I am sure by now you know that the NCAA Tournament has started. If you are like most Americans living in Europe you are disconnected from what is going on back home or you’ve just lost that giddy feeling. Well, let me give you this feeling back and share with you my experiences of this past week.
This is by far one of the greatest tournaments I have witnessed on many accounts. The fact that there is no one team that can impress you that much or is a clear favorite is beyond me. This week has been full of upsets, buzzer beaters, crazy plays (ones that make you wonder “Did that really just happen?”) and just plain plays that break hearts. All this in one week!
Teams that are pulling like they are for real are in my opinion: Ohio State, Kansas, and Florida. These are teams I see going far into the tourney and I have them in my final four in my bracket along with SDSU. More on that later. So I have been staying up late watching almost every game which is insane since most games end around 4:30am or 5am (GMT +1). During the first week myself and another co-writer on this page, Joel, made a tourney bracket bet, then I stayed up to see how my bracket turned out. Let me tell you, I found out my bracket sucks. But that is not important - the games have been unbelievable. By the time one of the first games (Butler vs. ODU) ended, you had your first buzzer beater of the tournament. On that day you would also find yourself looking at #12 Richmond advancing to play a #13 Morehead. If you do not know who these schools are do not worry. You are not the only one. I mean, this has been great. This is what makes March Madness great - watching top schools fall to Mid Major schools on a daily basis. The fact that we have a #11 VCU team advancing to the Sweet 16, a #8 Butler also advancing and winning both of their games on last second shots, a pair of narrow escapes from top seeds such as Duke, UNC, and SDSU is awesome. It seemed that all of the games were headed towards the final minute, if not seconds.
So, let’s get down to the Sweet 16 and my opinion on teams to watch for upset alert. First, UNC will go down to Marquette. The reason I say this is because Marquette is an insane team. Their defense is playing as well as anyone in the country, they have a great low post presence (very tall front court), have lots of bodies to throw at you and decent perimeter shooting. Another upset, for which I am going to get killed by my fellow writer, is the Kansas Jayhawks. They are playing a quality Richmond team whose confidence is way high and lets not forget that Kansas has a tendency to take lower seeds very lightly during tournament time.
Games to watch:
Ohio State vs Kentucky: This has all the components to be a great game. Ohio State, which I think is overrated, has not played anyone on a neutral court. When they did play on an opponent’s court, they faltered. For instance, their game at Wisconsin. But this game has 3 freshmen on the Kentucky side that have been very streaky and inconsistent. The game will be decided by rebounding, so Harrison (Kentucky center) has to be tip-top and as leading rebounder in the SEC he better have a monster game and control the boards, as Ohio State likes to crash the offensive glass. Knight and Miller had better be on board as well, as they will have to control the pace of the game and try to keep it up-tempo. Ohio State needs to control the guards of Kentucky and get quality 3-point shots. Make Kentucky play a half court game and then methodically rip apart a young Kentucky team.
Pick: Ohio State wins it on experience, even though Kentucky has better overall talent.
UConn vs SDSU: These are almost two identical teams. Both play at a frantic pace, both have terrific talent in the guard position and both are patient. However, the point here is that UConn has more experience then the Aztecs. Even though SDSU was ranked #2 in scoring in the nation, they seemed a bit tight playing on the big stage and that counts dividends to UConn, who has been here before and is ready to rumble. SDSU need to control the boards. They did not do a good job in their previous match against Temple, who not only controlled boards but also the type of game they wanted.
Pick: Uconn, but in my heart I want SDSU (I have them in my bracket Final Four)
Finally, I conclude with a look at which team has the easier path to The Final Four. And that, my friends, is the Florida Gators (I am very biased here, not only because my father and I graduated from UF or because my younger brother needs just one more semester to graduate from there, but because the main competition the Gators had in that bracket, Pitt, is gone.)
The Gators not only have the talent, but are a very deep team. They have a great do–it-all player in Chandler, incredible guards in Walker and Boynton, but most importantly they are getting quality contributions from the bench big men, especially from Young (a McDonalds All-American) Their bracket is tricky with BYU, but the Cougars are very thin on the boards. They lost their quality big men on some dumb no-sex rule that would never fly here in Europe. Do not get me started on that. Also, who do they play if they get past BYU? Wisconsin or Butler… Come on!!!!! I would, of course, love for the Gators to play Butler, as I am a sadistic person and would love to crush a Cinderella-type team.