This is the best week in sports. Starting this Thursday 64 teams
representing all D-I college conferences will start playing for the
national championship. The winner will almost certainly not be the
best team in the nation, the nature of a single elimination tournament
holds great teams accountable for one off night. However it will be a
great series of games and the first weekend is just always a ton of
fun. Most of you have already filled out brackets in your newspapers
online. Some time either today or tomorrow someone at the office will
come by and you will sign up for some pools and such. Inevitably some
good teams will lose, some small schools will rise up, and the Big 10
will "disappoint' (except no one outside of the media and the fans of
the Big 10 teams expects them to win). Thursday and Friday are filled
with 32 games, 16 each day, and productivity across the nation dies off
as a result. Saturday and Sunday a few smaller schools will win your
hearts by making the Sweet Sixteen. By next Monday most of your
brackets will have been busted, and
someone that doesn't follow sports and picked based on color schemes
and mascots will win your money. By next Thursday you will be sick of
hearing the same 4 or 5 human interest stories over and over that you
will be secretly rooting against the mid majors they are talking about
and by the end of next weekend they will all be eliminated in favor of
4 big schools that make up the Final Four. And that's the beauty of
the Tournament in a nutshell. So here's yet another opinion on who to
pick and who to root for and I'm sure all this info will be wrong.
Beware picking all the #1 seeds. Yes, I know they all made it to the Final Four last year. but that was the only time that has ever happened. It's not going to happen again any time soon. However, don't pick against all four teams either. Usually one or two make the Final Four, so pick accordingly.
Gonzaga has disappointed every year. They always seem like they are ready to make a run, and they always come up short. You should take this into account. I have them making the Elight Eight, but I'm a moron. Do not follow my example. Know they will likely lose to someone in the first two rounds or to UNC in the Sweet Sixteen. Do not be sucked in like I am every year. It's too late for me, but there's hope for you guys.
Good coaches tend to get their teams deep in the tournament. Great college players and teams aren't necessarily the guys you are going to see dominating in the NBA. Look at the top players in the NBA and then think about how many have NCAA titles over the last 20 years. Look at the Final Fours over the same time period and see how many times guys like Roy Williams and Coach K have been there. Good college coaches get their teams deep in the tournament most years. That's what makes them good coaches. Teams with good college players make it deep in the tournament each year, that's what makes them good college players. Tyler Hanborough and Rick Pitino may suck in the NBA, but they are great in college. Do not ignore that.
Teams with seeds lower than 5 or 6 don't make the Final Four. We all remember the great run by George Mason a few years ago, but that doesn't happen except once every 20 years or so. Yes, in theory every team could win, but in practice the top 5 or 6 seeds make the Final Four, and usually it's a bunch of 1-4 seeds. If you add up the seeds of your Final Four picks and it's less than 6 or more than 12, you should rethink your picks. Less than 6, and you don't have enough upsets. Higher than 12 and you have too many. Go back and look at previous years and with a few exceptions, this is true. Do not ignore that.
Exciting athletic teams are great in the first weekend, but veteran leadership tends to help in the later rounds. Yes teams have won with superstar freshmen or sophomores, but most of the time they have some juniors or seniors around them. Or they have sophomores that actually played in the tourney as freshmen. Do not pick super young teams exclusively. Veterans know how to get things done. A team like Memphis that was there last year, even if they lost a lot of key guys, has some experience and could make a run. UNC and Duke also fit this mold.
And that's just about all I got. As for some specific predictions, here's a couple. My Final Four is Duke, Louisville, Memphis, and OU. That adds up to 7 and has one #1 seed and three #2 seeds. I picked UNC to lose to Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen mainly because Lawson is hurt and the Zags beat them a couple years ago. Dayton, Utah St, and Western Kentucky all have Cinderella potential as double digit seeds. Mississippi St has the best defensive forward in college basketball. Butler, Siena, Utah, and Xavier are all capable of winning some games as smaller schools with single digit seeds. Memphis is my pick to win the title.
So all of you should read that last paragraph and pick the exact opposite outcomes.