Sunday, the NCAA Basketball tournament started with the selection of 65 teams. Exactly 30 second later, the country went nuts filling out brackets and picking the teams to cut down the nets in San Antonio.
Well, there are many things that I am, and one of them is a college basketball junkie. I would rather watch Big Monday on ESPN than watch the Super Bowl. So without further ado, I will examine the tournament by looking at each team. And yes, the Kent State Golden Flashes are in the tournament.
Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tarheels are pretty good. I saw them play the Flashes earlier this year and they beat us by 29 points. Tyler Hansbourgh is the best upper-classmen in the country; therefore people think he’s the best player. Seriously people, Michael Beasley of Kansas State is the best player in the country, and I might even pick Kevin Love of UCLA or DJ Augustine of Texas over Hansbourgh.
Who did Psycho T play against this year that makes him the best big man in the country? Oh yeah, he’s from North Carolina, so it doesn’t matter- he’s awesome baby with a capital “A.”
The Tarheels do deserve the number one overall one seed, but don’t pencil them in just yet. The Tarheels only lost two games this season, but Clemson played them close three times. Georgia Tech had them beat. Virginia Tech had them beat, and they could play Indiana in the second round.
Kelvin Sampson may have left Indiana to Dan Dakich, but he didn’t leave the new coach with scrub players. When Roy Williams learned he might have to face the Big Ten player of the year in DJ White and the Big Ten freshman of the year in Eric Gordon- all in the second round- he probably thought he was in an Eli Roth movie and someone was about to cut his Achilles.
With that said, and with Roy Williams’ tournament history involving players he recruited, I think the Tarheels are the first number one to drop out. I see them losing in the Sweet 16 to a tough Washington State team. The game may be in North Carolina, but the two losses the Tarheels came at home this season. The Cougars play great defense and have some scorers. The Tarheels play poor defense and have great scorers. On top of it, no matter what ESPN said, The PAC 10 was a better basketball conference this season than the ACC. Why do I say this:
Compared to Duke
It’s a big difference, plus Arizona State was probably more deserving than Virginia Tech, but they both didn’t deserve to be in this tournament.
The winner of this region will be the Louisville Cardinals. Their coach is one of the best tournament coaches ever, Rick Patino. The man with the slicked back hair and expensive suits has taken three different schools to the Final Four, Providence, Kentucky and his current team.
The Cardinals have David Padgett, who is probably the toughest player in the country after breaking his kneecap four months ago. Their shooting and defense will cause trouble for Tennessee in the Sweet 16, and will set up a battle against Washington State. Louisville wants it more and wins the game because Washington State, who plays a Big East style game, will be playing a Big East team.
Sleepers: St. John’s over Oklahoma, but only if Oklahoma freshman Blake Griffin can stay on the bench because injuries and foul trouble. Also, it would be stupid not to pick George Mason or South Alabama (who practically plays a home game in Birmingham.
Best player and starting five: North Carolina’s Ty Lawson and his teammates. Quick and talented, you could pick the entire UNC starting five if you wanted too for best player, but even with that UNC has a short bench and plays little defense, and that’s why they won’t win a championship.
Best coach: Patino, Louisville, just make sure that he doesn’t leave for Boston after this season.
This is Kent State’s bracket. They can’t be happy with it. The Flashes will play a UNLV team that they match-up well with on size, but UNLV has an advantage in the experience department. The Running Rebels went to the Sweet 16 last year and was four points away from advancing to the Elite 8.
But the Flashes should win because they played a tougher schedule and would have made the tournament if Nick Dials wasn’t playing for Akron. But then they will play the Kansas Jayhawks in the second round, not fun.
You don’t need to look at the RPI, the plethora of McDonald All-Americans or the Rankings to understand why the Flashes are over-matched in that game. You can look at a map and realize that Omaha, NE, where the games are being played, and Lawrence KS, where Kansas University is located, is very short drive.
The Jayhawks, with their depth and experience from last season’s Elite 8 run and the drive from losing in the first round two years ago (which happened twice in a row for Kansas) will carry them to the final four. Kansas has three great guards, four tough and physical big men and one freak, no not Mario Chalmers, but Brandon Rush playing the hybrid forward. Plus Bill Self is the best coach in the country who has never made a Final Four and if he doesn’t this year the question asked by man fans will be asking is: Can you ever make the Final Four?
