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The Great NCAA Tournament Challenge

 

Brother versus brother

 

By Adam Hoff

 

For the last few years, I’ve been posting my tournament picks here on the site, but the problem is that by the time the games are played, people often forget to go back and note my 100% accuracy.  Okay, that is an egregious lie, but the fact remains that it is always more fun to have an audience.  And a competition.  That is why we are doing a tournament showdown for the second year in a row.  Last year I was beat down by WIS legend Elliott Schwartz, so I kicked him out of the challenge.  In his place is my younger brother, Drew.  As Bill Walton would say, “This guy knows his college hoops.”  In fact, he picked Arizona to win it all (as a #4, beating three top seeds along the way) in 1997, which is still one of the greatest bracket accomplishments I have seen.  (My best pick?  Probably when, at the age of 11, I stuck with Michigan in 1989 despite having an interim coach.)

 

Below you will find a listing of all of our picks, complete with commentary.

 

Also note that we are employing a unique scoring system that rewards risky picks by incorporating the seeding of the teams.  It looks like this:

 

First Round – 2 points + Seed #

Second Round – 4 points + Seed #

Sweet Sixteen Round – 8 points + Seed #

Elite Eight Round – 12 points + Seed #

Final Four Round – 20 points + Seed #

Final Game - 40 points + Seed #

 

Let’s get going.

 

South Region.  This region is probably the strangest in the field, because it puts Louisville in Kentucky for the first two rounds and A&M in San Antonio for the regional.  Yet Kansas is sent out to San Jose for their regional in the West, where they project to play UCLA in the state of California.  Real fair.  Sometimes I wonder what in the world the committee is doing.  As for the picks, we will skip to the second round since they will obviously indicate our first round picks.

 

Second round picks:

 

Drew

Adam

(1) Ohio State over (8) BYU

(1) Ohio State over (8) BYU

(12) Long Beach State over (4) Virginia

(4) Virginia over (12) Long Beach State

(3) Texas A&M over (6) Louisville

(3) Texas A&M over (6) Louisville

(2) Memphis over (7) Nevada

(7) Nevada over (2) Memphis

Insider Comments: No one is talking about this, but Ohio State got by far the easiest run to the Elite Eight of any top seed.  BYU, Xavier, Tennessee, and Virginia?  Are you serious?  These teams suck.  You will notice that I’ve got UVA over The Beach in the second round – according to my 5-12 analysis, Tennessee is going down.  Virginia stinks and should have been a six seed, but they are still better than the rest of this mess.  I hate that Louisville got the home draw, ala Wisconsin in 2004 (also as a six seed, playing in Milwaukee).  I like the Wolfpack over Memphis down at the bottom; Nick Fazekas is going to get the totally insane Joey Dorsey into foul trouble by the 18:55 mark of the first half.

 

Drew’s Comments: 

 

I agree, Ohio State is on easy street until the regional final.  I will do you one better on Long Beach State.  The Big West wasn’t terrible this year and the Beach came on strong down the stretch.  I tend to think that all ACC teams are overrated this season, so down goes Virginia. 

 

Sweet 16 and Elite Eight picks:

 

Drew

Adam

(1) Ohio State over (12) Long Beach State

(1) Ohio State over (4) Virginia

(3) Texas A&M over (2) Memphis

(3) Texas A&M over (7) Nevada

Regional Final

Regional Final

(1) Ohio State over (3)Texas A&M

(3) Texas A&M over (1) Ohio State

Insider Comments:  Ohio State-Virginia is a mismatch and while I love Nevada for this tournament (especially the underrated Marcellus Kemp), Texas A&M was my #2 overall team in the Championship Blueprint column (over on the blog).  Plus, they would basically be playing a home game in San Antonio.  I’m applying that same logic to the regional final against the Buckeyes.  Plus, I think it is possible that Ohio State will win its first three games by at least 15 points each time, which would make 20 straight victories and seven straight by double-figures.  Those numbers scream “let down!” to me.  (Of course, they might also scream “dominance,” but I am going to ignore that.)

 

Drew’s Comments:  Ohio State over Long Beach is no question.  The 49ers run ends at the hands of Shawn Kemp’s son (Oden.  Seriously, things match up.  Eighteen years ago was right in Shawn Kemp’s hay day, in both basketball and extracurricular activities).  I’ve got the Buckeyes beating the Aggies.  I just think that Ohio State will “Big 10 this one” (by that I mean, “make it incredibly boring and grind out a win”).

 

West Region.  The West region is a horrible mess.  Apparently UCLA finished poorly enough to drop to a #2 seed … but not poorly enough to miss out on playing the entire region in the state of California?  I don’t understand why the tournament protects UCLA like this.  It happened last year as well.  Whatever.

