In the grand tradition of such terrible writers as Larry King and the terrible newspaper for which he wrote, USA Today, I'm proud to present BZ's News and Views -- random, disjointed thoughts from around the college basketball world and beyond.
- Instead of going back after the fact and talking about why I made the picks that I did, I'm semi-live blogging my thoughts as I fill out my bracket. It could be way more interesting or way less. We shall see.
- And just for fun, I'm bringing back BZ Gal [name still temporary] to fill out her own bracket and provide a little bit of running commentary as well. You're welcome, BON. If you missed her Fiesta Bowl running diary, it's a doozy.
- And in case you're wondering, yes, I'm quite worried about her becoming more popular on this site than me.
- And so, with the recognition that I've only seen about 40% of these teams play this year and know absolutely nothing, and with following adage in mind, we press forward: In KenPom we trust.
A visual representation of the Midwest.
- Any Minnesota fan you run into that would like to tell you about their win over Louisville can be rebutted by "Western Kentucky and UNLV." These are the two other teams Louisville lost to (UNLV at home) within a month of the loss to Minnesota.
- Did you know that Siena is in upstate New York? I did not. Did you further know that the only difference between upstate New Yorkers and Aggies is the accent? Hicks are hicks, man.
- I want desperately to pick Siena, but I hate the matchup with Ohio State. Siena's not really a 3-point shooting team and they just don't have the size down low. Plus the advantage they would have (they usually play at a frenetic pace that tOSU never plays) is negated by the fact that they're actually far less efficient on offense when playing that quickly.
- Forget for a second that Arizona should under no circumstances be in this tournament, and instead think about whether any team has ever before lost to a Division II school and gone on to get as high as a #5 seed. Because Utah totally lost to Southwest Baptist (I swear) in their first game of the season. Oh, and it was at home. Yikes.
- Has there ever been a major conference team as bipolar as Arizona? The 7th-ranked offensive efficiency team in the country and the 132nd defense. I have to go with Utah here, 5/12 upsets be damned. And by the transitive property of basketball, which is mathematical fact, Southwest Baptist would DESTROY the 'Cats.
- Dayton is slightly overseeded at 11 probably, but that's not really an advantage when you run into a team that is absurdly underseeded like West Virginia.
- Boston College has a couple nice wins (Duke, @UNC), but is that really enough to make it a 7 seed, especially considering they lost to St. Louis and Harvard? Seriously, they lost to Harvard. At home. By 12. BC and its first round opponent USC should probably be switched, maybe not in terms of how their entire seasons went, but certainly in terms of potential in the tourney. I'm picking USC and not thinking twice.
- Michigan State is a good team, but they are nowhere near on par with the other three 2-seeds (in my opinion, not even OU). This team lost to North Carolina by 35 points in Detroit...am I the only one that remembers that? I suppose that's why the committee put them in the bracket with the overall #1. That's also why I have them losing to USC in the second round in my first real upset of the region. I think SC's athleticism frustrates what MSU does well (rebound, score down low) and it's not like SC's going to be bothered by MSU's physicality. It's a bit of a reach, but not an unreasonable one.
- Likewise, I'm going with West Virginia over Kansas in the second round. I saw WFV lose to Davidson in the Garden earlier this year amid a hail of final-minute 3's from Stephen Curry, but I was impressed. WFV plays consistently great D and so the play of the offense really dictates whether this team wins or loses. I think that if WFV can keep Kansas from running too much, they have an excellent shot to win.
- You heard it here first: Louisville will make the Sweet 16. Don't say I didn't warn you.
- I'm not a big Wake Forest fan. I'm not sure exactly why. They run like crazy and still play good defense, and as a result are incredibly fun to watch. I just don't think they're any threat in the tournament for some reason. Lucky for them, Utah is even worse. Though I think Southwest Baptist might give 'em a game.
- Down to Louisville/Wake and WFV/USC, Louisville cruises past Wake in one of the most exciting games of the tournament, with lots of fast breaks and lots of insane defense. The difference? Louisville can actually shoot the 3, while WFV has one guy who can fill it up (Teague) and no one else who can even hit the rim. And I have WFV over USC for no reason beyond that I think USC's luck runs out (and because putting a 10-seed in the Elite Eight on your bracket is a recipe for disaster.....though I'm not sure how much better a 6-seed is).
- Louisville takes WFV in the regional finals. I don't know why. Which will become a recurring theme in my analysis.
- Why do I even have West Virginia in the Elite Eight? It all sounds so logical game-by-game and so freaking absurd in the big picture. This is why the chalk usually beats everyone except the best guessers. Overthinking without knowing what to overthink about.
- Yes, I am pre-emptively rationalizing my bracket loss to BZ Gal [name has to change].
