Saturday, March 17, 2007

2nd Round Thoughts

There were some competitive games today in the NCAA tournament, as three games thus far have gone into overtime.

Texas A&M survived a hostile environment, and defeated Louisville, 72-69. The Ags return to Texas, and will play the winner of Nevada-Memphis next week in San Antonio.

Butler moved on to their second Sweet 16 in the last five years, knocking off Maryland, 62-59.

Vanderbilt moved on to the Sweet 16, taking two overtimes to handle Washington State, 78-74.

Georgetown made a second half comeback, and defeated Boston College, 62-55. Didn't that used to be a conference game? Count me among those that still think BC belongs in the Big East instead of the ACC.

Cinderella fell tonight in Buffalo, as VCU lost in overtime to Pittsburgh, 84-79.

Michigan State played North Carolina tough for three-fourths of the game. The Tar Heels pulled away at the end to win, 81-69.

As I type, UCLA is trying to hold off Indiana.

There has been a lot of excitement today, even if the outcomes have been predictable.

So Close

This tournament was very nearly turned upside down. Xavier had a nine point lead with three minutes to go over #1-ranked Ohio State. The Musketeers had a three-point lead with 3 seconds to go, but missed a free throw, and Ron Lewis hit an NBA-range three-pointer to send the game to overtime. Ohio State then took the game over in overtime and escaped with the win.

When CBS came back from commercial with Xavier up 9 with three minutes to go, I had a feeling Ohio State was going to come back. My gut isn't always right, but it was on this occasion.

This may have been the one chance to knock off the Buckeyes. Look out for TOSU.

Tournament Thoughts, Saturday, Pre-Game

Kentucky last night won a first round game in the Tournament for the 16th year in a row. Most schools would kill for that kind of success. Not UK. A good portion of the Big Blue Nation wants to run Tubby Smith out on a rail. Tubby might be smart to get a lawyer, negotiate a buyout, and take the money and run. He's a darn good coach. However, he's not signing a ton of hamburger All-Americans, and the relative lack of talent has reduced the Cats to a middle-of-the-pack SEC team. UK fans expect more. They expect Final Fours and national championships.

I am 23-9 after the first round of bracket picks. Normally, that's a decent record. This year, with the rash of favorites winning, that is not a good record. Sure, I got VCU and Winthrop right. But, I blew it on teams such as Albany, George Washington, Oral Roberts, and Old Dominion. The Wife, on the other hand, is 29-3. She only missed Duke-VCU, Notre Dame-Winthrop, and Arizona-Purdue. Brackets are a very inexact science.

Time to clean house and to keep up with TOSU vs. Xavier.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ho, Hum, or Final 1st Round Thoughts

Four more favorites won tonight in the late games in the NCAA tournament. This has been the biggest dud of a first round in memory.

Southern Illinois held their seed, and defeated Holy Cross. I picked the Crusaders, but that was not to be. The Salukis move on to take on Virginia Tech.

Tubby Smith has a job for at least two more days, as the Kentucky Wildcats knocked off the Villanova Wildcats. UK takes on KU in the next round. That would be top-seeded Kansas.

Jackson State was competitive with Florida for a half. The Gators stepped it up in the second half, and scored 112 on JSU. This is the Gators' tournament to lose.

In Spokane, USC is putting the finishing touches on a win over Arkansas. It's interesting that the last two teams in the field, Stanford and Arkansas, did not represent well at all.

Only two teams with lower than a #9 seed advanced to the second round: VCU and Winthrop.

The 6 BCS conferences combined for 25 of the last 32 teams:

ACC: North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Boston College
Big Ten: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue
Pac-10: UCLA, USC, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State
SEC: Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky (all from the same division)
Big East: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Louisville
Big XII: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M

The other seven teams are: Winthrop (Big South), VCU (CAA), Xavier (Atlantic 10), UNLV (Mountain West), Nevada (WAC), Southern Illinois (MVC), and Butler (Horizon).

The state of Nevada qualified 100% of its Division I teams for this tournament. That's 2 teams: Nevada and UNLV. Both are still alive.

Some More Friday Tournament Thoughts

Where did Purdue come from? I thought they were way over-seeded as a #9. They messed around and beat Arizona. This is not a vintage Arizona team, but I expected them to win one game in this tournament. Florida awaits the Boilermakers, unless Jackson State pulls off the mother of all upsets tonight.

