Of brackets and baskets
Friday - March 21, 2008
Let the madness begin!
First, time to acknowledge all the unhappy teams that have been left out. Sure, you could make an argument for Arizona State, which had a sweep over Arizona and a win over Stanford. And Dayton had a case, although injuries during the conference season hurt.
But how about Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg saying anyone who didn’t think his team was worthy of a dance card was “certifiably insane”? Go ahead and let your New York out, Seth!
The truth is that every year some good teams with a solid resume get passed over, but never a great team. And the collection of Davids battling the Goliaths makes for great athletic theatre. Potentially, each round has some fascinating matchups. In the first round, Gonzaga-Davidson will be a good one. I like the 10th-seeded Wildcats in that one. Also 11th-seed St. Joseph’s could give No. 6 Oklahoma all they want. Butler-South Alabama will be a battle, and Villanova could send Clemson home early.
In the second round, I like Drake to challenge U Conn, Xavier to knock off Purdue, Pitt to out-physical Michigan State, and Butler to shock Tennessee. In the third round, Kansas and Vandy should be a dandy, Georgetown and Wisconsin will be a nail biter, and I’m going with Pitt to upset Memphis.
The most overrated discussion in sports is the debate over who gets the No.1 seeds. Finally, I heard someone express the argument I’ve been making for years: Bob Knight says it doesn’t matter if you’re a one, two or three seed; your draw will be very similar. The day after Knight’s comments, I heard ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd saying he disagreed, citing how many No. 1 seeds had reached the Final Four. But his argument was sophistry. Those teams reached the Final Four because they were excellent, not because they were top seeds.
Knight’s point was correct. A one seed opens with a 16 and then plays an eight or nine seed. A two seed opens with a 15 and then plays a seven or 10. Very little difference. And Knight showed a little iconoclastic streak (surprise!) by picking a four seed, Pitt, to win the national title.
Contrast that to Jay Bilas from ESPN, who picked all four top seeds to advance to the Final Four. Way to take chances, Jay!
As always, I went through the brackets game by game and, as usual, surprised myself by the time I had it down to four. I’ve got UCLA, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Georgetown making it to San Antonio. I’ve got UCLA downing Pitt and North Carolina beating Georgetown, with the Tarheels giving Roy Williams his second national title since coming over from Kansas.
I also expect North Carolina big man Tyler Hansbrough to win National Player of the Year honors.
And I offer all this up with the near certainty that by the end of the first round on Friday night, my brackets will be a mess and I’ll have almost no chance to win the office pool.
I can hardly wait!
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