Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Madness Preview

Think of something more exciting! I dare you! You can't!
Yes, it is officially that time of year again – MADNESS!!! As always, I am far too excited to watch a bunch of teams I either know nothing about, or caring nothing about. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to tell you that I’ll be losing my voice someone around Davidson and Montana, but somehow I’m not. Call it self-confidence, call it a lack of pride/shame, call it whatever you like. All I know is that I’ll have 11 full months to work my way back into shape until March Madness 2013, so why not go all out?
Before we get into my ridiculous preview, I wanted to take a moment to get something off my chest. You may not have noticed it when looking at your brackets, but a dear friend of mine, and Laney’s, is missing. A couple years ago, Nick Laney and I fell in love with Robert Morris. I know, it sounds odd, but it’s a true story. Love. Pure, unadulterated love. They faced a tough Villanova team in the first round, and we became so emotionally invested in the game that they’ve become somewhat of a cult thing for us. We started out calling them by their real name, moved on to calling them “Bob” Morris, then called them “Bobby-Mo” and eventually settled on “Big Bob.” Sadly, with their NEAC Championship Game loss to LIU Brooklyn, “Big Bob” will not be a part of our lives in 2012. Such a shame that a 25 win team couldn’t crack a 597 team field. Maybe next year, “Big Bob.” Maybe next year. (Tears. Pouring one out for my homey.)

As always, I’ve been forced to explain to my boss that I NEED to take two vacation days so I can sit at home with my friends and watch basketball for four straight days. You can imagine the type of respect it gets me around here. Anyways, 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 Group That Did A Better Job This Year…

...The Selection Committee! Here’s what I wrote about last year’s Selection Committee, headed up by Gene Smith, “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!”

Last year’s group did an abominable job of picking the tournament, especially in seeding it. Remember how the #1 overall seed, Ohio State, got stuck with Kentucky in their region as a #4 seed? Yeah, how did that work out? (C’mon, you knew I had to get that in!) This year’s group, headed by Jeff Hathaway, did a much, MUCH better job. In fact, I’d venture to say that they did a GOOD job. I suppose you could make a case for Missouri or Kansas as a #1 seed, but it’s not a very good one. Either way, those two were placed with the two “weakest” #1 seeds, so even that worked out well. I don’t say this often, but good job, NCAA. (Now back to your usual routine of making inconsistent, idiotic decisions and blatantly using collegiate athletes to line your pockets.)

2 Games That Shouldn’t Be Happening...

...14 BYU/14 Iona and 12 California/12 South Florida. Just in case I haven’t ranted enough about the stupidity of these “First Round” games, let me have another go. First of all, IT’S NOT THE FIRST ROUND!!! THEY’RE PLAY-IN GAMES, NOT ACTUAL TOURNAMENT GAMES!!! Second of all, why are we having play-in games for a 14 seed and a 12 seed? I mean, isn’t a 13 seed supposedly worse than a 12 seed? So why does a 12 seed have to play its way in when the 13 seeds are just seeded in as normal? It makes no sense! Lastly, the fact that I had to spend a single second of my life listening to a conversation regarding whether or not Cal or Iona should get an at-large bid over Drexel is just infuriating. I. DON’T. CARE. I don’t want to talk about Drexel, I don’t want to get ESPN Mobile Alerts about Joe Lunardi’s Last Four In – just make the expansion go away!!! Thanks so much, VCU, for screwing this all up…

3 Teams That Got Gifts...

...Everybody in the East Region. This was supposedly Syracuse’s region to lose, but that’s all changed with Fab Melo’s ill-timed suspension. While I do think his absence is being slightly overplayed – guy only averages 7 points and 5 boards – he’s really the only legit big man Syracuse has. Even with him, the Orange rank just 219th in total rebound rate, and has struggled to keep opponents off the offensive glass all year.

...The Pac-12. Yes, it’s crappy that Cal has to go through a play-in game as a 12 seed, but they really are lucky to be here in the first place. I can’t possibly tell you what has happened to the Pac-12 over the last few years, but is so horribly bad that it definitely didn’t deserve more than one bid.

...Wisconsin getting a 4 seed. For the second straight year, I’m going to hate on the Badgers for getting a 4 seed! I’m sure some Big-10 junkie will jump all over me for this, but Wisconsin just isn’t that good. Sure, they play their trademark stifling defense, but they shoot an uncharacteristically low percent (138th in TS%) and they struggle to control the boards (81st in TRR). Wouldn’t be at all shocked to see them fall early.

