Monday, March 17, 2014

NCAA Tournament Preview- How It'll All Go Down

Come one, come all, to the second greatest tournament in sports (Looking at you World Cup). If you know me at all, which I'm guessing many of you do, seeing as you pretend to read what I write, you know I love college basketball more than any other sport. Where else do you have an entire regular season reduced to a bracket. One team in the country will finish the season with a win. They'll win 6 in a row, and claim the title of "Best Team in The Land." 

Now for us non-athletic plebeians who don't find ourselves on a D-I roster, the tournament offers us different joys. There's the insanity of watching your team win, and the soul-crushing feeling of defeat that comes from watching them lose. But there's also brackets, because we as a people suck and have to try to predict everything.

So I embrace it. I fill out my bracket every year, and never win. But this is the year, I always tell myself. This is the year that I win bracketology, and shove it in every expert's face. I'll get the perfect bracket and win Warren Buffet's contest. Except I wont because I've got a better chance of winning the Miss Universe pageant and finishing a triathlon in the same calendar year.

Here's the deal though- people, for some ungodly reason, come to me for bracket advice. So this year, I'm doing something different. Today, I offer you the result of every game, and why. Don't argue with me. You're wrong. I am the all knowing God in this scenario. Everyone be damned. Except Nate Silver. I love that guy.

Okay here we go:

Round 1 Play-In Games:
Forget what the NCAA says. They'll always be the play-in games to me. Okay, now for the first matchup.
16. Albany v. 16. Mt. St. Mary's:
Led by 3 senior guards, I see Mt. St. Mary's taking the tournament's least important game, and kicking Albany's ass so badly that they'll surrender the title of "Capital of New York" to a city that deserves it, like New York.
12. NC State v. 12 Xavier:
This is actually the type of game I'd watch during the regular season. Okay not watch, but pretend to watch by following key moments on twitter, and then tweeting something pretentious like "That's what happens when you leave TJ Warren open" so that people thought I was paying attention. I'm not. But yeah, NC State, because TJ Warren can't be left open.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Matt Stainbrook plays for Xavier. My God I love Matt Stainbrook. He was almost a good enough reason for me to move them on to the next round. I'm sorry, my sweet prince.
Stainbrook, when he played for Western Michigan

16. Cal Poly v. 16. Texas Southern:
Remember how a few lines ago, I said that Albany/Mt. St. Mary's was the tournament's least important game? I lied. It's this one. In the battle to lose to Wichita St., I say Texas Southern comes out on top, for no other reason than I played with them once in College Hoops '08, and they didn't totally suck (Actually, they totally did).
11. Iowa v. 11. Tennessee:
Okay, real-talk, I actually do care about this game. Great matchup. Iowa was in the top 10 at one point this year, and Tennessee just absolutely sat on Virginia's face earlier this year when they beat them by 34. The Hawkeyes are slumping, and the Vols are peaking at the right time, as they nearly knocked off the Gators in the SEC tourney. Tennessee moves on.

Round 2: The Real Tournament

The South Region
Here we go.

1. Florida v. 16. Mt. St. Mary's:
A 16 seed has never beaten a 1. It's bound to happen sometime. This is not that time. Florida moves on.
8. Colorado v. 9. Pittsburgh:
Well Colorado got royally shafted here. Pittsburgh is a phenomenal team, who always puts up a hell of a fight against the top teams in the country, but just never comes through in the clutch. "But they beat UNC!" Yeah, I said top teams. Not mediocre teams. Regardless, Pitt moves on.
5. VCU v. 12. Steven F. Austin: 
The battle of the "Fightin-Shakas" and the "Fightin-Team-I-Randomly-Heard-About-Because-My-Friend-From-Home-Goes-There." What a classic. SF Austin lost only two games this year, and one of them was to fellow tournament team Texas. On the other hand, VCU runs the Havoc defense, and that's going to skullfuck the Lumberjacks from SF Austin. VCU advances.
4. UCLA v. 13. Tulsa:
You know how we always said that it would be fun to move to Paris for a year? You know, you could study French cooking and I could write and we could take a picnic along the Seine and go wine tasting in Bordeaux? Okay, you know how that people say that Tulsa is the Paris of Oklahoma? 

