9 teams in Bucknell and Arkansas. On top of that, two Final Four contenders await them in the Sweet Sixteen, either Kansas or Pittsburgh.

Washington, D.C. Region
Easiest Path: Connecticut. The Huskies got the type of path overall #1 seed wish they could have had. Kentucky and UAB don't post much of a threat in the second round given UConn's interior depth. In the Sweet Sixteen, neither Washington or Illinois have the weapons that the Huskies have.
Hardest Path: North Carolina. You can say Tennessee has the most difficult path--but that is just because they don't deserve their #2 seed. UNC gets the best #6 seed in the field in the second round in Michigan State-- a team that can make the Elite Eight.

Minneapolis Region
Easiest Path: Villanova. With Allan Ray's health in question, 'Nova gets an easy first weekend to test it. Arizona has underachieved all season, while Wisconsin is struggling. Boston College and Nevada could be tough in the Sweet Sixteen, though.
Hardest Path: Ohio State. The Buckeyes were close to a #1 seed, but ended up getting a difficult road in their bracket. The winner of Georgetown-Northern Iowa is no pushover, while #3 seed Florida is the most balanced team in the country.

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