Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday 03/17 A.M. Quickie:
Brackets, Play-In, Bryce Brown, More

Today's SN column leads with the annual Tuesday-of-NCAA-Tournament-week lamentation: Second-guessing your biggest bracket reaches.

I am fairly unrepentant (for now) about picking UNC not to win the South -- instead picking Syracuse.

I am fairly unrepentant (for now) about picking Duke to lose in the opening weekend -- they are a better team this year than the past two, but still: Unproven as anything but March chokers.

I am also fairly unrepentant (for now) about picking Villanova to lose in the opening weekend, despite the Wildcats playing the game in Philadelphia.

Where I am stuck is over which team will be the one to beat Nova: UCLA or VCU? For now, I have UCLA beating VCU -- and even advancing to the Elite Eight.

(Click here for a full rundown of my picks from my Wall Street Journal column yesterday.)

I have no problem picking the winner of that game to the Elite Eight. If they weren't playing each other, I would probably pick both teams to the Elite Eight.

Where I am stuck is picking UCLA over VCU. The Bruins were my favorite to win it all last year, and I obviously remain awestruck at their three-years-running Final Four streak.

(I'm not trying to crawl inside my head too much here -- although, again, that's the annual tradition today -- but I wonder whether I keep picking UCLA as some sort of fading reflection of the Florida title teams in 2006 and 2007, who faced UCLA in those Final Fours.)

But, as I wrote a two weeks ago, I'm in the tank for Anthony Grant, who I think is the best young coach in America. I think Eric Maynor is awesome, and they have this young center who could dominate -- don't forget the way they dispatched Duke two years ago and nearly beat Pitt.

Against virtually any other team (outside the No. 1 seeds), I would pick VCU and not look back. But against UCLA -- Ben Howland is the best Tournament coach in the country -- it's the one match-up where I pick against VCU. I don't buy this UCLA-travels-2700-miles thing.

So it's UCLA over VCU for now, although I may kick myself about it on Thursday -- when the team I don't pick in that game streaks to the Elite Eight, I will try to find a way to enjoy it anyway.

More in today's column: Jay Cutler soap opera... Thunder rising... Vols recruiting coup... WBC gets even more ludicrous... and More.

-- D.S.

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