(That's from "Friends," if no one caught that)

Yeah. UCLA moves on.
6. Ohio St. v. 11. Dayton:
I hate Ohio State almost as much as I hate people who pronounce "Milk" like "Melk." You're the worst kind of people. But they're better than the Flyers. Aaron Craft is playing his 13th, and final season as a member of the Buckeyes, and I don't see him giving up his last chance at youth so easily. OSU wins.
3. Cuse v. 14 Western Michigan:
Western! Ahh! I live near there! But yeah, Syracuse has been slumping lately. This is the kind of game to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They were everyone's favorites in February, and I feel like they'll come back into form sooner than later. Cuse wins, but #ZoneIsForCowards.
7. New Mexico v. 10. Stanford:
In Stanford's first tournament appearance under Coach Johnny Dawkins (DUKE ALUM AYYOOO) and first since 2008, they look to make it to the second round. Too bad that's not happening. UNM takes this one.
2. Kansas v. 15. Eastern Kentucky:
Kentucky slumped hard this year after starting off number one, but they have Julius Randle, and a ton of other NBA lottery picks, so I say they knock off the number two te- what? This is Eastern Kentucky? Oh fuck no. Kansas is going to kill them. And then Andrew Wiggins will apologize because he's Canadian.

The East Region

1. Virginia v. 16. Coastal Carolina:
The guy who lives next door asked me if Coastal Carolina was a community college today. Not entirely convinced it isn't. I take UVA.
8. Memphis v. 9. George Washington:
Sir George Washington, First President, and founder of this great nation, is taking his talents, via some sort of time-machine device, to play Memphis. Sadly he will lose because Memphis is fucking good.
5. Cincinnati v. 12. Harvard:
Ahh, the Bearcats versus the Crimson. On a more serious note, Harvard is legit. They're a good ball-club, and they're very well coached. Tommy Amaker's squad lives to fight another day. Harvard.
4. Michigan State v. 13. Delaware:
Tom Izzo. That is all.
6. UNC v. 11. Providence:
Providence has a great team, as it just proved by winning the Big East tournament. That being said, UNC plays best when no one gives them a shot. Just look at their non-conference schedule/their win against Duke. The Tar Heels prevail.
3. Iowa State v. 14. NC Central:
I'm going to reason with you- I know absolutely NOTHING about NC Central's team. I know we beat them like 42-0 in football, but outside of that, I wasn't sure they existed. Whatever. Iowa State wins.
7. UConn v. 10. St. Joe's:
THROWBACK TO THE BIG EAST. What? St. Joe's was never in the Big East? Whoops. UConn wins, but only because I'm happy that Calhoun doesn't coach there anymore.
2. Villanova v. 15. Milwaukee:
Milwaukee is sneaky. Just look at that second "e" on the end of the word. Comes out of nowhere. But yeah, Nova could have taken the 1 seed. Nova wins.

The West Region

1. Arizona v. 16. Weber St.:
See: Florida v. Mt. St. Mary's. Zona wins.
8. Gonzaga v. 9. Oklahoma State:
Wow, could you have asked for a scarier potential second round if you're Arizona? Oklahoma State has Final Four talent. Marcus Smart, when he's not busy pushing fans, is an animal on the court. He also flops a ton. But that's beside the point. OK State is for real. They advance.
5. Oklahoma v. 12. North Dakota State:
Oklahoma moves on for every reason I said Tulsa wouldn't. Tulsa isn't the Paris of Oklahoma. That crown lies with Norman.
4. San Diego State v. 13. New Mexico State:
The Fab Five were incredible, and they were coached by Steve Fischer. Steve Fischer coaches at SDSU. SDSU moves on. On a real note, they're actually incredibly talented, and could make a run to the Sweet 16.
6. Baylor v. 11. Nebraska:
I don't care if Baylor won 24 games and finished .500 in the very tough Big 12. I have B1G bias. NEBRASKA PULLS THE UPSET.
3. Creighton v. 14. LA- Lafayette:
Two words- Douggie McBuckets. Two more words- Fucking awesome. Copula in the middle: is. I'm a nerd for knowing what a copula is. Basically, Creighton moves on.
7. Oregon v. 10. BYU:
This one is funny, because it's the matchup of the school where literally anything goes (Oregon), and the school where you get thrown off the basketball team for having pre-marital sex (BYU). Whatever. Oregon wins, and rocks their "We Want Bama" shirts while doing it.
2. Wisconsin v. 15. American:
Wisconsin wears red. American is on the red-line metro. So much in common. What's not in common is basketball skill, as Wisconsin has a lot of it, and American doesn't. The Badgers advance.

