After taking a look at my picks, I’m hating myself. Despite my belief that the Big East is a little overrated this year – still the best league, but can we stop the slobbering? – I have three Big East schools in the Final Four. And two more in the Elite Eight. Blech.
As I look at the brackets, this feels like one of those wide-open tournaments that comes along every so often. There are a handful of teams that are above the rest, but each of them has a serious flaw that is easy to exploit. UConn’s guards. UNC’s inability to guard anyone. Pitt’s depth. Louisville’s system.* And so on.
(I’m a firm believer that teams that press more than occasionally can not win the NCAA championship. It was one thing for UNLV or Arkansas to do it 15-20 years ago. But those teams A) were freakishly talented to begin with and B) college basketball wasn’t nearly as athletic then as it is now. Pretty much every team had a couple slow white guys who couldn’t handle pressure. Now, not only are the white guys fast, but they’ve been playing AAU ball since they were 10 and are comfortable going up-and-down for 40 minutes. I think the press is best used now as something to either get you back in a game when you’ve fallen behind or to throw the other team some different looks. But that’s just me.)
That said, I can’t see something really crazy like a five or six seed coming through to win it. There’s a fairly large pool this year of teams that have a legitimate chance to win it all, but that pool is still, at best, only 16 teams deep.
In other words, I’m not terribly confident in any of my picks, although I do have Pitt winning it all.
KU going out early last week helped with my mellow fan plan quite a bit. I didn’t read much of the pre-bracket speculation, or watch much of the ESPN previews. Thus, I avoided my annual annoyance that comes when reading about where people think KU should go. I’ve avoided a lot of the post-coverage, too. I’ve read some, so I understand that North Dakota State is a popular first round upset pick. And I also understand that a lot of people in the know think KU got screwed A) on their seed and B) on where they were slotted. In years past, my blood pressure would be way up over those things, crafting counter-arguments and forwarding links with subject lines like “Another KU-hating Idiot.” This year, I’m just waiting for the games and hoping we play well, win or lose.
It would be nice to get a win. It would be great to get two wins. If we advance to the Sweet 16, odds are I’ll see my first ever KU NCAA game in person, since they’ll be here in Indy and I know a lot of people who will be coming to town for those games. But that’s a long way away.
But this year has already been more than I expected. I can’t ask for anything more.
Hell, I even picked against KU in the second round in all my brackets. I think the Woof Gods and Basketball Lords see through such transparent acts, but it is always good to throw them the occasional sacrifice. If it doesn’t help this year, it might help down the road. Say when we are down nine with 2:00 to play, or need a three to tie with :06 remaining. I guess some might argue I’m giving thanks for last year. Fair enough.
So bring on the Bison. Yikes, Bison? Bucknell were the Bison. Bradley. Baylor. Blech. At least it’s not Butler.