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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Rooch Nation 2010 NCAA Tournament Preview

Well, my friends, the time is finally here. It's "The Tournament", "The Big Dance", "The Gus Johnson Invitational"...

It's the NCAA Tournament, of course, and it marks my favorite time on the sporting calendar. I've preached to you before how much I love the month of March, and the anniversary of my birth aside, this is definitely the main reason. The first 4 days are pure fanatical ecstasy, while the tourney as a whole presents a challenge that's second to none when it comes to any sports' post season format. Does it get the champ "right" as often as playoffs with 5 or 7 game series would? Of course not. But what it lacks in definite resolution, it makes up for nearly everywhere else...

Listen to me, ha! Talkin to you about the NCAA tournament like you've never seen it before. You know it's great, or you probably wouldn't be here in the first place! You're here for analysis. You're here for picks. You're thinkin' to yourself, "OK, Rooch. You say you're the man at this thing, so it's time to put up or shut up, buddy"...

Well, my loyal followers, unlike a Johnny Depp and Tim Burton psychedelic remake, I shall not disappoint. Unless, of course, you thought I was just going to hand my picks over to you. That, I just can't do. With so many of you loyal gangsters competing in the same pools as yours truly, and the fact that there are thousands of dollars on the line, it just wouldn't make too much sense. I know all the "experts" don't seem to think twice about posting their picks, but they're already getting paid, and I'm not. Besides, I've always considered myself more of a guide than an instructor, anyway, so instead of spoon feeding a bunch of names, I'll lay all the cards out in front of you and let you pick for yourself...

Matter of fact, I'll even start with a few "bracket tips", to help you get started. Here, feast on these before you actually dine on the main course. They won't tell you who to pick, per say, but keeping a good eye on these tips can help guide you towards making good decisions. But hey, if you know you're shit and you just wanna see who I'm gonna pick, feel free to scroll down. You're gonna miss a reference from one of my favorite Leo movies, and from 2girls1cup, but if you think you're too smart for these tips then by all means skip ahead...

#1 If you've seen a team play this year, and have formed an opinion about them (i.e. "Duke sucks"), then stick with that opinion when filling out your bracket. I don't care if you saw a team play once in December, or if you've followed them all year. If you've formed an opinion, go with it. The only thing worse than losing, is losing while having to ask yourself "Why the Hell did I trust these fools?!?". Like in 2007 when I picked both Oral Roberts and Long Beach St. to make the Sweet 16. Yeah, neither one won even a single game...

#2 When debating an upset, better to be a round too late than a round too early. This is just a math issue, really, but again it's also playing the common sense card. Let's use Duke again as an example. If you think the Dukies are totally overrated, and you want to pick them to go out before the Final Four, take a second and think before you have them losing in round #2 to Louisville or Cal...

Could it happen? Of course it could, and if it did you would look like a genius. But truth is, virtually 90% of any pool you enter is going to have the majority of it's entrants with Duke advancing to at least the Sweet 16, and those who do have them losing will have them out in the next round or two, so the risk/reward of being right on that 2nd round upset is very slim. Granted it could also be the difference between finishing 1st and finishing 2nd, but it's just something you want to think about before you go upset crazy and start picking all the big boys to go down. Losing those games is more like losing 3-4 games in one shot, and can put you out of contention faster than you can say Gus Johnson's Johnson...

#3 This is NOT the NBA. When picking a final score, you're gonna want something from the 120-165 range. Anything north of that just isn't that realistic. And I know that range is big, but depending on the match up, I can see all the totals in that range as a distinct possibility. 120's probably a bit low, but then again 165's a tad on the high side. Ya know, just wanna cover my ass while at the same time giving you guys room to be creative. Obviously there's no set formula for this shit, but there are certain bonehead mistakes you wanna avoid that could potentially end up costing you big. This, is one of them...

A lot of these large office pools, and most pools for that matter, tend to have large clumps of people with the same champ, so as unlikely as it sounds, having the tiebreaker decide the champ isn't really that unlikely. I've both won and lost that way, myself, so take it from me when I tell you it's something you don't just wanna gloss over...


#4 PAY YOUR ENTRY FEE IN A TIMELY MANNER. As someone who has run many a pool, it really sucks the fun right out of it when you have to chase people down to collect their money. I know most of you are used to losing, but those of us that do actually win from time to time, actually like getting our reward before the 4th of July...

