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Descending into Madness…

I’m not going to lie, I’d love to be writing something really romantic about the NCAA tournament that’s going to start in a hour and twelve minutes, but this week’s been a little busy. On Monday night I had an emotional breakdown, on Tuesday, Spirit of the West was playing a rare live show, so I had to go see them. And last night there were about 18 Guinness begging to be drunk. On top of all that, the Billion Served aren’t serving themselves, so despite asking Ronald if I could take time at work to drop some college hoops knowledge, I’ve got nothing.

Long story short, instead of writing something really beautiful about the tournament, those 18 Guinness are rattling around my brain and the clock’s ticking down on the starting time. So… yeah, basically, this year I’m one and done.

However, we wouldn’t be Sports on the Brain if we hadn’t filled out a bracket, so lets take a quick wander around the country and see what we see.

Before the brackets came out, if you’d asked me who I thought the Final Four were, I’d have said: Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State, and Georgetown, so you can imagine my chagrin when three of those four ended up in the same bracket.

The Midwest is dumb, just flat out dumb. How Kansas could be ranked as the top team, but end up saddled with a stacked bracket is just another example of the Committee’s arrogant inebriation. Ohio State has the best player in the country, Evan Turner, who seems locked in and ready to carry them, Carmelo Anthony like, to the title. Georgetown is a schizophrenic team that may well go out in the first round, but when they bring it, can beat anyone in the country. Beyond that, you have Maryland, Michigan State,Tennessee and Oklahoma State. That’s an incredibly hard top seven. Nobody wants to play a Tom Izzo coached team in the tournament. Maryland won the ACC regular season and in Gravis Vazquez has a player who can win a game or two by himself, and Tennessee and Oklahoma State are the only two teams to have beaten Kansas this season.

So this is the minefield that Kansas has to navigate if it hopes to make the Final Four. Still, they are so good that most brackets have them surviving… Not me though. I like Turner to lead Ohio State past Georgia Tech, past Georgetown, and past Kansas to the final four. Turner’s the best player in the tournament, and in March transcendent talent matters.

The West Region is Syracuse, Syracuse, Syracuse. I like Xavier to make a little run and upset Pittsburgh and Kansas State, but I think their run ends with Syracuse. Maybe I’ve just become a Jim Boeheim homer. It’s not as though I know him, or spend a lot of time in upstate New York, but Boeheim appears on the PTI show regularly and every time he does I am struck by how great a guy he appears to be.

The players in college change so rapidly, that it’s hard to cheer for players, so you’re left cheering for an institution, or for the man in charge. I’ve never attended an American University and while they’re pretty good, I doubt that UVic is going to be earning an at large bid to the tournament, so… coach it is.

I could cheer for Coach K or Roy Williams, but cheering for Duke or North Carolina is a little like cheering for the Yankees or the Sox and you know I have nothing but disdain for the Sox and the Yanks. I could cheer for John Calipari but… Come On! He’s led two teams to the Final Four, and left both schools right as the NCAA was stripping those institutions of their Final Four runs. Boeheim though? He seems like an upstanding guy, he’s been at Syracuse forever, he’s won a title, he graduates most of his players, so Syracuse is my team.

Forunately, this year they have the chops to back me up. Sure Arinze Onuaku is hurting, but I think they can win two games without him, and when he comes back it’s straight through to the final four for them.

In the East I like Cornell to break the Ivy League’s tournament losing streak by upsetting Temple. I then like them to become first weekend darlings by dropping Wisconsin. Unfortunately, next week they run into Kentucky, who might be susceptible to the upset, but wont lose to Cornell. Kentucky and West Virginia will meet in the regional final and my cloudy crystal ball sees WV outsmarting the Wildcats down the stretch to pull the upset. There’s no doubt that Kentucky has either the most or second most talent in the country and really, despite making some of their games interesting, Kentucky has only lost twice. So, yes they’re precocious kids, but… I have to toss my crystal ball out the window and take Kentucky to beat West Virginia and go to Indy.

As I’m sure you know, the Southern Region is absurdly easy, with the committee apparently clearing the way for Duke to make a deep run. Unfortunately, there is nothing that Duke has done over the last eight or nine years to make me think that this team is capable of going deep in this tournament. So, I (like seemingly everyone else) have Louisville upsetting them in round two. Louisville has come out of a tough league, Duke has come out of a weak ACC, the coaches are a wash, but I think Louisville gets up for Duke and shuts down their big three scorers. Of course, getting up for Duke, leads to a big drop off and so I have A&M ending Louisville’s run. On the other side of the South, I have Baylor becoming the top story of the tournament.

The Bears making a run through the cleared out South will create a buzz over their recovery from the dark depths of 2003, when Patrick Dennehy was murdered by teammate Carlton Dotson. It would easily outstrip everything else as the story of the Final Four, and Baylor would be everyone’s darlings.

So, if you’re keeping score at home, I’ve got Ohio State-Syracuse and Kentucky-Baylor as my final four. Form there, I’ve got Syracuse knocking off Turner and Kentucky ending Baylor’s magical run. In the dream final of contrasting coaches, you have the slimy Calipari against the classy Boeheim. As I said above, I’m a Boeheim homer, so I’ve got the ‘Cuse as National Champs. Of course, I’ve only slept off seven of the 18 Guinness, so what the hell do I know…

  1. bbb
    March 18, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Daydreaming back to those dominant Vikes teams under Ken Sheild who ruled the country, do any of them make March Madness if they had a chance? Could the best college team in Canadian basketball history take a game from a top US team? Likely not, but what are your thoughts oh guru?

  2. March 19, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Not a chance in h**l. The very best Canadian college teams could compete with Division III schools, and maybe with Div II, but they’d be destroyed by the top NCAA programs. Even were a CIS school to compile a strange dream team of talent, they wouldn’t be able to compete in the NCAAs, because they are different sporting federations. It would be like the best team from Sweden being allowed to compete for the Stanley Cup. UVic does play exhibition games against U.S. schools, but that’s about it.

  3. BBB
    March 31, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Hmm, one for four, and none of your finalists. What’s your prediction now?

    • April 1, 2010 at 6:57 am

      Yup, I was real good the first week, but last weekend destroyed me. Of course, if you had Butler, Michigan State, Duke and West Virginia, you’re either a lunatic or a liar.

      If you remember, my crystal ball had WV, unfortunately I tossed that thing right out the window and now it’s lost in a field of tulips, so… I’m going to go with Butler, because they’ve won 823 straight games and are playing at home. But, really this is as wide open a final four as I’ve ever seen.

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