Big Papa of the West: UConn (3). Tempted to put Texas here (who is my Final Four pick in at least one bracket), but chose not to because of two words: Kemba Walker. Again. KEMBA. WALKER. And because I hate Duke. I know they struggled at the end of the regular season, but over the years it’s been the case that one dominant player can carry a team all the way to the Final Four. Think about it: Gordon Heyward for Butler, Derrick Rose for Memphis, Carmelo Anthony for Syracuse, Dwayne Wade for Marquette. Also, UConn has the momentum of being the first ever team to win five straight Big East games to win the conference championship. I really like their draw. Cincinnati doesn’t scare me, but Missouri’s 40 minutes of hell may pose some problems in the second round. I don’t see Temple, Penn State, or San Diego State being able to hang with UConn, so an Elite 8 matchup with Duke, Texas, or Arizona looms. I like Kemba to lead this team to a deep tourney run.
If not the favorite, then: Duke (1). I was tempted to put Arizona here thanks to Derrick Williams, but Duke’s depth and experience are too much. Admittedly, I should have put them as the favorite, but I hate Duke. I repeat: I. HATE. DUKE. I’m hoping they take the fall against either Michigan or Tennessee, but unfortunately I just don’t see it happening. I think an Elite 8 date is set with UConn in Anaheim, and Singler, Nolan, and company will take Coach K’s team pretty far. Throw in the return of super frosh Kyrie Irving from a midseason injury, and this is a team I wouldn’t want to face.
Don’t Go To Sleep Against These Guys: Temple (7). I really like Temple’s draw here. I felt like they, not Xavier, were the A-10’s best team. They are a battle tested team, having dominated the A-10 and playing at Duke, at Villanova, and against Texas A&M. Penn State will be a tough matchup in the first game, but I like their ability to slide by the weakest 2 seed in the field in San Diego State. If they can beat UConn in the Sweet 16, I like Temple to move all the way to the Final Four as long as they don’t play Duke to get there, since Duke spanked them a few weeks ago. They’re a balanced team, with Lavoy Allen leading the way in the post with over eight boards a game. Scottie Randall, Juan Fernandez, Khalif Wyatt, and Ramone Moore lead an experienced perimeter group that take care of the basketball and shoot it from deep.
Who Gets Blown Up: Missouri (11) over Cincinnati (6). Now, I am a proud tuition paying student at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. But I’m not high on this team, and haven’t been all year. Look at Cincinnati’s last 8 wins. Georgetown twice (in a tailspin), South Florida (so what), DePaul (worst team in Big East), Providence (not 1 of 11 Big East teams in the Dance), Rutgers (not in Dance), and Marquette. Fine, I’ll give you Marquette as a quality win. What wins are you impressed by with UC? 30 point win against Xavier in the Crosstown shootout. Beat my alma mater, Dayton, by 30, who lost last night in the NIT to College of Charleston. Their best win is at MSG against St. John’s… by two points. They have not beaten anyone that I really consider to be a top tier team, and it is my opinion that their seed is not warranted. On the flip side, I know Missouri hasn’t really beat anyone either, but I feel that their breakneck pace behind guards Flip Pressley and Marcus Denmon will break down Cincinnati’s perimeter play. Cincy’s star Yancy Gates can be neutralized on the boards by Missouri’s Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe. Advantage: Tigers.
West Man-Beast: Kemba Walker, UConn. I basically covered him in the UConn section. He’s really all they have. But he’s a surefire Top-5 pick in June if he comes out, and why wouldn’t he? Millions are waiting. He fills it up from all over, and for a 6-1 guard has a lot of rebounds. He also averages two steals a game, so his defensive presence can be felt. With the ball in his hands, UConn is confident. He needs to keep it in his hands for six more games.
Who the &#*% is This Guy, and Why Is He Awesome: Derrick Williams, Arizona. I know he plays for Arizona, but I still feel like a majority of the country has never gotten to see super soph Derrick Williams. I watched a lot of his play over the last two weeks, and the guy can flat out play. This season he’s led the Wildcats by posting 19 points and 8 rebounds a game while shooting 61.5% from the field and an absolutely RIDICULOUS 60.3% from behind the arc. He’s only shot 58 threes this year, but if you have a 6-8, 240 forward with stellar low post moves that can step back and shoot the three, you have matchup problems galore when playing the Wildcats. He’s going to give anyone fits, so watch him play. Thank me later.
Picks: First Round
Duke over Hampton, Michigan over Tennessee, Arizona over Memphis, Texas over Oakland, Missouri over UC, UConn over Bucknell, Temple over PSU, SDSU over N. Colorado
Duke over Michigan, Texas over Zona, UConn over Mizzou, Temple over SDSU
Texas over Duke, UConn over Temple
Texas over UConn (I'm conflicting my analysis up there, but who gives a crap. I do what I want).