So the real field is set and in less than an hour now the “madness” will begin. Who is going to be the “Cinderella”? Who will be the underachieving number one seed? Who will be the team that destroys everyone’s brackets? Who cares!?
Do not get me wrong — I will watch the games of the NCAA tournament, especially the first weekend (and especially tomorrow; better games, I think). But there is something about this year’s field that just leaves be feeling ho-hum about the entire thing. I was not enthusiastic to fill out a bracket. I just glanced at the match-up and felt nauseated. The Texas-Minnesota game just makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a rusted coat-hanger. Two of the four traditional upset matchups — 5 v. 12 — contains a power conference team at the 12 spot…is that really an upset? This year’s tournament has left me feeling disenchanted. And despite the fact that I have written a couple of posts on the tourney, I have really not cared as much compared to past seasons.
Ah, but when the sun rose this morning, so did my excitement. And despite the fact that I really did not perceive any big upsets initially, the more I thought about some of the games, the more I thought that it could be an upset here or there. And it got me motivated. So now that the tournament begins today [to hell with the “You’re Not Good Enough” game that was played on Tuesday…not the start of the tourney], I am excited about the games. And granted, maybe I would be more excited had it not been for the fact that I have been busy with work and research. But, nevertheless, I am pumped. I need a beer!
So, not that anyone REALLY cares about my brackets and the way I see things playing out, I am going to discuss it anyway because, dammit, this is our blog where we are lucky to have three random readers in a day.
I start with the South because everyone seems to end with the South…strange. I initially had no #12 seed knocking off a #5 seed, until it became more apparent that Illinois point guard Chester Frazier would not play against the Hilltoppers. So I ended up taking Western Kentucky with that upset. Another thing that I have had is the 6 v. 11 games being this year’s “5 v. 12.” I had three upsets initially, then switched another one to have all four 11-seeds winning. But I question this game between Arizona State and Temple. Dionte Christmas for the Owls is a solid player, but I have to wonder if other players will step up if the Sun Devils are able to shut him down. In the end, I am sticking with the Owls. Michigan over Clemson — the Tigers have struggled down the stretch, losing to god-awful Georgia Tech in the ACC tourney. Butler will knock off an over-rated LSU team. Gonzaga will make the deep run, taking out a questionable North Carolina team before losing to Oklahoma in the Regional Final. SOUTH WINNER: Oklahoma Sooners.
I really, really, really like the North Dakota State Bison against Kansas. Four seniors in the starting lineup, Woodside is a solid point guard (conspicuously absent from the Bob Cousy Award list of finalist) and if the Bison can get hot from downtown, then they could take out the defending champions. Key word is “could,” as I think Kansas will advance. But I would not be surprised by the upset. Dayton is my choice for the “Cinderella” team that will go deep. Their 6-11 game with West Virginia was the 6-11 I ended up changing (to have the 11 pull the upset). The thing that concerns me with the Flyers is that they do not score a lot of points. But their defense is impressive and I think will carry them to the Regional Finals. Utah will get by Arizona and I am unsure about Siena this year, but not sold on Ohio State either. In the end, Louisville will prevail with a rather easy road. MIDWEST WINNER: Louisville Cardinals.
The most boring region, in my opinion, as the only “upset” I see (and picked it the moment the matchup was announce [because of Eric Maynor, my choice for the Cousy Award among the finalists, at least]) is the same one everyone else seems to see — Virginia Commonwealth over UCLA. But I then have them going out to Villanova. Other “upsets” would be FSU over Xavier and ‘Nova over Duke. In the regional finals, I have Pittsburgh getting revenge for an earlier loss to the Wildcats of Villanova and moving on to the Final Four. EAST WINNER: Pittsburgh Panthers.
I like Mississippi State because of the outrageous shot-blocking ability of Jarvis Varnado (who I think is averaging close to five swats a game) and their balanced scoring. BUT, I do not like teams that make a surprising run through their conference tourney. It seems that they usually bow out early. That stated, I am sticking with my first reaction and taking the Bulldogs as the only SEC school to get a win. I really like Cornell as a team…I just wish they had a better match-up. It should be a fun game with Missouri though. Much like the ASU-Temple game, I have started questioning the Utah State upset over Marquette. But I am sticking with it! The game that I have debated the most is Missouri-Memphis. I absolutely love Missouri’s style of basketball and I think that is why I initially had them going to the Final Four. Really, it is a toss-up where I have gone back and forth between those two teams. Either way, the Tigers will knock of Connecticut in the Regional Final. In the end, I think that reality wins over my gut instinct as Missouri is a streaky team. WEST WINNER: Memphis Tigers.
So, my Final Four will be Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis and Oklahoma. I will revisit this in a couple of weeks once the Final Four is set.
As for now…just a couple of minutes until Madness.