Not all of us are basketball fans, but when it comes to March, one thing rises above all the jibber-jabber of the world and stands as a glowing beacon of guestimation and lost productivity for all mankind: MARCH MADNESS. The first weekend of back-to-back-to-back-to… well, you get it… basketball has just gotten under way. Rather than discuss all the matchups (and delight in how early Harvard is going to bite the dust), we’re bringing you golden nuggets of prediction from our two
literate people who occasionally browse ESPN.com resident experts in college basketball: Seth Kleinschmidt and Julien Ouellet. So kick back, pray for LIU-Brooklyn to pull off an upset, and get that CBS music stuck in your head.
Cinderella Story: #7 (South) Notre Dame
Duke gives me nightmares every time March rolls around. They either go out early or they head straight to the Final Four, and this year I’ve decided to vote against the Blue Devils. Notre Dame hasn’t disappointed, knocking off Louisville, Syracuse, and Final Four pick Marquette by a combined 28 points. They’re serious headache contenders for Duke, a team that can be wildly streaky, most recently when they went down by 24 at the half to rival UNC on March 3. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve got the Irish heading to the Sweet 16.
Biggest Choke: #4 (Midwest) Michigan
Since when has Michigan been good at basketball? I’m a Big 10 man myself, but I just don’t see the Wolverines going far. I expect some first-round jitters to shake ’em up, and seriously — they’re a team that hasn’t advanced farther than the Round of 32 in 18 years. When your finest basketball days date back to before Weezer got big, don’t expect me to have much confidence in you. Ohio has experience busting brackets, beating Georgetown by 14 points last year as a #14 seed. So, really, playing Michigan is a step down for them…
Who’s gonna win it all: #1 (South) Kentucky
No-brainer. Despite encouraging the freshman Anthony Davis to grow of one of the most unfortunate pseudo-mustaches since Adam Morrison graced the Big Dance, Kentucky is unstoppable. Past owners of a twenty-four game winning streak. Nearly 40 rebounds per game and knocking on the door of a field goal percentage of .500. And did I mention that Doron Lamb shoots nearly 50% from behind the arc? With Notre Dame knocking out Duke, Kentucky’s path to the Championship is easy as pi(e).
Cinderella Story: #12(West) Long Beach State
I know this is a long shot, especially because I have them beating Michigan St. and postseason-Tom Izzo, but hear me out. The 49ers (yep, you heard right) beat Pittsburgh and #10 Xavier, were never too far from scaring #2 Kansas and #1 UNC, and finally beat UCSB in the Big West Tournament on their third try. If they can make it past #5 New Mexico, they could easily make it to the Sweet Sixteen. I had to pick at least one 12-5 upset, right? Also, my mom went there, sooo yeah.
Biggest Choke: #1 (East) Syracuse
Believe me, I love Syracuse. The Orange consistently have one of the strongest and most entertaining teams to watch every season. I think this year, though, they’re missing a spark. Sure, they’ve had great wins against Georgetown and Marquette, but they’ll likely be facing a rolling Vandy team coming off big victories against Kentucky, Harvard and Wisconsin, and we all know what the only weak piece of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is: 3-point shooting. (Vandy is 23rd in the country with 38.9%). Oh, and, in case you didn’t know yet, Fab Melo (their 7-foot Brazilian center) won’t be playing because of “inegibility” (aka his GPA is too low).
Who’s gonna win it all: #1 (Midwest) UNC
What’s missing from UNC’s resume this year? They’re first in the league in rebounds per game (45.2) and second in points (82.0). They’re full of NBA-level players who can shoot well under pressure, particularly when they’re underdogs. And even though they have a #1 seed now, they get to play in neighboring Greensboro, and likely won’t have to face a high-profile team until the Final Four. After that, I’m banking on them getting their revenge against Florida State and not having to play Kentucky in the final. As much as I hate to say this, I’m sorry to all Duke fans.