We spoke with ESPN's Rece Davis Wednesday morning. What was the most entertaining NCAA tournament game he watched last weekend? What does he think about Wisconsin's chances in the West region?
B5Q: It's been an incredible first week, lots of upsets, and what are your big impressions coming from this past weekend?
Rece Davis (RD): Well, there's been a lot of terrific games, for sure. I think that what you're seeing is that there are no overwhelmingly dominant teams this year, I don't think, but there are a lot of really good ones. You've also seen that, I think, veteran leadership and some seasoning and some toughness in many instances, though in not all of them have carried to date. The notable exception to that is Kentucky beating Wichita State, but the teams like Florida, like Wisconsin, like Virginia, have been able to handle challenges pretty well and been able to advance in the tournament.
B5Q: In your opinion, what's the biggest upset of this tournament so far, or is there maybe one or two of them that are equally impressive? You saw Stephen F. Austin, you also saw Stanford -- being a No. 10 seed -- take out Kansas on Sunday. What are your overall impressions in terms of the bigger upsets?
RD: I mean, hands down the biggest upset is Mercer beating Duke in the round of 64. Again, I guess that speaks to what I was mentioning earlier about some of the veteran teams and that was a very experienced Mercer team. I think Jakob Gollon, I think he's played more games than anybody in college basketball due to some injuries in six years and stuff like that like, if I'm not mistaken. Even so, to me, that was by far the biggest upset because the two lottery picks on the team -- it was early that this was not a perfect Duke club -- but two guys who I think are going to be super NBA players on the team, to go out in the round of 64 the way they did, was easily the biggest surprise to me.
Stephen A. Austin, oh I sound like Digger [laughs], Stephen F. Austin -- we've been guilting with him so much about it that I just did it. Stephen F. Austin was only a mild surprise against VCU. VCU's a good club, but the other one that surprised me really was Stanford and Kansas. Kansas, again, I thought a team capable of winning a national championship. Stanford, while very good and matching up well with Kansas because of its size, certainly played well during the season but I hadn't seen a lot of it over the course of the year that would indicate to me that they would beat Kansas, but that's part of the beauty of the tournament. You have a one-shot scenario: if you play well, the other guy maybe might not be on top of his game, you knock him out.
B5Q: Before we talk a little bit about Wisconsin, talk about the Capital One Cup. I checked the standings this morning on CapitalOneCup.com, and I didn't see the Badgers up there in the top 10 or ranked really for the men' side. I saw the women's side being ranked third, but with the 60 points with the NCAA tournament, Wisconsin could get up there, right?
RD: Oh, there's no question about it. I mean, this is the time of year when there are prizes other than just the obvious ones. I think that every fan wants to have the bragging rights that his or her school is the best, and Capital One gives you a tangible way to measure that. It's the ultimate bragging rights in college sports to win the Capital One Cup. We want fans to follow along with the standings just like you indicated that you did. You can go to Facebook, you can go to @CapitalOneCup on Twitter or you can just look it up on the internet on CapitalOneCup.com. We think it's a great competition, a healthy one, something that lets schools have a way to assess how their overall programs are doing, and the best thing about it is that Capital One provides $400,000 in scholarships for students -- young men and women who are athletes -- it's a really cool thing that I'm honored to be a part of and it's something that we hope the fans follow along with because points are up for grabs in the tournament right now, both men's and women's sides, are very important. When you go to the standings right now, you see on top on the men's side, for instance, won national championships in one fashion or another. Florida State won a football championship, North Dakota State also won a football championship, so winning the basketball championship could put in a very good standing in the Capital One Cup.
B5Q: You look at Wisconsin, and what's your opinion of the first two games for them? Obviously, you mentioned earlier they survived and had some tests, especially against Oregon with that first half on Saturday. What's your overall opinion for Wisconsin as they head into Anaheim?
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RD: I think that performance against Oregon and that game in general, was -- I deemed it on Twitter, the best game of the tournament, and that was prior to Kentucky-Wichita State. Kentucky-Wichita State probably topped it, but that was the most entertaining games of the entire tournament so far to me. I thought it came at a time where the tournament really needed an entertaining game. We kind of gone through a couple of "rock fights" with teams scoring in the 40s and 50s, and then traditionally, Wisconsin fans know this, but traditionally you think Wisconsin wants to slow down Oregon and kind of be in that mode of very slow-paced games. I think one of the impressive things about Wisconsin is that they can beat Oregon playing at an up tempo, or they can beat a team at a slower pace. American, while certainly not as formidable as Oregon, plays at a slower pace. I think this Wisconsin team is more versatile offensively than any the Badgers have had in recent years. Lot of different guys that can hurt you offensively. [Ben] Brust has been terrific. [Frank] Kaminksy and [Sam] Dekker are a handful, and Traevon Jackson just seemingly, steadily goes along and makes plays for his team. So I think this is a very versatile offensive team that Bo has. Might not be quite as stifling on defense as they have been in some other years, but they're still plenty good. I think they have a great shot to go to the Final Four.
Couple of really, really good games potentially coming up for them. Baylor's playing probably as well as anyone right now, especially through the first couple games of the tournament, but they've proven already that if you want to get out and go, that they can get out and go with you. Wisconsin did that against Oregon, and it will be a good challenge against a very athletic and lengthy Baylor team coming up.
B5Q: You mentioned Baylor already, you have Wisconsin and Arizona in the West region, but overall, who do you see coming out of the regions this weekend for the Final Four, and who do you think will take it all?
RD: Well, I picked Florida before it started, and I'm not going to waver from that. I think with the four seniors and the strength and versatility and just the maturity that they have, I still believe Florida will win the national championship. Michigan State, who I also had in the Final Four, I'll stick with them coming out as well. I think they're playing really good basketball. I went back and forth, to be honest, with the Arizona-Wisconsin pick, and ended up picking Arizona to go to the Final Four. If I redid the bracket, even though Arizona's been very impressive, I would probably still lean slightly to Arizona, but not by much. I'm not going to be surprised at all if Wisconsin comes out of there.
Where I completely swung and missed was in the Midwest. I picked Duke. I think with my second choice would have been Louisville, and right now I'm not so sure that either of those look very good [laughs]. Louisville is capable. Louisville can win, but Kentucky's a difficult matchup for them, and Kentucky's playing very well. It's a little bit tougher I think right now to pick out of that one. That one's the one that's been an upheaval a little bit. Tennessee is a team that I felt over the course of the year really underachieved, but they are capable of beating just about anybody, and they're proving that right now. I'm not going to be surprised at all if they're able to somehow work their way through it from the 11 seed. We've seen that a couple of times in recent years. Teams making deep runs into this tournament, and in VCU's case, making a run all the way from Dayton in the First Four to the Final Four. This Tennessee team is capable, and when they play Michigan, I think it's really going to be a case of how is the game played. If it's a knock 'em around, rough-and-tumble, inside-orientated game, I think Tennessee will win. If it becomes more about precision and Michigan can kind of get Tennesse into chasing their shooters and that type of thing, then Michigan has a much better chance to win. But if I had to pick a team right now to come out of that part of the bracket, I'd still go with Louisville, but I think that one is much less clear to me than some of the other ones.