My brackets are in shambles.
I continue to hold a slight lead in our household competition over my 11-month old daughter and the two boys, 8 and 10. But the 8-year old is closing on me – sad but true.
There is the obvious Cinderella story of Florida Gulf Coast University, who beat Georgetown and San Diego State. But there were plenty of other shockers the first weekend, including Wichita State over the No. 1 seed Gonzaga.
I know a little but I don’t have the cojones to pick upsets like Harvard over New Mexico, or La Salle stinging Kansas State and ‘Ole Miss.
WEST REGION – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
13 La Salle vs. 09 Wichita State (Thursday, March 28 @ 10:17 p.m. TBS)
The La Salle Explorers have been damn impressive. I watched their play-in game against Boise State and felt they looked like a team that could win a game or two.
Against Mississippi they got amazing guard play from Ramon Galloway with 24 points, Tyreek Duren hitting for 19, and Tyrone Garland pumping in 17 points off the bench.
They face Wichita State, which shot 14-26 from three-point land against Gonzaga. If they do that again they can beat anyone.
Regardless, one of these long shots is headed to the Elite 8.
While exciting to watch, the reality is this offers either Arizona or Ohio State a lower seeded opponent to face in the regional final.
06 Arizona vs. 02 Ohio State (Thursday, March 28 @ 7:47 p.m. TBS)
I’m not belittling the achievements of Wichita State or La Salle, but when you check the seeding and Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, which is a composite computation that takes into account a team’s wins, losses and strength of schedule, Ohio State is 10th in the country and Arizona is 15th.
Compare that to Wichita State at 37 and La Salle at 46. It’s not that these two can’t win, but they offer the higher seeds an easier path to the Final Four.
In the Zona/OSU game, Aaron Craft may be the difference. His skills are matched only by the ice water in his veins to make plays under pressure.
MIDWEST REGION – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
12 Oregon vs. 01 Louisville (Friday, March 29 @ 07:15 p.m. CBS)
A similar scenario is playing out for Louisville, as they face the 12th seeded Oregon Ducks, who bring in an RPI of 47 versus a 3 held by the Cardinals.
It’s no upset Oregon is here. They won the PAC 12 tournament, and have played against good talent, but were uneven over the course of the season, and ended up underseeded.
If I’m Louisville I’ll take this game against a 12-seed for a chance to advance to the Elite 8 every day and twice on Sunday. It’s a hell of lot better deal than what either of the other two remaining seeds must face.
03 Michigan State vs. 02 Duke (Friday, March 29 @ 09:45 p.m. CBS)
Since the brackets came out this was the game that jumped out at me in the Sweet 16, with the prospect of the winner facing Louisville for a spot in the Final Four.
My take on this game is it’s a great example of what the 2013 college basketball season has been all about.
Unlike last year with Kentucky, there is no clear favorite, or overwhelmingly talented team. Mainly this is because all the elite players leave school early for the NBA and this year in particular the cupboard ended up a bit empty.
This means styles and matchups matter more than ever.
Duke is a nice team, but has a serious lack of ability to play above the rim. I don’t like them against a beefy, opportunistic Michigan State team. On the other hand I don’t like Michigan State’s chances in a game with Louisville as much as I would Duke, because the Cards possess speed that kills.
We’ll see which of these matchups comes to fruition, but if Louisville can take care of its business, either one will be a pleasure to watch.
The nightmare scenario is Duke knocks off Michigan State and Oregon upsets Louisville, thus giving Duke a walk to the Final Four. That is reminiscent of what happened in 2010, when West Virginia upset the John Wall-led Kentucky Wildcats in an Elite 8 game, giving Duke the more favorable matchup with a lower and less talented seed.
I really can’t handle the Blue Devils hanging another banner.
SOUTH REGION – Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX
04 Michigan vs. 01 Kansas (Friday, March 29 @ 07:37 p.m. TBS)
Not sure about this one. Kansas came back and throttled a determined North Carolina squad Sunday in the second half, but Trey Burke, Glen Robinson II and Tim Hardaway Jr. for Michigan are scary. It makes me nervous, but I gotta go with the Wolves – they ball like pros.
15 Florida Gulf Coast Univ. vs. Florida (Friday, March 29 @ 10:07 p.m. TBS)
This game has all the outside intangibles that could make it the most watched game of the weekend.
FGCU is the lowest seeded team to get this far ever in the NCAA tournament. The school has only been around for like 20 years.
The Eagle’s head coach, Andy Enfield, made a gazillion bucks on Wall Street, then brought his supermodel wife down to Ft. Myers for this gig.
Then factor in Enfield and Florida head coach Billy Donovan are in-state rivals and both Rick Pitino protégés, and you get a huge subplot to a game that appears to be a massive mismatch.
FGCU has a gaudy RPI of 93, whereas Florida is No. 7 in the land.
I’m pulling for the Eagles, because I want to see that chicken dance again, but the Gators don’t win close games, they blow people out. This could get ugly.
EAST REGION – Verizon Center, Washington, DC
04 Syracuse v. 01 Indiana (Thursday, March 28 @ 09:45 p.m. CBS)
This is another classic matchup. Think 1987. NCAA Championship. Keith Smart. The shot.
This isn’t Jim Boeheim’s best team by far. They’ve done well and can play with anybody, but there is a shadow of an NCAA investigation into whether the Syracuse men’s basketball program willfully ignored players’ positive test results for banned substances, allowing them to continue playing when they should have been suspended.
This could be Boeheim’s last team – that could provide motivation or heap on the pressure.
Indiana is a solid squad. Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller are a ton to stop. The Hoosiers haven’t exactly been impressive in their first two games, but they’ve won and advanced. Look for that trend to continue.
03 Marquette v. 02 Miami (Thursday, March 28 @ 07:15 p.m. CBS)
Marquette is a respectable team living on borrowed time. They can stink the joint up by playing sloppy, shooting poorly and turning the ball over. The Golden Eagles are a win-ugly team. Thus far they have squeaked out victories over Davidson and Butler – now they play a power school. I don’t see this going well for Marquette.
Vander Blue is the key for any possible success. Watch the ball going inside to the bigs then back out for a possible open look. If Miami prevents this, Shane Larkin and company may run up the points.
It should be pointed out that the Verizon Center is the same gym where seven years ago, current Miami coach Jim Larranaga, then with George Mason, worked his magic all the way to the Final Four.
These Hurricanes are looking to make some noise.
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Bring on the Madness!