The Madness 2022

Two years ago one of the first signs that the Covid-19 pandemic might be a bigger deal than many originally thought it to be was the stunning cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness became March Sadness very quickly. In 2021 the tournament returned, albeit with all the requisite virus-related protocols that we now know were pretty much useless. And now, though The Sickness is still an issue, most of us have decided to move forward, live our lives, and do our best without meaningless virtue signaling that does very little to protect anyone from anything. As far as I know that means March Madness will get underway tomorrow with all the pomp & circumstance it deserves. Technically the action is already underway with play-in games, or what the powers-that-be refer to as the First Four. I don’t pay any attention to those games, so for our purposes they’ll simply be overlooked. 

After years of hoping WordPress would create some sort of brackets plug-in to no avail I finally stumbled upon a way to visually represent my entire bracket here. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do. A few things should be noted. First, this is my one & only bracket. I do not create multiple “Sheets of Integrity” (shout out to my guys Mike & Mike). I don’t enter into a bunch of contests trying to make big bucks off of this deal, mostly because I’m not that good of a prognosticator (if you follow our Pigskin Picks of Profundity during football season you’re well aware of that). I did throw $10 into one thing my nephew is doing, but I have low expectations. At any rate, this is really just a way for me to have some fun & make the games a bit more interesting, especially since neither my alma mater Marshall Thundering Herd or home team West Virginia Mountaineers are playing in the postseason. Also, as you’ll see, I really controlled myself when it comes to picking upsets. There’s alot of chalk in these choices. I know there’ll be a few shockers, but I have no idea what they will be so mostly I err on the side of caution and stay rather conservative in my predictions. The truth is that I don’t follow basketball nearly as close as I do football, so I am even more out of my depth than usual. That’s fine with me. I’ll still be glued to my television for the next few days, and if you are here I am guessing you will be too. 

East

The Baylor Bears are the defending National Champions (they beat Gonzaga for the title a year ago in case you forgot), and I think they have as good a chance to repeat as any champion we’ve seen in awhile. I’ve got Virginia Tech upsetting Texas and San Francisco beating Murray St. in Round 1, with the regional final coming down to Baylor & Kentucky. If that comes to pass it could be a hell of a game, but I think the Bears get the job done and return to the Final Four. 

West

I have to give Gonzaga credit. When a basketball team from a school in Spokane, WA  that no one had ever heard of burst onto the scene in 1999 by making it to the Elite 8 I don’t think anyone thought much of it. Just another Cinderella, right?? There’s one or two every year. But here we are, more than two decades later, and the Bulldogs have become not only a tournament mainstay but a consistent Top 10 team. Do they play the same level of competition as programs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, etc.?? Maybe not, but that doesn’t seem to matter. They’ve appeared in two Final Fours in the past five years, falling short in the title game both times. Can they go that far again?? Most of the talking heads will say yes, but I disagree. New Mexico St. over Connecticut is my choice for the annual 5/12 upset, but that’s the only surprise I foresee in the first round. Actually, it’s chalk all the way thru except for that game, which would set up an epic Gonzaga-Duke regional final and a bit of cognitive dissonance. I’m an underdog kind of guy, but who could’ve predicted just a few years ago that the Blue Devils would ever be the underdogs in this matchup?!?!?!?? I realize that Duke isn’t the same level of great they might’ve been a decade ago, but they have hovered near the Top 5 most of the season. Perhaps I’m being sucked into the emotional vortex of this being Coach K’s swan song, but I think in this particular circumstance his team has the depth & athleticism to win a squeaker. 

Midwest

I like the Miami Hurricanes to score a mild first round upset, and feel good about predicting the Iowa St. Cyclones to overcome the odds a few times, making it all the way to the Elite 8. They are my Cinderella and I’m pushing all my chips into the center of the table on them…kind of. Ultimately I foresee the Kansas Jayhawks emerging from the region and going to the Final Four. 

South 

Sadly, this is as crazy as it gets for me. I am predicting two big upsets in the first round: Michigan over Colorado St. & Loyola (Chicago) over Ohio St. It’s always fun to see Sister Jean & Loyola’s Gryffindor scarves, right?? Sister Jean is 102 years old, so this might be her last hurrah. I hope her guys give her one final thrill. Unfortunately I don’t believe it’ll be a long ride,  with the dream ending in Round 2. With mostly chalk prevailing I think it comes down to Arizona & Villanova, with the West Coast Wildcats punching their ticket to the Final Four.

