How a participant in last year’s Tourney sees this year’s brackets.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
Immediate Bracket Reactions
- Ohio State got a sneakily difficult road to the Final Four for an overall No. 1 seed. Potential games vs. George Mason/Kentucky/Syracuse could be problematic to different degrees for the Buckeyes.
- Kentucky’s last NCAA Tournament win came against a certain Ivy League team (hint: Jon played on it–Ed.), and now its first round opponent is another (way less awesome) team from the same league. Similar story as last year but to a lesser extent: Princeton is the braniac Ivy team full of veterans (albeit with less NCAA Tournament experience than Cornell), and the Wildcats are young and extremely talented (this year with maybe two lottery picks instead of five). Athletically, this is a horrendous matchup for the Tigers. Princeton will keep it close … for a half.
- Washington could find itself in the same position as last season: vaulting quickly from regular season underachiever to deceivingly low-seeded tournament darling. I like their draw (a potential second round date with North Carolina) to get to the Sweet 16 in Newark.
- UPSET: No. 11 Marquette over No. 6 Xavier. I don’t even think this is that much of a stretch, but I might go close to chalk in this region’s first round otherwise. Though Marquette is wildly inconsistent, I like the Big-East tested Golden Eagles over the Musketeers.
- Who is going to give Kansas a game in this bracket? It really looks like the Jayhawks could walk through the first three rounds to a fantastic potential Elite 8 matchup with Notre Dame. Then again, that’s what the entire world predicted last March until Ali Farokhmanesh blew up everyone’s brackets.
- What is it about Vanderbilt? People were going to pick the Commodores’ eventual opponent no matter what. The fact is Vanderbilt loses in the first round because it gets horrendous matchups: first Siena in 2008, then Murray State last spring. What do you know? Richmond is your proto-typical, dangerous 12-seed completely capable of beating most teams in the field. Kevin Stallings is officially the Seth Greenberg of annual NCAA tournament entrants.
- This region features a couple of interesting seedings of teams that are dealing with significant injuries to star players. The committee seemingly ignored the fact that Chris Wright (Georgetown) and Chris Singleton (Florida State) are both expected to return from injuries that sidelined them for the last few weeks of the regular season. Both the Hoyas and Seminoles were seemingly seeded as if the committee evaluated them pre-injury … not sure either didn’t deserve to be a one or two notches lower in the region.
- UPSET: No. 11 USC/VCU over No. 6 Georgetown: Aside from the Vandy upset which I already detailed, I like whoever comes out of the USC/VCU play-in (which I expect to be USC) to beat a wounded Georgetown team. Even if Chris Wright returns, it’ll be with a cast on his broken right hand. This guy is too important to the Hoyas’ success to be running around with a partially clubbed appendage.
- Duke got seriously hosed. Who the hell knows what’s going to happen in the 8/9 Michigan-Tennessee game, but either of those talented and unpredictable teams can give Coach K a game. After that, a potential Sweet 16 showdown with the super bouncy and super under-seeded kids at Texas would be a matchup nightmare for the Blue Devils. Then there’s San Diego State in Anaheim potentially in the Elite 8. The committee, for once, did Duke no favors.
- There’s a lot of buzz circling about Oakland chances to pull the 13/4 upset over Texas in the first round. Oakland probably would have knocked a lot of other No. 4 seeds out of the tournament (just ask Tennessee and Michigan State how tough Keith Benson is), but I don’t see this one happening. Texas should be too tough on defense for the Golden Grizzles to score consistently.
- The Michigan-Tennessee matchup is one of the better first round games. Contrasting styles (Michigan: execution, passing, cutting, precision and Tennessee: pressure, athleticism, speed) should be a joy to watch. Good luck picking this one, Bracketeers.
- UPSET: No. 11 Missouri over No. 6 Cincinnati. This one screamed me the second I saw it. Missouri bumbled its way through a mediocre season and a horrible road performance (which is probably why they got bumped by the committee all the way down to an 11-seed). Cincinnati had a nice little finish to the Big East season, but is over-seeded by two or three slots here. There is really nothing you can do to simulate Mike Anderson’s unconventional and uncomfortable style (especially in only two days). I like Missouri to win here and trip up Connecticut in the second round after that.
- This bracket will be obliterated by the second weekend, and might be falling apart by the second round. Each of the top six seeds will be in serious danger (more than usual at least) of not getting past the first weekend. Up and down the board, first and potential second round matchups for the favorites look daunting.
- The must-see first round game of the region is Old Dominion and Butler in the 8/9 matchup. The Monarchs are the country’s leading rebounding team and Butler is obviously as grizzled and NCAA Tournament-proof as it gets. That spells out an absolute scrum in the trenches. Matt Howard will either foul out before halftime or receive a total of 25 stitches to various body parts by game’s end.
- Florida receives the “Most Obscene Seed” award for the No. 2-seed the committee gift wrapped and sent overnight to Billy Donovan in Gainesville. Not only did the Gators get a shockingly high seed but they were sent right down the road to Tampa. Despite the favorable draw, don’t be surprised if Florida gets tripped up by whoever comes out of that intriguing Michigan State-UCLA 7/10 matchup.
- UPSET: No. 12 Utah State over No. 5 Kansas State. I chose this game over the Wisconsin-Belmont matchup everyone seems to be gravitating towards because Kansas State inspires no confidence in me. Utah State is a team full of grown men no one would’ve objected to seeing at a 10 or 11 seed. Instead it received a 12, which might be for the best considering it is matched up with an overrated Kansas State team. When was the last time we knew what were going to get out of Kansas State in a basketball game? Probably the first week of November when we “knew” the Wildcats were headed to the Final Four. The Aggies are very solid, and Frank Martin’s team has proven to be too inconsistent.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.