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C-USA snubs, picks, and more on the NCAA Tournament

 

By Adam Hoff

 

Let me get one thing straight – I could care less about Conference USA.  None of the schools from that conference matter to me in the least.  I happen to think Louisville makes a nice Final Four pick (or did, before they got shafted), but that’s about the extent of my personal relationship.  But I have to stand up for this league on a night when they got absolutely hosed by the Tournament Committee. 

 

This was one of the easiest brackets that the Committee has ever had to put together.  There were no bubble teams getting the shaft, no overabundance of potential number one seeds, and some very easy location choices.  Yet they still managed to make some egregious errors before it was all said and done.  The common denominator between the two biggest?  Both teams getting hammered on seeding were from C-USA, which is where we start with this hodgepodge of NCAA Tourney Talk.

 

Biggest Snub.  I suppose technically, a snub has to mean that a team was left out of the field, but here we’re going to forget about semantics and focus on the squad that simply got the worst drubbing at the hands of the committee.  Perhaps the decision makers are wary of a repeat of last season, when Conference USA teams (with the exception of UAB) were absolutely horrible in tourney play.  Maybe the Committee members were just drunk.  Those are pretty much the only two reasons I can come up with for Louisville getting a four seed.  This is a team that finished fourth in the country in the final coaches poll, went 29-4, and won their conference tournament.  Even if you go to more scientific measures, their #12 RPI screams for a three seed.  What a bizarre turn of events for a team that was hoping for a one seed on Sunday afternoon.

 

The Plummeting Conference.  The A-10 has fallen off the face of the earth.  Just last year St. Joe’s was a number one seed and playing a instant classic in the Elite Eight and Xavier was giving Duke a run for it’s money on the other side of the bracket.  This year?  Only George Washington made the field as a lowly 12 seed.  That is an almost unprecedented level of failure.  Luckily we’ve been watching the Minnesota Timberwolves all season, so we were ready for something like this. 

 

Annual ACC Overreaction.  Last year it was a Maryland team going 7-9 in conference and landing a ridiculous number four seed, this year it’s Georgia Tech going from the bubble to being seeded fifth thanks to the ACC Tournament.  I agree that the Jackets are a dangerous team (plus, they helped me win a lot of “credits” last year in my pool), but they should have to be dangerous as a seven or eight seed, like a similar team from any other conference would.  Oh well, Tech versus Louisville in round two will just act as the seven-two matchup that should have been. 

 

(One other ACC comment.  Why did Duke’s emergence automatically boot Wake Forest?  The Blue Devils seemed to jump from “out of the mix” to the #3 overall seed in one day.  So why did the previous number three seed, Wake, drop all the way to the two line?  It makes no sense.  I’m just as happy for Washington as the next guy (its my home state after all), but this was weird. 

 

Region Names.  In case you were wondering, I’m still protesting these ridiculous names.  For the purposes of this column, Syracuse is East, Albuquerque is West, Chicago is Midwest, and Austin is South.  Period. 

 

Biggest Sucker Pick.  Every year there is a team that suddenly becomes the universal sleeper and gets penciled in to the Final Four in brackets far and wide.  That team rarely plays on the second weekend.  This year I’m tabbing Syracuse as the biggest sucker pick.  This is a team that doesn’t play terribly well away from home, doesn’t shoot free throws well, and has been inconsistent all year.  Two weeks ago UConn beat them by about 90 points (okay, 17).  Now they are going all the way to the Final Four?  I just don’t see it.  Hakim Warrick is a great talent, Josh Pace is a gritty veteran, and Jerry McNamara had the quietest 43-point game in basketball history in last year’s tourney, but I just can’t picture the Orangemen winning more than a game or two this time around.  We’ll see. 

 

My Picks.  Might as well get them down on paper and out to the public before I have the chance to change my mind.  Last year I even bored myself with 2,500 words of picks, so this time we’re going short(er) and sweet(er). 

 

Midwest Region

 

First Round:

Illinois over Fairleigh Dickinson in an upset

Texas over Nevada in what might be the best first round matchup

Alabama wins a dangerous game with UW-Milwaukee

Boston College over Penn, barely

UAB over LSU in an all acronym battle

Arizona belts Utah State

Southern Illinois will prevail over St. Mary’s in a matchup that unfortunately pits two of the best mid-majors teams against each other (allowing the committee to validate screwing them over next year by limiting “mid major win totals”)

Oklahoma State should crush SE Louisiana

 

Second Round:

Illinois should handle Texas, although Daniel Gibson is the only guy I’ve seen this year faster than Dee Brown

Alabama should roll past a sinking BC squad (I’m worried about them getting past UW-Milwaukee though)

UAB makes it two years in a row as they beat the soft Wildcats

Oklahoma State handles Southern Illinois and emerges as the new favorite in the region after the first weekend

 

Semifinals:

Illinois wins a wild contest with the underrated Crimson Tide

Oklahoma State pounds UAB and ends the feel good story of the region

 

Regional Final:

Illinois squeaks past the Cowboys an a legendary regional final, with Luther Head hitting the game-winner

 

West

 

First Round:

Washington over Montana in what should look and feel like a nonconference game in November

