I used to be a sucker for a golden bracket (ie. only filling out one - or at least using the same template for each contest) but these days I'm an egregious multi-bracketer... but a pattern is beginning to emerge from my bracket chaos.
I'm not sure what all the twitter hulabaloo is about the South. I have a really tough time buying anyone but Kentucky coming out of this region. With IU's loss of Verdell Jones UK lost its only significant competitor in the top of the bracket. Can IU be dangerous? Sure, but they are going to have their hands full with Witchita State. Duke, Baylor, or UNLV could come out of the bottom half depending on how the 3s drop. But it won't matter in the regional final unless Kentucky once again decides to turn the difficulty way up and win a regional final while shooting sub 15% from 3 (a la the 2010 team). Barring suicidal tactics UK gets another (pending NCAA investigation) final four banner for Calipari.
Somehow, over the years, Izzo's PP-TPW rhetoric, focus on effort plays and developing un-sexy skills (like rebounding), and self effacing manner have convinced the media that MSU is little more than the scrapiest, plodding, grind-it-out team to ever walk the face of college basketball. That is until we are unleashed from the shackles of big ten play by the NCAA tournament and consistently run with (and over) the fastest paced teams in the land. Once again we'll have to prove the the citizen-soldiers of East Lansing are able to outrun a bevy of birds, beasts, and big cats if we are to triumph over the wild west.
I'm on my third day of griping about our draw, but the truth is that it could have been worse. No, our 1 seed doesn't buy us a free ticket to the sweet sixteen, but rational beings (which eliminates virtually all of the mainstream media) should favor us in every potential game in our region - which is as much as you can ask for. As with any region, a timely three point barrage could turn everything on its head, but in pouring over the numbers it is becoming increasingly obvious than not seeing MSU and Mizzou (or at least Marquette) face off in the elite would be a surprise. Last night my dreams were full of visions of Derrick Payne powering, spinning, and jumping their way through Mizzou's thin front line. This of course answered the question as to *how* our metaphorical group of bandy legged hoplites can escape the twin tigers of the midwest: get on our horses and ride 'em. MSU goes right through.
I had the misfortune of living in upstate NY during (the original) 'Melo's brief reign as tourney king, and watching the bandwagon Yankee caps turn to Syracuse Orange in mid-March left me with a permanent bad taste in my mouth regarding the Orangemen. Despite that, now they are a fanbase with some room to gripe. No they didn't win the Big East Tourney - but they were going to be the nominal #2 overall regardless of what happened to them over the last few weeks, and then the committee sets them up like this? Syracuse defends, shoots well, gets to the line and causes TOs (check out the awesome radar plots in Luke Winn's latest). What they don't do is rebound - at all. Who does the NCAA committee send lurking in the bottom half of the bracket but two big teams that can rebound the basketball in OSU and FSU. Not to mention a potential matchup with Kansas State in the second round, a team that gets after the glass like they are afraid coach Frank Martin would flay them alive if they don't (because he would). As bad as this bracket looks to me for Syracuse, I think it shapes up perfectly for OSU. Florida State is a stout team - but history says they can't keep shooting the 3 the way they did in the ACC tourney. Besides, note to Roy Williams: Three point defense may not be heavily defense dependent, but surely you might want to have one of your players guard someone on the perimeter from time to time. tOSU and their band march on through to the final four.
Everyone is looking west for the wildness, but I think upsets are much more likely in the heartland. At least in the early rounds. Ohio's draw sets up perfectly for a run to the Sweet Sixteen. We all know that UM has been playing a mid major brand of ball this year (not that theres anything wrong with that!) with suspect D a few good shooters, a few
dirty scrappy players, and an excellent point guard that can carry them to wins. Unfortunately for our friends down 96/23 they seem to be exactly the type of team that the Bobcats feast on. UM's mediocrity also seems to shine brightest away from home, and if the Bobcats can make a game of it through halftime everyone knows that a neutral site can turn into a road environment pretty quickly if a double digit seed is showing some feistiness. Oh yeah. Belmont too. Georgetown overachieved this year (and frankly was also overseeded with a three). GTIII's teams have also had their troubles in the NCAAs. I haven't seen Belmont play at all this year, so I'm going on stats, and eye witness accounts of talking heads here, so I'm sure you know what that is worth. Still, I think this region sets up the best for the little guy.. at least until they run into UNC and KU in the round of 16. KU is as solid a team as there is in the country and they have the softest half bracket as well. I think 10 seeded Purdue is the only team that will give them a game deep into the second half until the regional final. UNC will have to bestir itself and play at least a little D to get past Creighton, but fortunately for the 'Hells the bluejay don't play defense at all. The sweet run of the Bobcats end under the runaway wheels of a second half Tarheel outburst that break open a surprisingly close game. In the final I think KU's all around game comes out ahead UNC's firepower - but obviously this could go either way.
Two 1s and two 2s? Pretty chalky. I know. Still, I feel like the middle and the bottom of the bracket are both weaker than they have been in some time which really makes me question the validity of bracket expansion. For every year when deserving teams are left out, we have one like this where the last 4-5 teams in look a lot more like NIT teams than NCAA ones. Besides, its easier to pick a 4/5 seed to go to the final four when *we* are a 4/5.
My heart says go with Green, but my mind is filled with visions of apocalyptic Davis blocks of Nix's dipsy-doo moves to go along with a bunch of Appling/Wood layups pinned to the backboard. Maybe if we can get someone in foul trouble? MSU could certainly win this game if we get there but Kentucky is going to be correctly favored. I'd guess we win slightly more than 1/3 against Calipari's to-be-vacated-later boys. On the other side, KU gets out-balanced by OSU who gets another throwback performance by Buford to squeak into the national final. tOSU versus Kentucky? Ugh. How did it come to this? In a strange twist of fate OSU thinks they might actually benefit from an NCAA investigation when news breaks early Monday morning that Anthony Davis's unibrow is actually a tattoo paid for by a UK booster - but instead the NCAA issue a statement saying that "while technically a violation of NCAA rules, that thing is weirdly cool" and allows him to play, ending there statement with "besides, thats the least of the violations Calipari and cabal are guilty of this year". Sullinger is thrown out of the actual game on a quick double technical for trash talking Davis after making a four foot uncontested bunny and then dry humping the head of officiating (sitting courtside) in continued celebration. This leads to a comfortable UK win, which the Kentucky faithful are allowed to enjoy for ~18 months until... well you know.