Sweet Emotions

Well, ladies and gents, things are about to get real. With the fun and excitement of the first weekend behind us, we are now left with serious games with serious implications and emotions in the Sweet 16. As Steven Tyler put it:

I pulled into town in a police car
Your daddy said I took you just a little too far
You’re telling me things but your girlfriend lied
You can’t catch me ’cause the rabbit done died
Yes it did

I’ll just let that sink in for a minute. While we wait, here are my thoughts on today’s Sweet 16 matchups:

4 Wisconsin vs. 1 Syracuse
I’m not going to lie. Any game featuring Wisconsin has the potential to make you want to stab your eyes out. That said, their combination of quality guard play and tough defense should make this game very competitive. The Syracuse zone forces teams to hit outside shots to win, something Wisconsin has shown it can do on occasion. There is potential for an upset, but here’s hoping Syracuse uses their superior size and athleticism to spare us another round of “Bo Ball”.

Living proof that stage presence can overcome a lot of ugly.

4 Louisville vs. 1 Michigan State
Based on the season thus far, this seems to be a match-up of similar teams on similar paths. Both teams play suffocating defense at times, both teams struggle to score, and both teams overcame mid-to-early season set-backs to win their conference tournament. While Michigan State is the higher seed, all but one of the personnel match-ups seem to favor a finally healthy Louisville roster. The problem is that one match-up happens to be Draymond Green, who can and has put his team on his back. If Louisville can somehow convert a high percentage of transition baskets, look for the Cardinals to advance.

6 Cincinnati vs. 2 Ohio State
While the Cardinals and Spartans might feel like they’re looking in the mirror at one another, the Bearcats and Buckeyes couldn’t be more different. Cincinnati seemed to switch gears from mediocre also-ran to true Final Four contender heading up to the tournament, while pre-season Final Four favorite Ohio State has gone the other direction. The Buckeyes will have the clear talent advantage and they should be able to force their tempo on a Bearcat attack that sometimes resembles a team from the Rec League Final Four. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the Buckeyes will be able to return to form this late in the season.

7 Florida vs. 3 Marquette
On paper, this pairing would seem to favor the Golden Eagles. According to KenPom, Marquette has a balanced, efficient attack with the nation’s #28 offense and #16 defense. The Gators trend toward the scoring side with the #3 offense and #73 defense. Marquette seems to be the tougher, more consistent team and with dynamite scoring from Darius Johnson-Odom and Big East POY Jae Crowder we could see them pull away. However, you can never under-estimate guard play in the NCAA tournament and Florida’s can be unmatched at times. If the Gators are hitting outside shots, this could go down to the wire.

As we all pretend to be interested in what they’re paying us to do, lets keep our fingers crossed that 4 potentially great match-ups all materialize tonight. See you tomorrow.

 

Small Arms McGee’s Tournament Predictions

East:
As I said in my Selection Sunday Reaction post, Ohio State didn’t get much of a reward for being the best team all season. Kentucky is certainly better than a 4-seed, and Syracuse is battle-tested. I have Syracuse beating Carolina, who won’t be able to shoot well enough to exploit that zone. I think John Calipari has plenty of ammunition to work his “they don’t respect us” angle that worked so well at Memphis, and will knock off Ohio State early. Syracuse beats Kentucky to advance to Houston.

West:
I had been mentally preparing myself for Duke to be set up with another weak bracket, disguised by playing out west. I was right that they’d get San Diego State, but wrong that their bracket would be weak. If Texas can get out of its own way in the first two games, they could be a challenge for Duke. And if UConn gets there, Nolan vs. Kemba would be fit for pay-per-view. I have K finally getting some revenge against Calhoun for 1999 and 2004, and getting the Lubed Evils back to the Final Four. If Duke gets there, people like me won’t be able to say they got a cakewalk this time.

Southwest:
The committee doesn’t set up made-for-TV moments huh? Right.  We all look forward to Bill Self vs. Illinois in the second round (assuming Kansas finally exorcises its “first-round opponent that start with B” demons).  I have Kansas beating Louisville to get to the Elite Eight and Purdue slipping by Notre Dame. (As an aside, I have a rule these days that requires me to never trust Vanderbilt or Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament. If my predicting ability in the past is any guide, you’ll see Vandy and Notre Dame square off in the Elite Eight.) Anyway, Kansas skates by Purdue relatively easily to get to the Final Four.

