Posted: 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Every year when we start to really look at brackets we do two things: 1) thank God we don’t gamble and 2) see who has experience, great guards, great coaching and game/pace management.
Let’s start with Duke’s bracket. It’s been called the bracket of death, but come on: you only play one team at a time, and to be the best, you have to beat the best. What difference does it make when you play them?
Going out on a limb here, but Louisville will not be the first team to lose to a #16 seed.
8 vs. 9 is more interesting. We’ve never been sold on Frank Haith’s coaching but on the other hand we don’t know much about Larry Eustachy’s progress at Colorado State. He’s a solid coach haunted by his breakdown at Iowa State. Winning at Southern Miss is no minor accomplishment and shouldn’t be disregarded.
Mizzou gets the nod for talent but remember last year they went out to Norfolk State. Haith’s post-season record is murky at best. We’ll take the Rams here.
In the 5-12 game, we have a lot of respect for what Dana Altman has done at Oregon and EJ Singler is just a smaller version of Kyle: his teams win.
That said, it’s hard to bet against truly great players and Marcus Smart looks like he’s going to be brilliant. A point guard who’s built like a linebacker presents certain problems.
LeBryan Nash is not bad either.
As far as the coaches go, Altman is better at this point than Travis Ford.
We’ll take Oregon, but not by much. If it were the second game we’d take the Cowboys.
There are some funky corners in America where you wouldn’t expect a really good basketball program until you look closely. New Mexico State is one of those, and Marvin Menzies is not a bad coach.
St. Louis though seems to be on a different level than one might expect. It’s an experienced, well coached team and it’s one of those where the parts come together beautifully. They could put together a nice run this year. We’ll take the Billikens.
Memphis is a team which might be ripe for an upset. Both Middle Tennessee – possibly motivated by doubters and close enough to Memphis to be very aware of the Tigers – and St. Mary’s, which plays in the underrated WCC – are capable.
Like many smaller schools, MTSU have very little size up front.
Memphis dominated the C-USA, but you still get a sense they haven’t truly arrived. We could see an upset here by either opponent.
Can’t say that for Valpo over Michigan State: Sparty should party.
Creighton will rely heavily on Doug McDermott, the best player from Harrison Barnes’ high school team as it turns out.
Remember too that they were, uh, quite physical with UNC last season: Cincinnati won’t be able to pull that Big East wool over Creighton’s eyes. We’ll take Creighton here.
Duke over Albany. We’ll have more on this later.
We’d be shocked if Southern beat Gonzaga.
Pitt/Wichita is interesting. Gregg Marshall likes an uptempo game which often backfires in the postseason. Pitt’s not great this year, but good enough. We’ll take them here.
Marshall Henderson will get a lot of attention for Ole Miss if only because he’ll have it no other way.
Here’s the problem though: Wisconsin has a special genius for slowing things down. Their defense is sticky and unpleasant. Among Henderson’s faults is that he does not always move well without the ball.
Add them up and it’s trouble for Ole Miss.
We absolutely expect K-State to advance. We suspect that Bruce Weber isn’t the easiest person in the world to deal with, but he’ll have less prima donnas in Manhattan than at Illinois. He’s a heck of a coach.
If we’re Arizona, Belmont scares the hell out of us. However, Belmont, always running, will try to push the pace in SLC, and that won’t be easy. At sea level we’d burn an upset pick here. Not at 4,300+ elevation though.
Much as we’d like Harvard to beat New Mexico, that’s a long shot. We’ll take the Lobos here. A remnant of the old WAC, UNM has long been a place where basketball is loved. They’re really just getting back to being really good, too and Steve Alford is a skilled coach.
Notre Dame has one of the most underrated backcourts in the country. We like them to advance.
Unless Iona gets ridiculously hot, Ohio State will win.
Like a number of schools in the field, Western Kentucky is almost always good. Not good enough to take the Jayhawks, though.
We like UNC over ‘Nova. The Heels have flaws, but they’re playing well.
The thing about teams like VCU which want to basically rip your head off is that you have to have a Plan B. If you have good guard play and can manage their pressure, you’ll be okay. Plus they’ve spent a ton of energy on, well, creating Havoc. If it doesn’t work, they’re vulnerable in the halfcourt.
Still, we’ll take VCU here.
Trey Burke negates Nate Wolters and the rest of Michigan’s team is clearly superior. We’ll take the Wolverines.
We’ll join the crowd and take Florida over Northwestern State.
Minnesota and UCLA? Conceptual humor? Both teams have underachieved. Minnesota has more options and less injuries, though, so we’ll take the Golden Gropers here to leave the Bruins stewin’.
Indiana only loses by conscious, deliberate decision. They’ll move on.
State and Temple? Wow. Temple is severely underappreciated. Still we’ll back the Pack in this one. But show up, Calvin!
We like UNLV but caution you to remember that Mike Montgomery is a brilliant strategist.
Another underappreciated coach? Wayne Tinkle. Montana is one-and-done this year though.
We’ll take Davidson in an upset over Marquette.
Butler over Bucknell too.
John Groce is going to be superb at Illinois, but there were some bumps in his first year. We’re always skeptical of Colorado basketball, frankly. We’ll stick with the Illini.
Finally, Miami and Pacific: only a total abdication by Miami wins it. Miami is a trendous team.