The Sweet Sixteen is starting up tonight, so I thought maybe a quick preview would be in order...
What We've Learned:
- Everybody Tanked On Me: I honestly don't feel bad at all about my bracket tanking. I put most of the blame on teams completely under-performing and not living up to any of my expectations. Missouri got slammed by Cincy, Gonzaga similarly by BYU, Wofford going 2-for-whatever from 3's against the same BYU team, and Michigan State and Utah State putting themselves behind the 8-ball way too early in games they clearly should have won (especially in Michigan State's case). So I bummed out, but at the same time, it was nice to have Dick Vitale jump on my "Gonzaga to the Final Four" bandwagon after they beat St. John's, even if his name doesn't carry the kind of weight it perhaps used to (I still love the guy, but the difference between fans and haters has narrowed).
- I Will Remember This Year For Richmond: All my other cinderellas folded, but those Richmond Spiders really helped me out. At least all of the plan did not fail. The greater VA region is a nice spot for tourney sleepers like Richmond, George Mason, Old Dominion and...
- VCU: This was by far the biggest surprise of the entire tournament...way more stunning than Morehead State (by the way, that center on Morehead State is a surefire first round pick just based on the two games he played in the tournament). VCU didn't even belong in the tournament, yet they have been dominant in their first two games of the tournament. Sometimes, you can't account for how teams will handle adversity, because plenty of people wrote them off, myself included. Speaking of which...
- It's All About The Jimmer: BYU and UConn I couldn't have been more wrong about. I thought UConn perhaps had peaked, but they are continuing their wave of momentum. I was totally stunned about BYU just thrashing Gonzaga like they did. Again, probably fuel to the fire when people (again, like me) were convinced that they were nothing except Fredette. The problem with that is that Fredette is by far the best player in the country, and he's totally worth all the hype. When given the chance, he can produce like three guys. They have some nice pieces in Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock, but when all is said and done, BYU's chances of a Final Four birth rest on the Jimmer.
- Hottest Team Going: UConn: While Fredette is the best player in the country, it would be hard to argue the fact that Kemba Walker has been the best player in the last two weeks, and frankly, that's all you need. With Shabazz Napier (unbelievable name) at the point, UConn can once again get back to the Final Four through the West Region. Oh yeah, forgot about this one: Every time UConn has gone to the Final Four in the modern era ('99, '04, '09), they came out of the West region...really wish I remembered that before bumping them out after the first round.
- Team That Is Totally Screwed: San Diego State: How they got by Temple I'll never know. Seriously...how? In any event, they get UConn next, and if that goes well, Duke or Arizona...good luck with that.
- The Team In The Money: Kansas: You can't ask for anything better than what Kansas got. Instead of the Southeast being the crazy bracket, it turned out to be the Southwest, with a 10, 11, and 12 seeds standing in between them and the Final Four. Now I'm really feeling good about my pick for them in the National Championship.
- Final Four: Kansas, BYU, UConn, Kentucky: Had to change up my Duke pick because I'm steadily losing confidence in them. While I think it's admirable trying to get Kyrie Irving back into action, but it's taking away from their synergy to the point where them against Arizona is a risky proposition. The only problem I can forsee happening is if Wisconsin gets by Butler and take on BYU. Wisconsin matches up really well with them, and the defense might be enough to stop the Jimmer.
- BYU (+3) over Florida: Yup, the Jimmer. Also, Florida is a huge team that stinks from the free throw line, BYU is the perimeter friendly, solid A/TO, great shooting team that you're looking for.
- Butler (+4) over Wisconsin: More than anything, I would be betting the under (123) on this one. This game is going to probably be played in the 50s with both teams showing a great post presence and fantastic defenses. Butler gets the nod because if they get another shot at the Final Four, we're not going to be talking about Butler sneaking up on anyone for too much longer.
- UConn (-1) over San Diego State: Anytime you are 'dogged against a lower seed when you are playing them in your own backyard while they have to travel 3000 miles, it's usually a bad sign.
- Arizona (+9) over Duke: This will be the game to show if Duke can make it into the Final Four. I just think their chemistry really got messed up trying to re-introduce Irving. While I think it was an admirable move, it was just really bad timing.
- Marquette (+4.5) over North Carolina: This might be a straight up win, but I'm banking on when the comfort factor is taken away (UNC played its first two games in Charlotte) and when the spread is this low for a 2 vs. 11 that this is at least a thrilling win for UNC if they pull it off.
- Kentucky (+5.5) over Ohio State: Okay, I have to say that this is mostly based on the fact that I have Kentucky in the Final Four, and along with Richmond, those are the last good calls I have left (saying that the Big East would go down in flames was a good guess too though). If you had to look at this objectionably though, it would be tough to be betting against the Buckeyes right now. So Kentucky, but with not a whole lot of confidence behind it.
- Richmond (+10.5) over Kansas: I have more confidence in this than I do my Kentucky pick. Something about Richmond tells me they're not going to go into this game thinking about how much they're going to lose by. Kansas may definitely become complacent about having to only play double-digit seeds from here until Houston.
- Florida State (-4) over VCU: I actually hope I'm wrong about this because you have to like the Rams right now, but after Florida State tore Notre Dame apart, and seeing the impact Chris Singleton has on this team, I don't have it in me to pick against them.