NCAA Tournament Odds and Ends

* I was perusing Jay Bilas' NCAA tourney picks today on ESPN+, and while of course it would be a shameful abrogation of my sacred duties as an ESPN+ subscriber to divulge paywalled information, I will note that he picked exactly one team seeded 12 to 16 to make it out of the first round, and zero teams seeded lower than 5 to make it to the Sweet 16.

You will not be surprised to know that no real-life tournament has gone anywhere near that chalky, but of course Bilas is not alone in picking such a by-the-book bracket.

I actually can sympathize with this approach, for two reasons. While we know that more upsets, way more, will occur than Bilas predicts, it's pretty damn hard to know which ones have a good chance of happening once you get past the 5 vs. 12 matchups. It's really a crapshoot trying to predict which 14, 15, or 16 seed is going to win in round one, even if at least one of those seeds is likely to win a game.

And that gets me two my second reason: you pick wrong, then you have to hear, "HAHAHAHA, YOU PICKED MOREHEAD STATE OVER ILLINOIS, WHAT AN IDIOT" after Illinois trucks them by 50, for year.

Still ... grow a pair! Pick some gee dee upsets!

Here are mine: Long Beach State beating Arizona as a 15-seed. Vermont beating Duke as a 13-seed. Six double-digit seeds into the Sweet 16 (okay, I might've gone a little crazy there). No. 10 Nevada into the Final Four.

* On VSIN today, some talking head posited that the committee put some teams in one region or another to possibly gain some extra intrigue — or whimsy — in future matchups. For example, if James Madison and the Blue Devils take care of business in the first round, we'll have Duke vs. the dukes in the second round, they pointed out.

I kind of doubt it, inasmuch as I know as humans we always seek patterns, and I believe you would come up with the same number of potential can't-be-a-coincidence matchups even if the pairings were randomized. Still, these things are fun, and here are the potential second round or Sweet 16 matchups in this iteration of the tournament that I can see:

Sweet 16: UConn vs. Yale. The battle of Connecticut! The champions of 2023 vs. the champions of 1923, probably!

Second Round: Iowa State vs. Drake. The battle of Iowa, minus the state's flagship school!

Second Round: Texas vs. Tennessee. The Rick Barnes bowl!

Second Round: Gonzaga vs. Kansas. Every year I find a second-round game that will make the network execs salivate, because it has two "names" where casual fans will tune in no matter what. This is this year's version.

Second Round: North Carolina vs. Michigan State ... or maybe it's this one.

* Just one pick against the spread that I like for the first round, and I already teased it: Long Beach State +20.5 over Arizona. I'm not sure any program underachieves in the NCAAs more consistently than Arizona, and Long Beach State is playing some highly motivated ball: LBSU fired coach Dan Monson (he put Gonzaga on the map with an Elite Eight run in 1998) before the conference tournament, but let him coach out the season. The 49ers then won the conference tournament. Looking forward to this one.

Enjoy the games!

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