Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jock Straps, etc.

I haven't blogged about jock straps in a while. However, with March Madness upon us as well as several other sporting events, I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

Like I said, the NCAA tourney starts tomorrow (or yesterday as some claim). The first two rounds of this tournament is the best weekend of the year. This is when all those unknown teams like Davidson, St. Mary's, and Drake get their time in the spotlight. The big upsets happen this weekend before the big boys take over in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds.

This week also marks the time when it's suddenly OK for everyone to gamble by joining their office pools and deciding which 18 and 19 year olds to bet on in order to win themselves fifty bucks and bragging rights for a year. I still play in the one from my old school in Ohio. Thankfully for the internets and this guy I am able to fork over five dollars a bracket for a chance at immortality.

I've actually won a couple of pools over the years. So, I know a thing or two about this 65-team, three-week-long tournament. Plus, I have a blog and a readership. Below are my tips for this year's bracket.
Never pick all #1's. I usually don't pick more than two. The top teams are easy targets and always get caught looking ahead to their next opponent. Besides, it's easy to pick the best teams. Take a risk and choose George Mason this time around.

The odd thing this year is that all the #1's are good enoug
h to make it to the Final 4. For the first time in as long as I can remember filling out brackets, I'm actually picking three of the four to make it to the semis. The top teams are just that much better than everyone else this year...except for Memphis, whom I have losing to Pitt in the Sweet 16.

'm actually testing this theory this year by submitting a bracket where I picked based on seeds and had UNC (the #1 overall seed) over UCLA in the final game. We'll see how that goes.

Always pick a #12 over a #5 in the first round. This is a tricky one because three of the four #5's will almost always win their first game. The idea is to pick the one game that ends in an upset. It looks like this year it will be the Drake/Western Kentucky game. Both teams are evenly matched, and Drake overachieved. That's the game to choose the #12 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the minor upset.

Don't go too crazy with the upsets. This is wh
ere people really get into trouble. They either pick too many upsets in the first round or they pick an 11 seed to make it to the Final 4. First of all, don't pick more than ten lower-seeded teams in the first round...and that includes 8/9 toss-up games. This year, I picked nine lower seeds in the first round.

Secondly, always cover your upsets. It's fine to believe that Siena will beat Vanderbilt, but don't honestly believe that the Saints will also beat Clemson, Kansas, and Georgetown on their way to an improbable Final 4 appearance. I think Siena will upset Vanderbilt, but I'm covering my ass by picking Clemson in the next round to end their season.

If you do pick a Cinderella, pick a tested squad from a power conference with good match-ups and some hometown cooking. I considered this on both of my picks of lower seeds to go on runs to the second weekend. Look for South Alabama to make a run through an even match-up with Butler and a defense-impaired Tennessee team while playing in their home state. They may not come from a great conference, but they do have the firepower and home court advantage.
The other team to watch is Arizona who played a tough non-conference schedule before taking on the brutal PAC 10. They are more talented than their first-round opponent, West Virginia, and are pretty evenly matched versus Duke. I like to pick the lower seed when the teams are even; they've got more to prove. They the Wildcats would get their shot at Xavier in Phoenix for the Sweet 16. The last time Xavier traveled to Arizona, they were crushed by 22 at Arizona State.

Don't pick #1 seeds with obvious weaknesses. North Carolina and Memphis fit this description well. UNC doesn't play defense, and they never have under Roy Williams (who used to choke with his KU teams every year). The Tar Heels may have an easy route, playing their first four games in North Carolina, but the fifth game is when they'll meet the one team with just as much firepower: Kansas.

Memphis is terrible at the free-throw line and they were pushed around by a finesse team like Tennessee earlier in the season. Those two weaknesses will cause major problems for the Tigers as they play the very tough, very steady Pittsburgh Panthers.

Go with the hot expert on ESPN. Joe Lunardi is known on ESPN as the "bracketologist" because he normally predicts like 97-98% of the tournament bracket correctly...and he's really HOT! I mean, just look at him. This year, he predicted 100%. I figure he has a good feel for the madness this year and so I read his picks. They all made sense to me. Just don't go with Bobby Knight. He seems a little nutty to me.

In the end, I have Kansas over UCLA with Texas and UNC as the other two Final Four teams.

Moving on to smellier jock straps...

Ohio State failed to make it back to the tournament in which they finished second last year. (I feel like I write/say that a lot in the last couple of years.) Of course, the team that beat them, Florida, also did not make the field. Both teams, along with a bunch of other mediocre teams are in the NIT tournament, also known as "the fight to be #66". The Buckeyes won game one by 18 and look to have a good shot at winning a championship for once.

Where's Mizzou? I thought this was a basketball school.

In other jock straps...The Boston Red Sox almost went on strike despite an opportunity to relive Lost in Translation. The Houston Rockets finally lost a game. So, we don't have to talk about them anymore. Now we can argue about which teams LeBron James will take out on his way to his first championship.

Oh, and one more thing...

I have had to take a lot of crap for my Ohio State teams finishing second. Of course, that means that only one team each season can hold bragging rights over the Buckeyes, but we'll forget about that for now.

We (meaning The Ohio State University) actually won something...or more appropriately, someone. The nation's #1 quarterback prospect snubbed his home-state university (Penn State), an ideal offensive scheme (Oregon), and the Buckeye's bitterest rival (Michigan) to come play for Jim Tressel in Columbus. That's right. Terrelle Pryor, the best QB prospect in many years, is going to be a Buckeye.

It's a small victory, but I think it's a sign of good things to come. Now, if I could just win this damn pool.


Jake said...

Upset team: Siena.
NCAA Title: Memphis.

ks said...

(from a political junkie's perspective) FYI, both McCain and Obama's brackets have UNC going all the way. political pick or common sense? the funny thing is that these were actually published on major news sites. funny.

Lauren Kilberg said...

secretly, i wish I wasn't such a girl and could get excited about march madness. i'm highly competitive so it seems this whole bracket business would be right up my ally.

Huey said...

Your in depth strategy is air tight! I use many of the same strategies. One thing I would add is that I like to go with teams that have good guard play. In picking my upsets (some but not too many as you say), I look for just that, guard play. I love Lavender at Xavier (from Brookhaven) for example.