Archive for March, 2012

Sounders!!

I missed Seattle.

I love my school, but I love Seattle with a passion. I came home last night for Spring Break and basked in the glow of a beautiful spring day. I drank coffee, went to Ivars and sat on a pier looking out at Puget Sound. As an added bonus, I also made it home just in time to go to the Seattle Sounders game.

Soccer has exploded in the Northwest. Want some evidence? Let us look at the Sounders game from last night.

Sounder ’til I Die

Just like I love Seattle, Seattleites love their Sounders. The Sounders have led Major League Soccer (MLS) in attendance during every year of the team’s existence, and the attendance last night was a typical sold out affair (38, 304 total). Much to the delight of these fans, the Sounders won their second game of the season 2-0.

For those who have never been to a Sounders game, they are missing out! Not only do the fans cheer on the team throughout the game, the players respond with good play and appreciation for the fans. One of the reasons this Sounders team is successful year after year is because of its home field advantage. The Sounders have an exceptional record at home as they enter their fourth year of existence: 24 wins, 10 losses and 13 ties.

Pictures and videos do not show the extent of the passion, but they do give a glimpse of the tremendous crowd. The most loyal supporters march to the field one hour before game time, and the pre-match ritual as the players walk onto the field is one of the coolest parts of the event.

Scarves Up

One of the slogans for the Sounders is “Scarves Up!” As I stood in the stands, just as the game was about to begin, I looked at all of my fellow Sounders fans. Everyone was holding up a scarf and cheering at the top of their lungs. I love coffee, and Ivars and a nice sunny day in Seattle, but the camaraderie among the fans at a Sounders game was easily the best part about my first day back in Seattle.


Peyton Manning is My Quarterback. What Will Happen?

The Broncos have started 11 quarterbacks since their Super Bowl victory in 1999. The search for a franchise quarterback to replace Elway has been aggravating. A guy who led the Broncos to five Super Bowls (two of them victories; compiled a career record of 148-82-1 (14-7 record in the playoffs); and, most importantly, made an appearance on the computer game Backyard Football 1999 (This is what truly defines a career, obviously. Of course, Randall Cunningham appeared on that game too.).

The Broncos have not had a video game worthy quarterback since Elway retired. Sure, there was one year (I think in 2006?) where Jake Plummer was a Madden god, but it was still Jake Plummer for crying out loud. Maybe Cutler could have developed into a franchise guy, but Josh McDaniels and his outrageous ego destroyed that possibility. Now, in 2012, John Elway himself has helped woo a 36 year old quarterback who can change the Mile High City Franchise: Peyton Manning.

I do not want to get into the specifics of Manning’s impact on the Broncos offense. The fact is, their passing offense was one of the worst in the league last year, and Manning is one of the best quarterback’s of all time and his performance will statistically outperform Tebow no matter what. The Broncos have cap flexibility, so his contract (5 years, $96 million with about $50 million guaranteed and performance based incentives), although frightening on the surface, will not be crippling if he gets hit with a cheap shot by James Harrison and snaps his neck (always a possibility).

However, the neck injuries are worrisome. He has had four neck surgeries in the past two years, he is 36 years old and his addition will cause the removal of a cultural icon: Lord Tebow. Tebow did go 7-4 and he led the team to an improbable overtime victory over the Steelers. That game, and last season overall, will go down in history as one of the most incredible in Bronco history. Sadly for Tebow, you cannot win a Super Bowl without being able to pass the ball consistently. You can win a Super Bowl with Manning, and the Broncos had to make this move because of these facts.

I envision this Manning acquisition traveling in one of the following two directions.

Broncos Ride to the Promised Land 

Manning transforms the Broncos passing offense into one of the most efficient in the league. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker become the Denver version of Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie and the Broncos cruise to five playoff appearances in the next five years which includes a Super Bowl victory or two. Tebow is traded to Jacksonville, a sorry place where even he cannot conjure a miracle. Elway does not get ridiculed for jettisoning Tebow and he also possess some credit for every single Super Bowl in Broncos history. Denver becomes one of the most revered franchises in the NFL.

