March Madness 2018

Did y’all see the dumpster fire that was the NCAA Selection Show this past Sunday evening?? First of all, I tuned in to CBS at 6pm for the bracket reveal because…well, that’s where it’s always been!! For decades!! I understand that CBS & Turner Sports entered into a partnership a few years ago. The best part it is that games are shown on CBS, TBS, TNT, &…for some odd reason…Tru TV, which is cool because one can pretty much watch every single game if your channel flipping skills are up to par. The negative aspect is that we are forced to endure Turner’s NBA lineup of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, & Kenny Smith. I don’t necessarily have anything against those guys, but it’s a “world’s colliding” kind of thing. ESPN doesn’t have Kirk Herbstreit & Lee Corso on the Sunday Night Football pre-game crew. Fox doesn’t have Terry Bradshaw & Howie Long analyzing college bowl games. Stay in your lane. After four months of college basketball it’s a little weird to have NBA guys suddenly pop up to break down March Madness as if they’re experts. Having said that, it’s not a huge deal. However, what was done to the Selection Show a couple of days ago was sinful. After finally locating the show on TBS I tuned in to see them listing all of the automatic qualifiers in alphabetical order, and then start to announce at-large teams the same way. What?!?!?!?? What kind of BS was that?!?!?!?? Where were the damn brackets?!?!?!?? What about the seedings & matchups?!?!?? My understanding is that they eventually got around to all of that, but too late for this guy. I changed the channel and decided I’d watch ESPN’s analysis a bit later. Then…as I have learned to do in such situations…I logged onto Twitter and located the appropriate hashtags. Now THAT was entertaining!! Dear TBS…in case you haven’t heard by now…America collectively despised your idiotic Selection Show. It was almost unanimously reviled. Hopefully the powers-that-be hear the cries of despair from disillusioned basketball fans and next year everything will go back to the way it’s supposed to be, allowing us to forget 2018 like a drunken night back in our youth when we may have done something particularly vile & unlawful but somehow escaped illness, injury, & incarceration, thereafter successfully blocking it from our consciousness.

At any rate, you’re here for my two cents on the tournament. Unfortunately I am unable to put up actual brackets, so we’ll just improvise. I’ve italicized first round winners, and any further predicted upsets are discussed in the comments. I only do one bracket and use it for any & all “competitions” I may enter. My picks are based on minimal research, elementary understanding of college basketball as a casual fan, and my infamous vibes, which longtime citizens of The Manoverse know are mostly unreliable. I don’t give a rat’s petoot about play-in games because I think they are stupid. This year’s field was supposed to be wide open, but to be honest I think you’ll see a lot of chalk, especially in the first two rounds. There are probably ten or twelve teams at most that are legit title contenders, which I suppose still leaves us with plenty of opportunities to be entertained. With the godawful Selection Show behind us I think we can look forward to a really fun few weeks of Madness.

 

 

East

1       Villanova                                                   16     LIU-Brooklyn or Radford

2       Purdue                                                      15     Cal St.-Fullerton

3       Texas Tech                                               14     Stephen F. Austin

4       Wichita St.                                                13     Marshall

5       West Virginia                                           12     Murray St.

6       Florida                                                       11     UCLA or St. Bonaventure

7       Arkansas                                                   10     Butler

8       Virginia Tech                                             9       Alabama

Let me give a shout out to my Marshall Thundering Herd for making the Big Dance for he first time since 1987, which was even before I arrived on campus in the early 90’s. I’m predicting a big upset in Round 1, with Stephen F. Austin upending Texas Tech, and a milder surprise with Butler upsetting Arkansas. How in the world the Red Raiders are a #3 while my WV Mountaineers are a #5 is beyond comprehension. I have Villanova vs. Purdue in the regional final, with the Wildcats making it to the Final Four. Boring?? Perhaps. Predictable?? Sure. But I bet almost everybody in America sees it happening the same way.

