I'll admit it, this year I've had less time to follow basketball than I have in a while. But as someone who spent more than half of their life living and dying--as both a player and coach--for the sport, I still have a bit of feel, not to mention nostalgia, for the game. And I follow it, at least in the news, pretty closely. I have to. My dad was a coach for most of his life. If I didn't it would put a huge damper in our conversations. Therefore, I'm upholding what I feel to be a responsibility and making my picks and observations for this year's NCAA tournament.
Last year, I said it was the most open dance in memory and that I hadn't a clue. Then I wound up picking pretty well:
I even picked George Mason, well, sorta, with my 11 v 6 proclomation.
But this year is even crazier. Except for Florida. Maybe still Florida. There hasn't been one team that hasn't had a bad loss or lull or losing streak amongst all the favorites. Ohio St, the only team that's been close to consistant got slaughtered by Florida. UCLA had been consistant until they all of a sudden couldn't play defense in their last two games. Florida was playing horrible until they seemed to wake up and walk through their conference tourny.
Before I get to the picks here are two observations.
1. The play in game sucks. Jesus, these teams qualify for the "dance" but, in reality, get a showdown in some high school gym on the opening night of the NIT that has virtually zero fanfare. It's horrible, really. Does the committee really believe we need to squeeze in one more 7th place team. What kind of 7th place team even feels like they should be rewarded anyway? In most conferences, this is a long way from first place and pretty close to last.
2. If this tourney is really as "open" as all of the experts say, why is everyone picking nothing but 1 and 2 seeds, with a smattering of 3's (A&M)? And I mean everyone. I saw a rundown of "experts" picks and not only wasn't there a George Mason in a projection, but not one single LSU (4 seed last year) or UCLA and only a couple of Floridas. It's pretty much #1 vs #1 or #2 across the bored. Talk about boring. Sheesh. If the tournament actually played out like this people would stop watching.
Alrighty, then. Here we go:
I'd love to pick Niagra over Kansas because someday a 16 will beat a 1. Not this year though.
Nova over UK in a toss up, since the Cats aren't playing well.
Tech, I guess. This is one of the weirdest teams in the country but they'll win is the good Hokies show.
So Ill - deeefense!
VCU over Duke. Yep. I think Duke should even be a lower seed.
Wright St over Pitt. Why not? One of these brackets is going to be weird. Pitt just got worked over and WS is a sandbag 14. Didn't they just beat Butler (a 5)?
Zags over UI, and UCLA over Weber St.
Florida got an easy road in this bracket and will win round one.
Arizona over Purdue, though I'm not really buying all the talk over super talent. Something is missing with them.
ODU over Butler. The 'ol 12/5, since Butler's been cold lately and they rely so heavily on outside shooting.
Davidson... hmmm. No, Maryland. They were plaing well until recently and have had a great second half of the season.
Winthrop over ND. Actually, Winthrop got sorta sandbagged. This is a great match up.
UNLV (Why do all the experts think they suck? Great coach, nice resume...)
Kind of the group of death.
Marquette (MSU has one guy who can shoot)
Texas, though I think it will be tougher than people think.
G. Wash, since Vandy's been in a slump and QW came out of nowhere this year.
WSU, maybe. Oral Roberts is tough. This should be great.
BC over Tech. Sorry, Coach. I can't see a team that loses to Kansas St by 20 in their last game making a run.
Xavier over BYU, just to make the next round more fun.
LB St over Tenn (5 seniors sounds like a team from last year)
Albany over Virgnia (what kind of 4s and 5s are these and how did Virginia win the ACC?)
Stanford over Lousiville, since they get their point guard back.
Creighton over Nevada
Memphis, since they've been practicing beating up bad teams for months.
UCLA in another nail biter with the Zags
Florida, though I WANT to pick Zona
Maryland. Sorry, no Mason this year.
Oregon, if just because they're so fun to watch
UNLV. Wisconsin lost their big man
Marquette. Yeah, yeah, I'm sick of hearing about NC's talent. They underacheived all year and will pay for it.
Texas, though this game will be great.
WSU. Everyone's forgetting what Dick Bennet used to do in the tourney.
Ohio St. Those freshman are starting to get confident
LB St. Seniors, man.
Creighton, if they stay hot.
Virginia Tech. Kansas has been strange all year. Tech is even stranger.
UCLA, who has been steady all year til the end
Florida. I dunno. I want to pick against them but...
Oregon. Woo hoo!
Texas, cause they're fun to watch.
G'Town in a grind it out nailbiter
Ohio St, who will play down and make this close
A&M. Everyone's trendy pick, probably because they've won a lot of close games, plus are almost playing at home.
UCLA. Kind of boring pick but, hey, I went there. Howland is never an easy out.
Oregon, even though they have no business beating Fla. Billy ball tends to choke more than not.
Texas, if only because everyone is picking G'Town. Hey, they lost to Oregon at home, and Texas plays a lot like Oregon.
Ohio St. This seems like an upset at this point but Oden is going to become more and more dominent throughout the tourny.
Okay, I've got a 1,2,3, and 4. Not exactly George Mason but at least it's not all 1s except the home team, A&M.
In what should have been the Pac 10 championship, Oregon in a crazy game. It's tough to beat a good team three times and, so far, it's UCLA 2, Ducks zip.
Ohio St. Durant will win the Freshman stat line but Oden will dominate the game.
Ohio St over Oregon. I picked em at the start of the year. They're young and should be getting better all of the time. No team really has an answer for Oden. Well, maybe G'Town but they're getting shot down earlier.
So there you go. Bet the farm on it. Or not.