Tag:Schmolik Bracket Analysis
Posted on: March 13, 2012 5:19 pm
Hello, college basketball fans!
Now it's the time where I analyze the actual NCAA bracket and tell you who I think will win in the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, I didn't do that well but show me anyone who did. Not one of the top seeds made the Final Four and the only people who had VCU going to the Final Four probably had some connections to the school.
Normally, I start with Illinois's regional but Illinois is not in it this year.
I will start in the South Regional, the first regional announced.
Kentucky is the obvious favorite. John Calipari said at the end of the SEC semifinal game against Florida that he was worried about arrogance and that would lead to complacency. Maybe the loss to Vanderbilt will wake up the team that they are beatable and they will play at a higher level. We all know UK was virtually guaranteed the No. 1 overall seed so the game was kind of meaningless to them.
A big eye opener was UK is scheduled to meet last year's national championship Connecticut if the Cats and Huskies win their first games. This game (assuming it happens) may not be the best game of the "third" round but I think it will easily be the most watched. I give UConn the edge over an Iowa State team that hasn't been in the tournament since 2005.
Speaking of experience, the next pod has Indiana, Wichita State, VCU, and New Mexico State. Indiana hasn't made the NCAA field since 2008. Wichita State's last was 2006. The experience edge here has to go to VCU and it looks to be the classic 12 over 5 upset. I am personally hoping VCU loses early so Illinois might have a chance at Shaka Smart if Brad Stevens turns down the job (Stevens is by far my first choice).
Another team I feel is beatable is Baylor. They did get to the Elite Eight in 2010 but they were the higher seed in each game. Last year, they didn't make the NCAA's. This year, they were just 1-4 vs. Kansas and Missouri. I probably would have taken Belmont (another No. 14 seed) to beat Baylor but South Dakota State is playing in its first ever NCAA Tournament. Look out for UNLV to possibly make the Sweet 16 (they have a Pac-12 team in its first game). I would also like to see Scott Drew leave Baylor for Illinois (again if Brad Stevens says no).
We haven't seen Kentucky and Duke in the NCAA's since 1998 and I am hoping to see it again. I can imagine the Georgia Dome will be sold out if it happens. I think it will happen and I think Kentucky will win just like 1998 (as opposed to the thrilling 1992 Duke win).
South Regional Final Pick: Kentucky over Duke
We go to the West.
Tom Izzo is as good as it comes when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. He's coached the Spartans to six NCAA Final Fours, including the 2000 national championship. This season, the Spartans are a No. 1 seed, Izzo's first since 2001. Izzo has previously been seeded No. 1 three times. Michigan State made the Final Four all three of those years.
People think Missouri is the biggest challenge. Missouri had a terrific season and won the Big 12 conference tournament this season. Frank Haith clearly did a great job after many people criticized him being selected as head coach. Still, the NCAA Tournament is a whole other beast. Would you rather play Missouri or Duke or Kansas? It's an easy choice. In fact, Charles Barkley thinks coaching is more important late in the tournament than seeding. Tell me who you think is the better coach, Haith or Billy Donovan? I think Missouri will suffer an early exit to the Gators.
I think the bigger threats to the Spartans are the two Big East teams, Marquette and Louisville. Louisville won the Big East Tournament and the last team to win the Big East Tournament won it all. Michigan State drew a tough Memphis team (who I had as a No. 6 seed) in the third round. It should be a tough road but it's hard for me to pick against Izzo.
West Regional Final Pick: Michigan State over Marquette
I'll next head East.
Of course the big story is that Syracuse's Fab Melo has been declared ineligible. That changes a lot. I wouldn't count out Syracuse and I think Syracuse should be fine through the first weekend but I am picking Wisconsin to pull the Sweet 16 upset. As for Vanderbilt, remember that they choked the last two seasons in their first NCAA game (both years seeded No. 5 or higher). Also, will they suffer a letdown after beating Kentucky? Harvard is screaming pick me over Vanderbilt. I wouldn't be surprised if Harvard makes the Sweet 16 like Cornell did in 2010 (in fact, Cornell won its second game against Wisconsin, Harvard's likely second opponent).
Ohio State has a likely matchup against either West Virginia or a scary Gonzaga team that loves the underdog role. Some people have said West Virginia should have a home crowd advantage in Pittsburgh. But Pitt fans hate West Virginia with a passion (it's very intense), so I wouldn't be surprised if they cheer against the Mounts. Kentucky looks to be in a similar situation in Louisville but the rivalry is not as bitter and plenty of Kentucky fans should make the trip.
