Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Definitive Sweet 16 Preview (Loving The Dogs? Really?)



(Note: The picture above doesn't necessarily have anything to do with collegiate basketball, although this author can safely assume Oliver Purnell has lost a few thousand Tic-Tac-Toe matches in similar fashion.)

Incomplete paragraphs about sports and whatnot:

While it's blatantly obvious that Kentucky and Syracuse are on a collision course to square off on the first Monday in April, I give both teams a decent chance to go down Thursday -- Kentucky to Cornell; Syracuse to Butler. And listen, I'm not putting these heavyweights on upset alert simply because of this year's unpredictable tournament. Nope, not at all. I could be crazy, but I think Cornell and Butler are just really good. The same goes for Northern Iowa -- taking on Michigan State -- and St. Mary's, who gets the pleasure of dancing with the Baylor Please Stop Asking Us About Patrick Dennehy and Carlton Dotsons (or whatever their nickname is).

Of the four underdogs mentioned, I consider St. Mary's the best overall team. Ironically, I consider them the longest longshot of the four. Baylor, with a multitude of long-armed superfreaks, is one of the few teams that won't have to send a double teams towards Omar Samhan.

As for Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa, I'm taking the points in each of their games this round, and I'm only a little frightened to do so. I'll probably lose one to a blowout (definitely not Northern Iowa), but I think I have a reasonable shot of nailing two out of three.

I want to make something clear: I am not pulling for underdogs simply because it's fun to pull for an underdog. Aside from the fact that each have a legitimate chance to win, I'm rooting for these underdogs because of their style of play. I'll always pull for teams loaded with shooters, just as I'll always pull for any football team that features a pass-heavy, riverboat-gambler offense (perhaps this means I'm flawed). Take this year's Old Dominion squad, or all of the good Southern Illinois teams of the past decade: Good teams, great defensively, dreadful to watch...and ultimately, they hit their ceiling after a round or two. That style of play doesn't fly when heavyweights bring their A Game.

And while I'm not suggesting Butler, St. Mary's, Cornell or Northern Iowa don't have ceilings (they do, and none of them have a chance to win it all), I am suggesting their style of play gives them more than just a puncher's chance to advance to the Elite Eight.

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Here's how screwed up my brain is: I'd love to see Kentucky and Syracuse battle it out in Indianapolis -- I think it could go down as an all-time great -- and yet I want to see both of them fall Thursday night.

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One last thought about the dogs of round three: Gritty as they may be, I give Purdue little or no chance of moving past Duke on Friday. They'll struggle to score 60 points and the loathsome Blue Devils will own the glass. In fact, let's just make Duke (-8.5) one of my two locks of the Sweet 16 round. I watched both of Purdue's games and they're running on fumes. They were manhandled by Texas A & M, but somehow managed to steal a victory (just a heartbreaking loss for the Aggies). I just don't see that happening against a Duke team who, silently, is playing better defense than anyone in the tournament (including Syracuse). Purdue is without bangers and shooters, and the hyper-intelligent Chris Kramer/Matt Painter tandem is only worth so much. All the effort in the world won't keep the Boilers within fifteen. Duke wins, 66-49. (I guess that means I love under, too.)

Lock No. 2: Washington-West Virginia UNDER (141)

Words: I'd rather make out with my mother on Easter Sunday before taking the over in another WVU game. Are you kidding me? They don't have a point guard and they can't bury open jumpers. Plus, they never take advantage of their athleticism in transition (thanks, Huggs ). And I don't care how hot Washington's been offensively, they haven't seen anything resembling what the Mountaineers have in store defensively. Just watch: Ten minutes into this game and the Huskies will have something like 11 points.

So, with my locks out of the way, let's move on to the rest of the collegiate basketball contests on the docket...

As mentioned above: Butler (+6) vs. The Cuse; Cornell (+8.5) vs. Kentucky University Wildcats; Northern Iowa White People (+1) vs. Izzo; Baylor (-4.5) vs. St. Mary's.

Others's...

Kansas State (-4.5)
vs. Xavier

Sentences: I'm pulling for the Muskies, but I just don't see any reason we won't see a repeat of the 71-56 beatdown K-State delivered XU in December. I also have a bad feeling Jordan Crawford will hurt his team by trying to do too much.

Duke-Purdue UNDER (128.5)

Thoughts: It just occurred to me that if any of my ten former bookies were to read this post they might think they're in an alternate universe. I mean, Brad Spieser just doesn't take two unders and three dogs (certainly not when the dogs have names like Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa).

Ohio State (-4.5)
vs. Volunteers

Words: All year long I've considered Tennessee overrated and I'm not backing off that. The Buckeyes seem beatable, but Evan Turner is a lot better than anyone on Tennessee's roster, and I give a decided coaching edge to Thad Matta over Bruce Pearl. I don't love this bet, but a wager on Rocky Top here would be a foolish one. They're not to be trusted.

Locks record: 5-5 (still shaking my head at Texas A & M)

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Once again, I'm prematurely calling this bastard quits. It's almost six in the goddamn morning, the sun is coming up, I'd like to eat a bagel, my feet are freezing and I'd like to close my eyes for the next four hours or so. If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with my boss, Jesus Christ.

In your face, sinners!

-Brad Spieser (Brad@TwinKilling.com)
3/25/10

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