The 2009 NCAA Tourney
By Jake Vigliotti
Our annual look at the NCAA Tournament, or as we like to say, our little way of helping you fill out your office pool bracket, for those of you that don’t have a clue that Stephen F Austin isn’t just one single person, taking on all of Syracuse.
As a disclaimer, we may not have had a great run last year – indicated by the fact that I’m not linking to last years picks. But, in 1995, I once had 31 of 32 correctly picked in the first round (damn you, Weber State!). So there is some pedigree to having a nice run.
We start in the Midwest: Louisville is the #1, and the #1 seed overall. In fact, you can just pencil in all 4 #1’s into the second round. The 8/9 is the battle of the admins here at Ants: Joe M.s Ohio State (the 8) taking on Matt’s tiny little Siena Saints. The 8’s only have a 42% win percentage in the first round. Ut oh, Joe… we’ll take Siena. The 5/12 is the traditional upset spot, the 5’s actually have a slight edge in the overall percentage wining vs the 12’s (53%), so we’ll take Utah. Earlier this year, I saw Cleveland State play – they had no offense, but played great D. I was thinking that if they ever put that together, they’d be tough to beat. They have. We’ll take the #13 Cleveland State over #4 Wake Forest. #6’s traditionally do well vs. 11’s, and West Virginia is one of those teams that do well traditionally. We’ll take West Virginia over the 11 Dayton. North Dakota State is just happy to be there, so take Kansas. Southern Cal is playing too well to overlook them, so we’ll take the #10 USC Trojans over Boston College. #2 Michigan Sate, whom I’m a bit high on because I love Tom Izzo, gets by the #15 Robert Morris, who is actually 5 people, not just one.
#1 seed UCONN has won two national titles coming out of the West, so we’ll undoubtedly push them to round two in the West Region. The 8/9 is a toss-up of two teams that haven’t been outstanding – we’ll play the odds and take the #9 Texas A&M Aggies here. Purdue plays Northern Iowa, in a 5/12 matchup. I recall Northern Iowa pulling an upset in 1990 over Missou (that’s knowledge). We’ll take Northern Iowa here as the 12 over the Boilermakers. #4 Washington is too close to home to fear Mississippi State, so we’ll take the 4 over the 13 there. Marquette is so wishy-washy, but begrudgingly we’ll take them over #11 Utah State (although that one wouldn’t shock me at all). #3 Missouri is playing very well, having won their conference tourney. And they’re playing an Ivy League school. However, Cornell was here last year, and a veteran team made up of smarty’s has me thinking… Cornell in the big upset over the Tigers. We’ll go Maryland in the 7 hole over #10 Cal. Defending runner up (is that an honor?) #2 Memphis gets by Cal-Northridge.
In the East, #1 Pitt gets by the 16 East Tennessee State (unless Keith “Mr.” Jennings has been granted eligibility again – which he hasn’t). I hate Tennessee with the passion of a mongoose to a cobra, so we’ll go with the #8 Oklahoma State Cowboys over Rocky Top. #5 Florida State over the 12 Wisconsin; however, 12’s from power conferences have pretty good track records – Missouri was a 12 in 2002 and went to the elite 8. But I like FSU here, too much power on the boards. #4 Xavier gets by the 13 Portland State. UCLA is in… LA. VCU is in… V. V as in Virginia, which is close to Philadelphia, where the game is played. We’ll go with #11 VCU over UCLA. Villanova the #3 is in Philadelphia, where the game is played. Even though Philadelphia is in America, I can’t suggest American here, we’ll take the #3 Nova here. I always liked Tubby Smith, nice guy. That’s a good enough reason to take #10 Minnesota over Texas. Duke is Duke. Binghamton is not. Duke, the #2 over the 15.
Even though North Carolina is still a bit banged up, we’ll take the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels over the 16 Radford. The S.E.C. is so bad this year, it’s impossible to pick LSU, so we’ll take #9 Butler here. Western Kentucky is one of those teams that traditionally pulls off an upset or two, so we’ll take the #12 Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois. Gonzaga is practically playing a home game, so we’ll take them over #13 Akron. Arizona State as the 6 over Temple, because they’re playing in Miami, and it’s warm there and in Arizona. Providing they don’t go into overtime, we’ll take #3 Syracuse over Stephen F Austin, whoever he is. As good as Michigan has been playing, I enjoy watching them lose way too much, so we’ll go with Clemson over the Wolverines. And the #2 Oklahoma Sooners over Morgan State, whoever he is.
Round 2. Always fun. There hasn’t been a #1 seed not make the sweet 16 since 2004- when two got bounced (both by teams from Alabama, by the way). So we’re due. Might as start with the big one – in a pick to make Matt proud: Siena over Louisville. Yea, I said it. Or typed it. This looks like Kansas’ bracket in 1992 – all they had to do was make the sweet 16 and they had an easy ride to the final 4. They lost (to UTEP), and the same thing will happen to Rick Patino’s boys. We’ll take Cleveland State in another big upset – that tough defense shuts down Utah. Kansas handles West Virginia (barely), and Michigan State gets by a very good (suddenly) USC team.
In the West, UCONN over A&M, and Washington over a gutty Northern Iowa. Marquette gets by the smarty pants kids of Cornell, and Memphis takes care of Maryland.
In the East, Pitt bounces Oklahoma State. As much as I adore Xavier, FSU is too dumb to know they shouldn’t be beating Xavier, we’ll take the Noles here. Nova gets by #11 VCU, and we’ll take Duke over Minnesota.
Way down south, North Carolina gets a scare from Butler but survives. Gonzaga ousts Western Kentucky. The Cuse beats Arizona State – it’s that 2-3 zone that is effective in the tourney against teams not used to it. In a #2 upset, we’ll go with Clemson over Oklahoma.
Elite 8 time: Siena over Cleveland State, in the match-up everyone expected, right? Michigan State takes out Kansas.
In the west, UCONN continues their domination over Washington, and bounces the Huskies. Well, they’re both Huskies, so in theory, we won’t be wrong in one aspect of that. Marquette takes out Memphis, because all the experts have been talking about how poorly Marquette’s been playing. That’s known as the Billy Packer method of picking.
In the East, Pitt advances by beating FSU at their own game – namely playing aggressive. Villanova throttles Duke.
In the south, it’s time for North Carolina to finally get their just dues for playing so poorly at times; we’ll take Gonzaga in the upset over the Tar Heels. Syracuse takes out Clemson.
Time for the final 4: Siena has been a nice story, but sorry Matt, it’s big boy time. Michigan State advances.
In the West, it’s hard to go against history: Connecticut beats fellow Big East member Marquette as far away from the Big East you can be.
Pittsburgh beats fellow in state rival Villanova to claim the East. That’s two Big East teams in the Final 4.
Back in 1985, three Big East teams made the final 4. History repeats itself. We’ll go Syracuse over Gonzaga.
A Final 4 of #2 seed Michigan State, #1’s UCONN and Pittsburgh, and #3 Syracuse. That’s a bit of a difference from last years when all 4 #1’s made it for the first time. We’ll knock out the odd-ball and bounce Michigan State, putting UCONN into the finals. They’ll obviously play another Big East Team, so we’ll go with Pittsburgh over the Cuse.
Connecticut and Pittsburgh battling it out for the national title. Who will win? Well, it’s been a good year for the town with three rivers, and I ain’t talking Storrs. We’ll take the mighty Pitt Panthers as your national champions.
Thank me later.
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