#5 And my final bracket tip,
before I get down to some analysis, is more of a warning and a plea than anything else. Please, DO NOT buy into any of that "The secretaries/the people with the least amount of knowledge have the best chance to win", shit. It's flat out bogus. So why, you ask, does the story live on and get passed around as fact? 2 reasons:

1) Whether or not they actually know a secretary that's won one of these pools, everyone feels as if they have because of how many times they've heard the story. It's like the "Kentucky Fried Mouse", for those of you that have seen The Beach, or any of those "college" tall tales, for those that went to college, that every school seemed to have a version of. A raucous, feces filled, drunken 3 way comes to mind from my time at Cuse...not because I participated, or knew anyone that did, THANK GOD, but mostly because a week after hearing the story, I heard it told again from someone who was up visiting from Villanova. It was like 2girls1cup, but there was only one girl...and no cup...and a bunk bed. Yeah, it's pretty damn gross...

AND 2) Because they pick almost strictly favorites, these "novices" in question are almost always at the top of the leader board after the first 2 rounds or so, while the overzealous, know-it-all d-bags that picked 3 #15 seeds to win (Long Beach was a #12, Oral Rob a #14) are stuck at the bottom trying to brag how those 3 teams ONLY lost by an average of 8 points...

Now granted, I usually only do pools with people that are into this stuff, but in my experience it's extremely rare that someone with virtually NO knowledge takes these things down. That only tends to happen when there is a complete breakdown in the bracket like in 2000 when 2 #8 seeds, a #5 and a #1 made the Final Four. I remember distinctly that the woman who won the top overall prize in ESPN's Bracket Challenge admitted the only reason she had those 4 teams in the Final Four is because she had personal connections to all of those schools...

That's a good way to put an end to the tips, too. Showing that it can pay to go with your gut, but that just because you may actually know a thing or two, you're not necessarily a dead man walking...


See? I told you the tips were worth reading. Now, with those out of the way, let's get down to the real reason you're here. The bracket breakdown...

Enjoy...

MIDWEST

Welcome, my friends, to this year's REGION OF DEATH. dun! duN! DUN!!!!!!

Favorite: (1) Kansas

The Jayhawks got the #1 overall seed, and while I wouldn't have agreed with that a week ago, their play combined with the failings of others, has me in complete agreement with the Selection Committee. They've been by far the most consistent, top tier team, virtually the entire season, and their dominating run through the Big XII tourney just proved that Bill Self's deep squad is ready for another deep March run. They'll have the toughest road of any other #1, somehow getting slotted in the REGION OF DEATH, but this tested team, with a National Champion at point guard, should be able to side step through the land mines and find a way to feel the Spirit in St. Louis...

Or if that questionable Charles Limburg reference wasn't to your liking, how about this. When asked about who he was picking to win the Midwest regional, rapper Nelly was overheard saying "You can find may, in St. Lou-ay, where the win-ners are Hawks of Jay". See? That rhyme scheme works far too well for that not to be inevitable. Well that, and they're a really good team and the #1 overall seed...

...kind of like Louisville was last year. And if memory serves they were my pick to win it all. Hmmmm...

Legit Contenders: Top 5 seeds

Lucky Kansas. They get the #1 overall seed, and they get stuck with perennial powers Georgetown, Michigan St. and Maryland. Oh, and I almost forgot they're also in the same region as Evan Turner, arguably the best player in the country. Despite my gushing a few graphs back, all these teams also have the chops to make their way to the Gateway to the West. Or I guess the Midwest, in this case...

Most Likely 1st Round Upsets: (11) San Diego St. OVER (6) Tennessee; (13) Houston OVER Maryland

Here's what I like about the Houston Cougars. They have the Nation's leading scorer, (Aubrey Coleman @ 25.6 ppg) they're on fire after their run through Conference USA to even get a bid, and they were a team that was hyped in the pre season that is only now starting to play up to their potential. Always a dangerous combination...

As for Bruce Pearl and his near return to his hometown of Sharon, MA when he takes his Vols to Providence? Yeahhhh, I don't think that's really gonna work out too well. And the town of Sharon should just be happy I didn't decide to rip it a new one. The biggest d-bag I've ever met is from Sharon, with the second biggest being a kid that worships him. Shockingly, that second tool is the same person that attempted to cheat at fantasy baseball by illegally entering two teams, still wasn't able to win any money, and then refused to pay. Ah what the heck, his name is Mike (not pictured, but hilarious), and he's from outside of Chicago, Illinois. His credentials, other than not paying for fantasy baseball and in turn telling me that somehow I wasn't a man? He's got a huge chest tat bearing the name of a girl that was still in her teens when he got it, and he cried while hugging me and my friends on our "Senior Night" up at Syracuse, despite not being that good of friends with any of us. I had never held a crying man before while looking over his shoulder and laughing, but there we were...

