Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness Preview

Ok, so I've been gone for over a month. Explanation? I don't really have one, other than the fact that I was seriously considering starting a podcast. But, as a few of my friends have pointed out, I have a gift for writing and people like to see what I think about sports. Therefore, for the third year in a row, here are my March Madness picks.

East Region

Teams that could go deep

Pittsburgh – I love their starting five, especially Sam Young and Dejuan Blair. Foul trouble or injuries could be a problem for this team, but if they avoid either then they should be Final Four lock.
Duke – I love the way this Duke team played down the stretch. They seem to really enjoy playing with each other, they are a solid defensive team and Gerald Henderson is a superstar.
Nova – You know Jay Wright’s teams are going to have good guard play. The difference with this team is they have good post play as well.
Teams that could fall earlyXavier – They played crappy down the stretch and aren’t really as talented as last year’s team or even the team before that.
Florida State – I can see them running out of gas after they went pretty deep in the ACC tourney.
UCLA – They aren’t as good as they normally are. Basically a live-and-die jump shooting team with one good shooter.
Mid-Major Report
VCU – They are a very popular pick to upset UCLA, which makes me a little nervous. They aren’t as deep as the VCU team from a few years ago, but Eric Maynor is even better.
Portland State – I don’t know why, but I like them.
American – They’re getting a raw deal playing Villanova in what is essentially the Wildcats home court.

Midwest Region

Teams that could go deep

Louisville – I like this team a lot. They can run, they play good defense, and they can shoot. Their only weakness is a true post presence, at least on offense, as Samardo Samuels hasn’t been as good as advertised. However, there aren’t many teams that can exploit them in the post, and none of them are in this bracket.
Wake Forest – They always play well against good teams. However, they seem to overlook some of the smaller guys which makes them susceptible for an upset. If they can avoid dropping to a low seed early, they could challenge Louisville.
West Virginia – They were probably the second or third best team in the Big East down the stretch. Look for them to make another run this year.
USC – They are the classic team that seemed to finally get it together down the stretch. Adjusted for pace, they are a top 20 defensive team and have won 5 in a row. Good down low with Taj Gibson and good on the perimeter with Daniel Hackett.
Teams that could fall early
Michigan St. – I always pick them to lose early, for whatever reason.
Kansas – I think they’ve already maxed out.
Mid-Major Report
Siena – They are a popular pick to upset Ohio State, except they are playing in Dayton. They waxed a very good Niagara team in the MAAC championship.
North Dakota State – Great offensive team + great story x underrated = recipe for an upset.
Cleveland State – They should give Wake some trouble, but I don’t seem them beating the Deacs.

South Region

Teams that could go deep

North Carolina – Same old story for the Heels; a lot of offense, just enough d. The most talented team in the country would be the favorite if it wasn’t for injuries.
Gonzaga – This team is Mark Few’s most talented team so far at Gonzaga. However, they draw UNC in the Sweet 16, which might be the only thing in their way from a Final Four berth.
Arizona St. – I don’t know why, but I really, really like this team. Harden and Pendergraph are one of the best combo’s in college hoops.
Oklahoma – No depth, but their Top 7 can play with anybody in the nation. Plus Blake Griffin could start on any NBA team right now, no kidding.
Teams that could fall early
Syracuse – I’m never a Syracuse fan, and I can see them running out of gas after last week.
Illinois – They aren’t very good to begin with, and their best player is hurt.
Mid-Major Report
Butler – They are starting to get a Gonzaga-type rep, where we expect them to be good every year.
Western Kentucky – Pick them to beat Illinois.
Akron – Don’t know much about these guys.
Stephen F. Austin – Believe it or not, they’re a Top 20 defensive team. Expect them to come away with a victory.

West Region

Teams that could go deep

UConn – They could go deep, but don’t expect them to go all the way without Dyson.
Washington – One of the best teams in the country you’ve probably never seen. Also one of the fastest paced Pac-10 teams and a team with the size and depth to knock of Uconn before they get to Memphis.
Missouri – 40 Minutes of Hell is alive and well with this team.
Memphis – I never like Memphis, but after last year I can’t sleep on them anymore.
Teams that could fall early
Purdue – Too hurt this year.
Mid-Major Report
BYU – Solid every year out of the underrated MVC.
Northern Iowa – Solid team out of the underrated again ‘Valley.
Utah St – One of those experienced mid-major teams that racks up a lot of wins in-conference and is usually good for a win or two in the dance.

Final Four
Louisville vs. Missouri
Pitt vs. UNC

Louisville vs. UNC

Louisville – Louisville is the best team in the nation now, and they don’t have any injuries or glaring weaknesses. That separates them from the rest of the pack this year.

Top 10 Teams to Win it All
Louisville – Best team in the nation for the last 1/3 of the season.
UNC – Best team in the nation for the first 1/3 of the season.
Pitt – Best team in the nation for the middle 1/3 of the season.
Memphis – It’s hard to knock Calipari’s program, at least for on the court reasons.
Missouri – Reminds me a lot of the Arkansas team that won it all, minus the Corliss Williamson presence.
Wake Forest – If Teague and Aminu come back, they’ll win it all next year.
Washington – Quietly one of Lorenzo Romar’s most talented teams this decade.
Duke – This Duke team is a lot different from the ones that flopped in recent years.
Villanova – Love the guard play, but I don’t see anybody out of that Top 8 really making a run.
Oklahoma – Anything is possible when you have the best player in the country.

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