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Pick Time!!!

February 28, 2007

I was just going to make a list of my selections by conference. I won't try to figure out the 65 teams getting into the tournament (though I have a solid idea...I'll work in who I think is in when I get to the power conferences). I also thought I'd guess name the four number one seeds. I'll start with them first.

Number 1s:
Ohio State A win over Wisconsin pretty much sealed this one. It might have been at home and it might have been ugly (49 points), but it was effective. The Buckeyes have so much talent it's running out of Matta's ears. If only Indiana had been able to snatch him up a year earlier...
UCLA Some earlier season let downs had removed the Bruins from the picture...briefly. I think that Ben Howland has this team focused and playing well at the right time. Losses to USC and Stanford are not bad losses, and even if they don't win the PAC-10 championship, they should be a solid No. 1.
Kansas I've dogged Kansas this year for several reasons, but Bill Self has finally shoved enough fingers in the dam to keep this team together. I don't think they're the greatest team in the country, and I doubt they make it past the Sweet 16. They very well could be the first No. 1 to fall. This pick could, however, come down to whomever wins the Big XII, or who advances further between the Jayhawks and Texas A&M.
North Carolina Barring total and complete meltdown over their last two games, UNC should have the final Number 1 seed. Granted, this team has been a little spotty down the stretch, and the players, coaches and staff have all but admitted that they aren't focused on the ACC but rather on the big picture. This could be dangerous. I doubt that they'll lose their last two games of the season, especially the finale this weekend versus Duke. I also doubt they'll win the ACC tournament. I don't doubt that they're the fourth No. 1 seed.

I thought about Wisconsin, but with Butch's elbow injury, it might be enough to drop Bucky to a solid No. 2 seed. They're still going to be a tough out and very well could make it to the Final Four, which is far more important than a Number 1 seed (Never has four 1-seeds made it to the Final Four). Florida was a number 1 until losing 3 out of 4. Combine that with some possible bad chemistry coming out thanks to Dickie V, and Florida would be a soft No. 1 at best. Memphis is a nice team, but they're not 1-seed material, they just happen to be a good team in a horrible conference.

So, onto the conference picks:

1) American East Vermont: Last year's darling was Albany, but Vermont is hot, and this is by far the best team without Taylor Coppenrath. Their streak of 11 in a row includes a win over Albany at Albany's house, where they came from down late on a 12-point run. The American East hosts their conference tournament at the 1-seed's home. This will help Vermont get back to the dance.

2) Atlantic 10 Xavier. The Musketeers are currently tied with UMass for the top of the league, but they have a better offense and a better defense than the Minutemen (the A-14 could be the best-armed conference in the nation). This is a league that could see someone else pop up and steal the championship, but it will most likely be one of these two teams. Whoever wins goes to the tournament; the loser is NIT bound (or heading off to Spring Break).

3) Atlantic Coast Maryland. UNC is the most talented and Va Tech is the most experienced and Virginia has the most talented guards. I flirted with the notion of Boston College for a while before I fell down laughing. I don't feel that UNC is necessarily focused on the conference championship (remember Clemson bouncing them in the first round and then the Tarheels marching to the National Championship?) and Va Tech has issues with teams that they don't match up well against. Virginia is two guards and another guy who might toss in a few points. Maryland is like that trashy girl that you see in the restaurant when you're out with your wife and she makes that curled-up lip disgusted face and you think "Wow, she's hot." Yeah. I hate the Terps, but they're hungry, and probably the trashy sexy pick out of the ACC. They were hungry against UNC, they've outplayed and outshone Duke tonight AND they have a lay up at the end of the year with NC State. Fear the Turtle, and pass me a bucket to throw up into. UNC, Duke, Va Tech, Virginia, BC and Maryland are all in from the ACC. If Georgia Tech gets a couple of wins in the conference tournament, they will make seven. Clemson and Florida State: Enjoy the NIT.

4) Atlantic Sun Belmont. The Bruins could repeat as conference champions. E. Tennessee St. is the conference leader and No. 1 seed, but Belmont has better overall numbers. Lipscomb, if they can find some more offense, could be a darkhorse.

5) Big Twelve Kansas. Texas A&M is the sexy pick, but this is Kansas, after all. Kansas can handle the pressure of big games. A&M still seems to be learning how to do this. These two could definitely be slugging it out for the conference championship. I want to say Texas Tech, but I don't think they can beat A&M three times in one season. Despite this, I think the Red Raiders are in the dance, along with Texas. Oklahoma St. could have made it in, but the loss to Texas Tech only helped to solidify Tech's trip to the dance. K State could be a darkhorse here, buty it will take a win or two in the conference tourney to secure a bid to the tournament (despite having overall slightly better numbers than Tech...but the Red Raiders have those wins over A&M both home and away).

