March 16, 2006

I'm back.  The last two and a half months have been pretty hectic putting together the Fantasy Baseball Scouting Handbook, but I'm pleased with the results.  And from the feedback I've gotten so far, so are the people who've bought it.  Thanks.  I'll post an update next week and a final one the Friday before the season begins. 

But before we go headlong into another great season of baseball, there is the little matter of the Big Dance in college basketball to attend.  Emboldened by my success predicting the outcome of the BCS National Championship game - although the reason for Texas' victory had very little to do with what I thought would be the deciding factors -  I thought I'd give my best shot at the brackets to see if I could get equally lucky.  I'm not a avid follower of the game and other than the fact that Pete Maravich was the best shooter and passer in the history of college basketball - 44 points per game for his career without the benefit of the three-point shot at least puts him at the beginning of the conversation - and that LSU has had a pretty erratic history when it comes to the tourney, I really don't know much about collegiate hoops.

So take all this with a grain of salt and a pinch of oregano.

Washington DC Region
The four teams that I like for the Sweet 16 are UConn, Illinois, UNC and Wichita State. 

LSU won the SEC title, Florida won the SEC tourney but Tennessee gets the #2 seed?  Did Bruce Pearl's blazer temporarily blind the guys filling in the brackets and they accidentally put them in the wrong slot?  Shouldn't Tennessee be like a #7 seed?  Oh wait, this is the women's team?  OK, nevermind.  They deserve the #2 seed in the men's bracket and that makes more sense because the Tennessee men are probably a #2 seed in the women's bracket.  Wichita State will move on from this foursome regardless. 

Everyone seems to like UConn to get to the Final Four but they've been described as soft all year and they seemed to demonstrate it with their performance in the Big East Tournament.  Still, it's hard to bet against Jim Calhoun.  Roy Williams has pretty much been regarded unanimously as the coach of the year for the job he's done with so many young players but given a choice between a great coach with young players and a great coach with NBA-talented players, I have to go with the talent.  UConn beats UNC to move on to Indy.

Atlanta region
The four teams I like in this region for the Sweet 16 are Duke, LSU, West Virginia and Texas

Duke is the obvious choice for their foursome although I think George Washington is an interesting pick if Pops Mensa-Bonsu is healthy.  Still, gotta go with Duke and their history of referee favoritism.

The second foursome should yeild LSU, but as someone who has followed LSU sports for a quarter of a century, I can say with great confidence that you just never know if they'll show up.  This year's team is as atheltic as any in the tourney and their showing in the SEC tourney doesn't reflect what they can do since one of their starters was out nursing an ankle injury.  Their record this year belies the schedule they've played; they beat West Virginia there and lost at Ohio State and UConn by a combined 3 points.  If they can stay focused and keep their heads in each game they could give Duke a tough go in the next round and match-up pretty well with Texas (or WVU) if they keep going. 

Anyway, I have to agree with Jim Boeheim - the Orangement wouldn't have won 10 games without Gerry McNamara.  I doubt very seriously he can keep hitting one-handed running three pointers at the buzzer.  The 'Cuse will lose in the first round to Texas A&M.  There's always a #5 seed that loses to a #12 seed and it's Syracuse' job this year.  Montana over Nevada is the other.

Iowa seems to be on quite a run lately but like Syracuse a lot of things seem to have been falling their way.  West Virginia has the talent to get to the Elite Eight.

Texas has the look of a playground bully.  Sure, they look great when the odds are in their favor but on a neutral court against a team with comparable talent, they wilt.  They'll get out of their foursome, but get handled either by West Virginia or the Duke/LSU winner

My head says Duke will win, my heart says LSU will and my gut says "I'm hungry".  My good friend Ramon Solis who went to Duke and follows college basketball religiously told me that had LSU been in any other bracket, they would have had a good shot of making it to the Final Four.  I guess that's about as close to saying they are a legit threat to the Blue Devils as any Dukie is allowed to volunteer publicly.  Whoever wins this match-up will move on to Indy.. so why not LSU?   Bleh, too storybook.  But I'm tired of debating myself and I'm getting hungry.  LSU

Minneapolis Region
In what many people are calling the toughest bracket, I'm taking Wisconsin, Boston College, Florida and Georgetown. 

'Nova is still paying off the soul loan they took out in 1985 (did they sell it or simply lease it to beat Georgetown that year?) so they have to fall to someone.  Why not Wisconsin, who always plays defense the way the Baltimore Ravens do but without the pads.

BC has been hot lately and they don't really have any roadblocks in the first two rounds.  The two-round bye means they'll be fresh when they have to face the tougher teams.  But even with a new conference - I really think the Pac-10 should have put in a bid for them -  they're still Boston College, also-ran.  And just as an aside, conference re-alignment either has to stop completely or they have to do like baseball teams and players and allow every college to go to arbitration after three years and completely free agent after six.  This would fix all the complaining we hear about how unfairly the mid-majors are represented.  If they're good, someone will pay top dollar for those colleges. 

Florida has the talent for a Final Four run and has been playing pretty well of late.  They were pretty good early on as well so I'm not sure what happened in the middle there. 

Ohio State looks like another playground bully and Georgetown has the big men to bloody their nose inside.  Yeah, it's in Dayton so there's a home court advantage, but given all the NCAA trouble the Buckeyes have been in the last five years, it's only fitting they get bounced when everything is in their favor.

I'll go with Florida for Indy. 

Oakland Region
The last region I have Memphis, Kansas, Indiana and Marquette.

Memphis has a lot of talent and John Calipari has been to the Final Four with UMass so he is probably the best prepared to advance.  But I don't think anyone really expects a team from this bracket to challenge for the title.  It might happen, but this looks pretty much like a grab bag bracket.  I took Kansas because Bill Self is due for a decent run, Indiana because Mike Davis deserved more respect than he got in Indiana and Marquette because I needed a surprise seed to win somewhere.  

I'll pick... Kansas?

Final Four
So if I read this right I've got UConn, LSU, Florida and Kansas in the Final Four.  That's a #1 seed, one #3 seed and two #4 seeds.  The champ should be pretty easy to pick.  UConn to win it over my cinderella Tigers.  Wow, that was easier than I thought.

I just want to empahsize that not only do I not know what I'm talking about, but I'm working from gut feelings fueled by a single Pop-Tart.  Still, looks pretty good, eh?  With a couple cans of Red Bull in my system I probably could have been a Presidential Adviser.  But for everyone's continued safety, I will stick with baseball from now on.