The NCAA Tournament is set to begin, with the brackets unveiled yesterday. Now it’s time for the picks and knee-jerk analysis amidst the talking-head babble on various sports networks. Now it’s time for me to go in the doghouse for a few weeks (if I wasn’t there already) as sports dominates our home TV schedule.
Illinois took the 5 seed in the South, which means a trip to Portland to play Western Kentucky. #4 Gonzaga likely looms in the second game and the Zags will be very close to home. Personally, I would’ve preferred the #6 in the Midwest with a chance to face Kansas (or NDSU) in the second round in Minneapolis, but that’s just me. Western Kentucky plays with four guards and starts one guy over 6-5. They jack some threes. So, for the Orange & Blue, keep in front of them and don’t help out on the drives and kick outs. Pound the ball to the two Mikes. Hope Chester can get in there and not be a detriment with his wounded hand. Survive, advance.
Five points in your Tourney Pentagram…
- Who really took the shaft? I think we can all agree that Arizona, with a 19-13 record and RPI of 62 has no business in this tournament. A serious case of sacred-cow-itis there. Maryland also should be in the NIT right now, but the Terps won two games last week and their Coach threw such a nasty fit after being left out last year, you just knew they were in. So who really took it from the mid-major line? How about San Diego State from the Mountain West (21-9, RPI 34) and St. Mary’s from the WCC (24-6, RPI 47). Of course the Gaels lost several games with their best player injured and have a big fat asterisk beside their line. Mississipi State winning the SEC and Cleveland State winning the Horizon also really hurt these two teams.
- First sacred cow to go down... Tempted to pick Duke here, but I think UConn goes down first. I like Purdue with a healthy Robbie Hummel.
- Upset special… Thank you, talking heads, for all picking Illinois as your prime 5-12 upset, but I like the Badgers over Florida State for my 5-12 game. My true first-round upset pick would be Kansas going down to North Dakota State. Yes, there’s some spite working there, but I don’t like how Kansas finished the year and NDSU can shoot the three.
- The Referee Factor: Which conference refs will get which games? An ACC or Pac10 crew calling Big 10/Big East games could spell trouble for the bruisers. Teams like Pitt, Michigan State, UConn, Wisconsin, are vulnerable here. For once, I don’t think this will have as much of an effect on the Illini, as most of our key players aren’t really foul-prone.
- Valley woes (again). Once again the Missouri Valley takes it from the committee. This year it was Creighton (26-7, RPI 40, co-regular season champs) who has the best argument. After St. Mary’s and San Diego State, they were next. If they wouldn’t have gotten crushed by Illinois State in the Valley tournmanet, they probably would’ve made it. The Redbirds (24-9, RPI 48) needed the tournament crown to get in. Had they beat Northern Iowa in OT, you likely would’ve seen UNI with an at-large. Valley teams need to continue to schedule the big boys in December and hope for a few more upsets to raise their profile.