Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My bracket -- picking the Pitt Panthers


Wow, I actually have a good reputation to uphold.

Somehow (luck?), someway (more luck?) I have picked the last two winners of the NCAA Tournament and also done pretty well with the rest of my last two brackets.

So should I be trusted to pick the winner this year? Of course not. Don't be inane.

I, for one, have no idea whom I'm about to pick. That's how crazy this college hoops season has been.

Here goes -- my picks from the first round through the final (making bold decisions as I go).


First round
No. 1 Louisville def. No. 16 Morehead State: I love Morehead as much as the next guy, but it faces a tough task.
No. 9 Siena def. No. 8 Ohio State: Everything points to the Buckeyes winning in Dayton, which is why I've got to go the other way.
No. 5 Utah def. No. 12 Arizona: As usual, the Wildcats don't really belong here. And as usual, they'll get beaten by a hungrier team.
No. 4 Wake Forest def. No. 13 Cleveland State: I'm assuming the Demon Deacons will figure out how to use all (or at least half) of their talent in this one.
No. 6 West Virginia def. No. 11 Dayton: Don't expect the Flyers to get more than 60 points against WVU's stingy D.
No. 14 North Dakota State def. No. 3 Kansas: In virtual home game, experienced Bison make first Big Dance one to remember against inexperienced Jayhawks.
No. 7 Boston College def. No 10 USC: Tyrese Rice isn't ready for pro ball ... quite yet.
No. 2 Michigan State def. No. 15 Robert Morris: It's March, which means Tom Izzo's Spartans are playing their best ball.

Second round
No. 1 Louisville def. No. 9 Siena: The Saints will scare the Cardinals by running up and down the court with them, but the Cards will be too big and get the big boards.
No. 4 Wake Forest def. No. 5 Utah: The Demon Deacons throw body after body at the Utes, who don't have the depth to stay with them.
No. 6 West Virginia def. No. 14 North Dakota State: The Bison's dream season comes to end, as the battle-tested Mountaineers make a second straight Sweet 16.
No. 2 Michigan State def. No. 7 Boston College: Defense, defense, defense.

Regional semifinals
No. 1 Louisville def. No. 4 Wake Forest: Rick Pitino outcoaches Dino Gaudio, confuses the young Demon Deacons with an array of defense. Terrence Williams' experience proves vital.
No. 2 Michigan State def. No. 6 West Virginia: The Spartans are perfectly tested for this kind of game: physical, low-scoring and all about defense. In ugly affair, Kalin Lucas is the difference. It's all about the point guard.

Regional final
No. 1 Louisville def. No. 2 Michigan State: Tough one to call, but the Cardinals have a little more experience and more upperclassmen to make this happen. They're back in Final Four for first time since 2005.


First round
No. 1 Connecticut def. No. 16 Chattanooga: These schools' names have lots of letters in common. But one's much better at basketball.
No. 9 Texas A&M def. No. 8 BYU: Somehow, these teams got matched up again after facing off in an 8-9 game a year ago. What a trip, same result.
No. 5 Purdue def. No. 12 Northern Iowa: Boilermakers are playing up to preseason hype -- finally.
No. 4 Washington def. No. 13 Mississippi State: Bulldogs have to fly out to Portland to play run-and-gun Huskies on Thursday. Sounds tiring to me.
No. 6 Marquette def. No. 11 Utah State: Something tells me the Golden Eagles will get it together despite losing five of their last six.
No. 3 Missouri def. No. 14 Cornell: Run, run and run some more. Should be exhausting for the Big Red.
No. 10 Maryland def. No. 7 Cal: In this season, the ACC trumps the Pac-10.
No. 2 Memphis def. No. 15 Cal State Northridge: Yeah, not happening.

Second round
No. 1 Connecticut def. No. 9 Texas A&M: Huskies dominate the interior in this one.
No. 5 Purdue def. No. 4 Washington: The Huskies haven't seen a defense like this out west.
No. 3 Missouri def. No. 6 Marquette: This should be a fun, high-scoring affair. Safer to go with the better seed.
No. 2 Memphis def. No. 10 Maryland: Tigers absolutely dominate the boards against Maryland's undersized lineup.

Regional semifinals
No. 1 Connecticut def. No. 5 Purdue: It's temping to take the Boilers here, but they'll have had a much harder road to this point. And they'll have a hard time scoring against Hasheem Thabeet down low.
No. 2 Memphis def. No. 3 Missouri: The Tigers' 40 Minutes of Hell will run into precocious Memphis guard Tyreke Evans, who will rudely say hello with an array of dazzling plays.

Regional final
No. 1 Connecticut def. No. 2 Memphis: As good as Evans is, I'll take the experienced A.J. Price in this one. And with UConn's interior D, I'm not relying on the Tigers' outside shooting.


