My Remaining Picks
Before I get to my picks for the day, two quick things:
1) If you've not done so already, check out the tournament blog that Rick Majerus is doing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including his bracket picks. It pleases me every day to think that a national treasure like Majerus calls Milwaukee his home.
2) In high school notes, a fond farewell to coach George Haas, the always entertaining Tosa East coach whose retirement was announced by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this morning (nice of the Journal Sentinel to spell his name wrong, don't you think?). While I never had the talent or drive to actually play on a Haas coached team as a teenager in Tosa, you'd be hard-pressed to find any basketball-playing youngster in the area who didn't attend one of his Hart Park day camps as a youth. I know I can directly trace my love of the game directly to my days on the blacktop at Hart Park, and I can trace my high school nickname to an offhand comment made to me on one of those days by Haas. And while Haas may be remembered for his coaching of the stars mentioned in the Journal Sentinel piece, or his boisterous sideline demeanor, there's probably a lot of other guys out there like me, who suck at basketball, but found something entertaining to enjoy partially because of George Haas. Here's to a great retirement for a great guy.
On to my late round picks, or as I like to think of them, the picks for the time when I usually flame out. Again, winners are in italics.
Sweet 16 Games
Florida vs. Maryland: Here’s your best shot at an upset of a #1 seed in this round. I’m not brave enough to deal with the consequences if Maryland doesn’t pull the upset, though. So I’m sticking with the Gators, merely as a safety precaution. And because I'm a wimp.
Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Should this game actually occur, I will almost undoubtedly have some sort of stupid wager with my friend Austin, a huge Ducks fan. Because I don’t want to have to buy shots, or do something dumb like drink a glass of milk through my nose, I’m going with Wisconsin here and hoping like hell that I’m correct. Besides, Oregon’s got to run out of steam from their conference tourney run sometime.
Kansas vs. Southern Illinois: Southern Illinois has guys who play good basketball. Kansas has remarkably talented athletes who play good basketball. Give me the athletes in this one.
Duke vs. UCLA: Two storied programs, but only one deserving team here. Let’s recall that Duke’s only getting here because I have no faith in Pitt. UCLA keeps rolling along without skipping a beat...
North Carolina vs. Texas: People are way too high on the Longhorns just because Kevin Durant is playing like one of the greatest college basketball players ever. But while Durant may need to be mentioned when discussing the best seasons ever by a college basketball player, Texas isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen on hardwood. The Tar Heels will get the job done here, but it just as easily could have been a team without a #1 seed (which would have been a lot more interesting, I might add).
Vanderbilt vs. Georgetown: Let’s not lie–I don’t actually know that much about Vanderbilt, and probably only picked them to get this far because I like their basketball court. I’m not as high as most people on Georgetown, but I think they can dispose of the Commodores. Though I wouldn’t really know this for sure, since I know so little about Vanderbilt. Plus, I used to always get Vanderbilt and Villanova mixed up when I was a kid, so maybe Georgetown will as well and try to exact some revenge for that game they played in 1985.
Ohio State vs. Virginia: True, Virginia has really good guards, but Ohio State has a great guard and a great big man. I’ll take great over good any day.
Texas A&M vs. Nevada: Nevada met Memphis in the prior round of my bracket, meaning that there was going to be one team that didn’t play a schedule full of top-notch teams advancing to this round. The Wolfpack is that team, but this is going to be their third straight tough game, and I don’t think that they’ll be up to the task.
Elite Eight Games
Florida vs. Wisconsin: My heart’s telling me Wisconsin, but my head is telling me Florida. Since my head is probably healthier than my heart, given my tournament time diet, I’m taking the Gators.
Kansas vs. UCLA: How do you beat a team as rock-chock full (sweet pun, right?) of talent as the Jayhawks? Find a similarly talented team that plays tough defense, that’s how.
North Carolina vs. Georgetown: Could I make the same argument for Georgetown beating North Carolina that I did for UCLA beating Kansas? Sure, but I won’t because I'm remarkably inconsistent. Besides, while I might argue that Kansas has a more explosive starting five than North Carolina, North Carolina is about 25 players deep with high school all-Americans. The Hoyas will wilt by the eighth line change of the game.
Ohio State vs. Texas A&M: This is going to be a tight game, and in tight games, you need clutch players. Few players that I’ve seen this year are more clutch than Mike Conley. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Acie Law might be the most clutch guy in the universe. Book your tickets to the Final Four, Aggie fans.
Florida vs. UCLA: I want to put UCLA in the finals. I really do. But I’m still trying to get over Jordan Farmar’s appearance in the Final Four last year with that ridiculous goatee of his. Farmar’s gone now, but I still can’t get his image out of my head. So, while it doesn’t actually make logical sense to me to pick Florida here, as I think the Gators are ripe for the picking, I’m going with them in the finals. (Yes, my picks do get more and more random as the rounds go on.)
North Carolina vs. Texas A&M: On one hand, you’ve got North Carolina, perhaps the most storied program in the history of college basketball with arguably the deepest talent in the tournament, and a hall-of-fame level coach. On the other hand, you’ve got a team that I’ve seen a couple of times on TV and fell in love with due to their ability to hang with other talented teams, and the fact that they’ve got a guy with a name that’s fun to pronounce (Antanas Kavaliauskas). Because I can’t go back on my prediction a month ago that Texas A&M was going to do big things, I’ve got to go with the Aggies.
Florida vs. Texas A&M: You know who Florida is? They’re that team that dropped a game earlier this year to a Glen Davis-free LSU team while in the midst of a brief stretch where they went 1-3. And they’re a team that everyone is afraid to pick against (see my pick vs. Maryland) because their experience and talent dictate that you’re a fool if you pick against them. I don’t love Florida, but I felt obligated to put them in the championship game. But I’m not letting them ruin my chance to pick a national champion. That would be Texas A&M, my team of destiny. Isn’t it about time we had some new blood taking home the trophy?