 

 

West

1       Xavier                                                        16     Texas Southern or MC Central

2       North Carolina                                          15     Lipscomb

3       Michigan                                                    14     Montana

4       Gonzaga                                                   13     UNC-Greensboro

5       Ohio St.                                                     12     South Dakota St.

6       Houston                                                     11     San Diego St.

7       Texas A&M                                               10     Providence

8       Missouri                                                     9       Florida St.

I have three first round upsets in this region…Florida St. over Missouri, Providence upending Texas A&M, and San Diego St. taking out Houston. I’m picking Gonzaga to beat Xavier and Michigan to defeat the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16, with the Wolverines then winning the regional final over the Zags to make it to the Final Four.

 

Midwest

1       Kansas                                                      16     Pennsylvania

2       Duke                                                           15     Iona

3       Michigan St.                                              14     Bucknell

4       Auburn                                                       13     College of Charleston

5       Clemson                                                    12     New Mexico St.

6       TCU                                                           11     Syracuse or Arizona St.

7       Rhode Island                                            10     Oklahoma

8       Seton Hall                                                 9       NC St.

I have straight first round chalk here, with the exception of a very slight upset of the Wolfpack over Seton Hall. The only other thing I’ll say about the first round is that the Oklahoma Sooners 100% absolutely should NOT be in this tournament. The “experts” can spin things any way they choose, but the Sooners getting a bid ahead of their in-state rival Oklahoma St. is absolutely criminal. The Cowboys defeated Oklahoma head-to-head 2 out of 3 times this season, plus they beat Kansas 2 out of 3 times. If that’s not good enough I’m not sure what possibly could be. ESPN has fellatiated freshman guard Trae Young all season, to the point that college basketball fans everywhere loathe an 18 year old kid. He led his team to a rather pedestrian 18-13 record, so I’m left with the impression that he is mostly hype & potential, a guy that the geniuses in Bristol, CT decided to promote as Steph Curry 2.0 but who has been unable to live up to the concocted storyline. He probably needs to stay in college another year or two, but instead he’ll enter the NBA Draft where a team will waste a first round pick on him and he’ll become an epic disappointment. Anyway, after Round 1 I have Kansas meeting Duke in the regional final, with the Blue Devils advancing to San Antonio.

 

South

1       Virginia                                                      16     Maryland-Baltimore County

2       Cincinnati                                                  15     Georgia St.

3       Tennessee                                                  14     Wright St.

4       Arizona                                                      13     Buffalo

5       Kentucky                                                   12     Davidson

6       Miami, FL                                                 11     Loyola-Chicago

7       Nevada                                                      10     Texas

8       Creighton                                                  9       Kansas St.

I have two mild upsets in the first round…Texas over Nevada and Kansas St. beating Creighton. The Big 12 is the best basketball conference in America and I think going thru those battles the past few months will have benefits now. I’m picking Kentucky over Arizona, Miami to beat Tennessee, & Texas with another upset over Cincinnati in Round 2. As a matter of fact I am picking the Longhorns to make it all the way to the regional final before falling to top seed Virginia.

 

 

So I am left with a Final Four of Virginia, Villanova, Duke, & Michigan…two #1’s, a #2, and a #3. I foresee a title game pitting Duke vs. Michigan, with the Blue Devils cutting down the nets for the seventh time in 27 years, the last championship being in 2015. That oughta tick some people off.

The Madness of March

1 basketballIt’s time!! One of the best long weekends of the year tips off tomorrow, and I’m ready. My two nephews are actually going to watch the first couple of rounds in Columbus, OH. Good for them. Anyway, y’all know I can’t resist doing a bit of prognosticating, although it’s not quite as much fun this season since we all know how this thing is going to end…with the Kentucky Wildcats cutting down the nets on April 6th. But, in the words of one of cinema’s most entertaining philosophers Clark W. Griswold, “getting there is half the fun”. So I suppose we shall enjoy the ride even if the finale will likely be anti-climactic.

