Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Q&A For The 2013 Tournament, The Maddest March Ever


I don’t exactly know when or how I came to give my thoughts on the annual unveiling of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament via a one-man Q&A.  It seemed to be a very easy way of cherry-picking all the most interesting parts of the bracket.  And so it continues:

Q: So they’re saying this is the most unpredictable Big Dance in a long time, if ever, the result of the most parity-driven regular season in history.  True?

A: Yes – but only to an extent.  Underdog lovers like me are salivating at the thought of four newbies reaching Atlanta and seeing one of them break their cherry and win the national championship.  And I will say that all the presumptive favorites have shown serious weaknesses that could prevent them from reaching the Sweet Sixteen, let alone claiming a championship.

But let’s not go overboard with all the upset talk.  What we have for contenders, as flawed as they may be, are still better overall than the schools seeded below them.  So yeah, there isn’t an odds-on favorite like Kentucky was last year.  And maybe this year there are 15 teams that could conceivably win it all instead of ten.  And there might be, oh, five or six double-digit seeds making it to the second weekend.  But while there may be more carnage than usual, and that the historical Big Dance averages ESPN.com’s Keith Lipscomb and Chris Fallica compiled here could be out of whack this year by a fraction, I’m certain that the regional finals won’t be a quartet of matchups between the 10- and 11-seeds.  The cream will rise to the top – eventually.

That being said, as of right now, I have no effin’ clue who I’m going to pick to win.  No one does.  I’ll make my decision by the time I finish this column.

Q: So who was the Last Team In?  The First (But Should Really Be Called Last) Team Out?

A: Yeah, I realized last year that bracketologists were erroneously calling the teams with the best records they predicted would not make the NCAA tournament, the schools that presumably have the résumés that would be the toughest to include or exclude, the “First Four Out,” and seeing that damn phrase so much during Bubble Watch season just set me off this year.  Guys, they are the last teams not to make the Big Dance.  When you say the “First Four Out,” are you saying that you sifted through all the teams and determined they were the first four you would eliminate from the tournament, that you in fact would eliminate them before, say, 0-28 Grambling?  Because that’s what you’re saying – you decided that, Tennessee had less of a right to be part of the NCAAs than winless, hapless Grambling.

Speaking of the Volunteers, it looks like, by combining the compendium The Bracket Matrix with a digest by The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk and a quick take by SI.com’s Andy Glockner that Tennessee was the proverbial Team 69.  There was some talk that Ole Miss would not have gotten in if they didn’t lock up the SEC auto-bid by “upsetting” Florida Sunday afternoon, but NCAA Selection Committee Chair Mike Bobinski said the Rebels were in regardless.  Same thing with La Salle, even though many prognosticators stuck them near the cut line.  But many of the people who thought Tennessee would be in had Middle Tennessee St. out.  So the Blue Raiders probably are the “Last Team In.”  (And I guess you can ignore the fact they’re an 11-seed when La Salle and St. Mary’s are playing the play-in game as 13-seeds; procedural line bumps to ensure teams from the same conference meet as late as possible pushed MTSU up to 11, I reckon).

But what really matters is who was the best team of the four at-larges forced to schlep to Dayton and play the “opening round” game, and who was the last team given the last of the “byes” to the “second round.”  That’s what the teams were fighting for all year, getting awarded one of those sacred 60 “byes.”  By the numbers it looks like it’s St. Mary’s, the 11-seed facing off against Middle Tennessee St. in the play-in opening round game.  But Glockner knows a hell of a lot more about seed manipulation, and he says that with Ole Miss winning the SEC auto-bid and thus getting exempted from having to play the play-in opening round game, Boise St. got sucked into the First Four.

So if the Broncos are Team 65, who’s Team 64, the squad that should be wiping away enough flop sweat to fill a bowl of pho?  Even though there are two teams one seed line above them forced to play before everybody else, the critical mass of The Bracket Matrix says that the should-be Last Team In is Cal.

Q: What do you mean “the should-be Last Team In is Cal?”

A: I will not let this die even though I am probably the only person who is obsessed with this: These play-in games are a joke.  Not only does it disrupt the symmetrical harmony of 64 teams, Glockner notes with insight that this extra round of games adds needless complications to the beginning of the tournament.  Adding four more teams mucks up bracket principles, elevates and depresses teams from their true seeds, and invites travel issues from Ohio, where snow can still fall at alarming rates to crippling effect.

Q: No fan takes the “First Four” seriously.  What is the surest sign that the NCAA doesn’t either?

