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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Final Four Preview: In Gus We Trus


Well, friends, it's finally here. The NCAA Tournament, The Big Dance.  Or for those of you that aren't down with the whole "brevity" thing , The 4 Weeks Formerly Known As The Gus Johnson Invitational. Whatever you choose to call it, it's here, and it's time to break it down. And whether your goal is to fill your wallet, or to get a one up on your coworkers, I am here to help. Hopefully more so than Jay Bilas, who as I just read is going with the Top 8 seeds in his Elite 8, the Top 4 in his Final Four, and a title game that features Kentucky beating Syracuse. Sure, that could definitely happen, but as history tells us, it's highly unlikely that those final two rounds of the tournament end up riddled with more chalk than a Harlem playground. The key is finding the holes in the chalk lines, and making those key picks that will put you over the top, even if, for the most part, the chalk prevails...

So, here we go. I present to you a brief breakdown of each region, with the vital info that you'll need to make your bracket the cleanest of the bunch. OR at the very least, I'll put you in a position to look smart before the beautiful and exciting "shit" that is the NCAA Tournament officially hits the fan...

RISE AND FIRE, friends. It's time to start the greatest tournament in sports. And Gus, this one's for you. Time to see if that slipper does indeed still fit...

Enjoy...


EAST
Favorite
(2) Ohio St.

Figured I'd start here, just to get the whole "Ooooo he's not picking Syracuse" thing out of the way. Yup, I'm not picking the Orange. They play in too many close games and they can't rebound, while OSU is likely one of if not the most well rounded team in the tournament. Between Aaron Craft and William Buford outside, and Jared Sullinger and Deshaaun Thomas inside, Ohio St. has the balance needed for tournament success, and the ability to match up with the myriad of styles that could be thrown at them throughout their run. That's why I've pegged them as the favorite to cut down the nets in Boston, and serve as the regions representative in New Orleans. Certainly would be fitting for the Orange return to the Final Four for the first time since '03 when it was also held in New Orleans and they ended up winning it all, I just don't see it happening. They're just too soft on the glass, and I think that's going to ultimately catch up with them...

Cinderella needs a REAL man in her life. A BEARDED man!
Sleeper
(10) West Virginia

Probably sounds a little strange for me to pick a sleeper that will be playing my regional favorite in round 2, but I'm just here to provide you with info, not make your decisions. Unlike the Orange, the Mountaineers are beasts on the glass, especially the offensive end, and that combined with the inside/outside play/leadership of Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant could be that special combination that helps guide the upset minded WVU squad past the first weekend of play. Not to mention they have Deniz Kilicli, and his beard alone are worth at least considering the Mountaineers for a potential Cinderella. Cinderella had a beard, right? If memory serves, it was that fruity Prince Charming. OR was that Snow White? Either way, dude was a fruit, and WVU has the potential to bust some brackets. There...

Most Overrated
(3) Florida St.

I like the Noles, I really do, but just because they have a guy on their team that's basically my age, doesn't mean they're wise enough to navigate this field for the deepest tourney run in school history. They thrived this year in a very top heavy ACC, and while they had great success in winning their first ever ACC Tournament,  I just don't see that success carrying over into the multiple weekend run that would be fitting their seeding. Granted, their offense has been better of late, but they often have trouble scoring enough points to compliment their tough defense, and my guess is that is what will eventually lead to their early exit. How early? Well that, my friends, is completely up to you...


Prediction

After much deliberation, I've got Ohio St. over Syracuse in the Elite 8, and the Buckeyes cutting down the nets and heading to New Orleans. There's a chance I could waiver at the last minute and install the Orange as my Final Four pick, but most likely I'll just fill out another bracket that has Syracuse winning it all. Ya know, just to cover my ass. Don't want a repeat of 2003, where my team wins and I don't profit. That's just embarrassing...although the championship swag tends to lessen the embarrassment a bit...

WEST
Can Buzz Williams dance his Golden Eagles all the way to New Orleans?
Favorite
???

Not sure who should be labeled the favorite out West. Michigan St.? Missouri? Marquette? You've got me. And it's not that none of these teams are good enough to be considered a favorite, it's just that none is head and shoulders above the rest. That, and they all do different things well. MSU controls the pace of games and slows you down, Missouri tends to speed you up, and Marquette more or less has the look of that YMCA team kicks everyone's ass even though they never seem to be running legitimate offensive sets. IT's a crap shoot, out here, and I expect the final results to mimic that assessment...