Tebow Exacts Revenge

Manning injures his neck on the first snap of the AFC championship game against the Jaguars after tripping over himself. The Jaguars defeat the Broncos on the back of Tebow and he leads them to their first Super Bowl victory. Manning subsequently retires, his jersey becomes akin to a Joe Montana Chiefs jersey, and the Broncos spiral into a franchise funk for 18 years. Jacksonville actually fills their stadium for fifteen years straight (Now THAT would be a miracle) while Tebow becomes one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. During Tebow’s career, he goes undefeated against the Broncos and he thanks Elway for the opportunity to play for the Jaguars. The entire city of Denver explodes.

If we learned anything from last season, betting against Tebow is not a good idea. As a Broncos fan, I hope the second scenario does not occur…but would you really be surprised?

Let’s Have a Bracket Bonfire

When the month of March rolls around, filling out a bracket is something you almost have to do as an American. The wistful longing for a perfect bracket, bragging rights over friends, coworkers and family, and the joy of rooting for a school you previously could have mistaken for an insurance company, all lend itself to some of the most exciting few weeks in sports.

On March 16, 2001, the No. 2 seed Iowa State Cyclones of the Big 12 conference played the No. 15 seed Hampton Pirates of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Pirates accomplished something that had only occurred three times from 1985-2000: they upset a two seed. The image of the Hampton coach being carried by one of his players after the victory is a classic Tournament image, and a significant portion of Americans most likely proceeded to strike a match and burn their brackets. They wouldn’t be winning their office pools now thanks to the Hampton Pirates.

11 years later, also on March 16, the No. 15 seed Norfolk State Spartans of the MEAC defeated the No. 2 seed Missouri Tigers of the Big 12. Fans of college basketball were treated to an incredible upset on the exact same day, 11 years apart, thanks to a team from a traditionally black university, from the exact same conference that is unknown to the casual fan.

A 15 seed never beats a two seed. In fact, if you calculate the percentage of how many times this has happened since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, up until 2011, it amounts to a whopping .037 or about 3.7%. A large portion of Americans fill out brackets across the country, and if you are a betting person, why in the world would you choose a No. 15 over a No. 2 with that historical information? Nevertheless, many Americans learned about the existence of Norfolk State the hard way: by ripping their bracket in half and throwing it in the fire.

A No. 15 seed winning a game in the tournament is a wonderful story, but the day could not have gotten nuttier after Norfolk State. Everything else would be underwhelming from here on out, right?

(Two hours later….)

Wait, DUKE LOST?????

It is hard to believe, but this day of the tournament became crazier just hours after the Norfolk State upset. Lehigh, a team that yours truly cleverly dismissed in his tournament preview, upset Coach K and his arsenal of underachieving stars. C.J. McCollum of Lehigh, ranked fifth in the country in individual scoring, dropped 30 points on the Blue Devils to help cement March 16, 2012 in Tournament history. After 11 years of waiting for another 15-seed upset, we see two in one day?

This is why brackets cause people so much anxiety. But, this is also why we love March Madness.

Why would anybody in their right mind choose two No. 2 seeds to lose in the first round? Lehigh and Norfolk State beat Duke (4 national championships) and Missouri (30 wins on the year)? Let’s just say that there are a choice few in the country who chose these two schools to win, and I will be bowing down to them (as lucky as the picks are!) when the tournament ends. Until then, how about you all join me for a nice bonfire. I think most of us can provide our own kindling once again!

Another Year, Same Joy

Mid-March may be my favorite time of the year. This is of course, because of the fast-approaching NHL playoffs. I mean, have you seen the St. Louis Blues this year? Just kidding, I don’t even know if the Blues are good, but I do know that the St. Louis Billikens are an extremely underrated college basketball team!

Imagine, hypothetically, that someone holds a gun to my head and tells me to give up March Madness forever. I would plead with these terrible human beings to give me another option. “I’ll do anything, please! All I want to do is watch the Long Island Blackbirds!” They tell me that I must spend some time with Vicente Padilla in close quarters. To be honest, I would spend some quality time with Vicente, even though he frightens me, if it meant that I did not have to give up March Madness. So, I spend some time with Vicente, and when the time is up, I scream “Let me out of this car! Stop staring at me Vicente!! I have to watch the Hilltoppers and the Delta Devils!!”

