Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mega March Millennial Madness Is Upon Us! (Exclamation Point!)

Ten quick thoughts about Mega March Millennial Madness...

1. Everybody is sleeping on Duke. It seems the media thinks this year's Duke is the same team who clearly wasn't good enough these last few years. This year...they're good enough. Carolina is the nation's best team, and a team the Blue Devils are incapable of beating, but Duke is the best team in their region...a region that includes Pitt.

2. Pitt might face Duke in the Elite Eight, but they'll have a bitch of a time getting there. Why? Both potential second round opponents, Okie State and Tennessee, are markedly more athletic than Pitt. As for Florida State, the No. 5 seed I envision matching up with Pitt in the Sweet 16, they have a point guard, Toney Douglas, who is exactly the kind of player who will swallow up Levance Fields. Just watch.

3. In terms of and coaching and overall talent, Ohio State is precisely the type of team that could knock off No. 1 Louisville in the second round. But they don't have the point guard play necessary to withstand the Ville's perimeter D.

4. Far away the best team nobody's talked about all year is Washington. They're really good. Like, Final Four good. Check terms of talent they're Final Four Good. In terms of in-game coaching, they're a mess. Seriously, Lorenzo Romar makes Rick Barnes look like Vince Goddamn Lombardi. Remember 2005, when Washington surprisingly nailed down a No. 1 seed? Well, do you also remember their Sweet 16 game against Louisville (coached by the brilliant Rick Pitino)? It was a one-sided shitfest from start to finish. Ever look at the box score from that game? Louisville had Francisco Garcia (averaging 8.8 ppg thus far in his four-year NBA career) and little else to offer. The Huskies? How about an NBA star in Brandon Roy and a dynamic offensive player in Nate Robinson (18.2 ppg this season). But wait, there's more. Washington's starting point guard that season, Will Conroy, had a cup of java in the league, as did wing man Bobby Jones. More details: Brandon Roy is a two-guard who occasionally plays the point, while Nate Robinson and that Conroy guy are also point guards. That Jones guy was an unbelievable defensive player and often times matched up with the opposing team's best perimeter player.

I know I've written a lot (read: too much) about Washington, but bear with me here...

The NCAA tournament is supposed to be a guard's game, and Washington -- despite truly dominating guard play in '05 -- got rolled by an inferior team. The reason: Coaching. Lorenzo Romar can recruit with the best of 'em, but he can't coach his way out of a paper bag. I'd love to pick Washington to make an Elite Eight run, but I simply can't pull the trigger.

5. I've run tourney pools every year since I was 12, so I have a good feel for this kind of thing...the Arizona-Utah game will be the first time a No. 12 seed gets picked to beat the No. 5 seed in most pools. In fact, it'll probably be 70/30. Vickers, anyone?

6. North Dakota State is a dangerous No. 14 seed. Will they beat Kansas? Probably not. But they could. I have one rule in life, and it's this: Never bet against a team full of fearless honkey shooters.

7. Marquette will thump Missouri in round two. Everyone is stroking Missouri after their Big 12 tourney championship, but Marquette is being slept on without Dominic James. My only hesitation with this pick is that I still don't know a thing about Marquette's coach (including his name), while Mizzou's Mike Anderson (after his run at UAB) absolutely can coach in this environment.

8. Biggest upset of opening weekend: Maryland over Memphis, round two.

9. In 2002, both Missouri (a twelve seed) and UClA (an eight) flexed their talent when it mattered most, and made the nation forget about an underachieving season. Who fits the mold this year? Obviously Arizona is a prime candidate, but I'm going with Texas. They have Elite Eight/Final Four talent, and while I don't see them getting past Duke, they really could play the perfect game and move on to the second weekend. (Note: Dexter Pittman presents Duke with all sorts of matchup problems underneath.)

10. I've seen Tyler Hansbrough flat-out embarrassed three times in my life: 1. By Gonzaga's Josh Heytfelt during the 06-07 regular season, (2.) against USC's Taj Gibson later that year in the tourney and (3.) last year versus then little-used Kansas reserve Cole Aldrich in the Final Four. In the coming weeks it will happen again. Heytfelt and Gonzaga get another shot in what could be (but won't be) an awesome Sweet 16 game, but in the Elite Eight against Oklahoma, in a matchup of maybe the two best teams in the country, Blake Griffin will ass rape Hansbrough on the biggest stage. I still haven't made up my mind who will win the game (leaning toward Carolina at the moment), but I'm positive who will win that individual battle.

End of words.

Other tourney thoughts and Final Four picks coming later in the week.

-Brad Spieser (