2008 NCAA Tourney
Here it is; our annual look at the NCAA brackets – and our annual column to let you drop knowledge on people even if you don’t have the first clue about college basketball. We give you all the winners, or at least who should win. Of course, the picks are subject to poor performances by the actual players, but after the last two brackets we predicted, we’re due.
Lets start with the obvious, as always: All the #1’s advance to the 2nd round. Sure eventually a #1 team will lose, but as much as I’d like to bounce Memphis (knowledge #1: Memphis can’t hit free throws). Texas Arlington will try to run with Memphis, and that won’t be pretty.
We can advance all the #2 seeds – (knowledge #2 – Tennessee is a weak rebounding team). But you can expect a few of those games to be closer than they appear on paper.
Now comes the fun part: Lets break down the rest of round 1. Starting in the East, Indiana was looking at a 4-5 seed at the least a few weeks ago, now they’re an 8 seed. And they’re playing Arkansas (knowledge #3 – Arkansas’ leading rebounder is a guard and that’s not good). Advance Indiana to round 2.
I can’t pass up taking #12 George Mason over Notre Dame. I barely mentioned them a few years back, so this is my redemption pick, and as everyone knows, knowledge #4 - #12’s are money. Last year was just the 3rd time in 23 years that a 12 didn’t advance to round 2. So they’re due.
I always liked Winthrop, but I remember Tony Bennett when he was playing for his dad at Wisconsin-Green Bay, and he could shoot the three. So what does that mean? Nothing! So lets go with Washington State.
Oklahoma traditionally loses in the 1st round, St Joe’s has a mouthy coach. That makes me say Oklahoma.
Louisville comes in as a #3, against Boise St. Rick Patino is just too good of a coach to get bounced in the 1st round - Louisville gets by Boise St – unless the floor is blue, then take Boise. Or maybe that’s just for football, so scratch that.
Everyone loves Butler. But I’m having flashbacks to South Alabama beating Alabama in 1989 – so lets go with South Alabama to move on to take on Tennessee in round 2.
Down to the south: There’s a reason that the #8 seeds are #8 and not #9 – they’re better than the 9’s. Potentially, the best #8 is 6 teams better (on paper) than the worst #9. I like Mississippi State in Little Rock (not that far away from Starkville) over Oregon.
Going back to the well again: Tom Izzo is a good coach. And he owes me for losing to George Mason a few years back. Michigan State over Temple.
Pittsburgh is a very good #4 seed. Oral Roberts is actually pretty good, but I think Pitt has too many athletes for Oral Roberts. Pitt gets by Oral Roberts in a game a lot closer than the experts predict.
Kentucky/Marquette would be a great game – in 1977. It’s not. I think both these teams stink, but Marquette stinks less. Marquette in a yawner.
Battle of the smarty-pants: Stanford as a #3 taking on #14 Cornell. Stanford has 2 7-footers (who are twins). Cornell has 1 (he’s not a twin). Two is greater than 1. Stanford easily over Cornell.
Miami is a #7 against #10 seed St Mary’s (Ca). knowledge # 5 – 11 #10’s have made the sweet 16 in the last 10 years. In order for that to happen, they have to beat a #7. So lets go with the school named for the ladies - St. Mary’s gets by the Hurricanes.
To the Midwest: Remember that thing above about #8’s being better than #9’s? Yea, forget that when it comes to Mountain West schools. Take Kent St over UNLV.
You’re going to hear a lot of people talk about how great Clemson is playing, and how on-fire they are. Let me tell you a little story about another on-fire team: Georgia Tech in 1993. They actually won the ACC tourney that year, and were on fire. And then lost to Southern. Moral of the story? We’re taking the #12 seed Villanova.
I told our own Matt Yette that I’d take Siena (his alma mater) in the 1st round. Well, I didn’t know they were playing Vandy. Vandy is real good – and athletic. I have to go back on my word to him, and grudgingly take Vanderbilt.
Everyone is obsessed with good freshman, and OJ Mayo (USC as a #6 seed) against Michael Beasley (Kansas State #11) is a match-up of the two best in the nation. I can’t get by Tim Floyd coaching some pretty good Iowa State teams that flopped. So yes, we’re taking the #11 seed Kansas State.
Wisconsin is the best #3 seed. That doesn’t mean a whole lot, but that should be enough to get by Call-St Fullerton. Wisconsin over a Cali-school.
