Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Random Bracket Thoughts

Don’t Know Much About Geography
Why was the top overall seed Florida not placed in the East or South? The Midwest is closer! Just ask an illiterate 3rd grader. Oh wait, according to Google maps it is 885 miles from Gainesville to St. Louis. Meanwhile, it is over 1000 miles from Gainesville to East Rutherford and San Antonio. Who knew?

More Bracket Busters
The made for ESPN event may have occurred two weeks ago, but the NCAA tournament committee decided to schedule a few more games:

Butler vs Old Dominion
Creighton vs Nevada
S. Illinois vs Holy Cross
BYU vs Xavier

(OK, for the record the MWC and A10 do not participate in the bracket busters, but it looks like a mid-major match-up to me.) What fun is this? The whole joy of the first round of the tournament is rooting for these teams to upset the teams from the major conferences!

Picking Your Bracket
You’ve heard it all before. Pick a few 12 seeds to pull upsets. Pick the teams with long winning streaks to go far. This year, the key to winning the tournament may be more subtle: Pick the Winner! Since the national champion has never been higher than an 8 seed, let us break down the top 32.

The Favorites
Unlike most years, when there is clearly one favorite that is picked on more than half of the tournament pool sheets, I expect that 7 teams will receive a significant number of national championship votes.
1 Florida
1 North Carolina
1 Ohio St.
1 Kansas
2 Georgetown
3 Texas A&M
These are seven of the eight teams with the best efficiency margins. Wisconsin is also one of the top 8 teams, but the injury to Brian Butch hurts their chances.

Playing Better Lately
Looking for this year’s Florida, a team that was in the middle of the pack before playing better at the end of the year?
3 Oregon
4 Maryland
5 Tennessee
6 Louisville
Last year Florida won the SEC tournament and earned a 3 seed. This year Oregon won the Pac 10 tournament and earned a 3 seed. Maryland won 7 straight ACC games, beating Duke twice and UNC, before losing in the ACC tournament. Tennessee played much better after the return of Chris Lofton from injury. Louisville started playing better after Derrick Caracter returned to the lineup.

Playing Worse Lately
7 Indiana
8 Kentucky
Indiana seems to have lost its offensive explosiveness while losing 5 of the last 10. Kentucky lost 6 of the last 10.

These teams won’t lose early, but won’t win it all either.
2 Wisconsin
3 Pittsburgh
These teams have two tremendous coaches who always seem to have senior laden and deep teams that can play with anyone. But while I think coaching ability can get a team to the Sweet Sixteen, I think it takes individual talent to reach the national championship game. While no one can doubt the heart of players like Tucker of Wisconsin and Graves of Pittsburgh, I’m not sure they can match the NBA talent of the other favorites. You could argue that Texas A&M should be in this same category, but given the clutch shooting of Acie Law, they are a step above.

These teams could lose in the first round, or pull a string of upsets. If you can figure these teams out and pick the national champions, you should be in good shape to win your pool.
5 Virginia Tech
5 Butler
6 Notre Dame
6 Vanderbilt
8 Arizona
Vanderbilt can beat anyone when they hit their 3’s, but on an off-night they are an ugly basketball team.

Not Enough Defense
4 Virginia
7 Nevada
7 BC
Many of the unpredictable teams could also be listed in this category. These teams had good seasons, but their defensive ratings are not high enough to make a deep run.

Not Enough Offense to win it all
3 Washington St.
4 Southern Illinois
6 Duke
8 Marquette
Eventually these teams are going to have a long offensive drought that will knock them out of the tournament, but they might do some serious damage in the meantime.

Who knows?
2 Memphis
Memphis hasn’t played an RPI top 50 teams since losing to Arizona in December which makes them hard to evaluate.

Soooo close
4 Texas
Texas has played in some of the most memorable basketball games this season, but almost always seems to end up on the losing side against the elite teams. If Durant were playing with some other veteran players, I think he would win the national title easily. But, starting alongside 3 other freshmen, the team just seems to make too many mistakes to be a true favorite.

More random bracket thoughts tommorrow!