A: There was a party last year (though it may have started before then) in Dayton celebrating that “The Road to the Final Four” starts there.  It really was a way to legitimize the city and this half-ass version of bracket creep.  But the street festival was canceled in February.  Officials say they needed to protect the interests of the NCAA’s corporate sponsors.  But I hope that was said with a wink-wink.  Dayton has submitted a proposal to keep the superfluous play-in games for another decade, but an announcement won’t be made till the summer.

At the very least, the NCAA should follow the advice of Lost Lettermen founder Jim Weber and stop calling the games played Tuesday and Wednesday “first round” games.  But I have a better idea, NCAA: Contract the field back to 64 teams and let everyone play on a level field.  If Dayton bitches, put them on the same rotation play as Indianapolis, where they’re promised a subregional, regional or Final Four in either the men’s or women’s basketball tournaments every year in perpetuity.

If they were serious about the First Four, the NCAA would make sure there is not even the perception that they were starting to ignore it.  But there’s a bright side to this shutdown of this street festival: Now the organization is giving these play-in games the same regard the rest of us smart folk are – none.

(One other thing I just thought up: The conspiracy theorist in me notes that the four at-large teams are Middle Tennessee St., St. Mary’s, Boise St. and La Salle.  None of them are in the BcS Six-Soon-To-Be-Five.  Could the NCAA’s power players … nah, such outlandish tales are for people who wear tinfoil hats.)

Q: That’s enough about the play-in games; we gamblers consider the at-large teams as one entry for our brackets anyway.  (And gamblers are an important constituent, and a key reason for the tourney’s popularity, that the NCAA had better recognize.)  Is the Midwest Region loaded or what?

A: After thinking about it for awhile, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a region so stacked as this one is.  Seven of the 16 teams here rank in the top 20 of Ken Pomeroy’s tempo-free efficiency ratings as of the eve of the play-in games.  Top seed Louisville was named the overall #1, the proverbial kings of the hill.  The second seed, Duke, was a team I thought would top a region; instead, if you go by the concept of the S-curve (which Bobinski says the committee no longer uses), the Blue Devils were considered to be the eighth best team in the field and thus the worst of the 2-seeds.  Seeded third lays Michigan St., whose head coach, Tom Izzo, I still think is the best coach in the country, pound-for-pound, any sport, any level.  The fourth seed is Saint Louis; a solid defensive squad under a mission to play for the late Rick Majerus, the Billikens are being touted as a sleeper pick.

This might be the best region the tournament has seen in a long time, if not ever.  The team that comes out of this region will have truly survived and advanced … and may be too bloodied and bruised to play another game.

Q: I should naturally ask which region is the weakest, but I’ll save that as a segue later in this column.  What kind of track record does Mr. Pomeroy’s tempo-free stats have?

A: First of all, beware of being too slavish to Kenpom.  I tried it one year and got burned bad, and even Pomeroy himself would probably say that relying on his groundbreaking stat is foolhardy.

Having said that, sixteen of the 20 Final Four teams the last five years were in the Top 20 in defensive efficiency rating, and two others were between 21-30.  Fourteen of the 20 Final Four teams the last five years were in the Top 20 in offensive efficiency, and three others were between 21-30.  (I assume that this is based on rankings just before the NCAA tournament begins.)  Outliers include last year’s Louisville squad, which made the national semifinals on the strength of their most efficient defense in the land but had an adjusted O that wound up 103rd and the 2011 Butler team that finished 50th in adjusted offense and 49th in adjusted defense.

Moreover, the great Luke Winn of SI.com points out that the past ten national champions have adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies in the Top 20.  The teams that fit that criteria this year, from top to bottom: Florida, Indiana, Louisville, Gonzaga, Pittsburgh, and Ohio St.

Q: And what’s this I hear about this guy named John Gasaway?

A: He’s another b-ball sabermatrician.  One of the guys who started Basketball Prospectus, which may be shutting down now that he plies his wares for The Worldwide Leader, ESPN.com.  He had this thing on BP called Tuesday Truths, where he would rank teams in all the major conferences by Efficiency Margin, or the difference between how many points they scored per possession and how many they allowed, but only within conference play.  (There may be exponential and/or statistical tweaks to how those are tabulated; with all these advanced metrics one is never sure how they are exactly compiled.)