The Midwest Region

1. Wichita State v. 16. Texas Southern:
Okay, I don't care how a ton of you think this is the first time a 16 beats a 1. It isn't. This is the same Wichita State team that came ONE KARL HESS CALL away from the title game. They can ball. They won 34 STRAIGHT GAMES. They make it 35 here.
8. Kentucky v. 9. Kansas State:
Kentucky has had its struggles throughout the year, but they're just too damn talented. I want them to lose, and I want Calapari to leave and never come back, but talent wins out here. Kentucky advances.
5. St. Louis v. 12. NC State:
So uhh, yeah. Remember how I said NC State can score a bunch? St. Louis is really good at making sure that doesn't happen. They're one of the slowest-paced teams in the country. They take this one. Mark Gottfried is sad afterwards.
4. Louisville v. 13. Manhattan:
Louisville is the hottest team in the country right now. I don't care that I hate Pitino, or they don't have a post presence right now. They're on fire, and very well could have been a 1 seed. They advance.
6. UMass v. 12. Tennessee:
This one was hard to pick, because UMass made the top 25 this year. But Tennessee is also good at basketball, and momentum, or something stupid like that so I can validate knocking another Mid-Major out of the Big Dance. Tennessee wins.
3. Duke v. 14. Mercer:
Yes, I'm a Duke student. Yes, I love this team. But Mercer is going to put up a fight. They have the post presence to make this a real game, but don't let that scare you. We have #ALLJABARIPARKEREVERYTHING.
7. Texas v. 10. Arizona State:
The Longhorns come in with a resume that screams "hey! We're in the tournament!" And then unloads a series of gunshots because it's Texas. One of them hits ASU. Texas moves on.
2. Michigan v. 15. Wofford:
Wolverine born and bred. I don't need to explain myself to you. Michigan wins this one.


The South Region

1. Florida v. 9. Pittsburgh:
Pitt has the talent to pull the wool over Florida's eyes, but the Gators are truly the best team in the Big Dance. Florida wins, but not without controversy, because they're from Florida, and that state is just stupid.
5. VCU v. 4. UCLA:
Havoc v. UCLA. I could give the Bruins a nickname, but I don't feel like it. That being said, this is a cool matchup of defense and offense. Personally, I see the offense winning out, and the Bruins moving on, but it'll come down to the wire.
6. Ohio State v. 3. Syracuse:
I wasn't kidding when I said that Syracuse would come back into form. I honestly expect them to pick apart this OSU team to the point that Aaron Craft, now frustrated that he'll have to head back to his retirement home, will cry on center court, and Thad Matta will have to change his depends. 
2. Kansas v. 7. New Mexico:
Every single year I tell myself that New Mexico is for real, and every single year they let me down. I have no reason to suspect that this year is any different. Kansas advances.

The East Region

1. Virginia v. 8 Memphis:
UVA is the best team in the country when it comes to controlling the pace of play. They dominate teams defensively, and wear them out on the other end with perfect passing for the full length of the day. Memphis just doesn't have the talent. UVA.
12. Harvard v. 4. Michigan State:
I've said it once, and I'll say it again- Michigan State is the best team in this region. They always find a way to win, and they do again. They move on to the Sweet 16.
6. UNC v. 3. Iowa State:
If you'll allow me, I'd like to show you a wonderful twitter account by the name of "ICMeltdown" which takes the best meltdowns from InsideCarolina. It's essentially a compilation of the most bitter Carolina fans on the planet. They'll have more to bitch about after this game. Iowa State advances.
2. Villanova v. 7. UConn:
Now it's the actual battle of the old Big East, except UConn wasn't invited to the new one. There's a reason for that. Nova is more talented, and better coached. Jay Wright's squad moves on.