If Kent State were playing anyone other than Kansas (or another one seed in the second round) they would be a dark-horse. But the fact is senior forward Haminn Quaintance and sophomore guard Chris Singletary will have to play guys that they don’t match-up with, and that would force junior guard Al Fisher to carry a huge burden on offense.
On the other side of the bracket, I like Wisconsin over Kansas State. Brian Butch will stay with Michael Beasley, as I said earlier, easily the best player in the country. Wisconsin should be able to shut everyone else down and move on to face Georgetown in the Sweet 16. Georgetown will lose to Wisconsin in a tough three-point game. Score one for the Big Ten, because the Badgers are a perfect example of what the Big Ten represents.
Kansas and Wisconsin will be a great match-up, but the Jayhawks advance behind the strength of their own defense.
The best game: Yes the above match-up will be great, but the best game has to be Southern Cal and Kansas State. This could be Southern Cal freshman OJ Mayo’s last chance to prove why he will be a better pro, as he faces fellow freshman stud Beasley.
If it weren’t for that match-up, the best game has to be Gonzaga and Davidson in the first round. Two great mid-majors going up against each other, both were ranked earlier in the year; it should be a fun game.
(I have to wonder why Gonzaga, who didn’t win the West Coast Conference, got this higher seed than Kent State. A Kent State-Davidson game would have been a nail-biter and a Kent State-Beasley game would have been a better game than a Kent State-#1seed game in the second round.)
Best player: No question, Beasley.
Best Lineup: Kansas. Defense, defense, defense and a little bit of offense.
Sleeper team: Davidson. Del Curry’s son Steve can shoot like his pops. They could upset a Kansas State or a Southern Cal, considering they get past Gonzaga.
Best coach: Bo Ryan Wisconsin. The man used to be a prison guard.
This is Memphis’ bracket. They will be the second number one seed to lose. Why? Because they were placed in a bracket with physical teams like Pitt, Stanford, Michigan State, Kentucky and Mississippi State. And I won’t even throw Texas in that group. Memphis doesn’t play a whole lot of teams that can grind out a game like Pitt can. They don’t play a lot of teams that have size like Stanford and they will never see a team like Texas in Conference USA.
Why do I say tall or physical teams are bad for Memphis? Because the Tigers’ free throw shooting is about as bad as Hayden Christianson’s acting skills. They shoot under 60 percent as a team.
I can’t help but think what Memphis’s record would be if the Big East had never raided Conference USA. Or imagine if Cincinnati had never fired Bob Huggins. The Bearcats would have a lineup of OJ Mayo (Southern Cal), Bill Walker (Kansas State) and Beasley (Kansas State). But that’s another column.
I like Pitt to go far in this tournament. After its run this past week, Jamie Dixon has them playing pretty well. If they can get past Temple, yeah that’s right Temple over the cursed #5 seed Michigan State, they’ll play Memphis in a boxing match.
Temple will beat the Spartans because a 12 always beats a five. Michigan State is an inconsistent team that didn’t win the Big Ten. It shocked me every week to learn that the Spartans were still ranked after loss after loss. Temple is a tough team that came out of nowhere to win the always-underrated A-10 conference.
Texas and point guard DJ Augustine circles the wagons and roll through the bottom half of the bracket, only playing close with Stanford in the Sweet 16. Texas then beats Pitt to go to the Final Four.
Best game: The Memphis and Pitt game won’t be a good game for young players to watch, Pitt will make it a tough grind-out game, while Memphis will miss at least 19 free-throws. The Texas-Stanford game will be close in the first half, but Stanford will struggle to stop Augustine, Damion James and Connor Atchley in the second half.
The best game will be Miami and St, Mary’s because of Patty Willis of St. Mary’s. He didn’t play well against Kent State, but the guy will come to play against the Hurricanes (who quietly had a terrific season in the ACC).
Best player: DJ Augustine, Texas. If you watched the Big 12 tournament final, you know that he is good. Augustine came out of Kevin Durant’s shadow this season and became the best point guard in the country, in a deep point guard year (Lawson, Willis, Collison of UCLA, Chalmers of Kansas, Fisher, Mayo, Rose of Memphis…).