4 Final Four Sleepers...(sleepers defined as no better than a 4 seed)

...Florida. Not only has Florida underachieved most of the year, they also closed the season by losing four of their last five games. Final Four, here we come, right?! Umm…probably not. Look, I’m not saying this is a likely pick, but the talent on this team is undeniable. They have a bunch of great guards, a legit center, and a PF who can shoot like nobody’s business. I have them losing to Mizzou in the second round, but their path is somewhat clear if they can just get past that.

...Kansas State. The East Region is wide open right now, and they could prove to be a tough matchup for the Fab Melo-less Orange. There’s a lot of size and athleticism on this team, and they’ve certainly proven that they can hang with the big boys after wins over Baylor and Mizzou near the end of the year, not to mention a very competitive game with Kansas. If they can shoot it reasonably well for six games, they could surprise some people. (Also, Frank Martin will actually murder them if they don’t.)

...Vanderbilt. I know, you’re probably shocked that I would pick Vandy after they upended my Wildcats! Seriously though, what’s not to like about this team? Best shooter in the country, a solid PG, a great wind player, and a group of tough low post guys. Also, they play in the East Region.

...Cincinnati. I feel horrible about this one, but there just weren’t many options left on the board, and I felt better picking another team from the East Region. But hey, Cincy isn’t the worst pick in the world, right? They closed out the year beating four ranked teams in seven games, showing that they can definitely play with the best. True, their extremely streaky, but if they can get hot for six then who knows what can happen?

5 Choke Candidates...

...Syracuse. You knew this one was coming, right?

...Michigan State. Maybe it’s just the memories of them being thoroughly outplayed by Duke and UNC earlier in the year, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that MSU is a pretty weak 1 seed. Also, losing your best wing defender, Brandon Dawson, doesn’t help.

...Louisville. It gives me great pleasure to put Louisville on this list. I guess you could say they overachieved this year given their lack of talent, but their relative lack of success against top tier teams is glaring.

...Florida State. While I have FSU making the Final Four, I can’t really express a ton of confidence in a team that lost to Clemson (by 20!), Harvard, Princeton, Boston College, and Miami (by 16!). Really, really streaky teams don’t always fare well in this thing.

...Georgetown. Simply put, this team struggles to put the ball in the hoop. Since this is, indeed, a basketball tournament, that’s going to likely be a problem.

6 Potential Cinderellas...(Cinderellas defined as no better than a 10 seed, and not a Big Six Conference school)

...VCU. Wait, didn’t we do this before?

...Xavier. Tough to consider them a true “Cinderella,” but they meet my criteria. I really like the talent on this team, and I honestly don’t understand what happened to them this year. Prior to their brawl with Cincinnati, the Musketeers were 8-0 with wins at Vandy, at Butler, and home against Purdue and Cincinnati. After that; train wreck. Maybe they can get it together for the tournament. If so, they have the horses to go somewhere.

...Long Beach State. They challenged themselves in the non-conference schedule and did an amazing job of holding their own. The wins over Pitt and Xavier are nice, but the losses are even more impressive, dropping one at Kansas by just 8 and one at North Carolina by just 6. If nothing else, LBSU can light it up when they are on, and they have a dynamic player in Casper Ware that could make them dangerous.

...Davidson. While I’m pretty sure Steph Curry isn’t walking through those doors, I am sure that Davidson could pose a problem for Louisville, and beyond. After all, any team that can take down Kansas at the Phog has to be considered here.

...Belmont. Didn’t happen for them last year, but the core of that team is back for another try and Georgetown has often proved vulnerable for Cinderella’s charms.

...Ohio. Our friend, Laney, has an unhealthy obsession with D.J. Cooper, so let’s go ahead and throw them in here for his sake. Also, their first round opponent, Michigan, is an extremely streaky team that seems vulnerable to the first round upset.

7 Potential Second Round Match-Ups I’d Love To See ...

...Kentucky vs. Connecticut. OK, so I don’t actually want to see this game. But, if I weren’t a Kentucky fan, then I definitely would. UConn underachieved miserably all year, and I’ve openly questioned whether they even belong in the tournament given their sub .500 conference record. Still, they have boatloads of talent, and there’s no question that this game would be compelling. If UConn were able to bring it for just one game, this could be a battle.

