March Madness: Filling Out Your Bracket – From the Bird’s Nest
It’s March: It’s Madness.
And, it’s time for Jay’s Annual “Things to Remember When Filling Out Your Bracket.
If you’ve listened to “Bird’s Eye View” (M-F 2-4pm on ESPN1420 and www.espn1420.com), or, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably heard these before. The rules aren’t hard and fast, in fact, I’m not following all the rules this year when filling out mine. But, tradition says these things are likely to happen.
1. Pick a #12 seed to beat a #5 seed. More often than not, the 5/12 matchups feature a team from a power conference going up against a mid-major. And, the chances of the mid-major pulling off the upset are real. Thirty-eight times since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985, a #12 has beaten a #5 seed. That’s 1.35 times per tournament. That’s not a fluke.
This year, however, there is no matchup where a #5 seed from a Big Six conference squares off against a #12 mid-major. There are two games (Ole Miss/Wisconsin, Oregon/Oklahoma State) where both teams are from power leagues, one (UNLV/Cal) where the non-power team is the higher seed and one (VCU/Akron) where neither team is from a power league.
I don’t really like any of these. But since tradition says it will happen, you can make a case for the underseeded Ducks, the Pac-10 tournament champions, against OSU, a team from a league where the champion (Kansas) lost to the last place team (TCU). Or, you can look at the fact Cal played a one point game (a loss at home) against UNLV earlier in the season.
I’m going to take the Ducks. I think they’re very undervalued at #12 and I’m just not sold on anyone from the Big 12. Not even Kansas.
2. #11 vs. #6 can be upset city as well: It’s happened exactly as many times as the 12/5 upset has. Thirty eight. Chances are it will in this tournament as well. And, for me, three of the four could break someone’s bracket, at least early.
St. Mary’s was impressive with their defense against Middle Tennessee last night in their First Four game in Dayton. They’ll be going up against a much more athletic Memphis team, but Matthew Dellavedova can cover up a lot of sins when he’s shooting it well. Belmont is a veteran team that stepped up in conferences (from the Atlantic Sun to the OVC) and won the title in their first season. The Bruins have already beaten a Pac-12 team (Stanford) on the road and won’t be intimidated by Arizona. One thing the Wildcats have going for them is a chip on their shoulder after losing in controversial fashion in their conference tournament.
But the team I really like is Bucknell. Do I dare to pick against Butler? Well, the Bison are a prime candidate to get it done. 6-11 Mike Muscala is a nightmare for opposing teams, averaging a double-double. And, the Patriot League Champions have five seniors and two players who can really stroke it from the outside. Their depth is a question mark, but this is a very good team.
#3. Pick a double digit seed to reach the Sweet 16. Since 1985, only three times (1995, 2007, 2009) has a double digit seed failed to reach the Sweet 16. Some have been more unlikely than others. Don’t put much stock in a team seeded 13 or lower, however. Those teams have done it only seven times. Again, watch out for those #11 seeds this year.
#4. Pick a seed six or lower to reach the Elite Eight. This is about as sure as #3. Someone is going to surprise you. More often than not, it’s a team that pulled a second round upset (#6 over #3 has happened the most.)
5. Pick an ACC team to reach the Final Four. This one doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as it did at one time. ACC teams have failed to reach the Final Four five times since the 2005 Tournament. Be careful with this one.
Here are mine, using the above criteria:
#12 to beat a #5: I’ll take Oregon. And maybe Cal as well.
#11 to beat a #6: Bucknell. Possibly Belmont. Maybe even St. Mary’s.
Double digit seed in the Sweet 16: Again, Bucknell. But don’t fall asleep on Colorado.l
#6 or lower to get to the Elite Eight: North Carolina State and Pittsburgh are very dangerous teams for Indiana and Gonzaga. Arizona, if they get past Belmont in the first round, has a chance.
And, an ACC team. Duke. But my heart isn’t in it.
Enjoy the madness!