March 15, 2011

Sorting out the Madness

by Dan Bilicki In: Basketball

After dutifully filling out my initial bracket, rethinking plenty of matchups, bouncing a few possible winners off the wall, reading up on everyone else’s opinions, I’ve finally formulated a few opinions about the biggest NCAA basketball tournament to ever take place. Yes, March is going to be madder than ever this year. Here are a few thoughts about the coming tournament.
Southeast region
-Is an upset really an upset when everyone is picking the underdog? That seems to be the case with the Wisconsin-Belmont matchup. Just because one team is conservative (Wisconsin) and the other loves to gamble on defence (Belmont), it doesn’t mean that we’re ripe for an upset.
-BYU’s Jimmer Fredette is going to get perhaps the most attention of any player in the tourney. He’s been taking an incredible amount of his team’s shots and is one of the best pure scorer’s there is. But can the No. 3 seed Cougars make a run with key big man Brandon Davies?
-Florida is the consensus worst No. 2 seed, but could still easily make the Elite Eight. If BYU is as vulnerable as people think they are, there’s really no one stopping the Gators from losing to Pitt in the regional final.
-Pittsburgh has the easiest path of any No. 1 seed. If they can’t make it to the finals, it will be one of the biggest upsets.
Southwest region
-Kansas may not be the top seed in the tournament, but they’re pretty much a 1A. Unless something goes awry, they should cruise into the Elite Eight before even really having to try.
-Funny how Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has recently faced a sex scandal, meets Morehead State in his first game.
-With Georgetown a questionable choice thanks to Chris Wright’s hand injury (he has been cleared to play, but how effective will he be?) We could see a play-in team actually advance. USC could very well handle VCU on Tuesday night and then put up a good fight against Purdue.
-If you think Notre Dame’s going to go far, just remember that they’re a far superior team at home than on the road. You’ll quickly point out that every game is essentially an away game in this tourney, but Notre Dame is only a couple of hours away from Chicago, where it’ll be playing its first two games.
-Another upset special that a lot of people like: Richmond over Vanderbilt. It’s a classic 5-12 matchup that should be entertaining at least.
East region
-Going chalk in this region may not actually be a bad idea for the first round at least. When you get further out, a Kentucky-Ohio State matchup will be tough to call while Syracuse-North Carolina matches up two of college’s best coaches.
-Ohio State is the top team in the tournament and has the players and coach to make a long run into April. Jared Sullinger and Jon Diebler are huge scoring machines and Thad Matta has coached this school to the final four before.
-Everyone loves Tu Holloway of Xavier, it’s just a shame that you may only get to watch him for one game – maybe two. Facing Marquette in the first round is a tough matchup.
-Think everyone’s old favourite George Mason will go on a run? Think again because after a date with Villanova, it’s Ohio State up next.
West region
-Duke may be a No. 1 seed, but it has to do some travelling. Being the tops of the west region is some reward, especially when the No. 2 seed, San Diego State is staying in its backyard.
-Potential lottery pick Kyrie Irving says he’ll be able to return from injury and play, but I don’t know if Duke will be that lucky. He has been out for some time with ligament and bone damage in his leg and who knows how well he would even play if he suits up.
-UConn played one heck of a Big East tournament and Kemba Walker has earned near celebrity status for his championship-winning heroics. But having just pulled off that crazy five wins in five days string, will they have enough gas in the tank for a long run?
-If you’re looking for some Canadian content, Tristan Thompson from Texas is as good as they get. The freshman from Brampton will be a key to the Longhorns’ success. But don’t be surprised if Oakland – with NBA-ready Keith Benson – takes them for a ride in their opening game.

Check back later this week for a link to the Nosebleeds’ officially bracket. The only guarantee I’ll make about my picks though, is that if they’re not perfect, you’ll get your money back.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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