|The most amazing piece of paper in the world!|
Alright, I'll calm down for a second (literally, because I'm going to hit the roof on some of the things I have to say). For me, this is the single best month of my year. I look forward to it all year and, as soon as its over, I'll immediately start to long for March 2012. It's not that I don't enjoy the other 11 months and all the great sports they have to offer, because I definitely do. College basketball is my favorite sports, without question, and March Madness is the greatest event in sports. Throw in the conference tournaments and it's almost enough to make me stroke out from pure joy!
Before we get into my ridiculous preview, I wanted to just give a big thank you to the Big East for having an amazing tournament. Seriously UConn? You finish 9th in the regular season and then sweep through DePaul, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Louisville?! Really?! Anybody who didn't watch those games should be ashamed! And if you missed them to catch up on Dancing With the Stars then I'm literally coming to your house to poison you with Jamie Dixon's hair product! So you can run and tell that! Homeboy!
Let's move on before I commit an actual crime.
With the games starting on Thursday, it proves to be a loooooong three days of work. You're probably sitting there wondering, "Is he actually going to take two day's of vacation to watch basketball?" Why yes, yes I am. And you might be wondering, "Why would he assume that I would be wondering about his vacation days?" Well, I guess I don't really have a good answer for that one. You know what else I don't have any answers to? MARCH MADNESS! Thus, to "get you ready" for Thursday's festivities, and because I have a lot of free time, I've put together a little March Madness preview. Counting from 1-10, here it is...
1 Complete Idiot...
...Gene Smith everybody! Let's go ahead and throw in the whole NCAA Selection Committee while we're at it. I'll get into some of the horrible decisions later, but suffice to say, the Committee really dropped the ball this year. The biggest issue I have with this years tournament is the seeding. Smith came out yesterday and said they had the seeding done by Saturday night. WHAT?!?!?! THERE WERE FREAKING GAMES ON SUNDAY!!! IMPORTANT GAMES!!! (See, I told you I would be hitting the roof shortly) Didn't anybody take a second to think, "hey, doesn't Gene Smith have an athletic department in total chaos? Isn't he facing a serious NCAA investigation and possible sanctions? Couldn't he be a bit distracted?" And then there's the issue of having very few "basketball people" on the Committee. Look, I don't know who all was on the Committee, and I really don't care who they have on it as long as they don't continue to field a room full of dressed up chimpanzees. And how lucky for Ohio State to have the chimpanzee king as their athletic director!
2 Guys Who Shouldn't Be Commentating...
...Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. I was watching the postgame/pre-selection show on CBS yesterday and, all of a sudden, these two guys are staring me right in the face. Confused, I checked the program info to figure out what NBA game was on and, to my great horror, I quickly learned these two would be doing some college basketball work. Look, it's not that I don't like Chuck and Kenny, because I love them! After hearing Barkley ramble incoherently about OSU (referring to Lighty as a post player) and Kenny talk about OSU's turnover problems (which, correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think they have) it became apparent that neither guy has watched a college basketball game in years. Which makes ME eminently more qualified to commentate. ME!!! Yeah, this is definitely going to end well...
3 Teams That Got Gifts...
...Florida getting a 2 seed. You have no idea how angry this particular seeding decision makes me. I can barely put together a coherent thought on this! SO STUPID! Perhaps if Gene Smith and his minions were lazier than JaMarcus Russell, they could have gotten the seed right AFTER Florida got trounced by Kentucky!
...Connecticut getting a 3 seed. I've already talked about their amazing run in the Big East Tournament. They deserve a nice seed because of that and because of the overall quality wins they have. However, you simply can't forget their 9th place finish in the Big East. Don't even try to argue with me Prince! You know I'm right! Guess it's a good thing for UConn that Gene Smith could carve out enough time in his busy schedule to work on seeding on Saturday instead of jamming them all in on Friday night.
...Wisconsin getting a 4 seed. They scored 33 points in a game. 33 POINTS! AGAINST PENN STATE! ANGRY!
4 Final Four Sleepers...(sleepers defined as no better than a 4 seed)
...Kentucky. I'll deal with their seed later; right now I want to focus on their improved play. I've been critical of them most of the year, and rightfully so. They seem to have turned the corner though, closing the season out with home wins over Florida and Vandy, a road win over Tennessee, and SEC Tourney games against Ole Miss, Alabama, and Florida. Not bad at all. Being honest, I don't think they can win the whole thing. I do, however, think they're terrifying right now. They've always had great guard play and outstanding shooting, but they're making their hay on defense right now. Sounds like I might be building up some false hope! Heartbreak, here I come!
...Washington. I can't explain what happened to them this year. They really should have rolled through a dreadful PAC-10. Regardless, they were clearly better than Arizona and if Isaiah Thomas can get hot (insert sexual harassment joke here) they can go far.
...Georgetown. They get Chris Wright back, plain and simple. This was a top 10 team before he got hurt and if he's 100%, they'll be dangerous.
...Villanova. Don't laugh! I know they're a 9 seed! Look, they were top 10 for a good portion of the year. I don't know what happened at the end and it certainly doesn't look promising for them given their region, but this is a good team. You always have to like teams with great guard play and 'Nova has plenty. I'm not putting money on them or anything, but I won't be shocked either.