...Michigan St. vs. Memphis. A game of conflicting styles that would pit raw talent and athleticism vs. basketball fundamentals and strength. Like I said, I’m not too sold on MSU, so I think this could be a much better game than most imagine. Especially with Dawson not around to guard Will Barton.

...Florida vs. Missouri. Wow, would this game be fun or what?! Both teams are free-wheeling, guard oriented offenses that thrive on transition 3’s. You’d have to take Mizzou in a battle of similar styles, but it would at least produce some fireworks.

...North Carolina St. vs. Georgetown. I won’t even pretend that there’s any reason to care about this game other than my random curiosity. Over what, I’m not sure.

...Purdue vs. Kansas. Robbie Hummel vs. Thomas Robinson. That’s all I’m asking for, people!

...Florida St. vs. Cincinnati. Two gritty, defensive minded teams that can get hot from the outside? I’ll take it!

...Anyone vs. Davidson. That would mean that Louisville lost in the first round, which would make me endlessly happy. And it only took me 15 seconds to come up with this matchup!

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 was a lockout…

...Marquis Teague. Took a lot of flack early in the year for his rough start, but he’s quietly transformed himself into one of the better PG’s in the SEC. His jumpshot still needs a lot of work, but his ability to operate out of the pick-and-roll and consistently create plays off the dribble will certainly endear him to NBA scouts. Keep in mind that, of the three PG’s currently ranked above him, only one is playing in the tournament. With a solid showing, Teague could very well wind up in the lottery.

...Perry Jones III. Jones could have been a top 3 pick had he come out last year, if not the outright #1 overall pick. Now, he’s barely hanging on to his top ten spot after another uneven season. He’s got a nice bracket to showcase his skills, and if he can prove to the scouts that he’s willing and able to put a team on his back, he could easily find himself near the top of the draft once again.

...Austin Rivers. Let me be clear, I do not believe Rivers will be a good NBA player. However, I seem to be in the minority on that opinion. His uneven season dropped him down draft boards, but we already saw what a big moment or two (ie. Game winner against UNC) can do for a guys stock. Rivers definitely has a chance to put himself back in the top ten with two or three good outings.

...Bradley Beal. He’s already a lottery lock, but a big game against Virginia and/or Missouri could push him ahead of Jeremy Lamb and maybe even Harrison Barnes on some draft boards.

...Jeffery Taylor. Taylor might be somewhat of an unknown outside of SEC world, but the guy has crazy game. As a freshman, he was a borderline lottery prospect based solely on his crazy athleticism. Now, as a senior, his shooting has finally come around and he looks to be a much more complete prospect. His work against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is definitely not a fluke thing, and if he can bring that type of play to the NCAA Tournament, then I wouldn’t be shocked to see him sneak into the late lottery. And if he doesn’t, then it could be early 2nd round. So yeah, big tournament for him.

...C.J. Leslie. Leslie thought about making the jump last season, but he clearly wasn’t ready and probably wouldn’t have ended up any better than the late first round. Now, after having a much stronger sophomore season, and closing it out with 5 double-doubles in his last 7 games, Leslie appears ready to capitalize. He’s probably a mid-1st even with a so-so tournament, but if he can come up big against San Diego St. and beyond, then Leslie could sneak up closer to the top 10.

...Henry Sims. I honestly have no idea how good of an NBA prospect Sims is, but he’s getting a ton of buzz right now after a strong Big East tournament. After all, don’t we have to have the one token “big guy we might be overlooking that will probably just end up a stiff anyways” prospect?

...Dion Waiters. I’ve always loved Waiters, and this is his time to shine. With Melo out, the Orange will have to rely on a relentless, attacking offense, and Waiters will likely have to be their guy. He’s a complete player, with the ability to get to the bucket at will and cash in from downtown. There’s a lot of inconsistency in his game and he definitely needs to slow down a bit, but he if he can carry the Orange to the Final Four then he might well carry himself to the lottery.

9 Players To Watch...

...Anthony Davis. Best player in the college game, hands down. His defense has always been the focal point, but his offensive game is really starting to emerge as of late. It’ll be fun to watch him on the biggest stage.

...Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. No, I don’t feel bad about listing two Kentucky players! MKG is almost as fun to watch as Davis, as there isn’t a single person in the country who plays harder than him.