Gasaway’s Efficiency Margins (EM) have proven to show which teams are merely very good and which ones are good enough to win it all.  Specifically, seven of the past nine national championship teams had EMs of at least +.13.  (The exceptions: The first of Florida’s back-to-back title teams in the 2006 Dance and Kemba Walker’s UConn Huskies in the 2011 tourney.)  Increasing that margin to +.20 for conferences besides the BcS Six-Soon-To-Be-Five, those teams are, in order:

·         Gonzaga: +.30

·         Florida: +.28

·         St. Mary’s: +.20

·         Louisville: +.17

·         Indiana: +.15

·         Duke: +.15

·         Kansas: +.14

·         Miami: +.14

Q: There’s one thing readers need to know about the two stats and lists you provided above, right?

A: Yes.  You should know this: I am using the Kenpom ratings and Efficiency Ratings from a week ago, before most conferences began their tournament.  I have a personal bias: I do not trust at all how a team plays in its conference tourney.  It’s a three-to-four-game snapshot that is not indicative of how that team played over two months.  I question the motivation of teams that were locks for the tournament and prefer to avoid injury.  And let’s face it, there are only two reasons these things exist: The TV money and for a league to assist a member team on the bubble by defeating fellow conference schools too disinterested to put up a fight.

I have no evidence that this is true.  I just don’t trust how teams play in those conference tourneys.  But you can see the current Kenpom ratings here and the latest EMs here.  Caveat emptor.

Q: Back to Kenpom.  You say that weak defensive efficiencies are a red flag?

A: Yes.  It’s unfortunate (for me) that more squares are getting hip to this stat.  Maybe it’s because last year two contenders with incredibly weak adjusted D’s, Duke and Missouri, made history as the first 2-seeds to lose their first game in the same year (the same day, in fact).  There aren’t air horns sounding loudly this year, although Michigan, ranked 10th when both adjusted offense and defense is calculated through Pomeroy’s version of the Pythagorean Theorem, only has the 52nd-most efficient defense.

If you want to get your bracket as perfect as possible, you might want to think twice before making any one of the following teams your Cinderella: Missouri (adjusted D of 67), St. Mary’s (73), Creighton (78), Kansas St. (83), Colorado St. (94), Notre Dame (95), N.C. St. (121), and Iowa St. (124).

Q: What do Arizona, Kansas and Michigan St. all have in common?

A: Their Achilles heel: Weak point guard play.  The Wildcats’ Mark Lyons seems to be more of a shooter than a distributor.  The Jayhawks’ Elijah Johnson is wildly inconsistent, seeming to disappear for spans of games, if not entire games.  And the Spartans’ Keith Appling, while a grizzled veteran, has been susceptible to turnovers and bad play-calling when bothered by a good defender.  There is just too much doubt regarding these three teams’ floor generals for me to believe they’re championship squads.

Q: What is the quintessential Prince song?

A: Prince has been running in my mind lately, and if you’ve ever seen him in person, that’s a funny thing.  Because he’s short, and when short people run, it’s kind of cute in a funny way.  He’s been in a lot of places lately.  The Pride of Minneapolis came back home in January to do a surprise three-night, six-show run at the downtown jazz club, the Dakota.  He appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to unveil his new all-female backing band.  And apparently he destroyed Austin last weekend, capping South By Southwest with a show that lasted until 3 a.m. and had six encores.

I didn’t ask myself what’s his most popular song, or even what is his best.  What is the one song which encapsulates his essence?  In other words, if you only had time to have an alien listen to one Prince song so it could understand who Prince is, which one would it be?

Hard question.  I’ll have to think about what it can’t be.  “Purple Rain” is too epic.  “Darling Nikki” is awesome, but there are a lot of fans who think it’s just too raunchy.  “Let’s Go Crazy” isn’t well-enough known.  “Kiss” might represent the very end of his peak output.  So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the song that is Prince’s most, uh, Prince-ly is “Raspberry Beret.”  It has the psychedelic violins and, even better, the sexual innuendo our androgynous, purple-clad one can coo and wail like no other:

Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be Prince if he weren’t such a unique and adamant Luddite.  He is one of the remaining musical artists who won’t allow his music to be downloaded on iTunes and his videos to be played on YouTube.  So I can’t embed “Raspberry Beret” here.  You know, I want to be proud of the little guy, but then he does stubborn crap like this and I’m glad he now lives in Los Angeles most of the time.

Oh, you don’t want me to talk about music anymore?  I thought a break away from March Madness would be good for us.  Sorry, I just wanted to be Bill Simmons for a couple paragraphs.

