It is that time of year again, as Kentucky Sports Radio brings you analysis of what I believe to be the best weekend of sports action of the entire calendar. This year, we are breaking down the brackets for you, telling you what to look for, where the exciting contests will be and who you should make fun of. We begin in the Atlanta region, or as it is known to the Selection Committee, "the region where we try to get Duke to the Final 4." Here is a breakdown:
Duke v. Southern
The top of the bracket contains a matchup of two little known teams, as the pesky bunch from Durham plays the Southern Jaguars. While I do follow college basketball to the highest degree, I must admit to knowing very little about this Blue Devil basketball team. They are very rarely on television, get virtually no national television coverage and have a coach who seems to want to do whatever it takes to get the spotlight off of himself and onto his players. I hear they have a kid named JJ who some say is a good player, but as long as ESPN keeps their boycott on Blue Devil coverage, I wonder if we will ever hear his name.
As for Southern, they come from the SWAC conference, a conference best known for.....well putting one team in the NCAA Tournament every year. Southern spends most of their time every year preparing for the Bayou Classic in football and the "Battle of the Bands", one of the only band battles that I watch during the course of the year. While I cannot name any of their players, I can GUARANTEE that no group of fans will be having a better time at the tournament and that if I were in Greensboro, that would be the fan section I would sit in.
Underdog Duke by 28
George Washington v. UNC Wilmington
One of the supposed outrages of the NCAA selection Committee's bracket was the decision to place George Washington as an eight seed, even though they only had two losses on the season. Led by a now injured star, Pop-Mensa Bonsu, the Colonials are hoping to garner respect on a national level by showing that their 2 loss season was not built upon a schedule easier than a Tennessee football player's final exam, but rather was a product of Karl Hobbs' stellar team. For a team with such a good record, few outside of Washington DC know much about the Colonials, but all remember the most famous player in recent GW history, Yinka Dare, who was immortalized by his quote, "No one stops the Yinka train." No, no one does.
UNC-Wilmington is probably best known for being in Wilmington, a cozy beach town in North Carolina best known for being the shooting location for "Dawsons Creek" and for once hosting a speech given by yours truly that ended with a girl calling me (in all seriousness) a "pinko commie." Wilmington's success (and relatively high seed) has been a bit of a surprise this season as the team lost a lot when its star player of recent years, Bobby Blizzard, finally graduated and left James Vanderbeek as the most famous resident on the beaches of Wilmington. The Seahawks come out of the Colonial conference, and thus this matchup sets up the Colonial nickname versus the Colonial conference.
I go nickname and pick GW by 7.
Syracuse v. Texas A&m
In all the hoopla about the supposed mistakes made by the NCAA old men group, no one seems to be mentioning what I think is the craziest thing done by the group, and that is the elevation of Syracuse to a 5 seed. Look, going into the tournament, Syracuse was firmly on the bubble...probably out of the tournament. McNamara hits a miracle runner to beat Cincy and they go on to win the tourney. Good for them. But then all of a sudden, they are elevated from out to a 5 seed. That is just silly. But be that as it may, Syracuse is always a good team to have in for three reasons....(1) Jim Boeheim looks like everyone's high school science teacher....you know the one that seems like a nerd, but then comes up with a joke that may actually wake you up from the Yterbium discussion. (2) Their mascot, the little orange ball is priceless and (3) Boeheim's wife is from Middlesboro, my home town. He is often seen at the J. Milton's Steakhouse in the offseason and even called into the Tony Kornheiser show from the Wendy's Drive Thru in the Boro. For that reason, I like the Orange.
Texas A&M is a team that exactly no one cares about. Their biggest contribution to the world of college basketball was this video of three basketball player singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
The Aggies made this tournament solely on the strength of a victory over Texas at the end of the season that had a final score of 46-43, so you know they play exciting basketball. Texas A&M had a player a few years ago named Antoine Wright who was pretty good. He left.
Syracuse, a team I was ready to pick to get upset in the first round, got a great draw in a lame Aggie team. Cuse by 9.
LSU v Iona
Nothing showcases the hardwork and intelligence needed to succeed in college basketball like the fact thata Jon Brady-coached team is able to become a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Brady, who as LSU coach has taken over the thrown of "does the least with the most talent" from his predecessor Dale Brown, has a solid group of players, all of whom grew up in and around Baton Rouge. At the core of this group is Glen "Big Baby" Davis, a solid man of around 300 pounds, who nevertheless has quick feet, a baby face and an affinity for the ladies. When Baby is on, LSU can beat anyone in the country.....when Baby is off, well enjoy a series of jumpers from the "Mitchell brothers" that will likely clang off the rim and Brady coaching gaffes that would make Mike Davis shiver.
Against the Tigers are the Iona Gaels, a program once led by Jim Valvano and best known as the place where he learned how to cheat, a skill he perfected at N.C. State. They are now led by Valvano protegee and Gael alumnus, JEff Ruland who has a man-size goatee and gut, both of which seem to instigate enormous amounts of sweating. When not challenging Bruce Pearl for stinkiest coach in America, Ruland leads a team with good guard play and a solid mix of athletes and shooters. Iona is the type of 13 seed that can pull of a shocker. And LSU is the type of team that can be upset.
I am not ready to pick against the Tigers....in fact I will go with LSU by 6, but if I were in Vegas and the odds were right, this is a place for a big upset.....watch out for Iona.
Second round.....Duke kills GW.....LSU (if they beat Iona, which they may not) ends the McNamara Magic Carpet Ride.....Duke and LSU in the Sweet 16