As usual, let me take a moment to unlock the secret doors of my mind and explain my process:
• I’m not a college basketball expert. I’m a fan that only pays attention to a handful of teams and knows virtually nothing about 75% of the tournament field.
• My picks are based solely on my vibes and the small amount of basic basketball knowledge I possess.
• I do listen to some of the talking heads, but rarely make choices based on their opinions. As a matter of fact, I think several of them (especially Doug Gottlieb…a complete tool) are arrogant windbags that don’t have much more of a clue than I do.
• I do not pick play-in games. They are an inconsequential money-making scheme by the NCAA.
• I pick a few upsets, but I’ve learned over the years that, for the most part, the selection committee knows their stuff and is usually pretty spot on in their seeding. There might be a few upsets in the first couple of rounds, but the chaos rarely gets too…well…chaotic. The cream almost always rises to the top.
• A 10 over a 7 or a 9 over an 8 isn’t really that much of an upset.
• I fill out one bracket and one bracket only. It is done pretty quickly after the selection show airs. I am far too lazy to do research.

So with those things in mind let us take a brief glimpse at each region, talk about upsets, and see who I think will make it to The Final Four.

 

 

 

East
1 Villanova              16 Lafayette
2 Virginia                 15 Belmont
3 Oklahoma           14 Albany
4 Louisville              13 UC Irvine
5 Northern Iowa   12 Wyoming
6 Providence           11 Dayton
7 Michigan St.         10 Georgia
8 NC St.                      9 LSU
I am predicting a lot of chalk in this region, with a few notable exceptions. I have Albany over Michigan_State_SpartansOklahoma in the 1st round. I’ve watched the Sooners play a few times this season and believe they are way overseeded. And I’m picking Wyoming over Northern Iowa in one of the infamous 5/12 upsets. After that I have Michigan St. upending Virginia in the 2nd round and ultimately winning the region by defeating Villanova.

West
1 Wisconsin            16 Coastal Carolina
2 Arizona                 15 Texas Southern
3 Baylor                   14 Georgia St.
4 North Carolina    13 Harvard
5 Arkansas             12 Wofford
6 Xavier                   11 Ole Miss
7 VCU                       10 Ohio St.
8 Oregon                  9 Oklahoma St.
The big shocker I’ve predicted in this region is Wofford (hailing from Spartanburg, SC) WisconsinBadgersdefeating Arkansas. I also have Ohio St. over Virginia Commonwealth, a team that gets a little too much love just because they made it to one Final Four four years ago. After that I have Baylor pulling off a mild upset over Arizona in the Sweet 16 before falling to Wisconsin in the regional final.

 

South
1 Duke                 16 Robert Morris
2 Gonzaga           15 North Dakota St.
3 Iowa St.            14 UAB
4 Georgetown   13 Eastern Washington
5 Utah                 12 Stephen F. Austin
6 SMU                  11 UCLA
7 Iowa                 10 Davidson
8 San Diego St.   9 St. John’s
Mostly 1st round chalk here except for a couple of interesting exceptions. I’m picking Eastern Iowa_State_CyclonesWashington over Georgetown and Stephen F. Austin over Utah. I just don’t buy Georgetown. This isn’t the mid-1980’s. Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, & Alonzo Mourning are distant memories. The Big East isn’t the same conference it used to be. Stephen F. Austin is a small school in Nacogdoches, TX (about 100 miles southwest of Shreveport, LA) that is named for one of the founding fathers of the state. I have a vague recollection of catching one of their games on TV awhile back and thinking they were pretty good and could pull off a first round upset if they weren’t up against a top flight team. Utah is good but far from elite. After that I have picked San Diego St. to surprise Duke in Round 2 and Iowa St. over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. I’ve seen the Cyclones play a few times and they are very talented. They play in the best basketball conference in America (The Big 12…which has ten teams) and won its conference tournament, defeating the vaunted Kansas Jayhawks. Gonzaga’s road hasn’t been nearly as arduous. Ultimately I have Iowa St. beating San Diego St. in the regional final.

