Wednesday, March 18, 2009


(Click on the bracket to enlarge)

If you’re reading this Thursday morning you can still change your picks…

Like I promised earlier in the week, I’ve gone ahead and published my NCAA Tournament picks. Since this is so public, if I do poorly…. I fully expect….nay INVITE each and everyone one of you to criticize me as ruthlessly as you can. It’s only fair. HOWEVA’!! (picture Screamin’ Steven A. Smith saying it)…if you happen to use my picks in your own office pools…and happen to win some money….I invite….nay FULLY EXPECT you to send me a 25% of your winnings. “Somethin’ you know, for the effort.”

Hey, it’s only fair.

Some of my picks explained:

- I’ve gone ahead and picked some pretty significant upsets in the first round. However I STAYED AWAY from one that a lot of people seem to like: Arizona (12) over Utah (5)

This was an enticing pick, because Arizona has such a talented roster (they have two players, in Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, who have a good chance to be lottery picks in this upcoming NBA Draft). However I just could not pull the trigger. I had one question: With such a deep and talented roster, why were they not able to pick up any good road wins? Take a
look. There best road win is at…. Oregon State? They lost to every other decent team they played on the road. Since this game is being played in Miami, and not Tucson, I’m taking the Utes.

- The 5-12 upset I do like is Western Kentucky (12) over Illinois (5). I have not been impressed by Illinois at all this year. They have struggled offensively at times and played in a weak Big Ten Conference. In addition, they are without their point guard Chester Frazier. Western Kentucky is a solid team with tourney experience. I like this upset.

- Ok…I didn’t take my own earlier advice and got caught up in the hype: Mississippi State (13) over Washington (4). I might regret that one.

- I made some of my bolder picks in the Midwest region. USC is a boom or bust team. Picking them to win two games is a big risk. Possibly make or break. They underachieved all year but finally put it together in the Pac-10 tournament. Another reason why I like them: I have them playing a VERY overrated Michigan State team in the second round. I was chomping at the bit for a good opportunity to pick against the Spartans.

-I really like West Virginia. They seem to always surprise and win a few games in March. They are good athletic team that plays team defense and consistently makes shots. I was also encouraged by the deep run they made in the Big East Tournament a week ago.

-I didn’t….but someone please have the balls to pick Texas to beat those marshmallow-soft Duke Blue Devils in round 2! Please.

- Like I said in my Mid-Season report, Ty Lawson was and is the most important player in the entire country. He gets Carolina points in transition, protects the ball, and gets his teammates easy buckets. With him 100% healthy, UNC would be my pick to win the whole thing. As it stands now however, they are not sure if he will play in either of the first two rounds, and certainly when he returns he will not be 100% at any point. In the recent ACC Tournament, UNC struggled to beat Virginia Tech and then lost to Florida State without Lawson in the lineup.

Unless he makes a miraculous recovery, they will have a hard time getting to the Final Four, because they could potentially play a team like Oklahoma, Syracuse, or Arizona State in the round of eight. By the way, don’t sleep on the Sooners. They were a dominant team early this year before Blake Griffin got hurt, and if he’s back to full strength he is the best player in the whole field.

-If not the Tar Heels than who?

From about mid-season on I have really liked the Pittsburgh Panthers. I had the opportunity to watch quite a few of their games this year, and was struck by how complete a team they were. Good point guard in Levance Fields, solid big man in Blair, excellent role players, and a top notch all-around player in Sam Young. In fact, if Pitt ends up winning the whole thing I’m going to go ahead and say the unheralded Young will be the MOP of the Final Four. He’s that good and I think his team is that solid. I’m not worried about a few losses along the way (mid-season to Providence and a 14 point loss to WVU in the Big East a week ago).

The one thing that does scare me about Pitt: recent struggles they have had in the NCAA’s. They haven’t seemed to be able to get over the Sweet Sixteen hump. However, until last year, you could have said the same thing about Kansas under Coach Bill Self. All they did? Break through and win a National Championship.

I’m hoping (and so is my wallet) that I’m right about Pitt being this year’s Kansas. Oh…and if I win….all mine. Not sharing.

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