Monday, March 17, 2008

2008 NCAA Tournament Upsets

There is nothing more emblematic of NCAA March Mania/Mayhem/Madness than the bracket and filling it out. And there is nothing that writers love more than these four days when they get to make crazy and outrageous claims with very little consequence. "West Virgina in the Final Four?" Sure, why not. "Belmont upsetting Duke?" Anything's possible in March!

By next Monday, we all get to speak with impunity for all of our bonehead picks and predictions. I'm not really sure how this is fair, but I'm taking advantage of it anyway. Here are some of my thoughts for the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina is very good. But so is Kansas, UCLA, Memphis, Tennessee, Texas, Duke and Georgetown. As all of the controversy stirred on Sunday with Bobby Knight and Jay Bilas claiming that it was unfair to put teams into the NCAA Tournament that can't win a national championship(a la South Alabama), writers all across the country began to express their outrage and defend the mid-majors with the power of their keyboards.

The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan claimed that the fight for the National Championship was not nearly as intriguing as the coming-out parties of the country's smaller schools in the tournament's first weekend. The Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci also commented on the numbers of schools from the Big Six conferences taking up undue amounts of spots in a Tournament that purportedly represents the best basketball in the country.

But, of course the NCAA Tournament represents the best basketball in the country, says Jay Bilas. That basketball is only played in the Big Six conferences anyway, he argues. Mid-major programs need to stop asking for more and be thankful for what you have...hey, look we even matched you up against your mid-major brethren so that at least some of you can win first round games!

But by Monday afternoon, the political power hour is over. Virginia Tech and Arizona State have been shipped off to the NIT and the country's 10th best team was given a 7 seed. Now we all have to deal with it. So here are some of my picks for the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

"Sleeper or SLEEPER"

When we throw around the term of sleeper, I think of two different types of teams. On the one hand, you have a very low seeded team that could knock off someone in the first round with a bit of luck and completely throw off a bracket before getting dropped in the round of 32 or 16. On the other hand, you have a solid team that was not given enough credit in its seeding and has a very viable chance to make an Elite Eight or Final Four run. Teams from the first camp are usually automatic bid low-majors, while the second is filled with underachieving BCS-conference schools and disrespected mid-majors.

My first category sleeper is Siena. Most Davidson folks know that Wildcat forward Steve Rossiter's brother, Ryan, is a member of the Siena Saints. The Saints are led by Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, and their resume includes a major OOC victory over Stanford back in November. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is a special case team who has built up some big wins over top programs in their funky arena in Nashville. Unfortunately for the Commodores, the St. Pete Times Forum does not have team benches lined up along the baseline. Look for Siena to pull the upset.

Bonus Upset Pick: Cornell over Stanford.

Since it's way too cliche to talk about Davidson or Butler or Drake or St. Mary's in the second category sleeper, I will throw out two schools that have certainly been noticed but probably overlooked in the grand scheme of their major conferences: Pitt and Clemson.

Both teams will be tired but very battle-tested after advancing to the Championship games of the Big East and ACC tournaments. Pitt was the first team to knock off Duke this season, but their 12/20 OT victory over the then-9th ranked Blue Devils was largely overshadowed by inconsistent play in conference. But Pitt's run in the Big East tournament capped by a huge win championship victory over Georgetown has the Panthers clicking at the right time. As long as they don't get tripped up by Oral Roberts, Pitt could step up big in a possible Sweet 16 game against Memphis in Houston.

Clemson enters the NCAA Tournament with plenty of confidence after pulling off a rare win against Duke and nearly upsetting North Carolina for their first-ever ACC title. This Clemson team is extremely athletic and if they can be disciplined with getting back after a team breaks their press and with hitting free throws (won the game against Duke, lost it against UNC), they can make a run to the Final Four.

Bonus Big Run Sleepers: Davidson, Butler, St. Mary's, Drake.

1 comment:

Julia said...

Man, Belmont almost did it!