 

Midwest
1 Kentucky          16 Hampton
2 Kansas               15 New Mexico St.
3 Notre Dame     14 Northeastern
4 Maryland          13 Valparaiso
5 West Virginia   12 Buffalo
6 Butler                11Texas
7 Wichita St.       10 Indiana
8 Cincinnati         9 Purdue
I think Kentucky would have won this region no matter what, but the committee made it Kentucky-Basketballpretty easy for them. I have Valparaiso (from northern Indiana) upsetting Maryland and Texas getting by Butler in the 1st round. Butler, like VCU, is given too much credit for past successes in the tournament. The “experts” are almost unanimously picking Buffalo to beat my WV Mountaineers, but I just don’t think that’s going to happen. I have Wichita St. defeating in-state rival Kansas in Round 2, but at the end of the day no one will be surprised when Kentucky easily downs Notre Dame to win the region.

 

 

So, my Final Four consists of Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Iowa St. vs. Michigan St. That’s two #1 seeds, a #3, and a #7, although one can hardly think of Michigan St. as an underdog.

1I foresee the title game being Kentucky against Michigan St., with the Wildcats winning pretty comfortably. It lacks drama, but it is what it is. I suppose it’d be kind of cool to see a team finish 40-0, but honestly I’m looking forward to a little more unpredictability next year.

Let The Madness Begin

Happy days are here again. March Madness is the pinnacle of the college basketball season, packing the punch of a whole year’s worth of excitement into just a few days. It also provides one the rare opportunity to venture out on a limb and either look like a genius or a complete buffoon. It doesn’t even matter if there is money involved, although that’s always a nice bonus. Years ago at a former place of employment I was one of a group of about a half dozen guys that would gamble small stakes on everything from pro football to Triple Crown horse racing, but the crown jewel of our year was The Madness. The money involved was so miniscule it was an afterthought. It was more about pride and bragging rights, proving oneself to be knowledgeable amongst peers. I did not have that outlet for several years, but now, thanks to the various bracket challenges on sites like ESPN and Yahoo, I’m back in the game. And since I am filling out a bracket anyway I decided I’d share my deep well of basketball acumen (or slightly arrogant poppycock) here at The Manofesto. To my knowledge there is no way to insert a filled out bracket into this blog so it’s a low tech effort. I have faith that my readers can adjust.

Before I dive in allow me to share a bit about my methods and some things I have learned over many years of doing this:

    • I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I print it out, go down through, and fill it out on the fly. My picks are based on what I know as an average fan and on my vibes. My choices have no basis in scientific investigation of any facts or figures.

    • Will there be upsets?? Yes. But don’t go crazy. The first round has 32 games. Out of those there might be a half dozen upsets. The 5/12, 6/11, & 7/10 games are where to look for upsets. #1 seeds never…ever…lose in the first round, and #2 seeds very rarely lose. Atleast one #12 beats a #5 each year…I don’t know why. 8/9 games are pretty much dead even, so a #9 beating a #8 isn’t really an upset.

    • After the first round it’s a free for all, although that 11, 12, 13, or 14 that got thru one game is unlikely to make it much further. Still though, there always seems to be atleast one. The trick is picking the right one.

    • I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams will beat a small conference team the overwhelming majority of the time. I put major weight on being battle tested. A team that won 25 games during the regular season but did it against mostly weak competition is like blood in the water for a team from a power conference that might have won only 19 or 20 games and rode the bubble into the tournament.

    • I take into consideration where the games are taking place. If a team is playing close to home and has a bunch of fans in the stands that is important. But it’s not that important, so I consider it yet don’t nuts about it.

