Good evening, virtual class.
I see a bunch of my favorite ladies managed to squeeze in a little bit of spring shopping and they are looking rather splendid with their new dresses. (They all smile in full agreement).
And the guys have their favorite college sweatshirts purchased online, just like me (mine was for Tennessee).
How cool is that!
Well, it is finally time to dive head first into the brackets. Rather than go through each of the 32 second-round matchups individually, I will choose instead to discuss a bit some of the intriguing matchups and give each of them a thumbnail sketch on what to expect. Having seen at least a few games of every school in the 68 team field on both television and online, I do have a pretty good feel on what to expect when you fill out your brackets.
Oh yes, speaking of the brackets themselves–my full picks will be in sometime Monday or Tuesday–so look for that in your inbox by then.
Let us begin on the top left, with the overall number 1 seed–the Florida Gators.
South Region Analysis
They will get to play one of the four ‘play-in’ winners, so to speak (otherwise known as the First Round in Dayton). We do not pick the play-in games, because they are mostly treated like chump change. In other words, it would be like paying for a hot dog with all the trimmings of your choice and a bag of potato chips and a soft drink–your basic campus lunch.
The Gators will either get to play the Great Danes of Albany or Mt. St. Mary’s, who has a .500 record.
The 8/9 game may on the surface look interesting, but it may not be in the final outcome. Colorado has their sixth man, first man off the bench out of action due to an injury and Pittsburgh has not been the same team since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
(Tiffany raises her hand, hoping to learn a bit more).
Matt, I mean Big Z–but why do you think this matchup is not as juicy as…let’s say, George Washington/Cincinnati or Kentucky/Kansas State?
As my 8th grade teacher used to say, “Patience is a virtue.”
To me, this matchup would have been great probably four or five years ago–but I think Pittsburgh at this current time is too talented and Colorado’s inexperience in this situation will probably end up haunting them.
Touching on the other two games in that upper left quandrant of the brackets:
The 5/12 features the “Havoc” defense of VCU and a very hot shooting team in Stephen F. Austin. Although VCU bent on Sunday afternoon, they didn’t break–and I see them breaking SFA’s 28 game winning streak possibly by halftime.
The 4/13 game takes me back to 1994. Then junior star of UCLA Ed O’Bannon quipped to reporters and I quote, “I don’t know where Tulsa is.” By the time the buzzer sounded on that game, the Golden Hurricane outscored the Bruins 114 to 102. Of course, we all know what happened the next year–Tyus Edney goes the distance for the driving layup against Missouri and Arkansas was no match in that final game at the old Seattle Kingdome.
Possible upset a brewing in that part of the bracket, but that is why they play the games.
The other side in the South region has a game in the Buffalo Pod with Dayton playing Ohio State in a classic 6/11 matchup. Classic as in the fact that Dayton came close to beating Ohio State earlier this season, and what Greg Gumbel remarked on CBS during The Selection Show, the Flyers wanted this matchup and they feel they are catching the Buckeyes at a bad time. Aaron Craft is not the same player that he was entering the 2013 Tournament, and the Buckeyes are not getting things done defensively. I predict a close game there, it could go either way.
Even with the health of Kansas center Joel Embiid clearly up in the air, it did not affect their seeding at a high 2. According to former Indiana coach/assistant coach Dan Dakich on ESPN Radio, he listed three keys to tournament success:
- Health, is the full compliment of players healthy to go?
- Rest, are the teams going to get adequate time off from playing every other day?
- “The tournament is all about matchups.”
Enough said on that subject.
The other games will probably be blowouts by each of the higher seeds, so time to move on to the
East Region Analysis
Virginia crawled in through the back door basically, since Michigan laid a big-time egg against their in-state rivals of Michigan State stealing away the Big Ten crown in the final of the 32 automatic bids. Had Michigan won, they would have been the final number 1 seed.
