The weather has gone from figid and icy to cool and moist here in the northeast. It is a small change from the cool and windy to mild and saucy weather of my former home in North Carolina. Speaking of North Carolina, no Tar Heel this year. You may ask what is Catfish to do? Don't worry has his rooting interest; seeing Duke go down. No Arizona either, or UConn, or UCLA. The last few years have provided a lot of chalk when it comes to the brackets so naturally most predictors are calling for things mostly to hold to form. I prefer to think that the element of chaos will devastate many brackets this year. Many believe a few teams have seperated themselves at the top, but I saw nothing over the past weekend to convince me that the regions will hold true to seeding.
You can see my picks from last year (where I did not do so well) here, here, here, here and here. The first region of picks after the break.
1 Kansas over 16 Lehigh: I always wonder what the actual, behind closed doors mentality of these 16 seeds are. We know they are riding high from their conference tournament win but they are facing one of the top four teams in the country. Yet Lehigh is not just facing a top team, they are facing the highest ranked team in the tournament. How high is the Hoosier underdog reinforcement pumped? Do they just prepare like any other game? Do they revel in just "being there" when they get flown to OKC and interviewed by the media? I know Western Carolina and East Tennessee St. have had those anything is possible moments but Lehigh has as close to no chance of winning as you can get. In the media they will be throwing out cliches but I wonder what is really going through the minds of the players and coming out the mouth of coach Brett Reid.
9 Northern Iowa over 8 UNLV: Is it not amazing that the Runnin' Rebs are not held in the same esteem as other 90s powerhouse programs? You may point out the sancitons and the Tark but it's not like Kentucky and Syracuse never had sanctions. Despite a strong performance in the MWC tourney, I think the Lon Kruger (no one talks about him except when he brings UNLV to the tournament again) led Rebels get bounced early. Northern Iowa was in last year and while UNLV plays tough defense, so do the Panthers. Northern Iowa has beated people soundly and have only faltered 4 times this year.
5 Michigan State over 12 New Mexico State: It's funny to me that everyone points out how you cannot count out Tom Izzo come tourney time, yet people want to dismiss the Spartans. Others are saying they would like to completely dismiss MSU but the Izzo factor is the only thing that helps them. The Spartans are just one of the riddles to be solved this week, but I don't think they fall to the Aggies here. Too much pride.
4 Maryland over 13 Houston: Look how many points they score! They have the nation's leading scorer! Plain and simple fact is Houston does not play defense and Maryland has superior players headlined by Vasquez. The one thing that made me twitch about this pick was the fact that Memphis rolled Maryland last year in a somewhat similar match-up of styles. But like I said Houston can only win if they put the game genie on and hit over 60% of their shots and Maryland lays an ostrich egg.
6 Tennessee over 11 San Diego State: A lot of people are picking San Diego State here. But before I endorse a Steve Fisher-led run for the Aztecs, I have to say Tennessee has been playing better without Tyler Smith. They are no juggernauts and it has been my rule not to trust Bruce Pearl and Tennessee in the tournament, but I think they escape with this one.
3 Georgetown over 14 Ohio: Georgetown went from early contender to midseason pretender to late season contender. I really liked the fire Greg Monroe was playing with in the Big East tourney, they were just too worn down to keep up with W. Virginia. Four straight games at MSG with Big East competition gives you little shot to take it home, but the Hoyas should be happy with how they came away with it. The Bobcats shocked Akron to take home the MAC title, but will Gary Trent, the Shaq of the MAC be in attendance?
10 Georgia Tech over 7 Oklahoma State: The Jackets remind me very much of the Michael Beasley led Kansas State team from a few years ago. Derrick Favors is a beast down low, but Georgia Tech does not feed him the ball enough and often turn the ball over before they ever get a chance to. The Cowboys were terrible away from Stillwater this year outside the game where K-State had a let down.
2 Ohio State over 15 UC Santa Barbara: I'm sure alum Jim Rome would tout the Gouchos as phe-nomiNAL but Ohio State will end this one early.
1 Kansas over 9 Northern Iowa: The dream run ends early for the Panthers. I am guessing Kurt Warner will make an appearance at some point though.
5 Michigan State over 4 Maryland: This is where I think Izzo rises up and gets the very best out of his team. Despite Roe being hobbled I think Izzo inspires Lucas to outduel Vasquez. Maryland has shown a very streaky characteristc throughout the year which is understandable with General Greivis running the show. The hard part about predicting how a hot and cold team will do is that you cannot predict in what games, against what team, and in what part of the game they hit a streak.
3 Georgetown over 6 Tennessee: I think this would be a hotly contested game, especially with the Chism-Monroe match-up. Ultimately I think Georgetown scores at will and rolls into the Sweet 16.
2 Ohio State over 10 Georgia Tech: Another place where some people are looking for an upset. I don't see it. Tech has enough talent to be sure, but their inconsistent and sloppy play is the reason they are a 10 seed in the first place. Turner will run circles around them and Lighty is the difference because he is a point guard who can handle.
1 Kansas over 5 Michigan State: In a rematch of a solid Sweet 16 meeting last year, Kansas runs through Michigan State. The Spartans are a shell of what they were last year while Kansas is a version of themselves last year on steroids.
3 Georgetown over 2 Ohio State: The small rotation Ohio State is running could end up hurting them in a game like this. There is always a danger if you run with a 6-7 man rotation even if it has brought you success. The obvious problem is foul trouble and if a couple of your guys are struggling big time, you cannot find multiple players to replace them. In-game fatigue is not a huge factor because of the lengthing of time outs during the tourney, but the wear over time of a 40+ game season (the Big Ten tourney could have used up some legs) could have some of the players break down. I like the Hoyas.
1 Kansas over 3 Georgetown: To take the drama out now, I don't feel confident putting any team down to beat Kansas. Doesn't mean it won't happen, but they are the most complete team in the tourney. As long as Bill Self keeps them focused on the brass ring, the Hoyas would not be able to keep up with them down the stretch.
*these picks are made for entertainment purposes only, seriously I am not a part of any pools whatsoever.