It's that time of year, ladies and gentlemen! The single greatest post-season in all of sports! I'm speaking of course, about the NCAA Tournament. And as the Madness ensues, everyone from your best friend to your high school librarian will be filling out a bracket in hopes of picking the National Champion. Did you think I would be any different? So without any further a do, here's my take (and hopefully the 100% correct take) on the 2011 NCAA Tourney!
*For the sake of simplicity in writing, below I have my picks for all of the first round games (separated by region) as well as my Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four listed at the bottom. I have indeed filled out an entire bracket (thus leading to my final four), but I see know practical way of including my bracket in my blog. Instead, I will be making updated picks for each round as they happen, while also mentioning my original prediction. So here it goes!
1. Ohio State vs. 16. UTSA/Alabama State
Pick: Ohio State
Run-Down: Ohio State is one of the best teams in the nation and a #1 seed has never lost in the first round. Simple as that.
8. George Mason vs. 9. Villanova
Pick: George Mason
Run-Down: 'Nova is on a losing streak and George Mason has put together a pretty impressive resume. George Mason is no stranger to the Cinderella scene and I don't see them disappointing this year either.
5. West Virginia vs. 12. UAB/Clemson
Pick: West Virginia
Run-Down: First let me say that I see Clemson beating UAB in the play in game. However that's as far as my Tigers will probably go. West Virginia has yet another great team coming out of the Big East and I can see them going deep in this tourney.
4. Kentucky vs. 13. Princeton
Run-Down: As much as I love Princeton's Cinderella story beating Harvard in the Ivy League Tourney, I can't see them beating Kentucky. Kentucky is the class of the SEC. Of course they may prove me wrong, as did Cornell last year.
6. Xavier vs. 11. Marquette
Run-Down: Xavier is a great team in March. Marquette wasn't all too impressive against good teams out of conference and even though Xavier is a higher seed, they'll play with an underdog mentality.
3. Syracuse vs. 14. Indiana State
Run-Down: As much as I would love to see the Sycamores win this one, Syracuse just looks too good. Unfortunately the East does not look like the bracket for underdogs.
7. Washington vs. 10. Georgia
Run-Down: This is a great matchup. Washington is on a roll and I've always liked Isaiah Thomas in the clutch.
2. North Carolina vs. 15. Long Island
Pick: North Carolina
Run-Down: The Tar Heels are playing great and Long Island presents a big mismatch. UNC wins.
1. Duke vs. 16. Hampton
Run-Down: Again a #1 seed in the first round. Plus Duke gets to play in Charlotte and that's not even fair.
8. Michigan vs. 9. Tennessee
Run-Down: This ought to be a great game! I like Tennessee because of their resume and the way they run the court.
5. Arizona vs. 12. Memphis
Run-Down: These teams seem to match up pretty evenly. I have a really good feeling about Memphis though. That's about all there is to this pick.
4. Texas vs. 13. Oakland
Run-Down: Texas is very talented, as usual, and is probably seeded a tad lower than they deserve. The only way I see Oakland winning is if Texas comes out over-confident and looks past them (which very well may happen).
6. Cincinnati vs. 11. Missouri
Run-Down: In my opinion, Cinci is somewhat over-rated and Mizzou has a great team as usual. Tigers in the upset.
3. UConn vs. 14. Bucknell
Run-Down: Bucknell could be a problem with a home crowd and a lot of momentum. But UConn also has a great deal of momentum coming off 5 wins in 5 days and is led by one of the best players in the country in Kemba Walker.
7. Temple vs 10. Penn State
Pick: Penn State
Run-Down: Although Penn State is the bigger name, they a the underdogs in this game. However, I've really liked what I've seen of them lately. They will be playing with something to prove as it looked like they might not even make the tourney.
2. San Diego State vs. 15. Northern Colorado
Run-Down: Don't sleep on SDSU, they have a fantastic team. Look for them late in this bracket.
