-Im currently 1-0 with my tournament picks so far if you count the opening round game, which I do. It is technically an NCAA Tournament game. I actually attended the game, and I must say that I was impressed with the turnout Mount Saint Marys had, especially with how many of their students were there. It made for a pretty good atmosphere. Coppin State had some fans there as well, but not quite as many. I know that game gets dogged quite a bit by the main stream media, and I cant say Im a big fan of the concept of it, but if youre a person that likes college basketball its the most fun youll ever have for six bucks. If any of the people dogging it were to attend the game and give it a chance theyd probably end up having a good time. I was probably one of the few people there that wasnt a fan of either team that actually knew a little something about both of them, but generally one side of the arena starts rooting for one team, and the side roots for the other. I dont know which I enjoyed more, seeing the Mount Saint Marys students really getting into the game, or seeing everyone else on that side of the arena who had no idea who Mount Saint Marys was cheer right along with them just for the hell of it.
-Im not in any jackpots, but I filled out a bracket as if I were. For the sake of this site, Ill just be picking each game round by round and game by game, though.
When I fill out a bracket for a jackpot, I pick teams for all sorts of different reasons. Mostly its who I think will win, but not always. Sometimes Ill pick a team to win knowing theyre a long shot. If youre in a pool with ten other people then getting the long shots right isnt that important and its probably best to not even try, but if youre in one with 100 others you have to pick a long shot or two and be right in order to win. Plus, it makes it more fun. Thats why the winners have sometimes never seen a college basketball game all season. They correctly picked the long shots without knowing they were long shots.
If I like a team that I dont think is as good their opponent, but still has a reasonable chance of winning, sometimes Ill pick the team that Id root for to win. I wont be doing that for my picks on this site, though.
Some highlights from my would-be jackpot bracket are:
-My Final Four is North Carolina, Kansas, Texas and Xavier. Obviously Xavier falls under the category of picks that Im rooting for. I have Texas beating Kansas in the championship game. Its worth noting that if Texas gets to the Sweet Sixteen, theyll be in their home state the rest of the way. Since their first game is against Austin Peay, theyre virtually one win away already from being on a bus trip for the remainder of the tournament.
-My long shot, probably-wont-happen-but-if-it-does-you-win-the-jackpot-upset is BYU over UCLA in the second round. I also have Davidson taking down Georgetown, Butler over Tennessee, and Siena over Vanderbilt, but those three things are probably more likely to happen than BYU over UCLA.
-I have Memphis going out against Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen, which is a dangerous pick because I wouldnt be surprised if Pitt beat Michigan State in the second round, but I see Memphiss poor free-throw shooting being an issue if theyre ever in a close game.
-Below are my picks for the first round, which arent necessarily identical to who Id pick if I were to enter a jackpot. If you take my advice and lose, its your fault. THURSDAY, MARCH 20TH
-#14. GEORGIA VS #3. XAVIER (pick Xavier). Georgia is coming off one of the most improbable accomplishments Ive ever seen in college basketball. If they play as well today as they did in the SEC Tournament, their season will not end. The thing about Xavier is that theyre better than anyone Georgia actually faced head-to-head in the SEC Tournament when they want to be. Lately, they havent played with the level of intensity that theyll need to in this tournament if they want to last long. That might be due to feeling like they were under-matched in conference play, but they wont be under-matched here. They say that Drew Lavender
is healthy after dealing with an injured ankle down the stretch, and if he is they should play well. Im picking Xavier to win, but they wont win if they dont play better than they have in their last couple of games.
-#16. PORTLAND STATE VS #1. KANSAS (pick Kansas). Portland State is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and they clearly look to be the best out of all the #16 seeds. Kansas, however, is among the best in the nation and a strong Final Four contender. If were going to see a #16 beat a #1 this year this is the game where it is most likely to happen, but Id say there is about a 98 percent chance that it wont. Kansas should win big.
-#12. TEMPLE VS #5. MICHIGAN STATE (pick Michigan State). The Spartans have struggled away from home throughout the year, at least when you compare them to top level teams, but I wouldnt be at all surprised to see this team go deep into the tournament. Temple is a good team as well, and an upset is not out of the realm of possibility. I just think the Spartans will be too much for them. Temple did beat Xavier big earlier in the year, but other than that they havent beaten anyone as good as Michigan State, and from what I saw rarely played up to that level.