Q: What’s the most intriguing first- second-round matchup?

A: Without a doubt, UCLA vs. Minnesota, d/b/a The Disappointment Bowl.  It’s appropriate that two underachieving teams/programs would meet like this.

Gophers fans here have been howling over the rollercoaster ride this team has taken them.  Head coach Tubby Smith lined up a very tough non-conference schedule for his senior-laden group, and they got through it with only one loss, to Duke.  But then, like he has throughout his tenure here, once the team got into Big Ten conference play, they’ve fallen apart, winning two of their last seven and three of their last ten games.  Their victory over then-#1 Indiana may have been the convincing win that got them into the NCAAs, but honestly, if they somehow were snubbed on Selection Sunday, I don’t think anybody would say that was unfair.  Plus, the way this team stumbled into the postseason gives no one here confidence that Smith is the right guy to patrol the Minnesota sidelines next year.

The trouble is I’m sure Bruins fans in Westwood feel the exact same way about Ben Howland.  Despite taking this team to back-to-back-to-back Final Fours, you are talking about The Program That John Wooden Built.  Five years of tournament drought and no titles since taking over in 2003 have left UCLA faithful wanting for results.  And there are many who believe the Howland is not the answer no matter how well they do here.  This could be the only game in the Big Dance where fans of both teams think the other team will win.

Las Vegas oddsmakers and ESPN.com’s Giant Killers blog actually believe Minnesota is the favorite.  And UCLA lost guard Jordan Adams in last week’s conference tournament after busting his foot.  But trust me, I and many others think Smith will find a way to gift-wrap this game to Howland.  So let’s put this rule out there: Coach of the losing team gets fired after the game.  Coach of the winning team … gets fired as soon as their team gets eliminated.

Q: How about the best third- … uh, second- … Round of 32 game?

A: Assuming they both win their first game, Gonzaga against Pittsburgh.  As you can see in the lists above, the Zags have both hallmarks of a championship team.  But the Panthers have Top 20 adjusted O and D, and advanced metrics believe they have been woefully underappreciated as an 8-seed.

But there also are questions haunting both teams.  The Bulldogs are the breakthrough mid-major enjoying big-time success, but they have yet to reach the Final Four while other mid-majors (Butler, George Mason, VCU) have done so by climbing on their backs.  They say this is Mark Few’s best team ever; can he get his team to play to seed and reach the third weekend?  Meanwhile, the last time Pittsburgh reached the Final Four was in 1941.  And Jamie Dixon has a reputation of being over his head in the tournament, most notably in 2011, when the Panthers, seeded first in their region, was upset by Butler with that crazy ending.  You could say that this will be a good early-tournament clash.  You could also say that one underachieving program has to reach the Sweet Sixteen.

Now that I look at my bracket, I think the West Region may be the second-toughest region in the Big Dance – powerful Gonzaga, underseeded Pitt, a second-seeded Ohio St. peaking at the right time, a highly touted New Mexico, and tough and resilient Wisconsin.  Man, this bracket’s going to be tough.

Q: There’s been a 12 that beat a 5 22 out of the past 24 years.  Which is it this year?

A: Cal over UNLV.  These teams met this year already, which should have been a no-no when the Selection Committee pushed these two teams together.  The Runnin’ Rebels beat the Golden Bears in Berkeley by a point, so Cal will be looking for revenge.  Moreover, for some reason this game will be played in San Jose, so the Bears will have a quasi-home-court advantage.

By the way, in 11 of the past 12 years at least two 12’s have beaten 5’s.  I don’t see a second one, but if there is one it would be Oregon over Oklahoma St., also known as Marcus Smart et al.

Q: You want to stick your neck out and name a chic surprise squad that won’t win the championship?

A: I think people want to advance Butler out of the East, or at least have the Bulldogs meet the Hoosiers in the regional final.  But this is a mid-major program that has gone from overlooked to overseeded.  The fair-weather tournament player doesn’t know that Butler’s guards are easily rattled and are nowhere near as fundamentally sound as the teams that reached the title game in 2010 and 2011.

Just because, I have them losing their first game to Bucknell.  The Bison sport a beefy center, Mike Muscala, who will find a place in the NBA.  That does not make Bucknell a matchup nightmare for Butler, but I think this team is overseeded as a 5, and therefore ripe for an upset.

Q: What is the most anonymous matchup on Thursday or Friday?

