Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Column: Crafting winning bracket as easy as 1-2-3


Three steps to winning your bracket contest:

Step I: Without doing any research, put pen to paper and write down the schools you believe deserved a higher seed than the selection committee gave them.

Step II: Summon the courage to advance each school, unless it faces a school you just can’t picture it beating.

Here’s a half-dozen schools that deserved higher seeds:

No. 4 seed Louisville: Ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, which translates to a No. 2 seed. Defending national champion, done in by the dreaded RPI, a system designed to reward schools for assembling difficult schedules first and determining the quality of teams second. Cards ranked 19th in RPI, seven spots behind VCU.

No. 11 seed Tennessee: Volunteers blasted No. 1 seed Virginia, 87-52, on Dec. 30, but March has been the Vols’ best month. They won their first four March games, all against SEC competition, by an average of 27 points. Their only March loss came by seven points to No. 1 overall seed Florida.

The Vols play at a slow tempo that frustrates opponents. They hit the boards hard at both ends, play strong man-to-man defense, take good shots and have three experienced, talented, big-time players.

Junior Jarnell Stokes and senior Jeronne Maymon, a pair of 6-foot-8, 260-pound rebounding machines, and 6-6 senior Jordan McRae (shoots threes at a .371 clip and is averaging 18.6 points) make Tennessee a tough, tough out.

Iowa will want to run in today’s game between play-in opponents, but the Vols won’t let them.

No. 4 seed Michigan State: Spartans a popular Final Four pick for a reason. They’re loaded with experienced talent and are healthier than they have been in months.

Worthy of a No. 2 seed, Michigan State is the smart pick to win the East.

No. 8 seed Kentucky: Crazy statements will abound in March, none wilder than those spoken about John Calipari, a lightning rod of a college basketball coach. Common statement: “He can recruit, but he can’t coach.” Nonsense. His team is the youngest of 351 in Div. I, so the players aren’t always going to look well-coached, because until this year they took most of their advice from AAU coaches. Calipari took Massachusetts and Memphis to the Final Four, facts those who don’t like his personality too eagerly forget. The guy can coach, and although his team is super young, it’s even more talented than it is young.

No. 7 seed New Mexico: Look for teams that have three really good players — preferably one post, one wing and one point. Center Alex Kirk, a 7-footer, is a good college basketball player, combo guard Kendall Williams really good, power forward Cameron Bairstow great.

Joel Embiid scored 16 second-half points vs. the Lobos to turn a one-point game into a blowout.

Schools seeded ahead of New Mexico not as deserving as Lobos: Saint Louis, a No. 5 seed, and 6-seeds UMass and Baylor.

No. 9 seed Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart’s incredible hands force turnovers, trigger fast breaks and bring out the best in talented teammates, which could lead to blowouts. At the end of close games, Smart can hurt his team more than help it because of his desire to take big shots, but if Travis Ford can convince his super sophomore to bank more on Markel Brown and Phil Forte, look out.

Step III: Advance Florida, Michigan State, Creighton and Louisville to your Final Four.


Titus Canby 4 years, 3 months ago

I agree with Keegan about Calipari. This year we're seeing how difficult it is to win with a young team, regardless of how talented they are. Calipari seems to do it almost every year, with last year being a brutal exception. But I'm still cheering for K-State in that first round game.

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 3 months ago

Cheering for KSU for sure, but maybe picking UK as a final four team...

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 3 months ago

I advanced Louisville to the FF but take some exception to UF over Kansas, and Embiid will come back strong. The Hawks have shown they are peaking at the right time, despite losing 3 of the last 5 games. Evidence the AFH UT game and the Big 12 tournament OSU game. Our D is coming along.

I favor the matchups for ISU and OSU over MSU and AZ, respectively.

FF: Kansas, ISU, OSU, Louisville. Don't mean to be such a homer. It just works out that way.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 3 months ago

STEP IV: Ignore Steps I, II and III.

Just kidding, Keegs. :)

Rodney Crain 4 years, 3 months ago

Final Four - FL, AZ, MSU, Lou. There is just too much talent on FL and AZ. MSU and Lou. are playing great right now and MSU looks healthy which would be scary.

I like FL to win it all.

KU just has too many holes, especially guard play and defense to think we can go far in the tournament.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 3 months ago

Rodney, you need to overlook the inconsistent guard play and spotty D. Let's hope we can pull it together and play the next six games like UT in AFH and the "off games" like OSU in KC.

Titus Canby 4 years, 3 months ago

Our PG play and defense have been so bad, they're hard to overlook. But, like you said, if we can play like we did in the TX game (a big "if") we can beat anyone.

Rodney Crain 4 years, 3 months ago

Suzi I know the homer koolaid tastes good but unless that bus they took was Magic you can not overlook the way we have played recently. We might get out of the weekend but there is noooooooooo way we get out of the sweet 16 this year.
Wiggins is going to try and carry this team, it just will not be enough.

Dale Rogers 4 years, 3 months ago

I cannot agree with Keegan about Calipari. Look at last year. Look at this year. Then look at Bill Self's teams with similar personnel and youth. Calipari may be ok with x's and o's but it's pulling the team together to play as a team where he is lacking. One thing he excels at, though, is blaming his players for the team's failures.

Titus Canby 4 years, 3 months ago

Final Four: FL, MSU, Louisville, Ok State. I have us losing to NM, and ISU losing to MSU in the Elite 8.

What do you guys have the other Big 12 teams doing?

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 3 months ago

I have OU advancing to sweet 16 and falling to zona, and other than Kansas, no other conference teams getting out of this weekend.

ISU upset by Carolina, Baylor upset by Neb, KSU falls to UK, OSU can't hang tough with zona, and Texas fails to keep up with Michigan.

I know that ISU, Baylor, and OSU have been riding high lately, and at least one of the three will probably prove me wrong, but I expect ISU and Baylor to cool off all of a sudden, and I don't know if they can recover if they aren't hitting the money ball.

I've suffered in the past due to biasing my bracket toward big 12 teams, and I don't intend to make that mistake this year despite all of the pundits proclaiming it the best conference in America.

I'd be thrilled if the conference gets all 7 teams into the sweet 16, but it just ain't gonna happen.

Eric TheCapn 4 years, 3 months ago

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Eric TheCapn 4 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 3 months ago

Some other guidelines that I've seen over the years. Mountain West teams struggle to get past the first weekend, Syracuse has only been past the Sweet 16 six times under Boeheim (30 tournament appearances prior to this year), Texas hasn't been past the first weekend since KU won the title, Wisconsin has only been past the Sweet 16 once under Bo Ryan, Ohio St. is a pretty safe bet to get to the Sweet 16, and I've seen others, but don't know the credibility of them. No guarantees on any of these, but there is a good enough track record on these that it shouldn't kill a bracket too badly if these end up wrong.

Steve Jacob 4 years, 3 months ago

I just don't like Kentucky. I don't know if it's losing twice to Arkansas or the loss to South Carolina just 3 weeks ago. Also three short weeks ago Michigan St. scored 46 points at home in a loss to Illinois. Just saying everyone has holes and maybe Wichita St. IS the best team.

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 3 months ago

Michigan St. wasn't healthy three weeks ago, they are healthy now and the difference between that MSU team that lost to Illinois and the team their putting out there now is similar to the difference between KU with Joel Embiid and KU without Joel Embiid.

David Lara 4 years, 3 months ago

Everyone suddenly betting the house on MSU is in for a rude awakening. They are NOT healthy. Appling still can't shoot it right or run full speed. And their problems began before the injury bug hit.

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