This is all hypothetical of course. I hope I never have a gun held to my head, and Vicente Padilla is probably a very nice individual. But I am serious about March Madness. It has been in my official top 5 favorite things in the world since I was six years old. Why six? That was the first Madness that I can vaguely remember. As a young six-year-old, I loved UConn’s jerseys in that 1998-99 season, and I decided to pick them as my national champs. I was freaking out when they went down to the wire against some random Cinderella named Gonzaga in the Elite 8. Where the heck is Gonzaga? Uconn went on to beat Duke 77-74 in an upset for the national title, and I was hooked for the rest of my life.

But my story does not stop with UConn. The next year, I loved Mateen Cleaves, so I decided to declare Michigan State my national championship victor. What do you know, Michigan State won the 2000 national title, and at age seven, I believed that picking tournament winners was a piece of cake, and I had, if you will, eaten a lot of Madness cake in 1999 and 2000.

But, too much cake can you lead you to become Eddy Curry. No, I did not balloon to 300 pounds after signing a $60 million dollar contract. But, 12 years later, I have only picked 2 national champions correctly (North Carolina in 2005 and 2009), and I have never won a bracket competition at all. Seriously, I am 0-fer. How is it possible that I can love college basketball, watch it constantly and still have no victories? Well, it is the nature of the beast I guess, and that is what makes these few weeks in March so wonderful. We truly do not know what is going to happen. Sure, 29 of the last 33 national champions have been one, two or three seeds, but picking a national champion is but one task we have in front of us. From Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky to the championship game, we are in for chokes (1998 Arizona, 2001 Maryland, 2006 Iowa, Adam Morrison tears and 2006 Gonzaga, 2008 Memphis…), big shots, names that will forever be remembered in history (Bryce Drew, Ali Farokhmanesh, Stephen Curry…), inexplicable upsets and terrible corny Jim Nantz game commentary. Will this be the year that I win a bracket? No matter what happens, I will enjoy these next two weeks more than most weeks for the entire year. I present to you a preview of each region, and based on my track record, look at my picks and immediately pick the opposite. If you want to eat the March Madness cake, find yourself a Mateen Cleaves or a Kemba Walker or Steph Curry or Miles Simon. In the meantime, watch me stretch my search from 12 years to 13!

Let me warn you, I have written far too much analysis. Pick and choose what you would like to read, unless you seriously have nothing else to do with your life. In that case, grab some coffee and be prepared to read until tomorrow morning.

South

Kentucky vs. WKU/ MSSVST

Although this post will be published during the WKU/MSSVST game (I have mentioned this game three times now in one post. You cannot tell me you are still interested in me.), I did pick the Hilltoppers. You don’t pick against a school that has a red blob for a mascot. Unless they play Kentucky, which they unfortunately do. Anthony Davis will probably swat the red blob out of the gym. Winner: Kentucky

Iowa State vs. UConn

I did not get to watch a lot of Iowa State this year, but I know they are a bunch of transfers and Fred Hoiberg is their first-year coach. I despised watching UConn this year. A lot of talent, no cohesiveness. This pick is purely based on my hatred for bad team basketball. Winner: Iowa State

Wichita State vs. Virginia Commonwealth

I totally picked VCU last year…not. Wichita State is one of the best mid-majors we have seen in the past ten years, as they rank number 10 according to KenPom.com’s efficiency rankings. VCU is good themselves at number 46, but I love senior-laden mid-major’s to go far in the tournament, so… Winner: Wichita State (VCU will probably kill me again, but oh well)

Indiana vs. New Mexico State

I feel awful for Verdell Jones III. After suffering through the nadir of the Hoosier program, he finally had a good team during his senior season, only to tear his ACL in the 1st round of the Big 10 tournament. These are the heartbreaking stories of college sports, and for that, I am picking Indiana (Not to mention the fact that Cody Zeller is one of the best freshman in the country and New Mexico State is not very good). Winner: Indiana