The Fighting Illini of Illinois led for most of the evening. They fell victim, however, to a 12-0 run at the end of the game by the Hokies of Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. Virginia Tech gets the winner of Southern Illinois-Holy Cross.

Kansas tonight became the second team in this tournament to hit the century mark, defeating Niagara, 107-67. Niagara did get a win in this tournament, though, as they won the play-in game over Florida A&M. KU gets the winner of Kentucky-Villanova.

And, the Fighting Reggie Theuses of New Mexico State gave Texas all they wanted for most of the night. Texas had too much talent, though, and pulled away late, winning 79-67. Texas plays the winner of USC-Arkansas. By the way, Arkansas has the last chance for a 12 seed to beat a 5 seed in this tournament. Only twice in the last 22 years has at least one 12 seed not defeated a 5 seed.

More later..

Ugly Uniform of the Day

UUOTD has been rather sporadic lately. I saw something that caught my eye today, however.

Xavier of New Orleans is playing in the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City. I saw this picture, and this is not a good look. They have a bullseye on their chest. The number is inside a circle. The wide trim doesn't look real good, either.

What takes the cake, though, is on the shorts. The shorts say "Rush" on the belt area. I thought "What? This isn't a fraternity or sorority". What's up with Rush? Isn't it a 70's rock band from Canada? I didn't think an HBCU would have the name of a conservative talk radio host on their shorts. I did some research, and their nickname is the Gold Rush. Anyway, "Rush" doesn't belong on the belt.

I'm still not sure how a team from New Orleans got to be the Gold Rush. San Francisco? Yes. New Orleans? I'm not sure.

More Friday Tournament Thoughts

The second batch of Friday games definitely had the most intrigue.

Winthrop finally got their first-ever NCAA tournament win, over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The Eagles pulled away at the end, and won 74-64. They get the winner of Oregon-Miami (Ohio).

It was back to the 80's in Columbus, as Tennessee ran Long Beach State out of the gym, 121-86. Somewhere, Billy Tubbs and Jerry Tarkanian were smiling. Run, gun, and run some more...

For 30 minutes, there was a colossal upset in the making. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi led Wisconsin for most of the game. The Badgers came back, though, and eventually won by 13.

The tournament's first overtime game was in New Orleans, as the Wolf Pack of Nevada knocked off Creighton, 77-71. Nevada moves on to play Memphis on Sunday.

More later...

Friday Tournament Thoughts

So long, Great Danes. Albany was more like the Mutts against UVa, as the Cavs blew them out. I sure blew that pick.

The Mean Green of North Texas put up a valiant effort against Memphis, but came up short. Nonetheless, it was the best season in 20 years in Denton.

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. UNLV put away Georgia Tech. The Ramblin' Wreck were a fashionable pick to do something in this tournament with a low seed. The Runnin' Rebels are back. Lon Kruger has won a tournament game with his fourth different school. Imagine if K-State had ponied up to hold on to him years ago, as that is his alma mater...

More thoughts later...

Still More Tournament Thoughts

I went to bed before the last game was over, but Pittsburgh had Wright State beaten, so nothing was in doubt. Pitt now gets VCU in the 2nd round. VCU is getting lots of love, as they beat the hated Duke Blue Devils.

Kelvin Sampson won a first round game at Indiana, as they knocked off Gonzaga. I wish he'd have done that more at OU. The Hoosiers, though, run into the juggernaut that is UCLA. Good luck with all that.

For a short time last night, Eastern Kentucky gave North Carolina fits. They went on a 39-12 run to cut the UNC lead to 4. The Tar Heels pulled away, though, to win by 21.

When does X beat Y? Last night, as Xavier beat the Y, or BYU. Now, the X-Men have a date with The Ohio State University.

Overall, it was a dud first day of the tournament. Only three lower seeds won, and two of those were #9 over #8 seeds. I picked too many blown upsets, as I went 11 of 16 for the day. The Wife got smart, and picked all favorites. She has been known for picking teams according to color, or for using the geography method, picking teams by state. This year, she picked predominantly to seed, except for the 8-9 games. Therefore, she went 15-1 yesterday, only missing Duke.

Here's hoping the Albany Great Danes make some noise today...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Tournament Thoughts

There was finally an upset tonight! Actually, I'm not sure how much of an upset it was. Virginia Commonwealth, the 11th seed in the West regional, knocked off the 6th seeded Duke Blue Devils, 79-77. Eric Maynor hit the game winner with two seconds left to give VCU the win. VCU now awaits the winner of Pittsburgh-Wright State. I actually got this upset right, unlike my picks of ORU, Old Dominion, George Washington and Texas Tech. My brackets need Xavier, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh to come through in the late games.