 

Second Round:

Drew

Adam

(1) Kansas over (9) Villanova

(1) Kansas over (9) Villanova

(4) So. Illinois over (5) Virginia Tech

(12) Illinois over (4) So. Illinois

(11) VCU over (3) Pittsburgh

(11) VCU over (3) Pittsburgh

(2) UCLA over (10) Gonzaga

(10) Gonzaga over (2) UCLA

Insider Comments: This is my make-or-break bracket.  Not only is my eventual champ coming out of here (sorry to spoil it), but I am also picking three double-digit seeds to reach the Sweet 16.  That said, I feel good about all of them.  My “5-12” model has Illinois as a near lock to beat Virginia Tech and I think they will then beat Southern Illinois in a game that has fans of mid-majors (like me) cringing and cursing both the tournament committee and the basketball gods alike.  Illinois is right of the 2002 Missouri playbook of being a totally undeserving major conference team that will then win multiple games and somehow prove the committee right.  I also have Virginia Commonwealth (get ready for Eric Maynor’s one shining moment) beating Duke and knocking off Pitt.  On top of that, I have Gonzaga avenging The Crying Game and beating UCLA.  If all goes according to plan, this bracket will be MADNESS!

 

(By the way, there is some level of precedence for the bottom of a bracket imploding like this.  In 2001 the South saw #11 Temple and #7 Penn State meet in the Sweet 16, while the second round of the West featured #3 Maryland, #10 Georgetown, #11 Georgia State, and #15 Hampton all playing in Boise.)

 

Drew’s Comments:  I can’t take the Zags like that, but I agree that they are back in the spoiler role.  They’ve been playing better ever since the Heydvelt incident (excluding the week immediately following the incident – they had to figure out their team all over again).  Not only that, but the committee really overvalued how much he meant to them – they just might be better off. 

 

Sweet 16 and Regional Final:

 

Drew

Adam

(1) Kansas over (4) So. Illinois

(1) Kansas over (12) Illinois

(2) UCLA over (11) VCU

(10) Gonzaga over (11) VCU

Regional Final

Regional Final

(1) Kansas over (2) UCLA

(1) Kansas over (10) Gonzaga

Insider Comments:  Like most crazy brackets that have everyone’s eyes lighting up and thinking “there is a 75% chance we are going to have a Cinderella in the Final Four!” this one will end with order being restored by Kansas.  I really think Gonzaga is dangerous in this bracket and that the Elite Eight is a possibility.  Mostly because I went to Pepperdine (back when the Waves were good) so I hate Gonzaga and fear the worst.  

 

Drew’s Comments:  I wasn’t on board with Kansas as early as you were, but the Big 12 tourney left me convinced.  To come back from 20-points down to Texas – twice – shows something.  They just have so many different weapons and Bill Self does a good job picking the right mix of players.

 

East Region.  This is a challenging bracket, because North Carolina is a tough out, yet they have an extremely difficult road to Atlanta. 

 

Second Round:

 

Drew

Adam

(8) Marquette over (1) North Carolina

(1) North Carolina over (8) Marquette

(4) Texas over (5) USC

(4) Texas over (5) USC

(3) Washington State over (11) GW

(14) Oral Roberts over (6) Vanderbilt

(2) Georgetown over (7) Boston College

(2) Georgetown over (7) Boston College

Insider Comments: UNC-Marquette is a potential monster of a second round game (provided McNeal is back and the Eagles can get by Michigan State).  Oral Roberts is my jam (see the blog), but otherwise, I’ve got this one going chalk.  USC-Arkansas is a coin flip according to my 5-12 analysis, so I’m going with the Trojans. 

 

Drew’s Comments:  I’ve got Texas over North Carolina anyway, so I’m rolling the dice with Marquette, who just looks like a big time team despite the #8 seed (this was before it was announced that McNeil would not be back until the second round game, meaning, they’re going to have a tough time getting past Michigan State and Derek Raivio’s big brother).

 

Sweet 16 and Elite Eight:

 

Drew

Adam

(4) Texas over (8) Marquette

(1) North Carolina over (4) Texas

(2) Georgetown over (3) WSU

(2) Georgetown over (14) Oral Roberts

Regional Final

Regional Final

(2) Georgetown over (4) Texas

(2) Georgetown over (1) North Carolina

Comments: The Heels rate higher than Georgetown on my Tourney Blueprint match scores, but I just think the Hoyas are more likely to play in the Elite Eight, which has to count for something.  UNC could lose to Marquette or Texas (although the latter would be more likely if Rick Barnes were to undergo a lobotomy) before even getting to the regional final.  Meanwhile Georgetown, who I think has become a bit overrated (since they really can’t shoot and rely on a center with more disappearing acts than The Prestige), seems set for smooth sailing through the first three rounds.  Plus, the regional final will be in East Rutherford, which is undoubtedly Big East country.  Oh, and also, Ladies Glasses Williams has become an overrated coach since he won a title.  He often mangles that Carolina rotation.  I am going with the Hoyas, even though I think North Carolina is the best team in the region. 

 

(By the way, keep an eye on that potential Georgetown-Oral Roberts matchup, which would feature the greatest matchups of Greens in NCAA history – Jeff versus Caleb.)