UNLV vs. Colorado

My parents went to Colorado. I lived in Las Vegas for the first eight years of my life. I have allegiances to both teams, but UNLV is by far the better squad. However, Colorado comes in playing their best basketball, while UNLV has gone 5-5 in their last 10 games. Oh well, I am still picking the more talented team. Winner: UNLV

Baylor vs. South Dakota State

There has been a lot of pub behind a possible upset here. Sure, South Dakota State killed UW on the road (What wonderful memories) and has the 26th most efficient offense in the country according to KenPom.com, but Baylor still has more talent than almost every team in the country, and Perry Jones III played his best basketball last weekend. Baylor wins easily here. Winner: Baylor

Notre Dame vs. Xavier

Xavier has had one hell of a year. The brawl with Cincinnati sent them into a tailspin after an extremely strong start, and Tu Holloway never seemed to recover. However, they did make it to the final of their conference tournament, and Holloway did show some signs of revival (19.7 ppg, 5 boards per game, 2.7 assists per game), and Mike Brey’s teams never tend to do well in the tournament. Winner: Xavier

Duke vs. Lehigh

If you have not read The Last Amateurs by John Feinstein, I highly suggest it. He chronicles an entire season about the league Lehigh plays in. Unfortunately, they have no chance in this game.The only time Coach K has lost in the first round during my lifetime was in 2006 to VCU, and VCU had Eric Maynor. Winner: Duke

Kentucky vs. Iowa State

Every Calipari team that has been seeded number 1 has made it to at least the Elite 8, and they are much too talented to falter this year. Winner: Kentucky

Wichita State vs. Indiana

Both teams have incredibly efficient offenses. Indiana is not nearly as effective on the defensive end, hence the reason they lost games on the road this year to inferior teams and teams who play well on both ends (Nebraska, Iowa. Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan). Wichita State is a great defensive team, so I give them the edge in what would be a great game if it comes to fruition. Winner: Wichita State

Baylor vs. UNLV

I outlined the most recent play for both of these teams in their first round games. UNLV and Baylor play similar styles in that they are very athletic and play well on the offensive end, but I think Baylor is peaking at the right time, and Scott Drew guided the Bears to the Elite 8 in 2010, if you recall. Winner: Baylor

Duke vs. Xavier

I have no rational reason for this other than the fact that this Duke team bothers me. Duke is the better team, but if Holloway catches fire, Xavier can win this, and America will rejoice in an early Duke loss. Root for this one. Winner: Xavier

Kentucky vs. Wichita State

Kentucky will be too much for the Shockers here. It has been shown that you can win quite a few games with freshman being prominent figures in your lineup during the NCAA tournament (Syracuse 2003, Ohio State 2007, Memphis 2008, Kentucky 2010, Kentucky 2011), and Anthony Davis may decide to block 20 shots too. Winner: Kentucky

Baylor vs. Xavier

Both of these teams could easily lose in the Second Round (Okay, can we just call it the first round? I mean honestly, 4 games do not qualify as one round for a 68 team tournament. Then again, if we have to call it the second round in order to prevent the tournament from getting larger, I can compromise). I give the edge to Baylor here because they have not had any major upsets this year. (Maybe to Kansas State, but that is not an awful loss) Winner: Baylor

Kentucky vs. Baylor

In a battle of two talented squads, I still believe Kentucky will win this. As much as I think Calipari is a large cheater, he truly is a great coach. Molding new players into a team each year would be incredibly difficult, and he does it year after year. Winner: Kentucky

West

Michigan State vs. Long Island Blackbirds. Ummmm Michigan State should win? Winner: Michigan State

Memphis vs. St. Louis

I honestly cannot wait to watch this game. St. Louis is 15th and Memphis 9th according to KenPom.com. Both teams have flown under the radar this year, and it is unfortunate one must lose because both of these teams have the potential to get to the sweet 16. I pick St. Louis because Rick Majerus is a fantastic coach (took Utah to the title game in 1998) and Memphis has a lot of young players who still have not proven anything. Also, St. Louis’s mascot is a Billiken, which is even better than the red blob Hilltopper. Winner: St. Louis

New Mexico vs. Long Beach State

Dear Committee,

Why do you consistently pair non-power conference teams together in the first round? Is it because you are afraid that the mediocre power conference squads will lose to the Long Beach State’s of the world? I would not be surprised if this were the case. I would pick Long Beach State if they were not playing a team that defended the 3-point shot better than almost any team in the country. Alas, I have to live with your arcane seeding system. At least you are pocketing a lot of cash, right?