A lot of people recall that Cinderella-story Gonzaga. Well, that was in 1999. The Zags are pretty good, and they’re actually not much of a Cinderella when they’re the favorite. Davidson, however, is a pretty good team playing in their back yard. We’re taking our 3rd #10 seed - Davidson.
Last bracket, the West: knowledge #6 – always take the tall, lanky Mormon’s in round 1. #8 BYU over Texas A&M.
Drake is another of those teams that you might say, ‘they’re a #5?’ Well, they’re pretty good. Even though Western Kentucky has a good track-record historically we have to go with Drake here.
UCONN is a 4 vs San Diego. knowledge #7 – a #13 did not advance last season, and in NCAA history of the 64 seeds, a 13 has not been shut out in back to back years. We haven’t advanced a 13 yet, so lets take sunny San Diego over UCONN, who traditionally is good out west. But who cares, it’s UCONN.
Baylor is a feel-good story, rising from the lowest depths a few years back, when a former player killed one of his teammates. It’s great that the program is back in the tourney, but I have to take Purdue here.
There was a time when you could just pencil the S.E.C. champ into round 2. then Georgia pulled off the biggest shocker in a long time and won the S.E.C. Xavier is just too good for UGA. It’s hard to carry momentum any further than UGA has brought it, so I have to go against the bulldogs and go with Xavier.
And finally, Arizona is the team that most ‘experts’ have complained about getting in. That’s good enough for me, because they did it to George Mason a few years ago (seems like I’m caught up with GMU still, eh?). West Virginia falls to Arizona.
There you have it; round 1. This would be a good time to remind you that in 1995 I predicted 31 of the 32 games correctly – only losing Weber State’s upset over Jud Heathcote’s final coaching game at Michigan State. So mock all you want.
On to round two: From here, we’ll run through the brackets by region until we get to the final 4: In the east, North Carolina over Indiana in round 2. Washington State over the beloved George Mason. Louisville gets by Oklahoma. In our upset, in their home state, South Alabama gets by the weak rebounding (see Knowledge #2 above) Tennessee Vols.
North Carolina gets by Washington State to reach the Elite 8, as does South Alabama in an upset over Louisville. North Carolina bursts the bubble of this years surprise team, besting South Alabama in Charlotte to reach the Final 4.
To the South. Remember knowledge #1? Yep, were banking on not having all the #1’s reach the round of 16 - Mississippi State beats Memphis. Pitt seems to be the only Big East tourney winner that ever does anything in the NCAA’s, so lets take Pittsburgh over Michigan State. Stanford is too tall for Marquette, and Texas is too fast for St Mary’s. I’ll suggest Pittsburgh over Mississippi State, and Texas over Stanford – athletes over brainiacs. It’s scary to actually pick a #2 to make it to the final 4, but I like Texas to make the final 4 the year after their star Kevin Durant left.
In the Midwest: If Kansas wasn’t playing in Omaha, I’d be tempted to pull the trigger on Kent St in the upset, but I can’t. Kansas advances to the sweet 16. We’re do for a #12 to advance, so lets take Villanova over Vanderbilt. As tempting as it is to ride the Freshman phenom, lets play it safe and take Wisconsin. If had any backbone, I’d tell you to jump on Davidson, but I happen to think that John Thompson is a tremendous coach, and he remembers what it felt like to be in the final 4 last year. Georgetown is the pick. We’ll take Kansas over Nova to make the elite 8, and the beloved Georgetown... well, it was fun while it lasted. Wisconsin is our pick. Upset time again: Wisconsin over Kansas to make the final 4.
And to the west we go: UCLA big over BYU. 4 letters beats 3 letters every time. Drake over San Diego – after all, we only advanced San Diego to put a 13 into round 2. Xavier takes out Purdue, and Duke is Duke, they blow out Arizona. UCLA over Drake, because a basketball powerhouse beats a preppy-sounding boys name any day. Xavier is really good, they get by Duke. The last spot in our final 4 goes to the Bruins; that’s UCLA in case you didn’t know. I will predict that Xavier will play UCLA very well, and I’m real tempted to pick them in the upset, but UCLA has been to 2 straight final 4’s, and 3 is a magic number. They made a song about it.
Our final 4 teams look pretty good on paper: North Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas, and UCLA. North Carolina over Wisconsin, and UCLA over Texas. The final match up pits two great coaches and two very athletic teams. I think UCLA will run into the same problem they did against Florida a few years ago; a very athletic team – with better big guys than they have. So, it’s UNC over UCLA in the finals. After all, 3 beats 4, right?
You can thank me later.
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