The other wild card is Florida State. They made the Sweet 16 last year as a No. 10 seed. This year's team only beat Duke and North Carolina twice each, including back to back wins over the two to win the ACC Tournament. I think the actual final will be the semifinal between the Buckeyes and Seminoles and in an upset, I think Florida State will make the Final Four.
East Regional Final Pick: Florida State over Wisconsin
Finally, we have the Midwest Regional.
I figured either Kansas or Missouri would get to play in St. Louis. It was Kansas and they look to have a huge home court advantage against North Carolina. On the other hand, Kansas has had a history of underachieving (outside of 2008 of course). They lost to Northern Iowa in 2010 in the second round (despite being the No. 1 overall seed) and lost to VCU last year in the regional final. I give the St. Mary's/Purdue winner a good shot at beating Kansas in the third round. I'm sure Roy Williams is not looking forward to playing his old school but I'm sure many fans are. Both the Midwest and South Regional finals are scheduled for Sunday. Could we get UNC/Kansas and Kentucky/Duke in the same day? It will be a terrific Sunday to me if we do.
No. 3 seed Georgetown lost its last two opening round games, to Ohio in 2010 (as a No. 3 seed) and to VCU last year. Belmont looks to be the team that could upset the Hoyas. They were in the tournament last season and four times since 2006 and are looking for their first win. I am looking forward to Temple vs. Michigan in the third round but also watch out for Ohio (No. 13 seed and Michigan's first opponent). NC State is another sleeper at No. 11.
Midwest Regional Final Pick: North Carolina over Kansas
Final Four: Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State, Florida State
I think Florida State will be the happy to go lucky team and North Carolina should be looking for revenge. While the Spartans won the Big Ten Tournament, they lost Branden Dawson for the season. I'm also wondering about John Henson's wrist. That being said, I will go with the same choice.
Championship Pick: Kentucky over North Carolina
Posted on: March 15, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 5:34 pm
Hello, college basketball fans!
My second annual tradition is breaking down the actual bracket and picking who will win. I like to call it "Schmolik Bracket Analysis"!
The season for Illinois began with high expectations and a big win over North Carolina but Illinois slumped. After not being in the tournament last year, it's great just to be in the tournament. Illinois will try to win its first game since 2006.
They will face a familiar face in UNLV coach Lon Kruger. Younger Illini fans don't remember but Kruger was Illinois's coach before he left for the NBA, failed (just like John Calipari and Rick Pitino) and landed at UNLV. If Illinois wins, they will play another former Illini coach in Bill Self (assuming Kansas doesn't become the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16).
Recently, Illinois hasn't beaten anyone really good (Iowa and Indiana don't count). I would rather play UNLV than some Big East team (we had an 11 out of 68 chance in drawing one so we got lucky!) but I just don't have much faith in them.
Besides, even if Illinois wins, how much of a chance do we have against Kansas anyway? Then again, if I had to play one of the No. 1 seeds in the "third" round, I would want Kansas. Kansas as a No. 1 seed has lost in the "second" round several times, including last season.
Speaking of Kansas, before Self was Illinois's coach he was Tulsa's coach (I really am old!) So it is a homecoming of sorts for Self in the "second and third" round games. Now Self has not fared too well in the state of Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. The last two times Kansas played in Oklahoma were 2005 (1st round loss to No. 14 seed Bucknell) and last year (2nd round loss to No. 9 Northern Iowa). But those two games were in Oklahoma City, not Tulsa.
Vanderbilt is trying to buck a recent trend. They lost their last two NCAA Tournament games as No. 4 seeds to No. 13's. This year, Vanderbilt plays Atlantic 10 champion Richmond, who I think is underseeded as a No. 12. If you are looking for a 5-12 upset to pick, I think this is a good one.
In the bottom half of the Southwest, we have my favorite nickname in recent memory, the St. Peter's Peacocks! When's the last time there were Peacocks in the NCAA's? They are catching Purdue at a good time with Purdue having lost their last two games but I hope Purdue shows up and defends the Big Ten Conference honor. The last thing I want is Purdue losing their first game (actually the worst would be Ohio State losing their first game!)
This year introduces "play in" games for at large teams. We know the chances of a No. 16 play in game winner beating a No. 1 seed is slim and none. But a No. 11 seed beating a No. 6 is not out of the realm of possibility.