Final Four

I am predicting Baylor vs. Duke and Arizona vs. Kansas in the semis. As cool as it would be to see Coach K ride off into the sunset with a sixth National Championship I think he’s going to have to settle for one last Final Four appearance. Baylor is just too strong & athletic. I’m not sure it will even be that close. I also don’t believe Kansas is quite as elite as they typically have been, and think Arizona will expose their weaknesses. So will anyone East of the Mississippi be interested in watching two West Coast teams battle for the championship?? I hope so…¦it could be a very entertaining contest. At the end of the day though I believe Baylor will cut down the nets, becoming the first back-to-back champs since the 2006 & 2007 Florida Gators. 

The Return of March Madness!!

Loyal citizens of The Manoverse might know that your humble Potentate of Profundity isn’t a big fan of winter. As a matter of fact, as I write this I am suffering with my annual bout of bronchitis which I’d thought I might actually escape. Alas it arrived with just a few days left in the season. At any rate, I grab onto any bbindicator of brighter, warmer, happier days like Tiger Woods gravitates toward hot, blue-eyed blondes. I thought Groundhog Day provided some hope this year but I have learned that putting one’s faith in a rodent is about as wise as trusting Lindsay Lohan to show up to court on time. At any rate there really is no better or more reliable harbinger of springtime than the annual NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament, aka March Madness. The brackets have been released and the time has come for me to dive in head first with my picks. As usual I need to offer a few reminders about my methods:

    • I do not analyze, study, and stress out about my brackets. I print it out and fill it out on the fly. My picks are based on my knowledge as an average fan, a cursory listen to various talking heads, 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 that much of 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 don’t pick play-in games (or as they now call them the “First Four”).
    • 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.

Although most everybody would probably agree that this has been a crazy & unpredictable year for college basketball and that should translate into a wide open tournament with lots of parity, the truth is that when I completed my brackets I saw a lot more chalk than I assumed I would. I am predicting 10 first round upsets, with four of those being a 9 seed over an 8, which of course isn’t really an upset. I only have one double digit seed making it to The Sweet 16, and my Final Four consists of one #1, two #2s, and a #4 seed. If my vibes are on the right path a lot of folks will be praising the tournament committee for just how accurately they put everything together considering the fickle randomness that has surrounded the entire season.

So without further ado let’s take at peek at each region:

 

 

East

1 Indiana               vs.       16 LIU or JMU

2 Miami, Fla.      vs        15 Pacific

3 Marquette        vs.       14 Davidson

4 Syracuse           vs.       13 Montana

5 UNLV                    vs.       12 California          

6 Butler                   vs.       11 Bucknell

7 Illinois                 vs.       10 Colorado

8 NC St.                     vs.       9 Temple

For some reason Bucknell is getting a lot of love from the “experts”. Now I do recall that they pulled a first round upset over Kansas a few years ago, but that’s all the more reason why the Butler Bulldogs won’t take them lightly and should get thesu win. Having said that, this is the region where I am predicting the most upsets. I have #9 Temple over #8 NC St. (not that big of a deal), #10 Colorado over #7 Illinois, #12 California over #5 UNLV, and the biggest shocker…#14 Davidson beating #3 Marquette. After that it’s all chalk, with Syracuse upending Miami to get to The Final Four.

 

West

1 Gonzaga               vs.       16 Southern

2 Ohio St.                vs.       15 Iona

3 New Mexico       vs.       14 Harvard

4 Kansas St.          vs.       13 Boise St. or LaSalle

5 Wisconsin          vs.       12 Mississippi         

6 Arizona                 vs.       11 Belmont

7 Notre Dame        vs.       10 Iowa St.

8 Pittsburgh           vs.       9 Wichita St.

The first round is unlikely to provide all that much drama, but business should pick up after that. I’ve seen a lot of talking heads predict that Pitt might give Gonzaga a run for their money in the 2nd round, but funnily enough I have the Panthers getting upset right off the bat by Wichita St. The 2nd round should see a osumatchup of #3 New Mexico vs. #6 Arizona, but whereas several of your pundit types seem to have developed a crush on New Mexico…going so far as to prop them as a potential Final Four team…I have the Wildcats getting the upset. In the regional final I have Ohio St. beating Gonzaga to make it to The Final Four.

