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Article:Re-tooling my bracket and other thoughts on March Madness

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As I assess the damage of the trainwreck that is my bracket, I realize that for a guy who clearly overanalyzed his picks, things really aren’t that bad. If UNC, Kansas and UCLA all make the Final Four, I could very easily still win my office pool. As far as my battle with the rest of America on ESPN.com and wgamradio.com? Probably not, but at least my championship team, Kansas, is still in it.

The most frustrating part for me this year is that I talked myself out of some very critical picks. I did some research on Monday, then took time Tuesday to do a preliminary take on the brackets. Wednesday, I finalized my picks. Here was my thought process moving through the bracket on Tuesday.:

Georgetown sucks, but so does UMBC. Gonzaga is overrated so I like Davidson, and Curry is lights out and did I mention how much I hate Georgetown? Davidson to upset G’town!

The following day:

Ugh, I love Davidson here but it’s a safer pick to go with G’town. I’ll have them losing to USC since I hate them so much. That makes up for it, right? Alright let’s do it.

Nice. Not only did USC suck against Kansas State, but Davidson overcame a 16-point deficit to shock the Hoyas and left me wondering what could have been. Meanwhile, in the West bracket, the following occurred:

I absolutely love the depth of the Big East. Huggins is a great coach, solid experience, and Duke is the root of all evil in college hoops. I hate just looking at Coach K. Possibly the only time I root for UNC, or every college hoops team for that matter is when they play Duke. Take ‘em over Belmont but West Virginia prevails in an upset! Xavier-WVU it is!

The following day:

Ugh, I’m feeling nauseous having to make this pick. Duke is a bit streaky, and they rely on shooting, but I feel like their experience will overcome the Mountaineers here. I love the Big East but I don’t feel safe making this pick. Let’s go with Duke. Great. Your 0 for 2, pal. You can really pick ‘em. Try your luck back in the MidWest bracket:

Alright Villanova is my upset special out of the Big East. They played G’town tough and should have won that game earlier this year. Scottie Reynolds is the man and Clemson can’t hit free throws. Keep it close then capitalize, boys!

The following day:

Ugh, Clemson is riding such a hot streak, and I feel like whoever wins this game is going to the sweet 16 to face Siena b/c Vanderbilt is over-rated and sucks. Plus I hate their home court. I should never see a Coach patrolling the sidelines on the baseline. Plus Villanova disappointed me in the Big East tourney game against G’town. I thought they’d make a run, and I was surprised they even got in. Clemson to the Sweet 16 it is! Awesome. Make it 0 for 3. Any others? Why not! Let’s move back over to the West:

UConn is so deep and talented. AJ Price is arguably the best PG in the country and they’ve played surprisingly well. This could be the surprise team of the tourney. I like them over San Diego and they’ll smoke either Drake or Western Kentucky. Hmm…I look ahead and see a 1999 finals re-match with Duke looming in the future. Let’s make it happen. Even better, their athleticism and talent bests Duke and off to the Final Four and Championship Game we go! The following day:

What am I thinking? Let’s not try and reinvent the wheel here. UConn will probably handle San Diego and Drake-Western Kentucky, but UCLA is legit and I like the Pac-10’s best team to the championship game. Enough with this UConn obsession.

Alright, thank god I talked myself out of that. I’m trying to tell myself that that alone justifies the rest of the non-picks I missed on. Plus I’m hearing a lot of people rode the UConn bandwagon and got burned, so I’m patting myself on the back for jumping off when I did. It was like one of those Final Destination movies where you have a dream that AJ Price gets severely injured in the first game and wake up to realize you should get off that damn plane. That’s what I sorta did here, although I left some luggage on the plane and got burned a bit leaving them in the Sweet 16. Oh well.

By the way, am I the only one that thinks the FD trilogy is one of the greatest of all time? The acting is comparable the Saw movies, the plot is consistent throughout because it works in so many ways. And the way they kill people is top-notch. My favorite is still from FD3 at the county fair when the token Asian dies after having a pole lodged through her chest. That in itself is great, but the fact that they actually had her fall to her knees and slide down the pole was award-winning.

But back to hoops, here’s a revelation from the Tourney: Rebounding has been a major factor in these games. On a hunch, I took a look at the first day of action, a sample size of 16 games. Winning teams were 15-1 in the rebounding category and 8-3 with four games dead even in the offensive rebounding category. Those against the norm here were typically out shooting their opponents by over 10% to make up for their indiscretions down low. And then there was the Xavier-Georgia game, where the Musketeers went 27 of 33 from the stripe. Georgia? They were 3 of 5. Something tells me that free-throw shooting is just as important come tourney time, which leads me to my newly constructed Sweet 16, second chance bracket:

South Region

Michigan State over Memphis

I like Tom Izzo with time to prepare. Neitzel is a great point guard who can be a real difference maker when he’s on. Just look at the Pitt game. I thought Pitt was a Final Four contender, but Michigan State is playing solid basketball and rebounding well. I like them to keep it close throughout, then tactically send Memphis to the line down the stretch. The Tigers were 46.9% from the stripe in the game against Mississippi State and legitimately could have blown it. The Spartans prevail.

Texas over Stanford

Damion James better be physical inside, or else those Lopez brothers will dictate the outcome of this game. For the record, I can’t stand everything about those two. Something about twins just really grinds my gears, unless of course you’re talking about Julius and Vincent Benedict – how could you not love those two. But maybe it’s the long hair, or the fact that their named Robin (my mother’s name) and Brook, which by the way are both names of females. Anyway, DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams will go on a tear and Texas wins. Besides, I’m not rooting for a school that turned down Jessie Spano.

West Region

UCLA over Western Kentucky

Lee and Brazelton will make this interesting, but UCLA is too athletic, too deep and too talented for this team. WKU will be outclassed and Kevin Love will continue his ascent to the top of the draft boards.

Xavier over West Virginia

I honestly don’t know who wins this game, but I’m going with Xavier because I have them in the Elite 8 and need them to win in order to keep my brackets even respectable at this point. If they lose, it’s not entirely bad, as the leader in my office pool has Duke in the Finals and the guy in 2nd place has Xavier in the Finals. I could still win because everyone is doing just as bad as me.

East Region

UNC over Washington State

WSU is an ugly team to watch, but Hansborough and the Tar Heels are peaking, having dropped a C-note in each of its first two games and demolishing inferior teams. They’re handling the opposition exactly as an upper echelon team should, and for that, I think they prevail here.

Louisville over Tennessee

Lofton may be hurt and the Cardinals are shooting at an unbelievable clip and holding opponents to less than 40% in the tournament. Volunteers haven’t looked impressive yet, and Louisville easily handled a tough Oklahoma squad. Look for Pitino & Co. to set up a showdown with UNC in the Elite 8.

MidWest Region

Kansas over Villanova

I like Kansas to win the whole thing.

Wisconsin over Davidson

As good as Curry is, Wisconsin has some athletic guards that will focus on shutting down the best player in the tournament. One man can only carry a team so far, and the clock strikes midnight here for this year’s best Cinderella story.

Elite 8

Kansas over Wisconsin

UNC over Lousiville

Texas over Michigan State

UCLA over Xavier

Final Four

Kansas over UNC

UCLA over Texas

Championship Game Kansas over UCLA

I’ll try again next weekend after I watch these predictions fall to sh*t, too. Enjoy the games.

- Bess

For more from The Sports Brief, visit http://sportsbrief.blogspot.com. Send your thoughts, comments and questions to sportsbrief@gmail.com.


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