Monday, March 14, 2011

Welcome to Bracketville---Let the games begin edition

Princeton’s buzzer-beater to earn the Ivy League Championship over Harvard could not have been more exciting. Thanks to ESPN3, I got to witness the four lead changes in the final 50 seconds.

According to, Duke has one the five most efficient offenses and defenses.

Belmont’s 18.4-point scoring margin is #1 for the regular season.

Wisconsin made 82.7% of their foul shots.

Did you ever think you would see the day when the CAA would have just one fewer team in the dance than the ACC?

Old Dominion won seven times against NCAA Tournament teams.

Should UAB win their play-in game, six of the eight teams in the Tampa pod will feature coaches with Final Four experience. A total of 17 Final Fours.

Kansas is close staying home as their road to the Final Four is: Tulsa, San Antonio and Houston.

San Diego State stays close to home as well…Tucson and Anaheim prior to the Final Four. Only two other teams from the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones are in the entire West bracket.

Two Pennsylvania schools (Temple and Penn State) have to fly to Tucson to play one another on Thursday.

Gonzaga is playing in sorta nearby Denver. Denver’s pod has just two teams from the west (the Zags and BYU)…the other six are from the Eastern Time zone.

The odds of picking a perfect bracket when the field was 64 was in the neighborhood of one in nine quintillion. I am certain some MIT grad will let us know the odds with 68 teams.

Quote: “Being a nine seed in D.C. is better than being a seven seed anywhere else.”—Old Dominion forward Keyon Carter.

George Mason won eight in a row on the road and had 20 wins by ten or more points.

“Nothing finer than beating Carolina” reads the tee shirt I am wearing. Duke’s victory over UNC on Sunday was the best 40 minutes of basketball I have seen Duke play since 2001 with Williams, Boozer, Battier, Dunleavey, et al. Every player for every minute, played at high intensity. When Duke plays with this unity of purpose, they can beat any team. Duke also showed upcoming Carolina opponents how to defeat UNC…full court press them and disturb the freshmen point guard (who is poor shooter on his best day) and upset freshman wing Harrison Barnes with a close defender. What most impressed me about all three Duke victories, was that each and every time Maryland, Virginia Tech and UNC had a run where momentum was close to changing, a different Duke player stepped up and hit a big shot or caused an important turnover. It was a thing of great beauty.

I don’t know if the parity is the reason, but this is the most difficult bracket I have attempted to fill out.

Start with George Mason and Villanova. GM has no games vs. the Top 25…Nova is 5-7. GM is #18 in field goal percentage to Nova’s #143. Nova is #17 in foul shooting…Mason is #175. Mason shoots the 3 very well (39.7%, #14), while Nova is #146. Nova has a big margin in offensive board sand both teams foul equally. Leaning Mason.

Marquette and Xavier is vexing…have yet to do my homework on this one. Eyeballing the season, it seems Marquette plays just well enough to lose close ones. I like their style of play and coaching. Leaning Xavier.

Washington and Georgia is another toughie. It’s in Charlotte on Friday, giving Georgia the travel advantage. More homework necessary…leaning Washington.

I think Washington can take UNC if they get by Georgia…experience over flashy freshmen.

Potential Duke/Texas has me exasperated, but if Duke plays like they did Sunday, they’ll win that one…but on paper it’s a hard call.

Temple and Penn State is a head scratcher. Thinking Temple.

San Diego State baffles me because I not seen them, cannot dismiss them and they’ll be playing the Sweet Sixteen in Anaheim.

Vandy and Richmond is a close call. I’m going with Vandy, and think their match-up with Louisville will be a humdinger. They both shoot 45% from the field. Vandy makes three out of four foul shots; Louisville just two of three…the Cards foul about three more times a game than Vandy. It’s close on threes---Vandy 37%, Louisville 36.1%. It’s too close to call in rebounding, with Vandy superior on the defensive end and the Cardinals on the offensive end. It’s just about even on turnovers, but Louisville has a big advantage in steals. Tough idea yet.

I like USC to get by Georgetown and meet Purdue. But choosing the Purdue/Notre Dame game with take some more grey matter. Leaning Notre Dame, who I think has the best passing game after Kansas.

Butler and Old Dominion should be a helluva game, as both teams have lots of upper classmen experience. Butler leads in most offensive categories, ODU in the defensive ones, all though points per possession is even-steven…both have a 44% fg%...a big advantage to Butler on foul shots and threes. Rebounding goes to ODU by a very large margin (#2 in offensive rebounds per game)…and a four to one advantage in blocks. Butler commits about five more fouls per game. Both teams have won nine in a row. ODU went 14-5 vs. teams in the RPI Top 100. Leaning ODU.

Texas A&M and Florida State is perplexing. Both are known for defense, but FSO gets about five more possessions per game, A&M has a big spread in points per possession. Slight edge to A&M on the foul line…even on threes…A&M gets nearly a quarter of their points from the foul line and FSU commits 19 a game. FSU has the advantage in rebounding, but has a horrid assist/turnover ratio…they are #22 in turnovers per game, but #9 in blocks per game and #12 in steals per game. Chris Singleton’s status for FSU is the game changer.

Ever the contrarian, I’m not buying the Utah Sate hype…count me in for Kansas State.

And for Belmont over Wisconsin!

Gonzaga has a better offense than St. John’s (#8 FG% to #74)…free throw % (#15 to #107)…3-point FG % (#72 to #233)…rebounds per game goes to the Zags 37.4 to 32.8…they get about three more assists per game. Steals are where the Johnnies excel…the Zags get more blocks and they foul about equally. Gonzaga is my choice, and their travel is less arduous.

I don’t pretend to be NostraKVD, but love the pageantry, excitement and spectacle of the Tournament. In 2008 I went 15-1 and 13-3 the first two days and had the Champion (Kansas)…in between I was ghastly and finished second or third from the bottom.

Think long and hard in your Elite Eight if you have three or more teams not ranked #1 or #2. College basketball may have parity, but it is also top heavy.

Attached is a bracket in the Excel format for ease of filling out and sending back. I’ll take them up until the first tip-off on Thursday.

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