5 Choke Candidates...
...Ohio State. Hold on! Wait one second! Don't send hate mail yet. Let me explain. See, it's not that I think Ohio State is going to choke, it's that I think their circumstances might work against them. They are, after all, the number one overall seed, so anything shy of a Final Four would be considered a choke. They got a tough bracket (more on that later) and the matchups aren't great. Also, I had forgotten one of my key philosophies in picking NCAA Tournament games. Hold on, I have to get ready (breathing slowly), OK, let's do this. Never pick teams with crappy coaches. Yes, I said it! Thad Matta is a great recruiter and a mediocre coach. Now you can send the hate mail.
...Texas. Another victim of the crappy coach theory. Rick Barnes is the most overrated coach in the country and he always chokes. I'll bet on it again.
...Connecticut. Five games in five days is rough. Especially when it's the Big East. And all the games are close. And you have one player. And he's a small jump shooter. And he's probably going to die soon.
...Florida. They didn't deserve their 2 seed to begin with! Throw in another case of crappy coach theory and this one is predictable. (Yes, I know Donovan won two championships! I just hate Florida! Let me be irrational!)
...Gene Smith and the NCAA Selection Committee. You thought I was done crushing them! Not a chance! They have one freaking job and there's a million sports fans out there that can do it! How can you screw up this bad?!
6 Potential Cinderellas...(Cinderellas defined as no better than a 10 seed)
...Oakland. They challenged themselves with non-conference games against Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, West Virginia, and Tennessee. They may have only won one of those, but they were competitive in most. Either way, they have a great player in Keith Benson and I'm sure they feel prepared to meet the big boys.
...Bucknell. They play a frustratingly slow and deliberate pace while shooting over 40% from deep on the year. Sounds like a recipe for Cinderella.
...Richmond. The Atlantic 10 has consistently produced quality teams. The Spiders have two stars in Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper who both shoot well over 40% from deep.
...Utah State. They were ranked around the top 15 by the end of the season so this isn't really a huge stretch.
...Belmont. Another team like Bucknell that's excellent at forcing you to play their style.
...Gonzaga. It feels so cliche` to put them in the Cinderella category. They are however, a small conference team and they're an 11 seed. I like their size (Robert Sacre and Elias Harris) but they have to get consistent scoring from the perimeter. Also, I love David Stockton! Is there an O/U on how many times they mention his dad or show him in the stands?
7 Teams That Got Screwed...
...Kentucky. How the heck do they get a 4 seed?! #6 in RPI and #8 in SOS combined with an incredible finish to the season equals a 4 seed? WE BEAT FLORIDA TWICE! I spent over an hour on the phone yesterday with both my dad and Prince, yelling and screaming at this travesty. I need to move on before I burst a blood vessel.
...Ohio State. Let me get this straight. The #1 overall seed gets stuck in a bracket with a monster of a 9 seed, a 4 seed that should be a 2 or 3 seed, the best 3 seed, the best 7 seed........see where I'm going with this? Way to go Gene Smith! Way to take care of your own!
...Missouri. Maybe this is a bit petty but I really thought they were a lot better than an 11 seed.
...Texas. Yeah, they hit a rough patch at the end, but the overall body of work is fantastic. They were on their way to #1 not long ago! Now, they're a 4 seed? Please...
...Utah State. Like I said earlier, they were ranked inside the top 20 by the end of the year and now, all of a sudden, they're a 12 seed.
...Notre Dame. I've got no problem with the 2 seed, I just think they got hammered with their draw. Why does Florida and San Diego State get a more favorable draw?
...College basketball fans. Here we go again! Round 94! Let me complain about a few other things besides seeding. First, tournament expansion is stupid! I had to listen to hours of commentary on how egregious it is that Colorado and Virginia Tech didn't make the tournament over UAB and USC. How about this; NONE OF THEM SHOULD MAKE IT! None of those teams did anything to deserve making the postseason. Also, how in the heck does Michigan State make it in! Yes, their schedule was tough, but don't you have to win the games still?! Gene Smith, you suck!
8 NBA Prospects Who Can Gain the Most...
Preface: Every year, NBA teams stupidly get sucked in by a couple good tournament games and draft guys way too high. And you wonder why there's going to be a lockout...
...William Buford. He's extremely talented, has an NBA body, and an NBA skill set. He's probably a late 1st round pick right now, but a solid three or four games could definitely shoot him up the boards.
...Harrison Barnes. While still a top 10 pick at the moment, he's lost a lot of the luster that had him projected as "The Next Kobe." Still, in a draft with no clear cut superstars, Barnes could shoot right back up to the top if he asserts himself and carries UNC to the Final Four.
...Brandon Knight. Believe me, I'm terrified of this. He's played as well as any other freshman not named Sullinlger, but there's still some knocks on his game. Many see him as a SG stuck in a PG's body. Honestly, I would agree. However, this isn't a great PG draft beyond Kyrie Irving and he could potentially win over a few teams with PG needs in the top 10.