Sleepers
(13) Davidson/(12) Long Beach St.

Davidson is big, with two post players that were each named (by two different groups) conference player of the year. Not a typical Mid Major with a bunch of outside shooters, and not at all like the team led by Stephen Curry in 2008, if the Wildcats get by red hot Louisville, they could pose a lot of match up problems for any number of teams in their quarter of the bracket...

As for the 49ers, this is a team that lost at the buzzer @ Creighton during Bracket Busters, won their conference tournament, and played one of the toughest non conference schedules in the country. That alone should tell you that they can hang, that they're playing well, and that they shouldn't be overlooked. New Mexico is a tough match up in Round 1, but a win there and there's no reason that The Beach can't dance into the second weekend...

Most Overrated
NONE

Didn't really see a team out West that I thought was set up to fail, so here we are...

Don't sleep on the Lobos...
Prediction

Though I get the feeling that winning the Big XII title may have taken a bit too much out of them emotionally, I'll go with the Missouri Tigers coming out of here with a win over Michigan St....or maybe a win over New Mexico, or Memphis? Yeah, keep an eye on the Lobos, a deep team that reeled of their last 5 and 12 of their last 14. They should prove just as dangerous a mine as Big East Champion Louisville when it comes to navigating through this dangerous region. And Memphis has great computer #'s, respect among geeks like myself, and are coming into this thing feeling disrespected with receiving just an 8 seed. See now why I couldn't find an overrated team? The West is full not only with gritty teams, but gritty teams that won their conference tournament. That's a dangerous combination when it comes to filling out your bracket, so make sure to tread lightly while at the same time preparing to make a bold pick. It's tough, I know, but that's the best advice I've got...

SOUTH
Facebook? Try Eyebrow Book, you maniacal lookin' freak of nature...
Favorite
(1) Kentucky

Losing in the SEC title game probably didn't do much for confidence, but I'm thinking it lit a fire under this group that could eventually lead to Coach John Calipari capturing his first ever National Title. Granted, they'll just take it away from him when they realize he paid Mark Zuckerberg to take Anthony Davis' SATs, but that's a topic for April, when Davis is headed for the #1 pick. This is March, and in March, Coach Cal's Cats are my favorites to win it all...

Don't rule out another deep run for Shaka Smart & Associates.
Sleepers
(12) VCU/(5) Wichita St.

Unlike in the West, where the / meant I was telling you about two different teams, this / means whoever wins this 1st round game is likely headed for the Sweet 16. Granted, that's when either squad will be fed to Kentucky, but either way, picking the correct team out of these two could provide you with some much needed points. Wichita is a veteran team that plays great defense, and VCU is..well, they're VCU. The darlings from a year ago and a team that also plays some of the best defense you will see in the entire field. Not as talented as they may have been a year ago, but that was also a year where many argued whether they should have even been in. So take all of that for what it's worth...

Most Overrated
(4) Indiana

I said it all season long. Win outside of Bloomington, and I'l be impressed. They never did, so I'm still not. Roll with the Hoosiers at your own peril...

Prediction

It should be obvious, but just in case it isn't, I'm taking Kentucky in every bracket I fill out. I don't see them losing to UCONN, I don't see them losing to Wichita or VCU, and I don't see them losing to either Duke or Baylor. Matter of fact, that Duke, Baylor, Indiana trio behind them in the seeding is easily the weakest 2-3-4 combo in the entire field. I suppose that's the perk of being the #1 overall seed, and it should serve Kentucky well in making it back to New Orleans, a place they just were for the SEC tournament...

MIDWEST
Freakin' Henson. I knew he was gonna screw me, I just
didn't think it would be so soon...
Favorite
(1) North Carolina

John Henson hurting his wrist is the type of thing that always seems to happen in the final week of the season. Just the thing to screw with your head, and force you to play guessing games about whether the team you watched all year is actually the one that is going to show up in the tournament. I'm guessing right now, that Henson (a game time decision for the ACC championship) will be ready to go, and with their full compliment of players (at least the ones they've had available for most of this year), UNC should be considered the team to beat out of the Midwest...

