Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

2013 NCAA Tournament Extravaganza

In Basketball on March 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

In which the CDH staff looks at each of the Four Regions in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, makes Final Four picks, and cracks jokes about your favorite teams.

It’s here. It’s finally here. March Madness is upon us. April may be the cruelest month, but March is the most exciting.

If you haven’t filled out your bracket yet…well, you’re too late, because the games already started. (And no, you can’t get your $10 buy-in back, Scott. It’s not my fault that you thought all the games were in Central time.)

It’s time to settle into your couch at home in front of the television, or pull up an online game stream at work that you minimize whenever your boss comes around, because no work is getting done for the next few weeks.

The CDH staff has prepared a March Madness primer, breaking down each region, making Final Four picks, and gratuitously insulting Duke.

Someone in your bracket pool picked them to win it all. Unfriend them.

Someone in your bracket pool picked this asshole to win it all. Unfriend them.

Now let’s talk some basketball.

EAST REGION

Marquette will win the East Regional.

(That’s only seven words, Jack. You’ll need to do better than that).

Okay. Marquette will win the East Regional not because they are a great team. They are not. But Marquette will win because the other teams in their bracket each are primed for a breakdown.

Indiana is a finely tuned sports car: built for speed, shiny to outsiders and driven by a dickish owner (Hi Tom!). The Golden Eagles will force them into the slow lane in the Elite Eight before coming out on top. Plus, it would be fitting if, in this season of parity and upsets, the best team in college basketball did not make it to the Final Four.

Miami won’t even get a shot at the Hoosiers; they will fall in the third round to the University of Illinois. The Hurricanes are seemingly all 25 years old with a wife, two kids and a mortgage. But this group of players has never played in the NCAA Tournament and is overrated after a season of mostly beating up on Duke. The Lord’s work, for sure, but it won’t prepare them for Big Ten brawn.

The less said about the other teams, the better. Butler and Bucknell are two Cinderella picks that would have a chance against most teams. Unfortunately, they play each other in the second round. N.C. State is as disappointing to their fans as its students are to their parents. UNLV is the least sexy number five seed in the entire tournament. And, for the region’s big upset, Montana will rain down threes on Syracuse, giving Jim Boeheim a chance to throw one last hissy fit before heading to an NCAA-sanctioned retirement.

So that’s my pick — Marquette. I like their coach. I like their uniforms. I like that they have NBA alumni on complete opposite ends of the coolness spectrum (Steve Novak and Dwyane Wade).

Mostly, though, I look forward to the start of the madness. It can’t get here soon enough.

Final Four Pick: Marquette.

SOUTH REGION

Few regions in the NCAA tournament have as auspicious a history as the South.

In 2008, Derrick Rose-led Memphis looked like a sure winner until they declined to hit a series of free throws while blowing a nine point lead with two minutes left in the championship game.

In 2009, the #1 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels destroyed everybody behind a lineup that included can’t-miss future NBA stars Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson[1].

And in 2010, top-seeded Duke beat absolutely nobody good in lucking itself to the easiest NCAA title ever, which so pissed off the NCAA that, in a semantic change that otherwise made little sense, they didn’t even have a South in 2011. Still, Virginia Commonwealth and Butler won each of the regions with South in its name for two of the best Cinderella runs ever.

Last year, Kentucky, with one of the most absurdly talented teams of all time, blitzed the field with its menagerie of freshmen.

So in the past five years, the South region has included three national champions, Derrick Rose, VCU and Butler. It’s easily been the most entertaining regional in recent tournament history.

Which brings us to this year, which is a straight up clusterfuck.

Any one of six teams can plausibly reach Atlanta, and I’m not even confident some other squad won’t emerge out of the blue. Otto Porter has been dominant for Georgetown and is tough to pick against. Florida and Kansas look capable of alternately beating anyone or losing to anyone in the bracket. VCU has perhaps a top-five coach and a system built to cause havoc in March (see what I did there? You’re sure you get it?). And North Carolina possesses enough raw talent (and an absurdly underrated seed) to make a run as well. And one can’t forget Michigan, with the nation’s best point guard in Trey Burke, who spent time at #1 this season. But then again South Dakota State, with perhaps the most entertaining player in the country in Nate Wolters, is a solid pick to upset Michigan in the opening round, and is a great bet to make a run as a 13 seed.

