The SSS NCAA Tournament Preview For Non-Psychics: East 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.
Your East region. The West will come tomorrow. Midwest Wednesday and the South either Thursday morning or Wednesday night.
1st Round Games
1) North Carolina vs. 16) TBA: The Heels have never beaten TBA, so surely they are irked with the committee's decision to match up the overall No. 1 with a team its never beaten. Sons a bitches, those committee members are.
8) Indiana vs. 9) Arkansas: Some folks are perplexed by Indiana's low seeding but those people must not know some inside information about the Hoosiers: They suck. Yes I know; Eric Gordon, DJ White, those jazzy warm-up pants. It's Indiana! They are totally awesome! No, I'm sorry, they are not totally awesome. The Hoosiers best in-conference road win was at Ohio State. They lost to Minnesota and Penn State in the past week. And they broke all sorts of rules to achieve those stratospheric levels. Not to mention they have no point guard and refuse to play any sort of defense. Those looking for the Steve Fisher/Dan Dakich parallels may be better off referencing Fisher's golden days at San Diego State.
5) Notre Dame vs. 12) George Mason: Clueless, white businessmen everywhere -- you know, the guys who claim to really love March Madness but basically just repeat what they heard on Around the Horn when gathered at the water cooler; the guys who, if they win the pool will credit some kind of divine knowledge most certainly learned from Digger Phelps but when they lose joke around about it like they have the worst luck in the world ("I can never win these things, my wife beat me again!"); you know, the guys you want to kill -- will be determined to not let George Mason sneak up on them again this year. Even if it means picking against those crew-cut WASPy fellows that the Irish trot out there (keep in mind none of these idiots know nearly enough about basketball to have heard about McAlarney's reefer violation). I actually think Mason can win this one but for reasons (good at slowing down faster opponents, physical interior defense), different than Forbes Applewhite, CPA (they made the Final Four that year! what a Cinderella!).
4) Washington State vs. 13) Winthrop: Call the Eagles "The George Mason For Slightly Less Clueless White Businessmen." Those idiots will pick them based on past upsets and the general obscurity with which Wazzou plays. Unfortunately for Ted Stevens, VP of Sales, New England Patriots fan, "the Cougars" are more than just what he boasts his wife to be during their triannual sexual relations (Valentine's Day, Anniversary, and the greatest holiday of all, When She Gets Too Drunk at the Company Banquet). They are a really good basketball team that plays some really good defense and won't even be a touch bothered by Winthrop's vaunted ball pressure. They don't score well enough to beat a team like Notre Dame or North Carolina, but can certainly beat Winthrop, and Mason if they pull the upset, at their own game.
6) Oklahoma vs. 11) St. Joe's: This wins the award for Most Interesting Game to Real Hoops Fans That No One Else Will Give A Shit About. Both teams have underrated frontlines and watching Pat Calathes and Ahmad Nivins try to run around and stop Blake Griffin will be enjoyable, if not masochistic. I actually think they can do it though. Besides Griffin, the Sooners just cannot score the ball and the Hawks have stepped up their defense lately. This could be an 8-9 game if both teams seeds were more accurately.
3) Louisville vs. 14) Boise State: My love for the ball-hawking, lane-penetrating Cardinals is well-chronicled around these parts and if they make a deep run my unhealthy crush would certainly be vindicated. They face a pretty dangerous Boise State that can really shoot the ball but is rather uninterested in defense. If they can speed up the Cardinals and get into a shooting contest, well, they will still probably lose. But man do I love it when teams run up and down the court! (Seriously though, with this draw Louisville better make the damn Sweet 16 without breaking a sweat.)
7) Butler vs. 10) South Alabama: The Bulldogs got absolutely hosed and I have no idea why. They probably aren't the No. 4 seed all the crazies are clamoring for, but they certainly are a No. 5 or 6 and they certainly shouldn't have to play a road game in the first round against USA (the school, not the country; AJ Graves vs. Kobe Bryant would be an interesting match-up though). Despite the pounding they took, this is still a wildly interesting game. Butler plays slower than Kige Ramsey while the Jags play a bit faster and spread the floor some. Both teams have two of the better backcourts in mid-major basketball. Butler really can beat Tennessee in the second round but it'll be tough to even get there.
2) Tennessee vs. 15) American: This is just some cruel shit from the Selection Committee. I wrote this in the Selection Show Gamelog (Not About A Game), but I really don't see American being able to finish this game. Not that they aren't a good team, but the Eagles are 320th in the nation in pace of play. The Vols are 19th. The Vols have a bunch of crazy athletic people that jump over human beings for fun. American has this guy. And this guy. And this guy. I'm being dead serious when I say I am worried for the physical well-being of this team.
To Watch For
Game You Should Really Want Gus Johnson Announcing- Oklahoma vs. St. Joe's. Should be close, Gus should love Blake Griffin, struggle to pronounce Calathes.
Game You Should NOT Want Jim Nantz Announcing- Notre Dame vs. George Mason. First, the pun count will be off the charts with Mason ("Is Cinderella Ready For Another Night Out?" something awful along those lines). Second, when he sees Notre Dame and its fans he will go right into Augusta National mode (with Tory Jackson playing the part of Tiger Woods /ducks).
Thing That Will Get Stuck In Billy Packer's Craw- Surely, he'll be pissed about the whole Butler situation and will have a few fun words for Indiana and the Kelvin Sampson mess but something tells me he'll have some backhandedly racist comments about Tyler Smith's tear drop tattoos that CBS will sweep nicely under the rug. Also, there's no way he stays non-biased if he does that Notre Dame-George Mason game.
Most Ironic Commercial- John Mellencamp's soulcrushingly ubiquitous This Is Our Country commercial should fit oh-so swimmingly with the Tennessee game as a Jewish guy coaches a predominantly black team in a town best known for erroneously sending Martin Luther King Jr. to jail. This, indeed, is our country.
Talking Points That Will Make Your Brain Want To Die- David Padgett is a "point center." Luke Harangody looks like a football player. These things are unavoidable, completely irrelevant.
Second Round Match-Up That Would Give CBS Execs Creamed Jeans- UNC v. Indiana. DJ White vs. Tyler Hansbrough. Basketball mecca vs. basketball mecca. Traditionally proud program vs. recently shamed program. Hillbillies vs. Rednecks.
Second Round Match-Up That Would Give Hoops Fans Creamed Jeans, CBS Execs Flaccidity- Notre Dame vs. Washington State. Freewheeling three-point hoisting vs. plodding deliberation masked as efficiency. Derrick Low's Hawaiian weed stash v. Kyle McAlarney's self control.
Best NBA Prospect- Blake Griffin should stay another year, then become a Top 5 pick. Not entirely sold on Eric Gordon on the next level yet.
Best Luxembourg First Division Prospect- Arkansas Center Steven Hill will take Diekrich by storm next year.
Most Likely Teabagging Scenario- The Smith Named Tyler all over one those poor, unsuspecting future diplomats of American.
Unexpectedly Hot Cheerleaders- Arkansas. Gotta think there are some really pretty, excruciatingly dumb girls in that group.
Oh, And The Winner Of The Damn Thing- Louisville-Tennessee and UNC-Notre Dame in two epic regional semifinals with the Cardinals and Heels advancing. Louisville advances to the Final Four when Wayne Ellington has an atrocious shooting night.