Monday, March 16, 2009

InClement Weather: Sweet Sixteen (Thoughts)

No doubt by now you've filled out a bracket (or 12) and begun to overanalyze what lies ahead for us all in the coming weeks.

Take a deep breath and calm down. In fact, enjoy sixteen (or so) thoughts about the bracket.

No, I'm not here to talk bubble either.

Midwest Region
1) Utah is already the most overrated team according to the entire country. Not me. But you say to me: "name on player on their team." That doesn't say anything negative about them; instead, it speaks to the lunacy in picking Arizona to march to the Sweet Sixteen automatically. Despite a load of talent, the Wildcats are undisciplined and unfocused (especially come March Madness in recent years). I would favor Cleveland State over Arizona. And that's not even because of the "hate".

2) Ohio State and Siena is a game you order the Direct Ticket package for, even if you don't know much about either team. It's going to be entertaining as two contrasting styles go to war. Both of these teams can scare Louisville. Big time.

3) USC ran through the Pac-10 Tournament all the way to their automatic bid, but they'll struggle with BC. If Rice hits his shots early, this game will be over very very early.

4) West Virginia is an up-and-coming team at the perfect time. If Ebanks can control himself against Kansas' bigs in the second round, the Mountaineers can shoot lights out from the beyond the arc and grab an early lead. Then Bob Huggins can switch up his defenses and frustrate you into bad shots. Just ask Pitt.

West Region
5) Nobody deserves BYU/Texas A&M again. Nobody.

6) Purdue and Washington are two teams that I fully expect to battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. Read that again and understand what I'm really saying.

7) Memphis might've gotten the break they needed by receiving the 2-seed. They get to play with a chip on their shoulder and one of the easier halves of their region's bracket. I don't buy Missouri just yet as an Elite Eight team. Despite having a fantastic coach, it won't happen this season for the Tigers.

8) Marquette is now done with that muderous Big East schedule - five-straight ranked opponents - and has (I think) finally adjusted to life with James. Nevertheless, they have a tricky first-round matchup against an underrated Utah State team. Can they win one game without James in the tournament? Of course. 2? Not so fast.

East Region

9) Two very contrasting styles when Wisconsin and Florida State meet up. Leonard Hamilton needs to be prepared for Toney Douglas to see two defenders at all times. If Kitchen attacks the hoop efficiently and the Noles use their size on both sides of the ball early on, the Noles will roll.

10) Texas and Tennessee both appeared to be top 10 squads at different points this season. During others, I wondered seriously if they were worthy of a tournament bid. One of them is bound to pull a major upset. But who? Paging Mr. Abrams and Mr. Chism.

11) Villanova playing in Philadelphia is better than 1-seed. This team is NOT afraid of meeting up with Pitt in the Elite Eight. Not one bit. They also shouldn't discount a scrappy trio of teams (American, VCU, and UCLA) in their way of a potential showdown with Duke. Yes, I actually just called UCLA "scrappy". Compared to the last three years, that's a compliment for this team.

12) Don't fall too in love with Eric Maynor and the VCU Rams pulling the "automatic upset" just yet. Even you Seth Davis. Darren Collison is the better PG on the floor, college-wise, if 100% healthy. Meanwhile, Larry Sanders will have to bang without picking up cheap fouls. While I like the Rams to win - especially if they shoot the 3 well and guard the 3 even better - the Bruins have several key players remaining (especially Collison and Shipp) from a squad that has made 3 straight Final Fours. Beware of Maynor though. Just ask the Patriots of George Mason. If the Rams start well, they don't lose very often.

South Region
13) Butler and LSU won't be able to keep up with UNC for even a half. Nevertheless, I'm interested to see how UNC manages Lawson - whom I expect to be 100% healthy - in their second round matchup. With the look of the draw, they'll need him healthy by the Sweet 16, especially if Gonzaga rolls in the opening weekend (which is far from automatic).

14) Syracuse vs. Oklahoma is a matchup many are already salivating over in the Sweet 16. Something tells me it won't happen, which would be a shame; especially for bleeding heart Orange fans like myself.

15) Look out for Temple, especially if Dionte Christmas can shoot over the Arizona State zone. The Sun Devils gave up big leads in their past two games, losing against USC in the Pac-10 final. While James Harden is the best player on the court, if he's cold early on, I like the Owls to gring this game out and potentially knock out the 6-seed.

16) If you have any ideas for gauging Clemson and Illinois: let me know, please?