Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2006

Column: March madness tough to predict

March 16, 2006

Well, it's that time of the year again. Today officially begins the madness, so sit down, buckle yourself in to your chair and hang on for another exciting NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Of course, the madness actually began last week with the conference tournaments. I saw so many upsets and close games that should make this year's tournament one of the best ever.

The past four months have been wild in the land of college basketball. There hasn't been one or two teams that stand out as the clear choice for the nation's best team.

Duke, Connecticut and Villanova have looked to be the best three teams, but all have shown many weaknesses. Duke has squeaked out several conference wins, while Connecticut and Villanova both lost early in the Big East Tournament.

The parody this year in college basketball is higher than ever before. Almost any team has a chance to win any game on any given night. This all makes the bracket that much tougher.

So, when I watched the brackets come out Sunday night, I knew I had a tough job ahead of me. First, I had to analyze brackets and teams and wonder what the committee was thinking.

My first complaint is how Tennessee received a No. 2 seed. The Volunteers lost in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament to South Carolina. They also lost four of their last six games, but still got a No. 2 seed, which is simply ridiculous.

I was also very surprised Kansas only received a No. 4 seed after winning the Big 12 Tournament. The Jayhawks had a rocky start to the season, but have won 15 of their final 16 games.

I thought the Jayhawks had locked up a No. 4 seed by advancing the to the Big 12 tourney finals, but could move up. After they beat Texas 80-68, I was certain, they would draw a No. 3 seed, but I was wrong.

Maybe a No. 3 seed would be bad luck after KU lost to Bucknell last year as the No. 3 seed.

The committee also made several other blunders in the tournament seedings this year, such as George Washington (26-2) as a No. 8 seed.

I know the Colonials played a weak schedule and have a weak conference, but they still only lost two games. There is no way they should be lower than a No.4 seed.

But, as I said last year and will always say, once the tournament starts, the seedings are thrown away. If a team wants to advance, it must bring its best game every night, no matter who the opponent.

This year's bracket was very tough to pick, as I even stooped to using a coin flip for several match-ups. Of course, I filled out a few online brackets and entered a pool again this year.

I remember discussing my picks last year for the tournament this week, and then griping about how my selections snowballed last year after the Kansas blunder against Bucknell.

I lost three of my four final four choices in the first two rounds, but still managed to place second in my pool, which is run slightly different from just filling out the brackets.

My goal is not to be writing another column next week about how my picks were wrong for another year, but if I were an odds better, I would bet against me. I am sure my choices will not win, because that would make my life easy.

So, without further ado, here are my choices for this year's bracket. My final four teams are Connecticut, Boston College, Duke and Kansas. I have KU and Connecticut in the championship game, with the Jayhawks coming home champions.

I know picking KU to win the national title is a bit crazy, but I am a die-hard KU fan and the Jayhawks have the talent to pull it off. The Jayhawks are young, athletic, quick and full of talent. They can match-up with any team, but it will depend on whether their three-point shots fall as to how far they will advance in the tournament.

Some first-round upsets I could see happening include Utah State over Washington, Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Oklahoma and Texas A&M over Syracuse.

The Texas A&M -- Syracuse game should be a good one. The Aggies have beaten Texas, but Syracuse is on a roll right now. The Orange are fresh off the Big East Tournament Championship, where they won four straight games.

The problem is Syracuse has been known to choke in the tournament and could lose in the first round to the Aggies. But, they also could string together two or three nice wins and advance deep into the tournament.

Another team to watch out for is Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have squeaked out victories over very weak conference opponents at home. They aren't good at defense and only rely on Adam Morrison for offense. I see the 'Zags exiting early from the tourney.

Well no matter what happens, it should be another fun tournament to watch. I will be cheering for the Jayhawks and my bracket picks.

Go Jayhawks!

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