Pittsburgh over Pacific (I like Pacific, but this is a horrible matchup for them)

Georgia Tech over George Washington (the A-10 is officially finished on the second day)

Louisville over LA-Lafayette (I like the Cardinals chances to run wild through this field, but the first round game scares me to death – the Ragin’ Cagin’ are a going to be a tough out)

Texas Tech over UCLA

Gonzaga pounds Winthrop

West Virginia knocks off their mid major mirror image in Creighton

Wake Forest will win a wild contest with Chattanooga, narrowly avoiding an humiliating first round exit

 

Second Round:

Washington can’t like the prospect of playing rough and tumble Pitt, but they should avoid “pulling a Stanford” and represent the Pac-10 past the first weekend

Louisville will win the “really should have been a 2-versus-7 matchup” contest against a tough Yellow Jacket team

Gonzaga hammers Texas Tech as the Committee finally sets the Zags up with a tourney slate that doesn’t feature other, hungrier mid major teams (read: Wyoming and Nevada)

Wake Forest lives another day as their speed is too much for the upstart Mountaineers

 

Semifinals:

Louisville ends a glorious season for the Huskies

Gonzaga does the same to Wake

 

Regional Final:

Louisville outlasts Gonzaga in a game for the ages

 

East

UNC thumps the play-in winner (I’ve tabbed Oakland)

Iowa State is a dangerous team no one is talking about and they take care of a tough Minnesota club

New Mexico upsets an overrated Villanova team (remember, the Villanova hype is coming from a suddenly-not-so-impressive win against BC)

Ohio throws this bracket into disarray by knocking off the redhot Florida Gators, once against putting the power of the MAC on display

Wisconsin edges Northern Iowa what could be the most horrifyingly boring game of the first round

Kansas is the sleeping giant in this tourney and they crush Bucknell to send notice to the field

Charlotte is slumping, but they are one of many disrespected C-USA teams that will prove the Committee wrong, beating NC State in a thriller

UConn should pound Central Florida (by the way, this is the fourth straight year in which NC State and UConn have been slotted in the same half of the same bracket – what is that all about?

 

Second Round:

North Carolina is my pick to win it all, but things could come crashing down against the Cyclones in round two – watch this game closely

New Mexico is going to open some eyes and should beat the Bobcats in round two

Kansas drubs Wisconsin and starts making people nervous

UConn should handle Charlotte, but it will be tougher than people think

 

Semifinals:

North Carolina takes care of the Lobos as McCants starts to hit his stride

UConn wins a classic with Kansas (I don’t feel very confident about this pick, but I’ve got to stick with the Huskies)

 

Regional Final:

North Carolina beats UConn to reach the Final Four as Raymond Felton slows down Marcus Williams

 

South

 

First Round:

Duke over Delaware State

Stanford matches up well with Mississippi State and will be part of exposing the SEC 

Michigan State is being knocked off in brackets everywhere, but they will pound Old Dominion

Syracuse will get past Vermont … but that’s it (see above)

UTEP is loaded, so count me among the many picking them over the plodding Utes

Oklahoma slumped a bit down the stretch, but they are a perfect tourney team; bad news for Niagara

Cincinnati gets a tough draw with a hot Iowa team, but they too will carry the Conference USA flag (obviously, all of this C-USA pride is a little ironic considering the league is imploding)

Kentucky gets a scare from Eastern Kentucky, but squeaks through the next round

 

Second Round:

Duke belts Stanford (no doubt CBS will place this game in the only single-game time slot of the weekend, subjecting us all to a horrible game with no hope of switching to something more entertaining)

Michigan State beats Syracuse in the game featuring the most disrespected team in the tournament taking on the most overrate team … it should all even out to be a great game

Oklahoma wins a tough one against the Minors

Kentucky wins a boring game with the Bearcats (in fact, the entire bottom half of this region is boring)

 

Semifinals:

Duke will struggle against the gritty Spartans, but will ultimately prevail when Sheldon Williams shuts down Paul Davis

Oklahoma is simply better than Kentucky, and therefore should win … we all know how that kind of logic works in the NCAA Tournament

 

Regional Final:

Duke is a lot like the 2003 Kansas team that nobody thought could reach the Final Four, despite the fact that Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich were All-Americans.  Why?  Because they didn’t have enough depth or size, which happen to be the two biggest critiques of the Blue Devils.  Expect them to beat the Sooners and set up the first-ever NCAA Tournament meeting between Duke and North Carolina.  Would Dick Vital survive such an occasion?

 

Final Four

 

National Semifinals:

Louisville is the absolute worst team for Illinois to play, because they have a three-guard set to match up with Brown-Williams-Head and a big man that can pass and dissect the Illini defense in Ellis Miles.  Illinois would be much better off getting Gonzaga in that game. 

North Carolina wins the rubber match with Duke, simply because Roy Williams is due and nobody wants to hear him whine anymore

 

Championship Game:

North Carolina edges Louisville in a game that could feature 180 total points.

 

Well, those are my picks.  I hate them already, so you can only imagine how I will be feeling on Friday when Louisiana-Lafayette upsets Louisville in the first round.  Tune in regularly for rants and raves about the NCAA Tournament and send your comments to wis.insider@gmail.com.

 

Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America.

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