The point is, everybody has about as much of a clue as Marshall Henderson as to what the hell is going to happen here.

But I’ll give it a go: Roy Williams comes up short against his former program as Kansas moves past UNC in the second round, setting up a matchup with VCU, who takes down South Dakota State (fresh off an upset over Michigan) before forcing 23 turnovers against the hapless Jayhawks to power through to the Elite Eight. On the bottom half, Minnesota upsets a UCLA squad burdened by a Jabari Parker who’s got two-feet in the NBA, before losing to Florida. Georgetown beats San Diego State, and then Otto Porter goes crazy with 25 points and 12 rebounds to set up a DC-Richmond showdown for a trip to the Final Four. There, JTIII gets the best of Shaka Smart as the Hoyas move on to Atlanta, despite the fact that everyone despises Georgetown.

Final Four Pick: Georgetown. Or Nate Wolters goes crazy and South Dakota State beats everybody. Who the hell knows.

MIDWEST REGION

You didn’t think this was going to be easy did you, Louisville?

After steamrolling their way to the Big East championship and the top overall seed in the tournament, the Cardinals find themselves in 2013’s region of death. After a first round game against North Carolina A&T, Louisville faces potential matchups with Oklahoma State, Oregon and Saint Louis (and technically ex-top-10 team Missouri, but don’t kid yourselves, Tigers fans). And that’s all before they reach the regional finals. If Louisville’s going to make it to Atlanta, they’ll have to pay attention to Michigan State, Duke and a plucky Memphis squad on the other side of the bracket.

But it’s not all evil and death for the Cardinals. Louisville finished their final season in the Big East in style, compiling a 29-5 win-loss record, including two win streaks of at least 10 games, and a #2 ranking in the AP poll. Three of their five losses were against ranked teams, and all five of their losses were at the hands of tournament-bound teams.

Speaking of those non-Louisville teams, they’re pretty good too. Really, the only two games that appear to be locks are Louisville-NC A&T and Duke-Albany, and after last year’s embarrassing first round loss to Lehigh, not even the Blue Devils are sure things. The real team to watch might be Saint Louis. Since December, the Billikens have been one of the best teams in the country, possibly due to the Angels in the Outfield-like spiritual guidance of the late Rick Majerus. Since January 23, Saint Louis has only lost once, and twice beaten both Butler and VCU — neither of which are strangers to unexpected tournament runs.

When it comes down to it, there are probably five or six teams in the Midwest that could make Final Four runs. Except North Carolina A&T. They’re done in the first round.

Final Four Pick: Louisville. Safe, boring and damned good.

WEST REGION

The big story out West, of course, is Gonzaga.

A mid-major O.G., Gonzaga earned a top seed for the first time in its history, cementing the notion that schools outside of the traditional powerhouse conferences can and will compete at a high level for the full length of a season (as opposed to just getting hot at the right time. I’m looking at you Shaka Smart circa 2011). Spokane’s finest earned itself top billing after posting a 30-2 win-loss record, which included one four-game stretch where they bested Kansas State (a four seed), Oklahoma State (a five seed) and Baylor (some NIT seed that I’m not going to look up).

Curiously — and a lot of people have pointed this out — the only two losses smudging Gonzaga’s otherwise pristine record came against Butler and Illinois, both of which made it to the tournament (as sixth and seventh seeds in the East). I’m normally not one to nitpick, but the Bulldogs almost certainly benefitted from playing in the West Coast Conference, which sent only one other team to the tournament (St. Mary’s, which won its play-in game against Middle Tennessee).

Just sayin’.

The two through six seeds have college basketball mainstays like Ohio State, New Mexico, Kansas State, Wisconsin and Arizona, teams that make deep runs in the tournament on a regular or semi-regular basis. I didn’t do research on these teams, because frankly nothing about them interest me.

Maybe I’m weird, but I’ll be watching the UNC-Villanova game in the 8/9 seed game with quite a bit of interest. Maybe I’m just a sucker for baby blue, or maybe I like rumors about D-1 coaches knocking up co-eds, but it’d be great to see an underrated UNC team make a run.

Final Four Pick: Ohio State. Because there’s no way Gonzaga can do this.


[1] This worked out great for the Tar Heels, but not quite as well for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: