Hello, college basketball fans!
I will now go from picking who should make the NCAA tournament to picking who should win the NCAA tournament. I might as well. Even President Obama is making picks, so why not?
The usual Schmolik Bracket Analysis tradition is to start with the region that my Illini are in (although three of the last five years Illinois did not make the field). That would be the East Regional.
Illinois received a No. 7 seed in the bracket. They were helped by wins over two No. 1 seeded teams, Gonzaga and Indiana, the latter on a last-second layup by Tyler Griffey.
Illinois has a new head coach in John Groce. When Groce was the head coach at Ohio University, he often saved his best work for the NCAA tournament. In 2010, Ohio finished just 7-9 in conference. But they won the conference tournament and then stunned Georgetown in the first round. Last year, Ohio made the Sweet 16. So don't be surprised to see Illinois make a surprise run in this tournament like Ohio did last year.
Illinois opens against No. 10 seed Colorado. Last year, the Buffaloes won the Pac-12 conference tournament and won their first game as a No. 11 seed, so do not expect Colorado to be an easy opponent.
I was hoping Illinois would play their first games in Philadelphia, my home area. Once I saw Philadelphia come up, I wanted to see the Illini come up. But it was not to be. Two No. 7 seeds were assigned to Philly but Illinois was not one of them. I also thought before the tournament again that maybe they would go to Lexington to play Louisville.
They wound up all the way in Austin. It will be a longer trip but it is in the same time zone and it will probably be warmer than Lexington or Philadelphia.
Yet if I had to choose a No. 2 seed to potentially play in our second game, it would be Miami. This year, the Hurricanes stunned the ACC and most of the college basketball world by winning both the ACC regular season title and tournament championship.
However, Miami has not made the NCAA tournament since 2008 and lost at home to Georgia Tech in March. Besides, would you rather play Miami, Duke or Georgetown?
In addition, the game is in Austin, so there isn't a home-court disadvantage that many opponents of No. 2 seeds see. They usually allow most No. 2 seeds to stay close to home in the first two rounds but there were no sites close to Miami.
I think Illinois's chances of beating Miami are unlikely but not impossible. In fact, I think Colorado would have a decent chance to beat Miami as well.
My East Regional analysis continues in the next slide.