This is complete Madness.
I am presenting my 2009 NCAA Tournament Preview, Predictions, and Bracketology Manifesto. I must begin by offering that this article is completely absurd. First, I do not have the time or the energy to break down 65 different teams. Secondly, even if I were to identify myself as a so called “expert” drone hired to break down hours of film, attend 3,287 overtime games, and calculate the probability of the 3rd seeded Missouri Tigers advancing to the Sweet 16 versus an Ivy League school – I would still be wrong 88.3% of the time.
March Madness is exactly that.
Any one team can get hot against any other team at any moment.
This thing is a total crap shoot – roll of the dice. I am a bit vexed by these “experts” that wish to intimate otherwise. This is the age of parity and correctly identifying the NCAA Tournament winners and losers is sheer luck. Interestingly, last year, every number-one seed advanced to the Final Four for the first time in the history of this tournament.
Seeding is absolutely useless by the Sweet 16.
The financial markets have completely shut down, we are bombing entrenched war lords along the Afghanistan – Pakistan border, OctoMom is clearly a celebrity, and Sobe is running bizarre commercials of dancing footballers wearing tights.
We are beyond Armageddon.
Still, these “experts” feel the urge to waste 8 hours per day screaming at each other to determine what they think the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee thinks it is going to do in order to decide which team is truly worthy of securing a #1 seed.
Get a grip, America.
The #1 seed may be the most worthless argument in all of sports. First, the #1 seed must meet and beat the #2 seed if the chalk holds. Second, I am miffed by the #1 seed “wins 79% of the time statistic.” Frankly, the #1 seed wins most of the time because they are the better team – not because they are the #1 seed.
I will now present my NCAA Tournament Manifesto. The Manifesto is a happy medium between blindly throwing darts at a newspaper and completely obsessing over a field of 65 teams that alters dramatically every year due to player matriculation, injury, and the random walk probabilities of basic mathematics. Certainly, this absurd attempt to make sense out of March Madness will degenerate towards ever more insanity:
Who is Hot Leading into the 2009 NCAA Tournament:
Louisville, The Big East, Memphis
Who is Not Hot Leading into the 2009 NCAA Tournament:
Michigan State, The SEC, Mid-Major Cinderella
The Big East is overrated and Memphis Does not Play Anybody.
The Big East was awarded three #1 seeds and Louisville is the top overall seed. I never got the memo – but I am assuming that Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana), Louisville, Marquette (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and DePaul (Chicago) have proceeded to relocate and annex themselves to the eastern seaboard.
The Big East is not a Conference. The Big East is actually a bizarro subdivision of the NCAA. Of course, the Big East still revolves around the Washington D.C. – New York City corridor that is apparently the only geographic segment of the Free World that actually exists!
This East Coast Media Bias has resulted in major programs and talking heads stumbling upon their own selves to fawn over this Conference. The Big East is overrated and will be exposed in 2009. The ACC remains the premier League for college basketball.
The Memphis Tigers have won roughly 8,734 straight games against middling Conference U.S.A. and felt that they were truly deserving of a number one seed. How many legitimate fans of college basketball can name more than two other Conference U.S.A. schools? Did anybody else notice the blatant, “as if” drab, combative aura of the Memphis War Room on Selection Sunday?
The Tiger roster had less energy than Yao Ming’s “entourage” on NBA Draft Day. Obviously, Memphis was gunning for a worthless top seed and felt completely snubbed by the number – two post. We cannot smile favorably upon such arrogance.
Possibly, Calipari and his troops will rally behind the “Nobody believed in us!” cliche – but I doubt that. Entitled, athletic prowess succumbs to scrappy gamesmanship at the college level every time. 1992-1993 Michigan’s Fab 5, Jerry Tarkanian’s 1991 Runnin’ Rebels, and the 2001 Arizona Wildcats are all examples of stacked rosters that were absolutely sabotaged by their own selves while falling short of the ultimate NCAA Championship Goal.
Of course, the Tigers also violate my highly scientific “Headband Thesis,” which stipulates that the team sporting the most headbands on the floor will always implode in the clutch.