 

South

1 Kansas                   vs.       16 Western Kentucky

2 Georgetown       vs.       15 Florida Gulf Coast

3 Florida                   vs.       14 Northwestern St.

4 Michigan              vs.       13 South Dakota St.

5 VCU                           vs.       12 Akron     

6 UCLA                       vs.       11 Minnesota

7 San Diego St.       vs.       10 Oklahoma

8 North Carolina   vs.       9 Villanova

This bracket doesn’t seem like all that much fun to me outside of the top heaviness of the four best seeds. However, at the bottom of the bracket I have predicted three mild upsets. #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA would feel like more of a ballsy choice if everyone else wasn’t picking it as well. #10 Oklahoma over #7 San Diego St. is agtown result of my battle tested philosophy, although I suppose I am showing a lot less respect to the Mountain West Conference than most. #9 Villanova over #8 North Carolina would be a lot more of a marquee game if this was the late 80’s, but in my heart it’s still bigtime. The top four should all make it thru to the regional semis, with Georgetown pulling the mild upset over Kansas to reach The Final Four.

 

Midwest

1 Louisville              vs.       16 NC A&T

2 Duke                         vs.       15 Albany

3 Michigan St.       vs.       14 Valparaiso

4 St. Louis                 vs.       13 New Mexico St.

5 Oklahoma St.       vs.       12 Oregon  

6 Memphis                vs.       11 St. Mary’s

7 Creighton              vs.       10 Cincinnati

8 Colorado                 vs.       9 Missouri

Most “experts” are touting this as the toughest region, but I am only predicting a couple of upsets. I have #9 Missouri over #8 Colorado (again not a real upset), and #12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma St. Everyone is in almost unanimous agreement LouisvilleBB2009_normalthat Oregon, which won the Pac 12 tournament, was grossly underseeded, and after the 1st round upset I have them pulling off another surprise over #4 St. Louis to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Other than that I have 3 of the top 4 seeds reaching the regional semis, with Louisville upending Michigan St. to reach The Final Four.

 

So my Final Four is Louisville, Ohio St., Georgetown, & Syracuse. There is definitely a Big East flavor to that group, ala 1985 when Georgetown, St. John’s, & Villanova all made it that far. Maybe I am a bit biased since I live in West Virginia and my Mountaineers competed in the Big East for many years, or maybe I’m just a little sentimental since the conference in its traditional form is being blown up. Whatever the case may be, this would be a fantastic Final Four. I picked Louisville to beat Ohio St. and Georgetown to defeat Syracuse. That means that the National Championship Game would pit the Louisville Cardinals versus the Georgetown Hoyas, and I think Louisville wins that battle and cuts down the nets in Atlanta, GA.

 

The Madness Begins…..

The Madness is back!! It’s time once again to immerse oneself in caring about a whole host of basketball teams that we’ve never heard of or atleast pay little attention to, all so that in a few weeks the best teams that everyone loves or hates will rise to the top anyway. It’s time to match wits with talking heads, i.e. experts like Dickie V., Doug “Credit Card” Gottlieb, Clark Kellogg, & Seth Davis. It’s time to face the bracket challenge, whether there is money & prizes at stake, or just plain ol’ macho pride.

 

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 simply fill them 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 is only an upset in the most technical roundabout way. 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.

I am usually a sucker for the underdog, but in all honesty power conference teams have an undeniable advantage. I put major weight on being battle tested. Strength of schedule is an important factor. The games a team played in November & December…whether they were wins or losses…can serve as great “conditioning” in March.

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 obsess over it.

 

So, having said all that, here is what my vibes are communicating to me about 2012’s Big Dance:

 

East

1 Syracuse                16 UNC Asheville

2 Ohio St.                 15 Loyola (MD)

3 Florida St.            14 St. Bonaventure

4 Wisconsin         13 Montana

5 Vanderbilt               12 Harvard

6 Cincinnati           11 Texas

7 Gonzaga                   10 West Virginia

8 Kansas St              9  Southern Miss.

Lots of talking heads seem to be bailing on ‘Cuse, believing that they’ll fall short of The Final Four. Not this humble Potentate of Profundity. My vibes are telling me that one of the annual 5/12 upsets will occur when Harvard…alma mater of NY Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin…defeats Vanderbilt. Actually I think it’d be more fun to see those two teams match up in a Quiz Bowl or in the Jeopardy college tournament, but I guess we’ll take what we can get. I also have Harvard beating Wisconsin in the 2nd round. The only other first round upset I foresee in this region is my Mountaineers over Gonzaga. WVU gets a virtual home game less than 100 miles away in Pittsburgh, and I just don’t think the Zags are quite as good as in years past. I like Cincy over Florida St. in Round 2, as well as the ‘Eers getting by Ohio St. But ultimately Syracuse will make it to not only The Final Four but also the title game.

