Wednesday, March 20, 2013

13 comments 2013 NCAA Tournament Picks

I like to embarrass myself by publicly putting my NCAA Tournament picks out there for the entire world to see prior to the tournament beginning (I guess putting my picks out there after the tourney begins would be a smarter idea). So I figured I would do it again this year. I'm a big college basketball fan, but I have never (except in high school) won an NCAA Tournament bracket and tend to be wrong in picks...except for one year when I was unemployed and I made picks for my girlfriend's office pool. I got 7 of the Elite 8 teams right and got 3 of the 4 Final Four teams correct. I guess the lesson is that I choke under the pressure of having money on picks I make and because it was her money for the office pool I made my picks without pressure of having to get them right. I'm a choker and wasteful with other people's money.

So here are my picks and reasoning for this year's NCAA Tournament games. My logic feels sound, my picks do not.

South

First Round (I refuse to call it "Second Round")

Kansas over Western Kentucky: I don't love Kansas but this just isn't happening for Western Kentucky.

North Carolina over Villanova: This really isn't a great matchup for the new look Tar Heels. They have gone small (and started their five best players, what a concept!) and now rely on the three-point shot more. Villanova guards the three-point shot well. In the end, I think Carolina is going to be able to score inside with James McAdoo.

VCU over Akron: This game gives me pause because I like Akron's ability to rebound and score, while VCU is small and over-rely on the three-point shot. VCU eats teams for lunch that don't have a strong point guard and Akron's point guard was arrested for drug trafficking (you can't make that up, enter your "he's an excellent distributor" joke here). I don't see who Akron has that will be able to beat VCU's "havoc" defense.

South Dakota State over Michigan: This is sort of a cop-out pick. Upsets happen. I don't know here else in this bracket outside of Florida-Northwestern State (which I think will be a close game) an upset will happen. These teams are quite similar. They have strong point guard play and generally don't rebound well. I think North Dakota State will be able to hit their three-point shots and rebound well enough against Morgan and McGary to get the upset. There's something about Michigan I don't trust.

UCLA over Minnesota: This is a game featuring two teams that are disasters. UCLA has talent and a ball-hog, while Minnesota has the talent and no leadership. For some reason, I trust UCLA to come out ready to play more than Minnesota. Plus, UCLA has Shabazz Muhammad.

Florida over Northwestern State: This game is going to be close in my opinion. Northwestern State will try to slow this game down where Florida isn't quite as strong in the halfcourt. In the end, I think Patric Young will be the difference in the middle and Florida's ability to get out of their halfcourt offense and run a little bit will carry them to the win.

San Diego State over Oklahoma: Another game between two disappointing teams. Oklahoma can't shoot the three-point shot and I'm a big believer that teams who can't score from the three-point line can't win NCAA Tournament games. Too much Tapley and Franklin carry SDSU to the win.

Georgetown over Florida Gulf Coast: Florida Gulf Coast has been tested this year. They beat Miami and lost to Duke (in the game where Duke went on a 31-0 run). In terms of defense, Georgetown is tougher than both Miami and Duke. FGCU isn't going to be intimidated, but Georgetown is the better team.

Second Round

UNC over Kansas: There is really no formula for beating Kansas, but teams have had success with them by spreading them out on defense and getting their offensive players in space. UNC is red-hot right now and I can see Jeff Withey getting in foul trouble against the smaller, but much quicker McAdoo. I'm very tempted to go with Kansas simply because of Ben McLemore, but Reggie Bullock is an underrated defender. It wouldn't shock me to see UNC put Bullock on McLemore and I think the smaller lineup takes down Kansas.

VCU over South Dakota State: South Dakota State has the benefit of playing a team that doesn't have much height like they do, but in a close game I see VCU winning. SDSU takes care of the basketball and that is crucial against VCU, so I won't rule out another upset, but I don't think it will happen and won't take credit for predicting one.

