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This is the one week every year that I am thankful that I am chronically unemployed. The last two years I have had temporary work in places where I could at least do March madness On Demand, so that helped. It was even more fun two years ago when I was at the NCAA and they encouraged us to watch games. This year I'll be in the comforts of Casa de T-Mill unless there are folk in the Indy area that want to gather for our game on Friday. This is my Christmas, as there is nothing I love to do more than watch basketball all day.
This year I feel it could be especially fun. Unless it happens to Purdue, I love watching upsets happen. I thought last year's tournament was boring because 14 of the top 16 advanced to the Sweet 16. I love years like 2000, when there was anarchy everywhere and two number ones were gone in the first weekend. The last three years have been dull for upsets, so I think we have a great chance to see some things change this year.
What follows is my take on each region. I'll try to point out some upsets and favorites in each, for what it is worth. I know it won't happen, but it is entirely possible that all four #1 seeds could be gone in the opening weekend. Wouldn't Seth Davis love that!
I think Kansas is the best team in the country, but if I had any balls I would pick Northern Iowa over them in round two. Northern Iowa reminds me of a better version of the Cornell team that gave Kansas loads of trouble back in December. Throw that game on a neutral floor with neutral fans getting behind the underdog (UNI) and you never know what could happen.
Georgetown as a three seed in this region is an absolute joke. In almost every bracket I have I picked Tennessee over them. I like the Volunteers as a sleeper here because they beat both Kansas and Kentucky while shorthanded. If a team can get Ohio State in foul trouble the Buckeyes can be beaten, but they might have the best starting five in this bracket. My pick is Kansas over Ohio State in the final. I also like Michigan State and Tennessee as my fellow sweet 16 teams here. Either one of those teams can get to the Elite 8 for sure.
The Kentucky-Texas potential in round two is very interesting, especially since Gary Parrish told us they were both elite teams, guaranteed to go to the Final Four and a step above everyone else. If Texas can play to their potential for one game Kentucky can go down. Other than that, I think the rest of this bracket is kind of weak.
Cornell with the Wittman kid is the kind of team that has the moxie to make the Sweet 16 if everything breaks for them. They have decent guards. They play smart basketball, and they have a versatile big man that can give bigger name schools problems. If they play Wisconsin in round two that could be quite a ballgame. Cornell is my favorite 12 over 5 in the bracket. New Mexico is an interesting three seed. I don't think many people have seen much of them, but they are pretty heavily favored in their pod. A Missouri-West Virginia second round would be good because I love Missouri's full-court trapping defense. That can cause some problems, but West Virginia can run past it and make it a high scoring game.
For this whole region I do think it will probably a straight 1-2-3-4 in the sweet 16, with Kentucky over West Virginia in the final. My sleeper is, again, Cornell.
The injury situation with Syracuse and a tough Gonzaga or Florida State in round two is very interesting. Don't forget that Vermont's only win in NCAA history came against Syracuse and the Catamounts are a balanced team. I'm not saying it is going to happen, but this could be the perfect storm for the closest 1-16 game.
I am a big fan of Murray State as an upset pick and I went with them over Vanderbilt in my Hammer & Rails bracket. I think they lose to Butler in round two, but the Racers have won 30 times this season. They have incredible balance in their scoring, so why not? We have another joke of a three seed in Pittsburgh. I thought there was a rule that any team that loses to Indiana this year couldn't be a top 6 seed. I absolutely love a hot, motivated Minnesota team over them in round 2.
BYU vs. Kansas State could be an interesting round 2 game. I like the Wildcats, but BYU can make them sweat. I think Syracuse prevails in this region over Kansas State with Butler and Minnesota as the other two sweet 16 teams. If I had balls though, I would pick Syracuse as an early upset. I don't like that injury situation with their lack of depth.
I have basically avoided any analysis since Sunday because all I heard was Duke, Duke, Duke. I guess Duke has already won this region, so we shouldn't even bother playing. Personally, Duke is in trouble if they face a Louisville team that actually gives a crap in round 2. Louisville is a very good team when motivated. Look at what happened both times against Syracuse.
Call me crazy, but I don't think the Final Four dream for Purdue is dead. To make it without Robbie we needed the weakest region and we got that. If we face Villanova we're essentially facing a mirror image of ourselves. We beat basically the exact same Baylor team two years ago. Texas A&M isn't even favored against Utah State in the 5-12 game. In our half of this draw only Duke kind of scares me. If we prove the Minnesota game was a horrible aberration I think we have a shot.
Ask yourself the following question: Are we any worse than Indiana's 2002 team that went to the championship game as a #4 seed? I don't think so. Who did they beat in the Sweet 16? A heavily favored "They're winning this easy region" Duke. I think we beat Siena and Utah State to get to the Sweet 16. My head tells me Duke beats us once we are there, but my heart will be pulling to win that game because I would absolutely pick us in the elite 8 over anyone in the other half of the bracket.
I think Villanova makes the sweet 16 and loses to Baylor, but Richmond can beat them in round 2. Old Dominion is another dangerous round two team for Baylor. Since I can't in good conscience pick all four #1 seeds I went with Baylor to upset Duke in the region final. If Purdue shocks Duke I'll go with Purdue over Baylor. This bracket has the best potential for a broken bracket with multiple double digit seeds getting tot he second weekend. Would anyone really be stunned by a Duke-Siena-Old Dominion-Richmond Sweet 16 here?
I have long though Kansas and Kentucky are the two best teams in the country. With that, I am picking Kansas over Kentucky because Kentucky reminds me of Calipari's Memphis teams. They don't have the discipline to finish the job like Kansas. Kansas feels a lot like Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes had the chutzpah to pull out two games they probably shouldn't have, but they had the air of a team of destiny when it came to winning the tournament. I think that is what you see out of Kansas in this year's NCAA's