1. Kansas vs. 16. Boston U.
Run-Down: Sorry Boston, #1 Kansas teams never choke until the second round.
8. UNLV vs. 9. Illinois
Run-Down: UNLV looks to do well against a middle of the pack Big Ten team.
5. Vanderbilt vs. 12. Richmond
Run-Down: Richmond is a fantastic Cinderella team. They're red hot coming into the tourney and Vanderbilt, as good as they are, have a tendency to under-perform when it matters (at least whenever I've watched them).
4. Louisville vs 13. Morehead State
Run-Down: This won't be the first time the Eagles and Cards will have met in March, but the result should be much the same. However, Louisville has a tendency to live and die by the three, so if by chance the Cards go cold, watch out!
6. Georgetown vs. 11. USC/VCU
Run-Down: I've never been high on teams coming into March Madness on a losing streak and the Hoyas are no different. Plus Georgetown has been consistently disappointing in their last couple tourneys. VCU should take care of an over-rated USC team, and come into the Georgetown game extremely hot. I love the Rams in this matchup.
3. Purdue vs. 14. St. Peters
Run-Down: Purdue is always a solid pick in the early rounds of March. Also the odds are stacked heavily against a St. Peters team that hasn't been in the Big Dance in many years. Experience and Big Ten talent unfortunately wins this battle.
7. Texas A&M vs. 10. Florida State
Pick: Florida State
Run-Down: Florida State plays great defense and A&M has not particularly impressed me this year. Take the ACC team in this one.
2. Notre Dame vs. 15. Akron
Pick: Notre Dame
Run-Down: The Irish narrowly missed becoming a #1 seed this year, so they've got a great team. Looks like football is no longer king in South Bend. Sorry Zips.
1. Pittsburgh vs. 16. UNC-Asheville/Arkansas-Little Rock
Run-Down: Regardless of which little guy wins the play-in-game, their time in the tourney will be short lived. Coach Dixon (the only Horned Frog anywhere near March Madness now-a-days) has another solid Pitt squad ready to do some damage.
8. Butler vs. 9. Old Dominion
Pick: Old Dominion
Run-Down: Last year was magical for Butler, but 2011 is no longer their year. Old Dominion has a solid team and could be ready to make a serious mark.
5. Kansas State vs. 12. Utah State
Pick: Utah State
Run-Down: Utah State has been quietly dominant this year in the WAC en route to a 30-3 record. Two of their loses came to great teams early on. They are hot, they are good, and they are ready to make waves.
4. Wisconsin vs. 13. Belmont
Run-Down: Everyone has one, and this is my biggest upset pick this year. I love the Bruins to sneak up on Wisconsin in this game. They play with a ton of heart and have proved time and again they can compete with the big names. Look for this to be the game that pushes them over the edge in front of the nation.
6. St. John's vs. 11. Gonzaga
Pick: St. Johns
Run-Down: Few big conference teams are as excited to be in the dance as St. Johns. The 'Zags should have somewhat of a home-field advantage, but they have struggled a lot this year. In the end, I believe St. John's senior leadership and great coaching will take them far in this tournament.
3. BYU vs. 14. Wofford
Run-Down: BYU is simply not the team it was before Davies' suspension. Fredette will put the team on his back and get them at least to the second round, but I don't think they'll fair all too well after that.
7. UCLA vs. 10. Michigan State
Pick: Michigan State
Run-Down: You can't count out Tom Izzo and the Spartans. They could very easily surprise some people. Lucas is finally healthy and now they're coming in with a chip on their shoulder. They'll at least get to the 2nd round.
2. Florida vs. 15. UCSB
Run-Down: Florida is the better team. It would take a failure of epic proportions to lose this game.
MY SWEET 16:
San Diego State
San Diego State
Duke vs. Kansas
Can't wait to see how it plays out! That's the beauty of March Madness! Happy Bracketing!