Florida over UCLA: This is the game where UCLA's inability to rebound and have Jordan Adams uninjured will come back to haunt them. Florida can rebound well and won't have a problem getting out and running against the Bruins. As long as Kenny Boynton doesn't start jacking up three-point shots without mercy I see the Gators being stronger than the Bruins inside and getting the win.

Georgetown over San Diego State: This is the game that should have been played last NCAA Tournament if San Diego State had gotten by N.C. State in the first round. I think Georgetown's defense can smother Franklin and will give the Aztecs fits on the offensive end. The score may be 53-41, but a win is a win.

Sweet Sixteen

VCU over UNC: Again, VCU eats up teams who don't have a strong point guard against their pressure. While Marcus Paige has made strides, he isn't quite there yet, and I think Carolina will struggle against the "havoc" defense of VCU. The problem for Carolina is they want to run and VCU won't allow them to run.

Florida over Georgetown: I've already mentioned Georgetown's ability to ugly-up a game and that initially seems like something that would give Florida problems. Tempo is the key and Florida will use it's ability to rebound and try to control the pace. In the end, I see Georgetown simply not being able to keep up with Florida on the offensive end and a Gators victory ensuing.

Elite Eight

Florida over VCU: I don't see anyone I trust for Florida to bring the ball up, but I think they have a combination of players with Boyton, Scottie Wilbekin, and Mike Rosario to handle some of the VCU pressure. They can also use Erik Murphy as a pivot in the middle of the court to break some of the pressure. I think VCU's lack of size and rebounding is going to punish them in a game against Patric Young and Florida makes it to the Final Four out of the South.

East

First Round

Indiana over LIU/JMU: I feel confident Indiana won't lose to either team.

N.C. State over Temple: I don't trust N.C. State at all, but they tend to play well when they really need to play well. The season is over if they lose in the NCAA Tournament, so I think NC State is the more talented team inside the paint. I think that's the difference in this game.

UNLV over California: I really like UNLV. Perhaps more than I should. I know Crabbe and Cobbs get can get hot and carry Cal, but they have a weakness in the front court, and UNLV has Khem Birch, Anthony Bennett, and Mike Moser. By the way, Mike Wilbon said on Monday he had never heard of Anthony Bennett. It's very shameful for him to say that. Bennett is awesome and Wilbon should know who he is.

Syracuse over Montana: My initial reaction is always to say Syracuse is going to lose in the first round. It's my gut instinct. While Montana can shoot well, they have nothing on the inside and Syracuse is going to be too talented to allow them to win this game.

Bucknell over Butler: I'm just down on Butler this year. I think they are overranked at a #6 seed and the fact they shoot well from three-point range is negated by the fact Bucknell defends the three-point shot well. I feel like Bucknell has the best player on the court and a Patriot League team will pull another first round upset.

Marquette over Davidson: This is a tempting upset pick, but I don't think it will happen. Davidson struggles when you get physical with them. If you let them run off screens and the game isn't officiated tightly they will struggle to get off shots. Marquette is a tough physical team and won't let Davidson hit open jump shots. I do look forward to this game though and hope I am wrong with my prediction.

Colorado over Illinois: If Illinois comes out hot then they will obviously win this game. The Fighting Illini can shoot themselves into or out of a game. Colorado is very good team defensive rebounding team, so if Paul and Richardson are off for the Illinois team they aren't winning this game by getting second-chance points. I am betting there will plenty of misses for Illinois.

Miami over Pacific: I like Miami for a couple of reasons. They fit the profile of teams I believe do well in the NCAA Tournament. They have strong point guard play, are a veteran team, have an X-factor (Kenny Kadji) and they can get hot from three-point range. If Reggie Johnson got his head in the game I can only imagine how good this Miami team could be.

Second Round

Indiana over N.C. State: I came close to picking this as an upset. Richard Howell can bang on the inside and give Cody Zeller issues on offense, while C.J. Leslie matches up well with Christian Watford. I quite simply don't trust N.C. State to show up two games in a row and I think there is no one on the Wolfpack roster who can guard Victor Oladipo.