...Josh Selby. He was a top 10 player prior to the season, but questions about his character and shooting have seen him fall faster than Charlie Sheen (not really, that isn't possible). Again, it's a bad PG draft and he's definitely talented.
...Jimmer Fredette. He's already shot up the draft boards this year, but I think a good tourney run could see him inch closer to the top 10. Hopefully he can stay away from tea and coffee for the next couple of weekends.
...Jordan Hamilton. Talk about a rollercoaster of a ride. He came into college last year with top 10 hype. He struggled as a freshman, got the label of being a selfish player (true label) and dropped out of the 1st round. He worked on his game, started passing the ball every now and then, and rose back to the top 10. Then, he struggled at the end of the year, started taking more dumb shots, and made scouts question him again. Who knows what's going to happen...
...Mason Plumlee. He's tall, athletic and he has no idea how to play basketball. Somehow, a 6 game streak of getting offensive rebounds in the tourney last year catapulted him into the lottery. Maybe, this year, an impressive streak of bounce passes will make him #1!
...Scotty Hopson. I may be way off on this one, but doesn't it always seem like there's a random, athletic wing that goes crazy in the tournament and capitalizes on it in the draft? He's probably not even a 1st round pick right now, but how can a guy sporting the Fresh Prince haircut not be successful?
9 Players To Watch...
...Isaiah Thomas. I've already listed Washington as a sleeper team and Thomas is the main reason why. He's a dynamic scorer who can put the team on his back and carry him for stretches. Plus, it's always fun to watch a tiny guy take over a game.
...Keith Benson. If Oakland has any chance of fulfilling my Cinderella hype, it will be because of Benson. There aren't many good big guys in college so Benson will have a chance to dominate each and every game he plays..which, of course, will only be one since I mentioned them as a Cinderella.
...JaJuan Johnson. Love, love, love Johnson. He's so darn lanky! Johnson has to spend less time on the perimeter and more time on the post for Purdue to go anywhere.
...Ben Hansbrough. Hate, hate, hate Hansbrough. And his stupid brother.
...Kemba Walker. I really hope he has something left in the tank because it's fun to watch him play. I will say, to be critical, that Walker is one of the most selfish players I've seen this year. I don't think I would want to play on his team. Still, fun to watch...
...John Jenkins. Here's a guy who's a bit under the radar, but he's maybe the best shooter in college basketball. I'd even go so far to say he's a Stephen Curry level shooter.
...Jaob Pullen. Another great shooter who's capable of going off for 30 any night. KSU gave us some great games last year, especially the double OT thriller with Xavier, and it's probably a good idea to keep an eye on him again this year.
...Ashton Gibbs. The thing with these last three guys is the shooting. They really don't do much else but 3 point shooting means so much in the college game that these have to be players to watch.
...Jimmer Fredette. Did you really think I wouldn't include him? He and Kemba are the two most exciting players in this tournament and they're both capable of single handedly leading their team to the Final Four. Unfortunately for Jimmer, there's no defense for The Honor Code...
10 Potential First Round Upsets...(defined as at least a 6/11 upset)
...11 Marquette over 6 Xavier. I will be picking Big East teams this year.
...12 Memphis over 5 Arizona. Always a couple 12/5 upsets and Arizona is wildly overrated.
...13 Oakland over 4 Texas. Crappy coach theory!
...11 Missouri over 6 Cincinnati. Did I say something about picking Big East? I don't remember...
...14 Bucknell over 3 Connecticut. Does UConn have anything left? I seriously question whether they do and Bucknell will force them to guard for the entire shot clock.
...12 Richmond over 5 Vanderbilt. I'll be cheering for the SEC, but I won't be surprised in the slightest if Richmond wins.
...16 Hampton over 1 Duke. Just kidding. I'd love it though!
...12 Utah State over 5 Kansas State. Everyone seems to be picking this one. Makes me scared to call it!
...13 Belmont over 4 Wisconsin. THEY SCORED 33 FREAKING POINTS IN AN ENTIRE GAME!!!
...11 Gonzaga over 6 St. John's. Nice to see the Johnnies back in the tournament but they've been unimpressive away from MSG. Gonzaga has the experience and losing D.J. Kennedy is a big blow to St. John's.
...14 Wofford over 3 BYU. Yeah, I said it! I didn't necessarily call it, but I said it! Wofford is kinda frisky and they have a true star, Noah Dahlman, that could cause real problems with Brandon Davies gone.
Really quick, here's a bonus number for you!
6 Fat Players To Watch
...Brian Williams. Assuming the Tennessee center isn't still hurt. He actually might be the fattest of these six guys.
...Yancy Gates. Very underrated fat player.
...Vernon Macklin. Fat.
...Curtis Kelly. I'm pretty sure he's fat. I'll double check.
...Draymond Green. Probably the best fat player on this list.
...Kenny Frease. You have no idea how much I love this guy. HE'S SO FAT!
A couple of FYI's for everyone. I will be getting the ESPN Tournament Challenge up for BDT later tonight and I'll post a link. There WILL be a prize for winning. Also, Casey and I are nearly complete with our 2001 Oscars Reset piece. We got a tremendous amount of hits on the last one so hopefully this one is just as good.