Ohio State took it easy on Central Connecticut State, only beating them by 21.

Michigan State got the first win for a team in a dark jersey, knocking off Marquette, 61-48. MSU was a #9 seed, so this is no surprise.

UCLA had their way with Cream o' Weber, with an easy 70-42 win.

In the late afternoon game, Vanderbilt showed up. George Washington didn't. Vandy won by a score of 77-44. GW left their game in Atlantic City last week.

More later...

More Quick Tournament Thoughts

The white jerseys are having their way in the first afternoon sessions of the Big Dance. Every higher seeded team has won.

ORU hung with Wazzu for a half, but went cold in the first part of the second half and never recovered.

The Butler did it. Butler avoided the upset, and even pulled away from Old Dominion at the end.

Penn made it interesting for A&M, even leading in the second half. The Ags pulled away, though, for a double-digit win.

Georgetown blew out Belmont, as expected.

Vandy has a big lead on George Washington, but it's early.

Maybe there will be some upsets tonight...

Quick Tournament Thoughts

Quick thoughts as the first block of games are finished...

March Madness on Demand is great. I can put my headphones on at work, listen to the play-by-play, or watch the video if I get a spare minute. The game on our local CBS station is blacked out, but I really don't care about Texas Tech vs. Boston College or Texas A&M vs. Penn today.

Oh, Oh, Oh, O'Reilly! Team O'Reilly, a/k/a Texas Tech, came up short against Boston College. That's one pick I missed. The Big XII really was KU, A&M, UT, and a bunch of spares this year.

Davidson gave the Land of Mary a game for about 35 minutes. Problem is, there are 40 minutes in a game.

What was Stanford doing in this tournament? Louisville had mercy on them and only won by 20. The game was a lot worse than that.

Gotta get back to work... Go Oral Roberts!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Final Four Predictions

I haven't forgotten, but I do have predictions for the Final Four.

Florida over Kansas
Ohio State over Georgetown

The final will be a rematch of the BCS National Championship Game. It's the Gators' and Buckeyes' world. The rest of us just live in it.

Florida repeats as national champion.

More comments later...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Playing Their Way In

Tonight was the "opening round" game of the NCAA tournament, more commonly known as the play-in game. Some call it the pigtail game. This is the matchup between what the selection committee sees as the 64th and 65th rated teams in the tournament. Niagara earned the right to travel to Chicago to play #1 seed Kansas on Friday.

This incarnation of the opening round game began in 2001, after the newly formed Mountain West Conference received its automatic bid. The tournament committee did not want to remove one of the 34 at-large bids to accomodate the MWC. So, they created the opening round, and placed the game in Dayton, Ohio, where it has remained. The two lowest-rated qualifiers, or two chosen low-rated qualifiers, play for a chance to play a #1 seed later in the week.

For the last five years in a row, one of the participants has come from either the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference or the Southwestern Athletic Conference, the two Division I conferences made up of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). The committee has made an effort to not match up the two leagues in the Tuesday night play-in game. I think it would be a public relations disaster if two HBCUs played in the only opening round game. This year, Jackson State of the SWAC and Florida A&M of the MEAC were the lowest-ranked teams in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The NCAA chose to let JSU skip the play-in game. However, we are finding that the opening round game penalizes low-budget programs, as it is a cheap imitation of the real 1st round of the NCAA tournament.

The cries are coming even louder, from coaches of major programs, to expand the field. 64 teams is a really good number, but we've passed that now. 96 is too many, as a complete extra round would be a logistical nightmare. Which leaves us the reasonable numbers of 68 and 72.

A 68-team field would result in four opening-round games, giving some legitimacy to this round, while opening three more spots in the field. In a 68-team tournament, Drexel, Syracuse, and Kansas State most likely make the field. In addition, each #1 seed would play a winner from the opening round. There could be two doubleheaders, in two medium-sized to small arenas, preferably close to a major airport yet able to draw a crowd. This year's games would include: Weber State vs. Florida A&M, Belmont vs. Niagara, North Texas vs. Jackson State, and Central Connecticut vs. Eastern Kentucky. This is the best and most reasonable option for expanding the field.

