Wednesday, March 15, 2017

my 2017 ncaa (hootie johnson voice) toonumunt picks ...

"Uh oh, running out of breath,
But I -- Oh, I -- I got stamina.
Uh oh, running now? I close my eyes.
But I -- Oh, I -- I got stamina.

Uh oh, I got another mountain to climb.
But I -- Oh, I -- I got stamina.
Uh oh, I need another lover -- be mine!
Cause I -- Oh, I -- I got stamina.

Don't give up! I won't give up!
Don't give up! No! No! No! No!
Don't give up! I won't give up!
Don't give up! No! No! No! No!

I'm free to be the greatest -- I'm alive!
I'm free to be the greatest here tonight -- the greatest!
The greatest -- the greatest alive!
The greatest -- the greatest alive! ...

-- "The Greatest" by Sia and Kendrick Lamar.

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Here you go, boys and girls, peoples and peepettes -- my 2017 NCAA Tournament predictions.  This is how the main bracket I submit in any pool will look.  As always, I present this for one primary reason, and it is the same reason you (occasionally) get (half) a year’s NFL picks out of me: I am the world’s worst sports prognosticator.  No, really -- it’s true * .  I am routinely wrong far more than I am right.  So this is my gift to you -- a guide as how to not bet on college hoops, over the next three weeks.

Here we go.

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(*: although, to my credit, I did nail the following NFL Predictions last September.  (1) Green Bay to win the NFC Norris.  (2) Dallas to win the NFC East.  (3) Seattle to win the NFC West.  (4) That the winner of Ravens at Steelers on Christmas Day would win the AFC Norris (although I picked the wrong team to win).  (5) New England to win the AFC East.  (6) The Chiefs to win the AFC West at 12-4 exactly … and (7) the raiders to be the top wild card.  Not too shabby, all things considered.  (Where are the Falcons?)  Shut up down in front! …)

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New York City Regional:

First Four Games:

16 New Orleans over 16 Mount Saint Mary’s.  For no reason other than New Orleans on its worst and lowest day, has to be funner than whatever the hell Mount Saint Mary’s is, on its best and brightest day.

11 Providence over 11 USC.  Providence is a fun team to watch.  Also, this is a rematch of last year’s epic Round of 64 game, that Providence won on a last second layup.  The better team advances -- again.

Round of 64 Games:

1 Villanova over 16 New Orleans.  The Privateers are going to get their privates handed to them (rimshot)!

9 Virginia Tech over 8 Wisconsin.  Even as an 8, Wisconsin is at least two seeds too high.  The Big Ten was even more sh*ttacular than usual folks.  And on its best days, every school outside the state of Michigan (and on occasion, Ohio) is unwatchable.

5 Virginia over 12 UNC Wilmington.  I highly doubt he’d listen, but Mizzou could do a hell of a lot worse than pitching its gig to Tony Bennett.  I mean, he knows all about the “glass ceiling” that is the Elite 8 (rimshot)!

13 East Tennessee State over 4 Florida.  Just a guess.  Florida’s not as good as its seed; ETSU is the flyer in this regional I’m taking a buy on.

11 Providence over 6 SMU.  I LOVE this Providence team.  If you watch the Big East as much as I do (and God help you if you do), you get the love.  They’re (damien / dusty voice) grousely and criminitely, underseeded.  

3 Baylor over 14 New Mexico State.  And to think I chose not to attend Baylor because I thought it was too religious, too tee-totaling, too “does anybody do anything even remotely morally questionable in this place” (rimshot)!

(That, actually, is a true story -- I did choose TCU over Baylor because I wanted to have some fun in my college years.  Also, our guides that day drug that poor live bear out of his cave on a 113 degree August day, back in 1994.  It’s all fun and games until you f*ck with a live bear in my book.  Then it’s on ... like me hitting a bong circa 1998.)

7 South Carolina over 10 Marquette.  In case you’ve forgotten … Frank Martin is a damned solid tournament coach.  As he’s about to show again, at least for an afternoon.

2 Duke over 15 Troy.  Duke is the best team in the country.  The only question is, can Grayson Allen control his emotions for six straight games?  My guess is no … but he will for at least one.  This one.

Round of 32 Games:

1 Villanova over 9 Virginia Tech.  I love Jay Wright.  When Bill Self leaves for the NBA (and my guess is, it’s after next season, especially if #fourteen occurs), if the first call placed isn’t to a Philadelphia area code, somebody has some explaining to do up there on Mount Oread.

5 Virginia over 13 East Tennessee State.  Sorry ETSU -- you’re not the double digit seed making a stunning run to “The Gahden” for the Sweet Sixteen.