-#11. KENTUCKY VS #6. MARQUETTE (pick Marquette). Given how tenacious Kentucky has been this season, its hard not to like them (unless youre a Louisville fan), but I dont see them pulling off the win today. Kentucky did take Tennessee to the wire, but they havent beaten anyone as good as Marquette away from home. Marquette just appears to have too much talent.
-#11. BAYLOR VS #6. PURDUE (pick Purdue). Purdue is a young team, and generally speaking young teams dont do as well as veteran teams in the tournament. The thing about Baylor is that theyre fairly young as well, and none of their players have any NCAA Tournament experience. Other than the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue was fantastic down the stretch. If they can play at that level they should win this game.
-#9. KENT STATE VS #8. UNLV (pick Kent State). I was really impressed with both of these teams this year, and this is one game that could certainly go either way. Kent State looked a little better in their conference tournament than UNLV did in theirs, especially when you consider that UNLV was hosting. The Rebels beat BYU decisively in the championship, but struggled in their other games. Kent is great when theyre at the top of their game, but they havent always been. Theyve shown they can play when the spotlight is on them, though, which it definitely is today.
-#13. ORAL ROBERTS VS #4. PITTSBURGH (pick Pittsburgh). Oral Roberts had a great season, and they could end up giving Pitt one hell of a game, but I just dont see this turning out to be an upset. Pitts defense is fantastic, and theyre playing their best basketball of the season right now. Oral Roberts will likely have trouble getting their offense going.
-#14. CORNELL VS #3. STANFORD (pick Cornell). If Cornell pulls the upset it wouldnt surprise me too much. Theyre a well disciplined team that can score, and have four players that can really shoot the three. Common sense tells me I should pick Stanford and its almost impossible to give an acceptable analysis as to how Cornell could win. Stanford has a geographic advantage, theyve played outstanding basketball all season, and there is no reason to not expect them to win this game. I do believe Stanford is good enough to go deep into the tournament, and I realize this would be a huge upset, but I just have a feeling that Cornell is going to play really well. This is one of the first round games that Im really looking forward to.
-#11. KANSAS STATE VS #6. USC (pick USC). This is a highly anticipated match-up given the fact that O.J. Mayo
and Michael Beasley
will be playing in the same game. Kansas State has tremendous talent, but they didnt look as good as USC coming down the stretch. USC went through periods where they struggled, but part of that was due to injuries. Theyre coming off a game where they nearly upset UCLA and theyd been playing pretty solid ball prior to that. If theyre focused coming into this one I believe theyll win it.
-#15. BELMONT VS #2. DUKE (pick Duke). Belmont is no stranger to the NCAA Tournament, but theyre also no stranger to getting bounced out by big margins in the first round. They did have a good year in the Atlantic Sun this year, but theyre simply way overmatched in this game. Duke is a team that we could see go deep into the tournament. They lost in the first round last year and Id be shocked if that hasnt been a source of motivation for them.
-#13. WINTHROP VS #4. WASHINGTON STATE (pick Washington State). Winthrop played some pretty tough opponents early in the season and did fairly well, but theyre still a very young team. The future of their program is bright and they had a good year this year where they won the Big South, but I dont see them pulling the upset today. Wazzu is a well coached team thats been battle tested and should be able to get through without too much trouble.
-#9. TEXAS A&M VS #8. BYU (pick BYU). The Cougars didnt look all that good in their last game against UNLV, but I really like their team. They shoot the ball very well and have two fantastic three point shooters in Lee Cummard
and Jonathan Tavernari
. Theyre also good on the boards. Overall, they look to me to be a better team than Texas A&M and I believe the Cougars will get the win.
-#10. ARIZONA VS #7. WEST VIRGINIA (pick West Virginia). Arizona has not looked good at all in the last few weeks, and their poor finish to the season nearly cost them a bid. I dont see them getting past the first round today against a West Virginia team that played pretty well in the Big East Tournament, and appears to be playing their best hoops of the season right now.
