Some random observations while scanning the NCAA tournament brackets:
1. Somehow people shudder when they see Duke in the bracket and particularly a No. 1 seed. Duke is a good team, not a great team. You can certainly make a case for a No. 1 seed, but the Blue Devils are not the overwhelming favorite as in past years.
2. Can the NCAA women’s tournament be fun and really interesting again until UConn gets beat?
3. If Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament, why don’t the Jayhawks get the winner of Arkansas-Pine Bluff-Winthrop, which would be the No. 64 seed?
4. The NCAA committee did Kansas no favors as a No. 1 seed. In its bracket is Maryland (the ACC’s co-champ and dangerous as a No. 4 seed), Big Ten tri-champion (Michigan State), Possibly the toughest No. 2 seed in Ohio State and Georgetown, a consistent team and a tough No. 3 seed.
5. The most divine regional has to be the South where you have two large church schools (Notre Dame and Baylor), the Siena Saints, Saint Mary’s — and, for a twist, the Duke Blue Devils.
6. A very dangerous team that is off the radar for now is Texas, which was No. 1 in the country at one time, then crashed in Big 12 play. But now that the Longhorns are out of conference and have a fresh start, they could be a sleeper. If Texas gets past Wake Forest, it could be a real second-round challenge for Kentucky, if it wins its opener. Texas over Kentucky is not a bad pick for a monumental second-round upset.
7. With the craziness of college basketball already and after most of the top teams in the Big East tumbled before the final rounds, this first-round could be one of the wildest in years.
8. Best first-round matchups could be Florida State-Gonzaga and Maryland-Houston.
9. Best 12-5 upset: UTEP over Butler and New Mexico State over Michigan State.
10. Syracuse and Kansas are probably the most consistent teams over the course of the season.
11. The most consistent teams over the course of the season or the hottest teams in their conference tournament don’t always make it to the Sweet Sixteen.
12. Watch the teams with experienced guards and teams from a major conference who have played together for awhile: Among those are Villanova, Kansas State, West Virginia, Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse and Duke.
13. Best OSU possibility: Oklahoma State vs. Ohio State in the second round of the West Regional.
14. Keep an eye on the Big 12 teams, the toughest conference top to bottom in the country. In addition to Kansas, either of these Big 12 teams could make Cinderella run: Texas A&M, Kansas State, Texas and Baylor.
15. Best potential guard showdown in the national title game: Kansas senior Sherron Collins vs. Kentucky freshman John Wall.
16. Mississippi State could have gotten the NCAA bid ahead of Florida. But the Bulldogs had too many devastating losses, particularly in the SEC West. The problem is Florida is not a deep team and Mississippi State would probably be better over a two-game weekend.
17. Best 8-9 game: Northern Iowa vs. UNLV.
18. Besides Kentucky, Vanderbilt could be the SEC capable of making a dangerous run.
19. It’s a tribute to what Joe Foley has done at Arkansas-Little Rock that the Lady Trojans made the tourney field despite losing in the Sun Belt finals. The Sun Belt is normally a one-bid league.
20. The shakiest No. 4 seed is Purdue, a possible Final Four team that is now vulnerable because of an injury to Robbie Hummel.
21. Tourney games now are often about matchups and a few potentially awkward ones are these: San Diego’s style of play could give Tennessee lots of problems. If Baylor gets to the Sweet 16 against Villanova, the Bears’ matchup zone and size could cause the Wildcats lots of problems. Texas A&M has enough athletes and seasoned tourney veterans to give Duke fits in a Sweet Sixteen game. Vanderbilt could be a tough matchup for Syracuse in a Sweet Sixteen game.
22. Sam Houston State, which won both the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament championship and which played Kentucky pretty tough, earlier in the season will not be a routine, easy 3-14 first-round contest for Baylor.
23. The UAPB Golden Lions are one of the tournament’s best stories, making the NCAA field after 0-11 start. Give them credit for playing five tournament teams in nonconference.
24. From the 12 seeds on down to Kansas, I don’t feel very comfortable picking anyone in any spot in the men’s bracket.
25. My best sleeper pick for the Final Four is West Virginia.
P.S.: My best sleeper picks don’t usually make it.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)