March 16, 2011 5 Comments
Its back. Finally, March Madness is upon us. It’s the only event where the predictions are wrong every year and nothing could be more enjoyable for a sports fan. Quite perplexing, but we can’t all be winners like Charlie Sheen.
After 30,213 hours of studying trends and pulling up as much research as possible, I think it’s safe to say… my Bracket is set. Like any ordinary human being, I like to think that practice makes perfect. Going on roughly my eighth year of bracketology, it’s only natural that I improve with age. (This isn’t college or grad school where after a couple years, you graduate. In bracketology, there is no graduation. With every year comes something new.) As I graduate from college this May, I continue my degree in bracketology.
For those having Stick’s Picks withdrawals over the past few weeks, I’d like to welcome myself back as I analyze everything of note in this upcoming NCAA tournament. Beginning with the toughest region to the easiest, here are my picks and some last minute bracket advice.
Elite Eight: Kentucky over North Carolina
Sweet 16: Kentucky over Ohio State, North Carolina over Syracuse
Some quick things to note: Ohio State is the top overall seed in the bracket and has been blessed with the toughest path to the final four. Gotta love the selection committee! Other teams to keep an eye on in the East are Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse. Unlike the media, I do not see Ohio State cruising through this region. Honestly, I can’t love any Big Ten team that much. Most notably, I love this Kentucky team. They seemed to go unnoticed this year without the overwhelming talents and personalities of John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. No problem, just add a few more freshmen all-Americans, and do it again… the patented John Calipari motto. However, I have them falling short to the Tar Heels of North Carolina. Hey, if Calipari couldn’t get the job done with John Wall and Demarcus, I’d be shocked if Brandon Knight and Terrance Jones were the answer. This North Carolina team has won 14 of its past 16 games, with its only losses coming to defending champion Duke. They lead the nation in rebounds, and what’s not to love about freshman sensation Harrison Barnes. North Carolina returns to familiar territory in the final four.
Elite Eight: Duke over San Diego State
Sweet 16: Duke over Texas, San Diego State over UConn
First things first, How did TEXAS get a #4 seed? I understand we stumbled down the stretch, but sticking us with a sweet 16 matchup vs. the defending champions? Ouch! Come March, things never get easier for Rick Barnes and the Longhorns. Having obtained a number one ranking early last year, it seems like every season, Texas gets sent home early. This Texas Longhorn team has failed to make the sweet 16 four times out of the last six years. And that’s with Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, DJ Augustin, and much more NBA-caliber talent. Maybe this could be the year Texas breaks through. Let’s hope so!
In terms of this region, I have mostly chalk (to the rookies, chalk means no upsets). I spent hours debating whether or not I should pick the monumental upset of Bucknell over UConn but couldn’t pull the trigger. Expect UConn to lose much earlier than expected. If you’ve watched any bracket coverage lately, I’m sure you are aware UConn won the Big East tournament by winning five games in five nights. And I hear NBA players complaining about back-to-backs! Kemba and the Huskies will fall short this year despite their remarkable Big East run. The two seed, San Diego State Aztecs, is the two seed in this region, and this team looks solid. Led by former Fab Five coach, Steve Fisher, this team has shocked the nation with an astounding 32-2 record (with only losses coming to Jimmer Fredette’s BYU). But hey, if Steve Fisher couldn’t get the job done with Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, and Jalen Rose while at Michigan, expect nothing different.
In the end, I chose the defending champions, Duke, to move onto Houston for the final four. You have no idea how hard this was for me. Up until a few weeks ago, I debated on purchasing a ticket to this year’s Final Four only to witness the typical Texas late-season collapse. If Texas were in the Southeast, or even Southwest region, I wouldn’t have hesitated to place them in the Final Four. Texas falls to Duke once again. And y’all thought I was a homer.
