Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday's throwdowns

So today let's focus on one of the great spectacles in American sports, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which begins in minutes. Today I'll pick all the first round upsets I see coming, plus I'll pick a few games which, I've noticed, others are picking as upsets...but I won't. Here we go:

#9 Northern Iowa over #8 UNLV--Northern Iowa has been consistent all year.

#13 Houston over #4 Maryland--yes, Maryland is good and has a great scorer in Greavis Vasquez. But Houston is hot; they just won their conference tournament, upsetting highly-regarded UTEP, and they too can score. I suspect they can outscore the Terps, whose defense at times this year hasn't been so hot.

#11 San Diego State over #6 Tennessee---again, SDSU an unheralded but tough, experienced, hot team; I worry that Tennessee with that pressing style they play may be a bit worn out from their conference grind.

#7 Oklahoma State over #10 Georgia Tech--I've heard some experts picking Tech. But Okie State can shoot lights out, and beat Kansas not long ago, don't forget. OSU has really come on.

#5 Butler over #12 UTEP--I've also heard a lot of experts picking UTEP, due especially to their big man Derek Caracter. But look--Butler has a lot of tournament experience, they're on a long winning streak, and everyone tries to dictate pace and tempo to Butler--and largely fails. Go with the Bulldogs.

#13 Murray State over #4 Vanderbilt--Murray State is a tough, experienced club on a long winning streak with a lot of seniors. Again, one wonders if Vandy isn't a bit worn down from their conference grind.

#11 Minnesota over #6 Xavier--Minnesota has played a tough schedule, they're hot, they got all the way to the Big 10 tourney final. And don't overlook the fact that this game will be played in Milwaukee--not far at all for a lot of Golden Gopher fans to make the trip.

#8 Texas over #9 Wake Forest--yes, Texas has struggled. But the tournament for them can be a fresh start, and they still have a lot of talent. If Texas wins this game, and I think they will, watch out for them--they could be dangerous.

#11 Washington over #6 Marquette--I think Washington is hot at the right time; they won the Pac 10 Tourney. They have size and shooters. I think they'll be highly motivated to show the world that the Pac-10 isn't as bad as people say it is. And again, I wonder if Marquette is a bit tired.

#10 Missouri over #7 Clemson--Missouri is a tough basketball team, with some good guard play. They gave a number of Big 12 powers tough games this year; and the ACC is down.

#9 Louisville over #8 California--Louisville has 3-point shooters, they have a big man inside in Samuel, and they came on towards the end of the season, as Pitino teams tend to do...note their victory over Syracuse in their final regular season game.

#12 Utah State over #5 Texas A&M--gotta pick at least one 12 to upset a 5; happens every year. This is mine--Utah State is an experienced team, won a lot of games. A&M's deliberate style of play has been effective for them but also allows teams to stay in the game. Look for Utah State to steal this one.

#13 Siena over #4 Purdue--no surprise I'm picking this one; Purdue doesn't have Robbie Hummel, lost for the year due to injury, and it's hurt them. Meanwhile they drew a nightmare matchup against an experienced, tough Siena club.

#6 Notre Dame over #11 Old Dominion--this one is indeed a tough matchup for the Irish, and I expect a close game. But I think ND will survive, thanks to their good guard play, their maturity, their improved play on the defensive end.

#10 St. Mary's over #7 Richmond--St. Mary's is very, very good; they won 26 games, won their conference tourney and did so by beating Gonzaga in the championship game. They have a big shot-blocker inside and guards who can shoot from deep. This team is scary.

We'll see how I do. Enjoy March Madness!