Southeast:
The committee thought they had put together a bracket even Pitt couldn’t screw up.  Clearly, they underestimate Pitt’s abilities to avoid the Final Four. This region is the home to my biggest upsets – which are relatively few and far between in my bracket this season. I have Belmont beating defense-averse Wisconsin, then beating Utah State to advance to the Sweet Sixteen where Pitt finishes them off. On the other side I have Florida taking out BYU. (Upset alert: Gonzaga upsets a dinged-up St. John’s team before falling to the Stormin’ Mormons.) Florida edges Pitt to reach its first Final Four since 2007, and more importantly, denying Pitt its first Final Four since the FDR administration.

Final Four
Duke hits its threes and beats Syracuse.  Kansas races past Florida.  Kansas’ frontcourt proves too much for the Plumlees in an intriguing matchup between Coach Hair Dye and  Coach Toupee.  Kansas is your 2011 national champion, and Carolina fans won’t give a shit about Roy Williams wearing a Jayhawk sticker this time.

Enjoy the tournament.  And remember:  never, under any circumstances, pick an ACC team not named Duke or UNC to advance past the second round.

 

Picking through the ashes of what was once my bracket

Al's 2010 NCAA Men's Tournament Bracket

For most of the morning, I’ve been looking for something good in the smoldering remains of what was once my 2010 NCAA tournament bracket picks. The fact that I, like Flop, got an astonishing 7 out of the 16 teams in the Sweet 16 correct, which is the worst I have ever done in a history of spectacular bracket failures that began in 1999 with the advancement of Gonzaga, is mind boggling. I am extremely upset about Villanova. I feel like Jay Wright let me down personally. I am in a icy cold rage that Duke will now probably make it to the Final Four for the first time since 2004 and we will now have to hear about the resurgence of the greatest college basketball program ever ad naseum from ESPN and CBS.

Al reacts to the Kansas loss

But the worst is the stunned horror I felt as I watched Kansas implode Saturday night.

I had scouted Northern Iowa earlier in the year because of my prediction series in December and January and they didn’t impress me then.  I still can’t believe that a Bill Self-coached Kansas team failed to dominate a group of guys who looked like they’d be as equally at home on a tractor in a cornfield or in a teen-age slasher movie as they were on the basketball court (not that there’s anything wrong with tractors, cornfields or teenage slasher movies, mind you).  It was like waking up one day and finding out there’s a Democrat in the White House and a healthcare reform bill has passed. Oh, wait…

So, is there anything to salvage from what has become a disaster of a tournament for me (and many others)? I think so. Here are a few bright spots that I’ve found:

  • Syracuse, my bandwagon team, has a better chance of winning it all now that Kansas is out of the way. As they have for most of the season, they’ve been kind of quiet as they make their way through the tournament without too much trouble. Their performance this year reminds me a bit of Kanas’s in 2008. Solid, quiet…National Champs? It could happen.
  • If Kentucky continues playing the way they’ve been playing so far, they should take care of annoying surprising Cornell and they could potentially decimate Duke in the Final Four. The idea of a bunch of freshmen dominating the Duke upperclassmen has a great deal of appeal. Of course, the picture of a bunch of militant jihadists from Afghanistan dominating Duke appeals to me, so we should take my Kentucky thoughts with a grain of salt.
  • The Maryland-Michigan State game was a great battle between two veteran coaches and some great talent, although Vasquez’s emotional breakdown after the loss was a bit over the top. Tom Izzo really is the best active NCAA Tournament Coach. He may not have teams that dominate in the regular season, but in the NCAA, it’s a different story. Even when Maryland had the go ahead basket with 6.6 seconds left, I knew that Michigan State would pull it out. I’m curious to see what Izzo will do against Northern Iowa without Lucas.
  • Although I was pulling for Georgia Tech, I have to admit that it was fun watching Evan Turner.
  • Baylor versus St. Mary’s. Wow. Two mid-majors I don’t hate. That’s like a record.
  • Gonzaga lost. While that’s not as good as Duke losing, it’s close.
  • UNC has now had a winning season and they’re still playing in the postseason. So what if it’s in the “Not in the Tournament” Tourney? The fact that I get to shout “Oh, God, not to Deon!” for at least one more game is a bright spot.