- If you like books about ninjas, mimes, war, secret organizations, and post-apocalypic worlds in which the line between reality and un-reality is getting blurrier every minute, but that is still hilarious, then you should probably read The Gone Away World. And seriously, who doesn't like those things?
- Ever since I wrote about how Connor was actually playing pretty well despite his traditional statistics, he's played worse and worse every game. The BZ Curse (tm) strikes again!
- This isn't nearly Larry King-esque enough. I'm stepping it up.
A visual representation of the West.
- Yeah, there's no way I'm picking A&M.
- Notice how I capitalized A&M. Let that be a lesson.
- Oh, speaking of, apparently Taliban>Texas. You stay classy, Beergut.
- Also, lonely. Though I guess it could be worse!
- Purdue and Washington are both very dangerous teams. I don't know who to pick in the second round. BZ Rule of Thumb (tm): take the Big 10 over the Pac 10 in the tourney. Corollary to BZ Rule of Thumb (tm): always take Connecticut over both.
- Speaking of Purdue, you know how it and Indiana have a joint campus in Indianapolis called IUPUI (pronounced yee-wu-poui -- though apparently no longer)? Well apparently there's an IUPU in Fort Wayne. Yee-wu-poof-way?
- Since Dominic James went down with a season ending injury several weeks ago, Marquette has lost 5 out of their 6 games, and has lost 7 out of their last 11 overall, though the worst team they lost to in those last 5 was Villanova. But frankly Utah State just isn't very good. I have the Golden Eagles losing to Mizzou in the second round.
- Cal can freaking shoot the 3, and they get a higher percentage of their points from 3 pointers (43.4%) than any other team in the NCAA. How good is Maryland at defending the 3? 181st! That said, Greivis Vasquez is a hell of a lot of fun to watch play. But I'm picking the Bears, only because mini-Ditka was inexplicably excluded from the field this year.
- I ate at Ditka's restaurant in Chicago in like 2003. Meh.
- Also, um, Memphis is going to destroy Cal.
- Missouri is an excellent team that has Final Four talent. Which makes it unfortunate that they're running into that Memphis juggernaut in the Sweet Sixteen. Should be an amazing game though.
- Memphis probably didn't deserve a 1-seed based on their season as a whole, but they might be the best team in the country. Before they lost Jerome Dyson, Connecticut might have been also. Memphis takes the West.
- I have a funny story that I can't tell you.
- The logical next step in ironic use of internet slang is clearly spelling out acronyms phonetically. Oh em gee! Ell oh Ell! Dubya tee eff?!? Bee arr bee! (copyright!)
- For Christmas, BZ Gal [name indefinitely temporary] found me a copy of the first edition of Catch-22, but only the second printing of it from 1961, not the first printing of 1955. Keep trying, kiddo.
A visual representation of the East (Village).
- I have absolutely no idea who will win in the Okie State/Tennessee 8/9 game, mostly because I haven't seen the Vols play this year. Let's just go with KenPom here...hmm....okay, 50% chance of victory for each team? Come on! Well, I guess he has Tennessee by 1, so screw it. Rocky Top. It doesn't matter though, Pitt's taking them out.
- I refuse to pick a 5/12 upset just for the sake of picking one. That said, Wisconsin is totally going to beat Florida State. Totally.
- In the second round, though, as much as I like to pick mediocre Big 10 teams to win games they shouldn't just by virtue of beating the crap out of their opponents, I'm going to take Xavier.
- Did you know that Xavier's beaten both Memphis and Missouri this year? Also, Yee-wu-poof-way. Ell oh ell! (tm)
- VCU is pretty decent, but it's usually the experienced teams that pull upsets in the tournament, and VCU is very young. Then again, so is half of the UCLA team, but they're pretty underrated here. Pretty god team.
- Speaking of teams that Texas beat what seems like 3 years ago, I'm not buying 'Nova. I saw them in the Garden against Texas (also, lots of fights between Texas and random drunk Philadelphians!) and was not particularly impressed. I have the utmost respect for Scottie Reynolds (thank god for Kelvin Sampson's cheating, am I right, guys? high five!) And the way they almost blew that game to Marquette in the Big East tournament was disgraceful. I have UCLA in the Sweet 16.
- And then we came to Texas. The Horns are better than the Gophers. I know that much. As for who's going to win? I have no freaking idea. KenPom only gives us a 58% chance of winning. But what the hell am I going to do, pick against Texas in the first round? Of course not.
- In the second round, though, of course I am. Look, Texas can beat Duke, definitely. Especially if Duke isn't shooting well. But, um, you've seen these cats play this year, right? Remember when I wrote that incredibly over-the-top preview of the K-State game, in which I stated that Texas was playing baseball on a basketball court? Metaphorically, of course. I said Dogus Balbay gives them the opportunity to play basketball on the court rather than baseball. Well, I think I was right. Texas is now playing basketball. Just not very good basketball.
