Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sports Q&A: NCAA Tourney Bric-A-Bracketology

By Jeffrey Boswell

What happens in the dark room once the NCAA Selection Committee convenes?

You mean besides Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors" playing on a continuous loop? Beyond that, it's business as usual for the committee, like formulating new and creative ways to explain Virginia Tech's omission from the tournament, all while sifting through their Big East goody bags. This year, the committee donned Guy Fawkes masks, because, apparently, the 'V' in "Virginia Tech" is for 'Vendetta.'

The tourney expanded from 64 to 68 teams, yet the committee still shafted teams that deserved bids, and rewarded some that did not. Why? No one knows. When asked to explain, committee members usually respond with the usual canned answers, with sentences beginning with "We felt..." and "We were of the opinion...," or "Buffaloes have been extinct in Indianapolis for centuries." The public wants answers, and there's only one way to get them: by granting full media access to the selection committee meetings and televise them, preferably with an annoying host, like one named "Ryan Sequester." And publish committee members' addresses, telephone numbers, and bank account activity within the last week.

What more do the Colorado Buffalos have to do to prove they belonged in the NCAA tournament?

It's simple: join the Big East.

First-round games will be televised not only on CBS, but also on TruTV, TBS, and TNT. Is this a basketball junkie's dream?

Absolutely. What can be better than a few basketball games on TruTV followed by a "Cops" marathon? That's like watching "Current Basketball Stars," then chasing it with "Former Basketball Stars: Where Are They Now?"

Watching basketball on TBS and TNT, two stations built by professional wrestling, will be a new experience, and as long as the N.W.O. doesn't threaten the broadcasts, viewers should be quite satisfied.

By the way, shouldn't TruTV, at least for a few days, return to calling itself CourtTV?

Who is the odd-on favorite to capture the title?

Ohio State. The Buckeyes have the talent, depth, leadership, and coaching. Plus, the potential market for national championship memorabilia has the team eager to succeed and start cashing in.

How long before an overly exuberant Gus Johnson call ends up on YouTube?

Not soon enough.

What are some of the intriguing first-round matchups?

In the Southwest Region, Louisville and Morehead State, both from the state of Kentucky, meet in Denver in the 4-13 game. Louisville is heavily-favored. Rick Pitino won a national championship in 1996 and is the only coach to have led three different schools to the Final Four. Morehead State head coach Donnie Tyndall's accomplishments are minuscule by comparison. But Tyndall's never been extorted by a woman with whom he had sex on a restaurant table. So call the coaching matchup even, and Tyndall envious.

After a close half, Louisville steadily pulls away to win by 16.

In the West, Bruce Pearl and 9th-seeded Tennessee face the 8th-seeded Michigan Wolverines in Charlotte, with the winner drawing top-seeded Duke. Pearl will likely be wearing his orange sports jacket, not necessarily because it's Tennessee's school color. The NCAA has mandated that Pearl wear orange because it makes him easier to see, as well as indicate a "recruiting threat level" of "5," the highest.

Give me the Wolverines over the Volunteers by (Fab) 5.

In the Southeast, 22-10 UCLA takes on 19-14 Michigan State meet in Tampa with the winner likely meeting No. 2-seeded Florida. The Bruins' and Spartans' combined 24 losses are the second-most of any first-round matchup, but don't underestimate the threat of these two teams. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's reputation precedes him as one of the best tournament coaches. In fact, if Izzo coached Virginia Tech, they'd be a No. 5 seed. MSU wins, 74-70.

The No. 13-seeded Princeton Tigers challenge 4th-seeded Kentucky in the East. Princeton's Ivy League champion team is senior-heavy. To Kentucky head coach John Calipari, a "senior" is a terrible recruiting job on his part. Princeton relies on "back-door" cuts. Calipari leaves jobs via the back door. But he sure knows how to sweet-talk a 17-year-old. Call him the "Mark Sanchez of college basketball." Wildcats by 21.

Can Duke repeat as national champions?

If the Blue Devils are hitting three-pointers, and officials are calling questionable charging violations on their opponents, then anything is possible. Duke football players aren't the only athletes at Duke that fall down without being touched. Take a look at Dexter Strickland's dunk over Kyle Singler from Sunday's ACC title game. That's a charge? I've heard more valid accusations by a stripper at a Duke lacrosse party. Here's a novel idea for the NCAA basketball rules committee to ponder: if you try to take a charge but get dunked on instead, then the call is automatically blocking.

If the Devils can get by the underachieving Texas Longhorns in the regional semis, then a berth in the Final Four is likely. If super freshman Kyrie "Dr. Scholl's" Irving plays, then it's a guarantee they'll be in Houston. However, with Ohio State in Duke's side of the bracket, a title repeat seems unlikely.

How far can Jimmer Fredette carry Brigham Young?

Reportedly, the Cougars have dedicated their tournament to suspended player Brandon Davies, so anything less than going all the way will be a disappointment. Any player that can score 52 points in a game (as Fredette did against New Mexico in the Mountain West semifinals) is capable of leading his team deep into the tournament. BYU's team of undersexed young adults has won 30 games, and their pent-up energy is suited to winning multiple games in the tournament. In Provo, that's called "polygame-y."

Fredette drops 37 on St. John's in the second round, then shoots down Florida in the regional semi-finals, but the Cougars fall to Pittsburgh in the Southeast finals.

Can North Carolina bounce back from a devastating ACC tournament title game loss?

For the Heels, it's all about motivation. And just a glance through the East brackets should give UNC plenty of motivation. Revenge is the name of the game. Assuming the Heels beat Long Island, they'll face either Georgia (who dropped Carolina in the 1983 East region final) or Washington, led by guard Isaiah Thomas, who's named after Isiah Thomas, who led Indiana to the 1981 national championship over Carolina.

Then there's 11th-seeded Marquette, the team that vanquished North Carolina in the 1977 national championship title game. And 8th-seeded George Mason shocked the Heels in the second round in 2010.

So, if Roy Williams can get his team motivated by three of four events that occurred before any of his players were even born, the Heels should be fired up and ready. Anything less than a trip to the regional final will be a disappointment.

Speaking of UNC, will Roy Williams faint at any point in the tournament?

You say "Tar," I say "he'll" pass out during the second half of Carolina's regional semifinal against Xavier.

Will UNC's Harrison Barnes return for his sophomore season at Carolina?

Yes, in 2014 after his third year in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.

Can the Big East tournament champion Connecticut Huskies make an impact after playing five games in five days?

Yes. In fact, it should be easy. Heck, all they have to do is win two games in three days, and they've made an impact. Kemba Walker may be the Huskies driving force, but most of the credit should go to head coach Jim Calhoun. After all, it all happened under his watch.

First Round Winners

East: Ohio State, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Xavier, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina

West: Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Connecticut, Temple, San Diego State

Southwest: Kansas, UNLV, Richmond, Louisville, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, Notre Dame

Southeast: Pittsburgh, Butler, Kansas State, Wisconsin, St. John's, BYU, Michigan State, Florida

Sweet 16

Ohio State, Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Duke, Arizona, Missouri, San Diego State, Kansas, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, BYU, Florida

Elite Eight

Ohio State vs. North Carolina
Duke vs. San Diego State
Kansas vs. Notre Dame
Pittsburgh vs. BYU

Final Four

Ohio State
Notre Dame


Ohio State over Pittsburgh

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