The 8/9 game could be a real barnburner with Memphis of the AAC taking on George Washington of the CAA. Memphis really impressed me before Christmas, and GW had a good stretch of games winning a bunch of times early in the conference season.
But again, I go back to two key phrases mentioned over and over again by Seth Davis, Doug Gottlieb, and Clark Kellogg earlier tonight on CBS:
The eye test and strength of schedule really helped in the Committee’s final analysis. I hope to explain a bit more on those terms when I showcase my brackets soon, so just hold that thought–ok Patricia and others? Just keep thinking happy thoughts!
The 6/11 game may look interesting on paper, but Providence is on a real roll–but you don’t want to wake up the Sleeping Giant this year and that being the Tar Heels of North Carolina. Other years, this would have been considered a down year along Tobacco Road. But simply, they got overmatched by a bunch of speedy teams and their early season loss to Belmont (which I chronicled in depth way back in November) was definitely a pure eyesore that could not get past the Committee.
The 7/10 game of UConn vs. St. Joseph’s also might get a bit of talk too. As Clark Kellogg said, “If Shabazz Napier can do his best Kemba Walker impersonation (2011)…”
West Region Analysis
Arizona finds themselves Number 1 against Weber State, replacing Murray State as the new Susan Lucci of the NCAA Tournament.
But the 8/9 game looks really intriguing: Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State. Many media members and fellow bloggers have all agreed that if Marcus Smart keeps his emotions in check and plays well around the basket, so go the Cowboys. Any of the other prior 15 trips for Gonzaga if this matchup materialized, the Bulldogs would have made simple mincemeat out of Oklahoma State. I just don’t see it this time around. Gonzaga was inconsistent in key stretches and them winning the WCC serves them well once again. But I like Oklahoma State in this one, but in a close game.
The 4/13 game might wake up some people as New Mexico State tries to outgun San Diego State. But the Aztecs have been proving many schools wrong since their January upset in Kansas, so I think the Aztecs might be Sweet 16 bound as long as they play their game and play it well.
The other part of that bracket will mostly be about Creighton. Presuming they get by the Rajun’ Cajuns and Elfrid Payton, they will get the 6/11 winner of Baylor or Nebraska. Nebraska was one of the last teams to get in…so I guess for their fans, they should be happy to be there for the first time since joining the Big Ten.
The rest of the Milwaukee pod looks like it will all be about Wisconsin, but Oregon might put a small scare in Round Three.
Midwest Region Analysis, aka The Heavyweight Division
Three of 2013’s Final Four are in this bracket with top seed Wichita State, 2 seed Michigan, and 4 seed/defending champion Louisville.
Two big questions stemming from the seed process in my mind:
Why was Louisville pecked down to a 4? They should have been a 2 or at least a 3 seed based on the teams they beat this season.
And St. Louis, why put them so high a 5? I could list a whole bunch of teams that did better than the Billikens when it counted most, but the Committee might have seen something that we didn’t.
In the end, what a buzzsaw for the Shockers. I guess the old adage proves itself well,
“In order to become the best, you have to beat the best.”
Indiana did it in 1976, and three decades later, George Mason knocked off three former champions en route to the Final Four.
(Speaking more passionately) I am not saying it cannot be done, but Wichita State has not only the talent, but the desire, the fortitute, and a lot of great defense to hopefully get past the likes of Kentucky and maybe Louisville if they meet up in the 2015 Final Four city of Indianapolis.
The real sleeper game is in the 6/11 matchup with UMass either drawing Iowa or Tennessee. The winner Wednesday in Dayton just might have a real chance at ending the Minutemen’s run.
Speaking of interesting runs, my next blog will showcase my initial picks from the beginning of the season. You will clearly see which schools I got right, and which ones were clear misses.
Take a 25 minute break, go get yourself some popcorn or another favorite snack of your choosing and start going through some cool websites so you can download the bracket and start thinking about which school that you think will cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas come the night of Monday, April 7.
See you all in a bit.