 

Drew’s Comments: Georgetown only needs to stop one man (Durant) to get themselves in the final four.  The stopper: do-everything forward, Jeff Green.  His name will be mentioned early and often, as he puts an end to Kevin Durant’s one man show at Texas (okay, maybe two man show with Augustine, but Rick Barnes cancels at least one of these freshmen stars out). 

 

Midwest Region.  People are automatically putting Florida in the Final Four, but I think Oregon has the makings of a title contender.  The Ducks’ seeding and record (ebbs and flows) resemble Syracuse of ’03, Georgia Tech of ’04, and Florida of last year, while their personnel is very similar to Villanova of a year ago.  Of course, Villanova was beat down by this exact Florida team … and Ernie Kent is a shaky coach … and the Ducks have missed the tourney two years in a row (as pointed out to me by ESPN’s Pete Tiernen).  So maybe I am drinking too much Tajuan Porter Kool-Aid. 

 

Second Round:

 

Drew

Adam

(1) Florida over (8) Arizona

(1) Florida over (8) Arizona

(4) Maryland over (12) Old Dominion

(4) Maryland over (5) Butler

(3) Oregon over (11) Winthrop

(3) Oregon over (6) Notre Dame

(10) Georgia Tech over (2) Wisconsin

(10) Georgia Tech over (2) Wisconsin

Insider Comments: I’ve got the Gators moving on, but think Arizona could be dangerous (if the Wildcats don’t blow it against Purdue).  With Jordan Hill coming on inside, ‘Zona might have the personnel to make Florida very nervous.  I like Davidson as an upset pick, but I’m kind of tired of taking 10-14 seeds at this point.  So I’ll stick with Maryland.  And while everyone has ODU over Butler, just know that my 5-12 predictor has Butler as a near lock to win that game.  In the bottom half I have Oregon (of course) gunning past Notre Dame and Georgia Tech carrying the flag for the ACC.  (I was tempted to take UNLV out to the Sweet 16, but the two games I saw them play were almost painful, such was the difficulty the Rebels had scoring points.)

 

Drew’s Comments: I may be reaching a bit with Winthrop over Notre Dame, but that’s only because the Irish scare me against Oregon, a team I also have poised for greatness in this tournament.  It seems neither of us think much of Wisconsin, who has floundered without Brian Butch.  However, Georgia Tech seems to be a popular pick for the Sweet 16 and that makes me nervous, because popular picks almost never pan out.  I enjoyed your breakdown on the 5-12 seeds, but I just think mid-majors are susceptible to upset when they’re given such high seeds (see Gonzaga as a #2 seed in 2004, lost to Nevada a #10 in the round of 32; Nevada a #5 seed lost to Montana a #12 seed last year, etc.), so while ODU is also a popular upset pick, I hold my head high.

 

Sweet 16 and Elite Eight:

 

Drew

Adam

(1) Florida over (4) Maryland

(1) Florida over (4) Maryland

(3) Oregon over (10) Georgia Tech

(3) Oregon over (10) Georgia Tech

Regional Final

Regional Final

(3) Oregon over (1) Florida

(3) Oregon over (1) Florida

Insider Comments: That’s right, boys and girls, the Oregon Ducks are going to the Final Four.  Aaron Brooks is one of the five best players in the country, Malik Hairston is finally healthy and creating matchup problems, and the potential impact of the blindingly quick, chillingly focused freshman Tajuan Porter can not be overstated.  I think he could take over this whole region.  (Bear in mind I thought the same thing about Ronald Steele last year.)

 

Drew’s Comments:  Great minds thinking alike, apparently.  Or is it fools seldom differ?  I can’t remember.

 

Final Four.  This is what it is all about. 

 

Final Four and Championship:

Drew

Adam

(1) Kansas over (3) Oregon

(1) Kansas over (3) Oregon

(2) Georgetown over (1) Ohio State

(3) Texas A&M over (2) Georgetown

Title Game

Title Game

(1) Kansas over (2) Georgetown

(1) Kansas over (3) Texas A&M

Comments: I’ve been on the Big 12 train all year, feeling that while it is certainly imbalanced, it has the best teams in the country.  A&M is built for this and if they can avoid foul trouble, look like a really good bet.  And I feel Kansas is the best team in the country. 

 

Drew’s Comments:  It looks like this whole challenge might come down to A&M versus Ohio State in the South Region. 

 

If you are the type that likes to take note of the seeds, Drew has nice symmetry with two #1’s, a 2, and a 3, while I go 1, 1, 2, 3.  The rule of thumb is that you should never see your four teams add up to less than 7 or more than 15.  Drew comes in at the limit of 7 and I’m sitting on 9, so we both seem okay there.  All that is left is to play the games and see what happens.

 

Keep a close eye on the second edition of The Great Tournament Challenge.  

 

Adam Hoff is a columnist for the Webby-winning WhatifSports.com.  He can be reached at wis.insider@gmail.com.  Be sure to follow all the tournament action on the Insider Blog.

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