Tag Archives: Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

The Real Madness of March

Every year, I spend far more time and energy than I should filling out my NCAA Tournament March Madness bracket.  I debate whether chalk or Cinderella’s will prevail.  I agonize over which 12-5 upsets are ripe for the picking.  I look at strength of schedule and see who beat who, as if that matters.  Then, I spend the entire tournament second guessing myself.

Inevitably, I get caught in between rooting for my bracket and cheering for those Cinderella’s that capture our hearts.  It ends up being a very stressful month and at the end, I never feel like I have fully enjoyed what is truly an amazing sporting event.

I like to act as if I know what I’m talking about when predicting these games.  Really, I don’t.  None of us do.  Why bother pretending?  It’s not like I’m a big college basketball fan anyway.  I mean, sure, I watch the tournament religiously.  The first Thursday and Friday of games are days that I believe should be national holidays.  Why play the charade of going to work and acting like I’m not watching online?  I am.  #SorryNotSorry (I am, however, sorry I just used that expression. #NeverAgain)

Anyway, when it comes to regular season college basketball, I never watch many games.  This season though, that’s never been truer.  Confession: I watched a grand total of three full college basketball games this winter.  The complete list: Mt. St. Mary’s vs. Michigan (I was actually in attendance), Xavier vs. Cincinnati (Go Bearcats! #BeatX), and Tulsa vs. Cincinnati (Again, I was in attendance).

So, yeah, I don’t really have any idea what went on this college basketball season.  (Though, I hear tripping people has become a hot button issue.)  What I do know, from hardly following along, is that there was a lot of movement in the Top 25.  It seems to me that this is one of those years where there are a ton of good teams in the field, but not many great ones.  Is that a fair assessment?  Honestly, I’m asking.

Let’s highlight some things as I take my first look at the bracket.  (That’s right; I didn’t watch the selection show either.)

East

Hey!  Mt. St. Mary’s made the field… sorta.  The only first round upsets I have here are Marquette over South Carolina and New Mexico State over that Baptist school in Waco, Texas.  Give me Virginia over Florida in the second round.  Other than that, there’s nothing too exciting.  Looks like an easy path to the Final Four for defending champion Villanova.

Midwest

Woo, lots going on here.  First, Michigan State got lucky.  The Spartans are bad but the Hurricanes sound beatable.  The rest of the first round seems pedestrian but man, look at these possible second round matchups.  Kansas vs. Michigan State is enough said.  Iowa State meets Purdue in a battle of teams with high hopes.  Creighton vs. Oregon will be fun.  And Michigan gets a shot at revenge against Louisville.  I’m still upset about 2013 and, as a result, I’m going into full homer mode.  The Wolverines beat the Cardinals, the Ducks, and the Jayhawks on their way to Phoenix.  (#SorryNotSorry… Damnit, that didn’t last long.)

West

Smart guy alert in the 8-9 matchup as Northwestern and Vanderbilt get together.  Wait, the Northwestern Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament!  Congrats to them.  I’ll even pencil in an opening round win for them before getting smacked by Gonzaga.  Give me the other smart guys at Princeton to pull the upset on Notre Dame.  On the bottom half, I’m going a little upset crazy.  Florida Gulf Coast makes another run to the second weekend with wins over Florida State and Maryland.  And St. Mary’s finds its way to the Elite Eight for a fourth try at besting West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga.  You know what they say, “it’s tough to beat a team twice, thrice, four times in the same season.”  Well, Gonzaga will.

South

I’ve got Seton Hall beating Arkansas for the same reasons I have Marquette beating South Carolina.  I’m Catholic and the SEC is still a terrible basketball conference, until proven otherwise.  Middle Tennessee State earns its second tourney win over a Big Ten opponent in as many years, my second 12 over 5.  Cincinnati will beat UCLA with a superior defense the likes of which the Bruins have never come up against.  Unfortunately for my adopted school, the Kentucky Wildcats will be waiting in the Sweet Sixteen.  North Carolina will be able to handle Coach Cal’s bunch en route to yet another Final Four.

Final Four

Last year’s championship game was so phenomenal, why not have a rematch?  Michigan and Gonzaga fall victim to destiny.  This time around, Villanova won’t need a buzzer beater.  The Wildcats will repeat, beating North Carolina quite easily.

There you have it.  Now all that’s left to do is wait until Thursday so I can hide my internet browser behind some important-looking work stuff and enjoy this damn thing for once.