-#14. CAL STATE FULLTERTON VS #3. WISCONSIN (pick Wisconsin). Not a whole lot of people are all that excited about Wisconsin, but theyre a good basketball team. They won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, they won a huge game at Texas earlier this year, and I could see them going deep in the NCAA Tournament. Cal State Fullerton won the Big West and looked really good in their tournament, but I dont see them giving Wisconsin too much of a scare.
-#12. GEORGE MASON VS #5. NOTRE DAME (pick George Mason). This would be another big upset, but when George Mason plays up to their abilities, they are a very tough team to beat. They dont always do that, which is why theyve lost some of the games that they have, but they looked good in their conference tournament and I expect them to come into this game with quite a bit of intensity. The Irish have had a good season and I certainly wouldnt be the least bit surprised if they won this game. For that matter I wouldnt be surprised if they won their second round game either.
-#16. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE VS #1. UCLA (pick UCLA). This is the last game of the day to tip off, and it looks to be the most uninteresting game of the day. I guess theyre saving the worst for last. Mississippi Valley State comes into this game having won nine in a row, but just one of those came against an RPI top 300 team. UCLA is a true national championship contender thats playing this game very close to home. This one could (and likely will) get ugly quickly. FRIDAY, MARCH 21ST
-#15. AMERICAN VS #2. TENNESSEE (pick Tennessee). This game is a huge mismatch, and Tennessee should win easily. American had a good year in the Patriot League, but they dont have the athletes that the Volunteers have and Tennessee could very easily end up running them over. The Vols have struggled recently and their lack of free-throw shooting could be a problem later on, but I dont see this game being very close for very long.
-#10. DAVIDSON VS #7. GONZAGA (pick Davidson). Davidson didnt manage an impressive win during the season, but they put up tremendous fights against the likes of UCLA, Duke and North Carolina. Theyre definitely a top 25 caliber team, and I believe theyre better than Gonzaga despite the fact that theyre seeded lower. They also have the advantage of playing close to home in Raleigh. Gonzaga has a good team as well and has shown that they can play against high level teams. I believe this is a great match-up that either team could win. I could also see either of these teams giving Georgetown trouble in the second round if thats who they end up facing.
-#10. SAINT MARYS VS #7. MIAMI, FL (pick Miami, FL). Neither of these teams strike me as being outstanding. Saint Marys has played well, but they really havent looked overly impressive when facing other top notch teams. Miami has looked pretty good down the stretch, but theyve struggled away from their home court. This looks like a game that could go either way, but I just think Miami has looked a little better lately. I dont see the winner advancing much further than this, though.
-#12. WESTERN KENTUCKY VS #5. DRAKE (pick Drake). I really like both of these teams and think that both are good enough to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament, but only one will be able to. Its almost unfortunate that theyre opening against each other. I just believe Drake is better, though. Theyve passed some tough road tests and played amazingly well in their conference tournament. Western Kentucky does have some great athletes, though, and Drake could have a hard time stopping WKU in transition if the Hilltoppers are able to push the tempo.
-#10. SOUTH ALABAMA VS #7. BUTLER (pick Butler). South Alabama had a great season, and the fact that this game is in Birmingham should give them a geographic advantage, but not to the level where Butler wont be able to adjust. Butler is a very good team who is seeded where they are merely because of the lack of opportunities to face quality opponents. Theyll get those opportunities now, though, and I believe theyre a dangerous team. They can shoot, rebound and play defense. Im picking them to win today, and on top of that I can see them being a very tough team to beat in the second round.
-#15. UMBC VS #2. GEORGETOWN (pick Georgetown). I really like UMBCs team and think its great that theyve grown as a program and are now playing in their first ever NCAA Tournament game. Theyre certainly well coached by Randy Monroe and are a fun team to watch. Having said that, chances are theyre going to get stomped today. Ill be cheering for them (nothing against the Hoyas. I just like UMBC), but that wont do them much good against a very tough Georgetown team.