11 Providence over 3 Baylor.  Again -- I LOVE this Providence team.  Tremendously coached, tremendously prepared, exciting offense, and principled defense.  (Pause).  Or, basically, the exact opposite of my life the last fifteen years (rimshot)!

2 Duke over 7 South Carolina.  This has 90-89 written all over it.  Might be the best game of the Round of 32.  Definitely don’t want to miss out on this one, folks.

Sweet Sixteen Games:

1 Villanova over 5 Virginia.  I have changed my mind on this one at least fifteen times.  Villanova won at the buzzer back in January, 61-59, in one of the really entertaining games of the non-conference season.  I so, so, so am geeking the NYC Regional if it plays out as I predict it will -- two Big East squads, and Duke at its’ home away from home (non-Greensboro version), with a salty Virginia squad thrown in to boot.  Either of these teams is more than capable of winning this game, winning this regional, and winning it all.  

11 Providence over 2 Duke.  As I stated a couple pages ago, Duke is the best team in the country, and it’s not even close as far as I’m concerned.  They can beat anyone, anywhere, anytime, with the roster they have.  They also are the most unpredictable team in the country, and can sh*t the bed against anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Basically, they’re every Kansas team under Bill Self -- ridiculously talented, waiting for the inevitable upset to occur.  This is where it happens.  

Elite Eight Game:

1 Villanova over 11 Providence.  To be fair, 11 seeds can -- and do -- make the Final Four.  Sh*t, Dale Brown managed to do it at LSU thirty years ago.  “First Four” teams can -- and do -- make the Final Four.  Shaka Smart did it at VCU six years ago.  Here’s the thing though -- Villanova knows what Providence is going to throw at them.  They already play at least twice a year.  Both games this year were competitive … but Villanova won both by three possessions (10 at Nova, 9 at the Dunkin Donuts Center … possibly my favorite named arena ever, save for that brief moment of time in 2006 when the Cardinals new dome was named Pink Taco).  I expect the same in the finale here -- a 75-65ish victory for the defending champs.

New York City Regional Champion: 1 Villanova Wildcats.

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San Jose Regional:

First Four Games: none.

Round of 64 Games:

1 Gonzaga over 16 South Dakota State.  Poor Adam.  Oh, this one is gonna hurt dude.  

9 Vanderbilt over 8 Northwestern.  Congrats to Vanderbilt on redefining what “sh*tty mid major squeaking in by the barest of its’ ass” means to this tournament.  Fifteen losses, and they’re not only an at-large, they’re eight spots clear of the First Four!  Ridiculousness -- it’s not just a (really entertaining) show on MTV anymore (rimshot)!

5 Notre Dame over 12 Princeton.  Hey, Mizzou -- give Mike Brey a call too.  He knows all about the Elite Eight being that pesky, unshattered “glass ceiling” for his coaching career (rimshot)!

4 West Virginia over 13 Bucknell.  Is this where I acknowledge and admit that Bucknell knows how to win its opener as a double digit seed?  Or are us Jayhawk fans still in denial over that?

6 Maryland over 11 Xavier.  Xavier has beaten exactly one team not named DePaul in five weeks.  Maryland won’t be the second.

3 Florida State over 14 Florida Gulf Coast.  In the words of Timothy B. Schmidt: “I can’t tell you why”.

10 VCU over 8 St. Mary's.  Either squad has a damned good shot at knocking off their next opponent, who will be …

2 Arizona over 15 North Dakota.  Arizona as a two seed, in the West, is not something I fondly remember.  #cantbeatsantaclara #1993ncaatournament #yesipickedzonathatyear #yestheylostinroundone

Round of 32 Games:

1 Gonzaga over 9 Vanderbilt.  Although I can see the Commodores winning this one, actually.  If anyone knows how to engineer a shocking upset, it has to be Bryce Drew, right?

5 Notre Dame over 4 West Virginia.  Two straight Elite Eight finishes for Notre Dame.  They’ll be on pace after Sunday for their third.

3 Florida State over 6 Maryland.  Both teams are at least two seeds too high, if we’re being honest here.

2 Arizona over 10 VCU.  Although damn, the potential upset was hard to ignore.

Sweet Sixteen Games:

5 Notre Dame over 1 Gonzaga.  At least one one seed isn’t making it to Phoenix.  I’m guessing the most likely one to fail is Gonzaga.  (Which means you should probably load up now on the Zags to win it all.)

3 Florida State over 2 Arizona.  This is more a gut feeling than anything else.  

Elite Eight Game:

5 Notre Dame over 3 Florida State.  Never mind, Mizzou -- Mike Brey will break the glass ceiling, that you never will -- and said ceiling is winning an Elite Eight matchup.