I also learned some lessons that I hope I can apply next year:

  • I should stick to my guns and not fill out a bracket if that’s how I feel. I think that maybe the reason I didn’t do so well this year is because I really didn’t want to do one.
  • I should listen to my brain more for my first and second round picks and save my gut feelings for picking the national champion. This year, my brain wanted me to pick Cornell over Temple and Washington over Marquette but my gut said to go with Temple and Marquette. However, my gut wanted me to pick Syracuse as the National Champion but my brain said to pick Kansas. I have to say, though, even if I had picked Syracuse, I would have had Kansas losing to them in the Final Four, so it’s really kind of moot.
  • I should have a “nightmare bracket” where Duke wins it all every year. I’ve had one of those since 2002 until this year and it’s worked out well for me. This year, I decided not to do that and I’m worried. Please, please, let someone take them out. I’m talking to you, Purdue, West Virginia, Kentucky and Syracuse.
  • I should wear my lucky Nikes more. I had them on for most of Saturday afternoon (for luck during UNC’s NIT game, which I watched while I worked out), but took them off before the Kansas game to wear a new pair of cute sandals I bought. Big mistake.

So, my new rules for next year are:  “1) Nightmare bracket with Duke winning it all; 2) Brain for first two rounds, gut for champion; and 3) No cute sandals.”

And now, during this break from the stress of a horrible bracket and the fear that even more of my favorites will falter, I get to prepare for my big trip to Charlotte to see Mexico take on Iceland in soccer/futbol on Wednesday. I wonder if there will be any other redheads in the stands pulling for Mexico….

Elitist Jerk Bracket Challenge

Want to find out how much your favorite EJSIC contributors know about college hoops?  Check out our predictions based on unbridled homerism and sheer guesswork more than a combined century of thoughtfully observing NCAA tournament action.  Special thanks to our good friends at CBS for hosting our bracket contest.  We look forward to lending our expertise to  Jim, Clark, Greg, and Seth…just as soon as they return our calls.

Without further ado, let’s get right into the picks.

Flop Floppenhauffer

National Champion: Kansas
After much deliberation, I managed to suppress my inherent homerism and picked Kansas to win the title. While I do think my beloved  Wildcats have more pure talent on their roster than the Jayhawks, I have to concede that Kansas has the better collective team heading  into the tournament. They have more experience and more quality depth  than Kentucky and they shoot the ball well enough to give Syracuse and  other Big East teams fits. It’s chalk for sure, but it feels like a  (rock) chalky kind of year.

See Flop’s bracket here.

Peno Noir

National Champion: Kansas

Am I biased? Maybe. But it’s not rocket science. I went with a team who is strong at every position, experienced, and has a bench that is as deep as Jack Handey: Kansas. They’ll make it though arguably the toughest bracket on the way to their second National Championship in three years.

See Peno’s bracket here.

Karndogs

National Champion: Kansas

I picked Kansas to win because they are the best team in the nation.  I picked Duke to be in the finals because this is the weakest bracket in the history of ever, and I’m a homer.

See Karndogs’ bracket here.

Dafunk

National Champion: Kansas

Historically, I have done a horrible job making tournament picks.  This year, I used the EJSIC NCAA Tournament Flowchart to make my selections.

See Dafunk’s bracket here.

Small Arms McGee

National Champion: Syracuse

Being the Weakest Year Ever causes this to be perhaps the most  frustrating tournament I have ever tried to predict.  In the end, I chose Syracuse to cut down the nets in Indy because I think they have just the right combination of coaching, defense, length, athleticism, and altogether meaningless mascot.  I’m probably the only person alive who didn’t pick Cornell to beat Temple, and I can’t imagine too many folks have BYU in the Elite Eight or Wisconsin in the title game.  Am I a genius, or a moron?  You decide.  (But the correct answer is genius.)

See Small Arms McGee’s bracket here.

Vagabond Joe

National Champion: Kansas

Jameson’s Irish Whiskey + Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion playing on a loop + A complex process that includes flipping a 1953 Sixpence and hucking a few darts at the wall + Planting a few subversive emails to undermine my competitors’ picks = Vagabond Joe’s Nearly Perfect Bracket.