A 72-team field would require doubleheaders in two more locations in the opening round, or two locations with all-day sessions, similar to the first round of the tournament. It would also add seven more at-large spots to the field. For example, Drexel, Syracuse, Kansas State, Air Force, Bradley, Florida State, and Missouri State would most likely make the tournament under this arrangement. A good number of automatic qualifiers from the smaller conferences would be playing on Tuesday under this arrangement, as there would be eight opening round games, for the right to play #1 and #2 seeds later in the week.

The opening round as it is currently constituted is a joke. I think three more opening round games would be ok, especially as it would add three more at-large bids. Anything more than that further dilutes the quality of the tournament.

Bracket Breakdown: South

The South regional really is South this year. As in, South Texas. One of these teams will go through the Alamodome in San Antonio on the way to the Final Four.

That juggernaut of college athletics, The Ohio State University, finds itself as the #1 seed in this regional. They have a first round game with Central Connecticut State, the Nutmeg State's only representative in this tournament (UConn is missing this year). tOSU has little trouble in this one.

The Buckeyes find themselves in a tight ticket market in 22,000 seat Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. One reason is that nearby Xavier of Cincinnati is the 9th seed, playing #8 BYU. BYU won the regular season championship in the Mountain West. Beware of the X Men. Jesuits over Mormons in this one.

The Big Orange of Tennessee are also in this regional, traveling to Columbus to play Long Beach State. CSULB coach Larry Reynolds is coaching for a job, as his contract expires after the tournament. He could possibly get a better job after this tournament. The Beach will give Tennessee all they want. But, just as last year, the Vols hang on for a first-round win.

The Virginia Cavaliers moved into a new arena this season, and finished near the top of the ACC, blowing a chance to win the regular season on the final day. UVa finds itself as a #4 seed opposite the Great Danes of the University at Albany, State University of New York. Albany almost upset UConn in last year's tournament. I look for them to finish the job, and pull the upset here.

Another reason for the tight ticket market is the return of Rick Pitino to Lexington, as his Louisville Cardinals make the 80-mile trip down I-64 to play the Stanford Cardinal. Stanford went 10-8 in a tough Pac-10. I think they're one and done here, though, as U of L should handle the Trees. Oops, I meant Cardinal.

The other game in Lexington gives us the Fightin' Texas Aggies and the Penn Quakers. Aggies vs. Ivy League, hmmm? Give me the Aggies.

Down in New Orleans, the Wolf Pack of Nevada get a tough matchup with the Creighton Bluejays. This will be a good one. Give me Nick Fazekas and Nevada.

Awaiting them will be Memphis. The Tigers rolled undefeated through Conference USA, barely breaking a sweat. Their matchup with North Texas will be no different. It's good for the Mean Green to be here, but this won't be pretty. Give me Elvis, and give me Memphis.

In the next round, Ohio State and coach Thad Matta get a matchup with his former school, Xavier. The X-Men will be hungry, and will play tOSU tough. But, there's only one Greg Oden, and he wears scarlet and gray. Ohio State wins this one.

TOSU gets to play Tennessee, winners over a valiant UAlbany squad.

The Texas Aggies run into a buzzsaw in Lexington, as Louisville has a virtual homecourt advantage. However, the Ags won at the Phog over Kansas, and they'll win over U of L in the Bluegrass.

The Ags become beneficiaries of an upset, as Memphis finally falls. They've won too many games in a row, and a 22 game winning streak comes to an end at the hands of Nick Fazekas and Nevada.

So, down by the Riverwalk, tOSU handles the Big Orange of Tennessee. The Aggies, who barely knew what a basketball was only three years ago, pack the Alamodome, and dispatch Nevada.

This sets up a battle between tOSU and the Fightin' Texas Aggies. This will be a low-scoring close game, but the Buckeyes come through in the Year of Greg Oden. Bucks to Atlanta..

Bracket Breakdown: East

The East Regional in East Rutherford, N.J. promises excitement and intrigue, no matter who ends up there. Several teams could win this one.

The North Carolina Tar Heels are the top seed, and draw the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky Fried Chicken in the first round. EKU has had a nice season, winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, but they're not North Carolina. Tar Heels roll.

They face the winner of a gargantuan 8-9 matchup between Tom Crean and the Marquette Golden Eagles (I almost called them Warriors-naughty, naughty!), and his mentor Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans. Teacher beats pupil here. Spartans win this one in Winston-Salem.