 

 

West

1 Michigan St.        16 LIU Brooklyn

2 Missouri                15 Norfolk St.

3 Marquette          14 BYU*

4 Louisville              13 Davidson

5 New Mexico         12 Long Beach St.

6 Murray St.         11 Colorado St.

7 Florida                   10 Virginia

8 Memphis                 9  St. Louis

I’m just not sold on Michigan St. as a top seed. I give them credit…they always always always seem to be in the conversation each & every year…but I’m not buying it this season. I’m pretty much going chalk in the first round, with the lone exception being St. Louis over Memphis. Typically I wouldn’t consider a 9 over an 8 all that much of an upset, but several “experts” have been saying that Memphis is seeded way too low and is a legit potential Final Four team, so I guess it’d be more of a surprise than usual. By the way, a billiken is a charm doll created by an art teacher from St. Louis  in 1908 who saw the mysterious figure…an elf-like creature with pointed ears, a mischievous smile, and a tuft of hair on his pointed head…in a dream. Fascinating. At any rate, it’s chalk all the way after that until the regional semifinal where I have Louisville taking out the Spartans, with Missouri then getting the Final Four spot.

 

South

1 Kentucky              16 Miss. Valley St.*

2 Duke                       15 Lehigh

3 Baylor                    14 South Dakota St.

4 Indiana               13 New Mexico St.

5 Wichita St.              12 Va. Commonwealth

6 UNLV                     11 Colorado

7 Notre Dame        10 Xavier

8 Iowa St.                    9  Connecticut

I have two first round upsets here. I just think that defending champions UConn won’t bow out so easily, and surely not to an 8th seed like Iowa St. And I have another 5/12 special, with 2011 tournament Cinderella VCU recapturing that magic one last time and beating Wichita St., who is only the third best basketball team in their own state. The second round in this region should be awesome, although I am only picking one upset. I think Notre Dame will defeat Duke and then beat Baylor, making it all the way to the regional final before going down to Kentucky.

 

Midwest

1 North Carolina     16 Vermont*

2 Kansas                      15 Detroit

3 Georgetown           14 Belmont

4 Michigan                 13 Ohio U.

5 Temple                     12 South Florida*

6 San Diego St.            11 NC St.

7 St. Mary’s                  10 Purdue

8 Creighton               9  Alabama

The voices are speaking to me about two upsets here. First, I am picking NC St., a battle tested ACC team, to beat San Diego St., who is probably seeded a couple of spots too high. The same logic applies in choosing Purdue from the Big 10 over St. Mary’s. I’m also picking the Wolfpack over Georgetown in the 2nd round. In the regional semis I’m taking Michigan to upset North Carolina, with Kansas ultimately securing the last Final Four spot.

 

So my Final Four is Kentucky vs. Missouri and Syracuse vs. Kansas. I’m not exactly venturing out on a limb with those choices. I was kind of surprised to be honest, because this has seemed like kind of a wide open season with lots of parity. However, at the end of the day I just think there are about a half dozen teams that, while probably not elite in the “we’ll remember them 20 years from now” sense, are just that much better than anyone else. So while all fans can enjoy the first & second rounds and there will undoubtedly be several exciting games & some upsets, ultimately few will likely be surprised at who is in the race near the finish line. I’m picking Kentucky & Syracuse to meet in the final game, with the Wildcats cutting down the nets and being crowned national champions.

 

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.11

It’s March, so that means basketball…..

Raise your hand if you had Kentucky, Connecticut, Butler, and Virginia Commonwealth in your Final Four. Now if you raised your hand put it back down…liar. Out of over 6 million individuals who entered ESPN’s Bracket Challenge only 2…TWO out of over 6 MILLION…got it exactly right. I’m a big underdog guy, so I love seeing Butler and VCU involved at the finish line. My only regret is that they’ll be playing each other in a semifinal game, eliminating the opportunity for both to prove themselves one last time on the big stage against power conference teams.

The part of all this I am enjoying most is watching VCU prove just how wrong talking heads like ESPN’s Jay Bilas & the King of Loudmouths Dick Vitale, among others, were back on Selection Sunday when they collectively went bonkers over the Rams’ inclusion in the tournament. Now, like good company puppets, both Bilas and Vitale are using an intellectually vacant argument that VCU’s success thus far is a whole separate thing and does not mean they were in error when they said the team shouldn’t have been selected in the first place. Sorry fellas…wrong answer. I love ESPN, but they employ some of the biggest assclowns alive as prognosticators and “experts”. Try something: Take a weekday sometime (which I realize is difficult for those that work a traditional 9-5) and watch all the ESPN shows…Mike & Mike, First Take, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, etc. You begin to notice a pattern. More than occasionally they all ponder the same topics with the same angle, making it obvious that there is some sort of agenda in Bristol. The powers-that-be are well aware of just how much stroke they possess in the sports world, and are not afraid to steer public sentiment in a particular direction. As far as the VCU issue goes, I would have much more respect for Dickie V., Bilas, and others if they would just say “You know what…I was wrong and I am sorry. The Rams have proven they belong.”

