The Kentucky Hootenanny, er, NCAA Tournament, kicks off this week and, as usual, we’ve spent literally seconds poring over the match-ups to give you analysis every bit as good as you’d get from a random drunk guy at your local sports bar. In other words, that ten bucks a month you’re paying is for the analysis and insight you get from Dave Woods’s football coverage. This is the more like the free “drink” you get while playing the tables in Vegas. Watered down, late and nowhere close to satisfying.
Now that I’ve created the appropriate level of enthusiasm and anticipation, here’s exactly how this thing will go down over the next three weeks.
I’m looking at the brackets on ESPN and it says Kentucky plays the winner of Ham/Man. I’m assuming those are abbreviations for school names, but I don’t care enough to click on the links to find out the actual names. Out on a limb…Kentucky advances. Cincinnati/Purdue in the 8/9 game and we’ll go with Matt Painter and the Boilermakers (no, that’s not the name of a band – that’s Purdue). West Virginia plays Buffalo in the 5/12 game and I remember at least one of the 67 prognosticators I heard in the last two days said Buffalo. That’s good enough for me. Maryland vs. Valparaiso in the 4/13 game and, serious bball note here: Melo Trimble can play. Take the Terps. Butler vs. Texas is a tough call in the 6/11 game. Tough, that is, unless you have a foolproof system like I do (go with every team that beat UCLA this season). Bulldogs advance. Notre Dame knocks off Northeastern in the 3/14 game, Wichita State takes care of Indiana in the 7/10 and Kansas has no trouble with New Mexico State in the 2/15 game.
Kentucky…Purdue….any questions? Buffalo falls victim to the Melo Trimble Show and Maryland moves on. Remember what I said about my system for taking teams that beat the Bruins? We’re only using that system when in doubt. No doubt about Notre Dame knocking off Butler. I hate when I read bracket projections and they just go with the chalk. For that reason only, I’ve got Wichita State beating #2 seed Kansas (yeah, don’t be betting the mortgage on these picks).
Kentucky plays Maryland in the Sweet 16 in Cleveland and that’s not far enough from Lexington to keep 20,000 drunken Wildcat fans from finding the way there. Wildcats cruise to an easy win. Notre Dame plays Wichita State in the other Midwest Sweet 16 game and I’d really like the Shockers’ chances to shock if they had the same team from last year. But I’m pretty sure they’ll have to play with this year’s group, so Notre Dame moves on. Kentucky against the Irish in the Elite eight game and I keep hearing analysts say that you need to make X number of three-pointers if you want to beat the Wildcats. But I can’t remember what X is. 12? 112? Whatever the number, Notre Dame doesn’t make enough of them and Kentucky goes to Indy.
Wisconsin rolls over Coastal Carolina in the 1/16 game and Oregon gets past Oklahoma State in the 8/9 game. Arkansas has no problem with Wofford in the 5/12 game and UNC faces Harvard in the 4/13 game. Harvard has a bunch of smart kids that go to class, while UNC has very tall basketball players. I like UNC’s chances. BYU beats Mississippi to earn the right to lose to Xavier on Thursday. Baylor blows out Georgia State in the 3/14 game, while VCS wins a tough one over Ohio State in the 7/10 game. Arizona plays something called “TXS0” (Texaco South?) in the 2/15 match-up and we’ll confidently go with the Wildcats.
Wisconsin has talent, coaching, depth and toughness, while Oregon has…the guys that didn’t get kicked off the team. I like the Badgers. The UNC/Arkansas game is a tough call. Good thing we’ve got a system to fall back on – ‘Heels in a squeaker. I have no idea who wins between Xavier and Baylor, so we’ll go with the team from the better conference. Baylor moves on. VCU has Shaka Smart and Arizona has fans that misspell Wildcat. But this isn’t a spelling contest, so Arizona survives.