UNLV over Syracuse: I told you I like UNLV, which means they will lose to Cal in the first round. Syracuse is sort of a streaky team and I think Anthony Marshall is going to be able to keep Michael Carter-Williams in check. Syracuse runs a zone and UNLV isn't afraid to shoot three-point shots. I see those three-point shots going down and I have absolutely no clue how Syracuse will guard Anthony Bennett inside or outside.

Marquette over Bucknell: I almost had the guts to make this pick. Bucknell likes to play a half-court game and I can see Marquette making this a fast game, as well as being very careful with the basketball. The Marquette guards can limit the turnovers and will prevent Bucknell from having a shot at the upset.

Miami over Colorado: Colorado is going to have problems handling Shane Larkin on the pick-and-roll. Most teams have a problem guarding him anyway and I don't think Colorado has the ability to prevent Larkin from getting in the lane. Plus, Miami can throw Gamble and Johnson at Roberson and try to limit his ability to score and rebound.

Sweet Sixteen

Indiana over UNLV: This is where I think UNLV's inexperience is going to cost them a win. Indiana is too experienced and too talented on offense and defense. They are the superior team and Christian Watford will at least make Anthony Bennett work on defense. This seems like an Indiana win due to their three-point shooting and experience.

Miami over Marquette: I like Vander Blue, but I have seen Durand Scott shut down great offensive players all year and I have no doubt he can do it again. This should be a good game, but the difference to me is Kenny Kadji. I don't think Marquette is going to be able to contain Shane Larkin and prevent Kadji from spotting up in the corner as he is prone to do. He's annoyingly effective. Actually, this entire Miami team is annoyingly effective.

Elite Eight

Miami over Indiana: This was a tough pick. I think the Hoosiers (obviously) have the advantage with Zeller in the middle, but I really like the matchup of Ferrell/Hulls/anybody else versus Shane Larkin for Miami. Indiana is athletic and I don't really know if Durand Scott can contain Victor Oladipo or slow him down, but I think Miami has the frontcourt depth to slow down Zeller and have the advantage on the wings. Miami is such an experienced team and I think in the end this game will boil down to the Hurricanes getting a stop when they need one.

West

First Round

Gonzaga over Southern: I don't know if anyone noticed, but when he was on camera celebrating the #1 seed one of the Gonzaga players smirked as if to say, "They ain't shit" on the Sunday Selection Show. I'd love to say he is wrong, but I don't think Gonzaga is losing this game.

Pittsburgh over Wichita State: Pittsburgh is ranked in the Top 20 of offensive and defensive efficiency by KenPom.com and though I do question whether they can score enough to have success in the tourney, I can see them getting past Wichita State in the first round. I think the experience of 10th year senior (okay, it just seems that way) Tray Woodall will be the difference in this game.

Wisconsin over Ole Miss: Anyone who has seen Marshall Henderson play know that he is quite the character and his ability to get hot and carry Ole Miss can not be understated. Unfortunately for him Wisconsin knows this. They will be sure to shut Henderson down and then ugly up this game for the win.

Kansas State over Boise State/LaSalle: I'm not in love with this Kansas State team and if I knew for sure who they were playing I may be more inclined to pick an upset here. Both Boise State and LaSalle have trouble defending the perimeter and Kansas State is great from the perimeter.

Belmont over Arizona: On paper this pick doesn't look like a very good pick. Arizona is tall and Belmont is very much not tall. The reason behind this pick boils down to Belmont having an experienced backcourt with Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson and Arizona struggling with turnovers. Arizona also doesn't defend the three-point shot well and Belmont is very efficient on offense. I am taking talented experience over taller and talented youth.

New Mexico over Harvard: I think New Mexico is underseeded, they are hot right now and I don't think Harvard is going to be able to pull off the upset. I have a lot of respect for Tommy Amaker though and it would be fun to see Harvard pull off the upset.

