Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Friday's NCAA Matchups - SixBit Style

(1)UConn vs. (16)Albany
This pits the Huskies against the Great Danes. While I'm sure both are great dogs, only one is a good team. UConn sends Albany to the kennel in a cakewalk.

(8)Kentucky vs. (9)Alabama-Birmingham
Intriguing matchup. You know UAB will want to win so they can stay out their jaguar infested state for a while. But Kentucky is Kentucky and it is hard to go against them even if they are having a down year. Then again, UAB has a really cool dragon mascot and call themselves the Blazers. But Kentucky has Naomi Judd as their #1 fan. I flipped a coin on this one and it came up Kentucky.

(6)Michigan St. vs. (11)George Mason
While pondering this matchup, I was wishing I could meet the "George" who was such a fantastic mason that he got a university named after him. Somehow that quickly turned into wishing I had a Blizzard from Dairy Queen. Michigan St. is the easy choice here as I seen them making a run to the regional final.

(3) North Carolina vs. (14)Murray St.
Ahhh. Another team claiming to be a state when they actually aren't. And this isn't even the most egregious example (see below). You know my policy, no non-state teams claiming to be states will win an NCAA game. The longer they are in the tourney, the more they mis-educate the youngsters who follow the tournament. They must be abolished and soon. NC in a yawner.

(6)West Virginia vs. (11)Southern Illinois
WV is one of my new favorite teams after they rocked the Pit here in Albuquerque at last year's regional. Their fans are passionate and travel in packs consuming large amounts of high-energy carbs. They beat Texas Tech in last year's regional semi-final so that is good enough for me. No reason to even mention SI. WV wins in a 3-point barrage.

(3)Iowa vs. (14)Northwestern State
And finally we have come to our most egregious example. Northwestern State? Imagine my shock when research led me to the discovery that this school is actually from LOUISIANA! So now it is no shock that Louisiana usually ranks 50th out of 50 states in educational scores. Iowa wins this one by forfeit as the geographically challenged NS can't find its way out of the state and never makes it to the arena.

(7)California vs. (10)North Carolina St.
I like California and they have a solid team. But they matchup against a university that knows what a state is. NC St. takes this nail-biter.

(2)Texas vs. (15)Penn
Texas beat Texas Tech 3(!) times this year. No brainer on this game. They send Penn back home so they can get down to doing all that Ivy League stuff they do.

(1)Villanova vs. (16)Monmouth
Uh not much to say here. I have a hunch Villanova will win.

(8)Arizona vs. (9)Wisconsin
This one is a dead-even matchup between disappointing teams. Neither one beat Texas Tech so I am not sure how to differentiate between the two. I do like cheese, however, so gotta go with Wisconsin.

(7)Georgetown vs. (10)Northern Iowa
When I think of Georgetown, I think of Freddie Brown's last second pass to a wide open North Carolina player in the championship game and that bald guy with the funny shaped head they used to have back in the 80's. Then I start to feel bad that those are my shallow memories of Georgetown. To pay pennance, I predict them to win.

(2)Ohio St. vs. (15)Davidson
Since Davidson will be out of of the tournament before Saturday rolls around, you show know that they are called the Wildcats. A scintillating choice but that won't help them in this one.

(1)Memphis vs. (16)Oral Roberts
ORU will lose and lose for one big reason: they don't have enough faith. If they had enough, they would most certainly win. How much they would need I don't know but however much they have is not enough.

(8)Arkansas vs. (9)Bucknell
I bet you didn't know that Bucknell was actually ranked in the Top 25 near the end of the season. This is a good team who had success in last year's tourney. I love the underdog and see Bucknell pulling it out.

(5)Pittsburgh vs. (12)Kent State
You don't even need to read this one to know that I am going with Pittsburgh. The only hope Kent "not a" State has in this one is if the Kent is short for Clark Kent.

(4)Kansas vs. (13)Bradley
It is never fair when it is 5 against 1. Poor Bradley, he doesn't stand a chance trying to guard all the athletic Jayhawks. Kansas has really turned it up the past 6 weeks and will have no problem putting away Mr. Bradley.

As always, my advice is free but am willing to accept snacks and meals.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thursday's 1st Round Matchups - SixBit Style

Making sure to give you enough time to hit Vegas with my advice, I am previewing Thursday's matchups early.

Washington DC Regional
(5) UWashington vs (12) Utah St
As an alum of UW, you know I am going to be a little biased. Who can resist the Purple? UW is very athletic and can score. On the flip side, they tend to become disinterested in defense. Utah St. will keep it close but will not be able to overcome Brandon Roy and Jamaal Williams.