I recommend you do the same, but don’t expect many of you to.  That chance at glory is too tantalizing to pass up, isn’t it?  Yes, you’d rather drive yourself crazy trying to arrive at the perfect bracket that you’ll literally never achieve.

And to you all I say have fun losing your group for the umpteenth time to your aunt who bases her picks on the team mascots.  After all, this is the real madness of March.

E-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll send you back an invite to my bracket group.  Should be easy to beat me since I’m not trying, right?

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The only thing missing from the Sweet 16 is a #16 seed

Obviously that’s an exaggeration.  Other seeds besides the 16’s have been obliterated from the NCAA Tournament field after the first weekend.  Hell, there’s not one #5 seed remaining.  It just feels like we’re only missing a #16 because we still have a #12 Oregon, #13 LaSalle, and #15 Florida Gulf Coast still hanging around the bracket.

As with any inexact science, I was hit or miss with some of my pre-tournament predictions last week.  However, I’ll give it another crack now that the field has been whittled down a bit.  To try and maintain some semblance of sanity, we’ll start with the most orderly region, and work our way to insanity.  So here we go with a breakdown of the Sweet 16, starting in the East region.

East

The only region to stay true to form in the Sweet 16.  Not that it didn’t come awful close to blowing up.  Indiana, Miami, and Marquette each escaped by the skin of their teeth.  I’m sticking to my guns in the East.  I still think the Syracuse Orange make it to the Final Four.

Although I’m a firm believer that many championship runs are started with narrow victories, I don’t think it’ll hold true for the Hoosiers.  The Syracuse zone defense, along with their length and athleticism will be bothersome for Indiana.  Plus Jim Boeheim has the big bodies to throw at Cody Zeller all day. 

I didn’t think Marquette would make it past day one, so I certainly don’t think they’ll get past the Hurricanes.  It’ll be another battle, but Shane Larkin is playing so well, I think he’ll lead the Hurricanes into the Elite Eight.  But two straight physical matchups with Big East foes, and a short prep time for the ‘Cuse zone spells the end of Miami by the end of next weekend.

Midwest

The #1 Louisville, #2 Duke, and #3 Michigan State survived, so that makes for a pretty normal region.  #12 Oregon joins them; but as I said before the tournament, that seed didn’t make a lot of sense for the PAC 12 Tournament champions. 

The Ducks are the fun story in this part of the bracket after knocking off the #5 seed Oklahoma State and #4 St. Louis; a team that was supposed to threaten the likes of Louisville and make a run to the Final Four.  Well, the fun ends for Oregon on Friday.  The Cardinals have ramped up an already nasty defense to a new level.  Oregon isn’t going to enjoy it.

Coach K and Coach Izzo is a matchup of epic proportions.  Like Louisville, the Spartans have put a couple of beat downs on their competition.  Quietly Duke has gone about their business, cruising to two easy victories.  I’m just not sure how the Blue Devils are going to handle the frontcourt of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. 

Like they did in 2009 the overall #1 seed Louisville Cardinals will face Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, on one day’s rest.  The game will be held in Indianapolis once again.  The outcome will not be the same.  The Cardinals will take this one, and move on to the third weekend.

South

The #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have become the headliner, despite the presence of some heavy hitters.  #1 Kansas looked asleep in the first half against #8 North Carolina, but woke up in time to stomp the Tar Heels in the second half. 

I had my doubts about #4 Michigan coming into the dance, but they’ve more than proved me wrong.  The Wolverines throttled #5 VCU; and are the one team that is making me question my original Final Four projection.  I still think the Jayhawks best them.  Better coach, better defensive team, and plenty of talent to go toe to toe with Michigan.

One would assume at this point that the #3 Florida Gators should smoke FGCU.  Then again, the Eagles were supposed to get smoked in the round of 64.  I won’t claim to know a ton about this club.  But when I watched them play this past weekend, I didn’t see a team skating by on luck.  I saw a team that was outplaying what was supposed to be better competition.  I’ve got to think the Gators will prevail, but I sure hope FGCU makes it fun.

I still have a chance to salvage three of my original Final Four picks.  The Jayhawks won’t disappoint.  The Gators are making a habit of exiting in the Elite Eight.  They’ll do it again this year.  Kansas takes them down, and marches on to Atlanta.

West

This is the region of insanity.  The #13 LaSalle Explorers are trying to replicate the play-in game magic that VCU showed a couple of seasons ago.  It’s not a surprise to me, but #9 Wichita State shocked #1 Gonzaga, ousting the first top seed.  And the west did have what looked to be the major upset of the tournament when #14 Harvard upset #3 New MexicoThat lasted just until some team named FloridaGulfCoast arrived on the scene.

The nice thing about the LaSalle and Wichita State matchup is that it guarantees a mid-major makes the Elite Eight.  On the other hand, one of them will have to go.  I think it’ll be LaSalle.  I’ll go with the Shockers to move on and face the winner of Ohio State/Arizona.

The Buckeyes/Wildcats is an intriguing matchup.  Arizona was a popular pick to go out early.  The talent is certainly there, but running into Aaron Craft without a true point guard is an issue.  Craft will give the Wildcat guards fits.  Ohio State will send the Wildcats packing.

The West region will be decided by a brawl.  Two tough defensive teams, that struggle to score at times.  Malcolm Armstead versus Aaron Craft will be an unbelievable duel.  In the one region where I lost my Final Four pick, I think Ohio State gets it done.  Too much experience and the better floor general move on to the Final Four. 

Obviously, it’s never going to be this simple.  Although it looks like the bracket is about to normalize with higher seeds after this weekend, there’s bound to be more insanity.  I can’t wait until Thursday night for the Madness to continue!

Explaining My Bracket

 

Before the incredible creator and organizer of this blog, Mr. Josh Flagner (@RailbirdJ), has anything to say, yes, I am a HUGE Ohio State homer. I am a student at The Ohio State University and I love my school and my team an incredible amount. Now, does that have anything to do with the Buckeyes winning the National Championship in my bracket? Maybe, but I am going to try to defend my choice to the best of my abilities.

First of all, here is my bracket:

Hayden's Bracket

As you can see, it’s not too risky because I really don’t believe in picking upsets just for the sake of picking upsets. Any team can upset any team, but unless there is solid evidence as to why they will do so, I am not going to pick a random upset just “because”. For some people it works, and they get lucky. I’d rather be good than get lucky.

My first round upsets go as follows:

Cincy over Creighton, Minnesota over UCLA, Mizzou over Colorado State, and Villanova over UNC.

Why? Well, I guess I’m going by conferences. UCLA plays in an incredibly weak Pac 12 while Minnesota has been ok in the Big Ten, by far the best conference in college basketball. Cincinnati plays in the Big East, a great basketball conference, while Creighton plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. Missouri plays in the weak SEC, but plays Colorado State from a weaker Mountain West. The Villanova over UNC upset doesn’t follow this criteria quite as closely as the others do, but I truly believe that UNC is uninspired and plays in a much weaker ACC than we are accustomed to. While it may not be the most sound logic in the world, I just think that teams with tougher competition know how to beat teams that haven’t played anybody.

My round two upsets are as follows:

Wisconsin over Kansas State, VCU over Michigan, Minnesota over Florida.

These upsets weren’t really based on any formula, just the simple “this team is going to beat this one” logic. Wisconsin has beaten some of the top teams in the NCAA tournament including Indiana twice, Ohio State, and Michigan. While I cannot stand their slow style of play, Bo Ryan’s boys will handle Kansas State rather easily. We’ve all seen what Shaka Smart is capable of and while he should be in Los Angeles soon coaching the UCLA Bruins, Smart is going to take his Rams to victory over a struggling Michigan team. Michigan looked like Final Four contenders at a certain point, but since have failed to amount to much of anything. Some say they peaked at the wrong time and I’d definitely agree with that statement. Florida looked awful yesterday and has looked awful at various points throughout the year. Unable to win a SEC Championship in a terrible down year for the SEC, the Gators are going to be shocked when a hungry Golden Gophers team comes around and beats them up.

Round Three looks a little something like this:

No Upsets.

I know it’s shocking, but I just don’t see any upsets happening in the Sweet Sixteen. Oklahoma State could take down St. Louis, but the Billikens have come on EXTREMELY strong as of late. Wisky could definitely beat Gonzaga, but again, I just think they have too much firepower for the big, slow Badgers. The game I am very wary of is Kansas beating VCU. I honestly think that Bill Self’s team could be headed back home after this game, but I could also be very wrong. The Jayhawks have laid low in terms of media hype for quite a while after a losing skid, but surprisingly jumped back on the bandwagon and were able to secure a number one seed. That streaky Kansas squad could make an immediate comeback and get blown out of the water early on. Watch out for that upset, one that I just wasn’t sure enough about to put on my bracket.

