The SSS 2008 NCAA Tournament Preview For Non-Psychics: South Region
Waxing poetic about how lovely the NCAA Tournament is seems a bit irrelevant at this point. Certainly "One Shining Moment" will provide a sort of grab-bag of sappiness at the end of the whole thing that will you make you go, "Man, I love March Madness," sigh while looking longingly into the middle distance and then go watch The Hills or something. Now is not the time for such nonsense. March Madness is great! Work sucks! Gus Johnson is so exciting! There, that's done with. What we all want right now is objective, cold-hearted analysis on which teams will prevail and how to win your office pools. I wholeheartedly hope you find something like that. Instead I offer my own brand of regional previews, based solely around enjoying the tournament as much as possible. I'd say "Enjoy" but that goes without saying this time of year.
This here is the South. I'm gonna do the Midwest this afternoon or for tomorrow morning. I still haven't filled out my "serious" brackets yet, so we'll see.
By the way, Awful Announcing has the first round announcers for each game, so check that out for
1st Round Games
1) Memphis vs. 16) Texas-Arlington- John Calipari might be the one coach in America that could convince me to pick his team for the Final Four even if I had no intentions to do so. Every interview I have seen or read with him is either some serious politicking or some serious car salesman shtick. "We made 75 percent of our foul shots in the C-USA tournament." "We would have been the No. 1 overall seed if we made a two-footer against Tennessee." "Before this tournament, my team only used their feet to go from their house to the grocery store."
8) Mississippi State vs. 9) Oregon- This is my favorite 8-9 game because I think both teams could give Honest John and his Tigers a scare in Round 2. It's a tough one to pick because you have Oregon's highly efficient, perimeter-oriented, sweet shooting offense against the Bulldogs great defense, anchored by Jarvis Varnado protecting the rim. So let's ask Digger Phelps what he thinks:
"When you look at Mississippi State and Oregon, I think you gotta talk about Lamont Gordon. He's got size when you look at the point guard position.... Charles Rhodes..... And, when you look at Oregon.... can this team play well enough to get it done and get to the next round?... Shooting the ball from the three point line, dribble the ball, try to keep the other team from scoring... I think Mississippi State can get it done, Why?... Look for them to scare Memphis in the next round.... Ben Hansbrough."
5) Michigan State vs. 12) Temple- This is a real interesting game between Temple, which didn't really start playing basketball until the last month and Michigan State, which changes the sport it plays from game to game. Temple, and its two-man scoring attack of Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas, can win this game if they don't get killed on the glass. Meanwhile, the Spartans have lost to Penn State, scored 36 in a GAME against Iowa and lost to a D-II school in the preseason. But they also beat Indiana by 30 two weeks ago. Drew Neitzel, the preseason SSS Most Hated White Guy, hasn't been good enough to hate all season long but showed some real signs of punchability in the Big Ten tourney. I just pray he got a barb wire tattoo to reward himself or maybe a spoiler for his Hyundai. Then all will be well.
4) Pittsburgh vs. 13) Oral Roberts- For those of you jumping blindly onto the Pitt bandwagon, fear this game. "Oral," as sick, twisted rich white men will undoubtedly call them jokingly ("I picked Pitt but my wife picked Oral! Haha (high fives). Let's go punch some poor people!"), has more size than the Panthers on the front line, and use that size to anchor a strong defense. I know Pitt just beat Georgetown, Louisville and Marquette, but it also was crushed by West Virginia and needed a miracle to beat Syracuse just a week or two earlier. If they don't get that absurd free throw advantage they got in the Big East tourney (and ORU is one of the better teams in the nation at not sending opponents to the line), Bob Knight's senility-induced champion pick could have some trouble.
6) Marquette at 11) Kentucky- I'm starting to like this Marquette team and I'm not sure why anyone (read: Digger Phelps) thinks Kentucky can win without Patrick Patterson. The Golden Eagles used to win games by simply forcing opponents to assault the backboard more violently than them (or by just having Dwyane Wade), but this year, they suddenly have multiple scoring options in Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, Lazar Heyward, Wes Mathews and Maurice Acker. And on a completely unrelated note, has anyone else noticed that Hubert Davis, once a legitimately interesting and entertaining analyst, has recently adopted Digger's analysis style? Everything is, "When you look at" and "When you talk about" and then he just turns an entire analysis into an incoherent run-on sentence with random non sequiturs of players names and cliched aspects of the game. (I mean, look at this and tell me Hubert hasn't been doing the same thing but with just less Alzheimer's... I've been watching way too much ESPN this week.)
3) Stanford at 14) Cornell- Man! These schools are so smart! It's like the Selection Committee did this on purpose! Are they going to decide this game with a spelling bee!? Are the players going to study for finals on the bench?! Are the alumni going to be able to take off from Congress to watch the game?!