Sincerely,

Tyler Bradley —–> Winner: New Mexico

Louisville vs. Davidson

Last year, UConn won the Big East tournament and continued on to win the National Championship. In 2006, Syracuse won the Big East tournament behind Gerry Mcnamara, and decided to lose in the first round. I think this Louisville team is more like Syracuse from 2006, and Davidson did beat Kansas this year. Winner: Davidson

Murray State vs. Colorado State

I am picking Murray State despite the fact they only have two notable wins all year (Memphis and Southern Miss). Why? Isaiah Canaan. Winner: Murray State

Marquette vs. BYU/Iona

I am picking Iona to beat BYU because of the VCU corollary. Last year, there was an uproar over the inclusion of VCU, just as there is an uproar about Iona this year (For good reason. Marshall should have been given the spot!). Because of this, Iona will shut everyone up and win. The battle between Carlino and Machado will be great to watch.

As for Marquette, I think they will beat Iona because they are a more disciplined team. They proved they could play with anybody in the Big East, and with Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, they have two guys who can pull a Greg Jennings and put their team on their backs. Winner: Marquette

Florida vs. Virginia

Florida has guards for days. Virginia has Mike Scott and former Wazzu coach Tony Bennett (No, not the singer, unfortunately). Bennett is a great coach and Scott a great player, but my Husky Pride cannot choose a former Cougar in a game that is truly a toss-up. Winner: Florida

Missouri vs. Norfolk State

Missouri is a fantastic team. Norfolk State is a college nestled in Norfolk, Virginia. Have fun at the dance while it lasts! Winner: Mizzou

Michigan State vs. St. Louis

As much as I love St. Louis, I think Draymond Green is on a mission to win the title this year. Remember how I picked Michigan State in 2000 because of Mateen Cleaves? Draymond is a lot like Mateen with his will to win. Sorry, Billikens, you gone. Winner: Michigan State

New Mexico vs. Davidson

Drew Gordon will lead the Lobos to their first sweet 16 since 1974. Davidson doesn’t have Steph Curry, after all. Winner: New Mexico

Murray State vs. Marquette

Buzz Williams coached Marquette to the Sweet 16 last year, and he will do it again with this team. Despite losing Jimmy Butler from last year, Crowder, Cadougan and Johnson-Odom have been the leaders of an even better squad. Winner: Marquette

Missouri vs. Florida

Missouri is a better version of Florida. Both play with 4 guards quite often, and both rely on one scoring option in the post. Missouri wins because they do everything Florida does well and in far more efficient fashion. Winner: Mizzou

Michigan State vs. New Mexico

New Mexico has a great defense. Michigan State has a great defense. New Mexico has a senior post player averaging a double-double, Michigan State does as well. These teams match up well on paper and New Mexico has a shorter flight to Phoenix. Still, I do not think the extra miles will affect an Izzo team, and, like I said, Draymond is on a mission. Winner: Michigan State

Marquette vs. Missouri

I am picking Marquette because they can stifle Missouri. Missouri struggles when other teams can defend them on the perimeter and have a post presence, and that is exactly what Marquette has. Winner: Marquette

Michigan State vs. Marquette

Tom Izzo conjures up a spell and Marquette allows Michigan State to dance to the Final 4. Winner: Michigan State

East

Syracuse vs. UNC-Asheville

I heard the news about Fab Melo and totally decided to change this pick! Oh wait, not yet. Carry on Orangemen. Winner: Syracuse

Kansas State vs. Southern Mississippi

Nobody seems to be choosing Southern Mississippi, and I think this is because nobody knows anything about Southern Mississippi. All I know is that Larry Eustachy is their coach, and he had some personal issues back in the day. No matter, I still pick Frank Martin’s scowl and Kansas State. Winner: Kansas State

