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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So What? So Let's Dance!: 2013 NCAA Tournament Preview


Anyone who knows me, knows that there are two defining characteristics of my personality when it comes to sports. My love for college basketball, and my constant paranoia concerning the "sports Gods" and their penchant for fucking with my mind. Two things that will be on prominent display over the next few weeks thanks to the mind bogglingly difficult bracket that the NCAA Tournament committee decided to release on Saturday night. Especially since they saw fit to put 4 of my Top 10  teams in one region (STL, LVILLE, MSU, DUKE) , and the team I've been touting all year as underrated (NC State) in the same 4 team group with the team (Indiana) that I've had ranked #1 for a good chunk of the season...

But yeah, no. I'm just paranoid. Not like NC State could have been easily swapped with Pitt (no other ACC teams in that half of the draw), and been able to more easily knock of Gonzaga. OR St. Louis swapped for Michigan (yes, I get that VCU is there. But still...), which would have given them a shot at the always shady Jayhawks. Nah, that would have been too easy. And nothing that easy would have ever been any fun. Profitable? Most definitely. And I'm sure I would have had fun spending that money. But per usual, I'm more interested in the madness than the money. Even though, to quote Jason Lee in Almost Famous, "Some money would be nice!"...

And that's where this post comes in. I'm here now, in all my nerdy glory, to help guide you through the madness. To allow you access to the virtual mess of post it notes and John Nash type ramblings that is my knowledge of this season in college basketball. The chance to make heads or tails of my "beautiful mind", and try to use whatever useful strands you find to at least bring some respectability to your bracket entries. I say "entries" instead of "entry", because this year's field is that wide open, and I'm not some purist that's opposed to making money. And I say "beautiful mind", because I like subtle movie references. Even if they're not very subtle at all and actually accompanied by a picture and a hyperlink...

But no time for movies, except of course that movie that's about to unfold before our very eyes in the next few weeks. But that's just a metaphor, and we don't have time for those right now, either. It's time to dance...which I guess in itself, actually is a metaphor. So maybe we do have some time? Hmmmmmm. Interesting development. But no time for that, either. Unless there is. At this point, even I'm no longer sure. But what I am sure of, is that the greatest event in all of sports is upon us. And that unless I stop rambling, you'll never actually make it to the part where I give you the advice. So let's do that...

Hope you enjoy. Lord knows I will...

EAST

Best Potential Spoilers: (8) NC State; (11) Bucknell; (14) Davidson

You all know how I feel about the Wolfpack. They're long, they're athletic, and while they're usually suspect defensively, they tend to show up and play good D in "big" games. None bigger than the ones over the next few weeks. And on the 30th anniversary of the miracle run made by Jimmy V and NC State in '83? Talk about tailor made for TV...

Bucknell? They've got big man, Mike Muscala. Who averages 19 and 12 per game. A tough match up for any team, let alone a Butler squad that hasn't exactly played it's best basketball down the stretch, and isn't exactly known for it's toughness on the inside...

As for Davidson, it's tough to ignore a 17 game winning streak. They also have the benefit of in a great quad with Marquette and Butler. Who haven't exactly been lighting the world on fire of late. And Bucknell, a mid major power, but not someone that the Wildcats would be looking at as a major stumbling block...

Most Overrated: (4) Syracuse

I hate to do this, but I have to call out my inefficient Orange. They're still incredibly clunky on offense when James Southerland isn't nailing 30 footers, and while they're 2-3 should still "surprise" teams from the West, for whatever reason. I'll be surprised if they live up to their seeding and find themselves playing on the second weekend. Remember, they won't be playing any of these games in MSG or the Dome. The only places they seem to able to win, this season. That shocking win at Louisville aside...


Winner: (1) Indiana

The Miami Hurricanes are playing really well, but they're still far too inconsistent for my liking. Granted, motivation shouldn't be a problem for them over the next few weeks. But still. They fall asleep too often, and it's bound to bite 'em. Either way, the Hoosiers are more talented than Miami. And I'm expecting Victor Oladipo to shine even brighter than he did at the start of the year,  leading Tom Crean back to the Final Four on the 10th anniversary of his trip with Marquette and Dwayne Wade...

