The SSS 2008 NCAA Tournament Preview For Non-Psychics: West 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.
Today we go out West. Look for South and Midwest tomorrow and Thursday morning.
By the way, Awful Announcing has the first round announcers for each game, so check that out for
1st Round Games
1) UCLA vs. 16) Mississippi Valley State: The outstanding Jim Varney, master of his craft, never made an "Ernest Goes To Hollywood" movie, but I would imagine the story of the Delta Devils' adventures this week should fill that void.
8) BYU vs. 9) Texas A & M: Probably the most boring first round match-up of closely matched seeds, there are gonna be a ton of dump downs and entry passes in this one with Trent Plaisted (BYU), Joseph Jones (A & M) and the Ghost of DeAndre Jordan (A & M) (and his 50 percent of actually showing up for a game). Both teams play solid defense but really struggle with shot-making at times. Man I'm pumped for this game.
5) Drake vs. 12) Western Kentucky: I'm not going to make a Love the Drake joke because everyone in the damn country, including human Ambien dispensers Seth Davis and Hubert Davis, has been making them all week. I think I was the first person lame enough to make this joke, so I feel as though it and I have come to the end of the road. We had a good run Love the Drake joke, no regrets. Anyway, this game would be a great Bracketbusters match-up, an event the Selection Committee apparently decided not to watch because they tried to recreate it. Drake is a really good team -- they are almost more "Butler" than Butler if that doesn't make your brain hurt -- but this will be a close game no matter what. The Hilltoppers (real nickname) are a like-minded team that can shoot the ball just like the Bulldogs. Their star is Courtney Lee, who is going to get his no matter what, but it'll come down to one other Hilltopper stepping up.
4) Connecticut vs. 13) San Diego: I'm excited for the Hasheem Thabeet vs. Gyno Pomare match-up which should decide who gets to be the challenger to Kenny George's title of "Guy Who Stumbles Into the Most Fouls." Generally it would be Pomare in a 8th round TKO, but Thabeet really showed me some uncoordination in the Big East tourney. Should be thrilling. There is a faint whiff of growing Torero support in this one but I'm not sure why. Yes, the Huskies struggled down the stretch but when you are more talented at every single position, you are probably going to win. I don't see Whale's Vagina scoring 60 points in this one and there's no way it dominates the inside against UConn like it did against Gonzaga.
6) Purdue vs. 11) Baylor: Thus begins this year's Pod of Dullness, the four teams (along with Xavier and Georgia, seen below) that make up the "pod" with the lowest quality of basketball. Lucky for me, I will be there Saturday in DC to see which squad can emerge from this trough of slop. Alcohol will surely be in the equation. This game should actually be somewhat entertaining despite being fairly meaningless in the overall scheme of this tournament. The Boilermakers are led by freshman
3) Xavier vs. 14) Georgia: The Musketeers like to get after the ball on the defensive end and, on paper, it would seem the containment on Sundiata Gaines and Billy Humphrey (who is not, in fact, a cock-eyed optimist) is paramount to avoiding an upset. But in reality, the key for Xavier is going to be stopping God. The senior deity was the breakout performer for the Bulldogs in their amazing SEC Championship run. He has a strong right hand (Jesus) and a nice stroke from on high. Sean Miller needs to find a way to stop his drive-and-smite game and slow him down on offense like the Old Testament, and Arkansas, could not.
7) West Virginia vs. 10) Arizona: This is a Gus Johnson Special if there ever was one. But alas, we are stuck with Craig Bolerjack (real person) and Bob Wenzel. Surely those two nondescript folks will be all a twitter by Joe Alexander, Everyone's New Favorite White Guy, and his match-up with Chase Budinger. I'm not as concerned with that head-to-head match; it should be a wash and I don't see any way the Cats let Alexander go off. This one should come down to West Virginia getting consistent scoring from someone else to match Jerryd Bayless' production. If they can't get Jordan Hill, a guy the Mountaineers cannot match up with, in foul trouble, it'll be a long night but since he starts every game with two fouls (I think), that shouldn't be a problem.
