I had a vision, a very specific way that I wanted to present to the masses my picks for the NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament. However, the best laid plans tend to go astray, and either there is no way to reproduce filled out brackets here or I am just too dense to figure out how to pull the task off successfully. At any rate, I am talented enough to improvise, so we’ll go the low tech route and that will just have to suffice. It might not be a bad idea to pull out your bracket and use it as a reference to follow along. We will examine each region and review my upset picks and other general opinions & vibes.
I have a few first round upsets chosen: #9 Wake Forest over #8 Texas, #12 Cornell over #5 Temple, and #10 Missouri over #7 Clemson. Texas was the top team in the nation at one point but the wheels fell off – they lost 9 games in the 2nd half of the season and dropped completely out of the Top 25. If John Chaney were still coaching Temple I’d pick them, but I just found out today that he apparently retired 4 years ago. Meanwhile Cornell is among the most buzzworthy teams – 2 of their 4 losses were at the hands of Kansas and Syracuse. I also have Cornell getting by Wisconsin in the 2nd round before finally falling to Kentucky. I am taking #6 Marquette over #11 Washington, but I really debated and waffled on that choice. Ultimately it will come down to Kentucky and West Virginia for a trip to The Final Four, and I’m gonna make the homer pick with the Mountaineers. They should have been a #1 seed or atleast been the #2 in Duke’s bracket. Coach Bob Huggins is not happy about the lack of respect for his team and that might just propel them to success.
I’m seeing a few Round 1 upsets here as well: #9 Florida St. over #8 Gonzaga (the scrappy little underdog days are long gone for the Bulldogs), #12 UTEP over #5 Butler (ditto for these Bulldogs), #11 Minnesota over #6 Xavier, and #10 Florida over #7 BYU (it wasn’t that long ago that Billy Donovan’s Gators were national champs). That Xavier/Minnesota contest is the one I’m not sure about, but I’m going with my gut. Florida and UTEP do it again in the 2nd Round, over Kansas State and Vanderbilt respectively. It’ll come down to Syracuse and Pitt, with Syracuse earning the Final Four berth.
Let’s face it…the only reason Duke got a #1 seed is because they are Duke. West Virginia clearly deserved the better seeding. Duke dominated a very mediocre ACC in a year in which even the mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina played .500 ball. But what’s done is done. The Blue Devils will pay for this egregious error in the 2nd round when they go down to Louisville. Rick Pitino is already somewhere salivating. I see the 1st round as being pretty much chalk all the way except for #13 Siena defeating #4 Purdue who just isn’t the same team without star Robbie Hummel and probably should haven’t been seeded nearly this high. I’m taking Siena to do it again in Round 2 in an upset over #5 Texas A&M. I’ve got #6 Notre Dame beating #3 Baylor in the 2nd round as well. Louisville and Villanova should meet in the Elite 8, with Villanova securing the victory. So far that is 3 Big East teams in the Final Four, with two of the regional finals being Big East vs. Big East matchups. I truly believe the conference is that good.
Can anyone stop the juggernaut that is Kansas?? I’m going to say no one in this region will. I have three 1st round upsets taking the total to 11 out of 32 games (although really…is a #9 beating a #8 that much of an upset in anything but the most technical of terms??): #13 Houston over #4 Maryland, #11 San Diego (discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina) State over #6 Tennessee, and #10 Georgia Tech over #7 Oklahoma State. Houston also upsets #5 Michigan State in my 2nd round. A Sweet 16 matchup between Georgetown and Ohio State should prove to be quite interesting, and I’m picking the Hoyas there. But then Georgetown will meet Kansas for the last Final Four spot, and I just don’t see the Jayhawks going down.
So my Final Four matchups are Kansas vs. Syracuse and West Virginia vs. Villanova, which would be a huge coup for The Big East and proof positive that it is the preeminent basketball conference in the land. Kansas/Syracuse is a titanic struggle and a very hard game to pick. Neither team has been perfect this season…both have stumbled a couple times. But there is no denying that they are two of the best teams in the country. I think Coach Jim Boeheim is enough of a wily old veteran to come up with just the right game plan to pull off what I suppose most would consider an upset. I just don’t feel like Kansas has a “team of destiny” vibe. West Virginia and Villanova would probably be very happy to see each other at this point because, unlike the old saying, familiarity probably wouldn’t breed contempt as much as it would a slight sense of comfort. The two teams split conference matchups this season, and both were great, hard fought, competitive games. If Coach Huggins gets the Mountaineers this far he’s not going to let them go down to a team they have proven they can beat. So that leaves us with a National Championship game of Syracuse vs. West Virginia. They met only once this season, with The Orange pulling out a slim 1 point victory despite shooting nearly 58% from the field and West Virginia shooting a subpar 39%. Those types of numbers won’t happen again on either side. Once again familiarity should inspire calm and confidence for both clubs. The Mountaineers will be thankful to have avoided the Kansas juggernaut as well as the Duke media frenzy (and accompanying bias by referees), so despite it being one last game for all the marbles I think they will be cool and loose. Is it a homer pick?? Yes. But I’ll roll with it and pick the West Virginia Mountaineers to win the 2010 NCAA Championship.