WEST
LET'S GO BRU-INS! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)
Best Potential Spoiler: (11) Belmont

What? I love the Bruins. You didn't know? Especially when those Bruins happen to be one of the most efficient shooting teams in the country (#2 nationally in effective FG %). They'll struggle with size, but they're that typical mid major team that plays well as a unit and will beat more "talented" teams by forcing them to adapt to their style. Looking for a double digit seed to make the sweet 16? Got a fetish for all things "Bruin"? Well, then these could be your boys...

Most Overrated: (4) Kansas St.

Yet another #4 that probably could have been moved for my Billikens. But I digress. My problem with Kansas St. is that time and time again, then didn't pass my eye test when I watched them play. They can guard, and score from multiple positions. But just not with any consistency against some of the country's better teams. They may have had only 7 losses, but they were pretty much to every decent team they played. Nit picky, yes. But I just wouldn't trust this team much further than their first game...


Winner: (2) Ohio St.

Thad Matta's got a proven track record, now. So feel free to ignore that the Bucks still can't regularly score and have a white point guard whose shooting range ends at that dotted line where people park out to take charges. This is a complete team, and it's playing it's best ball. That's always a trait that goes a long way in my book when it comes to filling out my bracket...

My "hedge" here, would be Gonzaga, New Mexico or Wisconsin. All great teams, just none as complete as THE Ohio St. University...

SOUTH
Both Spike Lee AND Jay Bilas approved? That's almost
as good a combination as Ray Allen and Denzel...
Best Potential Spoilers: (5) #HAVOC; (11) Minnesota

To ignore Shaka Smart and crew, especially after spending the weekend at the A10 Tournament, would be downright foolish. So I'm not gonna do that. Especially when they're in line to play Michigan. Their style of pressure defense alone makes them a tough match up for anyone not named St. Louis, and it would be an upset in my mind if they didn't make the second weekend. Seeding be damned...

As for Tubby's Golden Gophers, they're tough and well tested from battles in the Big 10. And while they're not playing as well as they were earlier in the year when they got most of their signature wins, it wouldn't shock me to see them make a run as far as the Elite 8. Wouldn't shock me if they got clipped by a wounded UCLA team, either. But Minnesota is a team in a situation that could be there for the taking, and a team I feel is capable of actually taking advantage of that situation...

Most Overrated: (3) Florida; (4) Michigan 

I hate to do this, mostly because they're so talented and well coached. But when you go 5-6 over your last 11 and end up as a 4 seed, I can't help but label you as overrated, and unlikely to meet expectations. It's a shame, too. My Billikens could have done some serious work in this bracket were they granted this cushy #4 seed...

As for the Gators, I've been going back and forth on them all season, and it's likely to bite me. But no matter. Even though they're top 5 in both defensive and offensive efficiency, and remain #1 atop Ken Pomeroy's vaunted rankings. I can't trust them much further than I could throw that big white kid they got from Rhode Island that chucks up 3s. And the fact that they've become a chic Final Four pick only helps bolster my claim. That's just the type of talk I'd fall for in the past and advance a shady team like this much further along in my bracket than I swore I would for the entire year...

...and by "fall for in the past", I mean I wouldn't be shocked if I let the likes of KemPom convince me to roll with the Gators in the next 12-24 hours. Freakin' statistics...

It's been a few years since they've made minced meat of my bracket.
In other words, they're due...
Winner: (1) Kansas

The winner in the South is as tough to predict as the winner for the Midewest, but for all the wrong reasons. While the Midwest is tough to handicap due to the presence of so many complete teams that are playing well, the South is full of a bunch of shady teams that have been known to burn themselves many a bracket. Namely, Kansas, Florida and Georgetown. Probably why many experts, including Jay Bilas, have picked VCU to claim the South's spot in the Final Four...

And while I can't find much to quibble with in regards to that selection, I'm a glutton for punishment, and have decided to throw my lot in with the experienced Jayhawks. They're prone to turnovers, which could cost them against VCU, but I have a hard time picking against any team that starts 4 seniors and a freshman that's arguably the best player in the country. They'll probably burn me, yet again (paging Ali Faroukmanesh). But they're built to win this thing, and they're playing well. Besides. Bitching about how Kansas fucks me is what I do. So at the very least, it'll just help fill another chamber in the automatic weapon that is my vindictive and borderline unstable mind...