The 5 vs. 12 matchup in Spokane gives us the resurgent USC Trojans and the Arkansas Razorbacks, probably the last team chosen for the tournament. The last time these schools met, it was on the football field, and SC hung half a hundred on the Hogs in Fayetteville. This will be a better game, but give the edge to SC.

In the other Spokane game, the Fighting Kevin Durants, a/k/a Texas Longhorns, get a matchup with Reggie Theus and the New Mexico State Aggies. It seems like yesterday Reggie Theus was playing for UNLV and a million NBA teams. Durant and Texas are too much for the Aggies.

Down on the bottom half of the bracket, Gloria Vanderbilt takes on George Washington. It's not really Gloria's school, but I think it's the same family. I smell a slight upset here in the 6-11 game. First in war, first in peace, and first on Thursday in Sacramento: George Washington.

Speaking of upsets, there is another potential upset in Sacramento. Washington State has had an excellent season, finishing in second place in the Pac-10 regular season. They face the Golden Eagles (once a Titan, always a Titan) of Oral Roberts. Oral always said: "Expect a Miracle", and it was on the side of their court at one time. ORU has already beaten Kansas in Lawrence, and they get a 14 over 3 upset in Sac-town on Thursday.

Back in Winston-Salem, the struggling Boston College Eagles are matched up with the O'Reilly Texas Tech Red Raiders. Bob Knight won't be allowed to wear the O'Reilly sweater during the tournament, but he won't have to sell an oil filter to beat BC. Tech wins their first-round game.

Georgetown goes back to the future. They are coached by John Thompson III, son of their legendary coach. One of their players is Patrick Ewing, Jr., son of star Georgetown and Knicks center Patrick Ewing. Not coincidentally, Georgetown has their best team since the 80's. They are matched up with Music City's other team, Belmont, making their second consecutive tournament appearance. I like G'town to win big here.

All of that brings us to the second round. North Carolina should have relatively little trouble with a maxed out Michigan State team. USC and Texas meet in a rematch of the 2005-06 Rose Bowl, with Texas winning the hoops version, as well. In the upset bracket, the father of our country, George Washington, wins out over that fan of 60's retro architecture, Oral Roberts. GW's crosstown rival, Georgetown, solidly handles the Texas Tech O'Reillys.

At the Sweet 16 in the Meadowlands, UNC finds itself in a classic matchup with the Kevin Durants. Durant puts Texas on his back, and the Horns knock off the Heels, setting up a classic Roy Williams post-game press conference. In the other game, Georgetown earns bragging rights to D.C. by dispatching of the upstart GW Colonials.

Which brings us to the regional final, Georgetown vs. Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is the real deal. For the second year in a row, though, Texas falls in the Elite Eight. The Georgetown renaissance continues, as the Hoyas punch their ticket to Atlanta.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bracket Breakdown: West

The West Regional finds the Kansas Jayhawks as the #1 seed, thanks partly to UCLA's loss of their last two games in a row. Still, the Bruins only have to fly to NoCal for both rounds of the tournament, as they are bracketed for Sacramento and San Jose, before a possible trip to the Final Four.

There is no subregional in Kansas City, Wichita, Emporia, Leavenworth, or anywhere reasonably close to Lawrence this year, so the Jayhawks spend the opening weekend in the Windy City of Chicago. They also draw the winner of Tuesday's play-in game between Florida A&M and Niagara. If this were a band competition, FAMU would win hands down. But, Niagara feels hosed by having to play in this game, and should take out their frustrations on the Rattlers. The Purple Eagles then get a first round game with Kansas. Good luck with all that. KU wins their first opening game in three years, after losing to Bucknell and Bradley the last two years.

Awaiting the Jayhawks will be the winner of the Wildcats vs. Wildcats matchup between Kentucky and Villanova. It's hard to believe that Tubby Smith's job may be on the line. Some schools are excited to make the tournament every year. At Kentucky, national championships are expected, and the Big Blue hasn't won one since 1998. Kentucky basketball=Oklahoma football. Nova is a dangerous team, and will knock out the team from the Bluegrass.

One of the last teams chosen for the field are the Fighting Illini of Illinois. They draw the Hokies of Virginia Tech. Look for plenty of orange in this game. Illinois was just good enough to get into this tournament, but not good enough to get past Zabian Dowdell and the Hokies. Ya gotta pick a team with a guy named Zabian.