- That said, if the Horns pull it off, alert the MassPD, I'm heading to Boston for the regional because UCLA is totally beatable.
- Which is why Duke will beat them immediately after beating Texas.
- Pitt/Xavier is killing me. Pitt's obviously better, but this is an excellent upset pick. Xavier's definitely got the size to battle with Pitt and they play at the same pace so Pitt's not running them off the floor or anything. Ah, screw it, I talked myself into Xavier.
- Whenever Xavier makes a 3-pointer, I shall dyslexically scream "Musketeers Three!" (tm). BZ Gal [nickname pending] will have no idea what I'm talking about. It's brilliant.
- Oh, by the way, Duke is going to beat Xavier.
- On the phone with a partner at my law firm yesterday, we talked about how I corrected a few of her uses of the word "effect" to "affect" and she doubted I was right but wasn't sure and said, "Well, make sure you change it globally. If we're wrong, we might as well be consistent." I said, "Sure.....but we're right." She laughed politely. Then after we got off the phone I sent her an e-mail with this link for her future reference. This was perhaps not the best move in the current economic climate. But hey, good grammar isn't just for BON anymore.
- The high today in New York is 58. This is huge as we're finally breaking out of winter. But I got a little overexcited this morning and didn't wear a jacket for my walk to the subway in 45 degree-weather.
- My arms are rarely substantially warmer than my torso and thus I do not wear, nor do I understand, sweater vests. However, shouldn't there be an inverse alternative to sweatervests for those people whose arms are substantially colder than their torsos? What's that? There are? Oh em gee (tm)!
A visual representation of the (Deep) South.
And the Iraq. Such as.
- My grandad drove a '57 Chevy for years. I thought it was pretty Rad. Not a Ford though. Therefore, UNC destroys the Highlanders.
- LSU is not a good team. Plus they've lost 3 out of their last 4. But this isn't the same Butler teams as the last few that came through. All those kids graduated. This is a young team and I don't like to pick young mid-majors to upset teams in the tourney. I don't know. But I was born in Indiana and KenPom has Butler winning 51% of the time so what the hell.
- Hey, remember when Illinois lost to Penn State 39-33? Did you know that they also only scored 36 points in a loss to Minnesota? Or that they once scored 48 points and won? Or that they once scored 52 points in a double digit win over Minnesota? I have Illinois destroying Western Kentucky, so I don't really have a point here other than "My god, the Big 10 makes for some awful television."
- Note to the Big 10: I don't care how good your defenses are, that doesn't excuse your awful offenses. Notice how the following teams are all in the top 10 best defenses in the NCAA (per kenPom) and are still exciting to watch on offense: Memphis, Louisville, Connecticut, West Virginia, Missouri, Gonzaga. Three of those teams are in the same conference, so no talk about beating each other up. Stop making excuses and stop playing the 4 corners offense.
- I have somehow not managed to see Gonzaga play this year (probably because they're on the West Coast and all their games start at like 11pm ET). But I am amazed at how high KenPom has them in his rankings. Sixth in Adjusted Offense, 8th in Adjusted Defense, and 5th overall. I have them beating Illinois in the second round on the strenghth of that, but I don't think they have the power to get by UNC, assuming Ty Lawson is back. If he's not back, I'd say even money.
- All the Pac-10 teams are a little bit underrated at this point and I think I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Arizona State to beat Syracuse in the second round (or, you know, Stephen F. Austin...). The 'Cuse had a great run in the Big East tourney, but, uh, I don't know, KenPom thinks ASU is better. I certainly can't argue.
- Speaking of SFA, here's a picture of Rhett Bomar pissing in an alley. No word on whether the stream was still a little bloody from the 2005 Texas/OU game.
- Oh my god, I'm so tired of picking these games. Clemson beats Michigan and loses to OU. Why? I don't know. Ou is better than Clemson is better than Michigan. Case closed.
- I think either ASU or Syracuse can and should beat OU in the Sweet 16 so I'm picking the Sun Devils to head to the Elite 8.
- Speaking of, does anyone else remember a time maybe 10-15 years ago that there was no uniform term for the final 8 teams in the tournament? I recall Dick Vitale calling it the "Great Eight" back in the day. "Elite 8" certainly won out, and it fits better with the alliteration theme, but I distinctly remember it not being set in stone like it is now.
- Obviously, UNC takes out ASU to head to the Final Four.
- In writing about the "Elite 8" above, I could not for the life of me remember the word "alliteration" and had to type into Google " first letters all the same". I need to drink less.
- That partner I sent the grammar website to has subsequently responded with a smiley face. What does that MEAN?! Is that a "you're fired" smiley face?