Your hedge down here? Pick your poison. Like, literally. Most of these teams are going to poison your bracket like something that has a lot of poison. An exterminator, maybe? Or a snake? Whatever. Just know that you should probably hedge. That's how a big of a mess this region could turn out to be...

MIDWEST

Best Potential Spoilers: (4) St. Louis; (5) Oklahoma St.; (10) Cincinnati; (11) St. Mary's; (12) Oregon 

At least 7 teams that I considered having make Elite 8 runs before the bracket was released are in the Midwest. So needless to say, there are spoilers aplenty. Unfortunately, this bracket is so top heavy that it will probably be tough for one of them to break through. But should one make it out, it'll probably be on of the 3 teams above...

St. Louis is one the 10 best teams in the country, a complete team that can shoot it inside and out and defend  at every position. Oregon is 16-1 when they have a complete lineup, which they do right now. And Cincinnati is a tough match up for anyone, with their athletes inside, pressure defense and outside shooting. Again, it's a shame that so many teams ended up in this region, but dem's da breaks. It does open the door for you to take a big chance in your bracket, though. And if you're looking for someone to topple Duke, Louisville or MSU, I'd advise picking one these 3 teams to do your dirty work. With a heavy biased towards my friends from the A10...

I'M SO SAINT LOUIS! AXXX MY TATTOOIST!



Oh, and speakin' of the Show Me State. Let's not overlook the potential for the team that proper fucked me last year, and is getting absolutely ZERO buzz this year, to come out of nowhere to fuck me again.That team, of course, being the Missouri Tigers. How typical would it be for me to have complained about the difficulty of the Midwest only to have the team that castrated my bracket last year to come right back and do it again in a very Kansas like fashion? Answer: Very typical. But whatever. Screw them. They're Mizz...

Most Overrated: NONE

As has been established many times throughout this column, the Midwest is the best bracket in the dance. No overrated teams, here. Probably why most, including yours truly, are expecting this region to produce the best games of the tournament's first two weekends. Except for the potential Gonzaga/Wisconsin match up in the West. Which I've already heard hilariously predicted as a game that will definitely go to double overtime. Because of course it will...



Winner: (1) Louisville

It's really a shame that I have to leave St. Louis, MSU and Duke behind. But the Cardinals are my squad. I said last week that I'd have Duke in the Final Four barring a disastrous draw? Well, this is the draw to which I was referring. You can't really go wrong with picking any of the Top 4 seeds. But after watching Louisville return to form this weekend in New York, I can't help but give them the edge in advancing to Atlanta. This group has some unfinished business to tend to, and betting against a Rick Pitino team playing it's best ball and with something to prove just isn't something I'm in the habit of doing. I won't lie, I'll be hedging with other brackets and taking St. Louis. But if we're pushin' and shovin', I'll take the Cardinals. And I'm pretty sure we're pushin' and shovin'...

Called that upset, huh? Sweet...
As for my champion? Well, I'm just gonna have to leave that to your imagination. But here's a helpful hint: It's either Indiana, or a team from the Midwest region. If you've got one of them cutting down the nets, you're already on the right track. Combined that with the helpful tips and pointers I just slanged your way, and you should at least be able to steer clear of becoming having to hear the office Ted tell you that he's beating you in the pool...

That freakin' guy. He's the one that, after the team he has in your pool gets knocked out, informs you that it "doesn't matter", because he's got another team winning it all in a bunch of other pools that he's currently winning. He's got all the angles covered, that guy. Just a shame that one of those angles doesn't also happen to be his mouth...

Oh, and stay tuned to Twitter for picks throughout the tournament. Least I can do is provide you with a way to make back some cash after undoubtedly somehow being responsible for torching your bracket. That's just the type of guy I am. Those are my "logistics", if you will. And you will. Ohhh will you ever...

#OHFACE

Twitter Picks: 123-79-10 (.604)


Hope you found this helpful, friends. And enjoy the tournament...


Gus Johnson...
100...

#$>

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