Friday, March 20, 2009

First-Round Friday: How's Your Bracket?

How does your bracket look? It leads today's SN column (loaded with Friday AND Saturday game previews and more), and is the question of the moment.

I go back and forth about the whole "Do I really care about YOUR fantasy team?" (I generally like hearing about it.) But about brackets, I can't get enough: I'll ask anyone, and I really want to know.

I went 13-3. As usual, I am kicking myself for the misses more than congratulating myself for the hits.

Picking Butler over LSU? (But didn't Butler nearly lose at home to Northwestern? Should have been my tip-off.)

Picking BYU over Texas A&M? Seduced by the MWC at-largeness and discounting -- wrongly -- the Big 12.

And, yeesh: I might not be big on the Big Ten this year, but since when is Clemson EVER a clutch Tournament team? (As opposed to savvy Tournament coach John Bielein.)

But missing 8/9 games is forgiveable -- who expects them to last past the weekend? Same with the Clemson-Michigan winner; that team was losing tomorrow to Oklahoma anyway.

Now, all week I have been bemoaning the UCLA-VCU quandary. I'm in the tank for both teams. I ended up picking UCLA, based on the three straight Final Fours. Picking them to the Elite Eight, actually. So a lot was on the line.

It turned out to be the best game of the day -- a nail-biter. I cannot think of a better way for it to end than Darren Collison -- the epitome of the "three Final Four" experience -- forcing VCU superstar Eric Maynor into a game-breaking miss at the buzzer. Fitting.

I feel bad for VCU. I said this in the column, and I believe it: It was a very very very tough match-up for them. I think VCU could/would have beaten ANY team seeded 2 through 10 in this field. Sometimes, the draw is everything.

Meanwhile, I hesitate to preen, but after watching the Philly appetizer -- Villanova wearing down fiesty American -- I think folks who assumed Nova would waltz through their hometown into the Sweet 16 might be mistaken.

And I think Gonzaga -- if they get by Western Kentucky, obviously -- will give UNC a hell of a game. The Zags play with a sizeable chip on their shoulder; they are kind of d'bags, actually. Not in the Duke way, but more in the "We know we're good" way. See Pargo's posterizing.

Of the games today, the one I'm watching most closely is West Virginia vs. Dayton. I have the 'Eers going to the Elite Eight, but they may not make it out of Round One. Mizzou-Cornell should be a fun one.

Speaking of which: Did you check out Nate Silver's projections? He bases them on Pomeroy's gold-standard analysis and a few other CBB quant guys. What is interesting is that it seems to bear out my bullishness on both West Virginia and UCLA making the Elite Eight. (And I think if Gonzaga wasn't matched up with UNC, they would be in the Elite Eight, too. Who knows: As I said above, the Zags have the swag to KO the Tar Heels. But it's nice to know the stats back up my "gut.")

And the Big Ten can salvage a very positive first round if Wisconsin beats Florida State, which I think they will. Why? Tempo. Wisconsin's system is very hard to prepare for -- Bo Ryan is a Top 10 "Tournament coach" -- and the Badgers will dictate the tempo.

What happened when Florida State played another Big Ten team that played a slow-it-down tempo like Wisco? Northwestern clocked them by 14.

Complete SN column here
. Mid-day check-ins coming based on game results.

Just remember: It really doesn't matter how many wins you rack up over these first two days. What really matters is how many Elite Eight (and presumably Final Four) teams you have left standing, both after today and on Monday morning.

-- D.S.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I'm at 100% after day one. I fully expect to tank.