Forecasting the NCAA Tournament

It's time to go Dancing again, so Greg Hicks takes you out for his annual spin on the NCAA Tournament. It's facetious and tongue-in-cheek, and only for entertainment purposes only, but it's not that far-fetched that some of this couldn't happen...

March Madness is upon us and the 2011 field is already being anointed as the worst one in the history of college basketball. Gives you goose bumps, huh? In spite of the lack of quality teams in college basketball, they've decided to hold the tournament anyway. Something about billions of dollars, contracts, etc. Tracy asked me to write my annual take on the tourney and I politely declined, since I figured this would be a great time to catch up on the eight unseen episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter on my TiVo. Then he mentioned something about hundreds of dollars, contracts, etc. and I had a change of heart. So pay close attention, as 83.6% of the following is guaranteed to happen.

WEST REGION

Duke beats Hampton Inn and Kyle Singler announces that, regardless of what happens in the rest of the tournament, he will return for a fifth season next year. "Coach K said I'm not quite ready for the league yet," says Singler. An NCAA official goes deep into the rule book to find that, yes, apparently there is a fifth-year eligibility rule exception for players that Coach K deems as "not quite ready for the league." Michigan knocks off Tennessee when Bruce Pearl does something stupid, Arizona beats Memphis because the Pac-10 needs some good news and Texas stays awake long enough to take care of Oakland. UConn whacks Bucknell and I'm thinking maybe I should just go with the higher seed for the entire tournament. Or maybe not. Missouri takes out Cincinnati and Penn State beats Temple because that Owl zone defense hasn't been the same since Bill Cosby stopped coaching there. Six thousand drunken San Diego State fans invade Tucson to watch the Aztecs crush Northern Colorado.

In the second round, Michigan upsets Duke because the tournament is so much more fun when Duke gets knocked out early. Arizona dismantles Texas and keeps alive the hope of an all Pac-10 Final Four. UConn beats Missouri and I inform my daughter that, boy or girl, my first grandchild shall be named Kemba. San Diego State takes care of Penn State and I'm reminded of what Aztec assistant coach Brian Dutcher told me last summer – "when in doubt, go with athleticism." Words to live by, coach.

In the regional semis in Anaheim, MoMo Jones is more like NoNo, but Derrick Williams rescues Arizona and the Wildcats beat Michigan to advance to the Elite Eight. Six thousand San Diego State fans miss the game when they're too drunk to find their way off Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland, but the Aztecs win anyway in a thriller over UConn. San Diego State beats Arizona to advance to the Final Four and forever removes the label of being a "football school."

SOUTHEAST REGION

Pitt blows out the winner of some game I won't be watching Tuesday night and Old Dominion gets past Butler. Utah State beats Kansas State after Stew Morrill reminds his team that Colorado did it three times this year ("how hard can it be?"). Wisconsin rips Belmont and BYU does the same to Wofford. St. John's loses to Gonzaga, but not before Mike Dunlap resigns prior to the game when Steve Lavin asks him if the Zags play man or zone. UCLA has a surprisingly easy win over Michigan State and Florida gets by UC Santa Barbara in a squeaker.

Pitt shoots 12% from the field, but wins anyway when they grab 36 more rebounds than Old Dominion. Wisconsin is too good for Utah State and BYU moves past Gonzaga when Jimmer Fredette drops sixty. My daughter threatens to never speak to me again when I ask how long I have to wait for Kemba Jimmer Hicks. UCLA gets past Florida when the Bruins realize that this Gator frontline is nothing like Noah, Horford and Brewer. Pitt plays in the best league in the country. Wisconsin doesn't. Panthers advance. Malcolm Lee isn't the same with an injured knee and things look bleak for the Bruins when Jimmer gets 25 in the first half. But Reeves Nelson raises his hand in the locker room at halftime and says, "I'll take him coach." Fortunately, Coach Howland says "no, that's a bad idea." Tyler Lamb locks up Jimmer in the second half and the Bruins advance to the Elite Eight. A motivated Nelson out-rebounds the entire Pitt frontline by himself and UCLA gets to Coach Howland's fourth Final Four.

SOUTHWEST REGION

Kansas easily handles Boston U., while UNLV defeats Illinois. Richmond beats Vanderbilt and it only seems like the 12 seeds are undefeated against the 5 seeds in every game for the last seven years. Louisville blows out Morehead State and five BRO posters wish that Rick Pitino would come to Westwood. Purdue has no trouble with St. Peters and USC's game against VCU is delayed for 45 minutes when Jay Bilas sits at halfcourt and won't leave until someone explains to him how VCU got in the tourney. The Trojans eventually beat both VCU and Georgetown to advance to the second round. Texas A&M moves past Florida State and Notre Dame has no problem with Akron.

Kansas has too much size for UNLV and Richmond upsets Louisville, prompting five BRO posters to wonder why UCLA can't hire Chris Mooney. Purdue beats USC because several of you will stop reading if the Trojans advance another round. Notre Dame is from the Big East. Texas A&M…not so much. Go Irish. The Chris Mooney in Westwood era ends before it starts as Kansas knocks out Richmond and Notre Dame gets past Purdue. The Irish then remember that their fans really only care about football and Kansas wins easily to advance to the Final Four.

EAST REGION

Ohio State destroys the winner of another game I won't watch and Villanova gets its first win in 2011 with a thrashing of George Mason. Clemson wins the play in game against UAB and then knocks off West Virginia. Kentucky rolls past Princeton, Syracuse does the same to Indiana State and it just seems like the Big East is undefeated in this tournament when Marquette beats Xavier. Despite the return of Venoy Overton, Washington manages to get past Georgia and North Carolina whacks Long Island.

Villanova's one game winning streak ends against Ohio State and Kentucky starts three freshmen, a high school senior and a seventh-grader in a win over Clemson. Marquette has no answer for the Syracuse zone and North Carolina wins easily over Washington. Ohio State beats Kentucky after the NCAA denies John Calipari's argument that John Wall hasn't ended his amateur status by playing in the NBA this year. Syracuse beats North Carolina just because I want to see Roy William's postgame reaction. Ohio State then defeats Syracuse to move on to the Final Four.

FINAL FOUR

The Final Four weekend gets off to a bit of a bumpy start when the fans of the four schools arrive in Houston, take one look around and say, "oh, hell no." Veteran Final Four fans from UCLA and Kansas try to convince Buckeye and Aztec fans to petition the NCAA to move the event to San Antonio. But the effort fails when the Ohio State fans get distracted by a rumor about their third string left guard missing a couple spring football practices. And the Aztec fans, well, you know what they've been doing all week. They're in no shape to make that drive to San Antonio.

So we spend the weekend in Houston and things don't get any better when Kansas takes out the Bruins. The BRO message board is riddled with posts about Coach Howland "once again, underachieving in the Final Four." Ohio State blows out San Diego State and then wins a thriller over Kansas to take home the title.


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