So, after lengthy deliberation, intense research, and rigorous study, I have determined the following: I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen this year. Here’s what I do know (or at least what I hope I know):
– Best sporting event out there, hands down. It’s not even close. I love rushing home from work, scrambling to the TV, logging on to the extended coverage online from any computer I can get my hands on, and watching as much basketball as possible. It’s just…awesome.
– I know that there are a handful of teams that consistently remained around the top of the rankings (UNC, Pitt, UConn, Oklahoma, Memphis, Louisville). I’m also fairly confident that they aren’t all that much better than the next tier of teams (Duke, Villanova, Wake Forest, Washington, Michigan State, Kansas, Missouri, Syracuse).
– I know that the level of play in the Big East was spectacular this season, and I think that preparation is going to lead to a very successful showing for them in the Tourney (on my bracket, four teams advance to the Sweet 16, four make the Elite 8, and ‘Nova finds their way into the Final Four).
– I know that injuries could play a major factor in the Tourney. Marquette, a team that was very, very good early in the year (and had the feel of a Tournament team built to make a run), lost Dominic James and his 11.4 ppg and 5.1 apg. Ouch. UConn still managed a one-seed, but they might have been favored to win the whole thing if they still had Jerome Dyson and his 13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg and 3.2 apg. North Carolina seems to be the popular pick (wow, huge shocker there), but if Ty Lawson doesn’t get that toe healthy, I don’t think they can win the whole thing. They have a weak draw, so they are probably headed to the Final Four one way or the other; with Lawson, they don’t even break a sweat. And don’t forget about Illinois, who might not have guard Chester Frazier. On second thought, forget about Illinois – they’re toast.
– I really believe that this will be the year that some underachieving regular-season teams, with middle to low seeds, will make serious runs. Wake Forest struggled late, but from a talent perspective, they are one of the top teams in the nation. I think they shock Louisville in the Sweet 16 and make a run to the Final Four. West Virginia is a popular pick to play the upset role, and I have them making the Elite Eight. Joining them will be another six-seed, Arizona State, who probably should have won their conference championship (gave up a 15-point lead at halftime to USC) and has an absolute stud in James Harden (20.8, 5.4, 4.1). They beat BYU, UCLA (twice), Arizona (three times!), and USC. I feel like a sell-out, picking Arizona St. over the alma mater, Temple, but the head is going to beat out the heart on this one. Though I hope I’m wrong.
– Memphis is athletic, plays vicious D, and has a stud in Tyreke Evans. If I knew – beyond any reason for doubt – that Ty Lawson would be 100 percent, I would take UNC. I don’t. Calipari motivates the troops, convincing them that they got snubbed by being a two-seed, and Memphis avenges its heartbreaking loss to Kansas in the championship game last year, beating UNC 77-72. Here are all of my picks:
Round One Winners: Louisville, Sienna, Utah, Wake Forest, West Virginia, North Dakota State, Boston College, Michigan State
Round Two: Louisville, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Michigan State
Sweet 16: Wake Forest, West Virginia
Elite 8: Wake Forest
Round One: UConn, BYU, Purdue, Washington, Utah State, Missouri, Maryland, Memphis
Round Two: UConn, Washington, Missouri, Memphis
Sweet 16: UConn, Memphis
Elite 8: Memphis
Round One: Pitt, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Xavier, UCLA, ‘Nova, Texas, Duke
Round Two: Pitt, Florida State, ‘Nova, Duke
Sweet 16: Pitt, ‘Nova
Elite 8: ‘Nova
Round One: UNC, Butler, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Syracuse, Michigan, Oklahoma
Round Two: UNC, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Oklahoma
Sweet 16: UNC, Arizona State
Elite 8: UNC
Memphis defeats Wake Forest, UNC defeats ‘Nova
Memphis defeats UNC, 77-72
Of course, this will probably all go to hell. No matter…let the Madness begin!
Be sure to check back tomorrow, as the first sixteen match-ups in the Pattison Pundit’s Beer Bracket will be unveiled. It’s Malt Madness, baby! We’ll follow the Tournament schedule, doing the first round on Thursday and Friday, the second round on Saturday and Sunday, the Elite Eight next Thursday and Friday, the Sweet 16 next weekend, and the Final Four and Championship that following week. Vote once, vote often, and show support for your favorite beer(s). Should be fun.