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Let The Madness Begin

I’m starting this at 12:05 a.m, and I’ve just spent the past six hours reading, copying, and arranging documents for a deposition that commences in Athens, Georgia (70 miles from home) at 8:45 a.m. tomorrow that I was just told to attend earlier today. So yes, I’m tired. I’m frustrated. Hell, I’m nearly brain dead, and I haven’t enjoyed a trip to Athens since I met that sweet little Jewish girl outside Brumby Hall back in ’99 and convinced her that we were a great match because I was also a Jew... just a very reformed Jew. You know, the kind that believes in Jesus and all. Well, I don’t know if she believed it or not, but she played along. Ah, those were the days. Can you believe I spent three years in New York trying that same line and it never worked? Hell, it even got me kicked off J-Date.com! Nothing like those Athens women. Something tells me that tomorrow’s trip to Athens won’t be quite as fun. At any rate this train is barrelling off the tracks before it even gets started, so let me try to save things and get to the business at hand: My 5th Annual NCAA Tournament Preview!

So, for all the newcomers, here’s how this works. First, I give you a handful of first round upsets to look out for. Last year, I went 2 – 5 in my upset picks and lost the five by an average of 3.3 points (I completely made that up, but I felt that it added credibility). Then, I’ll give you my Sweet 16. Last year, I picked 14 out of 16 (again, totally made up, but it has to make you feel better about taking the time to read this). Then, I’ll give you the Final 8, actually break down these games, as well as the Final Four games, and the big one on Monday Night. Let’s get to it.

The Upsets:

A few preliminary rules on the upsets so we can all be on the same page:

1) You know at least one 12 seed is going to beat a 5, and probably more;

2) Great guards, senior leadership, and three point shooting are the keys to any huge upset;

3) A 10 over a 7 is not an upset. Sorry, Mr. Ball. I’ve been told this is your M.O. every year, but it just doesn’t work that way. That being said, I do have to mention one 7 vs. 10 match-up. I, of course, am referring to the clash between Texas Tech and Boston College in the East Region. If you don’t know why I’ve brought this up, you are definitely a first time reader. Let’s just say that my preview isn’t complete unless I’ve taken at least one cheap shot at Al Skinner. It’s not his fault that he is the worst floor coach in the history of the Big East and the ACC. He clearly had nothing to do with BC’s decision to switch conferences, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Seriously, I would have loved to have been in the room with the committee when they said, “hey, just for shits and giggles, what do you say we match up one of the greatest x’s and o’s guys of all time against Al Skinner’s superiorly talented team in the first round and sit back and watch how many creative ways Al finds to kill his team!” You and I both know that conversation happened, and if it didn’t, I have lost all respect for the selection committee. (Well, what little respect I have after they left out Syracuse and West Virginia and put Arkansas and Stanford in the field! But, that’s a whole other rant for another time. Most likely after beer number 3 on Friday!)

Okay, so, we’ve laid down the ground rules for the upsets, and I’ve got my Al Skinner jokes out of the way, so let’s pick some upsets:

1) Old Dominion (12) over Butler (5) - This is just too enticing to pass up. I mean, you have the whole 12 vs. 5 karma working for you, an throw in the fact that Butler is the five seed! I mean, we are talking about Butler (yes, I’m using my Alan Iverson voice right now)! Unless Jimmy Chitwood is walking through that door in a Butler uniform, I refuse to believe they EVER deserve to be a five seed. Let’s bounce ‘em.

2) Davidson (13) over Maryland (4) - Every now and then, a 13 sneaks up and beats a 4. I mean, I'm pretty sure Southern was a 13 back in 1993, right? Sorry, Drew, couldn't resist! Anyway, you remember what I said about great guards, senior leadership, and great three point shooting. Check, check, and check! Not to mention, Davidson swept College of Charleston this year, and you must be one hell of a team if you sweep a team prominently featuring Bobby Cremins and Kyle Perry. Well, of course, unless you are three quarters of the ACC back in ’99 and ’00. I blame myself for that, though. We had shitty video! At any rate, the Terps are in for a war.

3) Illinois (12) over Va. Tech (5) - Shouldn’t these seeds be reversed? Sure, Va. Tech had a nice year and Illinois struggled, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are going to walk on the court and one team is going to have “Illinois” on their chest, and the other team is going to have “Virginia Tech”. My buddy Colby and I call this a classic, “Remember Who You Are Game”, and at some point Va. Tech will remember exactly who they are.

4) Holy Cross (13) over Southern Illinois (4) - Ralph Willard can flat out coach. Okay, he did almost single handedly ruin Pitt’s program, but at the mid-major level, he’s a bad ass. And, I figured I’d take the opportunity to slurp the Sports Guy. Screw you for judging me.

5) George Washington (11) over Vandy (6) - George Washington is tough, physical, and plays great D. Vandy is and does none of the above. Plus, any time a team is as clearly over seeded as Vandy is it’s worth taking a shot against them.

6) Oral Roberts (14) over Washington St. (3) – Quick, name one player on Wazzou’s roster! Yeah, didn’t think so. Plus, if Oral Roberts wins, that gives Jim Nantz two more days to say the word “Oral” 900 times while fighting off a giggle as Billy Packer looks at him in complete disgust. How can you not root for that?

Sweet 16

Nothing fancy here, just the teams:

Notre Dame
Georgia Tech (oh, shut up. I’m not a homer.)


George Washington

Ohio State

Now, here’s my Final 8 and how the games are going to break down:

1) In the Midwest Region, Florida is going to cruise into the Final 8, while Georgia Tech is going to scratch, claw, elbow, fight, and do everything short of run any sort of a half court offense into the Final 8. That, however, is where it’s going to end for the Jackets. Florida just has too many weapons, and the Jackets have no answer for their inside play, much less their ability to D you up 94 feet.

