Thursday, March 19, 2009

Atthe sports desk: NCAA tournament first round upset picks

Here we go, folks! It's one of my favorite times of the year--NCAA basketball tourney time, where even the biggest of underdogs can find that "one shining moment", where the pressure is on to win or go home, where seasons of promise can be ended in an instant, where last-second buzzer-beaters occur in the midst of high drama. And I've been following it all closely, while following my favorite teams, as perhaps you've noticed...

But, okay, so who's going to win? Well, let's just start with the first-round games.
Below, I'll list which upsets are going to happen. If I don't mention the game, then I'm assuming the higher-seeded team will win. But there will be upsets; the only question is figuring out where they'll occur. Here's my guesses:

#10 seed Southern Cal over #7 Boston College: the Trojans are hot, having just won the Pac 10 tourney in an upset, and have a lot of talent. Look for their active press to give BC problems.

#9 Texas A&M over #8 BYU: not a huge upset, obviously, but I do think A&M has been coming on late in the year, and that the Big 12 was a tougher league than many thought.

#11 Utah St. over #6 Marquette: you have the feeling that Marquette, without Dominic James, is in some trouble--a bit worn down, certainly not the same team. Meanwhile Utah State is a program that's been to the NCAAs before, it has a winning tradition, and this year won 30 games.

#10 Maryland over #7 California: Maryland is a solid program with experienced players like Ramon Vazquez, and made a nice run in the ACC tourney. Cal has good talent but turns the ball over too much.

#9 Tennessee over #8 Oklahoma State: Tennessee has a pressing style of play to which it can be difficult to adjust, and they played a very tough schedule.

#12 Wisconsin over #5 Florida State: yes, I know, FSU got all the way to the ACC tourney championship game, and upset North Carolina along the way. They're a good basketball team. But Wisconsin has size, some shooters, and they play a very deliberate, frustrating style of basketball, which has won them many NCAA tourney games in the past. Look for them to frustrate FSU today.

#9 Butler over #8 LSU: Butler doesn't have the experienced players they've had the past couple of years. BUT--they found new, albeit younger, cogs to fit into their system once again. They use the shot clock, make shots, and play incredibly fundamentally sound basketball. They know how to win.

#12 Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois: Western Kentucky has a very good club--they beat Louisville earlier this year. And I'm worried about the health of Illinois guard Chester Frazier; without him, the Illini aren't the same.

#10 Michigan over #7 Clemson: now that the Wolverines have made the tournament, ending a 10 year drought, I think the pressure is off. I think they'll play easier and looser, and can make shots; and that, combined with their difficult 1-3-1 zone defense, can add up to an upset win. If Michigan makes shots, they'll win.