I guess its time to talk about college hoops
Well, football is over. I’m starting to come to terms with the loss of the NFL for another 6 months or so. Baseball doesn’t really start to get interesting for another 6 weeks. And while the NBA Playoffs, especially out west, will be interesting, the Bulls are an abortion and the association is almost worth ignoring until April or May.
So that leaves me with college hoops.
I really am not a college basketball expert, but I have a strategy when it comes to deciding who I am going to pick in my brackets come March. Around this time, after football, I start watching some games and making determinations about which teams I really like. I pick one of these teams, and although I reserve the right to change my mind after the conference tournaments, usually I end up riding that team all the way through my bracket predictions.
Two years ago, after watching them play a couple times, I decided that Florida would be that team. They got hot in late February and early March, won the SEC tourney, went into the NCAAs as a 3 or 4 seed, and eventually won the title. I picked them in all my brackets. The same happened back when Arizona won it in 1997.
I hate picking the favorites. Sometimes, I’ll pick a number one seed to go all the way–like in 2005 when North Carolina beat Illinois. It was obvious that those two teams were the best in the country, and I picked them to make the final. But I felt dirty about it. ‘Hey, you picked the number one and number two ranked teams to go the distance, huh? What an expert! Did you stay up late analyzing tape for two months in order to come up with that conclusion?’ I’d much rather pick a 3-6 seed and have a small chance to look like I know what I’m talking about. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to pick a 1 seed just because I want to look smart. If I think a ‘1’ is far and away the best team in the country, I’m gonna ride them.
Anyway, here are the teams I am watching now. Not all of them are ‘longshots’, but these are the teams which have caught my eye so far:
—Memphis (#1, 21-0): Yeah, I know. But I liked the Tigers at the beginning of the season. They were returning a large part of a group that had a great 2007 season, and they added Chicagoan Derrick Rose, who is just a beast.
—Tennessee (#7, 19-2): The Vols are one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation. They are deep and play a wild, up-tempo game on both ends of the court. If they get the guard play it takes to go deep into the tourney out of Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, they’ll be a really tough out.
—Michigan State (#11, 19-3): Every year, especially when the Big Ten seems down, one of the league’s teams makes it to the Elite 8 or Final 4. This year, that team will be the Spartans, Wisconsin, or Indiana. Out of those three, I like Michigan State. Tom Izzo is the best coach in the country, in my opinion, and the Spartans play an ugly and rough game which translates well into March. Also, I love Raymar Morgan.
—Notre Dame (#22, 16-4): It would be ironic that what is seemed as such a bleak period in Irish sports, with the football team sucking like Gianna, that the hoops team comes out of nowhere and makes a run. Notre Dame has three top-level players, Luke Harangody, Kyle McAlarney, and Rob Kurz, but may lack the depth it takes to win multiple tourney games.
—Mississippi (unranked, 16-4): Listen, I have a hard-on for SEC sports. Not only are almost all the teams good in football, basketball, and even baseball, but the weather is awesome for the most part, and the women in the stands are ridiculous (check out the website SEC Poon for proof). This Rebels team probably won’t be more than a 6-8 seed in the tourney, and they are under .500 at this point in conference. But they played Tennessee really tough on the road, and Dwayne Curtis in the middle is a solid post presence.
So, there you go. There are other teams which I obviously like (Duke, N. Carolina, Georgetown) because everyone likes them, and there are other teams who are in the Top 20 and I have yet to see play but yet I like what I see on paper (Stanford, Drake, Arizona). Plus, USC intrigues me, mostly because of O.J. Mayo.
If I had to pick a bracket right now, I’d be taking the Volunteers to go all the way. But there is still 6 weeks and a lot of basketball before I make that decision. Lord. 6 weeks. Maybe I should back into ‘Lost.’