Monday, March 17, 2014

If You Want to Win Your Bracket Challenge, Don't Read This

It's finally that time of year. Tourney time. When hopes, dreams, and bank accounts are seen through rose-colored glasses, only to be dashed on the cold and unforgiving rocks of truth. You'll win some, you'll lose some, and you'll absolutely lose your family pool to Great Aunt Bertha who picks the teams based on whether she knows what the mascot is or not (sorry, Coastal Carolina, no  upset for you this year).

Apparently, a Chanticleer is a bird with a nutsack for a chin.
And along with tourney time come the projections. Now, if you only read one March Madness preview article, don't read this one. I haven't watched nearly enough college basketball this year to make predictions that can be judged as fair or accurate. I usually lose my pools in spectacular fashion. And the fact that this is the first year that I'll have a Bovada account during March Madness does not bode well for my ability to pay rent this month.

Regardless, here are some fearless predictions, trends, and observations, many of which will surely be proven right, wrong, or somewhere in the middle.

1. Wisconsin will not make the Sweet 16
Wisconsin is a wonderful team to have in the Big Dance, because they're always prime candidates for an upset. Since making it to the Final 4 in 2000, the Badgers have only made it to the Sweet 16 in 5 out of the 13 tournaments, despite seeming to be a top 5 seed every year. They also play NO defense this year and they have barely any athleticism. I can actually see them getting a scare from American, and I'll almost bet the rent on a 7-over-2 "upset" by the Ducks of Oregon, an athletic team that was nationally ranked for much of the season.

2. Take Michigan State one round further than you think.
These first two predictions, both of Big Ten teams, are ironclad, set in stone, and as bankable as a bar of solid gold. Brought to you by the tournament handicappers of Vogel and Galloway, one of the most respected firms on the East Coast, it's just a lock that Tom Izzo will take a bunch of hardnosed, athletic, great-shooting Spartans on a Shermanesque march through the field. My gut tells me to put them into the Elite 8, which means that, per this rule, I'll be dropping them right into the Final Four. Look up their past results - all Tommy I does is romp through the tourney.

3. Take the under in the Harvard - Cincinnati game.
This is a battle of two of the best defensive teams in the tournament. Cincy lets up a paltry 58 points a game, and Harvard is only slightly less stingy, allowing 60 per contest. This game will be a war down low, and though Harvard might not have the power to contend with the Bearcats, they'll keep it close, milk the clock, and drag out a low-scoring game.

Not to mention, Cincinnati is coached by Ned Schneebly.
4. New Mexico State will beat San Diego State
This game is going to be awesome. San Diego State hasn't been scoring at the crazy clip that put them into the top 5 earlier in the season, after they had beaten Creighton, Marquette, and Kansas in a month(ish)long span. They beat 21st-ranked New Mexico by putting up 51, blew out a terrible Utah State team, then managed only 59 and 58 in their next two, against UNLV and New Mexico again. The Aztecs will feel like they've only played teams from New Mexico when they meet New Mexico State and 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar. Yes, I said 7-foot-5. SDSU doesn't have anyone over 6-10. You do the math. Height > no height.

5. Creighton - Baylor will be an amazing game.
Provided both teams can escape the first round, this game will be incredible to watch. Dougie McBuckets and the Blue Jays might sound like a band that Buddy Holly and the Crickets would have had to contend with for airplay on the AM dial, but in reality it's just a scrappy bunch of 3-raining white folk who wear t-shirts and have names like Ethan Wragge. Baylor plays a lot of zone, so expect Creighton's snipers to be hoisting from deep. The Bears are no slouches themselves, setting a ton of ball screens on offense to open up looks for their shooters, most importantly noted loose butthole monocle aficionado Brady Heslip. This game will be close, exciting, and high-scoring. If I were a betting man (and I am), I'm taking Creighton. They have too many shooters.

6. Oklahoma - North Dakota State will be a 12-5 upset.
Usually, when faced with two teams about which I know nothing, I pick the team that came from the better conference. And I usually fail miserably. So this year I'm switching it up. No fancy analysis, no looking up stats and trying to determine which team will hit foul shots when it counts, just gut feeling. The Bison will bludgeon the Sooners. Da fuck is a Sooner anyway?

7. Arizona will be the only 1 seed to make the Final Four
Their region is stupidly easy, plus every single upset I've just described happens within this region. Wisconsin, the 2 seed, will fall. Creighton, the 3 seed, could trip up against Baylor. San Diego State, the 4 seed, will lose to New Mexico State. Oklahoma, the 5 seed, will lose to North Dakota State! The whole region will be rife with upsets! And that will clear a path for Arizona straight through to Arlington.

This is what people's West regions will look like.
8. Wichita State is not as weak as everyone seems to think.
While everyone is lamenting the fact that the Midwest region is stacked and that Louisville somehow ended up with a 4 seed, the national narrative has left the Shockers undisturbed. I'm pretty sure that's good, because they're flying under the radar. I've seen a bunch of brackets that have them losing to Kentucky, and even more which have them losing to Louisville in the Sweet 16. Anyway, the Shockers are legit. Baker can rain, Early can slash, Van Vleet has a sick name, and their coach has 3 Gs in his name, which has to count for something. Wichy to the Elite 8 is not at all out of the question.

9. The highest seed in the Final Four will be a 4.
In the past few years, March truly has been Madness. Teams like Butler and Wichita State and George Mason have come from relatively nowhere to stun team after team, making runs to the Final Four which left office floors littered with torn-up-bracket confetti. This year, things will be different. Upsets will happen, as they always do. But this year's top 4 seeds, with a few notable exceptions (Villanova, San Diego State, Wisconsin) are unreal. All the 1-seeds are contenders, and many people have Louisville or Michigan State (both 4s) as champion. Add to this perennial powers like Duke, Kansas, Michigan, and .. um.. Creighton (?), and you have a recipe for a top-notch Final Four.

10. You will not win your bracket pool.
And neither will I. You will lose money, respect, happiness, sleep, your cool, and your dignity. And you will love it.

You will look like this. Trust me.

Let the Madness begin.

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