The Illini's downstate neighbors, the Salukis of Southern Illinois, are in the other game in Columbus. Their opponents are the Holy Cross Crusaders. Upset alert here, as Holy Cross can play. Holy Cross, Batman! The Uncaped Crusaders get the win over the Salukis.

This is a down year for the Duke Blue Devils. They are in the tournament as a #6 seed, and are grateful to be seeded that high. Their reward: a trip to beautiful downtown Buffalo, and a date with the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth. VCU is the regular season and tournament champion of the Colonial Athletic Association, the league that gave us George Mason. Mason's magic shifts down I-95 to Richmond, as the Rams knock off the Dukies, and make half of the college basketball world very happy.

Also in Buffalo are the Pittsburgh Panthers, and their opponent, the pesky Wright State Raiders. This is a potential upset. This will be close, but I'm not biting on this one. Give me Pittsburgh.

The bottom of the bracket takes us to Sacramento. Kelvin Sampson enters his first tournament as coach of the Indiana Hoosiers with a matchup with everyone's darling, Gonzaga. The Zags recovered from the dismissal of C Josh Heytvelt (possession of a narcotic mushroom) to win both the regular season and tournament in the West Coast Conference. Indiana, when last we saw them, scored 4 points in an overtime against Illinois. Give me the Zags.

Awaiting that winner will be UCLA. UCLA gets a first-round game against coach Ben Howland's alma mater, Weber State. Weber's not bad for the Big Sky, but this is UCLA. The Bruins bounce back.

In the second round, Kansas gets a stiff test from Villanova, and needs every ounce of energy and luck, but gets by the Wildcats. The Jayhawks get a matchup with the Hokies of Virginia Tech, who end the dreams of Holy Cross.

The dreams of VCU also suffer an end at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt prepares for the winner of a great second round matchup between Gonzaga and UCLA. The Bruins win the rematch of a thriller from last year's tournament.

The HP Pavilion (great name for an arena-maybe Dell can sponsor an arena and call it the Inspiron) in San Jose hosts the Sweet 16 matchups of Kansas-Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh-UCLA. KU handles Zabian and company in one matchup. Ben Howland and UCLA get the best of his former team and assistant, Jamie Dixon.

Which gives us the matchup we all want in the regional: Kansas and UCLA. This matchup radiates tradition. This will be up and down, and down to the wire, but Bill Self finally gets to a Final Four, after reaching the Elite Eight with three different schools (Tulsa, Illinois, KU).

Bracket Breakdown: Midwest

We begin our breakdown of the NCAA men's tournament with the Midwest Regional. The NCAA has gone back to using regional names, instead of generic names like the St. Louis Regional. This is a good move by the guys in Indianapolis. Click on the graphic for more details.

There is no regional in true SEC country this year (the South regional is in south Texas), so the committee shipped Florida to St. Louis and the Midwest. The Gators look really, really strong once again, returning almost their entire team from last year's national championship.

First, the Gators have a date in New Orleans with Jackson State. Jackson State doesn't have a prayer in the first round. Someday, a #16 seed will beat a #1 seed in the first round. Not here.

The winner (Florida, cough, cough) gets a matchup with the winner of the 8-9 game between Arizona and Purdue. Purdue has had a nice bounce-back year. Arizona is here every year, though they are not as strong as they were when they were going to Final Fours and winning a national championship. Still, the Cats are good enough to beat the Boilers here.

Every year, a 12 seed seems to always beat a 5 seed. This regional will be no different. Butler has had a great season, and has earned a #5 seed on the strength of its non-conference performance. They lost three games at the end of the year, and appear to have peaked too soon. Old Dominion is just the kind of team that can take advantage of this matchup. I pick Old Dominion in the upset in beautiful downtown Buffalo.

Maryland is another team that has bounced back this year. I thought the #4 seed was a little high, especially after their brainlock against ACC cellar-dweller Miami. Davidson, their first-round opponent, has rolled through the Southern Conference, and has won 29 games overall. This will be a tough game. I'm picking the Turtle, but Davidson will give Maryland all they want, and then some. The real question is: who does Lefty Driesell cheer for? He coached at both schools.

On the bottom half of the bracket, we find America's football team, Notre Dame, up against everyone's favorite choice for this year's surprise team, Winthrop. The Eagles come into this game at 27-4, and have broken into the Top 25, a first for a Big South team. Notre Dame is a pretty good team. But, I'm jumping on the Winthrop bandwagon for this one.