Staying on the college basketball court…..

I’m not a fan at all of women’s basketball (or any other women’s sports…call me sexist if you must, I’m just being honest), but I did happen to catch one of Baylor’s NCAA Tournament games and saw an interview with 6ft8 sophomore Brittney Griner. Let me just say this…that’s a MAN baby!! I think there needs to be some sort of investigation. She’s got an Adam’s apple and a deeper voice than that cracked out homeless radio announcer from the mean streets of Columbus, OH that was famous for about 5 minutes a couple months back.

A few weeks ago ESPN aired a documentary about Michigan’s famous Fab 5 that went to two straight national title games in the mid 1990’s. It was interesting enough, but controversy arose and is still simmering because of comments made by Fab 5’ers in regards to their rivals at Duke. They said they hated the Dukies and considered their black players “Uncle Toms”. Now I am about as white as they come, but I know that calling someone an Uncle Tom is fightin’ words. My question is this: Why, amongst the black community, is being educated, well-spoken, and upwardly mobile considered a negative trait?? Why is being a thug considered to be more “genuine”?? Would one rather matriculate to a highly regarded university and leave with a meaningful degree and the opportunity to make a positive impact on society, or is it somehow cooler to be an illiterate, Welfare dependent drug addict who ends up in jail leaving behind a trail of illegitimate children and broken homes?? History shows that many of the Dukies go on to semi-successful pro careers or achieve good things in other fields, while The Fab 5 were proven to be a bunch of cheaters who were way overhyped and never lived up to their supposed potential. My Dad always told me that there is a difference between two things. I will leave it up to the reader to deduce what those two things are, but suffice to say that the Dukies seem to be one thing and The Fab 5 seem to be the other, and the latter is nothing to be proud of.

Don’t look for a 2011 Baseball Preview from your humble Potentate of Profundity. I just cannot seem to get into it. Decades of being a disenfranchised Pittsburgh Pirates fan have worn me down to the point where I am devoid of any excitement or anticipation for Opening Day. I have written about it elsewhere here, but the Pirates’ ineptitude combined with a steady stream of steroid/cheating scandals and the annual foregone conclusion that there are only a handful of teams that stand a chance at post-season glory have numbed me to the magic of The National Pastime. I am honestly looking forward to The Masters and WrestleMania more than the start of the baseball season.

I am still not paying too much attention to the NFL lockout, if for no other reason than there has been no significant movement either way for a couple of weeks. I am still hopeful that all will be resolved and that the 2011 season will not be affected, but there is a little less hope than a few weeks ago. It still seems kind of silly from a fan perspective, although I am sure both the players and the owners perceive their particular beefs to be quite important.

Speaking of the NFL…..

I very seriously pondered doing my own mock draft and I suppose there is an outside shot I still may, but it seems unlikely. I’ll say this though, it feels like there is too much analysis and scrutiny of potential picks. It seems fairly simple to me…can a guy play football or not?? Does he fit your particular system and/or fill a major need?? In the space of a month Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, a proven monster, has gone from a potential #1 overall choice to being surpassed by a couple of guys just at his own position. Conversely QB Cam Newton has gone from a major question mark to very much in the conversation for being the #1 overall. And these guys haven’t played a game since early January!! For pete’s sake what has changed so dramatically?? Maybe nothing has changed and too many people are getting paid far too much money to spend way too much time picking apart something that isn’t really that complicated. As far as that top pick goes, the Carolina Panthers are crazy if they don’t trade it, and even crazier if they take a QB since they just drafted one last year (Jimmy Clausen from Notre Dame). I’m not a Notre Dame fan at all, and the history of Irish quarterbacks has been pretty suspect over the past couple of decades (Brady Quinn, Ron Powlus, Rick Mirer), but Clausen should be given more than just one year to prove his worth. The only potential out I see is if Carolina trades Clausen to a team with a veteran QB, allowing him to learn for a year or two without the pressure of being The Man, while Newton or Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert end up with a Panthers team that also scores an extra draft pick or two in the trade.