Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NCAA Preview – South Region

1 Ohio State
16 Central Connecticut State

The Beef was quite heartbroken that CCSU (near his hometown) drew Ohio State, but I guess he should just feel lucky they didn’t go to the play-in game like they deserved (they should have been in it instead of Niagara). Then again, that would have offered him an opportunity to watch the Blue Devils in HD. Ohio State is an enigma for me—a young team that doesn’t usually play like it. They have brain farts like young teams are prone to, but they’re never too prolonged due to mature point guard play from Mike Conley, Jr., and of course Greg Oden. And being that there’s really not a single team in their side of the bracket who has a serious chance of defeating them unless OSU has just an awful night (always a possibility in the tourney), they should go pretty far.

Prediction: Ohio State

9 Xavier

I like both of these teams, actually. Well, I don’t LIKE them (BYU, at least), but I think they’re pretty capable of winning a game in the tourney. BYU jumped out to a 29-5 lead against Wyoming in the MWC semis, then a 19-6 lead against UNLV in the finals. They blew most of that lead against Wyoming and ALL of that lead against the Rebels, but they’re still pretty solid. Meanwhile, Xavier won 10 of 11 to end the regular season before pummeling Dayton and slipping up to Rhode Island in the A10 tourney (though that could have just been a conspiracy to get two A10 teams in the NCAA’s!). They have lots of experience—two seniors and three juniors in their starting lineup, and a decent amount of size for a mid-major. If you let them, BYU will simply post up and take 3-footers all night, but I don’t think Xavier will let them.

Prediction: Xavier

(And on a side note, we went to the Thomas & Mack on Friday night, and it was just amazing to see how much fans of every other school in the MWC hate BYU. It’s almost like they’re every team’s main rival. It was hilarious to see a cute, young Wyoming fan saying, “I f---king HATE losing to those c---suckers” after the game...there’s some Mizzou-level hatred there. Very enjoyable. I felt right at home.)

5 Tennessee
12 Long Beach State

LBSU did very well in putting away Cal Poly to win the Big West. However, they lost me $50 in a Vegas parlay in the process. So screw them.

Prediction: Tennessee

4 Virginia
13 Albany

I have absolutely no idea how Albany got a 13 and Oral Roberts got a 14, but whatever. They’re athletic, and they’ll be going up against a team that doesn’t know how to be good yet. Virginia got a taste of the big-time recently, presented with an opportunity to win the ACC outright. What happened? They lost to a bad Wake Forest team to lose the 1-seed, then blew a big lead in losing to N.C. State in the ACC quarterfinals. That’s not really how you like to perform coming into the tourney (not to mention the fact that The Beef had money on the UVa/NC State game and hates UVa twice as much as I hate LBSU). They’ve done well considering they started 9-6 with double-digit losses to Appalachian State, Utah (a 24-point loss to a team that finished near the bottom of the MWC), and North Carolina, but they don’t appear to have much left in the tank. Plus, Albany WON at Utah and has won 13 of 15 overall. And their nickname is the Great Danes, which is awesome. This is yet another gruesome 4/13/5/12 quadrant, by the way. I’m not sold on Tennessee at all, and I have them waltzing to the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Albany

6 Louisville
11 Stanford

Well, after getting 64 right the last two years, I only got 63 of the NCAA selections right this year. I had Syracuse and K-State in instead of Arkansas and Stanford. I kinda knew Stanford was going to get in (all the talking heads were telling me they would), but I just don’t think their resume was any better than K-State’s, and K-State had a better record and RPI. And as Bill Simmons said the other day, while the Pac 10 has the reputation of being a better conference this year, I’m not even sure they’re better than the Big XII. Oh well. Meanwhile, Louisville is a team that has grown by leaps and bounds as the season has progressed. They’re not as good as the seed they got in the Big East Tournament (2...we’re going to have to get used to strange seedings in the Big East Tourney, 16 teams does not result in too balanced a schedule), but they’re strong. Stronger than Stanford, anyway.

Prediction: Louisville

3 Texas A&M
14 Penn

ATM peaked a few weeks ago and haven’t quite been the same well-oiled machine they were. But unlike a lot of teams who peaked a while back, ATM’s kept winning for the most part. And I know Memphis has won like 90 games in a row against inferior competition now, but does anybody on the committee really think they’re better than ATM? Meanwhile, Penn isn’t quite mid-‘90s Princeton here. In fact, I’m quite ready for somebody new to emerge from the Ivy. Is it too much to ask that Brown or Dartmouth makes a run?

Prediction: ATM

7 Nevada
10 Creighton

Nevada got pretty screwed on their seeding, and Creighton probably peaked in the MVC tournament. In other words...

Prediction: Nevada

2 Memphis
15 North Texas

Every time I’ve watched Memphis this season, it seems like they’ve shot about 40% from the free throw line. It’s just that, they’ve been so much more talented and athletic than anybody they’ve played since 12/20, when they lost to Arizona. Since then they’ve played (and beaten) exactly 1 NCAA tourney team: Gonzaga, a 10-seed, whom they beat 78-77.

It’s not that I don’t think Memphis is a good team—they’re amazingly athletic, they’ve got size, and they’ve got some good shooters—it’s just that they’re not battle-tested (and they didn’t deserve a higher seed than ATM). For the season they were 2-3 versus NCAA tourney teams. That’s not 2-seed worthy. That, combined with their lack of crunch-time experience and seemingly poor FT that I mentioned above (just 61.0% for the season), leads me to think they’ll be exiting early in the tourney.

Just not in the first round.

Prediction: Memphis

Looking Ahead

Second Round

1 Ohio State > 9 Xavier (though Xavier’s experience will give OSU’s youth a battle)
5 Tennessee > 13 Albany (I think all four teams in this quadrant have a 25% chance of making the Sweet 16...brutal...)
3 ATM > 6 Louisville (ATM would do very well in the Big East with their style of play)
7 Nevada > 2 Memphis (Not likely, but I was going to have UM losing to ATM anyway, so I might as well go for the upset)

Sweet 16

1 Ohio State > 5 Tennessee (OSU’s guards too good for the pressure D)
3 ATM > 7 Nevada (A lot of people are taking ATM in the Final Four...)

Elite 8

1 Ohio State > 3 ATM (...and therefore I can’t be one of them.)

Have I mentioned that I hate my predictions already?