Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NCAA Tournament preview - East Regional

Fittingly enough for a regional whose semi-finals and final take place in New Jersey, this regional happens to contain one of the messiest parts of the entire tournament. I am talking, of course, about the little branch of the bracket that is home to Vanderbilt (a 6 seed based seemingly entirely on the fact that it beat Florida that one time), George Washington (third-best team in the A-10), Washington State (considered the "overlooked" team of the Pac-10, probably for a legitimate reason - they're boring), and Oral Roberts (okay, I got nothing except they're a 14 seed).

Honestly, anything could happen in that little chunk of the East Regional. So just for shits and giggles, I'm taking upsets all the way around. GW over Vanderbilt, which won't please a certain step-uncle of mine, but it's not his fault (or mine) that the selection committee sucks.

And because I haven't picked a team to go on a crazy run yet, and I usually do at least once a tournament (Utah to the Elite Eight two years ago comes to mind, and I came close), I'm riding Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16, mainly just for shits and giggles. And also because it's only a few points to lose, since no matter what team makes it out of this little clusterfuck, they'll just get picked apart by Georgetown. So I can feel good about having at least one wacky run in my bracket and still not worry about the consequences too much if I'm wrong.

On the subject of Georgetown, they'll get past Texas Tech in the second Round. I say Texas Tech because I'll give Bob Knight the benefit of the doubt even though the Red Raiders aren't actually any good this year. Knight's gotta be good for one tournament win, especially over a Boston College team that committed the unfortunate transgression of cutting Akida McLain, grade school mate of a certain blogger.

The upper portion of the bracket is a little more cut-and-dried. My 5/12 upset is already out of the way, so I'm safe to pick USC over Arkansas. Which is good, because Arkansas doesn't have a single win that impresses me. The Razorbacks beat Vanderbilt twice in a week, but then again, that's Vanderbilt. I'll give them props for beating West Virginia, because it's always good when those assholes lose, but it's still not any more impressive because the Mountaineers curl up into a fetal position whenever they leave Morgantown.

This 8/9 game is the one that was probably the easiest for me to pick. How Marquette, which has a whole bevy of quality wins to show off, and went 10-6 in the Big East, is only one seed higher than Michigan State, which barely finished .500 in the Big Ten and didn't do anything remotely impressive on the road, is beyond me. But I'll take the Marquette Dominic Jameses without much of a thought, and I'll add to that a hope that Dan Fitzgerald gets shut out in the entire tournament because that guy is a tool.

The smarmy look that only a douchebag who can
unjustifiably pull ridiculous treys out of his ass would own.

I don't think UNC will have much of a problem reaching the Sweet 16, with only Eastern Kentucky and the Marquette/Mich. St. winner in their way. However, I will say that Texas scares me. The first seven players in their rotation are freshmen and sophomores, including, of course, the peerless Kevin Durant. The problem is, can the kids around Durant step it up consistently enough to allow the Longhorns to make a prolonged run in the tournament? I could see Texas failing to make it out of the first weekend, but then again, I could see them winding up in the Final Four.

What I've settled on is a loss to Georgetown in the Elite Eight, overcoming a complacent Tar Heels squad in the Sweet 16. I still can't get visions of a shoeless Donatas Zavackas out of my head, and they serve as a constant reminder that often the teams that are able to make runs in the tournament are those that have a bona fide NBA-caliber stud anchoring their team, regardless of the supporting cast. And it's not even like Durant's help is even that bad, either. There's a reason the Longhorns quietly went 12-4 in the Big 12 and barely succumbed to Kansas in the conference championship.

And that, my friends, is that. Three down, four to go.

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