'It's the most, wonderful time of the year....'
Sing it with me!
Fine, be like that, you big party pooper. This is my favorite time of the year. Not only is some of the best, most dramatic basketball of the year being played, but it also means spring is right around the corner and, most importantly, wifey doesn't mind me going out to bars to watch the games because she can't stand watching.
It's win - win!!
Anyway, I was going to do a rundown of the teams, but I haven't had much time to watch many college teams this year. So, rather than do the rundown of the favorites, I'm going to focus on the bracket itself. Let's face it, this year is a crap shoot anyway.
The way I figure it, these are the teams that could win it all.
With these teams potentially catching fire and ruining everyone's office pool.
Memphis - Considering their atrocious free throw shooting, I can't consider them contenders.
USC - OJ is really coming into his own at the right time.
Louisville - players and coaches that have been here before.
Michigan State - The most unpredictable team this year.
Duke - Too reliant on the three point shot, which spells doom during Tourney Time.
Notre Dame - very talented team across the board.
Then there are the dark horses who have the talent to go deep, but are in a tough region or lack some aspect to make them true contenders.
Xavier (who plays Purdue in the second round)
Realistically, any of these teams could go deep. It all depends on one bounce of the ball or one shot that rolls around and out (or in) or one bad call by the ref. Anything can happen, which makes this so much fun.
My problem is I've got to fill one out for my office pool and have no idea who to pick. Let's take a look at the regions and get a better feel for this. Hopefully, I'll have my pick by the end of this column.
East: This has UNC written all over it. Not only do they have the best team, but they play close to home right up until the Final Four. Raleigh for the first two rounds followed by Charlotte for the Sweet 16. They don't have to fly until they reach the Final Four (which they will).
Tennessee looks like the only major threat, but even if they get to the Elite Eight to face UNC, they're playing in NC. It's basically a home game for the Tarheels.
Potential troublemakers: Louisville, winner of the George Mason/ND game, Butler
Pick from here: UNC
Midwest: Kansas is the obvious pick here. Probably the most talented team in the country with a point guard the plays with intensity and smarts. Love watching that kid.
However, I caught two Georgetown games this year (one being the Pittsburgh game they lost) and this team looks like one of the few complete teams up and down the roster. They have solid guard play, they rebound, they play stellar defense and they are huge up front. If Hibbard can stay out of major foul trouble, they can beat anyone.
Potential troublemakers: Clemson, USC
Pick from here: Georgetown
South: I don't trust Memphis. I just don't. They can't shoot free throws to save their lives, the only real test they had this year was against Tennessee at home and they lost, and they tend to lose focus during games. Sure they're talented, but it wasn't enough last year and won't be enough this year.
Besides check out Texas' potential run. They start in Little Rock where the biggest threat will be....um....who? Kentucky? Miami? Stanford? Right. So if you pencil in Texas to the Elite Eight (which I have), guess where they play for the rest of the tourney? How about Texas. Their Elite Eight games are in Houston followed by Final Four games in San Antonio. How's that for some home cooking?
Even if Pittsburgh (I have them beating Memphis) or Memphis make it to the Elite Eight, they'll have to play a loaded Texas team in Texas!
Potential troublemakers: Michigan State (as always), Marquette
Pick from here: Texas
West: Speaking of fair, once again the bracket gods have shone on UCLA who play their first two rounds in Anaheim. If they get to the Elite Eight (and they should) they only go as far as Phoenix.
Yeah, I know Duke is in this region but they haven't impressed me at all this year. The only other competition is UConn, who have been up and down and could just as easily lose in the first round as go to the Final Four. I hate teams like that.
Potential troublemakers: Drake (who I really like), West Virginia
That makes my final four look like this: UNC, Georgetown, Texas and UCLA. I can live with that.
UNC and Georgetown are an epic battle, but I think Georgetown has the better defense and better guard play. They pull out a squeaker that could be a classic.
Texas is freakin' playing in San Antonio for crying out loud and play an UCLA team that is good, but not great. They make it to the finals.
That leaves Texas vs Georgetown. Did I mention this will be held in San Antonio?
Looks like I'm picking Texas. So many of these teams are so close in talent that any little advantage counts. Having a home slate from the Elite Eight on is more than a little advantage.
So, if this happens (and it probably won't) does this nominate Kevin Durant for the Ewing Theory?
Today's distraction: Some insider stats on picking Cinderella teams. All this does is make things even more confusing. As last year's winner in my office proved, you can just as easily throw a dart.