March 17, 2009
Open March Madness Thread
If you don’t care about college basketball, feel free to skip this post. If you want to see my picks, top resources for filling out your brackets, and generally talk hoops, click on the more link.
Projected Elite Eight:
(1) Louisville vs. (6) West Virginia
(1) U. Conn vs. (2) Memphis
(1) Pitt vs. (2) Duke
(1) UNC vs. (3) Syracuse
There are a bunch of teams that I really like as potential surprise teams — Florida State, Gonzaga, West Virginia and Syracuse all come to mind — but other than West Virginia, I see all of those teams running into enormous roadblocks on the way to the Final Four. Syracuse isn’t going to beat UNC. Gonzaga isn’t going to beat UNC. And Florida State isn’t going to beat Pitt. So that leaves me with the Mountaineers — who are playing awfully well at the right time — upsetting first Kansas and then Michigan State.
As for the Final Four: I hate, hate, hate projecting all 4 #1 seeds to advance to the Final Four, but I just don’t see any real upsets this year, with the possible exception of that Pitt-Duke game, which should be exciting. West Virginia has already lost to Louisville twice; I don’t see that changing in the Midwest regional. I love Syracuse at tournament time (doesn’t everyone), but they aren’t beating Carolina. So, sadly: all four #1s go to the Final Four.
One pretty customary strategy in picking upsets goes like this: if you think there’s a decent chance that a low-seed like a 12 or 13 will win, and you’d pick the winner to lose in the second round anyway, then go ahead and pick the first-round upset.
With that in mind, I’m penciling in (12) Arizona over (5) Utah — the winner gets the privilege of being trounced by Wake on Sunday anyway — and (12) Western Kentucky over (5) Illinois. I’m also picking (13) Mississippi State over (4) Washington, even though I’m not particularly enamored of Purdue and even with the misgivings I have about MSU having to play in Portland.
A lot of experts are picking (13) Portland State over (4) Xavier; I don’t see that happening at all, but I do think whoever wins that game is going to lose to Florida State.
I don’t recommend picking any 14s, 15s, or 16s unless you want to take a flyer on (15) Morgan State beating (2) Oklahoma; that’s basically a bet that Blake Griffin still isn’t healthy. The (sane) counter-argument is that Oklahoma beat Texas Tech pretty handily without a healthy Griffin, and Texas Tech is much better than Morgan State.
Other upsets: (11) Temple over (6) Arizona St., (10) Maryland over (7) Cal, and — if you can call it an upset — (9) Tennessee over (8) Oklahoma State.
Saddest omission from the Tournament:
The 10-18 George Washington University Colonials didn’t even make their conference tournament — much less the NCAAs — but they still have the best unofficial fight song ever. Warning: NSFW due to extreme profanity. Also: hilarious.