It’s the most wonderful time … of the year…
And a happy Monday to you all, it’s NCAA Tournament time, and once again I am gripped with excitement at another March Madness. Never gets old for me, no matter how much off-court nonsense and illegality is going on (in case you haven’t heard, the FBI is investigating at least 20-25 major college basketball programs for all kinds of chicanery) and no matter how much the selection committee butchered things (more on that in a minute, they were bad this year but not as bad as it could’ve been)
As always here at Wide World of Stuff, I’ll give you two different posts this week about the Tournament. Today, some initial thoughts about good first-round upsets to pick in your pool, a couple dark-horse Sweet 16 and Final Four teams, and a few hundred words where I vent about mistakes the committee made.
Now, a caveat at the start: Thanks to having a second kid and other life business, I’ve probably paid less attention to college basketball overall than I have in a while. Doesn’t mean my picks will be wrong, but when I do pay a lot of attention I rarely win bracket pools, so maybe this will be the opposite.
OK, first let me rant a bit about who’s in and who’s not. I love Bobby Hurley, he’ll always hold a special place in my heart as a member of the 1990s Duke dynasty. But his Arizona State team lost TEN games in league play, finished 8th in the PAC-12, and got in. USC, second in the PAC-12, and who reached the title game of the conference tournament, left out.
Syracuse, 11th (ELEVENTH!) in the ACC, with no good road wins at all, gets in. Oklahoma, losers of eight of their last 10, in. Middle Tennessee and St. Mary’s, two very strong mid-majors, left out. And Notre Dame, a Top 20 team when healthy (which they are now), also out. Just ridiculous.
I really do understand this is difficult, getting the 68 teams right. But goodness gracious some years the snubs are inexplicable. Like now.
OK, moving on, here are some thoughts on the bracket, and upset picks I like:
I think Kansas and Virginia got the toughest region, but Xavier, also a No. 1 seed, has no cakewalk either. Virginia could have to go through Kentucky or Arizona, and Cincinnati, to get to the Final Four. And Kansas has Duke, Michigan State (how in the hell did they win the Big Ten and get a 3 seed?) and a decent Auburn team in its region. Overall, the strengths of the brackets are pretty even this year.
— Potential awesome matchups ahead: Kentucky vs. Arizona is a second-round game, as is Michigan-Houston (two very very good teams), Wichita State-West Virginia is a terrific one, and Duke-Rhode Island or Duke-Oklahoma (Sooners have no business being in but Trae Young is the real deal).
— OK, upsets that you might want to pick: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago is better than your typical mid-major, they’re in the tournament for the first time in three decades, and they’re playing No. 6 Miami, who is missing their best player Bruce Brown due to injury.
— South Dakota State is a perfect 12-5 upset pick, because Ohio State is playing poorly and the Jackrabbits (love the nickname!) have tournament experience.
— Keep an eye out, too from Providence, a 10 seed winning not one but two games; Stephen F. Austin (veteran team who’s been there playing a slumping No. 3 seed Texas Tech) and Charleston, a 13 seed playing Auburn.
— I have no idea who’ll be in the Final Four yet, I need some to study. But my Dukies don’t have the hardest path, except for Michigan State. Can’t complain too much.
Now go start those brackets, Delores in accounting doesn’t have all day.
**Finally today, I know it’s pretty hard to sink even lower when you’re Donald Trump, but this… encouraging booing of the American media, but discouraging boos of a North Korean dictator.