2) Duke vs. 15) Belmont: Duke will either win this by 30 or lose. It's going to be an 80 possession game with at least 60 threes combined between the two teams and absolutely no semblance of a post player to be found. I'm dead serious when I say Belmont can win this game. They just need to hit about 15 threes and hope Duke hits about seven. But that's about as good a chance as any 15-seed can hope for, right? Again, another Gus Johnson Special. We need to get this man to DC ASAP. Although if we do, he might look like this by Saturday.
(Note: This is outstanding.)
To Watch For
Game You Should Really Want Gus Johnson Announcing- Yeah we already spoke about this. Turns out he's doing the Denver games, which includes the Michigan State/Temple/ Oral Roberts/ Pitt pod and the Washington State/ Winthrop/ Notre Dame/ George Mason pod. Not bad games for his greatness, especially because he has Mason. I trust him far better to call a potential Patriots upset than the punny creepiness of Jim Nantz.
Game You Should NOT Want Jim Nantz Announcing- Drake vs. Western Kentucky. Not that there is any way Nantz has ever watched/enjoyed Seinfeld -- he seems like a "Two And A Half Men" or "Mad About You" guy to me -- but I've gotta think he'd enlist up-and-coming comedian Seth Davis to help him out with some sweet Love the Drake puns. Plus if Western Kentucky wins, it'll be "And Western Kentucky has topped the first hill" or something vomit-inducing like that.
Thing That Will Get Stuck In Billy Packer's Craw- Something about BYU refusing to play on Sundays. Back in his day, "Mormon" was just another word for homosexual.
(Note: Nantz and Packer will be doing the Raleigh site with UNC's game, the Indiana-Arkansas game and the pod with Gonzaga/ Davidson/ Georgetown/ UMBC. So Kelvin Sampson and Josh Heytvelt, you're on notice.)
Most Ironic Commercial- Any Bud Light commercial during a West Virginia game. We all know West Virginia fans can't afford Bud Light.
Talking Points That Will Make Your Brain Want To Die- Anything on the Coach K/Mike D'Antoni thing, even though the Suns don't even run that type of offense anymore. AJ Price as laptop stealer turned adopted son of Jim Calhoun will be popular too. Joe Alexander as the next coming of Larry Bird or, worst case scenario, Christ.
Second Round Match-Up That Would Give CBS Execs Creamed Jeans-West Virginia-Duke would be right up CBS' wheelhouse in terms of pure whiteness and asshole coaches to deify. They would definitely hide the Carlos Mencia commercials for that one.
Second Round Match-Up That Would Give Hoops Fans Creamed Jeans, CBS Execs Flaccidity- The aforementioned Baylor-Xavier game would be complete madness in terms of fun, guard-oriented basketball, but I think I speak for everyone when I say, I WANT ARIZONA-DUKE. Kevin O'Neill's gruffness with the media and deliberate, ball screen-laden offense wouldn't really boost the aesthetic value of a Duke/Coach K game that CBS would hope for, but there would be too much damn talent on that court to not be a classic.
Best NBA Prospect- Kevin Love is superdreamy but I think Russell Westbrook is going to be a damned assassin in the pros. I suppose Jerryd Bayless is a nice player too.
Best Latvian First Division Prospect- West Virginia's Jamie Smalligan is rumored to already have an offer to endorse Spilva, Latvia's leading provider of atrocious looking foods, when he graduates.
Most Likely Teabagging Scenario- Russell Westbrook will not leave Anaheim without embarrassing a Delta Devil.
Unexpectedly Hot Cheerleaders- In a region with UCLA, Georgia and Arizona, there's something oddly attractive about hooking up with a BYU cheerleader. And, of course, with some grit, determination and arcane legislative loopholes, you could hook up with all of the BYU cheerleaders.
(Note: If this page and the West Virginia "sports" "site," We Must Ignite This Couch, that contains it doesn't explain that state quite accurately, I don't know what would.)
Oh, And The Winner Of The Damn Thing- In a bracket that looks to heavily favor the chalk, if there is a half of a region that has the capability of producing a really weird Elite Eight participant, it's the bottom half of the West. I wouldn't be surprised if any of the top six seeds down there make the regional final against UCLA, which could have a tough game against UConn in the Sweet 16. The Bruins go to the Final Four and I still like them to win it all.