* Upon further review, I’ve changed that Wake – Zona game. I think Wake rolls…
First off, I’d say this is the most difficult bracket I’ve filled out in recent memory. There are no clear cut favorites in this thing anywhere. Here are my upsets and other highlights:
Arizona over Utah – Nice season for the boys from Paul’s backyard, but what a rough draw in the first round. I think this is the classic 12 over 5 upset. After all the talk with Arizona being on the bubble, I think now that they are in they will get down to business. It’s real hard to pick against an Arizona team loaded with the big 3 of Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Nic Wise. That trio averages roughly 52 points, 18 boards, and 8 assists a game between the three of them. Paul was saying something about some big dude from Utah that’s pretty good, but he won’t be enough. I’m going with the name value here. Arizona by 14
USC over Boston College – Simple reason for this one – USC is on a roll. I think DeMar DeRozan (hopefully a future Timberwolf) goes off. Which BC shows up? The team that beat Duke and UNC or the one that lost to Harvard? Too risky to pick such a Jekyll and Hyde team. USC by 8
Maryland over Cal – I’ll be honest – I saw Cal in person this year and could not have been more unimpressed. They got stomped by Mizzou by 27. Jerome Randle is good, but Vasquez of Maryland is better. Cal was decent in the PAC 10 and Maryland was decent in the ACC. I’ll take the ACC any day. Maryland by 9
Butler over LSU – SEC is awful. People should stop referring to the SEC as a “power conference” this year. Butler by 6
Purdue over Washington – This was a tough one. I think this could be one of the round’s more entertaining games. The Big Ten gets no love but Purdue is just rock solid. I think they shut down a Huskies team that had a losing record against ranked opponents this year (3-4). Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon are prolific scorers for Washington, but they don’t face Big 10 D everyday. Purdue has held opponents under 60 points 18 times this season. Purdue by 2
Mizzou over Marquette – No upset here, but I wanted to throw my 2 cents in about this game. Marquette will have the 2 best players on the court in Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, but they lack depth. I see Missouri struggling in the first half, like always, then wearing down Marquette in the second half. Mizzou goes 12 deep, Marquette goes 3 deep. The Dominic James loss is huge for them. Mizzou by 11
Florida State over Xavier – Toney Douglas is a man. Plain and simple. If you haven’t seen him, watch an FSU game during the tourney. Great defender, awesome scorer, he alone will carry the ‘Noles to the sweet sixteen. Florida State by 7.
Kansas over Michigan State – Michigan State beat Kansas by 13 at home earlier this year. Bill Self has KU much improved now. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich carry the Jayhawks past the Spartans. This is another game that is going to be really close. Kansas by 1
Mizzou over Memphis – Maybe I’m picking this with my heart and not my head, but I think it’s actually quite possible. If this game were in Columbia I’d be putting this one in the books already. “Memphis is 31-3! They should have been a 1 seed! They have won 25 straight!…blah, blah, blah.” The fact is Memphis is 1-2 against ranked opponents this year. 1-2! They haven’t been tested at all. In their only real games of the season Memphis went 5-3. (Wins over Massachusetts, (only a “real” team because they beat kU) Seton Hall (weak as well), Cincinatti (not in the tournament either) Gonzaga, and Tennessee by 2). They lost to Syracuse, Georgetown, and Xavier. Other than those games, they are relatively untested (sorry Tulsa). Missouri matches up well because Mizzou’s guards are such great defenders. Tyreke Evans is great, but he is, after all, a freshman. Tiller and Taylor can shut down Memphis’s guards the way they shut down other talented guards this year such as AJ Abrams, Sherron Collins, Curtis Jerrells, Jerome Randle, and Willie Warren. Another interesting note about this game is that neither team can hit a free throw to save their life (Memphis shot 69% on the year, Missouri 67%. Missouri usually has a disadvantage in the free throw category, but against Memphis the teams are quite even. That again aides Missouri. Mizzou will create some pressure and squeak by in a win than solidifies this team as one of the best teams of the year. Mizzou by 4.
Syracuse over Oklahoma – If you read my earlier post today you know I’m not a big OU fan. I think they’ve peaked. Johnny Flynn, possibly my favorite non-Mizzou player in the country leads the Orange to a win. Syracuse can shoot the lights out and they’ll shoot right past Oklahoma. Orange by 7.
UConn over Mizzou – Hasheem Thabeet swats Missouri’s final four hopes (literally). Connecticut by 14
Villanova over Pitt – Somewhere in this tournament there will be a game where DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble. When that happens, Pittsburgh struggles to score. I think this is that game. Villanova has great guard play and a good big man in Dante Cunningham. Nova by 6.
Louisville and North Carolina are the most talented teams in the country. They simply have the best players. Oh yeah, they have Hall of Fame coaches as well. This will be a great title match-up.
They are tested, they are well coached, and they have a great front line that gives them the push past Hansbrough and the Heels. This one’s a toss up. Louisville by 4