6) Big East Notre Dame. Homerism at its finest right here. Notre Dame seems to be peaking at the right time. A big home win over Marquette not only helped them secure a spot in the tournament, but also (barring collapse against Rutgers) gave them the inside track to a first-day bye. You don't want to pull a Syracuse. Notre Dame has issues on the road, it's true, but they also play well in Madison Square garden. Tory Jackson has really stepped up, and Colin Falls has refound his shot. Hillesland and Harongody are solid underneath with Rob Kurz playing the perfect swingman inside and out. Pittsburgh is fading, but will be in, along with Marquette, Syracuse and Georgetown. Villanova (with a win tonight over UConn) should probably also be in. Louisville might sneak in, too, but Villanova's and Syracuse's wins down the stretch could keep the Cardinals outside looking in. Enjoy the NIT Rick Pitino. Again.

7) Big Sky Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks have a high-powered offense. Their defensive numbers aren't great, but they've also got momentum. March momentum carries over well into the tournaments. They're probably a 16 or 15 seed, so they have the potential to be a bit of a gadfly if they can get running against a defense that is overlooking them.

8) Big South Winthrop. The Eagles are good, have experience in winning the tournament, and host the tournament. Rock Hill's finest will be in again. Is this the year they bump off a top seed? Bruce Pearl doesn't want to see them again, I can guarantee that much.

9) Big Ten Ohio St. The aforementioned injury to Brian Butch means that Wisconsin could lose in the semifinals. Ohio St.'s talent is just too much for most of the rest of the mediocre Big Ten to handle. Butch-less Wisconsin is a cut above the rest, to be sure, but Bucky will still have trouble handling Oden inside. Michigan St. has put together a nice run to get into the tournament. I really, really wish I could say anything nice about Indiana, but they've fallen on hard times. Northwestern tonight was harder than it should have been. Still, Indiana should secure the 3-seed thanks to their win over Wisconsin, which will hopefully give them an inside track to the semis, where they would meet Bucky for a rematch. Still, Ohio St. is the class of the league. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan St. and Illinois also make it in. Iowa's loss to Penn State sealed their NIT fate. Steve Alford is wondering why Mike Davis had to resign last year.

10) Big West Long Beach St. No one else is close to the 49ers, but Fullerton has a powerful offense that could cause an upset in the conference tournament.

11) Colonial Old Dominion. This is a toss-up with VCU. Personally, I like ODU just a tick better than VCU, so I pick them. Both teams should be in. George Mason won't make it in. In fact, after ODU and VCU, there is a big drop off, and teams that are popular March darlings like UNC-Wilmington and even Drexel will not be in this year (for Wilmington, consider it lying in their own bed).

12) Conference USA Memphis. The rest of the league sucks. Next.

13) Horizon Butler. I'm sticking with the Bulldogs, despite the polish they've lost over the past few weeks. Wright St. hosts the tournament, and Brad "How Do You Like Me Now, Wilmington" Brownell has the Raiders playing well, but they also just got their asses handed to them by Youngstown St. And you can't lose to the Penguins and expect me to pick you. Plus, Butler makes three Indiana teams in the tournament. Huzzah. Butler is in no matter what, I think. The pre-season NIT championship sealed that for them. A win by Wright St. (or Loyola-Chicago) puts two Horizon teams in.

14) Ivy League Penn. I think they've already clinched, unless the Ivy Leaguers have instituted a conference tourney and I didn't pay attention. The power of Amos B. Smith, III prevails again.

15) Metro Atlantic Marist. I watched them beat Siena in overtime. It's tough to beat a team three times in one season, but Marist outhustled and plain outplayed Siena down the stretch. The Foxes should be dancing.

16) Mid-Continent Oral Roberts. They host the tournament, and they beat Kansas at Kansas. I'd like to say Valpo or IUPUI (the team I'm coaching in my PS2 College Basketball game), but I don't see that happening. Plus, Oral Roberts has an enormous pair of praying hands on campus and a "No Fat Chicks" rule.

17. Mid-American Akron. I almost went to Toledo for grad school (but I wanted to learn how to operate something other than an X-ray machine), so I was tempted to pick them. But Akron has a better offense and a better defense. Gone are the days when the MAC was the sexy mid-major. Gone are the days when Rick Majerus' portly profile patrolled the sidelines. Gone are the days to fear Miami of Ohio. Gone are the days of, well, anything good to say about the MAC. Akron makes it to the dance...and then promptly returns home. Maybe they can split airfare with Indiana.

18. Mid-Eastern Delaware St. Delaware St. has a five game lead on their closest competitors, which all seem to be stuck together in one big glut of a tie. Clearly, no one else can compete. Clearly, I have no idea about any of the teams in this conference, other than North Carolina A&T is in Greensboro.

19. Missouri Valley Southern Illinois. Last year, everyone had a boner over the MVC. This year, with all the good coaches plundered, headed off for greener pastures, only Southern Illinois and Creighton have survived the preseason hype to be anything. Wichita Who? Bradlame. Gone and gone. The only hope these teams have are to win the tournament. Plus, Indiana beat the Salukis earlier this year, so I've got respect for them. Bruce Weber might want to reconsider past decisions.

