With a son of John Stockton on the roster and two former University of Utah coaches on the staff, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will be very popular this week among the Utahns watching them play at EnergySolutions Arena.
But one Salt Lake City resident loves Pittsburgh, and his opinion matters.
Actually, Ken Pomeroy's sophisticated statistical analysis takes all the subjectivity out of the process. With a No. 7 ranking in the kenpom.com evaluation of offensive and defensive efficiency, Pitt is underrated as a No. 8 seed. On that basis, no team in the NCAA Tournament field was treated worse by the selection committee than the Panthers.
Gonzaga is No. 4 in Pomeroy's rankings, so the Bulldogs with assistant coaches Ray Giacoletti and Donny Daniels are worthy of their No. 1 seed in the West Region. But their reward is a potential third-round matchup with a well-balanced, good-shooting Pitt team that's a lot like Gonzaga.
The Panthers lost to Syracuse in the Big East tournament quarterfinals last week as their rally from 13 points behind fell short. Yet in early February, they lost by only three points at Louisville, the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed.
If a Gonzaga-Pitt pairing would be intriguing because the teams are so similar, the contrasting styles between Wisconsin and Ole Miss will make for guaranteed fun. Marshall Henderson, the Rebel gunner who played for Utah as a freshman, will challenge Wisconsin's sound defense. Henderson scored 21 points Sunday in an upset of Florida for the Southeastern Conference tournament title.
Another ex-Ute, Will Clyburn, is in the West field with Iowa State.
Ohio State will advance to the Final Four. The Buckeyes showed poise and toughness in winning the Big Ten tournament and have a favorable draw in the West.
Why Gonzaga is No. 1
Other than an early-season loss to Illinois at home, the Bulldogs (31-2) have lost only at Butler via a buzzer-beater. They dominated the West Coast Conference.
Out on a limb
Ole Miss will reach the Sweet 16. Marshall Henderson and the Rebels are just dangerous and unpredictable enough to create a stir in this tournament.
No faith in
Kansas State. The Wildcats made a nice run to the Big 12 Tournament final, but they were blasted by Kansas in the title game and are too highly seeded at No. 4.