Today is one of my favorite days of the year. After an extended weekend overflowing with bubbles bursting and buzzer beaters in the world of basketball, 65 blessed teams balance at the brink of bracket bedlam.
Suddenly, everyone is a bracket expert, myself included. Anyway I thought I'd post my picks, and give a little thought behind each match up. So I'm going to go through a region a day until Thursday, starting with....Syracuse
(It's still the East regional to me though)First Round
- (1) North Carolina vs. Play-in Winner - Friday - Charlotte, NC
I don't think I need to give much analysis here. Carolina is so talented that I actually wonder how they lost once, let alone four times.
- (8) Minnesota vs. (9) Iowa State - Friday - Charlotte, NC
Minnesota played a cupcake non-conference schedule. Their marquee wins are against NIT-bound Indiana and Michigan, and an Iowa team without Pierre Pierce. Iowa State likewise played a cupcake non-conference schedule, but boast impressive road victories at Oklahoma and Kansas. Minnesota has beaten only one Tournament team, they won't make it two.
Prediction: Iowa State
- (5) Villanova vs. (12) New Mexico - Friday - Nashville, TN
I was very impressed with Villanova the few times I was able to catch them on ESPN. New Mexico needed to win their conference tourney to make the field. This won't be the annual 12 over 5 upset.
- (4) Florida vs. (13) Ohio - Friday - Nashville, TN
Florida is an extremely talented team that underachieved all year, but got hot near the end to secure a nice seen in the tourney. This Florida team reminds me a lot of the 2000 Florida squad that made the Finals only to lose to Michigan State. I had them picked to lose in the opening round to Butler, but Mike Miller made that runner at the buzzer, and the rest is history. The same could happen here. A talented Florida team will get tested by a lesser opponent for 39+ minutes only to pull it out at the last second
Prediction: Florida (barely) -- Edit: Ohio -- Fuck you, Digger.(keep reading)
- (6) Wisconsin vs. (11) Northern Iowa - Friday - Oklahoma City, OK
Northern Iowa is the one team that you hear the media complaining about getting a bid over teams like Notre Dame. Those teams usually get a lot of bulletin board material from the papers between now and their first round game. Wisconsin plays a slow, defense oriented style of basketball, which keeps games close, no matter the opponent. Look for Northern Iowa to prove they belong
Predictions: Northern Iowa
- (3) Kansas vs. (14) Bucknell - Friday - Oklahoma City, OK
Kansas exploited the RPI this year with early wins over mid-majors who racked up victories they somehow fooled the computers that they played the toughest schedule and thus were the top team in the nation. Going 3-5 down the stretch proved otherwise. I don't even know the mascot for Bucknell (It's the bison. I just looked it up).
- (7) Charlotte vs. (10) NC St. - Friday - Worcester, MA
I don't know what it is, but I have never like Bobby Lutes, or the Charlotte 49'ers. Maybe it's because I never understood why their nickname was the 49ers in the first place. Whatever it is, I'm taking NC ST in this one. They've played very well even in their losses since around Valentine's Day.
Prediction: NC St.
- (2) Conneticut vs. (15) Central Florida - Friday - Worcester, MA
I think Conneticut is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They've really started to come together after being a little disappointing early. They're practically playing in their backyard in MA.
- (1) North Carolina vs. (9) Iowa State -- Sunday - Carlotte, NC
Iowa State has proven that they can play with anyone, even in a hostile environment. They showed an excellent gameplan in their victory over Kansas, slowing the game down, and making Kansas play their game. They will need to force their style of game if they have any hope in this one. Felton and May will prove to be much more up to the challenge than Simien and Miles were, though State's match-up zone could give them problems.
Prediction: North Carolina
- (5) Villanova vs.
(4) Florida (13) Ohio -- Sunday - Nashville, TN
I didn't have the heart to pick the upset over Florida in the first round, but I do here, even though it's just a mild one. Digger Phelps just picked Florida to go to the Final Four. That settles it. I'm going back and changing the opening round game. Digger is such a Notre Dame homer that I'm changing it just to spite him. Villanova takes out an overmatched Ohio team easily.
- (3) Kansas vs. Northern Iowa -- Sunday - Oklahoma City, OK
I'd love to pick UNI again here, but I just don't feel confident doing so. Kansas should win this game easily.
- (2) Connecticut vs. (10) NC St. -- Sunday - Worcester, MA
Connecticut has a chance to go deep into this tournament. NC St. has been playing everyone very close. I'm going with UConn here, but it's gonna be a close one.
- (1) North Carolina vs. (5) Villanova -- Syracuse, NY
Even though I stated that Villanova has impressed me the few times that I've watched them, I still can't name a single player on their team. I may not follow college basketball as much as I used to, but I still should know players names from anyone who I have in the sweet 16. There's no way I can put them through any farther without being more familiar with them. I'm going to claim ignorance at take North Carolina here.
Prediction: North Carolina
- (2) Connecticut vs. (3) Kansas -- Syracuse, NY
Bill Self has never impressed me as a coach. He's an excellent recruiter, but I've watched him get beat numerous times in big games where he had the most talented team. Kansas has more talent than UConn, but UConn gets the benefit of both a coach and players who have been there before, not to mention what will probably be a favorable crowd.
- (1) North Carolina vs. (2) Connecticut -- Syracuse, NY
I hate looking like I went with the "chalk" in this bracket with the #1 and #2 seeds meeting in the regional final, but here we are. Last year everyone was picking UConn because it was apparent, despite their #2 seed, that they were the most talented team. Here they sit again at #2, only this time they aren't the most talented team in their region, let alone the country. I don't think they've got enough guard play to stick with North Carolina. Should be an exciting game that's played in the 80's, but UConn just can't match the Heels punch-for-punch
Prediction: North Carolina
**Note: These picks are purely for entertainment purposes, and if you intend to wager any money based on the predictions I've made here, I suggest you use money that you are not very fond of.