Monday, March 14, 2011

The Dance Shall Commence

OK, college hoop fans, this is your time.

You've waited 11 months, and now, the absolute overload that is the NCAA Basketball tournament is just days away. And yes, I mean Thursday, not the Tuesday & Wednesday play-in games which the NCAA is dubbing "The First Four."

If you're like me, you have your brackets in front of you, and you're pouring over them, trying to find the gem of an upset that no one but you will find. The closest I have ever come to a perfect bracket wasn't close to perfect at all. Hope your picks go well, but, in case you need some help, here's what I have (which is subject to change between now and Thursday).

I'm not sure that North Carolina is ready for primetime. I know they were playing great basketball heading into the ACC Tournament, but back-to-back dreadful starts, followed by ridiculous comeback wins showed me that when they run into a team that has some degree of experience in those spots, the Heels are suspect. Like everyone, I have UNC beating Long Island, and then they face Washington. The 2-time winners of the Pac-10 tourney will provide a challenge. I think Carolina gets through to the Sweet 16, but once there, they likely face the test of Syracuse. I think their run will end there. East winner=Ohio State

Duke is the number 1, and after they dispatch Hampton, they'll likely get Michigan. Tennessee may get a case of the shakes coming back to Time Warner Cable Arena, having lost to Charlotte there earlier this season. Even if Tennessee advances, I think Duke is better anyway. Duke likely meets Texas in the Sweet 16, and I like the Blue Devils there, too. Getting to the Final Four could mean a date with Kemba Walker and U-Conn, and if the Devils make it out (I'm not sure they can against the Huskies), they will have earned the trip. West winner=Duke or UConn. And I am leaning UConn

Kansas is the top seed there, but Notre Dame is in the bottom half of the bracket with something to prove as the #2 seed. Notre Dame lost a tough one in the Big East tourney, and they never really got to show just how god they are. Plus, there is Louisville, Vanderbilt, Purdue and (yes, I am saying this) Florida State that could be problematic for this quarter of the field. Strange, but I see few upsets coming from this region. Southwest winner=Kansas

Pittsburgh is the top seed, but this is the one region I want no part of, if I am a high seed. Kansas State could be in for more than they know in the 5-12 game as they take on Utah State. Jimmer Fredette and BYU are here as well (facing Wofford in their opener). UCLA being a #7 could find the Bruins making a bit of noise. Perhaps the most dangerous team in this region is #6 St. John's. Get past the gift win they got over Rutgers in the Big East tourney, the Johnnies are playing well. Lots of gator traps in this region, so viewers, cross your fingers that Gus Johnson gets sent to that half of the tourney. Southeast winner=Florida

Again, I reserve the right to rip up this bracket and start fresh in the morning, but so far, I like the chalk.

Mike Solarte

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