First round
No. 1 Pittsburgh def. No. 16 East Tennessee State: Going with the safe pick, folks.
No. 8 Oklahoma State def. No. 9 Tennessee: I'll take the Big 12 over the SEC ... at least this year.
No. 5 Florida State def. No. 12 Wisconsin: This should be a brutal bloodbath, but the Seminoles have the x-factor in Toney Douglas -- a guy who should be an All-American.
No. 13 Portland State def. No. 4 Xavier: I could be completely wrong on this, considering how good of a coach Sean Miller is. But PSU is playing in Boise and was in the Dance a year ago. Its players won't be satisfied.
No. 11 VCU def. No. 6 UCLA: Very tough call, considering UCLA's experience. But give me Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders any day. This combo is dangerous, this combo is dangerous...
No. 3 Villanova def. No. 14 American: This is a very saucy game for the Wildcats, who might relax playing in Philly against a scary American team that's making its second straight appearance. I'm guessing they'll survive.
No. 7 Texas def. No. 10 Minnesota: I picked the Longhorns to win the Big 12, then they went out and underachieved big-time. It's time to play up to their potential.
No. 2 Duke def. No. 15 Binghamton: There will be no taking a No. 15 seed lightly this time around for the Blue Devils.

Second round
No. 1 Pittsburgh def. No. 8 Oklahoma State: Panthers are simply too big, too strong for runnin' Cowboys.
No. 5 Florida State def. No. 13 Portland State: Bigger, more physical 'Noles wear down Portland State.
No. 3 Villanova def. No. 11 VCU: In front of home fans, Scottie Reynolds outdeuls Maynor in a classic.
No. 2 Duke def. No. 7 Texas: Lonhorns put a scare in Devils, but Duke makes 3s over slower 'Horns to advance to Sweet 16 for first time since 2006.

Regional semifinals
No. 1 Pittsburgh def. No. 5 Florida State: Get your hard hats on, people. Lots of physical play, lots of fouls, lots of good defense. The Panthers slow down Douglas, and Sam Young, as usual, is the unsung hero.
No. 2 Duke def. No. 3 Villanova: Very good matchup, but the size of Duke's perimeter players bothers Wildcats enough for Devils to survive with win in Beantown.

Regional final
No. 1 Pittsburgh def. No. 2 Duke: As long as DeJuan Blair stays out of foul trouble, the Panthers should have the advantage down low. Big shots by Young and Levance Fields finish the deal.

No. 1 North Carolina def. No. 16 Radford: Even without Ty Lawson, the Heels survive by 30.
No. 8 LSU def. No. 9 Butler: What, you thought I wasn't going to give the SEC a single win?
No. 5 Illinois def. No. 12 Western Kentucky: Not exactly a juicy matchup, but the Illini are a gritty bunch that'll hold WKU around 50 points.
No. 4 Gonzaga def. No. 13 Akron: You won't find a squad playing better, right now, than the Zags.
No. 11 Temple def. No. 6 Arizona State: In a battle of stars, Dionte Christmas outplays James Harden as Owls put up much better effort than a year ago.
No. 3 Syracuse def. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin: Johnny Flynn can't get fatigued. That's enough for me to put the Orange through to the second round.
No. 7 Clemson def. No. 10 Michigan: Rewind just two weeks, and Clemson is probably two seeds better. If the Tigers get it together, they'll handle the awestruck Wolverines (10 straight seasons without dancing).
No. 2 Oklahoma def. No. 15 Morgan State: This will be closer than you might anticipate, but Blake Griffin won't let the major upset go down in the history books.

Second round
No. 1 North Carolina def. No. 8 LSU: The Tigers might have the advantage at the guard position -- but no one to stop Tyler Hansbrough and his boys in the paint.
No. 4 Gonzaga def. No. 5 Illinos: Way too much firepower for the Illini to defend.
No. 3 Syracuse def. No. 11 Temple: Not sure about this, but did I mention that Johnny Flynn can't get fatigued?
No. 2 Oklahoma def. No. 7 Clemson: I changed my pick 13 times on this one, just thinking that maybe the matchup won't happen. Maybe Michigan will get the best of Clemson...

Regional semifinals
No. 4 Gonzaga def. No. 1 North Carolina: Call me an idiot, but I love the Zags right now. Sure, I love the Heels too. But if Lawson's not completely right, I think this can happen. And if it does, I'll look like a genius. For that, it's worth the risk.

No. 3 Syracuse def. No. 2 Oklahoma: I can't really explain this pick, either. I guess I just like the way Flynn wears his orange headband.

Regional final
No. 4 Gonzaga def. No. 3 Syracuse: And, finally, the Zags make a Final Four a decade after arriving on the scene.

I guess I just couldn't bring myself to predict all four No. 1s making it for a second straight season. Anyway, this would make for a Big East-dominated final weekend.

Connecticut def. Louisville 76-68: They got them during the regular season. They can get them again here. I think A.J. Price is the key, with Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson the guys who do the dirty work. The Huskies get back to the title game for the first time since winning it in '04.

Pittsburgh def. Gonzaga 72-65: The Zags finally run into a team that can slow down their high-octane attack. And they have no answer for Sam Young, who scores from all over and is a force on both ends.

Pittsburgh def. Connecticut 70-66: The third time is not the charm for the Huskies, who simply can't figure out the Panthers -- going 0-3 against them this season. Blair get the best of Thabeet yet again. Fields plays Price to a draw. And UConn's stationary big men (other than Thabeet) play below Young.

It all adds up to Pitt's first national title, and the second championship for the city in about two months.

Not bad, Pittsburgh. Not bad.

Now how about it, Pirates?

1 comment:

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