7) Miami vs. 10) St. Mary's- The most boring 7-10 match-up of the tourney in an otherwise outstanding region as far as entertaining basketball goes, both teams come into the game in a slump and little chance of advancing to the second weekend. So why even play the game, you ask? Well because Gaels' freshman point Patty Mills is from Australia and CBS needs to use that fancy graphic with the facts about Australia and references to Survivor in more than just the Vanderbilt game. Everyone wins. Sorta.
2) Texas vs. 15) Austin Peay- For those of you who like small ball, this is the game for you. Texas' 6-9 Connor Atchley is going to feel like Kenny George in this game with the Governors sporting zero regular rotation players over 6-5. This is one of those weird 5:00 p.m. ET games that occurs in the purgatory between the early games and the primetime games. You know, where people stumble out of the sports bars and wander the streets like zombies looking for something, anything, as exciting as the basketball they just watched. This is where you have people cheering for car crashes or for someone to get mugged in front of them. Then they look down at their bracket and realize they had "Texas." At which point it's time to go home. God I love March Madness.
To Watch For
Game You Should Really Want Gus Johnson Announcing- Like I said yesterday, we already know which games Gus is doing, but it's fun to dream, right? Besides the Temple-Michigan State game ("And Christmas has come early for Dionte and the Owls!!! AHHHHHHHH!") and the Pitt-Oral Roberts game ("And the Oral feels so good!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!"... notice the absolutely crucial but simple difference between him and Nantz? It's "AHHHHHH!!!!!") I'd like Gus to do the Texas-Austin Peay game for the chance to hear him scream Austin PEAYYYYYYY in an exuberant manner, just to see what it ends up sounding like.
Game You Should Be Thankful Jim Nantz IS NOT Announcing- Again, Nantz is doing the Raleigh games with UNC and Georgetown. But I cannot even fathom the complete and utter lameness with which he would call that Stanford-Cornell game. He'd probably just start talking about sailing and making fun of homeless people out of familiarity of his surroundings. Plus there will be tens of Lopez twin-related puns ("Stanford and the Lopez twins: twice as nice!")
Thing That Will Get Stuck In Billy Packer's Craw- I can guarantee Packer is downright furious that St. Mary's got in, but has no problem whatsoever with Kentucky making the field.
Most Ironic Commercial- Those completely incoherent IBM consulting commercials will look like a Miller Lite ad to those interested in the Stanford/Cornell game.
Talking Points That Will Make Your Brain Want To Die- Memphis' free throw shooting will doom them. Kentucky was once not as successful this season as they presently are. Texas will be playing the regionals in a place considerably closer to campus than others.
Second Round Match-Up That Would Give CBS Execs Creamed Jeans- Pittsburgh vs. Michigan State would be a massive collection of sludge to watch, but for some reason CBS loves coaches, especially Tom Izzo. And they would have the guy they once shunned but now love because they need bloggers and Internet writers to tell them what normal people actually like, Gus Johnson, overseeing the Izzo/Dixon lovefest. (Don't let them get you, Gus, please don't.)
Second Round Match-Up That Would Give Hoops Fans Creamed Jeans, CBS Execs Flaccidity- I can't recall a team that has been so good recently that has received so little national media attention as Oregon. Less than 5 percent of the population knows that the Ducks were very close to making the Final Four last year and have been to the Elite Eight twice in the past five years. This year, they have one of the most efficient, exciting offenses in the nation and most talking heads were incensed they got in the tournament. Well I want to see them play Memphis really badly because it would be a fast-paced, insanely athletic festival of scoring and because the Ducks shoot the ball so much better than Memphis, could be an upset.
Best NBA Prospect- Brook Lopez and Derrick Rose should go No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, behind Michael Beasley, if both enter this year's draft. And it really shouldn't be disputed.
Best Taiwan League A Prospect- St. Mary's center Omar Samhan is already being hailed the next "King of Taipei".... but only in closed circles for fear of Communist backlash from China.
Most Likely Teabagging Scenario- Derrick Rose hasn't really broken one off yet this year. Nothing like the Mavericks of Texas-Arlington to cure what ails ya.
Most Unexpectedly Hot Cheerleaders- Although there might not be any sun up in the Pacific Northwest, it appears there are certainly tanning salons and other reasons for obscenely attractive females to attend school there. For more on the Oregon cheerleaders go to the possibly great, most certainly criminal in some way or another, Pac-10 Poon.
Oh, And The Winner Of The Damn Thing- It's going to be tough for Memphis to just get to the regional finals, but I think they will have one of those Ohio State type runs where they look like crap for awhile and then barely avoid upset. In the bottom half, a Texas-Stanford Sweet 16 game would be incredibly awesome. I think Brook Lopez is going to be the breakout star of this tournament. I'll go against the Houston thing and take Stanford to meet Memphis, play a zone with the Lopez twins making any points in the paint impossible, force the Tigers to shoot threes, get Dorsey in foul trouble and the Cardinal will be a surprise Final Four team.