Best line-up: I want to say Memphis, but they don’t shoot free throws. I want to say Texas, but they don’t have that much size. I think Stanford has a great line-up with the Lopez twins, so I guess I’ll go with Stanford. (But Memphis has the most talented line-up)
Sleeper team: Temple, all ready explained it.
Best coach: As much as I like Tom Izzo of Michigan State, it’s not him. John Calipari of Memphis, did I mention that the Tigers don’t shoot free throws all too well?
On coaching talent alone, it’s Kentucky’s Billy Gillespie. He made Texas A&M forget about football when he was there. Between he and his first round counterpart, Tom Crean, that could be the best coaching match-up not just in the bracket, but also in the tournament.
UCLA should have no problem reaching the Final Four, but they shouldn’t have had any problems with Stanford and Cal late in the season at home either. The Bruins are a strange team. On one hand, I look at their record and think: Well, they should go to the Final Four. But every time I watch them play, they are struggling to hold on to leads or losing. This is why a second round game with Texas A&M, a team that beat them earlier this season, is a scary game. But the Bruins should win.
Then the Bruins might have to face Connecticut in the Sweet 16. I’m taking UConn in this game. Yes, the game will be in Phoenix, but UConn has a two-time NCAA championship winning head coach (not too mention, a big man and a solid point guard). They played well through the most of the Big East season and were stunned in the conference tournament. Before that loss, the Huskies had bounced back, after a loss to Providence, to blow teams out of the water, like Cincinnati by 40 points. To get to the Sweet 16, the Huskies would have to play Drake (who will beat Western Kentucky), which should be a win.
On the other side of the bracket, Duke will lose to West Virginia in the second round, in evenly matched game. The Dukies will lose because Joe Alexander is a stud, and Duke will continue to play like they did at the end of the season. Xavier could be out early after drawing hot Georgia, but remember before you start picking the Bulldogs, a week ago this was the worse team in the SEC.
Xavier will play Baylor. The only reason I’ve got Baylor is because a few years ago Baylor went through the biggest basketball scandal ever, and now they have lived to tell the stories. Baylor’s dream season ends with the Muskies, who then lose to Bob Huggin’s team, just like the old days when Hugs was at Cincinnati.
In a Big East game, UConn beats West Virginia because after one overtime period.
The best game: Purdue and Baylor. Two schools from BCS conferences. Purdue looks to show why they belong even though they had a weak schedule, while Baylor looks to prove why they belong in the field of 65 over Ohio State. An even better game would be that West Virginia-Duke match-up in the second round.
Best player: Drew Collison, UCLA. This point guard would want to fight me if I kept this DJ Augustine talk up. He dominated the Pac 10 point guards and can beat you on Offense and defense. His teammate, freshman Kevin Love, makes a strong argument, but Collison has played in two Final Fours.
Best Line-up: Hard to argue against UCLA, but with one player hurt, you have wonder if they’re the best. Duke has a good line-up, but UConn’s is better with Thabeet in the middle and Price at the point. Five guys average more than 10 points a game and two more off the bench average more than six.
Sleeper team: West Virginia, for reason all ready explained
Coach: How could it not be hall of fame Jim Calhoun? He has a deep team, and experience to boot. He also wants payback for everyone who has questioned him after he didn’t win a third championship two years ago. That team, embarrassingly, lost to George Mason. Not to take anything away from Mason that year, but UConn was loaded top to bottom that season. When coaches have something to prove, like Huggins and Calhoun (Roy Williams when he won a championship in 2005 and Jim Boeheim in 2003), tournaments change.
I won’t pick who will win in the Final Four, but it will be four teams and two conferences, and I’m not even a big fan of the Big East. But so much is focused on the seating in this tournament that people forget about match-ups. UConn didn’t have a better season than UNC or UCLA, but they have an easier road to the Final Four. The only thing that could make me look like an idiot, if I haven’t all ready done that, is the fact that these #1 seeds, aside from Memphis, always seem to pull out close games.
So there you have it the NCAA tournament in 2,663 words.
Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected]