I love looking at my NCAA Tournament Bracket on this Thursday morning. Like spring itself, the bracket is a symbol of hope at this point--no check marks for games picked wrong--no lines through teams that have been eliminated and can no longer make it to the Final Four for me. It is perfect--for now.
As for the picks themselves, I've got my beloved Badgers winning their first two games. Wofford shouldn't be too tough--but that Temple game on Sunday could be a war of attrition, as two of the best defensive teams in the country clash. First one to 40 might win that one. I've got Wisconsin bowing out in a thrilling overtime loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.
I'm not as optimistic about Marquette. They should get by Washington from the pathetic Pac-10--but New Mexico gets them in the second round. I'm not a big fan of teams that rely almost solely on the 3-point shot to win games.
As I have the last couple of years, I hate the rest of my picks in the tournament. There is no team (outside of Wisconsin) that I really want to do well. And there is no real "Cinderella" team that could come out of nowhere. My sleeper team is the Baylor Bears coming out of the weak South Region to make the Final Four. The Baylor program was nearly given the "death penalty" a few years ago--as one player was found guilty of killing a teammate and the coach was investigated for telling his kids to lie to the cops about what they knew and to badmouth the player that was killed. They have a slumping Villanova as a number 2 in their region--while the vastly overrated Duke is number 1. I have them losing to Louisville in the second round.
One upset you can take to the bank: 12-seed Siena over 5-seed Purdue. The Boilermakers have looked pathetic since losing leading-scorer Robbie Hummel to injury a week ago. I think UTEP beats an overrated five seed Butler as well.
As for the rest of my Final Four, I've got Ohio State beating Kansas in the Midwest, West Virginia beating Kentucky to get out of the East and Pittsburgh to beat Syracuse in the West. Ohio State beats Pitt and West Virginia beats Baylor in the Semis--with THE Ohio State University cutting down the nets on April 5th. Evan Turner proves that he is the best player in College Basketball--getting just enough from his solid supporting crew to capture the National Championship.
Let the Madness begin........