So, without further adieu, let’s take a look at each region:

East

This is a killer region. Lots of folks seem to be expecting George Mason to upset Villanova, but I am taking the Big East, battle tested ‘Nova over the small conference team. Sorry Patriot fans…it’s not 2006 anymore. I’m also taking #11 Marquette over #6 Xavier. I am a lifelong fan of the WV Mountaineers, who made it all the way to the Final Four last season, defeating Kentucky (who was darn near an NBA quality team) along the way. Unfortunately that will not happen this time, and I think the Wildcats get their revenge in Round 2. I like Syracuse to defeat Ohio State in the regional final and make it to The Final Four.

West

I have #9 Tennessee taking down #8 Michigan, although that’s not really an upset. #12 Memphis over #5 Arizona fulfills that annual tradition. I also picked #11 Missouri to beat #6 Cincinnati and #10 Penn St. to beat #7 Temple. I also took Penn St., who barely made it into the tournament, to beat #2 San Diego St. in the 2nd round. I just don’t think San Diego St. has played anyone other than BYU, while Penn St. faced Big 10 competition all season. I have #1 Duke facing off against #3 Connecticut in the regional final, with Coach K taking the Blue Devils to yet another Final Four.

Southwest

I have Richmond pulling off another 5/12 upset here by defeating fifth seeded Vanderbilt. I also have #10 Florida St. beating #7 Texas A&M. That’s it for the first round upsets in this region. I have #6 Georgetown beating #3 Purdue and #2 Notre Dame to make it to the regional final, where they ultimately fall to Kansas, the second and final #1 seed I have in The Final Four.

Southeast

I’m taking Old Dominion to defeat last year’s tournament darling and National Title runner-up Butler, but remember…a 9 over an 8 isn’t truly an upset. The only real upset I’m picking here is #10 Michigan St. over #7 UCLA, and even that wouldn’t exactly shock anyone. However, in the second round things get interesting. Pitt a #1 seed?? Okay. But they’ll still choke as usual, and I’m predicting it will be against Old Dominion. #5 Kansas State over #4 Wisconsin is a mild upset. #10 Michigan St. does it again by beating #2 Florida, and #6 St. John’s…battle tested…will take down #3 BYU. In the regional final I have Kansas State vs. St. John’s, with the Red Storm making it to The Final Four.

The Final Four

Syracuse vs. Duke, with the Orange shocking everyone (except me) and quite possibly sending Dick Vitale crawling into a corner in the fetal position.

Kansas vs. St. John’s, with Rock Chalk Jayhawk emphasizing the “chalk”.

Syracuse vs. Kansas in the National Championship, with Kansas proving what many have suspected all along, that they are the best team in the land.

March Madness 2010

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.

 

East

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.

 

West

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.

 

South

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.

 

Midwest

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.

 

Final Four

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.

Random Thoughts 1

  • Have you ever noticed that when you are trying to be the most quiet is when you are apt to make the most noise??
  • I’m usually a BIG sucker for the underdog unless one of my favorite teams (Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Marshall Thundering Herd, WV Mountaineers) are playing. But for some reason I get immense pleasure out of seeing the greatest golfer in the world, Tiger Woods, kick ass and take names.
  • When someone uses terms like “that’s crazy” or “that’s wild” or the 70’s term “far out” during a conversation, it basically means they’ve tuned you out and no longer have any interest in what you’re saying.
  • It’s funny how George W. Bush was CRUCIFIED for not reacting fast enough to Hurricane Katrina but NO ONE is criticizing Hussein Obama for not sending in the cavalry to save Fargo. I guess there aren’t enough minorities in the Dakotas.
  • An early opinion of Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show  –  Ehhhh…..it’s okay. He’s pleasant enough. It’s certainly not must see TV. But let us remember, Conan O’Brien really sucked when he first started but eventually found his comfort zone. Besides, what does one expect at 12:30 at night, Shakespeare??
  • I really like root beer.
  • The NCAA basketball tournament hasn’t really frosted my cupcake this year.
  • I don’t care what political party you support or what your opinion is on various issues…if the government taking over private businesses like General Motors or forcing private citizens to give back earned bonus moneys like in the case of AIG doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you then you’re crazy.