Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A fan surveys this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

As a fan of college basketball, I will be in something like bliss these next three weekends: March Madness is always fun, but for once, it seems to me, there's no one clear favorite to win in this year in which it really DID seem that just about any good team could beat (or at least make life really unpleasant for) any other good team on a given day/night. See, for example, the Final Four predictions from the Sports Illustrated writers who cover college basketball: UConn and Villanova each get five votes as the winners of their respective brackets; Duke gets four. Gonzaga(??) and UCLA(!) are the only other teams chosen by more than one writer. As a fan of the mighty Texas Longhorns, seeded #2 in the Atlanta bracket this year, it's precisely the nature of this year's tournament, combined with its go-on-or-go-home dynamic, that will make me a nervous watcher.

More below the fold.

Texas, you see, is analogous to the student whom you know has brains to burn but turns in work only when the mood strikes. Here's the sort of team the 'Horns have been: the sort of team that can beat Kansas by 22 points during the conference season and then, next game, lose by one to Texas A&M because a player held the ball while mistaking the shot clock for the game clock (ahead by 2, Texas turned the ball over; A&M hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win). It's inconsistent, in other words. Player for player, Texas probably has the best starting 5 in the nation, and when they play as they are capable--that is, when they play like a team and not like 5 really good players with a tendency, some of them, to get caught up in their really-goodness (are you listening, Daniel Gibson?), they could easily win the tournament. But a rather thin bench (especially at center) and the aforementioned inconsistency lead me to think that, loyal fan though I am, I'll be very surprised if Texas makes it to the Elite Eight. Surprised, but certainly happy to be wrong, make no mistake.

As for who I think will win the thing, I find myself leaning toward Villanova as I've been working on this post. Consistency has been their hallmark this season, despite their unconventional (4-guard) offense: they play good defense, they rarely get out-rebounded, and they get as many points in the lane as they do from the perimeter.

Some interesting facts and my sure-fire strategy regarding the tournament:
1) Every even-numbered year since 1990--and only even-numbered years--at least one #1 seed has not advanced to the round of 16. Having said that, though, a #16 seed has yet to beat a #1 seed.
2) Count on at least a couple of #12s upsetting their #5 opponents--over the past 5 years, the record for 5's over 12's is only 11-9.
3) The teams with the best defenses tend to advance deep into the tournament. Have a look at this if basketball stats intrigue you, then ponder the question marks I placed by Gonzaga as a Final Four team.
4) If all else fails when choosing a team to root for, do what I do: pull for the team with the better English department.

Play ball!

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poco said...

UCLA...I'm not rootin' the Longhorns.

Tracy said...

Beak 'em, Jayhawks.
Lawrence is the center of the basketball universe!

Anonymous said...

go to http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaab/standings for the standings.

raminagrobis said...

I didn't understand a word of that.

I'm rooting for the Harlem Globetrotters - are they playing in this tournament?


Belle Lettre said...

I like the comparisons to students. So what's UCLA? The flashy show-offy student? (I say that with love, I have a history with the Bruins)

I went to a college with a horrible basketball team, but I went to the games and yelled "Gooooo Anteaters! Give 'em Zot!" That's what I love about college basketball-it's a lot more heart.

I think I will start rooting for teams based on their English departments though. Good tip!

Ariel said...

I'm a staunch Bradley fan. As of last week...