By Chris Le
Almost everyone, even the most avid of NBA and NFL fans, agrees that March Madness never fails to entertain and is undoubtedly the king of all postseasons. It’s only in this one-and-done tournament that Cinderellas are expected, where the Davids of the basketball world have their best chance of slaying Goliath. Because it’s not about being the best team, it’s about being the better team in one particular game on one specific night. And as the saying goes, anyone can be beaten on any given day. But ironically, this inherent systematic flaw of not (always) determining the finest team also happens to be its greatest appeal.
Here are some specific thoughts on this year’s Madness…
The Weak Field: It’s nice to see the traditional powers at the top again, but they aren’t quite what they used to be in their heyday. The number one ranking has exchanged hands at least five times this season, and there doesn’t appear to be a large gap between the top seeds and the rest of the field. This year’s tournament is clearly absent of a truly dominant, potentially great team in the bunch like a ’07 Florida or ’01 Duke.
The Toughest Region: Most people see the road through Charlotte in the East as the most grueling; and I’ll agree with those who think it’s the most stocked, from 1 through 16. The Midwest isn’t too far behind either. But I’m taking the South because its top 4 seeds (Memphis, Texas, Stanford, and a scorching Pittsburgh) trump those of any other region. Plus, (6) Marquette and (10) Saint Mary’s might be undervalued with their seedings.
The Easiest Region: Without question, the Western Region is the easiest to navigate. UCLA, which spearheads this group, is clearly a force, but everyone else is miles behind, with Duke and Xavier as possibly the weakest 2- and 3-seeds, respectively, in the entire tournament. UConn, with 7’3” Hasheem Thabeet, may be the Bruins’ only high hurdle in their path to the Final Four.
I got four first round upsets to look out for:
(10) Davidson over (7) Gonzaga in a Midwest match up that could be the best opening round game in the tourney. This is an even match, as I see Davidson being under-ranked at 10. Remember, they played Duke, UNC, and UCLA pretty close early in the season despite losing.
(12) Temple over (5) Michigan State in the South. Michigan State is overrated, and I’ve seen too many cold nights by Drew Neitzel to fully trust them. Plus, a 12-seed over a 5-seed is almost expected nowadays.
(10) Saint Mary’s over (7) Miami in the South. This might be a case of one team getting a higher seed because it plays in a power conference and the other team is punished because it plays in the WCC. This is a toss-up game really.
(10) Arizona over (7) West Virginia in the West. Everyone is on the Mountaineers’ jock, and almost as many people are questioning Arizona even being in the tournament. But I’m expecting Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless, the Wildcats’ guard who has been as good as any freshman not named Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, to bring their A-games.
The rest of the brackets should go as expected, higher seeds winning…except: Texas over Memphis in the Southern Elite Eight and Tennessee over UNC in the East. And I was close to picking Pittsburgh over Memphis. I have a gut feeling about that one, though my head eventually won out, so I’m still going with Memphis.
UNC def. Washington State
Tennessee def. Louisville
Kansas def. Clemson
Georgetown def. USC
Memphis def. Pittsburgh
Texas def. Stanford
UCLA def. UConn
Duke def. Xavier
Tennessee def. UNC
Kansas def. Georgetown
Texas def. Memphis
UCLA def. Duke
Kansas def. Tennessee
UCLA def. Texas
UCLA def. Kansas