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Atlanta notebook: Looking out for No. 1s

Atlanta notebook: Looking out for No. 1s
By Ken Davis, Special to Yahoo! Sports
March 20, 2006

More notebooks: Atlanta | Oakland | Washington, D.C. | Minneapolis

Any serious critique of the tournament selection committee should be reserved for this stage of the Big Dance.

Pick apart the field of 65 on Selection Sunday and there's a genuine risk of being wrong. Tell the world that the Missouri Valley Conference got too many bids, and you risk revealing a level of stupidity that should be obvious by now. Evaluate the last four teams in and the last four teams left out, and then a team like Bradley comes along and crushes your arguments.

But look at the Sweet 16 and it all starts to come into focus. It says the committee did a darned good job this year. Darned good.

We put the top four seeds in each region on a pedestal. Those 16 teams are the best and we expect great things. Ten of those 16 teams are still alive after two rounds, and that's not bad.

The four No. 1 seeds – Duke, Connecticut, Villanova and Memphis – are still dancing. If that's your Final Four on the sheet you submitted to the office pool, good things can still happen. The only teams from the top 16 that lost their way were: Tennessee (2, Washington), Ohio State (2, Minneapolis), Iowa (3, Atlanta), North Carolina (3, Washington), Kansas (4, Oakland), and Illinois (4, Washington).

Bradley, at No. 13 in Oakland, is the lowest seed remaining. Connecticut now appears to have the easiest path to Indianapolis, surrounded by a 5 (Washington), 7 (Wichita State), and an 11 (George Mason).

The Atlanta bracket held up better than any other, based on the numbers. No. 2 Texas, No. 4 LSU and No. 6 West Virginia will join No. 1 Duke in the Georgia Dome. With the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big East all represented, the Final Four participant out of Atlanta should be battle tested to say the least.

And that brings us to the No. 1 team overall. Duke is in the Sweet 16 for the ninth consecutive year. That's right; the ninth consecutive year. That's not even the scary part for LSU fans. Or West Virginia fans, or Texas fans.

This is the scary part: "It shows a level of consistency that we've had since we've been here and over the past nine years," guard J.J. Redick said. "For the seniors, we've already been to the Sweet 16, so we're probably looking for a bit more than that."

When Duke players start talking like that, it's time to take cover.

The Blue Devils (32-3) handled a good George Washington team in the second round. Redick scored 20 points and Shelden Williams, who broke Duke's career rebounding record, had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Josh Roberts had a double-double. Freshman Greg Paulus had 10 points and six assists. Duke's defense was crisp and imposing.

"A lot of people said their defense is down this year," GW forward Danilo Pinnock told The Associated Press. "I didn't see that. They caused us to turn the ball over and miss some shots that we usually make."

The signs are all there. It's Sweet 16 time, when the messages start becoming real.

Duke is in the house. And the Blue Devils are for real.


In other news from the Atlanta regional, things haven't been this good around West Virginia since the days of Jerry West.

North Carolina native P.J. Tucker got a little revenge Sunday.


"I'm like gumbo and I've got my own twists and flavors. I've got a little crab and shrimp in there, a little turkey meat and spices, and it's not the same as anyone else's."
- LSU forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis, speaking of himself.

Ken Davis, a longtime college basketball writer for the Hartford Courant, is covering the NCAA Tournament exclusively for Yahoo! Sports from Jacksonville, Fla., this week and Atlanta next week.

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Updated on Monday, Mar 20, 2006 3:01 am, EST

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