San Jose Regional Champion: 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

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Memphis Regional:

First Four Games: 11 Kansas State over 11 Wake Forest.  One of these two belongs in this game.  And it ain’t Wake.  Although there’s a decent shot I might be baked, watching this (rimshot)!

Round of 64 Games:

1 North Carolina over 16 Texas Southern.  Although be honest, KU fans -- how epically awesome would it be if The Rat Bastard is the first to lose a Round of 64 game as a one seed?

9 Seton Hall over 8 Arkansas.  How’s that whole “we can do better than Mike Anderson” theory working for you, Mizzou fan?

5 Minnesota over 12 Middle Tennessee State.  When everyone and his sister is taking MTSU, I’ll grab onto the “Wayne Allyn Root Memorial” game of this round.

4 Butler over 13 Winthrop.  Will not be even remotely entertaining or memorable.

6 Cincinnati over 11 Kansas State.  I truly hope and pray getting this far, leads “Power Towel Nation” to keep Mr. Weber as their head coach.

3 UCLA over 14 Kent State.  I ask this with all due sincerity -- can a Ball just hook up with a Kardashian and get our looming national nightmare over with?  They’re both the most pathetically addicted to the spotlight “families” we’ll ever have to endure in this lifetime.

7 Dayton over 10 Wichita State.  I love Eamonn Brennan -- he’s this site’s official College Hoops Journalist, after all.  But Wichita State is not the 10th best team in America.  They’re maybe the 40th best.  They got the seed they deserve.  And Dayton is the better team, as will be shown when they match up in the Round of 64.

2 Kentucky over 15 Northern Kentucky.  I think Calipari bolts for the Pelicans gig after the season.  But I’m in the minority on that.

Round of 32 Games:

1 North Carolina over 9 Seton Hall.  PJ Carlesimo ain’t walking in that door, to save the Pirates’ ass this weekend.  Also, kudos to The Rat Bastard for stating what most of us think: Mr. Trump does tweet out an awful lot of bullsh*t.

4 Butler over 5 Minnesota.  I hope every Italian restaurant in Indy is on high alert -- there are multiple Pitino’s descending on your fine metropolitan area.  No table, bread basket, or waitress is safe.

6 Cincinnati over 3 UCLA.  Because (a) Mick Cronin is a far superior coach than Steve Alford on his best day, and (b) Cincinnati’s the better team.  UCLA has the best player on the floor, not the best team.  That tends to matter, come March … unless you’re the 2003 Syracuse Orange.  #melo Oh -- and absolutely #mikeyleewasraped on that last shot attempt.

2 Kentucky over 7 Dayton.  I nearly took Dayton.  This is one freaky good matchup.

Sweet Sixteen Games:

1 North Carolina over 4 Butler.  Gordon Hayward ain’t walking in that door to save the Bulldogs’ ass this year.  (Pause).  Come to think of it, he did miss the game winner against Duke, so there’s nothing to be saved.

2 Kentucky over 6 Cincinnati.  This will be one sneaky, freaky good matchup.  You give Mick Cronin five days to prep for an opponent, you’re going to get one hell of an amazing performance.  This smells like a 71-70 finish.

Elite Eight Game:

1 North Carolina over 2 Kentucky.  If you can’t get yourself raised to at least four inches just thinking of this as an Elite Eight matchup, then question your manhood.  (Checking.)  I’m good!

Memphis Regional Champion: 1 North Carolina Tar Heels.

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Kansas City Regional:

First Four Games:

16 North Carolina Central over 16 UC Davis.  The “CMP Memorial” pick of this post.

Round of 64 Games:

1 Kansas over 16 North Carolina Central.  I intend to watch this one at the Second Parents house, after a fun filled afternoon at The Double, and Brew Top.  Feel free to join me.  Cabbage and corned beef with a healthy helping of Shiner Bock awaits us!

9 Michigan State over 8 Miami (FL).  If you want to bet against Tom Izzo, be my guest.  Because I’m not.

5 Iowa State over 12 Nevada.  I wonder if The Mayor regrets leaving?

4 Purdue over 13 Vermont.  I’m not sold on this pick at all.  I still remember 2005, and that f*cker Taylor Coppenrath.

11 Rhode Island over 6 Creighton.  And Sebree loses again.  Poor guy.  He’s like the bizarro DJ Khaled -- all he does is lose, lose, lose no matter what.

3 Oregon over 14 Iona.  Oregon is going to “I own ya” this game (rimshot)!  (Pause).  Oh come on!  That was at least semi funny!