-#13. SAN DIEGO VS #4. CONNECTICUT (pick Connecticut). San Diego is red hot right now and just beat two very good teams in Saint Marys and Gonzaga to win their conference tournament, but theyre not on their home floor for this game, and theyre playing a very strong Connecticut team. The Huskies didnt look all that good in the Big East Tournament, but thats the sort of thing that can shake a well coached team awake. San Diego undoubtedly has a ton of confidence, and they may be able to stay with the Huskies, but I dont see them pulling the upset.
-#15. AUSTIN PEAY VS #2. TEXAS (pick Texas). Texas could have arguably been a #1 seed, but chances are theyre not too disappointed with how the brackets came out. Austin Peay doesnt stand much of a chance. The Longhorns should win this one going away.
-#11. SAINT JOSEPHS VS #6. OKLAHOMA (pick Saint Josephs). Both of these teams have been inconsistent all season, so its hard to say who will win or how close the score will be. If youre a gambling man Id stay away from this game. Saint Josephs is a good defensive team, and when they show up theyre very tough to beat. Oklahoma is a good team as well, but I must say I was surprised they were seeded as high as #6th. They did look pretty strong coming down the stretch, though, so theyre definitely good enough to win this game.
-#16. MOUNT SAINT MARYS VS #1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick North Carolina). Mount Saint Marys won the opening round game to get here, but it would take the miracle of miracles to upset the Tarheels in Raleigh. North Carolina is the #1 team and theyve been playing like it for the past couple of weeks. This game will probably end up out of reach after just the first few minutes.
-#13. SIENA VS #4. VANDERBILT (pick Siena). Siena is a good basketball team, and theyre no stranger to upsets. They knocked off Stanford earlier this season, so theyll definitely be confident coming into this one. They also gave some other pretty good teams a scare earlier in the year. Vanderbilt looks better on paper, and theyve had some monster wins this season, so anyone who does pick Siena to win this one like I am is going out on a limb. Siena just looked really good down the stretch. Even though they werent playing good teams, they looked good themselves. Vanderbilt has looked good this year as well, but they have struggled away from their home court, and thats something to consider. Theyll need to play better than they typically do on the road in order to win.
-#9. OREGON VS #8. MISSISSIPPI STATE (pick Mississippi State). Mississippi State struggled out of the gate. It also looked like there were some chinks in the armor during the SEC Tournament, but I still think they look a little better than Oregon. The Ducks are more battle-tested, and that is definitely a factor, and they finished the regular season by winning three straight games, so I wouldnt be at all surprised to see them pull this one out. This is another game that could go either way.
-#14. BOISE STATE VS #3. LOUISVILLE (pick Louisville). Boise State has really made huge strides in improving their program in recent years, and they are a fun team to watch play. Theyre athletic, but so is Louisville. Louisville also plays excellent defense and that should be able to slow down Boise State some. Im looking forward to this match-up, but I think it will be more interesting from an Xs and Os standpoint than it will competitive. Boise might make it a game for awhile, but I believe Louisville will open it up before its over.
-#9. ARKANSAS VS #8. INDIANA (pick Arkansas). Indiana just hasnt looked all that good since Kelvin Sampson left the team. Even when the Hoosiers have won they havent looked all that impressive. Arkansas has been inconsistent all season long, but they did look pretty good in the SEC Tournament and enter this game with quite a bit of momentum. If they play the way they did throughout the SEC Tourney they should end up winning this without too much trouble.
-#12. VILLANOVA VS #5. CLEMSON (pick Clemson). Nova is a solid team that played well down the stretch of the regular season, but Clemson looks even better. Theyre probably better than what their overall credentials indicate. They took North Carolina to the wall three times, and lost twice in overtime. They also looked fantastic all throughout the ACC Tournament, and if they play at that level then I can see them going deep into the NCAAs.
-#16. TEXAS ARLINGTON VS #1. MEMPHIS (pick Memphis). Im not expecting much of a game in this one. Texas Arlington finishes 7th in the Southland Conference, but earned the automatic bid by winning the conference tournament. Even by #16 seed standards they dont appear to be all that good. This game could turn into a flattening, much like the three conference tournament games Memphis played in last week as they skated to the Conference USA title.