I love college hoops!
Here's my Sweet Sixteen:
Louisville, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Michigan St., UConn, Purdue, Missouri, Maryland
Pitt, Portland St., Villanova, Duke, UNC, Gonzaga, Temple, Oklahoma
Louisville, Michigan St., Purdue, Missouri
Pitt, Villanova, UNC, Oklahoma
Louisville, Pitt, Missouri, UNC
Louisville over Pitt in a classic.
Most compelling scenarios that kept me up last night:
Memphis v. Missouri
Nova v. Pitt
Gonzaga v. UNC
Wake Forest v. Louisville
West Virginia v. Kansas
Louisville has the easiest draw in the dance. In fact, I think that whole side of the bracket, West and Midwest, is way way softer than the other side. In the West, I like Missouri but I have them winning by default almost because I don't think UCONN is on their game right now. Between those two regions, I'm really only intrigued by Wake Forest, Louisville, and Missouri, but Wake gets a horrible draw having to play Pitino's squad in the Sweet Sixteen. On the other side of the bracket, I think UNC, Gonzaga, Nova, Duke, Pitt are all Final Four caliber teams.
The problem I have filling these brackets out is conference bias. I love the Big East and learned Mid-Major appreciation by watching a ton of A-10 hoops back in Phily. I've long been a Temple fan and always end up putting them through to the Sweet Sixteen regardless of how soft their squad is. (Though this year they are a legitimate threat because Dionte Christmas can actually light up the scoreboard, and Temple never has anybody that can score individually.) I have very little respect for Big Ten basketball, I think it's the sloppiest conference out of all the majors in the country. But this happened to me a few years ago in college where I was watching like 4 or 5 games a week and thought I really knew what was up. I was convinced that the Big Ten was garbage and the Big East was phenomenal but Michigan State, which I probably didn't even pick into the Sweet Sixteen ended up ruining my dreams by the end of the first weekend of play.
Conference play is weird like that. Refs, which stay in-conference, can really set the tone of the league and make good teams look bad and bad teams look good. The Big Ten is ugly but sometimes when those teams get out of conference they have this edge because they've learned to fight for rebounds and garbage points.
So that calculus gets in my head and then I end up trying to balance and overcompensate and and and... in the end I just end up using weird personal tie-breakers to determine my picks if I don't have a clear sense because I've watched a team.
Teams get extra points when:
They're from Philly or have players that played public league ball.
They have players with really sweet nicknames or really sweet hyphenated African last names that announcers struggle to pronounce.
They have really badass young coaches that show their emotions via enthusiasm rather than anger. (So Bruce Pearl of Tennessee over some jerkoff like Bob Huggins of West Virginia.)
Great point guards that know how to distribute the basketball.
Teams that run the full court press. (See Missouri)
Teams get deductions when:
Their coach has slicked back hair a la Rick Pitino, Gordon Gekko, Pat Riley, or 90's era Billy Donovan. (I know I have Louisville going all the way, but that's because they're that good. They win in spite of Pitino hair.)
They're from Utah
They rely on an annoying white guard that either shave their head or thank God excessively. (Exhibits A and B, Drew Neitzel from Mich. State a few years ago and J.J. Reddick from Duke a few years ago. This year I'll be rooting against Arizona and Syracuse under this rule.)
Also, have you seen Barack Obama's bracket? Weak!!!!! The only time all four 1-seeds made it to the Final Four was last year. The guy calls almost no upsets. I predict that my bracket does better than Barack Obama's. This is the lowest moment of his Presidency.