Wednesday, March 15, 2006

March Madness: I'm Too Sexy For Your Bracket

Every year, people try to find that "sexy" pick to make the Final Four and make their bracket the toast of the town. Sometimes it works out, like with Georgia Tech or Michigan State, but many a bracket has been ruined by a Mississippi State or Wake Forest. This year a few teams are floating around as the trendy, exciting pick to take to the Final Four. Let's review a few of them:

Boston College, 4 Seed, Midwest Region:

After their run to ACC runner-up, I know at least two people that have them in championship game - Dill and Mr. McClaine - and both Katz and Vitale have them in their Final Four. But remember, Boston College was third in the regular season and second in the tournament in a pretty mediocre ACC. In their out-of-conference, they didn't beat anybody of note and struggled against some weaker competition. In-conference, they didn't exactly light the world afire, losing to Virginia by double-digits and trailing Virginia Tech at home at the the regular season finale.

When you look at defensive efficency rating, something I don't really understand but is at least one number to look at, Boston College is rated 100th. In comparison, the worst rating a Final Four team had in the last two years was Michigan State's 26th last year, and six of those eight teams were rated in the top eleven. Another issue you might to look at is the fact in their big win against UNC and close loss to Duke, they shot 14 of 27, or a little over 50% from three. However, those games appear to be abberations, as their season average was only 36.2%.

It's also good to consider the opponent, as BC will be playing Pacific, a team that has won more tournament games than the Golden Eagles have the last two years. They won't be intimidated, and will probably have the fan and altitude advantage, as this game is being played out in Salt Lake City. Should BC defeat Pacific, they'll most likely be playing Nevada, another team with tournament experience who is even more adept at playing at that altitude. While BC might look like a big, powerful team capable of knocking off Villanova, but nobody without quality guard play has ever gone that deep into the tournament.

Potential for Breaking A Number of Brackets: 9

Pittsburgh, 5 Seed, West Region:

I'd just like to point out that Pitt has never made it past the Sweet Sixteen in the Jamie Dixon/Ben Howland Era, and despite the fact they have great depth, Aaron Gray looks tired most of the Big East tournament, as he's the only guy on Pitt who really doesn't have a replacement on the bench. His fatigue led the cavalcade of missed lay-ups in the Syracuse final. Carl Krauser can't shoot and makes some dumb decisions, despite his "grittiness". They also have a draw against two teams that are very athletic and capable of scoring in the halfcourt, Memphis and Kansas. While they "match up great" with most of these teams, apparently, if any of their young reserves can't get the job done, Krauser's shooting will become a huge, gaping liability.

Potential for Breaking A Number of Brackets: 6

Georgetown, 7 Seed, Minneapolis Region

It's not the Hoyas themselves that you should worry about blowing up, because they've played a tough schedule and have proven they're capable of beating anyone, but their bracket is extremely difficult. In the first round, they play a Northern Iowa team that is struggling as of late, but has already beaten LSU and Iowa this season. I don't know how Georgetown, the fifth-best team in the Big East, got stuck with a 7th seed, but their second round opponent isn't much easier, as they'd play the Buckeyes barring a Davidson upset.

While you may say "Hey, Ohio State didn't really beat anybody non-conference, aren't that deep and shoot a lot of threes", but they're coached by Thad Matta, who took Xavier to the brink of the Final Four in 2004 and knocked off previously undefeated Illinois last year in the regular season finale. While Georgetown might be one of the best sixteen teams in the country, they do not have an easy path to make it just to the Sweet Sixteen.

Potential For Breaking a Number of Brackets: 7.5

LSU, 4 Seed, South Region

Ah, the exciting pick to beat Duke this year. It makes sense as they have a monster inside combo, which is where the Blue Devils are weakest. However, they also have guard problems and a decently difficult draw, playing Iona in the first round - a team with four four-year starters and the number-one scoring backcourt in the nation - and potentially Syracuse in the second round, a team whose 2-3 zone suppressed the powerful frontlines of UConn and Georgetown in the Big East tourney.

On the plus side for LSU, though, is the fact that they've played a slew of tough oppoenent and should be prepared for anything the Blue, Orange or Gaels throw at them. They nearly won games in Storrs and Columbus, and blitzed Rocky Top back before the Volunteers started playing poorly. I'd give them a 50-50 chance of beating Duke, and a really good chance of making the Sweet Sixteen....

....if they get past Iona.

Potential For Breaking A Number of Brackets: 5

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