(4) Illinois vs (13) Air Force
Where to begin? This could be Illinois vs. Cincinnati, Michigan, Florida St, etc... and the result would be the same. Illinois is making it to the second round. At least this game has the chance to be entertaining - how long will AF and its Princeton offense be able to keep it close.

(7) Wichita St. vs. (10) Seton Hall
To start with, I did check on my state quarter map and nowhere did I find Wichita. I guess it really isn't a state. Maybe that is why they are known as the "Shockers" - because it is a shock to everyone from Alabama and Louisiana that Wichita isn't a state. Based on their name alone, Seton Hall is the choice here. Plus SH has the added incentive of playing for Coach Orr's job.

(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Winthrop
OK, this is really like a #4 seed vs a #15 but apparently Tennesse coach Bruce Pearl was sending the committee Nashville BBQ during their deliberations. Winthrop definitely has the experience and ability to pull off the upset. I think Tennessee, however, will pull out a close one.

Atlanta Regional
(1) Puke vs. (16) Southern U.
If somehow, someway Southern could pull off this colossal upset, I would never complain about Puke ever again. Unfortunately, I will be complaining about Puke on Friday. This one won't be worth watching.

(8) George Washington vs. (9) UNC-Wilmington
Apparently someone on the committee got rejected from a job at GW at some time in the past. A #8 seed for GW was stunning. They had a fantastic year and end up with a very tough draw in the Seahawks from UNCW. Remember UNCW took Maryland to the buzzer in 2003. I think the unexpected low seed and return of Pops Mensah-Bonsu propel GW to victory.

(5) Syracuse vs. (12) Texas A&M
Based on a&m's play the last few months and the propensity for #12's to beat #5's, this game is ripe for an upset. Syracuse went from NIT to a #5 seed by storming through the Big East tournament which means they likely are out of emotion and energy. That being said, this is a&m and a Red Raider would never pick a&m. a&m can't even play football anymore. I see the a&m team taking a page from the football team and not even showing up for the game (re. a&m vs. Tennessee in the 2005 Cotton Bowl). Syracuse takes this in a blowout.

(4) LSU vs. (13) Iona
I didn't have one iota of an idea where Iona is so I looked it up - NY. There are lots of good bball players from NY but I'm not sure that any would go to Iona. By default, LSU is the choice here.

(5) Nevada vs. (12) Montana
I have seen Nevada play a few times and they are impressive. They are experienced and have had good success in the last few years. Nevada can shoot the 3 and have a strong inside presence in Fazekas. Montana, on the other hand, likes to run-and-gun and substitutes freely. I see Montana running-and-gunning themselves right out of the building as they take too many quick shots, get behind, and start to press.

(4) Boston College vs. (13) Pacific
OK, I've seen enough of BC the past 2 weeks to be sold on them. I forsee a huge sweet 16 matchup against Villanova for them. This one is over early. So early that I don't even need to say anything about Pacific.

(6) Oklahoma vs. (11) Wisconsin-Milwaukee
OU has struggled as of late. WM starts 4 players who played on the team that made the sweet 16 last year. It certainly wouldn't be a surprise to see WM pull off the minor upset. However, OU did beat Texas Tech twice this year which is good enough for me. OU heads to the 2nd round.

(3) Florida vs. (14) South Alabama
Hmm - what is more 'south' than Alabama? And why is "Jaguars" their nickname? Maybe "Book Burners" was already taken. I suppose I should watch more of the National Geographic channel so I could know the natural habitat of jaguars. The pressure/trapping D employed by SA wont rile Florida. They'll keep it close for a while but Florida will prevail.

(6) Indiana vs. (11) San Diego St.
Ah another matchup that brings my pet peeve to the forefront. San Diego is definitely not a state. However, I've been there and I think it should be so they get the benefit of the doubt. Indiana blows this game off in order to send Mike Davis out the door as early as possible and get one step closer to bringing Steve Alford back to Bloomington. San Diego St (the 51st state) takes this one.

(3) Gonzaga vs. (14) Xavier
This game worries me because I am a big Gonzaga fan. Unfortunately Gonzaga has spent the past few months beating all their inferior conference foes. Beating them, but not beating them by the margins you would expect. I sense boredom in the Zags after they played a killer non-conference schedule. This lack of focus has hurt them the past few tournaments but I am remain hopeful they find the instinct once again and make a serious run in this region that has the appearance of being the easiest. Zags move on.