Elite Eight: Kansas over Purdue
Sweet 16: Kansas over Louisville, Purdue over Notre Dame
This Kansas Jayhawk team fits every formula of a winning NCAA tournament team. Solid guard shooting, solid post play with the help of the Morris brothers, and a coach whose been there before (Bill Self won the 2008 championship with Kansas.) Out of all my final four picks, Kansas is by far my most confident choice. It might be my Big 12 bias, but this team has what it takes to cut down the nets in Houston.
As for the others in the San Antonio region, only the Purdue Boilermakers can match up with the depth of Kansas. Four seed Louisville doesn’t have near the talent of years past, and two seed Notre Dame relies too much on the three ball. I’m going to have to see it to believe it before I pick the Fighting Irish to advance far in the tournament. But who knows? After all, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve witnessed Kansas dismantling of the Longhorns last Saturday and this team has all the pieces. After watching more and more Kansas games, it still amazes me how Texas beat them earlier in the season.
Elite Eight: St. Johns over Pittsburgh
Sweet 16: Pittsburgh over Kansas St., St. Johns over Florida
By far the weakest region of the bracket. In fact, I have the two, three, and four seeds falling out rather early. Let me begin my rant on the Southeast region. As I mentioned, TEXAS got a #4 seed with BYU and Florida receiving a three and two seed respectively. You can’t advance far in the tourney with only a one man team…sorry BYU. I’m not going to trust a team (Wisconsin) who lost to 10 seed Penn State 36-33 in BASKETBALL! And, I honestly forgot Florida basketball even existed (not a good sign). I’ve never been sold on Pittsburgh and from the looks of it neither is Las Vegas (Pittsburgh has by far the worst odds of any one seed to win the NCAA championship, nearly double that of the other three one seeds).
BUT, I love the five and six seeds in this region to make a big splash. The five seed, Kansas State, led by veteran guard Jacob Pullen is a dangerous team as evident in their elite eight run last season. With all this said, here is my upset special. Give me six seed St. Johns to win this region and head to the Final Four! Not convinced? Everybody knows in order to advance in the tournament, you must be able play defense and beat the big dogs. Let’s take a quick a glance at St. John’s tournament resume: wins over UConn, Pitt, Notre Dame, and Duke just to list a few. That’s two tournament one seeds, a two seed, and a three seed. Not bad for Steve Lavin’s St John’s Red Storm (sweet mascot name).
March Madness wouldn’t be madness without a few upsets. Before I get to my final four and championship picks, here a few possible upsets to keep an eye on.
East- #4 Kentucky over #1 Ohio State, #12 Clemson over #5 West Virginia
West- What! I have no upsets. Let’s play hopscotch, we have too much chalk!
Southwest- #11 VCU over #6 Georgetown, #10 Florida State over #7 Texas A&M, and I guess #3 Purdue over # 2 Notre Dame if you call it an upset
Southeast- #13 Belmont over #4 Wisconsin, #7 UCLA over #2 Florida, and of course #6 St Johns over #3 BYU and into the Final Four.
I would be deemed insane if I said I had any great confidence in any of these upset picks, but that’s March madness for you. Proceed with caution!
Regional Semifinal: Duke over UNC, Kansas over St. Johns
National Championship: Duke over Kansas
Yes, give me Duke to win again. Picking the defending Duke Blue Devils to repeat as national champions was too tough to pass up. I said before selection Sunday that Duke and Kansas were the only two teams I would be confident putting into the final four, and I’m sticking with my gut. Now that Duke’s freshman point guard, Kyrie Irving, is returning to the lineup, this team looks better than ever. Kyrie Irving resembles a poor man’s Chris Paul, and that’s good enough for me. The first advice any experienced bracketologist will tell you: guard play wins tournament games. With the combo of Irving and Smith, and Coach K calling the shots, I like my chances. If these picks hold true, that would mean storied rivals UNC and Duke would match up for the fourth time this season (this time in the Final Four). What a story that would be!
There you have it, Stick’s Picks first annual bracket. Stick with it and you just may be a winner, or in the words of the great Charlie Sheen, “WINNING!”
Let me hear your thoughts.