The West Region

1. Arizona v. 9. Oklahoma State:
You have no idea how hard it was for me to pick the winner of this one. Arizona was my tournament favorite for the entire year until Brandon Ashley went down. Then they became vulnerable. Oklahoma State started the year on fire. They were a top-5 team with National Champion talent. Marcus Smart, though dealing with questions about his discipline, and personality, is one of the best players in the country. Before he got suspended, he was making a case for NPOY. I love Oklahoma State this year. They're everything I want in a team to take down a 1 seed. Except I can't go through with it. Arizona wins behind Aaron Gordon, but just barely. That hurt me to say. I'm sorry Marcus. I'm sorry.
5. Oklahoma v. 4. San Diego State:
San Diego State brings in a defense that allows less than 60 ppg, and puts it up against an offense that scores more than 80. As usually happens, I side with the defense here. That's what happens when you grow up loving the Detroit Pistons.
3. Creighton v. 11. Nebraska:
Creighton has the front runner for NPOY, and has the single most efficient offense in the country. On the other side, Nebraska is peaking at the right time. They're 10-3 in their last 13 games, and playing like a Cinderella team. But I think their fairy tale ends here with a loss to Doug and the gang.
2. Wisconsin v. 7. Oregon:
Cheese is better than duck. Seriously. You can eat cheese with anything. No I'm not morbidly obese, but you can be damn sure I would be if I ate as much cheese as I want to.

The Midwest Region

1. Wichita State v. 8. Kentucky:
Another really hard to pick game. I think Wichita is one of the best teams in the country, and have earned their 1 seed, but wow did they get shafted in the draw. Kentucky in the second round is something that should happen to a 5 seed. Not a 1. At the end of the day, I believe in Greg Marshall's squad, and so Wichita moves on.
5. St. Louis v. 4. Louisville:
This matchup had a chance to happen last year, as St. Louis was the 4 seed in Louisville's region. Sadly, it didn't turn out that way, as the Billikens lost in their first game. This is the game we've all been waiting for though. Louisville's fast paced game against the slowest paced team in America. I think Russ Smith is the difference in this one. His driving ability extends just enough of a lead over the Billikens that they steal this game.
3. Duke v. 11. Tennessee:
I'm a homer, but not without reason. Whereas Tennessee gave Florida a scare because they were able to keep up with the Gator's shooters, I think Duke's ability to spread the floor actually gives them the advantage here. They can shoot the three, but also drive and deliver down low with Amile Jefferson, Rodney Hood, and Jabari. Duke takes the win.
2. Michigan v. 7. Texas:
Remember when this happened? 



The South Region

1. Florida v. 4. UCLA:
And this is where the Bruin's run of destiny ends. They put in a good effort, but everything must come to an end eventually. Florida goes to the Regional Final.
3. Syracuse v. 2. Kansas:
Alright, this is where a lot of you will want to punch me in my very punchable face. I think Syracuse wins this game. Hear me out. Embiid might be back, but he'll be hobbled. They're going to be eager to work it inside to him, which you just really can't do against Cuse because MY GOD THAT ZONE. Syracuse wins this game because Kansas can't rainman threes. Kansas turns the ball over more than most teams, and Syracuse forces more turnovers than most teams. Bad formula for the Jayhawks.

The East Region

1. Virginia v. 4. Michigan State:
3. Iowa State v. 2. Villanova:
So like, these teams are good and all, and I know I should care a lot, but I don't. Flipped a coin. Iowa State won. Cool.