Vanderbilt vs. Harvard

Vanderbilt was overrated at the beginning of the season, especially because Festus Ezeli was suspended for the first few games. After winning the SEC tournament, you would think that I would be high on Vandy, right? Well, no, but I think they will beat Harvard. Winner: Vanderbilt

Wisconsin vs. Montana

I did some research on Montana. Weber State is also a member of the Big Sky and they were highly respected this year. Montana also plays very good defense and has an efficient offense. Sounds a lot like Wisconsin, right? I think Jordan Taylor will lead the Badgers to a low-scoring victory though, because Montana does not have a guy like Kenneth Faried on Morehead State last year. Winner: Wisconsin

Cincinnati vs. Texas

Cincinnati was impressive in the Big East tournament until the championship game. They scored 14 points in the first half of that game. 14? I am pretty sure this girl could score that many in one half. Still, one bad game does not erase what they did this year after the brawl, and Texas is a one man show with J’Covan Brown (What an awesome name). Winner: Cincinnati

Florida State vs. St. Bonaventure

Florida State beat Duke and North Carolina twice this year. Everyone who claims that Florida State is only a defensive team may not think about the fact that they just scored 85 against the Heels after playing Duke to a 62-59 victory. They are a versatile team, so Andrew Nicholson and the Bonnies will not beat them. However, congrats to the Bonnies. This is their first appearance in the Dance since 2000. Winner: Florida State

Gonzaga vs. West Virginia

What did West Virginia do to deserve this draw? They get to travel 90 minutes to play Gonzaga, who has to travel five hours. Gonzaga had to do this in 2008 to play Davidson, and Davidson came out on top, but I don’t think Kevin Jones is the same as Steph Curry, and Gonzaga is accustomed to playing on the road. Winner: Gonzaga

Ohio State vs. Loyola (MD)

I don’t think I need to explain myself here. Winner: Ohio State

Syracuse vs. Kansas State

I can see Syracuse losing this game without Melo. The Orange lost Arinze Onuaku in 2010 as a 1 seed and lost in the Sweet 16 to Butler, a team that had good post defense. Kansas State also has guys down low, but they do not have a dynamic guy like Gordon Hayward, and Syracuse has won close games all year. Winner: Syracuse

Wisconsin vs. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt struggles in the tournament every year. They have lost to a 12 or 13 seed for three years in a row now, and Wisconsin’s methodical play will prevail. Winner: Wisconsin

Florida State vs. Cincinnati

I truly believe that Florida State can stymie Yancy Gates, and they have proven themselves in big games all year. Winner: Florida State

Ohio State vs. Gonzaga

Gonzaga can compete with Ohio State, but this is the game where William Buford and Jared Sullinger will step up for the Buckeyes. Also, Craft can shut down Pangos on the other end. Winner: Ohio State

Syracuse vs. Wisconsin

Syracuse is very good in transition, but without Melo in the middle of the zone, the transition will be more difficult to start. Less blocks + less rebounds=less opportunities and this will allow Wisconsin to control the tempo. This is where the loss of Melo will hurt. Winner: Wisconsin

Ohio State vs. Florida State

Ohio State played well in their conference tournament, but Michigan State showed how they can be beaten. Good defense in the low post which allows the guards to get out and stop Buford. Well, Florida State does just that, and they will do it to Ohio State here as well. Winner: Florida State

Florida State vs. Wisconsin

A battle of two defensive teams will be won by the Seminoles. They come in hot, and Leonard Hamilton becomes one of the most popular coaches in the country after this game. Winner: Florida State

Midwest

North Carolina vs. Lamar/Vermont

I think Lamar will win against Vermont. I got to see them briefly and liked what I saw, so let us go with that. North Carolina should win this one. I think. Winner: North Carolina

Creighton vs. Alabama

First of all, Doug Mcdermott is wonderful to watch and is probably a First Team All-American. I also despise the SEC (as do many people I grew up with), and I do not think Alabama is very good. Winner: Creighton