Round Four upsets:

Ohio State over Gonzaga and Georgetown over Kansas.

I wouldn’t really call Ohio State over Gonzaga an upset, but in terms of the Bracket, Gonzaga is a one seed while Ohio State is a two. Ohio State may be the dark horse to win it all after an atrocious start to the season. They haven’t lost since a drubbing in Madison, Wisconsin, have beaten Michigan State twice in that time, and took down Indiana in Bloomington on Senior Night. Aaron Craft is finally playing up to his potential and the Gonzaga Zags may not know what is coming their way. Kansas will not make the Final Four no matter what. That team we saw in the midway point of the season is going to comeback, it’s just a matter of when. Otto Porter and Georgetown, from the rough and tough Big East, are going to take down the Jayhawks on the way to Atlanta. If it’s not Georgetown, it will be somebody else, but again, Kansas is not cutting down the nets on their way to the Final Four.

My Final Four:

Louisville, Ohio State, Indiana, Georgetown.

How we got here:

Many people picked Miami to beat Indiana, that’s not going to happen. Miami is a decent basketball team in a down year for the ACC. Sure they beat Duke, but they also lost to Boston College. Outside of Duke, Miami hasn’t played great competition and when the Hoosiers come a-callin’, the Canes won’t be ready to answer. Louisville has shown their might, winning the Big East Championship, and may be the best team in this tournament. Duke has shown their flaws and Rick Pitino’s group is certainly going to  expose them. Georgetown just got the luck of the draw in terms of an easy road to the Final Four. Trashing Florida Gulf Coast, San Diego State, Minnesota, and Kansas, the Hoyas really were never challenged on the way to Atlanta. Ohio State had tough match-ups with New Mexico and Gonzaga, but they found a way to overcome both opponents. Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, and Sam Thompson have certainly found their way at just the right time, and the Buckeyes are primed and ready for a showdown against the Louisville Cardinals.

In the National Championship Game will be…

The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indiana Hoosiers.

When I said the Big Ten was by far the best conference in college basketball, I meant it. There will be two Big Ten teams in the Final Four, and they’re going to be the best two teams in the Final Four. Ohio State could very well be beaten by Louisville, but if I didn’t have faith in my Buckeyes, what would I have? They won’t lose in the Semi-Final two years in a row. They’ll find a way to beat the mighty Cardinals and make it to their first National Championship since Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. lead the Buckeyes to the Title Game in 2007. As for Indiana, they should take down Georgetown pretty easily. Their size will be too much, their stars will be too much, and their experience will be too much for the Hoyas.

In the National Championship Game, the Ohio State Buckeyes will beat the Indiana Hoosiers 75-74. Ohio State knows Indiana like the back of their hand. They’ve played these guys twice, and they’re going to know exactly how to handle the mighty Hoosiers. In their last matchup, Ohio State used Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott to rattle Indiana into 14 turnovers. They’re going to use that same tactic and regardless of Tom Crean’s gameplan to stop it, the best on-ball defender in the nation, Aaron Craft, is going to take down the Hoosiers almost single handedly.

So there you have it folks.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are your 2013 National Champions.

We all know that March Madness is named as such for a reason. It truly is a coin flip, pick out of a hat, tournament that anyone can win for any reason. I have reason to believe that my Buckeyes can get it done, but I also have reason to believe that Indiana, Louisville, or even VCU could take home the title as well. If I was completely unbiased, however, I would still pick Ohio State to win it all. They hit their stride at the right time and have played the toughest competition in America.

Of course, I am probably going to lose all of my bracket challenges, but it’s all in good fun. Some people have different methods to the “Madness”, and as you can see I went with conference supremacy. No method is truly accurate. Some who flip a coin see better results than those who research the teams and the games through and through. Regardless of who you pick, it’s all so much fun. Whether your bracket bleeds with red ink or is perfectly green, we can all enjoy this amazing little thing they call the NCAA Tournament.

I would really LOVE to see some of your thoughts on my picks as well as your own picks for March Madness. Let me know in the comments section of this page or on Twitter @H_Grove if you think I’m a genius or a basketball buffoon!