Will the play in game tire out the winner? Does No. 6 seed Georgetown have an advantage or a disadvantage over the other No. 6 seeds? This is another reason I hate the 68 team format. The play in game among No. 16 seeds doesn't really affect the tournament that much but this could disturb the competitive balance in the NCAA's one way or the other.
This season, I don't think either USC or VCU belongs in the Tournament so I hope Georgetown destroys whoever they play and redeem themselves for last year's debacle vs. Ohio. Georgetown's Chris Wright has been cleared to play. The Hoyas certainly didn't play well in his absence. If Georgetown plays like they did earlier this season, Purdue (and the rest of the bottom half of the bracket) are in trouble.
In the NCAA Tournament this year, a lot of eyes will be on the Big East. Were their 11 bids deserved (I think they were regardless of the outcome)? But will all that competition during the regular season and at Madison Square Garden help the schools in the tournament?
Meanwhile, you have Kansas playing in the Big 12 Conference. I think they are overrated. They've only beaten one team that is top four seed in the tournament, a win over a slumping Texas in Kansas City (might as well been in Lawrence). I am picking Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals (they beat Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Syracuse this year) to "upset" the Jayhawks.
I'm going all Big East in the regional final. I like a rematch of the semifinal between Notre Dame and Louisville and for Ben Hansbrough to be cutting the nets down. Notre Dame will advance to its first Final Four since 1978.
Regional Final: Notre Dame over Louisville
I think this is the weakest regional of them all. We have by far the weakest No. 2 seed, a Brandon Davies less BYU as a No. 3 seed, and a No. 4 seed Wisconsin that couldn't break 40 against Penn State.
This regional is full of sleepers. We have perennial bracket busters in Gonzaga and Butler along with Utah State and Old Dominion. I don't know if you can call Michigan State a sleeper but we all know Tom Izzo knows how to coach in the NCAA Tournament.
I don't like seeing mid majors meet in the first game. To me it's like when Boise State and TCU met in the Fiesta Bowl. You want to see David vs. Goliath, not David vs. David. I will say that whoever wins between Butler and Old Dominion is going to give Pitt quite a battle in the "third" round.
This is the 13th year in a row Gonzaga made the NCAA Tournament. They are playing St. John's, a team that last made the tournament in 2002. This looks like an upset to me if you can call it an upset. I also like Utah State to win in another 5-12 upset over a Kansas State team that lost three times to Colorado.
The big mystery of the Southeast is BYU. They haven't played too many games without Brandon Davies but they did lose badly to New Mexico at home and lost to a San Diego State team they swept in the regular season.
BYU was dealt a very hard potential second game in Gonzaga. Gonzaga is back in the role of underdog. The No. 11 seed is Gonzaga's lowest since 2001. It's going to be a hard game for BYU to win. If the Cougars and Bulldogs don't meet this year, expect to see them twice next year in the WCC.
I think Gonzaga has a great chance to make the Sweet 16 and a potential Sweet 16 game vs. Florida. The two met in the Sweet 16 in 1999 when a late basket by Gonzaga prompted Gus Johnson to call "The Slipper Still Fits!".
Of course, Florida will have its own problem with a possible second game with Michigan State. Many times the Spartans exceed expectations (last year's Final Four run was as a No. 5 seed). Florida is playing in Tampa. However, Florida played Michigan State in Tampa in 2003 and the Spartans pulled off an upset of the No. 2 (and overseeded) Gators. Of course, since then Florida and Billy Donovan has won two national championships.
If you asked me the two best coaches in college basketball who have never made the Final Four, I would say Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon and Gonzaga's Mark Few. I hope one of them finally makes it there this year.
In a conference with national champion winning coaches Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, and Rick Pitino, Dixon is often overlooked. Yet, in his eight seasons at Pittsburgh Dixon's team has won ten or more Big East games each season. Pitt won two Big East regular season championships and one Big East Tournament in that span. Making the Final Four will hopefully give Dixon the respect he deserves.
Pittsburgh's road to the Final Four looks very winnable although Old Dominion or Butler will give them fits. The Panthers should be favored in every game. If they play like they have all season, they will be heading to Houston.
Final Pick: Pittsburgh over Florida.
Of course Penn State and Temple play their first game against each other. Well, I know one of my schools is going to win. Penn State's last tournament appearance was 2001. They stunned North Carolina to make the Sweet 16 and lost in the Sweet 16 to Temple.