Temple vs. California/South Florida

Temple is one of the most efficient teams in the country offensively, but defensively they leave a bit to be desired this year. Still, I think they will beat California, which will put a nice end to the awful Pac-12 season. At least they beat South Florida, right? Winner: Temple

Michigan vs. Ohio

Ohio beat Georgetown as a 14 seed two years ago, but Beilien coaches teams that do well in the tournament (Remember Kevin Pittsnogle and West Virginia in 2005?). Plus, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are two legitimate scorers that Ohio will not be able to contain. Winner: Michigan

San Diego State vs. N.C. State

Both of these teams played well in their conference tournaments, but San Diego State must travel to Columbus, Ohio, so the Wolfpack get the edge here. Winner: N.C. State

Georgetown vs. Belmont

BELMONT!!! I think they have the right amount of white guys who can shoot to pull off the upset. Plus, Georgetown has done this before under John Thompson III, and when you have a guy named Kerron as your leading scorer, how can you lose? Winner: Belmont

St. Mary’s vs. Purdue

I love watching Matthew Dellavedova play (Despite his mouthguard. Come on man.), and St. Mary’s could go far, but I think Robbie Hummel deserves this victory after two ACL tears. Don’t you think Purdue could have won the title last year or two years ago if he had remained healthy? Winner: Purdue

Kansas vs. Detroit

Although Detroit has an excellent point guard in Ray Mccallum Jr., T-Rob’s shoulders will carry Kansas to victory. Winner: Kansas

North Carolina vs. Creighton

Creighton struggles defensively, and North Carolina is one of the best offensive teams in the country. Marshall might have 30 assists in this game. Winner: North Carolina

Michigan vs. Temple

Michigan can defend good offensive teams. After all, they have had to play Draymond, Sullinger, Hummel and Jordan Taylor all year. Michigan can also score the ball, and Temple won’t have it in them to pull out the victory. Winner: Michigan

N.C. State vs. Belmont

Cornell was lights-out from beyond the arc in 2010 and went to the Sweet 16. I think Belmont will follow that blueprint. Winner: Belmont

Kansas vs. Purdue

Kansas is too talented to let this one slip away. Unfortunately for Hummel, the train ends here. Winner: Kansas

North Carolina vs. Michigan

Although Carolina lost to Florida State, the Tar Heels have been playing great basketball after Duke’s incredible comeback in Chapel Hill. Michigan does not have the horses to keep up with the Heels in this game, and Carolina tends to play well in the tournament under Roy Williams when they have this much talent. Winner: North Carolina 

Kansas vs. Belmont

This could be a tricky game for Kansas, but Belmont won’t be able to stop Robinson and Withey, so the game goes to the Jayhawks. Winner: Kansas

North Carolina vs. Kansas

A battle of blue-bloods. Carolina was the preseason favorite and has the tools to stop T-Rob. Kansas has the tools to defend the Tar Heels on the break. For this one, I almost flipped a coin, but then I decided that Tyshawn Taylor would throw up an ill-advised shot at the end of the game, and the Tar Heels would move on to the next round. Winner: North Carolina

Final 4

Kentucky vs. Michigan State

The cats should win this game. Davis and Jones can bang inside while Kidd-Gilchrist matches Draymond for work-rate. But for some reason, I think Michigan State wins this one too. So much for basketball analysis. Winner: Michigan State

Florida State vs. North Carolina

Revenge time. Carolina will not lose three times to the Seminoles. Not to mention the fact that Roy Williams has been here before. Winner: North Carolina

Michigan State vs. North Carolina

I am going with my philosophy from my younger days with this Michigan State pick. Hopefully I will be able to eat some Madness Cake once again. Winner: Michigan State

Hello, NIT

Hello, Nit.

Should I be surprised? As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Huskies are agonizing to root for. This gut-wrenching loss may knock the Huskies out of the tournament (“King” Lunardi has been strangely generous to the Pac-12 this year. 2 teams? How can you justify this now, especially after a Beavers loss. Pac-12 is a one-bid league this year). Yet watching this game was strangely predictable. I did not cry like I did after their loss to UNC in the Second Round last year, because the Huskies did not play well enough to win, and I did not believe in this team at all. Their loss may put us out of our misery of supporting this group of players.