The Big 10 Conference is the antithesis to Memphis’ high wire act. The Big 10 is a snooze fest and “Purdue” must be the most boring University in America. Really, I have nothing against West Lafayette, Indiana and I have even visited this lovely campus on several occasions. Sometimes, boring can be good. Boring is just never good when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
“Purdue Boilermaker” is the perfect moniker for Middle America’s brand of basketball.
The game plan: walk the ball up the court, pass the basketball around six times, stand around, and then dump the ball inside to some awkward, lumbering stiff with 5 seconds left on the shot clock. The stiff will then either draw a foul, miss the shot, or turn the ball over.
To wit, the other Big 10 team will rebound the basketball, refuse to fast break, and waste another 30 seconds off of the shot clock before calling a time out.
This is not Big Time NCAA Basketball. Rather, this is YMCA, middle-aged Rec League Ball.
With the exception of the Michigan State Flint Stones and the 2005 Fighting Illini – the Big 10 has not been a Force since Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers and Magic’s Spartans electrified crowds of the early 80’s.
Even so, these stalwarts refused to fall into the death trap of maddening, Big 10 Midwest plodding and actually pushed the pace behind the iconic guard play of Mateen Cleaves, Deron Williams, Isiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson.
Will the Big 10, Detroit, and Middle America ever learn that churning out the same, tired product year after year simply doesn’t work?
Lastly, some wacky mid-major ball club will show up out of nowhere, win 2 games, captivate our Hearts, and proceed to either collapse in the final minute of the Sweet Sixteen, or get dominated in the Elite 8. Of course it is a prerequisite that the leader of said mid-major dons a cool nameplate, such as “Harold Arceneaux” or “Nate Funk.”
Nate Funk is the Baddest White Boy Alive.
This all makes sense because of the following:
2009 NCAA Tournament March Madness Bracketology Rule #1: Identify Final 4 Teams First.
Evaluate the ball clubs that have separated themselves from the pack, irrespective of bracket positioning. North Carolina, Oklahoma, UCONN, and Pittsburgh have traded positions at the top of the rankings all season. Whereas, Memphis, Michigan State, and Louisville are relatively new comers to this elite top tier group. Louisville and Memphis have emerged as contenders by default – with Conference Championship victories.
Our initial goal here is simply to identify the realistic Final 4 contenders before completing our brackets. Certainly, these talented, yet flawed rosters are set upon a collision course with each other and we must introduce a particular algorithm to scientifically combat the March Madness parity. Still, as we analyze the 2009 NCAA Tournament bracket we must note that the Pittsburgh Panthers operate out of the lax East bracket and will not face any of the aforementioned clubs until Detroit.
Pittsburgh is a lock for the 2009 Final 4.
The following step-by-step NCAA Tournament Manifesto will guide our remaining selections.
2009 NCAA Tournament March Madness Bracketology Rule #2: Overrated Duke University Loses in the First or the Second Round.
This is the easiest rule to follow. Duke’s limited roster desperately relies upon the perimeter jump shot, has no semblance of any interior presence, and lacks the clutch scoring gamer that is able to create his own shot. The Euro-style basketball spacing, pass, and cut formula is anathema for NCAA Tournament success.
Duke is destroyed by aggressive guard play, raw athleticism, and physical defense that closes out upon outside shooters and punishes the Blue Devils inside. The menacing scowls that accompany said mentality always leaves these choir boys flopping for offensive fouls, whining to the referees, and crying Uncle by the second half.
Duke is weak.
Second seeded Duke will dispatch Binghamton before being dominated by Texas in the round of 32. Texas’ strong inside-out offense is lethal behind the smooth scoring of AJ Abrams. The Longhorns are a matchup nightmare for Duke and will roll at Greensboro.
Texas over Minnesota. Duke over Binghamton. Texas over Duke.
That was Easy.
2009 NCAA Tournament March Madness Bracketology Rule #3: Pick by Conference. Big East is Overrated, The Big 10 is Boring, the Pac 10 is Too Cool, and the SEC only cares about Footbawwwl!
This is the most comprehensive rule and is not to be taken lightly.