Fran Dunphy has led Temple to the last three NCAA Tournaments but they lost in the first round each year (including last year's upset at the hands of Cornell). For Penn State, making the NCAA's is a victory already so I want to see Temple and Dunphy finally win one.
The winner of the Pennsylvania clash (from Tucson, Arizona of all places) is expected to play San Diego State in the next round. It's a winnable game for either school and had they played closer to Pennsylvania I probably would pick the upset. It's hard for teams from the East Coast to go out west and win against West Coast teams.
There are a couple of dangerous sleepers teams in this regional.
One of them is the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland. Oakland has played seven NCAA Tournament teams this year (including a win over Tennessee in Knoxville) and will not be intimidated by the Longhorns. Should Texas win, they could meet Arizona in a great "third" round matchup. Arizona and Memphis will pit two coaches making their first NCAA appearance for perennial NCAA elite programs.
Don’t forget about Bucknell. The Bison stunned Kansas in the 2005 NCAA Tournament (and won a game in 2006 as well). They face a talented but likely exhausted Connecticut Huskies team (they won five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament).
Should UConn advance as expected, their next opponent could very well be Big East rival Cincinnati. It seems weird to see two teams from the same conference meeting this early in the tournament but it's hard to spread out 11 conference opponents. I personally think conference foes shouldn't meet until the Sweet 16 and not be allowed to meet in the opening weekend.
At the top half is a Duke. Duke will open in Charlotte, NC. If they advance as expected, they will make a rare trip to the West Coast. Assuming Duke beats Hampton (no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1), Michigan or Tennessee would be a road block in the Blue Devils' way. Michigan is on a roll now and Tennessee is slumping but I would not count Bruce Pearl out this time of year. If it is Duke vs. Michigan, that will be a rematch of the 1992 NCAA Championship (the Fab Five vs. Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Grant Hill).
In the Sweet 16, normally UConn vs. San Diego State is an easy call. But I'm wondering if the Huskies are tired or have peaked and of course a west coast trip to face a nearby school (the game would be in Anaheim) is never good (although UConn has made the Final Four out of the West Regional three times).
I would like to see a Duke/Connecticut regional final. I do not like Duke that much and UConn is Duke's biggest nemesis in the NCAA Tournament. But I have a feeling San Diego State will advance and will lose to Duke in the final. I told you about Duke vs. Michigan in 1992. That team was coached by current San Diego State's head coach Steve Fisher.
Final Pick: Duke over San Diego State.
Well, I can't pick those four. They are all in the East Regional, making it my pick for the toughest regional this year. Only one (possibly none) of them will be in the Final Four. I like all four of these programs so I should be happy with whoever advances unless we have some lower seed make it.
Back in the NCAA's is 2006 Final Four surprise team George Mason. They play a completely struggling Villanova team that lost its last five games including an embarrassing loss to Big East doormat South Florida in the Garden.
Last year, Kentucky and West Virginia met in the East Regional final for the right to advance to the Final Four. This year, they would potentially meet in the opening weekend for a chance to make the Sweet 16. We find in this pod the other play in game for at large teams between Clemson and UAB. The winner will have to fly to Tampa to play its second game.
We could have another third round game between Big East foes if Syracuse wins and Marquette beats Xavier. Don’t count out the Musketeers though as they have made the Sweet 16 the last three years running. Xavier will have their hands full with likely opponent Syracuse to make it four years in a row.
Also playing in Charlotte with Duke will be North Carolina. I’m sure both teams’ fans will come out to cheer against their rivals as well as cheer for their own team this weekend.
If the top four seeds hold, there will be some great games next weekend in Newark between North Carolina and Syracuse and between Ohio State and Kentucky.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see the higher seeded team win every game (best chance of an “upset” would be Xavier over Syracuse).
Final Pick: Ohio State over North Carolina.
I think I heard Charles Barkley say on CBS that early round games in the NCAA's are won by players and later round games are won by coaches. Two of these coaches (Mike Brey and Jamie Dixon) will make their first appearance in the Final Four if my picks are all correct. Thad Matta coached Ohio State to the Final Four in 2007.
But if coaching decides it, there is only one choice to win the championship. In the first semifinal, I like Pittsburgh to gain revenge over Notre Dame. You can't always count on freshmen in the tournament, so I'll take Duke. Unfortunately for those who don't like Duke, I think it will be a repeat.
Championship Pick: Duke over Pittsburgh