20. Mountain West Air Force. The Falcons have been darlings of the media all year, and with good reason. They barely made it in last year as an at large. I don't think they have to worry about it this year, but BYU could pull the upset in the conference tourney. They're probably in the Big Dance, either way. Either way, we've got a two bid conference again. Woe to the Florida States of the world.

21. Northeast Sacred Heart. Central Connecticut St. is probably the class of the league, but being that I went to Notre Dame, I feel obliged to pick Sacred Heart. No other reason.

22. Ohio Valley Austin Peay. The Governors are atop the OVC standings, and I think the OVC No. 1 seed hosts the tournament. My undergrad plays Austin Peay every year in football. I'm considering this to be homerism by proxy.

23. Pacific 10 UCLA. I've already outlined how I think they're a No. 1 seed. USC could be a dangerous team. Oregon and Stanford will also go to the tournament. Washington St. could have the National Coach of the Year, and will also be dancing. Arizona, despite being unmanned by UNC, will probably make it in thanks to both name recognition as well as the Pac-10 being a monster conference this year.

24. Patriot Holy Cross. The Crusaders are 13-1. So is Bucknell. Based on Bucknell's recent successes as well as everyone's love of the Mid Majors, I'm hoping that Holy Cross wins on a tip-in at the buzzer, and the selection committee takes both teams. Everyone else in the conference is .500 or worse.

25. Southeastern Florida. As much as it pains me, their recent slump could cost them a No. 1 seed, but that's about it. They're still a good team, and no one else has been that consistent enough to upend them in the tournament. But, this will be a neutral site, and there is enough talent around the league that I could see it happen. However, I can't pick a team to replace them. Vanderbilt? Tennessee? Kentucky? All decent, dance-worthy squads, but none have enough of a reason to fall in love with them.

26. Southern Appalachian St. I realize that Davidson won the conference regular season title, that Davidson has been to the tournament most recently, that Davidson has had marginal tourney success, that Davidson can claim Joe Mahoney as an alumni. But, Appalachian St. could be hungry enough for it. Plus, they beat Virginia, and Davidson hasn't had a real marquee win. Sadly, the SoCon will probably only send one team. Both of these teams are probably deserving, but you can only fit 65 in.

27. Southland Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Mostly, I'm picking them because they have the best offense in the league, decent defense, and I don't think they've ever been. I would pick Texas-San Antonio, only because my friend Joe went there, but they have two conference wins. Sorry, Roadrunners. I gotta go with the Islanders. Northwestern St. went last year and beat Iowa in the tournament. They could be a darkhorse candidate from the Southland.

28. Southwestern Mississippi Valley St. I'm going with them because their defensive numbers look a little better. And they're tourney virgins.

29. Sun Belt South Alabama. The Jaguars have been the class of the league for a while, and I see no reason why they won't continue on that path. And, if you don't pull for a team nicknamed USA, the terrorists have already won.

30. West Coast Santa Clara. Gonzaga's mushroom-imbibing players are gone. Hopefully, they're done. But, they have the name recognition, so they'll make it in the Big Tournament, just because. Fuckers. I hate them.

31. Western Nevada. The bigger guys sweating it out on the bubble had better hope that Nick Fazekas (does he have his pH.D yet? Dude's been in school for seventeen years, I swear) takes care of business in this one-trick-pony league. Otherwise, there'll be two from the WAC. I guess New Mexico St. could make it in, but it's not going to happen.

There you have it. I've predicted 62 teams to get in, with maybe two or three strong maybes. That's better than Seth Davis, who has about 112 teams in the tournament. Hopefully, this is more interesting than Harry Potter.


Chemgeek said...

Excellent analysis. It took me a few days to work through it. I will be keeping score at home.

When I was a student at Montana State University (Big Sky Conf.) I covered the men's basketball team for the school paper. I got the gig cause I was sleeping with the editor (my wife). One year the MSU team was great. Best in the conference and almost assured of winning the Big Sky tourney and on to the Big Dance. And that meant *I* got to go too!! All expenses paid, press pass, press room food, Oh, I bet the NCAA has great food in their press room.

Well, long story short, they got beat by instate rival University of Montana, a team MSU beat twice by 20 points during the regular season. UM down by 1, threw up a desperation 3 (they couldn't get close to the basket) the shot bounced off the rim. Out of no where, a UM player jumped about 8 feet in the air grabbed the ball and slammed it how at the buzzer to win the game. I have never heard a quieter crowd. The hearts of the players and fans were broken, but I didn't care about them. My heart was broken too. I wasn't going to the Big Dance. I had to settle for the NIT and NIT press room food. It wasn't too bad, but all I could envision was the press at the NCAA tourney being served on gold plated plates, and here, and the NIT, I had styrofoam.

Chemgeek said...

slammed it how = slammed it home
and the NIT = at the NIT

I should really start proofreading.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

You win the prize for the funniest, yet most tragic, comment post on this blog.

You could always look at it this way. There's no Billy Packer at the NIT.

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