(7) Marquette vs. (10) Alabama
Marquette has a fantastic team and played well in their inagural Big East season. They have a good inside-outside presence and are experienced. Unfortunately, they are playing Alabama - and Alabama's players are in ironman shape since they get chased daily by jaguars. The fear of returning to the state and those ferocious jaguars inspire Alabama to victory.

(2) UCLA vs. (15) Belmont
Admit it, you didn't know there was a Belmont college. You don't even know where it is. Well it is in Nashville, TN and Belmont has been tearing up the Nashville church leagues for the past few years. It is a nice story but the other Bruins take this one.

These are free of charge - but I will take free lunches.

Monday, March 13, 2006

SixBit's Quick Hits - March Madness

There's plenty of time before Thursday's action so SixBit will start off the Madness by providing some Quick Hits before I start addressing individual matchups tomorrow.

* I've heard plenty of shock and consternation in the last 24hrs about the selections by the committee - this is a clear indication that the committee has shifted away from sheer RPI numbers in making the selections. Maybe they have been unhappy that the so-called experts were getting the entire field correctly predicted before the selections were announced. I think also they are trying to force the power conferences to schedule more non-conference games against mid-majors.

* So you are a Fla St. or Michigain or Cincinnati fan and are feeling screwed by the committee - Spare me! Let's take a look at these teams individually. Michigan finished 7th out of 11 teams and lost in the first round of their conference tournament. Cincinnati finished 8th in the Big East and also lost in the first round of their conference tournament. Fla St. finished 5th in the ACC (at 9-7) and also lost in the first round of their conference tournament (to the worst conference team no less). Notice a trend - if you finished with a mediocre record in one of the power conferences, you'd better approach your conference tournament with some desperation. You'd better approach it like it was the NCAA tournament.

* Of these teams, FSU would seem to have the biggest gripe but let's dig a little deeper. Normally, finishing 5th in the ACC would be something. This year, however, the league was top-heavy for the top 4 teams and the rest of the teams were mediocre to bad. FSU finished at 9-7 in the conference. They only beat one team ahead of them in the standings - Duke. Sure that is impressive but must be tempered by: 1)the fact that Duke really didn't have a whole lot to play for at the time and 2)FSU also lost to VaTech who finished 4-12 in conference. Looking at their non-conference schedule, I almost thought I was looking at the Texas Tech non-conference football schedule. How pathetic. The committee is telling teams like Fla St to step up and play at least 3 or 4 decent non-conference teams.

* The tournament has never been about getting the absolute best 65 teams. If I wanted to see the whole Big East or ACC or Big 10 in the tournament, I'd just watch ESPN's Big Monday or the conference tournaments. Big deal that you come from power conference. If you come from a power conference, you almost certainly will have some good victories. But if you can't finish with better than a .500 record, there is no reason to expect to be in the Big Dance. When you align yourself in a power conference, you are the recipient of all the advantages: easier recruiting, high strength of schedule rating, TV exposure, $$$. But you also are subject to the expectation that you do better than just being average in conference.

* Enough of that - if Al Gore hadn't convinced you that Global Warming was real, then you need look no further than seeing Texas A&M in the tournament. Let's get this straight - the Aggie football team is pathetic but their basketball team is good.

* Tennesse as a #2 is ridiculous. That was Gonzaga's #2 seed - here's hoping the Zags romp through the easiest regional

* Don't believe the UCLA hype - the Pac-10 is severely diluted.

* This has got to be the most under-achieving Arizona team that Lute Olson has had.

* If you can't get behind Air Force getting the last at-large bid, you are downright traitor-ous. I'd much rather see one of the service academies play (especially when they run the Princeton offense), than another team that was on TV for half their games.

* What makes men's NCAA basketball so special - when the season starts, all 334 Division I teams can honestly say they can win the National Championship. It may take a special alignment of all the stars and planets, but every team has a chance.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday Madness

The best time of the year is finally upon us. March Madness has officially begun. I persuaded my youngest daughter to feign having to throw up two songs into our Sunday morning church service in order to get home and start preparations. I had to kick the family out of the family room while the brackets were being announced as they were not showing the celebration the proper respect.

SixBit will pull no punches in analyzing key matchups in the field. For starters, it was nice to see that the selection committee wasn't impressed with the overall resume of Free Shoes University and left them out of the 65-team field. As a teaser, I'll leave you with this fact about the tourney - Duke will not win the championship (mainly because they are absolutely unbearable even though they are the only top team that starts a few white players).

You'll want to plan your Vegas bets around my analysis - where else can you find a prognosticator with such sage advice who can also humor you with the many adventures of SixBit.