So on Selection Sunday, I had to battle my visiting family members, cousins and all, for control of the TV. In the greatest compromise since the Treaty of Versailles, I was given time to watch the unveiling of the bracket in exchange for use of the DVD player for the rest of the night to play old family videos. I feel like I won that deal; got to see the games released in real-time, and I was also able to enjoy some footage of me TEARING UP the Wollaston T-Ball League. Think I hit something astronomical, like .365, with 100 ribbies and 40+ bombs.
But back to the bracket; during preliminary looks and in-depth analysis while picking my teams, 3 of the 4 regions seemed pretty obvious from start to finish in terms of an end result.
The Midwest is snooze city. It’s Kentucky’s region to lose; it’s just a matter of who they’ll face in the Elite 8: Notre Dame or Kansas? I’m saying Notre Dame just because they’re hotter, but they still won’t beat Kentucky. Whoever the Wildcats play will give them a run for their money, but they ain’t losing that early. Besides that, no one else is really noticeable. The one big “upset” I’ve got is Texas over Butler.
The West? Same deal, it’s Wisconsin, Arizona, or bust. I’ve got Arizona but juuuuuust barely. I’m a huge Kaminsky fan, and I’ve warned people about the Badgers since day 1, but they won’t win the region. Arizona will get revenge from last year’s Elite 8. I’ve got Xavier to the Sweet 16; Baylor might be the worst #3 seed ever. UNC is nice but they’ll play Wisco, so yeah no one else is challenging for that region. Top 2 teams there, sorry to be a party pooper.
Duke in the South region might have the easiest, clearest, and most obvious road to Indianapolis since Andrew Luck in 2012. I don’t buy Gonzaga even though I have them in the Elite 8, that makes sense right? Iowa State isn’t well rounded enough, and Georgetown ain’t sniffing the Sweet 16 because they’re Georgetown and they always figure out a way to lose in March; SF Austin beats them in the round of 32. This is such a weak region, looking at you UCLA, and I can’t see Duke losing here.
So by the looks of these three regions, this is set up for a tournament full of the favorites, right?
What the actual fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck is good with the East?! I’m so torn over it! It’s the wild, wild, west, except not! Maybe it’s the extreme, extreme, east?
Man, I’m a try hard.
But nevertheless, this region is unpredictable to say the least. This is where you make or break your bracket, folks, the East region. So how’s this gonna go down?
Well let’s look at the teams. Villanova? Hot, yes. Two losses to their name? Yes. Tough teams faced? No.
I don’t but them one bit as a #1 seed. Arizona is far more suited to be a #1 than Villanova.
UVA? Again, not really buying them, which is weird since they have the best ranked defense in the nation after playing in such a tough conference. But they’ve shown that even if you get a little stride going offensively, they can totally be beaten. Teams in this region can score at will, so I don’t know if they can survive. The question: how long?
So remember when I said that Baylor might be the worst #3 seed ever? Well OU is right behind them. They’re so wishy-washy and streaky, and don’t hold your breathe expecting them to step up on the big stage.
Louisville is dangerous as a 4. As much as I hate Petino, there’s not many coaches as nice as him this time of year. Northern Iowa is legit, don’t sleep on them. Same with Providence, they have the potential to shock some people I think. As does Michigan State, the best #7 seed we’ve got this year. Lower teams to keep an eye on are LSU, Dayton, and UC Irvine.
Let me say this right off the bat: Villanova, UVA, and Oklahoma are not winning this region. Period. End of story. Not happening. Why? Because none of these teams have proven themselves to be worthy of their seed. UVA, maybe, but they had obvious flaws towards the end of the year. Villanova didn’t play many tough teams, and while I hate to use a pun, Oklahoma really saw the wheels fall off the wagon in the last few games.
All three will go onto the 2nd round, easily. Villanova will beat LSU, but by not as much as you might think. LSU has a tendency to sneak up on people. Oklahoma will squeak past Providence.
But UVA falls to Michigan State, and to me that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Tell me, when was the last time that, under Tom Izzo’s control, Michigan State failed to make it to the Sweet 16 with a team that suffered less that 12 losses? Because that has happened, right?
It’s never happened, that’s when.
Tom Izzo doesn’t miss the 2nd weekend unless he’s dealing with a crappy team, like he did in 2007 when he entered the tournament with 15 losses. They’re coming into this year with 11, but they’ve only gotten better after a train wreck of a beginning.