A: Illinois-Colorado; I doubt anybody has the winner beating Miami to reach the Sweet Sixteen.  But if you’re in a pool with hundreds of players, getting the points from this game and this game only can make a big difference.  I’ll take the Fighting Illini.  No reason.

Q: What’s up with Jim Boeheim?

A: What’s up with Syracuse?  Maybe it’s the Orange’s impending move out of the Big East and into the ACC, maybe it’s the Bernie Fine controversy, but ever since he ambushed ESPN’s Andy Katz by calling him an “idiot” and “disloyal,” in several post-game press conferences this year he’s acting like all the reporters there are standing on his lawn.  It sounds as if he’s checked out.  But then his team wakes up and makes it all the way to the Big East final, where they were up big against Louisville before the Cardinals came storming back to wallop the Orange.

I have no idea where his head’s at right now.  He loved the Big East, but now that Big East play is technically over, will he care?  Then again, his zone defense could bother Indiana to the point of an upset.  I know the pod is easy enough for Boeheim to get to the Sweet Sixteen; does he want to?

Q: So you’re saying that the East is the toughest region to figure out?

A: Yes.  I think Indiana has the clearest path, but for purposes of winning your tournament pool, you have suspect contenders in Miami, Marquette and the Orange.  With the possible exception of the Hurricanes because of coach Jim Larranaga, none of them screams “Final Four contender” to me.  However, there are no deep sleepers that are impressive.  This could go chalk, or this region can be upset into pieces, or it could be a little of both.  Lord knows there are going to be a bunch of red lines in the southeast portion of my bracket.  I’ll just say that Indiana takes Miami in the Elite Eight.

Q: By the way, which bracket did you print out?

A: Glad I asked myself that!  I’m not going to sleepwalk like a zombie to ESPN or SI.  Why?  I have principles.  I save all my brackets (even though I don’t exactly know where they are) and I would like all of them to reflect what I value.  Namely, although I understand that brackets are a great spot to advertise, I want as little product placement as possible.  I also don’t care for seeing the logos of the four networks that carry the NCAA Tournament because I believe the way they now broadcast the tournament is an abomination.  No silly or weird slogans on my bracket, either; one had on the top, “It’s Madness!” for no good damn reason.

And above all, I refused to print any bracket that made space for those stupid play-in games.  That left me with only one choice: Huffpost Sports.  The “opening round” matchups are grouped together in a line as a single entry, which is as much respect as anyone should give those games.  It’s not in color, so you won’t have to pay an extra ten cents at the library.  And it’s minimalist, so it gives you ample space to write reminders to yourself to never pick Gonzaga to go to the Final Four ever again.  It would have been nice to have the records of each team, but beyond that, I’m happy with Huffpost.

Q: Going back to Cinderellas, have you got one?

A: I have a few.  Again, I don’t think there’s going to be total wreckage this Big Dance, but I think we’ll see a few more upsets than usual.

One is Belmont, although advanced statheads have been on the Bruins for the past couple years now.  They always seem to be on the verge, they just never got the right matchup.  I think they have two now: aforementioned Arizona, what some would say is the best team out of a homogenous Pac-12 Conference still trying to rebound from the doldrums of the past couple years, then probably a New Mexico team that hasn’t done much damage in the tournament since Steve Alford took over as coach and is considered to be vulnerable according to advanced metrics.

The other one I like falls into a pet rule I have for filling out my bracket: Advance one double-digit seed from the BcS Six-Soon-To-Be-Five to the Sweet Sixteen.  There always seems to be one a year.  This time around, I’m going to say it’s … oh, 10th-seeded Oklahoma.  Lon Kruger defied the odds and got UNLV into the second weekend in 2007.  They can beat Jamaal Franklin and San Diego St.  Also, Georgetown is prone to games where, Otto Porter Jr. excepted, wouldn’t be able to throw the ball into a soccer net.  Don’t forget that the Hoyas under John Thompson III have lost to several lower-seeded teams.  Hey, why not go against conventional wisdom if you’re trying to win your office pool?

(Oh, and I decided to take a second one: I chose Cal over Syracuse.  That gives me three double-digit seeds out of sixteen, which seems just about right to me.  But don’t hold me to that; I think I might change my mind Thursday morning.)

Q: I detect a theme here – do you believe there is a key to tournament success besides advanced metrics like Kenpom and EMs?

A: Yes, and it’s coaching.  These young men are being guided by the people that (for the most part) recruited them.  They run the plays that he calls.  Their morale is in the head coach’s hands because that is what he told them.  The Big Dance is an entirely different crucible than the regular season, and while two months shows how good a team really is, it’ll be up to the head coach to reproduce that level of success, or overachieve or underachieve, over these next three weeks.