The West Region

1. Arizona v. 4. San Diego State:
I was considering the thought of Arizona having a let down after such a big win over OKState, but then realized that the Wildcats are used to dealing with letdowns, seeing as they live in Tuscon. It's just a slightly better Albuquerque. So yeah. Arizona wins, out of pity.
3. Creighton v. 2. Wisconsin:
I cried writing this. I did. That's how much it hurts me to say that Douggie McBuckets's career ends on this night in the West Regional Semifinals. I'm sorry Doug. It's not you, it's your team.

The Midwest Regional

1. Wichita State v. 4. Louisville:
This is a rematch of one of the best games of last year. The Final Four game between these two teams was one of the best I've ever seen, and I want to pick Wichita here, but my gut is pulling against it. Louisville takes this one in another close game that I hope to God is refereed by Karl Hess.
3. Duke v. 2. Michigan:
We beat them once when they had their only interior presence, the gumpiest man alive, Mitch McGary. We'll beat them when they don't have it. Duke to the Elite Eight.


1. Florida v. 3. Syracuse:
God damnit. I can't. No. I can't pick against the Gators. I can't. BUT I HAVE TO. The zone. But it's for cowards! No. It's damn good. And especially in the tournament when teams aren't used to facing it. Cuse returns to the final four. Boeheim feels on top of the world.

Picture via

4. Michigan State v. 3. Iowa State:
1. Arizona v. 2. Wisconsin:
This is where Wisconsin's wild ride comes to an end. I'm really sorry Badgers. Wait, no I'm not. That's what you get for playing slow. Arizona reaches the Final Four.
4. Louisville v. 3. Duke:
No. Don't make me do it. Don't make me pick against my school. WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DO THIS NCAA. YOU SICK BASTARDS. WHY. WHY DID YOU GIVE US AN ELITE EIGHT REMATCH. DAMN YOU ALL. DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL. Louisville wins. America wins. My heart dies a little.


3. Syracuse v. 4. Michigan State:
Izzo's streak continues. Every 4-year player he's ever coached has made a Final Four, and I don't think his team's run ends here. Gary Harris is a far more consistent player than he was last year. He's finding the right balance between driving and pulling up. Keith Appling is the second best senior in the country behind Doug McDermott, and Adreian Payne is a monster on the low block. I don't think there's a team in the country that can beat them this March, and that includes Syracuse. Michigan State advances to the National Championship game.
1. Arizona v. 4. Louisville:
I've talked about every reason why Louisville might lose some of its games in this bracket, but haven't really touched on why it could win. Louisville is the team we all thought it would be in the beginning of the year. This is the team that could have wrecked UNC, and run the table in the AAC. They haven't lost in weeks, and I don't think they start soon. Between Russ and Montrezl Harrell, you're hard pressed to find a more complete team in the country. They have their issues down low, yes. Losing Gorgui Dieng last year contributed to that. But they truly are the hottest team in America, and for that reason, they outlast Aaron Gordon, and move on to the National Championship game.


4. Michigan State v. 4. Louisville:
Okay. Here we go. The team that will cut down the nets and hear "One Shinning Moment" as everything they've worked for in their lives is realized is... Michigan State. And here's why. Michigan State is built for this game. They have the veteran leadership to match Louisville. They have an equally, if not more-so impressive coach at the helm in Tom Izzo. They have the guards to break Louisville's press in Gary Harris and Keith Appling. They have the wings to punish Louisville in Valentine, Costello, and Dawson. And finally, they have the one thing Louisville doesn't; a big man. Louisville's biggest struggle is the lack of a true center. Michigan State has Adreian Payne, who in my book, is one of the best big men in the B1G, and even in the country. He can stretch the floor (shoots 42% from beyond the arc), and can also be a big bruiser down low. At 6'10, 245, he's the difference maker in this game. Congrats Izzo, you've done it again. Michigan State wins it all.

Think we got it wrong? Want to tell me I suck? Well honestly, I have the same opinion as Tom Crean on that one:
Actually though, I'm just kidding. Please comment if you feel the need to tell me I suck, if you think I got something wrong, or just want to drop me a line.

Happy March Madness kids. The fun is about to start.

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