by Paul West
This year’s March Madness tournament caps off a topsy-turvy NCAA basketball season; not only was the top ranking the proverbial kiss of death, but nobody seemed to want to hang on to a top five ranking either! Nevertheless, we made it, as always: Selection Sunday has come and gone, and the play-in games are tomorrow evening.
Despite the advice of pessimists, you don’t have to close your eyes, tape your bracket to a dart board or pick by color or mascot; you don’t have to just let your most hoops-clueless friend, coworker or family member fill in your bracket. Nor do you have to just “go chalk” and pick all the highest seeds, as some suggest.
I humbly offer, below, my carefully woven combination of numbers-crunching and “eye test” wisdom. I’m not necessarily saying that my analysis is the path to the perfect bracket! I do, however, hope that my modest proposal will help someone, somewhere–maybe even me!–win their pool. The breakdowns will be brief but salient, and each region will be covered in an individual post. In the last Bracketology entry, I broke down the West region. Last but not least: the East region.
Enjoy, and good luck.
Paul West’s Region-By-Region Bracketology
1 Indiana vs. 16 LIU-Brooklyn/James Madison (Dayton, OH): LIU-BK can run it up and down, and they and JMU both made it through their conference tournaments. The Hoosiers spent a good chunk of the year considered the best team in the country, and they have…well, you get it. Pick: Indiana.
8 NC State vs. 9 Temple (Dayton): Temple’s tough, but they can give up a lot of points. Though they sometimes have trouble putting it together, the Wolfpack can put up points with the best of em. They’ll put up enough points to win this one. Pick: NC State.
5 UNLV vs. 12 Cal (San Jose, CA): Both teams are dangerous but inconsistent, and their regular season matchup was won by a single point (by UNLV). Cal’s backcourt combination of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs are as dangerous as just about any in the country when they get going, and this might come down to whether one or both of them gets hot. Playing close to home, the Bears will pull off the classic 12-5. Pick: Cal.
4 Syracuse vs. 13 Montana (San Jose): (postscript: yeah, this was my worst pick of the first round. I mean, I said Syracuse would win, but I also said Montana had a chance. Gee whiz. It’s 80-31 as I type this. I guess Cuse finally decided to wake up…will they keep it going, is the question…) Pick: Syracuse.
6 Butler vs. 11 Bucknell (Lexington, KY): Bucknell’s 6’11” Mike Muscala is one of the more under-heralded players in the tournament, and could give Butler trouble. This one might come down to who gets in foul trouble. Pick: Butler.
3 Marquette vs. 14 Davidson (Lexington): Marquette doesn’t shoot too well from deep. Davidson shoots it very well, and are tougher than people realize. They have tournament experience, and they’re the best in the country from the free throw line. Pick: Davidson.
7 Illinois vs. 10 Colorado (Austin, TX): Illinois has had a couple of games where they’ve looked really good, but they don’t shoot particularly well. This one could go either way, unless Spencer Dinwiddie goes off. Pick: Illinois.
2 Miami vs. 15 Pacific (Austin): Miami’s feeling it right now, and Pacific just isn’t good enough to stop them when they’re rolling. Shane Larkin is on a roll, and has his eye on the Final Four. Pick: Miami.
Round of 16: Indiana beats Cal, and Miami beats Davidson. Miami beats the Hoosiers in an Elite Eight epic, and goes on to the Final Four.