Sincerest Apologies for More Basketball, Dear Reader: A Sweet 16 Primer
As it always does, the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament gave us some great moments. Great moments, such as R.J. Hunter’s buzzer-beater (and his torn-Achilles’d dad/coach falling out of his stool) will echo in eternity, as the NCAA’s corporate partners use buzzer beaters and catatonic losing players to somehow convince you that Pontiac still exists as a producer of automobiles. These moments also overshadow what can be some pretty shoddy basketball.
N.C. State/Villanova, won in the waning seconds on a tip-in? Preceded by seven minutes of atrocious basketball, with both teams apparently trying to throw the game South Park style. Georgia/Michigan St.? Teased us for a few minutes because Michigan State fouled on multiple layups, missed some key free throws, and won on the strength of Georgia choking just a little worse.
The Sweet 16, at the very least, is where the cream starts to rise to the top. Your top NBA prospects (referenced in last week’s tourney primer) are almost all still in play. Kentucky is still undefeated, Duke is still alive with its 3 lottery picks, and that big white dude from Wisconsin is still set to have that awkward Naismith Award interview during halftime of one of the Final Four games.
Midwest: #1 Kentucky vs. #5 West Virginia, #3 Notre Dame vs. #7 Wichita State
By FAR the most intriguing bracket, because 1) Kentucky, duh; 2) their opponents/potential opponents. Bob Huggins’ 2010 West Virginia squad stopped the John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins Wildcats cold with a ruthless, attacking 1-3-1 defense back then, and history has a way of repeati….HAHAHA JK. But, go Mountaineers anyway.
Last year, an eighth-seeded Kentucky squad knocked…guess who?…Wichita State from the ranks of the unbeaten on the way to the finals. STORYLINES! And Notre Dame is the hottest team in the country. Undersized, yes, but their four-out-one-in offense is probably the best recipe to crack Kentucky’s ridiculous defense.
The pick: Calling Kentucky over Notre Dame here.
West: #1 Wisconsin vs. #4 North Carolina, #6 Xavier vs. #2 Arizona
Until today, I didn’t know there was a (decidedly one-sided and petty) beef between Wisconsin and UNC, but hey. My favorite excerpt:
Williams told a throng of national reporters: “Are you going to tell me you don’t like this more than 19-17 at halftime? I’m not a nuclear physicist, but you make the choice. We’re trying to make it a game of basketball skills, not a weight-room contest.”
This was in reference to a 2000 Final Four game in which Wisconsin played, where the halftime score above was correct. The Badgers are still that hateable, playing at the nation’s 346th quickest tempo. They are, as you might expect, a bunch of white guys with bad haircuts, so join me in cheering for UNC. There’s my pitch.
Arizona is still the most dangerous yet unpredictable team in the tourney. All three of their losses came to teams who failed to make it to the final
64 68, and their offense occasionally disappears. If they’re on, though, they’re a match for Kentucky.
The pick: Unfortunately, I have a gut feeling about Xavier (whom I haven’t seen play in YEARS) knocking off ‘Zona. Wisconsin tempos North Carolina to death by not allowing them to get into transition. Wisconsin is the beneficiary and advances, at which point I may actually lean towards supporting Kentucky in the Final Four*.
*- There is a very real, very horrifying chance that both Duke and N.C. State make the Final Four. This is my hell. Go Big Blue, assuming Carolina has been shown the door.
East Bracket: #8 N.C. State vs. #4 Louisville, #3 Oklahoma vs. #7 Michigan State
The Wolfpack and Spartans, respectively, knocked off #1 Villanova and #2 Virginia in the opening weekend, throwing the East into wide-open chaos. State actually won AT Louisville earlier in the season, but Rick Pitino is the March Mobster (has anyone taken this joke before? Not in those exact words. Fun links anyway. ‘No cuddling on the bathroom floor’ is my new rally cry for UL games).
I know little about Oklahoma, but their Big XII brethren took the GAS in week 1. #3’s Iowa State and Baylor didn’t survive the first four hours of play, #2 Kansas lost to little brother Wichita State, and #5 West Virginia draws Kentucky. Counter that with what I said about Pitino above, take out the mobster part, and demonstrate more success and overachieving in the tourney, and you get Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. Don’t bet against Tom Izzo.
The pick: I choose to believe N.C. State has had its moment and Louisville wins by 8-10 points. And DON’T BET AGAINST TOM IZZO! Sparty beats Louisville, although I honestly didn’t know they were going to qualify for the tournament until I saw them paired with Georgia.
South Bracket: #1 Duke vs. #5 Utah, #2 Gonzaga vs. #11 UCLA
Utah is big, physical, and has athletes at the guard position. Which could beat Duke. Self-delusion over.
Gonzaga/UCLA is a fun matchup, because it means we get to see Adam Morrison crying about 12 times in the minutes leading up to, during, and after the game. The Bobcats drafted him third overall over about 40 guys who had better NBA careers, and I’m still bitter about it.
“Let me taste your tears, Scott!”
The pick: Step 5: acceptance. Duke rolls over Utah, rolls over a Gonzaga team that actually reaches the regional final for the first time since 1999, although they’ve been to every tournament since.
Kentucky/Wisco, Michigan State/Duke. And I’m free to do something else next weekend.
Posted on March 26, 2015, in Big 12, College Hoops, Death to the NCAA, Duke, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky, Louisville, NBA, NC State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, SEC. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.