Never bank on the Big 10, Pacific 10, or Southeastern Conference to win basketball games against comparable competition. These alleged, “power conference” schools are also mine fields for “upsets” against lower seeded bracket busters. I feel that these “upsets” are far from shocking. Dominant mid-majors are simply better than middling BCS (ACC / Big 10 / Big 12 / SEC / Big East / Pac 10) programs.
Additionally, Illinois and Maryland must be the most disappointing programs in the history of NCAA Basketball. I am completely baffled by the fact that Champagne and College Park, located within close proximity to the Chicago and Baltimore-Washington hoops Meccas are not firmly entrenched within the Final 4 conversation every single year.
This is (almost) a disgrace. But, I digress.
Again, we highlight “comparable” competition.
Dominant mid-majors will give the Big 10, SEC, and Pac 10 fits. However, 15 and 16 seeds will always be overpowered by the BCS Conferences. Lastly, all broken clocks are correct two times per day and once in a generation Big 10 / SEC rosters such as 2006-2007 Florida, 2005 Illinois, and 2000 Michigan State steamrolled the competition throughout the year leading up towards the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game. Tom Izzo’s Flint Stones and Billy Donovan’s Gators were the clear rock-star favorites over inferior opponents.
Of course, the 2005 Illinois NBA-Ready edition of Deron Williams, Luther Head, and Dee Brown met its match versus UNC’s vaunted Sean May / Rashard McCants / Ray Felton / Marvin Williams lineup and lost to the equally talented Tar Heels. The Conference Rule always holds against comparable competition. However, the Kansas Jayhawks of the Big 12 and the leading mid-majors represent curious outliers:
ACC over Big East over Pac 10 over SEC over Big 12 over Big 10.
2009 NCAA Tournament MIDWEST Region Preview and Predictions:
#1 Louisville over #16 Alabama State and #9 Siena. Louisville loses to Wake at Sweet 16.
#2 Michigan State loses to Boston College in second round.
#3 Kansas over #14 NDSU, #11 Dayton, and #7 BC. KU loses to Wake in Elite 8.
#4 Wake Forest over #13 Cleveland State
#5 Utah over #12 Arizona
#7 Boston College over #10 USC and #2 Michigan State, before losing to Kansas.
#9 Siena over #8 Ohio State. Siena loses to Louisville in second round.
#11 Dayton over #6 West Virginia. Dayton loses to #3 Kansas.
2009 NCAA Tournament WEST Region Preview and Predictions:
#1 Connecticut over #16 Chattanooga
#2 Memphis over Cal-State Northridge
#3 Missouri over #14 Cornell
#4 Washington over #13 Mississippi State
#8 BYU over #9 Texas A&M
#10 Maryland over #7 Cal
#11 Utah State over #6 Marquette
#12 Northern Iowa over #5 Purdue
2009 NCAA Tournament EAST Region Preview and Predictions:
#1 Pitt to Final 4.
#2 Duke over #15 Binghamton; Duke loses to #7 Texas per Rule 2
#3 Villanova over #14 American
#4 Xavier over #13 Portland State
#5 Florida State over #12 Wisconsin and #4 Xavier, before losing to Pitt at Sweet 16
#6 UCLA over #11 VCU, before losing to #3 Villanova
#7 Texas over #10 Michigan and #2 Duke, before falling to ‘Nova in Sweet 16
#8 Oklahoma State over #9 Tennessee
2009 NCAA Tournament SOUTH Region Preview and Predictions:
#1 UNC to Final 4
#2 Oklahoma over #15 Morgan State, #7 Clemson, and #3 Syracuse; OU loses to UNC in Elite 8
#3 Syracuse over #14 SF Austin and #6 Arizona State
#4 Gonzaga over #13 Akron; Zags lose to #12 WKU
#6 Arizona State over #11 Temple
#7 Clemson over #10 Michigan; Tigers lose to Oklahoma
#9 Butler over #8 LSU; Butler loses to #1 UNC
#12 Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois and #4 Gonzaga, before losing to #1 UNC at Sweet 16
2009 NCAA Tournament March Madness Bracketology Rule #4: Guard Play Rules.
Guards that are able to create their own shots – either through dribble-drive penetration or by posting up smaller defenders loom large in the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is dominated by Guard Lore that controls post season match ups. Tyus Edney, Khalid El Amin, Salim Stoudamire, Mateen Cleeves, and Khalid Reeves are all Big Game NCAA guards that rose to the occasion in the Tournament – yet disappeared at the next level.