Also in Spokane is potentially the worst matchup of the tournament. Oregon rolled to the Pac-10 tournament championship last week. Miami (Ohio) got into this tournament on a literal prayer of a 3-point bank shot to beat Akron at the buzzer in the MAC final. The magic runs out for the Redhawks. Oregon, and it won't even be close.

Chicago is the site of one of the better first-round matchups: 7th seed UNLV and 10th seed Georgia Tech. The Runnin' Rebels are back, and got hosed a bit with this low seed. Tech has some guys that can play, and beat North Carolina during the last week of the regular season. In a tough game, give me Vegas. What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.

Wisconsin stays close to home in Chicago as a #2 seed, and draws the Islanders of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. TAMU-CC is the ultimate hyphenated school, and they're not even Aggies! I'd love to see them pull the upset, and I look for them to keep it close. But, Wiscy will pull away at the end to advance.

In the 2nd round, Florida draws Arizona. The Gators show up to play, and it won't even be close. Old Dominion survives to take on Maryland, and this turns out to be a good game. The Terps hold on in a close one to advance. Winthrop moves into a 2nd round game with Oregon, represents well, but comes up short, and the flourescent yellow of Oregon advances. The Ducks will take on Wisconsin, victors over UNLV.

Which brings us to the Sweet 16 by the Arch in St. Louis. The Gators get Maryland, and handle them with relative ease. Oregon takes on Wisconsin. The Badgers play to their seed, despite many experts' pick against them, and move on to the Elite Eight.

The Gators get a matchup with the Cheeseheads for a trip to Atlanta. Florida is just a little better, and moves on to the Final Four to defend their title.

Coming up: predictions from the West, East, and South regionals.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Brackets Are Out

The pairings for the NCAA men's basketball tournament have been announced. They can be found here.

There were a few surprises along the way. I didn't expect North Carolina to receive a #1 seed, much less the #2 seed in the entire tournament. I also didn't expect Florida to be the top seed for the whole tournament.

The only teams that got in the tournament that I did not project are Arkansas and Stanford. Those are not surprising, as the Hogs made a big run in the SEC tournament, and the Cardinal didn't have any bad losses while going 10-8 in the tough Pac-10.

The only teams I had projected into the field that missed the tournament are Syracuse and Kansas State. I was mildly, but not totally surprised.

For what it's worth, I correctly projected 63 out of 65 teams in the field. I projected 44 out of 65 teams within one seed of what they received in the tournament.

The state of Texas came up big. 5 teams from Texas are in the field: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, North Texas, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. And they said this was a football state.

Bracket analysis to come during the week...

NIT Projections

And, for those teams left out of the NCAA tournament, the NIT is available. The National Invitation Tournament is the nation's oldest post-season tournament. This year, the field has been reduced from 40 to 32 teams.

This is the second year that the NIT has been operated by the NCAA. As a result, regular season conference champions not selected for the NCAA tournament receive automatic bids to the NIT.

I'm not even going to try to project actual brackets for the NIT. However, I will take a stab at projecting the 32 teams chosen.

Automatic bids: Austin Peay, Marist, East Tennessee State, South Alabama, Toledo, Vermont, Delaware State, Mississippi Valley State

The other 24: Drexel, Missouri State, Stanford, Air Force, Arkansas, Bradley, Florida State, Utah State, Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Michigan, West Virginia, Ole Miss, UMass, Mississippi State, Georgia, Appalachian State, San Diego State, Akron, DePaul, Hofstra, Bucknell, Washington

That's not a bad tournament itself. Most of those teams could win a game or two in the NCAA tournament with the right matchup.

2007 NCAA Tournament Projections, Final Edition

Nothing really earth-shattering has happened in the world of college hoops in the last 18 hours. All the teams that were supposed to win have won, thus far. That includes Florida, North Carolina, Long Beach State, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Big Ten and Big 12 championship games end too late to impact the bracket. The guys in Indianapolis are through with their bracket, so the positions of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Texas will not be affected by a win or loss this afternoon.

Top four seeds: Ohio State, Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin
Last four teams in: Purdue, Kansas State, Illinois, Old Dominion
Last four teams out: Drexel, Missouri State, Air Force, Stanford

I'm not projecting them in the bracket, but don't be surprised to see Appalachian State in the Big Dance. They could be this year's 2006 Utah State (How did they get in?). That is, a team from way under the radar finding themselves on CBS during the Selection Show.

So, last night's bracket is today's bracket. Click on the graphic for more details.