And after that justifiable pasting I just handed him, I'm sure he'll be on ESPN.com @ some point during the tournament for having filled out the only "perfect bracket". That's just how karma and I get down. Actually, more realistic would be Mike coming to my house and killing me in my sleep...Ha ha ha?...

WEST

So, here we go...

You all know who I'm gonna pick in this region, so why bother reading, right? Well, you might wanna go ahead and read on, anyway...

While I do have the Orange tagged as the West region's favorite, their seemingly friendly road to Indy is actually full of some rather predictable road blocks...

Favorite: (1) Syracuse

A week ago I would have looked at this draw and drooled over prospect of my Orange taking this particular road to the Final Four, but 2 less than stellar losses and one dinged up knee later, and it's all I can do to make them the front runner and not relegate them to "primed to fall" status...

With Jim Boeheim saying on Sunday and Monday that Arinze Onuaku was "doubtful" for opening weekend but "could play Sunday", it shortens the already succinct Syracuse rotation from 7 to 6. What should help them reach the Final Four, however, is the fact that of those top 6, all would be the #1 or #2 option on virtually any other team in the Nation save maybe 2 of the other #1 seeds...

Turnovers or foul trouble would be why they wouldn't make it to Indianapolis, but their track record, talent, and "softish" road is at least enough for me to install them as my favorite to win the region...

Legit Contenders: (2) Kansas St.; (3) Pittsburgh; (5) Butler; (6) Xavier; (7) BYU

Between Xavier, Butler and BYU, the West has 3 of the better Mid Major programs in recent memory, and 3 teams that are no stranger to the perils of March. Be careful with BYU, as they've lost in the 1st round the last 3 years, which could mean they're either due for a run, or due for another first round loss..

Pitt OWNS Syracuse, and has since the days of Ben Howland. They're not the same Pitt team from a year ago, but they're still skilled enough and have good enough guard play to make a run...

I still don't really trust Kansas St., personally. They seem to run a little too much on emotion. But they've proven they're skilled, so they aren't to be overlooked either. A little smallish, though, which could end up costing them the deeper they get...

Most Likely 1st Round Upsets: (12) UTEP OVER (5) Butler; (13) Murray St. OVER (4) Vanderbilt

A lot of people are choosing to ride the (11) Minnesota train, with noted tourney veteran coach, Tubby Smith, but I'd look at the #12 + #13 in this region if I were looking to pencil in an upset. UTEP's not nearly as bad as they looked in the final 5 minutes of the CUSA tourney, and Murray St. is a 30 win team playing an inconsistent but talented group in the Vanderbilt Commodores...


EAST

The MidWest may be the "Region of Death", but the #1 team that was done the fewest favors in terms of it's region's #2 has definitely got to be the Kentucky Wildcats.

If I were to build a team to take down John Wall and Co., it would be Bob Huggins' West Virginia club. They have multiple guards to hound Wall on the perimeter, and might be the only team in the Nation that can actually out rebound the Cats on the offensive and the defensive glass...

Favorites: (2) West Virginia

I'll be the first to admit that it's risky going with such a painfully inconsistent club, but basketball is all about momentum, something they have in spades right now. And I wouldn't worry about them having a letdown after an epic run to the Big East title, either. These moonshine makers are hungry for more, and with a favorable road to Syracuse, and the aforementioned advantage against Calipari's Cats, I'd have to install them as my favorite to be cutting down the nets in the Carrier Dome...

They are the best team, playing the best, from the best conference....kind of like Louisville was last year...


Legit Contenders: (1) Kentucky; (3) New Mexico; (4) Wisconsin

New Mexico has some less than desirable match ups, and the Badgers might be slightly dinged up, but they're still the cream of this crop. Obviously Kentucky has what it takes to win the entire tournament, I just think their inexperience, and their tendency to rely on their ability to win on pure athleticism may end up costing them in this one-and-done format earlier than some may expect...

Most Likely 1st Round Upsets: (12) Cornell OVER (5) Temple; (11) Washington OVER (6) Marquette

I've been saying all year that the PAC 10 Champ would make a run, and while I usually love Marquette, I could see the Huskies that actually made the dance (SUCK IT, UCONN!), making a shady run all the way to the Sweet 16. Cornell should be no surprise, as I've been touting them all year, but the trendiness of this pick has got to be disconcerting. I cautioned this too would happen when I was ripping the pollsters for snubbing the Big Red, but as long as the Ivy Leaguers don't come out ice cold after their long layoff, it could be sionara for the champs from the GAY-10. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

SOUTH

If there actually is a true "favorite" in the South, then they're hiding better than an albino in a 3 ton mound of Colombian bam-bam. Baylor is the chic pick right now, sporting a combination of good play of late and a favorable road, but even the Bears aren't without thei gaping holes...

