Enjoy the fun. My picks will come either tomorrow or Wednesday, when I think some more about the match-ups and read a few more insight pieces to figure out how I’ll fill mine out. I do have some strong feelings about who will still be alive when the show hits Detroit on the first weekend of April. Meanwhile, Erich Doerr takes a more numbers-based look at the brackets. As he states, don’t go gambling with these picks. The numbers don’t guarantee anything!
As for yesterday’s selection of the teams, I thought the committee mostly got it right. Arizona vs. St. Mary’s was obviously a tough call, but I do think Arizona was a better team (even though they finished the regular season poorly), not least because they beat the likes of Washington and Gonzaga (who actually beat St. Mary’s three times in the West Coast Conference regular-season and tournament). But it’s still amazing to see the once mighty Wildcats as a #12 seed, which ironically may be a good thing. 5-12 games normally produce at least one upset a year, and Utah seems like a good candidate for that dubious fate. The Utes lost to Oklahoma and beat both LSU and Gonzaga this season, but Arizona’s schedule has probably made them even more battle tested.
Syracuse might be a little overrated at #3 in the South. That one jumped out at me because obviously their Big East tournament run got them the high seed. While they should win their first round game for the first time since 2005, I’m not sure they’d be a lock to beat Arizona State or even Temple. We won’t know until they hit the court on Friday afternoon what their condition is after last week. If they can play at their peak, though, you might see the Orange playing UNC the following weekend in the regional final.
Congratulations to North Dakota State for getting Kansas, Cal State Northridge playing Memphis, and Binghamton for drawing Duke. None of those schools will be favored to pull off the shocker, nor should they be. Even Tony Kornheiser (a Binghamton alum) predicted a Duke victory. But just as in the FA Cup, if you’re likely to be going home early, and your only way to make the Dance was to win your conference tournament, you might as well get to play a name-brand team. For guys not on their way to the pros, this coming Thursday or Friday could be the pinnacle of their athletic lives. Yet hey, maybe this will happen again. After all, North Dakota State’s nickname is the Bison! Even as a Colgate alum, I was pretty impressed by that upset. Then they did it again a year later, this time to Arkansas.
Regardless, have fun gentlemen. You’ve earned it.