New York City Bureau
|Tray Woodall hopes to change Pitt's luck in the NCAA Tournament/|
When the pioneers decided to put a stagecoach together and head out west, they called it "open country". The west bracket is what I'm calling the "wildcard" bracket because it really is the most wide open bracket of the four. Gonzaga is such a shaky number one seed, it wouldn't be tough for the team to come out of this to be a #4 seed or below. Let's take a look at the parings and see who will leave the Ramada Inn early and head back to campus.
#1 Gonzaga vs #16 Southern U
I'm not high on Gonzaga's chances to advance to the Final Four, but they won't be derailed here. The Zags aren't sneaking up on anyone this year. Southern is in it's first NCAA tournament since 2006. Southern does have the late Manute Bol's son on their roster, and standing 6'9" his family nickname is "shorty".
#8 Pittsburgh vs #9 Wichita St
Hail to Pitt! Every one's favorite bracket disappointment. The Panthers have never played past the elite 8, but with the inside/outside game of center Steven Adams (no relation, he's from New Zealand) and superstar guard Tray Woodall, the Panthers will be too much for the Shockers. After the game, Jamie Dixon can refute claims that he's going to move to the USC job. A loss to the Shockers might have Dixon and Pittsburgh reconsider their long term relationship with each other.
#5 Wisconsin vs #12 Ole Miss
Wisconsin makes teams play their type of basketball. Their very, slow, plodding, eyes glazed over type of basketball. Ole Miss's Marshall Henderson doesn't play that kind of basketball. Henderson will become a household name after this tournament ( most likely, a household name that will be taken in vain several times by opponents fans and those who aren't fans of expression). Wisconsin's fans might be known as the "Grateful Red", but they'll be seeing red after Henderson makes fun of their culture somehow in the press conference after the game.
Ole Miss advances
#4 Kansas State vs #13 LaSalle
LaSalle University celebrated it's 150th birthday with a win in the play-in game against Boise State on Wednesday. Boise was obviously out of it's element because the court wasn't painted all blue. Kansas St. came in second in the Big 12 but was throttled by it's in-state nemesis the Kansas Jayhawks in the Big 12 title game. The Wildcats losses were to all tournament teams this season, and playing in Kansas City against LaSalle should be enough to blow out the Explorers candle.
#6 Arizona vs #11 Belmont
Belmont is lead by guard Ian Clark, who leads the nation in 3-points shooting at a 46 percent clip for the season. They'll need Clark's touch from the arc, because rebounds and interior scoring are not the Bruins forte. Belmont doesn't start a player over 6'7", while the Wildcats have four players over 6'10". It's David vs Goliath figuratively and almost literally in the game, but my bet is on Goliath. He's due for a win.
#3 New Mexico vs #14 Harvard
Oh, those hardscrabble lads from Cambridge are back in the tournament for a 2nd straight year. The Crimson had an acutal, honest to God academic scandal that cost them their two co-captains at the beginning of the season. The scandal was initiated after 100 students had similar answers in an open book take-home final. So many questions were raised after this about the program. My only question is, they have open book, take-home finals at Harvard? New Mexico Coach Steve Alford just received a 10 year contract extension from the Lobos, so he'll be around until at least LaSalle's 160th birthday celebration. (See above) Lobos are a lock, so back to your textbooks, Harvard!
New Mexico advances
#7 Notre Dame vs #10 Iowa State
In theory, the NCAA has given us the best 68 teams in this year's tournament. If there was such thing as a team being an exact 34 out of 68, I would give you either Notre Dame or Iowa State as examples. Both had 20 win seasons in tough conferences, both were clearly not close to being the best team in that conference, and both of these teams don't have much of a chance of making it out of the next round no matter which one of these teams wins. I think we're all just hoping the Notre Dame doesn't continue to wear those lime green uniforms that they debuted at the Big East Tournament.
Notre Dame advances
#2 Ohio State vs #15 Iona
Fresh off their Big 10 championship, The Ohio State Buckeyes face the MAAC champion, the Iona Gaels. Iona is lead by Lamont "MoMo" Jones, who is an Arizona transfer, and averaged 22.3 ppg this season. That will probably not be enough as Ohio St. happens to be playing in Dayton, which last I checked was in the state of Ohio. The Buckeyes played the 12th toughest schedule in the country, and are outrebounding opponents by a +3 margin. The Gaels simply can't compete with the depth of the Buckeyes and they'll be playing in front of a very hostile crowd.
Ohio State advances
There you have it. More picks to come. Enjoy the wild, wild, west!