Iowa State over Notre Dame: Iowa State does not play defense. They don't even pretend to play defense. They are interested in scoring points, plus they are a much better home team. That doesn't bode well. Notre Dame can struggle to score and Iowa State tends to play well against bigger teams. I'm not sure this is an upset and I still haven't completely figured out how Iowa State will guard Jack Cooley, but maybe Iowa State plays enough defense to win.

Ohio State over Iona: Iona is an incredibly efficient basketball team. I almost picked them to win this game. The reason I did not is their best player is a point guard and Aaron Craft loves to take on the opposing team's point guard. He has had five days to figure out how to shut down Momo Jones and I have faith in him he can at least slow Jones down.

Second Round

Pittsburgh over Gonzaga: Yeah, I'm stupid. This is the second #1 seed I've had lose in the 2nd round. I like Gonzaga, but Pittsburgh has the big man (Steven Adams) to at least slow down Kelly Olynyk. Basically this game boils down to defense. I think Pittsburgh has the tough defensive ability that will allow their (relative) lack of explosiveness to not be an issue for them in this game. Pittsburgh doesn't seem to have weaknesses and I feel they are due for some good luck in the tournament.

Wisconsin over Kansas State: I didn't like Kansas State too much in the first round and I believe once they match up with Wisconsin's tough defense they are going to struggle to hit their three-point shots. Wisconsin also has the advantage in the ability to get offensive rebounds from Kansas State, who struggles at times on the defensive glass. I am going with the "boring" team.

New Mexico over Belmont: Tony Snell is another player I think America is really going to enjoy watching play and he is red hot right now. So far this year New Mexico has lost to South Dakota State, St. Louis, San Diego State, UNLV and Air Force. Outside of Air Force all of those teams have made the NCAA Tournament. Belmont's lack of height will bother them when going against Alex Kirk on the inside.

Ohio State over Iowa State: I said previously Iowa State doesn't defend, but Ohio State can defend. Ohio State only has one scorer in double figures, but they are getting more scoring from Craft recently. Iowa State will be undone by their inability to guard DeShaun Thomas or Sam Thompson and Ohio State wins this game.

Sweet Sixteen

Wisconsin over Pittsburgh: This has the potential to be a very defensive kind of game. I have a lot of faults, none of which are overrating Wisconsin's ability to play a game at their pace. Wisconsin does have a tendency to get knocked out early, but I am guessing the shooting of Sam Dekker and the ability of the Wisconsin big men to hit the three-point shot carries them past Pitt.

New Mexico over Ohio State: Ohio State doesn't exactly have a lot of scoring options. New Mexico is a team with strong guard play that can shoot the ball well. Craft can only guard either Snell or Kendall Williams for New Mexico and no disrespect to the other Ohio State guards but I think either Snell or Williams' scoring (whoever Craft doesn't guard) will be the difference in this game. New Mexico isn't an elite scoring team, but they will play good enough defense to make Ohio State play from behind.

Elite Eight

New Mexico over Wisconsin: I'm not sure I even trust Wisconsin to make it this far and I am not sure I trust New Mexico to consistently score to make it this far. New Mexico tends to struggle defensively against faster-paced teams, while Wisconsin isn't fast paced. I think the Lobos will be able to match the Badgers on the boards and then pull off a victory behind my new favorite player Tony Snell.

Midwest

First Round

Louisville over North Carolina A&T: Though I was impressed with A&T's defense in the First Four game, I just don't think they are going to be able to handle Louisville's pressure.

Colorado State over Missouri: I don't trust Missouri, mostly because I think Frank Haith isn't a great coach and the Tigers are kind of a soft team on the boards. They shouldn't be, but they are. Colorado State doesn't have a ton of height, but they have strong guard play just like Missouri does.

