Time to move on with the predictions as we get the bottom half of the Oakland bracket, a place where dreams go to die….
Indiana v San Diego St
It is a sad time for fans who love crazy coaches as this is the last NCAA Tournament that we fans will be able to see the bizarre antics of Hoosier Coach Mike Davis on the sidelines. For the past six years, we have been treated to Davis meltdowns, pity parties, referee baiting and other unstable acts that have made Indiana games the basketball equivalent of a Farrah Fawcett late night talk show appearance. But Davis has been forced out in Bloomington, making this his last hurrah and giving the Indiana faithful to bring in another coach who they will hate for not being Bobby Knight. This Hoosier team has been one of Davis’s most successful, led by Marco Killingsworth, center transfer from Auburn who gives the Hoosiers their best inside presence since the days that Uwbe Blab roamed the middle. IU is notorious for its rich tradition, candy cane colored warmups and first round NCAA flameouts, thus making things interesting for….
the San Diego St Aztecs, a squad that is best known for not being known at all. The Aztecs, who took out the Los Angeles Incas and San Francisco Mayas in Tenochticlan to win the WAC title, are best known for their standouts in other sports, including baseball coach Tony Gwynn who, when not showcasing that some athletes can be amazingly fat, is also known for having a squeaky voice and an uncomfortable crush on Ted Williams. The Aztec basketball team is led by Mohammad Abukar, a stunning talent who committed to Georgia, was recruited heavily by Kentucky and went to Florida, before leaving the South with all the fury of Bo Bice and heading west to San Diego. The Aztecs are coached by a fine staff that includes Brent Gottlieb, the brother of official ESPN annoyance Doug Gottlieb who, when not being kicked out of Notre Dame for stealing credit cards, can be found with a smarmy grin on his face in an attempt to beat out Seth Davis for the coveted “Least Likeable College Basketball Personality.”
San Diego St in an upset by 5
Gonzaga v Xavier
The next matchup sees the entrance of America’s favorite sweetheart outside of Kelly Clarkson, the Gonzaga Zags. Besides having an un-creative nickname, the Zags are best known to the American public as the official “Team that is the Sleeper but never actually wins a game in the NCAA Tournament”. But this year will supposedly be different as the Zags have received a great deal of publicity thanks to America’s newest hearthrob, Adam Morrison. Besides spawning endless “porn star moustache jokes” (which have quickly surpassed Dick Cheney hunting jokes as the easiest punchlines in comedy), Morrison has also raised the national profile of that oppressed minority, white basketball players. While Morrison has gotten the publicity, the Zags also offer WWE Smackdown champion J.P. Batista on their roster, a large force of a man who promises to tombstone piledrive any player who questions whether a player with such a round head can be successful. This is the Zags highest seed ever, which just means more disappointment when they choke it away.
Their potential dethroner is Xavier University, the second best basketball program in the city of Cincinnati and a previous entry in the “Sleeper teams that actually do well” category. Xavier is coming off a final 8 appearance just two seasons ago, and while they are going through a bit of a rebuilding period, this game represents a great chance to pull off an upset. Xavier’s mascot is the Muscateers, possibly the only Division 1 mascot with a firearm in its name. They are still reeling from the decision of Coach Thad Matta to leave the University to go to Ohio St, but have replaced him with Sean Miller, a coach best known for his tendency to get his player’s names confused in the huddle. The most likeable player is center Justin Doellman, a player who was allowed to escape from his home state Kentucky, in large part because he isnt very good, but who has found a home at Xavier, shooting jump shots and using lots of hair care products.
Gonzaga by 6
Marquette v Alabama
Coming to you live from Jesuit University are the Marquette Golden Eagles who recently beat out the Marquette Gold to make it into the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles are coached by Tom Crean who was absolutely 100% certain that Dewayne Wade and that Final 4 a few years back would get him a better job, but he still finds himself in Wisconsin hoping that Indiana will not hire someone until his team can up and lose. The Eagles are led by Steve Novak, a player who was on that Final 4 team in 2003 and has spent the last few years realizing that scoring points is not quite as easy when you dont have Dewayne Wade to draw the defense away from you. Marquette is of course best known as the former home of legendary Coach Al McGuire who built his reputation on winning a national championship at Marquette in 1977 and then lost it in 1996 when he danced, or at least jumped up and down awkwardly, with John Wallace and the Syracuse Orangemen and they sang “the Cuse is in the house, oh my gawd, oh my gawd!”
Their opponent is the Alabama Crimson Tide, a basketball team that has a decent history of success but plays fourth fiddle in Tuscaloosa behind football, spring football and signing day. The Tide have had an impressive list of players over the years from Latrell Spreewell to Antonio McDyess to James “Hollywood” Robinson. None of those players are there now, so they are left with Ronald Steele (an oft-injured pointguard) and two big men Jemareo (yes that is a real name) Davidson and Richard Hendrix (no relation to Jimi). The Tide have disappointed this season, in large part due to their living corpse of a Coach Mark Gottfried. Gottfried’s lack of coaching acumen is legendary, prompting one long time SEC basketball reporter to comment at the end of the UK-Alabama SEC Tournament game, “Four minutes to go, Alabama up 4…..UK has Tubby, Alabama has Gottfried….I say Kentucky by 8.” And sure enough he was right.
Marquette by 11
UCLA v Belmont
Coming from the Westside are the UCLA Bruins, holders of the most national championships of any Division I program and legendary for their classy former Coach John Wooden and their cultivation of the biggest cheater of the modern era, Jim Harrick. This set of Bruins have flown a bit under the radar, playing in the Pac 10, the weakest collection of teams this side of the set of “The Ringer.” The Bruins are coach by Ben Braun, a man who made his name at Pitt and then made the bizarre decision to leave the steel-infested air of Pittsburgh and move to Los Angeles and coach right next to a beach in the city with the most beautiful people on Earth. The Bruins have had some times over the years, but have bounced back this season, thanks in large part to the contributions of Jordan Farmar, a superb young guard who has managed to (unlike most UCLA athletes) stay out of jail and has yet to be part of a major recruiting scandal.
Their opponent in the first round will be young men from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Coming to the Big Dance from the Atlantic Sun Conference, Belmont’s program has risen rapidly in recent years, from an NAIA school that got beaten by my alma mater, Transylvania (in a game where one Transy student attempted to taunt Belmont by yelling “go back to the horses,” which did nothing but perplex all involved) and is now in the NCAA Tournament in only their fifth year in Division I. Belmont is best known for having a celebrity fan as Vince Gill, when not singing ballads that make middle-aged women weep, is in attendance for nearly all home games. No word if Vince will be able to stop blow drying his hair to come to the NCAA game, but if he does, he will see a team that likes to get the ball up and down the court and seems to specialize in losing.
UCLA by 25
So that gives us a San Diego St-Gonzaga second round game which will be won by the “lucky Indiana choked” Zags and a UCLA-Marquette second round matchup which will produce a surprise winner in the Golden Eagles. Marquette-Gonzaga in the random Sweet 16 matchup.