...Tu Holloway. He’s blown up in the tournament before, and he can be an endless exciting player when he gets things going. Let’s hope he opts for the three pointer as his haymaker as opposed to his fist.

...Jae Crowder. What’s interesting about Jae Crowder? You mean, other than the fact that he looks EXACTLY like Kenneth Faried? OK, you got me, that’s the main thing. Oh, also he’s a really good player and I picked Marquette to go to the Final Four.

...John Jenkins. Best shooter in the game. Hands down. It doesn’t even matter if you stick four pairs of hands in his face, or even if you jab him in the eye socket with a chopstick…he’s still making the shot.

...Deividas Dulkys. What’s that? No, I didn’t know that Dulkys was a combined 12-19 from three point range against North Carolina this year! That’s amazing! Thanks for telling me!

...Thomas Robinson. There’s a sorta legit argument for him as POY over Davis, though not a really good one. Still, Robinson is one of the few guys in this tournament who can put his team on his back and carry them to the Final Four.

...Jared Sullinger. Speaking of those guys, here’s another one…except a bit fatter and more unathletic. (No way! That didn’t sound like a back-handed compliment at all!) Seriously though, Sullinger is a beast.

...Harrison Barnes. I could have included Barnes on my draft list, but his spot is probably secured no matter what happens in this tournament. Still, it will be interesting to see if he comes up big in big moments. He’s often billed as a potential franchise player, but I’ve rarely seen that type of assertiveness from him. UNC will need it if they want to get past Kansas in the Midwest and Kentucky in the Final.

10 Potential First Round Upsets...(defined as at least a 6/11 upset)

...12 VCU over 5 Wichita St. What’s more powerful; the 12-5 magic or Shaka magic?

...13 New Mexico St. over 4 Indiana. Sorry, IU fans! Verdell Jones III loss hurts, and playing away from home hasn’t been the best thing for you. Plus, NMSU is actually a decent mid-major, and they can score a lot of points.

...11 Colorado over 6 UNLV. I’m sorry, was I supposed to care about any of the Pac-12 teams?

...12 Long Beach State over 5 New Mexico. Another 12-5, and LBSU is a really solid team that has been tested this year.

...13 Davidson over 4 Louisville. Down with Peyton Siva!!!

...13 Montana over 4 Wisconsin. Montana shoots the ball pretty well, and Wisconsin struggles to put points on the board. Sounds at least reasonable, right?

...12 California over 5 Temple. Why, oh why, would I ever pick a Pac-12 team?!

...13 Ohio over 4 Michigan. This one is starting to get a bit too much hype for my taste, but it definitely fits the bill on paper. Michigan is extremely dependant on the 3-ball, and that’s a good way to get upset.

...11 North Carolina St. over 6 San Diego St. NC State finished the season really strong, and I put a lot of stock into the superior competition they played all year long.

...14 Belmont over 3 Georgetown. Wouldn’t be the first time Georgetown went down early, and Belmont wouldn’t be the worst team to beat them. You might not be real familiar with them, but they can shoot it really, really well.

...11 Texas over 6 Cincinnati. I’m not picking this, but I needed one more. So there you go.

Really quick, here's a bonus number for you!

7 Players Who’ve Earned the “Ed Cota Scholarship” (For players who have seemingly played at their school for 12 or more years)

...Draymond Green. I certainly do appreciate a talented fat player. Hopefully he can become some sort of Neo-Diaw in the NBA.

...Erving Walker. Perhaps this will only hit SEC fans, but ‘Tiny’ Erving Walker has been jacking up dumb 3’s since at least the early part of last decade.

...Plumlii. Any and all of them. Just go away. Leave us alone!!!

...Robert Sacre. Prince and I were talking about Gonzaga the other day, and it dawned on me that I’d been touting Robert Sacre for many, many years. At some point, this guy has got to graduate, right?

...Tyler Zeller. Is it just me, or does he get uglier every single year?

...Robbie Hummel. No, you see, he actually HAS been at Purdue for 12 years. Just rehabbing his knees. Over and over. (Too mean?)


  1. Biggest question of this tournament isn't whether Kentucky will win....its how long after they win that they have to vacate it due to violations that Calipari has guess is 8 months


  3. Oh, another Calipari dig. Good one.