Column: Picking a winner in the maddest of Marches
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 22:03
My NCAA tournament bracket is going to be absolutely covered in red X’s and shame this year, I can see it already.
I cannot remember a season where the field has become so mystifyingly befuddled that I cannot confidently select a clear cut championship favorite. It seemed like nobody wanted to be the No. 1 team in the country this year as week after week the “best team in the nation” seemed to tumble faster than Scarlett on a coffee table.
Every powerhouse has crumbled at one point or another this year, some preseason favorites became underwhelming busts and conference rivals beat on each other like it was the glory days of the World Wrestling Federation.
Not to mention that picking UConn is an impossible fantasy.
So, who can I possibly project as champion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament?
Let us look at our options.
Starting with Michigan, the Wolverines have had a season that has become a rejuvenation to A program that has not seen this much excitement since the Fab Five. However, much like TJE fate of the Fab Five, Michigan will probably not win it all, evidence by their recent 72-71 loss against Indiana on Sunday. The Wolverines had a 71-66 lead with 52 seconds to play in the game. Both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke each missed their free throws on their 1-and-1 and Michigan had no answer for Cody Zeller, who scored on three straight possessions for Indiana. It is hard to believe in a team that can choke so unbelievably hard; and when stars miss free throws in the final minute of a game, it makes me nervous about their ability to do so on a bigger stage.
So let us keep it in the Big Ten and take a look at Indiana. The Hoosiers have two candidates for both conference and national players of the year in Zeller and Victor Oladipo, who are a part of arguably the best starting five in the country. However, the Hoosiers never could hold that No. 1 spot this year as they lost three times this season when they were ranked the best team in the country. Four out of their five losses this season have come against teams who were not ranked at the time. Talk about a huge upset potential come tourney time.
I could pick Gonzaga. I mean, this current No. 1 team has not been a one-week-wonder so they must be the favorite to win it, right? Wrong. Kelly Olynyk is having an incredible season, but the Zags are No. 1 in the country because of circumstance as opposed to outright ability. They are a good team, but the West Coast Conference is just not a good basketball conference, especially when compared to the Big East, ACC and Big Ten. Their best win is against Oklahoma State, who was ranked No. 22 at the time. They have played against three teams in the top 25 and lost two of those games. I couldn’t care less about the RPI and BPI rankings; I do not believe the hype.
What about Duke? They are No. 2 in the nation and they have been playing great since the return of Ryan Kelly. However, due to my upbringing, I am afraid that if I do pencil Duke into that tournament champion box on my bracket then I might spontaneously combust. Although they did redeem themselves against Miami, that 27-point loss to the Hurricanes on Jan. 23 is still in the back of my mind when considering them. Maybe that is just because the memory has been ingrained into my head after hearing Dick Vitale say “layup after layup” about seven times in a row during the ESPN highlight.
How about Miami? Nah, they have lost three out of their last five. Not a good time to start slumping.
Michigan State? They are 5-6 against Top 25 teams this season and all of those losses have been by an average of seven points. That is too inconsistent for me.
Or could a Big East team be a champion, like Georgetown or Louisville? Despite the fact that they have both abandoned my beloved conference and watched it burn before their eyes, the Hoyas do not score a lot of points and Russ Smith’s decision making for the Cardinals is questionable at best in late game situations, yet he usually has the ball in his hands during the final minutes.
This tournament will really put the madness into March. Just thinking about who I want to win has already got me pulling my hair out. It will be fun tournament this year, but it will be frustrating.
My best bet will be to just close my eyes and pick a random team from the field of 68. Let’s go Belmont.