With the NCAA tourney just around the corner, thejuiceblog.com wants to help you with your bracket(s). Below are rankings of the best and worst seedings, plus the most interesting stories going into the first weekend of play. After reading this, let me recommend going to deadspin.com to further your education. The site’s grand poobah, Will Leitch, may be a complete Illinois homer (I bet he wore his hair like Lou Henson when he was in school at Champaign), but his site has the most interesting previews on each school.
While I offer up no guarantees, I have won a few pools in the past, and would have won another if Villanova hadn’t shot 89 percent in the first half versus Georgetown in ’85.
Why Air Force deserves to be in over Cincinnati.
The Bearcats are the superior team with the superior schedule, but the Falcons win all of the other categories. The biggest one is that Air Force is filled with student-athletes, where Cincy has been the biggest academic embarrassment in college basketball over the past 10 years. There has been talk that the NCAA would begin to do something about this issue. Maybe academics have become a new feature of the selection committee’s process for teams on the bubble. Personally, I could vote against Cincinnati just because I’ve never liked the Reds and the only good three-way is with two women, not a version of chili. The biggest argument for the Bearcats is how Seton Hall could be a 10 seed, while a fellow Big East team winds up outside the loop.
I’m not saying the committe did a good job, though.
The regions are very unbalanced, with the Oakland bracket filled with a bunch of inexperienced, physically soft teams. The Minneapolis bracket is the least talented region. The Atlanta bracket is the best from 1-10. In the D.C. bracket, Connecticut is one of four teams that have won a national championship during the past 10 years, and Illinois was the runner-up last year.
Are the top-two teams the best bet?
If you look at the past few years, one of the consensus top-two favorites have won the tourney. Last year, they even matched up in the final game (UNC and Illinois). Connecticut is clearly the best team this year, but they’ve gone through the motions a lot and are in arguably the toughest bracket. Duke is good, but has a freshman point guard and some defensive deficiencies. For the first time in a while, I would take the field over getting to pick between just two teams. I’m going with Connecticut, but I’m not as confident about them making it there as usual.
Best first round match-ups.
Thursday: UW-Milwaukee vs. Oklahoma. The Sooners have been a disappointment all season, as most experts had them rated in the preseason top 10. The Panthers were the Cinderella team of 2005 and should have beaten Notre Dame in the first round of the 2003 tourney. UWM’s pressing style has been kept by new coach Rob Jeter, which, combined with so much experience returing from last year, makes them a real bitch to face. Remember, OU–only a month from spring football practice.
Friday: Northern Iowa vs. Georgetown. Both teams play solid defense and run very structured offenses, but the athletic abilities of the players are extremely different. What helps the Panthers make up for this deficiency is that all five starters can shoot the three, plus they are the more veteran team.
Who is the best bet in a 5 vs. 12 match-up?
One of the most consistent occurences in the opening round is that at least one 5-seed will beat a 12-seed. Considering how most 5-seeds in 2006 should be lower, it would set up for a good opportunity to add more to the list, but the 12 seeds are that strong this year. I would take Kent State to beat Washington or Nevada, but they were unlucky in catching a strong Pittsburgh team. I would lean towards Texas A&M, as they are streaking, have one of the best young coaches in the nation (Gillespie), and Boeheim has a history of losing to lower seeds early.
Best second round potential match-ups.
Pittsburgh vs. Kansas. I’m not sure these teams are the two best in the Oakland region. The Panthers have the most veteran point, Carl Krauser, in the West, while the Jayhawks have been the hottest team in the region since February.
West Virginia vs. Iowa. Disappointed to see these two squads facing each other in round two, as I thought both of them had the chance to be Elite Eight teams if put in the right bracket. The Mountaineers shoot the three as well as anyone, with five of their six main players shooting above 30 percent. The Hawkeyes don’t look athletic, but that is somewhat deceptive, as they are one of the best defensive teams in the field. They also have four seniors and two juniors in their top-six rotation. This game will feature players so pigmentally challenged that you will think for a minute it’s a scrimmage game being run by the ghost of Adolph Rupp.
Michigan State vs. North Carolina. Are you kidding me? This is a second round match-up? The Spartans have been a huge disappointment this year, given their top-five preseason ranking, but they still have as good of a threesome (Davis, Agee, Brown) as anyone in the tourney. North Carolina is really young and really good. Hansborough versus Davis should be a great match-up, with both of them likely ending up as lottery picks this summer. The difference will come at the point, as the Spartans’ Neitzel dribbles the ball waaay too much, keeping his team’s offensive efficency from reaching its potential. Izzo versus Williams in the second round; good stuff.
Top No. 1 Seed: Connecticut
Top No. 2 Seed: Texas
Top No. 3 Seed: North Carolina
Top No. 4 Seed: Illinois
Top No. 5 Seed: Pittsburgh
Worst: The other three
Top No. 6 Seed: West Virginia
Top No. 7 Seed: Georgetown
Top No. 8 Seed: George Washington
Top No. 9 Seed: UAB
Top No. 10 Seed: Northern Iowa
Worst: Seton Hall
Top No. 11 Seed: Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Worst: George Mason
Top No. 12 Seed: Texas A&M
Top No. 13 Seed: Pacific
Top No. 14 Seed: Xavier
Worst: S. Alabama
Top No. 15 Seed: Davidson
Top No. 16 Seed: Oral Roberts
Worst: The other three
Two facts that jump out from these ratings is that the Big East is really good, and that the SEC is really overrated. Judging how a conference does overall involves noting how many teams outperformed their seedings. We will see.