It's that time of year again, NCAA tournament time, when the talk of "seeds" centers not around the ethics of artificially inseminating them in the body of a demented mother of six, but rightfully on the positioning of college team in the grandest, single-elimination, 65-team, winner-take-all tournament of the year. That's right, it's the men's NCAA Division 1 tournament, and if you think "Bracketology" is a Pearl Jam album, or you think "Dickie V" is an "STD-er, baby!," then cease reading immediately and resume your pathetic existence.
It's also the first tournament without CBS analyst Billy Packer, who was dropped by CBS in July. It will be the first tournament in quite a while in which Packer won't be the lead analyst, although it will be the first tournament in quite some time that the word "lackadaisical" is not mispronounced. There's no "x" in that word, Billy!
Geez, whatever happened to Gary Bender?
Did the selection committee get it right with its four #1 seeds
For the most part, yes. But you could make a case for Memphis and Duke, two #2 seeds, being #1's. Unlike Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and North Carolina, Memphis and Duke made the final and won their conference tournaments. Duke, however, was rewarded with games in Greensboro, North Carolina, just a quick jaunt from Durham down Interstate 85 in a BMW, and what looks to be the easiest path to the Final 8 for a #2 seed (the Devils are bracketed with the tournament's weakest #3 seed, Villanova).
Memphis? They only swept the Conference USA regular season and tournament on their way to a 31-3 record, the most wins in the nation. Apparently, the selection committee discounted the difficulty of the running the paper m??ch?? Conference USA gauntlet, and weighted losses to Xavier, Syracuse, and Georgetown more than wins over the likes of Houston and UTEP. However, the committee did acknowledge that the Tigers were the best team, college or pro, in the city of Memphis.
What are some possible first-round upsets?
The #5 versus #12 matchups present the most chances for upsets. Three of these four games could go to the #12 seed. I don't like #12 Northern Iowa to beat #5 Purdue in the West, but I'll go with Big Ten defense over Atlantic Coast Conference offense with #12 Wisconsin beating #5 Florida State in the East.
In the South, #12 Western Kentucky is practically a consensus to "upset" #5 Illinois, so much so that it can barely be classified as such. The Illini may be without guard Chester Frazier, who injured his right hand last week in practice. Frazier is the Illini's defensive stopper, and had surgery on his hand in hopes of playing on Thursday. It's hard to bet against a good ****, but give me the Hilltoppers to win, sending Illinois coach Bruce Weber home before he loses his voice. What? He sounds like that all the time?
In the Midwest, #12-seeded Arizona, possibly the last team to make the field, faces #5 Utah. The Wildcats feature 6-7 forward Chase Budinger, who averages 17.9 points per game, and learned earlier this season that the imprint of a sneaker sole on his face was not permanent, although the incident did give Mike Tyson a new idea for a face tattoo. Budinger will lead the Wildcats over the Running Utes (that's Utah's nickname, and not a stomach problem).
I also like #11 Temple to shock #6 Arizona State in the South, aided by an inspirational video of former coach John Chaney urging the Owls to win, or "I'll kill you!"
In the West, the #11 seed, 30-4 Utah State, puts their impressive record up against #6-seeded Marquette, minus star Dominic James. I like the Aggies to win this, but I don't they'll advance to the Sweet 16. That would entail a multi-game tournament winning streak, which in Utah is known as "polygame-y." The Aggies will fall in the second round to Missouri, who will earn the nickname "more than one wife"-beaters.
And in the tournament's biggest shocker, I like Stephen F. Austin to drop a stone cold stunner and upset Syracuse, but only if the Lumberjacks' number of 3's is 16. And that's the bottom line.
What are some of the other intriguing matchups in the tournament?
The 7-10 seed games all feature major conference versus major conference showdowns. In the Midwest, it's #7 Boston College against #10 Southern California. In the West, #7 California faces #10 Maryland, #7 Texas takes on #10 Minnesota in the East, and #7 Clemson squares off against #10 Michigan in the South. Hey, that Clemson-Michigan game is like the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, except that in this case, people care about the outcome.
I'll take USC, California, Texas, and Clemson.
Who's in your Final 8?
In the Midwest, I like Louisville to face the rugged Spartans of Michigan State and their personable coach Tom "H to the" Izzo. A lot of people have the trendy pick of Wake Forest beating the Cardinals in the regional semifinals. You want trendy? How about Rick Pitino's pimpin' suits, like the all-white number he wore back in February against Georgetown. Denny Crum in polyester it was not, but it certainly got attention. The NCAA balked at Pitino's request to add a top hat and cane to his ensemble, and Pitino was nearly cited for recruiting violations. No, not by the NCAA, but by a local pimp, who claim Pitino stole some talent from his stable.
The ???Ville will benefit from tournament experience, plus a viral email video of Pitino in his famous white suit, gaily singing Rick Astly's "Never Gonna Give You Up," will pop up in the inboxes of all the Cardinals opponents, rendering them helpless against Louisville. Louisville fans will then feverishly make signs, taunting opponents that they just got "Rickrolled."
Pitino gets fashion-conscious in the Cardinals regional semi versus Wake, when he breaks out a black and gold, tailed tuxedo with a top hat, in honor a Wake's Demon Deacon.
In the West, I'm going chalk, with Connecticut and its overpaid coach Jim Calhoun facing Memphis in the regional final.
In the East, I'm going with Pitt and UCLA, although I was tempted to follow the advice of ESPN's Digger Phelps and go with Pitt and Xavier, which truly is a "bracket buster." I think Digger's taking the "March Madness" thing literally, and I'm sure most people were equally as stunned when he named Kelly Tripucka and Adrian Dantley to his 2009 all-tournament team.
I was tempted to pick Duke, but I'm not sure the buggy-whip arms of guard John Scheyer can carry the Blue Devils into the regional finals. Scheyer is a great shooter, but I'm not even sure he can make it to the next level, which for white Duke guards is a place on the bench as Mike Kryzewski's assistant. Duke will fall to UCLA in the round of 16.
In the South, despite the uncertainty surrounding Ty Lawson's big toe, I'll have to go with North Carolina to reach the regional final. Nothing brings a high-powered offense to its knees like a Tar Heel with a bad toe. Without Lawson, UNC's normally fast-paced offense goes from "run and gun" to "pedestrian." Lawson's playmaking ability opens up the floor for UNC's other players, and if the Heels need a basket, Lawson is unstoppable going to the hoop.
If Lawson doesn't play, or further injures his toe, UNC probably won't make it to the Final 8, and Roy Williams will be uttering a bevy of "F"-words, including "fudge," "fold," and "failure." I expect Lawson to suck it up, be a "foot" soldier, and take his painkilling shots like a man.
Look for the Heels to meet Oklahoma in the regional final, setting up a showdown between two future NBA lottery picks, the Sooners Blake Griffin (2009), and UNC's Ed Davis (2011). You didn't think I was going to say Tyler Hansbrough, did you?
Give me Louisville, Memphis, Pitt, and UNC.
Tyler Hansbrough has done nearly everything in his career, except win a national championship, and make a pass out of a triple-team for an easy dunk or wide-open three. Hansbrough will put the Heels on his back, figuratively, and literally (he'll give Lawson a piggy-back ride to treatment after each game), and UNC defeats Memphis 84-80 in the final.