So while I rely on advanced metrics, I also look at coaches’ track record.  I trust those have raised the trophy before, like Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski and Billy Donovan.  Conversely I have trouble trusting Thompson, Michigan’s John Beilein or even Kansas’ Bill Self.  And that is why I don’t know if Tom Crean can take Indiana to the championship.

Q: And speaking of Kansas, you have a surprise for them?

A: Yes.  I have decided that I’m taking the Jayhawks out in the second/third round, succumbing to … North Carolina and legendary head coach Roy Williams.  Why?

·         Their shooting woes early in the year are behind him since Williams made the adjustment to a four-guard starting rotation;

·         I’ve already outlined the streak Johnson above;

·         Mr. Gasaway has compiled home/road Efficiency Margin splits, and Kansas outscores opponents on a points-per-possession basis by .26 points more at home than on the road, which raises more alarm bells now that they won’t be playing in Allen Fieldhouse;

·         In 29 of the past 34 tournaments, at least one of the last eight teams standing were seeded sixth or worse.  North Carolina is seeded eighth;

·         Finally, don’t you just get the bad feeling that this is the undisciplined Kansas squad that will lose early?  The kind of Jayhawks team that got upset by VCU in the 2011 tournament, or were upset as a 1-seed by Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa in the Round of 32 the year before?  I think it’s going to come down to coaching, and Williams will prove that he can do more with less talent, at least this year against Self.

Q: So will the South Region be the Broken Region?

A: Yes.  While sticking to my belief that this tourney won’t feature too many more upsets than usual, there seems to always be one region that completely falls apart, and I think the South’s where it’s at.  You have a Jayhawks team that’s hard to figure out, a perpetually underachieving Hoyas club, a Florida team that can’t win in the clutch, and a Michigan squad that is the bee’s knees offensively but has struggled in their last dozen or so games.  Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) sits in the 5-line and is a chic pick to be an underdog Final Four team, but beyond forcing steals, their “Havoc” defense is pretty tame.  I’ll say Florida beats the Tar Heels with as soft a whisper as I can.

Q: How about the other two regions?

A: For all my talk that there will be blood this Big Dance, I’ve got chalk.  In the Midwest, I really wanted to take Duke over Louisville in the Midwest final, but the Blue Devils’ average offensive rebounding worries me.  Plus, Louisville fits the benchmarks that both Pomeroy and Gasaway have set; Duke is only the 26th-most defensively efficient team in the land.  That doesn’t preclude them from getting to the Final Four, just winning it.  Still, the Cardinals seem to be good at all the things Duke isn’t great in.

I felt a similar pull to get top-seeded Gonzaga in over Ohio St. in the West final.  In the end, even though the Buckeyes did not reach that magical +.13 EM before the Big Ten Tournament began, they are playing well right now, and momentum has to count for something somewhere in the Big Dance.  Also, I can’t get over my institutional bias of high seeds not from the BcS Six-Soon-To-Be-Five.  I see the Bulldogs and I think of the 2003-04 St. Joseph’s team, the 1-seed featuring the awesome one-two punch of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.  They fell in the Elite Eight.  And against a great team in the best conference in the nation this year, I’m afraid Gonzaga will do the same.

So my Final Four: Louisville, Ohio St., Florida and Indiana.  Two 1’s, a 2 and a 3.  Unpredictable, huh?

Q: OK, this Q&A has gone on long enough.  Who wins the title?

A: I just think that Louisville has too much firepower for Ohio St.  In the better game, reflective of how both teams have reacted to tight games, Indiana sinks the critical shots and copious free throws to finally catch and overtake Florida in the other semifinal.

For the final, I face one other fact.  The Selection Committee has announced the overall #1 seed for a decade now.  Only two of the past nine have won the title.  That’s a trend I won’t ignore.

So I say that Indiana completes their resurrection from the dark Kelvin Sampson days to win their sixth title in program history and their first since Bobby Knight took them to the Promised Land in 1987.  I know, I know, I said that I don’t trust head coaches who haven’t won it all before, and Tom Crean has only been to one Final Four (with a huge assist from Dwyane Wade).  But that’s a trend I will ignore.

Posted by WilliamSou at 9:57 PM

Comments:

PJDean22 said: SportsBLOG comment spacer

Michigan all the way to the finals.

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