Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

It’s Tourney Time!

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 18, 2008

One of my favorite times of the year is almost here, the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.  Will this finally be the year a 16 seed upsets a 1? (Personally I’m rooting for Portland State against Kansas – that would more than make up for Missouri’s mediocrity this season.).  I am sane enough to realize that the odds of that happening are about the equivalent of me winning the Powerball jackpot.  Oh wait, I never have.  The odds should be better that all four number one seeds will make the Final Four, especially with this year’s talented quartet of North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, and aforementioned Kansas.  Thing is, that’s not very likely either that all four teams will go through the bracket unscathed.  See, there has never been a year where all four number one seeds have reached the Final Four, not one.  That’s what makes this event a truly unique one on the sports calendar.  You never know who is going to get hot.  We’ve seen four 15 seeds win games against 2 seeds since 1990.  We’ve seen upsets over the years the likes of Weber State over North Carolina, Bradley over Kansas, Vermont over Syracuse, Virginia Commonwealth over Duke and Bucknell over Kansas (can you tell who I like to see go down?).  My Missouri Tigers made the Elite Eight in 2002 as a 12 seed.   George Mason of course made their spectacular run two years ago to reach the Final Four as an 11 seed.  Villanova won the national title as an 8 seed in 1985, I could go on and on.  The point is, between all the buzzer beaters, fantastic finishes and upsets, it makes it virtually impossible to predict how the tournament will go.  This makes winning a bracket challenge or office pool extremely difficult.  Chances are, the winner won’t have seen a single hoops game all year or will win because they confused George Mason with George Washington.  Perhaps their alma matter happened to get hot out of nowhere.  It just becomes harder and harder every year to win that office pool.

Some will have success with the mascot theory, picking games based on who’s mascot would be more likely to win an actual fight.  This worked well for those that rode the Florida Gators the past two seasons.  Some people try crazy ideas like inverse graduation rate, famous alumni, coin flip or some other such crazy exercise.  While there is no theory that will guarantee success, there are some simple actual basketball points that can at least prevent you from finishing last in your pool or getting embarrassed.

– Remember a 16 seed has never defeated a 1 seed, so Mississippi Valley State is not bumping off UCLA, let alone advancing to the sweet 16

– As mentioned above, all four number one seeds have never made the Final Four.  Fill out your bracket accordingly.

– Keep an eye out for teams that will be enjoying home cooking, playing close to home and in front of partisan crowds.  Last year UCLA defeated top seed Kansas in the regional final in large part because they were playing in California.  Syracuse took advantage of regional games in Albany when they won the national title in 2003 as a three seed.  North Carolina will be helped immensely this year by playing their first two games in Raleigh (less than 30 minutes from their home court, the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill) and two potential regional games in Charlotte, where they just won the ACC Tournament.  Sure, they have a bracket with tough foes in Tennessee, Louisville and Notre Dame, but the hometown feeling is a huge advantage.  UCLA will play its first two games in nearby Anaheim before potentially heading to Phoenix, which isn’t that far from LA.   Texas, should they get through their first two rounds in Little Rock, will get regional games in Houston, giving them a huge edge against the South’s top seed, Memphis.  How about South Alabama, a 10 seed getting to play in Birmingham against 7 seed Butler?  To a lesser degree, Kansas and Kansas State will benefit from playing first and second round games in Omaha, just a short drive from Kansas City.  Also, 10 seed Davidson will be much more comfortable in Raleigh than their first round opponent Gonzaga, which must travel cross country.

– Don’t get sucked into picking too many upsets.  Not all of the top seeds are going to go down.  Pick your upsets in spots, but remember that by and large the better teams will be advancing deep into the tournament.  It is especially important to remember that the odds of the national champ being anything other than a top three seed is highly unlikely.

– If your alma matter or favorite team is in the tournament, try to pick with your brain instead of your heart.  That being said, feel free to pick them a round farther than you normally would if they weren’t your favorite team.  It sure worked for George Mason alums two years ago.

– Don’t get swayed by tradition rich programs with poor seeds, such as Arizona (10) and Kentucky (11) in this year’s bracket.   If a traditional power is seeded double digits, they probably didn’t have a good year by their standards and may not be your best choice for an upset pick.

– Pay attention to how teams finished the season.  Pitt, a 4 seed, won the Big East Tournament after being seeded seventh in that bracket.  Clemson, a five seed, beat Duke in the ACC semis and played North Carolina tough in all three meetings this year.   Memphis earned its top seed in part by breezing through the Conference USA tournament.  You can argue all you want about their league not being strong, but their strong run at the end of league play gives indication they’ll be up for the challenge in the NCAA Tournament.

Just remember, there is no perfect formula for picking these games.  Something will happen that is completely unexpected, it is just not possible to tell what it will be.  Above all, this tournament is fun.  If Portland State does beat Kansas, I will be on cloud nine, even if I have Kansas picked to go deep in the tournament.  If your bracket goes down in flames, don’t worry, chances are everyone else in your office is experiencing the same thing.  If they’re not, the tournament is still fun to watch for its unpredictability and excitement.  For the record, my Final Four picks are North Carolina, Georgetown, Texas and UCLA, with the Tar Heels winning their second title under Roy Williams.  You know what this means, for heaven’s sake stay away from those four teams!


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