A tough draw.
That's what West Virginia University's basketball team got for the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountaineers, the No. 5 seed in the East Region, won't learn the identity of their Thursday opponent until tonight, when Clemson and Alabama-Birmingham meet in one of four games taking place in Dayton, Ohio, today and Wednesday.
In all likelihood, Clemson will win that game and face WVU at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla. Las Vegas odds makers have installed WVU as just a 1-point favorite should that matchup occur.
That's pretty remarkable considering Clemson will play a late Tuesday night game in Dayton, travel on Wednesday and play an early Thursday game in St. Petersburg. I'll bet if that was West Virginia's fate, we'd all be screaming about the small amount of time in between games.
Nevertheless, it's interesting that WVU is just a 1-point favorite. It tells me the odds makers -who are smarter than the rest of us -like Clemson.
So it's a distinct possibility WVU could be one and done.
If the Mountaineers do survive their first game, things get much more difficult. Next up -barring a major upset -will be the Kentucky Wildcats. Last year, Kentucky was supposed to win the national championship but West Virginia knocked them off in regional play on its way to the Final Four. This year, Kentucky has virtually a new lineup, but one that again is massively talented.
Should WVU win that game and advance to the Sweet 16, it in all probability would face the No. 1 team in the nation, Ohio State. That would create a great deal of interest in border towns such as Parkersburg, Marietta and Belpre, but West Virginia would be a decided underdog.
In other words, it's highly unlikely WVU will be making a return trip to the Final Four.
Instead of worrying about the Mountaineers' fate, I'm going to be spending some time filling out NCAA brackets. You are too. Come on, admit it. The lure of filling out the perfect bracket and winning $1 million is just too tempting, even though the odds are considerably worse than hitting the Powerball.
One of my annual handicapping quests is to find the virtually unknown teams that are capable of pulling off first-round upsets. Let's start with Oakland University, which is a 9-point underdog against Texas. Oakland won at Tennessee during the regular season. It is a talented team. If it gets hot, it is more than capable of knocking off an erratic team like Texas, that sometimes beats itself.
Then there's Belmont. Any team that wins 30 games deserves our respect. I see no reason why Belmont can't beat Wisconsin, a team that has more trouble scoring than does West Virginia.
My final four? Ohio State, San Diego State, Notre Dame and whoever wins the Southeast, one of the weakest regions in NCAA history.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org