On the bright side, with the way the Gators get up and down the floor, Coach Hewitt will likely feel compelled to set an NCAA Tournament record for substitutions. Actually, that’s not funny. Not only is A.D.D. a serious disease, from which Coach Hewitt clearly suffers, but it is also the most infuriating thing for a fan to watch, EVER. How many times do you think Hewitt’s assistants have asked something like, “Paul, he’s hit four threes in a row and looks fresh, you sure you want to sit him?” I’m sorry, I have to move on because my blood pressure just went through the roof writing that.

2) In the West, I fully expect Kansas to dodge serious bullets from Villanova and Illinois on their way to the final Eight. On the other hand, I expect UCLA to cruise through the first weekend and stave off a tough battle from Pitt before dismantling Kansas. Before we get to the dismantling, however, let’s talk about that UCLA/Pitt Sweet 16 match-up.

This could be the most compelling game of the tournament for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the facts that these are two solid teams and it’s one of those teacher vs. pupil games. Honestly, I’ve gone back and forth on it a lot, but finally, I’ve decided that I just don’t think Jamie Dixon has what it takes to beat Ben Howland. The fact of the matter is that Dixon is a nice guy. By all accounts, he’s a good man and has genuine respect for his mentor, Howland. Now, stop and think about some of the great teacher vs. pupil match ups in the past. Really, the only guy that has owned his mentor is Coach K. And, the only reason why he owns Bob Knight is that little known secret that K is actually a much bigger prick than Knight.

So, you see, in order to beat your mentor, you have to be a bigger prick than him. There is no way Dixon is a bigger prick than Howland. Game over! As for the dismantling of Kansas, that’ a foregone conclusion. The Jayhawks are the least impressive uber talented 30 win team since, well, last year’s UConn Huskies. Yes, the same UConn Huskies that lost to George Mason in the Final 8. Fact is, you can’t just get by on your looks all the way to the Final Four, you’ve actually got to have some onions. Kansas has shown no visible signs of onions since Roy Williams declared, “I don’t give a shit about North Carolina” two days before leaving Kansas for the place he didn’t give a shit about. That had to feel good.

3) In the East, Texas is going to benefit from two things on the way to the Final 8: 1) UNC is going down early to Marquette or Michigan State, I just feel it; and 2) they have one of the 10 best basketball players on the planet on their roster. If you have seen Durant play and you don’t agree with that statement, we can’t be friends. You’ve heard of a “man’s man”, or a “coach’s coach”, or a “loser’s loser”, well Durant is a “freak’s freak.” This guy is insane! Right now, I would pay to watch five players play basketball: A.I., Kobe, D. Wade, Kevin Durant, and Diana Taurasi (just kidding! Had to make sure you were still awake). Not to mention, I would pay good money to watch the UT dance team, but we’ll talk more about them in a minute. Oh, and by the way, Georgetown will come out of the least compelling half of a bracket I’ve ever seen to be victimized by Durant in the Final 8.

4) In the South, I’d love to pick against Ohio State before the Final 8, but I just can’t. Really, the only team in their half of the bracket that could potentially be athletic and physical enough to play with them is Xavier, but I just can’t convince myself of that. Fear not, however, because I can bring myself to pick against Ohio State in the Final 8 against…..drum roll please….Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals. Listen, I know a few things about Louisville, but the only one that really matters is the man calling the shots from the bench. With college basketball existing in its current state of mediocrity, you can’t discount how important stars are. Star players, like Durant are great, and star coaches, like Pitino, can be just as valuable. This guy has his team playing well down the stretch, he will have every possible defensive scheme ready to put in play from full court trapping, to three quarter court trapping, to half court trapping, to trapping out of a match up zone! You get the point, they are going to trap the shit out of whoever they are playing and they are going to do it well. I wouldn’t care if they were a 16 seed, I would always have a real hard time picking against a Rick Pitino coached team in a single elimination situation. Well, unless they were facing Kevin Durant! How do you like that for a segue?

Final Four

I’m getting really tired, so I’ll make this simple. I like UCLA to avenge last year’s championship game loss to Florida for two reasons: 1) I think they are a more consistent team; and 2) I refuse to believe that God will let Billy Donovan play for another national title. If this does happen, I might have to re-evaluate my spiritual life. In the other semifinal, I like Kevin Durant and the dance team (sporting their chaps) to prevail. And, on Monday Night, I like the Horns and Durant to do their best impersonation of Carmello Anthony and the 2003 Syracuse Orangemen. I mean, a four seed with Orange uniforms and the best player in the tournament? Just too many similarities to ignore (Who cares if Syracuse was actually a 3 seed? Never let the facts get in the way of a good argument!). After such precise and scientific analysis, how can you not say, "Hook ‘em?" That being said, if you are anywhere near a sports book, you might be wise to go load up on New Mexico State on the money line right now!

I hope this has been entertaining, and I pray you weren’t counting on it being helpful. I apologize if there are a ton of typos, sentence fragments, or incoherent thoughts. I just typed 2,600 words in less than an hour, and don’t feel like proof reading. Get over it!

In all sincerity, good luck with your brackets and enjoy the next three weekends. Thanks to all of you that have entered the pool. We are going to have a lot of fun and raise a nice amount of money for a great cause. Oh, and one last thing: if you have Under 4,768 for the number of Masters commercials in the next three weekends, you are already finished. Lock it up! It’s a freaking tradition unlike any other, baby!