See Vagabond Joe’s bracket here.

Jose Kortez

National Champion: West Virginia

Let’s be honest. This is the weakest year of college basketball since Oregon won the whole thing. I’ve been involved in YMCA events with more talent. I’m considering watching a dog show instead of the NCAA tournament this year. But all the same, it’s pretty obvious the Poodle is going to win that so there’s not much point in putting together a bracket.

That brings us back to the YMCA Tournament. The committee rubbed one all over Coach K, but it won’t help them any. This year’s tournament is Syracuse’s to lose. That said, I was a little worried about injuries. And no other team is good enough to get out of the elite eight.

So, that’s how this tournament should end. In a shameful tie.

But, because of some past behavioral issues that have the gods mighty riled with me, there will be one more painful weekend to this basketball season. The only good news is that West Virginia will be the last team standing.

See Jose’s bracket here.

Shred Torn

National Champion: Kansas

I’m not really going out on a limb picking Kansas to win the title, I acknowledge that. Usually I am the one who fantasizes the various ways in which the top teams can lose, rather than giving them appropriate credit. Kansas has proven that they’re the best team all season long. The other contenders are flawed in different ways. I think Kentucky got a tough break with potentially having to face either Wisconsin or Temple in the Sweet Sixteen and then likely West Virginia in a regional final. All of those teams play tough defense and have veteran players to knock off the Cats. Syracuse has a pretty good draw, but they haven’t inspired confidence lately. They’re the best contender to knock off Kansas, but that’s largely because of style of play and because they seem to have some sort of higher power working for them when they play the Jayhawks in recent years. Still, the Jayhawks have the ball in their court, and they’re a real slam dunk. HA-HA! So clever Shred…

See Shred Torn’s bracket here.

NoMore Toys

National Champion: Syracuse

I am grumpy and hate everything, except maybe bourbon and Bull Durham. There are a lot of things wrong with the sport of college basketball, but at least it IS a sport…just like NASCAR. Xavier is awesome and so is Kentucky sometimes.  But I’m picking Syracuse to win it all.

See Nomore Toys’ bracket here.

Al Kenmore

National Champion: Kansas

My original plan was not to do a bracket this year for two main reasons:

1) Gonzaga is in the tournament – again – and they have screwed up every bracket I’ve done since the 1999-2000 season. If I pick them to lose, they win. If I pick them to win, they lose. After 10 years of this, it’s geting tiresome.

2) The Tar Heels aren’t in the tournament. In years past, after Gonzaga bust my brackets and all the other ACC teams flamed out, I still had pulling for the Tar Heels to look forward to. Now I have nothing but a wrecked bracket to look forward to.

However, in the spirit of the EJSIC, I filled one out. I based my picks on what I could remember about the season before the Super Bowl, because that’s when I became unglued during the UNC downward spiral. I usually do pretty well when I don’t pay any attention to what anyone on ESPN, CBS, ABC, NPR or Yahoo Sports says about teams and go with my gut. There are certain teams whose coaches have much better Tourney resumes than they have season or conference resumes and I generally pick them to go far in the tournament. So, that’s why I have Louisville, Michigan State and Villanova all making it to the Sweet 16 or farther. It’s usually a safe bet that Duke won’t make it to the Elite 8. Everyone acts like this year is the first time that Duke’s been given a cakewalk, but this is not true. If they’re a number 2 seed, they usually have the easiest 15 seed and so on. In 2005, they were given a real gift and oops–no FF for them. Even though Syracuse is my bandwagon team, I think that Kansas is playing great basketball right now and should win it all pretty easily. Kentucky could falter before the final game, but I put them in it because a Self-Calipari rematch would be great. I don’t see Kentucky winning it all because I don’t think they’re disciplined enough. Kansas is disciplined and that’s why I think they’ll come out on top.

See Al Kenmore’s bracket here.

Michael Street

National Champion: Kansas

Last time I picked Kansas to win it all, they beat my soon-to-be alma mater in the national championship game with the help of missed free throws and a miracle by a man named Mario who isn’t a plumber. My team is out of it this season, so at least Rock Chalk won’t break my heart in April. I’m taking the Jayhawks to defeat West Virginia with a little less drama, 78-66.