Where do I begin. Do I start with the end of the game, where Ross inexplicably became as oblivious to the game of basketball as Venoy Overton, and Tony missed four free throws in a row? Or, do I start with the beginning of the game, with one of the worst first-halfs since the South Dakota State game?

Neither.

I want to start with Aziz fouling out. At this point, UW was up 77-71 with 3:22 to play. A 6 point lead is still comfortable, but after this point, UW begins to implode. Signs of this impending loss were already present though. Ross and Wilcox had gone a combined 1-5 from the line in their previous trips, Oregon State was able to get open lay-ups and Starks was given an open 3-pointer (How did they allow Starks to get open this often? He is their best shooter, but he cannot drive, so this shows the Dawgs have no defensive discipline. Starks nailed four huge 3’s today). Although I believe Aziz to be a sub-par defender, his fifth foul meant Oregon State had no fear when entering the lane. Cunningham drove in with ease to put Oregon State up 84-83 with 31 seconds left, while Gaddy took a terrible blocking foul and Gant looked on in awe. Awesome. Thanks Aziz, for getting in foul trouble for the second straight game (He has only played 44 minutes in the past 2 games, both losses. He has a combined nine fouls and zero blocks in those two contests. Exactly what you want from your 7-footer).

The post defense was awful all game because of this foul trouble. Eric Moreland scored 13 points, grabbed 6 boards and made key defensive stops. Joe Burton put up a 14-10-6. Burton normally averages 8.3 points and 5.8 boards. He had an excellent game, and his passing and touch around the rim were fantastic. Unfortunately, it is still Joe Burton. He has no business having a stellar performance in a game the Huskies need to win. Cunningham was a man in this game too, falling two assists short of a triple-double, but the Huskies have no lock-down perimeter defenders, so this was not a surprise.

But you have to give Burton and Cunningham and Starks some credit for stepping up to help their team, something that Ross refused to do. His two missed free throws and his terrible charge with 40 seconds to play showed that he still has a lot to learn. His lack of knowledge about the ball needing to touch the rim on an intentional missed free throw proved that this UW team has a basketball IQ of Javale Mcgee  levels. That, my friend, is a low basketball IQ. With his play down the stretch, Ross legitimized Gutierrez’ player of the year status. Say what you want about Gutierrez (he is one of the most annoying players to play against, but if I had him on my team I would be happy), but I guarantee he knows the free throw rule.

Interestingly enough, I do not want to lambast Tony for his awful free throws at the end of the game. Tony was the only one who could do anything against the Beavers zone all game, and if I had not jinxed him , he probably would have continued to nail his free throws. Alas, he had no follow-through at the line in the end, and he was near tears as the buzzer sounded. The fact that he showed his care for winning was great to see. If this somehow parlays into him returning next year, maybe this game will be a blessing in disguise.

What do I say about the first half of this game though? The team has to know that they cannot lose this game. Everyone who follows college basketball is aware of this. How can a team come out flat, throw ten turnovers and look like they do not care? Because of this, they were down 13 at halftime. The first half was despicable. The first half sucked all of my belief in this team out. My belief was as empty as the Staples Center seats. The loss was strangely reminiscent of the entire season. Half of the game was a UW talent exhibition, and the other half of the game was a choke-job, but the talent aspect never outweighed the garbage aspect, and for this, I am sad.

This is the worst part about watching the Huskies this year. It is not that they lost the game, it is the fact that I was not surprised by their loss. I should never feel this way about a team I support. Oh wait, I support the Mariners. Never mind. Let me rephrase: I should never feel this way about the UW basketball team under Lorenzo Romar. Maybe I am being too harsh. They are a very young team, and young teams go through endless growing pains every year. But with Ross and Tony likely to leave, shouldn’t they back up their talent with victories? If not, shouldn’t they stay one more year so that we can believe in the Huskies again? Whatever happens, I have a bad feeling that I will be saying two words on Sunday that will kill me inside:

Hello, NIT.