You might be thinking, “Hey Fitzy, this is a different team now! There’s a first time for everything, right?!”
This Spartans squad beats teams at their own game. Take their win a few days ago against Maryland for example: a team that likes to score at will and is good on the boards were held to under 60 points and were out-rebounded. They take advantage of their enemies. While they didn’t score in the extra time, they took this incredible Wisconsin team, which isn’t great on the boards, to OT by capitalizing on 2nd chance efforts and taking away any chance for the Badgers to get offensive rebounds. Tom Izzo knows how to beat any team, and to beat UVA, you’ve gotta exploit that defense. They can do that, for sure, especially by moving the ball; they’re 4th in the nation in assists per game with just over 17. They can play some stellar defense, too, so that combination beats UVA.
Northern Iowa will beat L’Ville, because the Cardinals have had trouble scoring, and that’s gonna hurt them going against the #4 ranked defense in the nation. Close game that I, like many, have had trouble with, but incredible defense will conquer good offense.
And that’s, also, why they’ll beat Villanova in the Sweet 16.
Two things: first, one of the #1 seeds have to lose at some point. UK is laughing at that statement, as is Duke, and Wisconsin is destined to face off against Arizona in the Elite 8. So that leaves Villanova, who is pretty much unanimously the worst of the four top seeds.
Second, their time has come for a loss. Look, they’re good, I know that. They wouldn’t have just 2 losses on the year if they weren’t. But they aren’t great at anything, besides ball movement, like a team with 2 losses should. They aren’t great at scoring, great defensively, or great on the boards. They don’t have great depth; they sorta just role 6 deep, and while Drake might like that idea, I don’t.
UNI is as good as they come defensively, and Nova also has a coach that is prone to dropping the ball on the big stages. Since taking over in 2001, Jay Wright has only made it to two Elite 8’s and one Final Four, which was in 2009, the last time he made it to the Regional Final as well. He’s lost prior to the Sweet 16 multiple times in multiple situations, once as high as a #3 seed. I can’t see Villanova going much further than that considering past history along with the fact that I’m just not sold on them.
I’m not gonna go into the Oklahoma loss to Michigan State too much. Oklahoma has their fair share of weaknesses, and Michigan State will play them like a fiddle. An easier win for them there than the UVA game, if we’re being honest.
So out of all scenarios, I’ve got the #5 UNI Panthers and the #7 Michigan State Spartans. Fun fact: A #5 and #7 seed have never met up in the NCAA tournament.
For UNI, it’s all about efficiency. Offensively, yeah they don’t score a whole lot and they don’t overwhelm teams, but they’re one of the best teams in the land in terms of cashing in on their chances. Same goes for the defensive side, too, but I already went over that. If Seth Tuttle, the best player in pretty much any game you put Northern Iowa in, can do his thaaaang, and the Panthers can hit some threes, then they’ll be tough to stop.
Yet again, Izzo can always figure it out. They’d be rolling at this point, defeating heavyweights along the way, and when they’re hot they can possibly be the best team in the nation.
But unfortunately for Sparty, the luck’s gonna wear off; hey, an Elite 8 run after a dismal start to the season ain’t bad! To go back to Izzo’s past success, he always seems to be a lock for the Sweet 16, but the five teams that he’s coached to the Final 4 or further have all had under 10 losses. They’re good enough in a strange region to make it this far, but the Panters advance to the Final Four in a doozie.
I was surprised when I picked UNI myself. But to be honest, I had to have a big “underdog” in there (I quote “underdog” because the Panthers are a legitimate threat; they should’ve been seeded higher to be honest). I have a #1 and #3 in one Elite 8 (Kentucky over Notre Dame) and #1 and 2’s in the other two (Arizona over Wisconsin, Duke over Gonzaga). Again, crappy regions! I don’t wanna force upsets when I don’t have to, but the East is soooooooooooooo up for grabs that anything’s possible, KG style.
For those wondering, I’ve got Arizona beating Kentucky because you’re a clown if you think Kentucky is going undefeated, and Duke is just too good for UNI. Duke after losses this year is almost guaranteed to go on insane streaks. In the championship game, Duke narrowly defeats Arizona to give Coach K his 5th title. It hurts picking the Blue Devils since I’m a huge Dukie and I don’t wanna pick teams based on a bias, but I legitimately think they win it all this year.
But again, yes, anything’s possible, so I’m totally expecting to be dead wrong about this.
That’s how March works, right?
WRONG yes, yes that’s actually how it works.
Oh well, here’s hoping.