Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One Person's NCAA Tournament Picks (Which Will Almost Certainly Be Wrong)

Like fantasy football, there is a lot of luck to picking your NCAA bracket. You can study past tournaments, the teams, and the mascots, but none of them will help you as much as a crystal ball. Do you have a crystal ball? Well, I don’t, so I don’t put too much time on my picks. I just go with my gut and see how things turn out.

The smartest play is just to take the higher seeds. They are given better match ups by the committee for a good reason and the committee, whatever you may believe, is not a bunch of monkeys poking at a computer. Of course, just picking the higher seeds is boring and, to quote a Dead Milkmen song, “we’re daredevils. Just like our old men.” There is also the fact that if you actually hit on an upset pick, you’ll feel like a genius and you will remember it for years (like when I picked Drexel over Memphis in the 1996 tournament … not so many since then).

Despite my lack of confidence in my picks (my wife has beaten me in brackets competition in each of our ten years’ of marriage – so perhaps my lack of confidence is warranted), I feel the need to share them in a public forum. I have known for a month that I was going to pick a final of Ohio State and Kansas. It is boring, but they are the two best teams and I would really like to see them play. I’d also like to see Ohio State play Duke, so I put the Blue Devils in the Final Four as well. I know, I know – boring, but smart. To make things even duller in those three regionals, I went with North Carolina, San Diego State, and Purdue joining the three top seeds in the Elite Eight.

That gave me one region to play around with and I went wild! I am not impressed by the Big East in general and Pittsburgh in particular. I usually like the Panthers, but no one really stands out to me from nation’s biggest conference. I didn’t have any of the 11 Big East participants advancing to the Elite Eight (although I do have Marquette pulling off two upsets in the East over Xavier and Syracuse). Florida is somewhat overrated because they have an experience starting five. The parts don’t fit that well so that Chandler Parsons led the team in rebounds and assists, despite a plethora of guards and bigs that should be able to board and pass. Finally, there is Jimmer Fredette. He’s excellent, but I don’t think he can beat teams by himself. The top half of the bracket is going to be black and blue. Pitt and Wisconsin play slowly, but I think that plays into the hands of my upset pick: Old Dominion. The Monarchs knocked Notre Dame out of last year’s tournament and I think they’ll take care of Butler, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin in three games in which every possession is magnified.

On the bottom of the bracket, I am taking a huge flyer with Gonzaga. The Zags have a lot of interesting players and plenty of size. I think Steven Gray will recapture his November magic and Elias Harris will finally prove to be healthy. Center Robert Sacre can bang with anyone. Gonzaga’s first round opponent, St. John’s, will be missing their glue guy in D.J. Kennedy. BYU is missing Brandon Davies. Florida’s guards and pesky, but not the kind that can able to take advantage of the Zag backcourt. That leaves us with an incredible Monarch-Bulldog Elite Eight match up.

It could happen, but it probably won’t. Either way, I am going to watch and enjoy. I hope you do too.