Even the diminutive Cameron Dollar triumphantly emerged from a UCLA backup into a Bruin Legend with his heroic Final 4 relief of Tyus Edney.
Clearly, the NCAA Tournament is skewed to favor efficient guard play that limits turnovers, establishes a frenetic pace, creates shots for others, and manufactures last ditch, one-on-one offense during key possessions where the first and second options have broken down.
The best guards in this tournament are UNC’s Tywon Lawson, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, and UCONN’s A.J. Price. UCLA, Syracuse, and Villanova also feature veteran backcourts of steady ball handlers and explosive one-on-one scorers with Darren Collison, Jonny Flynn, and Scottie Reynolds leading the charge for these contenders.
These teams will all do damage in the NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest, UNC, and UCONN are all worthy of the Final 4, based upon guard play. Syracuse is running on fumes – but the Orange will be competitive in the Sweet 16 if Paul Harris effectively neutralizes Blake Griffin and the streak shooting Eric Devendorf continues to knock down outside shots. Of course, this is a tall order for this weary bunch and I cannot foresee Big East MVP Jonny Flynn carrying his squad past the Sweet 16.
The Villanova / UCLA winner will defeat Texas to advance to the Elite 8, where they will lose to Pitt. The game will be decided by the Collison / Reynolds matchup that will serve as a tribute to dueling guard play. Although, Darren Collison is jet quick – rivaling Tywon Lawson as the fastest 94- feet of hardwood man in NCAA basketball, I will give the edge to Villanova and the craftier Reynolds.
2009 NCAA Tournament Predictions per Rule #4 Guard Play:
#4 Wake Forest over #13 Cleveland State, #5 Utah, #1 Louisville, and #3 Kansas to Final 4.
#1 UCONN over #8 BYU, and #4 Washington to Elite 8 versus Memphis.
#1 UNC over #9 Butler, #12 Western Kentucky, and #2 Oklahoma to Final 4.
#3 Villanova over #14 American, #6 UCLA, and #7 Texas before losing to Pitt in Elite 8.
2009 NCAA Tournament March Madness Bracketology Rule #5:
The Headband Thesis.
Count the number of headbands on the floor. The befuddled bunch sporting the higher number of headbands will always lose in a close game. Defeat is snatched away from the jaws of victory and fortunes will be blown by a maddening collection of missed free throws, sideline shouting matches, bonehead turnovers, and ill-advised timeouts.
The headband rule is a precursor to a complete meltdown, because these squads appear more concerned with looking pretty and donning the proper head gear – than actually executing.
This does not bode well for Memphis. This very same head band thesis crushed Memphis in last year’s 2008 NCAAChampionship thriller versus the Kansas Jayhawks. Memphis, clearly in control simply imploded down the stretch in the face of adversity. The headband thesis has been the death knell of the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, and John McEnroe – all headliners with exceptional talent that were incapacitated by mental gaffes and the tight headbands that shut down blood flow to the brain and consequently, concentration.
Memphis will lose in the Elite 8 to UCONN.
2009 NCAA Tournament Final Four Preview:
#4 Wake Forest, #1 UCONN, #1 UNC, #1 Pittsburgh
2009 NCAA Tournament Championship Preview and Prediction:
#1 UNC 82
#4 Wake Forest 78
Of course, I am biased.
2009 NCAA Tournament Conclusions:
Remember that this is March Madness and that this article will be riddled completely absurd within days. Hey, I might not even be making sense, right now. Let’s not even try to figure this thing out. Forging an intelligent attempt to actually comprehend Madness is the true definition of insanity.
2009 NCAA Tournament Preview and Predictions, Sources:
2009 NCAA Tournament Bracket, http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/tournament/bracket
2009 NCAA Basketball Division I Champions, http://encarta.msn.com/media_701500777/ncaa_basketball_men’s_division_i_champions.html
National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA Basketball, http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-baskbl/ncaa-m-baskbl-body.html