Oregon over Oklahoma State: Early in February I watched Oklahoma State play and told myself I probably would end up having them advance pretty far in the NCAA Tournament. Well, now I have them losing to a #12 seed. Oregon isn't a #12 seed though and they got screwed. Oregon is a balanced team (though they can't shoot) and I think they will beat Oklahoma State in a close game. I can't believe I am betting against Marcus Smart.

Saint Louis over New Mexico State: Saint Louis plays suffocating defense and New Mexico can have issues turning the ball over. I don't see why I would pick New Mexico State.

St. Mary's over Memphis: I hate being mean to Conference USA, but I'm not incredibly impressed by Memphis going perfect in the conference. Memphis doesn't get challenged because they don't have great teams in the conference. St. Mary's takes care of the ball and they aren't that overly reliant on Matthew Dellavedova in terms of scoring. I take St. Mary's for the upset.

Michigan State over Valparaiso: Tom Izzo makes it a habit of having his team prepared for the NCAA Tournament and Keith Appling and Gary Harris are too good and athletic to lose in the first round.

Creighton over Cincinnati: This is a tough pick. Cincinnati plays tough defense and Creighton plays no defense. Cincinnati can struggle scoring and Creighton has no trouble scoring. I will take Creighton's ability to make shots (because God knows if they miss them, they won't be able to get the offensive rebound) over Cincinnati's defense.

Duke over Albany: Albany has penetrating point guards and Duke can't guard penetrating point guards at all. Albany doesn't have much height and as long as Mason Plumlee doesn't have his head up his ass, Duke's advantage inside should open up three-point looks. And no, I am not at all confident Duke can win this game.

Second Round

Louisville over Colorado State: Larry Eustachy is a great coach. I just don't think his team is strong enough to beat Louisville when the game is played in Kentucky. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith are going to be able to negate the guard advantage Colorado State normally has and Louisville is simply a better team.

Oregon over Saint. Louis: I know, I know, Saint. Louis eats teams without strong ball handling alive and Oregon can't shoot. I think Dominic Artis and Oregon are going to have a plan to beat the Saint Louis defense and Saint Louis struggles when they are forced to score more than 60 points in a game. Oregon is not a team of great shooters so I can see Oregon shooting 19% in this game, but I'm betting they will take advantage of their strength inside.

Michigan State over St. Mary's: I don't trust Keith Appling too much, but I do trust Michigan State to have a plan in order to contain Matthew Dellavedova. He isn't the only good player on the St. Mary's team, but Michigan State can control the boards with Payne and Nix, while I don't think St. Mary's has an answer for Brendan Dawson.

Duke over Creighton: Doug McDermott is a difficult matchup for nearly any team. His versatility and ability to score in the post is what makes him so good. Duke won't be able to stop McDermott, but they have the length to give him problems and be physical with him. At the end of the day, Duke will feast on Creighton if the Blue Jays don't play good defense, which they usually don't.

Sweet Sixteen

Louisville over Oregon: Louisville has the guard play that will allow them to handle Dominic Artis and I have a feeling this is the kind of game where Russ Smith goes for 35 points. Louisville will have the guys to guard E.J. Singler and Louisville also has the shot blocking and rebounding to to prevent Oregon from offensive rebounding their misses.

Michigan State over Duke: Duke struggles against teams with fast point guards and big men who take up space in the middle. Look at their losses this year (Maryland twice, NC State, Miami), all of those teams have big men who are strong and can rebound as well as fast guards who can penetrate in the lane. Appling and Harris will tear up the Blue Devils porous defense and much of Mason Plumlee's success depends on him getting to the right spot in the paint and Nix/Payne will prevent that from happening.

Elite Eight

Louisville over Michigan State: Louisville is quite simply on a roll right now. In the point guard matchup of Peyton Siva versus Keith Appling I trust Siva much more. Appling seems to make a few plays per game that leave me scratching my head. If/When Louisville presses I think they can have success creating turnovers and towards the end of the year it looked like Kevin Ware and Virginia Tech-exile Montrezl Harrell started to figure it out a little bit. That's scary because Ware can shoot and Harrell can be an excellent rebounder.

