It’s the most wonderful time of the year, March Madness. The Big Dance. The 2009 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Road to the Final Four.
I remember filling out my first bracket ever way back in 1999 when I correctly picked UConn over Duke in the Championship at the mature age of 11.
Since then, I have correctly chosen six of 10 National Champions and at least two of the Final Four teams in seven tournaments.
I correctly chose UConn over Georgia Tech in the 2004 championship, with a predicted combined score just four off the actual result. I could show you the brackets from over the years to verify this, but if you don’t believe it from my words here I doubt you will believe it on paper.
That being said, please refer to me as Dr. March Madness for the duration of the tournament.
For your benefit, I will breakdown the entire bracket before it starts. I will analyze the No. 1 seeds, each region, the probable Cinderellas, the best games, and the biggest upsets. If you have already filled out a bracket, I hope you did so in pencil.
The Number One Seeds
Most years I argue about the committee’s choices for the top seeds in each region, but this year they nailed it.
Louisville was the regular season champ and tournament champ of the best conference in basketball this year—The Big East—so they’re a no-brainer.
UConn and Pitt traded the number one overall ranking throughout the year and played two of the best games all year against each other.
UNC started out the year as the favorite to win it all. They stumbled midway through but regained their footing and ended the year atop the rankings. The four number one seeds are legit.
To those who think Memphis should be a No.1 seed, get your brain examined. Memphis is terrible and the two seed they received in the West region is a joke. They play in Conference USA and dominate. Awesome. That’s like beating your nine-year-old cousin and his friends in drinking games.
What are Memphis’s key wins this year? They beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs and an underachieving Tennessee Volunteer squad. However, they lost against Xavier at a neutral site, they lost at home to Syracuse in December—well before Syracuse showed signs of being of the elite teams in the country— and lost on the road to Georgetown who, let’s face it, has proven to be a terrible team. Memphis only beat three tournament teams this year (one of which is lowly No. 1 seed Chattanooga) and played in the most overrated conference in basketball. A No. 2 seed is a gift. Stop complaining, Tiger fans.
They only team that can make an argument for a No. 1 seed is Oklahoma, who would have been there had Blake Griffin not gotten injured at the end of the year. Duke possibly could argue, but their ACC tournament title is blemished by a not-so-stellar regular season consisting of losses to Boston College, Michigan, and oddly inconsistent Clemson. Two seeds for them and Michigan State are good choices.
Midwest Region - Siena versus Ohio State
This region has the most good games and biggest potential upsets but the Siena/Ohio St. game will be a great first-round match-up. Though I do believe Siena is the better team, I’m favoring Ohio St. because the game is played in Dayton, Ohio. The Buckeyes will then get slashed by Louisville in the subsequent round, so winning their firt round match-up is like a person eating his or her last meal before lethal injection.
West Region - Missouri versus UConn
This game will decide the winner of the region, which was the toughest region to predict this year. I love UConn’s depth and consistency, but Missouri is explosive and is on a roll as of late. UConn’s loss of Jerome Dyson will hurt their chances at a national championship, but I believe they prevail over the Tigers in this Elite Eight match-up.
South Region - Syracuse versus Oklahoma
This Sweet-16 match-up will be one of the best of the tournament. Both teams are hungry and are waiting to prove themselves after falling in their conference tournaments. I’m not positive if my judgment over the outcome of this game was more affected by my love for Blake Griffin or my hatred for all things Orange, but I do believe the Sooners win this game and advance to the field of eight.
East Region - Villanova versus Duke
This may be the best game of the entire tournament. Two powerhouse teams that play drastically different styles of basketball fighting for a spot in the Elite Eight. Nova, a slash to the hole/man-defense kind of team, versus Duke, a perimeter shooting/zone-defense squad. I think Nova will win this game because of their ability to spread zone defenses out and penetrate to the paint. Scottie Reynolds will shine.
Midwest Region - Cleveland State over Wake Forest
Like it or not, Wake Forest is not the No. 1 ranked team they once were. They have holes in their game and they rarely play to their full potential. If Cleveland St. comes into this game confident, Wake will fall. The Vikings. will advance all the way to the Sweet-16, where they will inevitably fall to the Louisville Cardinals.
West Region - Maryland over Memphis
We already know that Memphis is drastically overrated, but what we don’t all know is that the Terrapins of Maryland are drastically underrated. They have regular season wins over Michigan St. and North Carolina, No. 2 and No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament respectively. They also beat Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament before losing a heart-breaker to Duke for the title. Don’t count out the Terrapins and don’t count on the Tigers.
South Region - Butler over North Carolina
The biggest shocker of the tournament this year will be the fall of UNC. The Tar heels are the favorite to win it all by many analysts and announcers. However, the Ty Lawson injury still troubles me. Without him at full-speed, UNC is average to above-average at best. If Lawson isn’t at 100 percent due to his foot, the Heels are a slower team and a less explosive team. Butler can shoot the three-ball (35 percent on the season), crash the boards, and force turnovers. UNC is the better team by far but the Bulldogs will be on top of their game when they face off for a chance at the Sweet-16.
East Region - Xavier over Pittsburgh
Another No. 1 seed will fall. Xavier is a very strong four seed. If they hadn’t lost to Temple in the Atlantic-10 championship game, they would have a strong argument for a two seed. Xavier shoots nearly 40 percent from behind the arc and, because of Pitt’s lackluster perimeter defense, this will be the key to the Muskateers’ victory and eventual advancement to the NCAA Championship Game in Detroit.
Midwest Region - Cleveland St. will advance to the Sweet 16.
West Region - Maryland will advance to the Sweet 16.
South Region - Butler will advance to the Elite Eight.
East Region - Xavier will advance to the National Championship Game, if you can call a No. 4 seed a Cinderella.
The Final Four
The Final Four will consist of Louisville, Xavier, Oklahoma, and, after a hard faught battle with the Missouri Tigers, UConn. This will be a delightful break from last year’s Final Four of all No. 1 seeds— the first time in history that that had happened.
Since it is nearly impossible to beat a team three times in one year, Louisville will finally knock out the Huskies of Connecticut to reach the Championship Game against Xavier, who will have defeated a very powerful Sooners team. Louisville will cut down the nets in Detroit this year, ending an excellent basketball season.
During their celebration, Rick Pitino will be crying knowing that Terrence Williams and Earl Clark will be heading to the NBA as lottery picks in the upcoming draft.