Sleepers
CJ Leslie could end up being the relative unknown
that makes his mark in March.
(11) NC State/(7) St. Mary's

You know who CJ Leslie is? Well there's a good chance you will after the opening weekend. The 6-8 Soph is the straw that stirs the Wolfpack's drink, and could very well end up being a major reason that the team that fought so hard to get in could be staying a little longer than most people expected. They played better down the stretch after dropping 4 straight in late February, and the way they were eliminated from the ACC Tournament (more or less by the refs) should leave them with a chip on their shoulders capable of putting them over the top in the early going...

As for the Gaels, they're obviously no stranger to busting brackets, and this year could be no different. They're a tough squad, led by Aussie point man, Matthew Dellavedova, and there's no reason to think that they can't again play giant killer and do to #2 Kansas this year what they did to #2 Villanova just two years before. Granted, they'll have to get by seemingly 35 year old Bob Hummel and Purdue first, but after that, there's no reason this well balanced team can't again defy odds to reach the 2nd weekend...

Most Overrated
(3) Georgetown

A few weeks ago I labeled the Hoyas as my "Meth Lab Team to Watch", meaning they could either implode, or tap into that special blend of magic that could end up making you a lot of money. Right now, I'm leaning towards the former. Granted, Georgetown provides a lot of match up problems with their Princeton style offense and their length on defense, but I worry about the youth of this team eventually catching up with them. And remember, for all their perceived toughness, this is a team that lost 2 of 3 and 4 of 9 on their way home in the Big East. Not to type of roll you want to be on when you're heading towards the tournament...

Ask Ali Farokhmanesh if he'd take Kansas in his Final Four...
Prediction

A healthy UNC takes this thing down, and in failing that, I'd roll with Michigan. I know Kansas is supposed to be great (again), but anyone that knows me knows that I've long since given up on taking the Jayhawks in the Big Dance. As my good friend, Josh Astin, always says, "Kansas is like Pitt. You always say they're gonna do well, and they always choke". It's true. So either heed my warning, and steer clear of KU, or take this as a sure fire sign that they're at least headed to the Final Four. That's another decision that I will leave up to you. Although knowing me, I'm pretty sure I know which way I'd be leaning...


Well, there it is kids. My take on the bracket. Not my picks, per say, but the way I'm viewing this thing as of Tuesday morning at around 10 o'clock.  There are still important play-in games to be played and insightful columns to be read that may slightly tweak my thinking, but for the most part, what you're looking at is what I'm gonna use to help guide my way to a successful bracket. I hope it will prove helpful to you, as well, and lead you to a pile of money so big that you can't help but want to pass a couple dolares in my direction...

Enjoy the tournament, friends, and remember. Just because Gus is gone, and his frenetic and emotional late game calls are a thing of the past, doesn't mean the anarchy that is March Madness will suddenly come to an end. Hmmm or is it? Damn, that's probably a theory I should have looked at before making all my picks. Freakin' Gus. Oh well, hopefully I at least split the difference by listening to this soundboard every minute or so while writing this post. Again, freakin' Gus. Such a legend...

Have a good one, and I'll catch you next Tuesday to recap all the mayhem...


Teddy Williams...
100...

#$>

4 comments:

Frosco said...

Not gonna lie, the FSU "most overrated" blast hurt a bit. If I hadn't witnessed over 9 years of underachievement, I'd be more inclined to disagree with you.

Here's to getting bombed on St. Patty's and no longer worrying that the sound isn't on so you can hear Gus!

Brett Ferruccio said...

If Astin "accidentally" bought tickets to the Regional Final in Boston RIGHT NOW (or somehow "won" them), that would probably guarantee a Syracuse/FSU match up for a spot in New Orleans. I'd give him a buzz around 1 AM tonight, if I were you.

Otherwise, yeah. I'm not loving your chances. Let's face it, Charlie Ward's not walking through that door. Actually, I bet he shows up. And seeing as you already have a 27 year old on your team, I wouldn't be shocked to see him play. You rat bastards.

Anonymous said...

What about Michigan? No thoughts? Got em be bounced early? After watching that WKU vs Miss Valley, did i just witness the worst collapse in NCAA tourney history? Im not a fan of calling this the tournament, but everybody else is..I mean how are you going cough up the bean that many times in the last 3 minutes. DUUUUUUUUUKKKKKKE

Brett Ferruccio said...

I don't like Michigan getting past UNC, so it was n't really worth a mention. They're good, but just not big enough to hang with the size they'll be up against in their region. Never write off a John Beilein team, though.

Fab Melo for Presidente

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