Final Four

Miami over Florida: I told you Miami has the formula I look for in an NCAA title contender. These teams match up well. Both teams really don't have a traditional small forward, both teams have "stretch 4's" and both teams rebound the ball well. Like a broken record, the Gators lack of a point guard is going to really hurt them in this game. Miami loves to kick the ball out for open three-point shots on penetration and Shane Larkin makes good decisions with the ball. I see the Hurricanes advancing to the title game on the strength of their shooting and ability to shut Kenny Boynton down.

Louisville over New Mexico: As much as I like New Mexico and believe Tony Snell is going to have a breakout tournament, this is a game of strength versus strength and I like Louisville in that instance. New Mexico has the guard play to beat the Louisville pressure, but I don't know if they will have the poise that Louisville has shown in big situations so far this year. Dieng is going to be able to protect the rim and force New Mexico into shooting from the perimeter where Louisville also plays good perimeter defense.

Championship Game

Louisville over Miami: I would be very excited to see this game. Miami has the point guard play and length in the frontcourt to give Louisville issues. It would be fun to see Siva and Larkin play against each other. Scott could probably help to keep Russ Smith in check a little bit, but I do like Gorgui Dieng against Miami's interior players because Julian Gamble isn't really an offensive threat and Reggie Johnson is just fat. Louisville will make another appearance in the Final Four and this year behind the leadership of Peyton Siva and the shooting of Luke Hancock/Kevin Ware they will win it all.

Feel free to tell me how wrong my picks are. You are probably going to be right.

13 comments:

JBsptfn said...

If Pitt gets by the second round this year, I have a feeling that they are going to the Final Four.

In sports, I notice that some teams have a history of getting far when they aren't expected to, and not going as far as they should.

For example, the super-talented 79-82 Chargers never went to a Super Bowl, but the lame 94 version did.

Pitt has had some teams that should have been there, like their 88 team and one of their 00's teams, but they would fall flat. Also, I think that they were a 1-seed two years ago when they lost to Butler.

This year, nobody expects them to get that far, so this could be the year.

Snarf said...

So the CBS Sports was down for a substantial period this morning. Pretty cruddy for a lot of pools.

Bengoodfella said...

JB, I think Pitt is a team that can make it to the Final Four. Of course, as you can see, I don't think they will get there. Those early 00's Pitt teams are what I was talking about when I said they needed some luck. Also, they didn't have luck when they played Butler a few years ago and lost at the last second. Talent and some luck is why I have them predicting them getting past Gonzaga.

Snarf, what? You are kidding, right?

JimA said...

I'm a choker and wasteful with other people's money

You ought to be a general manager with some pro team.

Bengoodfella said...

Not shockingly, I got two offers to be an assistant NBA GM earlier this morning. They said I seemed like a good candidate based on my experience. I declined both offers.

Oh, and my picks already suck and it is 4pm on Thursday. I've lost a Sweet 16 team already.

ivn said...

Big Game Jaime Dixon strikes again!

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, I will never bet that Pitt or UNLV can win a NCAA Tourney game again. I'm bitter right now.

JBsptfn said...

That may be a good idea, Ben. Pitt usually blows it, and the magic left UNLV after Tark left over 20 years ago.

Bengoodfella said...

I thought Pitt was due some good luck and UNLV would get to benefit from the Anthony Bennett Show. I was wrong. Don't even get me started on New Mexico.

This is my worst bracket ever...at least after the first day.

The Human Eraser said...

Ben, delete the negative comments and edit your picks to reflect nerly devine prescience. It is your blog, buddy.

T H E said...

nerly nerdly nearly take your pick

Bengoodfella said...

I think I may do that. I would know I was wrong though and that is worse than everyone else knowing I am wrong. I will always know I'm stupid.

ivn said...

well Ben, if it makes you feel any better, I had Kansas State going to the Elite Eight. damn you to hell, Bruce Weber.