Wisconsin takes on UNC in the Sweet 16 game and the key to any good system is knowing when to ignore it. On Wisconsin. Brandon Ashley is starting to look like Brandon Ashley, which means Arizona rolls over Baylor. Wisconsin/Arizona is a terrific Elite Eight game and it’ll be played at Staples Center. Just a reminder for those of you local fans that didn’t get to see any good college basketball in person this season. I love watching Wisconsin play, so much so that I’ll ignore my normal rule of rooting for Pac-12 teams in the tournament. Wisconsin advances to the Final Four.
Duke easily takes care of the winner of UNF/RMU in the 1/16 game. I know some of you will feel a compulsion to go find out what those initials stand for but, trust me, it doesn’t matter. Let it go. San Diego State plays Steve Lavin in the 8/9 game and, yes, that’s how I always refer to any game that St. John’s is involved in. The other team is always playing against Lav. Big shocker – the Aztecs win this one. Utah plays F. Murray Abraham (or is it Stephen F. Austin?) in the 5/12 game. I love watching Delon Wright play and that’s a good enough reason to go with the Utes. Eastern Washington pulls off an upset of Georgetown in the 4/13 game. I’m going with UCLA to get past SMU in spite of the Larry Brown/Steve Alford mismatch. I think the Kevon Loony/whoever-plays-power-forward-for-SMU mismatch is probably more important. Iowa State drills UAB and Iowa takes out Davidson. Gonzaga gets to play North Dakota State in Seattle and that just means the Zags win by 25 instead of 15. Damn, there are a lot of games in this tournament.
San Diego State struggles to score, and Duke doesn’t, so we have to watch Coach K get every call for at least one more week. Utah has no problem rolling over Eastern Washington. I wish I could pick the Bruins to upset Iowa State, but the Cyclones are a really bad match-up for the Bruins. Good luck in the NBA, Norman and Kevon. Gonzaga easily takes care of Iowa to move on.
Utah meets Duke in a battle of Coach Ks and I’m going with the one that isn’t the most annoying coach on the planet. Iowa State faces Gonzaga in a great Sweet 16 game and our system says Coach Few advances. Utah and Gonzaga play in the Elite Eight and this time the Zags exorcise the ghosts of Luc, Farmar and Gus Johnson. Zags advance to the Final Four.
Villanova becomes the first 1 seed to ever lose when Lafayette pulls off the upset. No, not really….just wanted to see if you were still paying attention. I like LSU to knock off North Carolina St. in the 8/9 game. Former Bruin assistant, and all around nice guy, Scott Duncan, is now at Wyoming. But that’s not enough reason for me to go against Northern Iowa in the 5/12 game. Louisville gets past UC Irvine in the 4/12 game. Boise State gets past Dayton in a play-in game, but falls to Providence in the 6/11 game. Oklahoma blows out Albany in the 3/14 match-up. Michigan State is under-seeded as a 7 and the Spartans roll over Georgia. Virginia, like Wisconsin, is another really fun team to watch and the Cavaliers coast to an easy win over Belmont in the 2/15 game.
Villanova hasn’t done much in the tournament lately, so it feels like the right time for them to go on a run and the Wildcats take care of LSU. Louisville isn’t close to the same team without Chris Jones and Northern Iowa sends Rick Pitino packing. Providence didn’t play UCLA this season, but Oklahoma did and the Sooners cruise. Michigan State is better than their seven seed, but Tony Bennett has the better team and Virginia takes out the Spartans.
Villanova beats Northern Iowa in the Sweet Sixteen game and Jay Wright starts trending on the BRO board. When Virginia beats Oklahoma, we have a 378-post thread on the board debating the merits of Wright/Bennett as the next coach at UCLA. Bennett backers claim “victory” when Virginia wins to reach the Final Four.
My head says Kentucky goes all the way to 40-0, but my heart says Wisconsin. Badgers upset the Wildcats to reach the final game. Virginia's defense slows down Gonzaga and the Cavaliers win a tight one in the other semifinal. Thus we get a final with two teams playing great team basketball. Wisconsin takes the title.
Hicks' Semi-Serious Tourney Prediction
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