- Also, bee tee dubs (tm) (i'm not spelling out the letter "w"), instead of using a smiley face ironically (which, by the way, is one of the most difficult feats in ironic interwebdom, because you always seem sincere, no matter how saracstic you are normally), the ultimate ironic use would by to spell it out, just like internet abbreviations. Perhaps with an exclamation point (if you don't normally use exclamation points for purposes non-ironic) to really drive home how cool you are. Smiley-face! (tm)
- If there were such a thing as grape Starbursts, I probably wouldn't think that the orange Starbusts were so freaking disgusting.
- I have Memphis beating Louisville. In the Final 4, it's all pretty much a guess, isn't it? I will thoroughly enjoy watching this game.
- I have UNC beating Duke. I will likely watch this game and hate every minute of it.
- The following records will be broken in a UNC-Duke Final 4 game: (1) most charges taken, (2) most spontaneous combustions by Dick Vitale, (3) most white McDonald's All-Americans on the bench going crazy, (4) most incessant and annoying clapping rather than actually playing defense, (5) most times I've ever wished someone dead since Steve Wojciechowski (Greg Paulus, though I'm eyeing you too, Gerald Henderson).
- Memphis beats UNC in the title game. Why? I don't know. Everyone else is picking UNC to win it all? Lingering concern about Ty Lawson's health? I hate picking 1-seeds? I hate the ACC? All of the above? So yeah, Memphis. This is all very scientific.
- *Note: not a word.
- Has anyone ever seen Billy Packer and Andy Rooney in the same room together? Surely there's been a old coot convention that they and Larry King attend every year.
- Seriously though, this bracket has the potential to be terrible. West Virginia, Arizona State AND Xavier in the Elite 8? I'm borderline incompetent. Unless I get really lucky, in which case I'm a genius.
And now for the significantly briefer analysis of BZ Gal [name seriously sucks] whose picks are shockingly solid and who will undoubtedly stomp on my bracket and spit on it for good measure. Sigh... Editor's notes are in brackets.
I've probably watched a total of 7 complete college basketball games in my life, the first one being the Texas/Memphis game in the Tournament last year, shortly after BZ and I met. That was a dark day. Needless to say, I haven't the slightest idea or opinion on how March Madness is going to unfold this year, nor will I lose sleep over any outcome. But I do like BZ (and charts!) so I agreed to fill out an NCAA bracket and post it for all the Internet (or select BONers) to see.
Okay, here we go! I started with Louisville, and my first thought was, "TBD? WTF is TBD, and how can I pick a winner for a matchup that isn't set?" [Spell that WTF out for maximal effect... -ed.] BZ informed me that it has something to do with the two worst teams competing to see who plays the best team. Well, he actually said, "just pick Louisville," because he knew that the entire explanation would have bored me to tears. So, Louisville it is! Also, I swear that's the only advice I received for this. You know, in case I do really well with my picks and people think I'm a ringer. What follows is a selection from my bracket picks and the inner monologue that led to them:
Ohio State vs. Sienna (Round 1): Sienna, because I've heard Ohio State isn't especially good, and I find it amusing that a Catholic university's mascot is a saint.
Wake Forest vs. Cleveland State (Round 1): Wake, because I refuse to believe that Cleveland State is a real place of learning (see below).
Purdue vs. N. Iowa (Round 1): Northern Iowa, because the ESPN matchup info thingy on the bracket says "woe be the team that draws the Panthers." Can't argue with that.
Florida State vs. Wisconsin (Round 1): Wisconsin, because my officemate went there, and he's a nice guy. I've also heard you need some upsets in this thing.
Villanova vs. American (Round 1): Nova, because they played in the only college basketball game I've ever attended (Texas/Nova, at MSG this year). Oh, and yes, I did go to college.
Utah State vs. Missouri (Round 2): Again, ESPN is telling me that Utah State is a "definite upset candidate," and I'm not ready to veer from that advice just yet.
Texas vs. Duke (Round 2): Duke, because I've heard a lot about this Texas team lately and I know better than to have too much faith.
Louisville vs. Kansas (Sweet Sixteen): Louisville - oh, look, the little mascot pops up when you put a team in the Final Four!
Elite Eight - Final Four Rounds: No logic went into these, really, because I don't know enough about the teams to make any sort of informed decision. [Sounds familiar. -ed.]
Louisville vs. Pittsburgh (Championship): Pitt, because, hey, maybe it's just the city of Pittsburgh's year.
To conclude, here is a list of actual, accredited academic institutions I never knew existed:
- East Tennessee State
- Portland State
- Cleveland State
- R Morris (Does that stand for something? I shall consult Wikipedia.)
- CS Northridge (I'll just keep the Wikipedia window open.)
- Morgan State