March Madness and April Aneurisms
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year … for basketball fans, general sports fans, and of course, players who put their dosh where their thoughts are.
Well, it can be a wonderful year if all goes well; otherwise you can find yourself bald and broke on the side of the road, panhandling because your team choked at the charity stripe or just plain stunk from behind the arc.
Where one wrong pick can knock you out of the money, picking your bracket can be harder than naming your firstborn child; once the pick is made you can never go back. However, dwell on one pick for too long and you will overlook the rest. Sort out all the intangibles successfully and before you know it, you'll be asked to tackle world peace.
March Madness is not for the faint of heart, and please save a few Xanax’s for when the seventy-something-year old single mother of ten cats wins the office bracket pool.
This year, I can honestly say I am at a loss for who will win and what sleepers to watch out for, but half the fun/agony is in the trying. Past performance is no guarantee of future success, but I did win a few dead presidents in the past, and you know money talks and never lies.
The Midwest Region
I see a strong one and two seed in Louisville and Duke; upset attempts will be tough in this region, and upsets -- with one exception -- most likely non-existent. It really is a coin toss between the Cardinals and Blue Devils. Both teams have solid players, exemplified by the 'Ville’s Gorgui Dieng and Duke’s Seth Curry, but I believe that Louisville will advance to the Final Four. The early round upset special: look for a hot Oregon team to send Oklahoma St home early.
The South Region
The South scares me …Wait! That didn’t come off quite right. I meant to say the South region of the bracket scares me. I absolutely love Trey Burke and the Michigan Wolverines, but they got the shaft being matched with the likes of Georgetown, Kansas, Florida, and hell, even VCU!
So I think I'll be saying "Sorry, Wolverines," and round up some lovely parting gifts for them. Shaka Smart and VCU has Michigan beat because, after all, defense wins games. Minnesota also jumps off the page for me and will win against UCLA, but this is not a shocker for most, as the Golden Gophers probably deserved a better seed.
As for the regional final, I see the one and two matching up again. Maybe that doesn't sound very bold, but c'mon! Kansas and Georgetown are studs! The Hoyas will be looking to make up for their pathetic exit in the Big East tourney, and conference player of the year Otto Porter will carry them into the Final Four.
The East Region
I cannot wait to watch how the East Regional breaks down as -- full disclosure again -- my affiliation is with the Orange of Syracuse. However, as always, I must put my affinity for them aside and look at the bracket as a whole, but not after one more "Go 'Cuse!"
OK, it’s out of my system because we all know the Orange cannot be carried all the way by James Southerland’s silky smooth jump shot and Michael Carter-Williams baby-powder soft face. As for upsets, look for Cal to beat UNLV and Bucknell to make a solid run into the Sweet Sixteen after beating Butler and Marquette.
In the end, everyone thinks player of the year candidate Victor Oladipo can carry the Hoosiers into the Final Four, but I'd advise you to look before you leap. Miami has one of the deeper teams and a backcourt that makes me like them enough to declaare that the Hurricanes will represent the East in the Final Four.
The West Region
This bracket is going to get crazy, so strap yourself in.
Not only do I see Gonzaga as a weak one seed (sorry ... actually, no I'm not), but I also don't see Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State making it to the Final Four. If we're going to see upsets, it will be right here in the West, and it will all begin with Belmont beating Arizona.
Next up, Pittsburgh will take down the Zags in an epic upset, because -- really? -- Pitt as an eight seed? However, the Panthers will perish in the next next round at the hands of Wisconsin, as the Badgers can win big games and proved it by beating Michigan and Indiana both twice. That takes us back to Belmont, where their incredible shooting will carry them in a big win against Ohio State but will not help them in a loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.
The Final Four
So there we have it, my prediction of the teams gathering in good old Hotlanta: Louisville, Georgetown, Miami, and Wisconsin.
April will be a fine time for Louisville when they face Miami in the final and win. All hail Rick Pitino! Because after all, he was a product of my boy Jimmy Beoheim at Syracuse back in the day.
Oh wait, did I say I would put my affiliation behind? Oops I guess I kind of lied, but what did you expect! 'Cuse roots run deep.