March 22, 2012
The NCAA Tournament is back underway tonight and we will find out the first 4 teams going to the Elite 8. These games have your expected #1 seeds in Syracuse and Michigan State as well as #6 Cincinnati and #7 Florida making it further than I suspect most people had them going in their bracket. In this post I will look to predict the unpredictable and pick the winners of tonight’s games.
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse
The first of 3 Big Ten vs. Big East matchups tonight, showing how well both conferences have been doing in the tournament so far. Syracuse has continued to play dominant despite not having Fab Melo for the entire NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin showed how good they can be by beating a Vanderbilt team many people saw as a dangerous draw in this tournament. While Wisconsin has 9 losses on season, 7 came against ranked teams, and the other 2 came against Iowa, who clearly gave them matchup problems. Syracuse is a long, up-tempo team that likes to push the ball and get quick points. Wisconsin is your typical Bo Ryan team, stressing tough defense and rebounding. While Syracuse is the favorite in this game, I like Wisconsin in the upset.
Louisville vs. Michigan State
This game will be dominated by two coaches who know what it takes to win in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo have been to the NCAA Tournament a combined 30 times, making the Final Four 11 times and both having won a National Championship. Michigan State has had a pretty easy road thus far as a number one seed, but both teams had a scare last round. Louisville beat New Mexico 59-56, while Michigan State needed a late run to put away St. Louis, 65-61. These two teams met in 2009 in the Elite Eight, with Michigan State winning that game 64-52. While these two teams are very different than in 2009, I still think Michigan State will win this game and send the Cardinals home sooner than they were hoping.
Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
Cincinnati wrecked a lot of brackets (including my own) when they upset Florida State on Sunday. They would shock even more people if they continued their streak with a win against Ohio State. The Buckeyes came into the season with high expectations, being ranked 3rd overall in the nation. Having to battle in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in basketball this season in my opinion, gave them a few more losses than predicted, but made them a tougher team to beat. The Bearcats will gladly accept that challenge, having beat tough teams such as Marquette and Syracuse earlier this season. However, I do think Ohio State will be going to the Elite Eight, but not without a fight.
Florida vs. Marquette
While there is no Big Ten team in this game, the Big East has yet another team playing tonight in Marquette. Marquette can score at will, averaging almost 76 ppg. Florida hasn’t been finding it hard to score either, putting up 84 in their last game against Norfolk State. Florida has 10 losses on the year, but 5 came against Top 3 opponents, so Marquette will have their hands full. Florida has won both of their NCAA Tournament games in blowout fashion, while Marquette had a big win in the first round, and a 9 point victory in their last game. That being said, Florida’s opponents were much easier in my opinion and I think Marquette is the final Elite Eight team decided tonight.
March 14, 2012
By now you’re sitting around with only one thing on your mind—your bracket. With only hours before the meat and potatoes of the tournament tips off, you’re trying to finalize your decisions and put your mind at ease.
You’ve been in this situation before, you know there will be upsets, but you can’t put your finger on it this year. There are always a few sleeper teams who seemingly appear out of thin air and become the darlings of the nation. The sleeper teams are the ones that make or break your bracket. They either give you a sense of pride or have you hanging your head in embarrassment for an entire year.
So as you flip-flop between picks, do yourself a favor, keep these teams in mind:
South Region: Wichita State Shockers
Sure, at 27-5 the Wichita State Shockers may not appear to be a big sleeper, but anyone who’s ever completed a bracket knows that picking the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchups can be some of the most nerve-racking.
The Shockers will play the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams in their first game. VCU was last year’s Cinderella, which many will put into effect for this season. Don’t be fooled, as the Shockers are the ones that’ll advance. They have plenty of experience with six seniors and an NIT Championship last season.
Wichita State will advance to the Sweet 16 before losing to the Kentucky Wildcats.
West Region: Florida Gators
The Florida Gators should go into this year’s dance with a chip on their shoulder. How does a team ranked No. 19 before the tournament end up with a No. 7 seed? Good thing the Gators are the best No. 7 seed in this year’s tournament. Before you think they’re a fish out of water, the Gators will make it to the Elite 8.
Midwest Region: California Golden Bears
The Pac-12 conference got no respect from the NCAA selection committee. The regular season conference winner Washington Huskies were left out in the cold, leaving only the Colorado Buffaloes and California Golden Bears to represent the conference.
The Golden Bears have some extra work to do, as they’ll be involved in one of the play-in games. California will have to beat the University of South Florida Bulls before they’re technically in the field of 64.
Regardless of what they have to do, they’ll get the job done, as they’ll be this year’s version of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, who made it all the way to the Final Four in 2011. After all, California is playing not for themselves, but the entire conference.
The Golden Bears won’t get as far as the Rams did in 2011, but they will turn some heads and reach the Sweet 16 before they lose to a tough North Carolina Tar Heels squad.
East Region: West Virginia Mountaineers
The West Virginia Mountaineers may have finished the regular season with a mediocre 19-13 record, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make a splash in the tourney.
The Mountaineers are slated as a No. 10 seed, which is always a good slot for a sleeper. They’ll handle the No. 7 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs with ease in their first game. Then they’ll take on the No. 2 seed Ohio State University Buckeyes, where their size will frustrate OSU until the final horn sounds.
The Mountaineers will then reach the Elite 8 by beating the Florida State Seminoles in the Sweet 16 on a buzzer-beater. Bust out your banjo—the Mountaineers will be dancing.
March 13, 2012
If this isn’t the best time of the year for a sports fan, it’s pretty darn close. This week is the beginning of free agency in the NFL and the trade deadline in the NBA. The MLB season is about to begin and the golf season is ramping up with the Masters right around the corner. Throw in Wrestlemania and there is something for everyone. And I haven’t even mentioned March Madness. It is considered by a high percentage of fans to be the best event of the entire year. Now that the teams and bracket have been revealed, I have a few thoughts.
What is the deal with the locations of these games? I don’t get why the teams playing in the same building are not in the same region of the bracket. Half the teams playing in Albuquerque are in the South region. The other half are in the East region. Shouldn’t all the games in Albuquerque be part of the West region?
Why not us?!
I think Drexel and Washington should have been in the field. Drexel won the regular season title in the CAA Conference at 16-2 and finished 27-6. If you’re not familiar with the CAA conference and think they don’t deserve multiple teams, let me remind you that George Mason and VCU are in this conference and both reached the Final Four recently. Washington is the first school ever to win the regular season title in one of the big six conferences and then get left out of the tournament. Even if the Pac-12 was bad this year, I think they should be in the big dance.
Unlucky Number 5
Which No. 5 seed is going down this year? Wichita St.? New Mexico? Vanderbilt? Temple? It happens every year and usually more than once. Sorry Temple fans, but I don’t think you will be dancing for long. Look for the winner of the California/South Florida game to beat the Owls.
We also know that there is probably going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Some of the best candidates are VCU, Davidson, Belmont, Ohio, and Harvard. I’ll take New Mexico St. They open with Indiana and the Hoosiers are coming off of a bad loss against Penn St. and will be without their senior leader Verdell Jones III.
It’s Lonely At The Top
All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. So who is going to be the top seed that doesn’t make it to New Orleans? I say two of the top seeds are going down and they will be Michigan St. and North Carolina.
So that leaves Kentucky and Syracuse as two of my Final Four picks. I’ve also got Missouri coming out of the West. There is usually an unexpected team that makes a run to the Final Four and my surprise team from the Midwest is Michigan. And I better be right. I can’t afford another finish at the bottom of the office pool.