10 Oklahoma State over 7 Michigan.  I can’t wait to watch this one.  Hands down the best on paper matchup of the Round of 64.  Has 94-93 written all over it.

2 Louisville over 15 Jacksonville State.  Jacksonville State sounds too much like “Less Than Jake”, a band I have an irrational hatred of.  

Round of 32 Games:

1 Kansas over 9 Michigan State.  In the words of the great Mr. Hugh M. Hefner: “this is going to be something … REALLY special!”

5 Iowa State over 4 Purdue.  The Big Twelve (minus two) trumps the Big Ten (plus four).  You’re damned right that makes no sense.

3 Oregon over 11 Rhode Island.  In my best Linda Richman voice: I’ll give you a topic.  Rhode Island is neither a road, nor an island.  Discuss.

2 Louisville over 10 Oklahoma State.  How many “salad bowls” are the Pitino’s gonna break in this weekend?  Three?  Or … (mike gundy voice) forty!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Sweet Sixteen Games:

1 Kansas over 5 Iowa State.  Oh sweet merciful Lord Jesus, let this game happen.  KC proper will fall apart at the seams next Thursday if it does.  Cyclone Nation invading; Jayhawk Nation defending.  Please dear God, let this one happen!

3 Oregon over 2 Louisville.  This is such a good matchup.  It’s a shame one side has to lose.  But that side will be Louisville.

Elite Eight Game:

1 Kansas over 3 Oregon.  (Pause).  Yeah, I gotta go there.  (rose from “titanic” voice) It’s been sixteen years, and I can still envision it …

(ku trumpeter voice) Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo!
(ku trumpeter voice) Doo!  Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo!
(ku trumpeter voice) Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo?  Doo Doo!!!!!!!!

I lost it, hearing the first “Doo”, with about thirty seconds left in the game, after (I forget which) Ernie Kent or The Rat Bastard called a timeout to get the seniors into the game.

I freaking lost it, hearing the first note of the trumpet, through my television, on that amazing Sunday to open the most difficult month of my life, April 2002.

“We’re not gonna take it!
No!  We ain’t gonna take it!
We’re not gonna take it?  Anymore!!!!!!!!!”

I fist pumped 2012’s Final Four appearance, beating The Rat Bastard.  I reacted exactly as Coach Self did in 2008 -- fell out of my chair, knelt on the floor, and pounded said floor as the tears flowed -- beating Davidson to reach San Antonio nine years ago.  I know I cried in 2003, as Arizona melted under the relentless pressure.  But I’ve rarely if ever lost it, like I did hearing that first freaking note of “The Pride of Kansas”, sixteen years ago, with the game against Oregon no longer in doubt, and KU returning to the Final Four for the first time in a decade.

And I mean, lost it.

I pray I get to do that again, come next Saturday night.

Kansas City Regional Champion: 1 Kansas Jayhawks.

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The Final Four:

1 Villanova over 5 Notre Dame.  The undercard to the main event.

1 North Carolina over 1 Kansas.  As best I can recall, KU has never lost to The Rat Bastard.  The win in the Final Four in 2008 was epic … and to Roy’s credit, his “screw the sponsor, I’m wearing the Jayhawk logo instead” class act two days later against Memphis had to soften whatever ill feelings existed.  (Even I don’t hate the guy; I just refer to him as The Rat Bastard out of a sense of history.)  2012 was great -- the epic rally in St. Louis, from down ten to regional champs in barely eight minutes.  2014 was special -- beating the crap out of one of the worst teams Roy will ever oversee, in Kansas City (or, “as close to Lawrence as the NCAA Tournament will ever get”).

This one feels different.  I think this is the best team Roy has ever coached (sorry, 1997 Jayhawks).  I think he has one more championship in him before he walks away.  And I think this is the year he gets it.

National Championship Game:

1 North Carolina over 1 Villanova.  Look it, the rematch never matches the original.  Just like the sequel of a movie never matches the original, let alone exceeds it (save for “The Empire Strikes Back”, and possibly “Godfather Part II”, which is nowhere near as good as people make it out to be … but that’s another post for another day.  Still, even I have to concede, offing Fredo the way he was offed, is one of the greatest moments in cinema history.)

Last year’s national championship game was one for the ages -- arguably the best since “Super” Mario was nailing three’s out of his ass as time wound down to force overtime against Memphis nine years ago.  It certainly stands with the greatest of title games -- NC State / Houston in 1983, Indiana / Syracuse in 1987, North Carolina / Michigan in 1993 (this one still stings like a mo' fo' 25 years later) … or Duke / Butler in 2010, which does deserve some mention, I would think.

I don’t think this year’s will be as memorable.

But damn, can a kid dream …

National Champion: North Carolina Tar Heels.

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