Duke? Yeah, I think I'll pass. When it comes to picking the Dukies, I gotta play the "VHS" card. Hasn't worked since the late 90's, and it sure as Hell ain't gonna work now...

Nova? Few #2 teams in recent memory have looked as bad coming down the stretch. It became more obvious as the season progressed that the Cats missed big man Dante Cunningham, and have failed to come close to replacing his production. They've become vulnerable, plain and simple, and in my opinion have a very slim chance of making it to Indianapolis...

That's why, out of left field, and without the help of any of the so called experts, the team that I decided to peg as the favorite to win the South is...


Favorite: (3) Baylor

I've been screwed before, pinning my hopes on a Big XII team with a good draw, but I expect the South to be an all out brawl that could somehow work out in Baylor's favor. The South sports the weakest #1 + #2 seeds in the tourney, and at best can only boast the tourney's best #11 in the Monarchs from Old Dominion. Who, by chance, are a team that could very well end Baylor's run in New Orleans before they even have a chance to get to Houston. Let me put it this way. Head Coach Scott Drew's Bears are the best of a very suspect crop, but their style of play, and their favorable road, make them my favorite to make it through Houston. That is, if they make it out of the Big Easy...

Legit Contenders: (1) Duke; (5) Texas A&M; (6) Notre Dame; (7) Richmond; (11) Old Dominion

If you don't like Baylor, don't feel like trusting a team so trendy that's semingly come out of nowhere, and don't think the magic from Bryce Drew is going to carry over to his brother Scott, then fear not. The South still has plenty of potential to send a 5 or higher as it's rep to the Final Four, and though I've ripped Duke all year, it's even questionable enough for even they could survive and advance..

And I just wanna pass along something I heard ESPN's Andy Katz say this morning that I couldn't agree with more. I'd pick Richmond over Nova, but I'm having trouble picking them over St. Mary's. Hahaha ahhhh, that's why you gotta love this thing...

Most Likely 1st Round Upsets: (13) Siena OVER (4) Purdue; (11) Old Dominion OVER (6) Notre Dame; (12) Utah St. OVER (5) Texas A&M

Purdue without Robbie Hummell is no longer "Purdue", and ODU is one of the hottest team's in the country. Notre Dame has played well of late, too, but if you watched those games it was a lot of smoke and mirrors. Putting your trust in them for more than 1 win can be a risky proposition. Then again, their also listed as "contenders", so there's always that to think about. Hey, if they can really mesh with Gody back in the lineup, they could make a run. I just haven't really seen it yet...

As for the 5/12 "Battle of the Aggies", it's another ND/ODU situation where either of those teams could easily find their way to the Sweet 16, so tread cautiously. Should A&M survive, though, the boys from Durham might wanna look the Hell out for a deep Mark Turgeon led Aggie squad that can get it done on both ends of the floor...


So there you have it, fellow tourney lovers. Everything you craved, minus my actual picks. If you're still in dire need of someone to tell you exactly what to do, I recommend going here (http://therosenreport.com/ ), and checking out the work of my good friend, and fellow fraternity brother, Mr. Adam "Whitey" Rosen. Whites' knowledge of college hoops is right up there with mine, and you'll see from some of his selections that intelligent people can most certainly disagree...

Now, if you don't mind, it's actually time for me to fill out my bracket. Yeah, that's the other reason why I couldn't give you my picks. I haven't even made them yet! And believe it or not, after I publish this post, I'm gonna give this post a once over myself and begin making my final selections. Then, of course, I need to fill out my Mom's bracket, but that should be much easier. She's aleady given my strict instructions via email from Aruba. "GO CUSE!" and "No Purdue!" You got it, Mom. You got it...

Enjoy the first two rounds, everybody, and I'll be back early next week to break everything down, and let you know who I picked and how my braket is fairing...

No matter what the Christmas song says, this is the most wonderful time of the year. Let's just try not to forget that as our brackets come crumbling to the ground...

Good luck, kiddos. May all your Elite 8 teams make it through the first day, and may all the buzzer beaters be called by Gus Johnson...

Teddy Williams...
100...

#$>

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