Monday, March 14, 2011

Moon's 2011 NCAA Tournament Primer

I am in a depressed shock. My favorite team in all of sports, the team I would like to see succeed more than any other, the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team, has been snubbed from the most exciting sporting event of the year, the NCAA tournament. This was a truly stunning omission – the Buffs were considered to be a lock locally and nationally. Buff fans have waited eight years for a team worthy of the tournament, watching multiple rebuilding efforts culminate in this exasperating, often underachieving squad of four studs and a bunch of guys unworthy of the Big XII. The season was an emotionally exhausting rollercoaster which saw the Buffs lose a few pathetic games early, suddenly turn the corner, choke away several winnable games, then mount a wild comeback in a win over Texas. The Buffs then pulled out two heart-pounding thrillers in the Big XII, including a do-or-die third win over Kansas State which appeared to lock up a tournament bid. And then came the Selection Show, the single worst hour I have ever spent as a sports fan. My enthusiasm for the NCAA tournament has been completely sapped, but I did happen to write this preview ahead of time so I might as well post it.


Deciphering the bracket is all about stereotyping. Unless you’re a total diehard, it’s silly to try to break down the matchups, to make your own opinions about who’s overrated and underrated. The committee generally does a fine job of seeding the teams; trying to outpick them by game by game is pointless. What you need to do is identify the obvious role players, the teams that fit a molded pattern we have seen before in the NCAAs.

Before we get to the stereotypes, just go ahead and write down “Ohio State” six straight times through the championship game. If you pick anyone other than the Buckeyes to take the championship down this year, you’re either a fool, a genius, or a homer. OSU is as well-rounded a team as you will ever see at the college level – talented, diversified, experienced, prepared for any challenge. Their only weakness, like most of the top contenders this season, is coaching.

On to the stereotypes:

The Sleeping Giant

This is the talented team that underachieves throughout the regular season, then finds itself just in time for redemption. Illinois fits the profile here. Big Ten rival Michigan State has lost five straight Big Ten tournament semifinals. Is it possible mastermind Tom Izzo is deliberately throwing these games so his team will be emotionally primed for the real tournament? The Spartans were gifted a juicy draw, and could reach the conference final practically by default.

The Peaker

The big-name squad who doesn’t raise too many eyebrows during the season, but has slowly improved and put itself in position to make some noise when it counts.

Kentucky is a talented young squad that lost a ton of close road games but appears to be playing their best ball now. In-state rival Louisville has also been playing some excellent ball of late.

The Premature Ejaculator

The major-conference team that puts together a solid season but finishes in the middle of its highly-competitive league, then bands together a startling championship run in its high-profile conference tournament. Heavy in the legs and short on emotion, this team often caves in the first round of the NCAAs. This year the wadblower is obviously UCONN – perhaps the clearest ever, in fact. The Huskies won five games in five days last week to take the Big East tournament championship over Louisville and fellow premature ejaculator Rick Pitino and now face a tougher-than-it-looks combo of Bucknell and Cincinnati/Missouri.

The Snake In The Grass

Think George Mason in 2006. The quietly confident 8-12 seed no one is talking about who shows up, kicks a couple asses, then finally gets some recognition heading into the Sweet Sixteen. This team didn’t win its conference tournament, but won plenty of games during the regular season. Old Dominion, Utah State, and Missouri could snake their way to the Sweet Sixteen this season.

The Steaming Pile of Cow Dung

VCU and UAB will likely be toast by the time the field is down to 64, but Penn State doesn’t belong in the field either. The Nittany Lions uglied their way to a 9-9 record in the Big Ten, then dispatched Wisconsin and Michigan State in back-to-back basketball apocalypses to sneak into the field.

The Jumper

The high seed walking out on the ledge, just aching to fall off the precipice. BYU (one-man team), Notre Dame (not overly athletic), and Florida (unbecoming of a #2 seed) fit the bill here.

The Fake Sleeper

This is the team the national media jumps on as a potential Final Four darkhorse for no good reason. Kansas State does have a couple good players, but isn’t the loaded contender some of these guys might have you believe.

The Maniacs

USC is an unpredictable squadron with some quality wins and some horrific losses – exactly the type of team that should have to play-in to the tournament. Villanova has caught some flak for finishing the season 5-10, but could be a nuisance for Ohio State should they get by George Mason in the 8/9 game.

Tennessee has proven they can beat some dynamite teams, and could get a shot at Duke on Sunday.

The Loch Ness Monster

Not many people saw much of San Diego State this season. The Aztecs lost their two highest profile games this season, both to BYU. Those were the only two games they lost all season. Flukes? Bad matchup? Jimmered? Nobody really knows what to expect out of SDSU, though they seem as good a bet as any to win at least two games.


I’ll post my bracket in a couple of days.


Blogger Spencetron said...

I'm so sorry for you and the Buffs, but what about a comment about your favorite team that isn't the Buffs, your 2011 Pitt Panthers, who will lose in the Sweet 16?

11:10 AM  
Blogger Michal Greenberg said...

Definitely a huge let-down that CU didn't make the tournament. (Almost as depressing is that no one in my office even seems to be aware of this fact.) Happily Duke came in as a #1 seed, so my glass is still half full :).

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't comment about the best 16-1 bet. Will you make that bet?

7:34 PM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

Apparently the best 16 seed is UNC-Asheville, but in its infinite wisdom, the committee stuck them in the play-in game. I guess Boston is dece too.

10:20 PM  

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