See Michael Street’s bracket here.

Ttobbs3eb

National Champion: Kentucky

Like everyone else, I think Kansas is the best team in college basketball right now, just as they have been all year.  However, they have been overwhelmingly picked by experts to win it all, and I just can’t see it being so easy.  They are good, but not as complete or dominant as last year’s Tar Heels or the 2008 National Champion Jayhawks.

The other dirty little secret about Kansas is that they haven’t faced as elite of competition as some would have you believe.  They did own a good Kansas State team during the season, but got scares from out of conference foes Memphis and Cornell and lost to Tennessee and Oklahoma State.  I think they end up falling just short of the championship game when they run into a Syracuse squad who can frustrate them with zone.

Instead, I’m going with Kentucky who has become the most popular pick among the one seeds to miss the final four.  While everyone harps on their lack of experience the fact remains that they have a deep, talented frontcourt and the best point guard in the nation.  UK rides their talented freshman class with the help of the “nobody believes in us” factor all the way to Indianapolis and ends up cutting down the nets.  Lexington rejoices.  The rest of the nation keeps their fingers crossed for a recruiting violation.

See Tobbs’ bracket here.

The Sensei

National Champion: Wisconsin

Bold predictions are what I do.  Not only does my bracket guarantee a national championship for the Wisconsin Badgers, it also predicts an Elite Eight for Tennessee – something none of us thought we would live to see.

See The Sensei’s bracket here.

Aspiring Deadbeat Dad

National Champion: Georgetown

I feel confident that my picks have put me in a unique position to dominate these other EJSIC losers. I chose the Georgetown Hoyas to defeat Kansas State in the semifinals before defeating Kentucky in the championship game.  Greg Monroe is the key to this Georgetown team, and to the success of my bracket.

See Aspiring Deadbeat Dad’s bracket here.

Well, folks…that’s it for the predictions of our motley crew.

Check back after each round and see which Jerk emerges as truly Elite.

McGee’s Bracket Musings After a Decent Night’s Sleep

Greetings, Basketball Lovers!

I wanted to step back from the situation before posting my thoughts on the seedings and pairings for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.  You see, I was simply incredulous (and at times demonstrably angry) while watching Greg Gumbel and Clark Kellogg unveil the brackets.  My reaction was not due to Clark Kellogg’s disturbing orange tint, but really, what’s that about?

Anyway, here are a few items that jumped out at me last night:

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Flowcharting the 2010 NCAA Tournament

Want to dominate your office pool but don’t know a thing about college basketball?

This would be a great time to create water-cooler talk with the boss, wouldn’t it?

Well here at EJSIC, we’re here to provide exactly what the people want: below, you’ll find the key to winning your office pool, with the EJSIC 2010 NCAA Tournament flowchart.

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College Basketball Top 25 2/21/10

The EJSIC Top 25: NCAA Basketball
February 21, 2010
Pre-season poll, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14

So, without further ado, here are our rankings (votes – first place votes), with next week’s schedule. Week 15 will be games played between February 21 and February 27. As the season progresses, we’ll keep a log of top 50 wins and record in the last 10 games so you can follow the important information to the NCAA tournament. The records and stats come from realtimerpi.

1. Kansas 26-1 (12-0) (99 – 3)
…..vs. Top 50: 9-1, Last 10: 10-0
…..Next week: vs Oklahoma 2/22, @ Oklahoma State 2/27
2. Kentucky 26-1 (11-1) (97 – 1)
…..vs. Top 50: 5-0, Last 10: 9-1
…..Next week: vs. South Carolina 2/25, @ #16 Tennessee 2/27
3. Syracuse 25-2 (12-2) (90)
…..vs. Top 50: 7-2, Last 10: 9-1
…..Next week: @ Providence 2/24, vs. #5 Villanova 2/27
3. Purdue 23-3 (11-3) (90)
…..vs. Top 50: 6-2, Last 10: 9-1
…..Next week: @ Minnesota 2/24, vs. Michigan State 2/27
5. Villanova 22-3 (11-2) (84)
…..vs. Top 50: 6-3, Last 10: 8-2
…..Next week: @ Pitt 2/21, vs. South Florida 2/24, @ #3 Syracuse 2/27

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