Well we are halfway home on our bracket previews and I have already lost a number of readers....but we were linked on Deadspin, so maybe we have gained a few too....although I doubt it. Moving forward:
UCONN v Albany
The perennial pick to win the national championship and the team with, by far, the most potential NBA prospects in this year's tournament is the UCONN Huskies. The Huskies are coached by Jim Calhoun, a man who is universally recognized as the most hated coach in Division I basketball and who was absolutely skewered in this article by KSR Radio's favorite writer, Gregg Doyel
. But that doesnt mean that Calhoun cant coach, and when his players are not stealing computers, they seem to do very well on the court, thanks in part to their outrageous talent and in part to the fact that basketball is all they have to do in Storrs, Connecticut (well of course besides the stealing of computers). The Huskies are led by Josh Boone, one of the top athletes in all of basketball and Rudy Gay, the holder of the record for "worst selling jersey thanks to last name" of all-time.
Their opponents in the first round are the Albany Great Danes, which due to my fear of all things dog-related, takes the award for team with the most petrifying mascot in the whole tournament. This is a monumental year for the Great Swedes, as it is not only their first NCAA Tournament birth, but it is also their first ever above .500 season since joining Division I, making them the faster riser into legitimacy since Flavor Flav got his own VH1 show (which is great by the way....it is like the Bachelor and he gives out clocks instead of roses. And his catchphrase is "if you dont get a clock, that means it is time to go....if you do get a clock, then you know what time it is.....brilliant). Albany has very little of note to discuss, but they do have a tradition that is exciting, known as "The Big Purple Growl", a yearly home game where the administration allows food and alcohol to be served and essentially oversees a 4,500 person party throughout the game. When informed of this event, Bob Huggins immediately faxed the Great Norwegians his resume.
UCONN by 31
Kentucky v UAB
Well what is left to be said about our beloved Kentucky Wildcats. They have a lot of problems, but there is something loveable about this team. Whether it is Rajon Rondo's alien-like eyes, the impossibility of Joe Crawford to ever be in Mensa, Ramel Bradley's unexplainable confidence, Patrick Sparks' future as a "My Name is Earl" character, Brandon Stockton's height, Ravi Moss' forays with the opposite sex, Woo's dream of opening a Polish restaurant in Lexington, Rekalin Sims' Butterbean-esque quickness, Bobby Perry's in-game layup drills, Sheray Thomas' constant look of perplexion, our inability to know anything about Adam Williams, Jared Carter's constant look of sadness or Shagari Alleyne's overall absurdity, there truly is something for everybody on this team. Coach Tubby Smith has looked for weeks as if he is ready for this season to be over, and thanks to the folks at the NCAA Selection Committee, he likely will soon get his wish. But before you write this season off to negativity, think about how good it was to see Preston Lemaster score 12 against Ole Miss, to view the Cats put a pounding on Louisville and see Woo catch a pass. Great, great times.
The Cats first round opponents are the UAB Blazers, a spunky group of youngsters hailing from the mean streets of Birmingham, Alabama. Ask most people what they think of UAB and they will likely assume it is a union on strike, but if you give them a second guess, they probably will mention their huge upset of this very same Kentucky team two years ago in the tournament. The Coach of this team is the same, Mike Anderson, a disciple of Nolan Richardson, who was able to learn most of Richardson's coaching ability without picking up any of his craziness. Anderson has built a solid program at UAB, which means he will soon leave for another job, and his team this year is led by Senior "Squeaky" Anderson, a player who every Kentucky fan will remember for his key shots and dumb hair in that 2004 game. The UAB campus was rocked with news this week that a UAB student was responsible for the wave of church fires in Alabama a few months ago. When asked for comment, he said, "what do you expect, we are the Blazers."
Kentucky by 4
Washington v Utah St
Coming at you from the mean streets of Seattle are the Washington Huskies, a 5 seed that no one saw coming. NCAA tournament time is always a little awkward for the Huskies as it was the NCAA Tournament and its bracket pool that brought down former football coach Rick Neuheisel (I am all for bracket pools, but do you know anyone who spends $40,000 on such a pool?). The basketball team is coached by Lorenzo Romar, one of the rising stars of the coaching profession and a man who in recent years has been able to drug recruits and convince that Washington would be a good place to go to school. Not much was expected of the Huskies this season since the graduation of 5'1" guard Nate Robinson who bored the entire country with his 15 attempts at a Slam Dunk during the Slam Dunk competition. Washington is full of players that you have never heard of or have ever cared about, and we would like to keep it that way, thank you very much.
Their opponents are the Utah St. Aggies, a team that has the ability to combine all the wholesomeness of a state full of mormons with the agricultural sensibility of a state full of Aggies. The Aggies come to us from the WAC and are coached by Stew Morrill, who spends the first twenty minutes of each October 15 practice asking all of his players to stop laughing that his name is "Stew" and take him seriously. Interestingly enough for the Aggies, Utah St has not only the oldest player in the NCAA Tournament, David Pak at 28, but also the only one convicted of rape....once again Pak. Pak was convicted at age 17 and spent 8 years in jail, but is now released and playing basketball in Utah. Yeah I know, when I read that fact I was also surprised, but then again, this is Utah, a liberal state known for its progressive policies and its belief in the rehablilitation of those who have committed misdeeds. But dont be misled, not all of the Aggies have been arrested, only 3 (two stole golf clubs in 2003), so at least 75% of the players have no criminal record....which is nice.
Washington by 11
Illinois v Air Force
The Illinois Fighting Illini are the fourth seed in the DC region and are coming off a trip last year to the NCAA Finals. The Illini were in the news earlier in the year thanks to their fight to keep the name Illini, which apparently was an Indian tribe and thus was offending the six people out there who actually knew that tidbit. The Illini are coached by Bruce Weber, an odd looking man, who seems to spend most of his time in one of two states: yelling or hugging. Weber took over a team of Bill Self-recruits and took them to a title game, thus warranting most Kentucky fans to believe he should be fired. The Illini are led by senior guard Dee Brown who, when not pumping up his Reebok shoes, is known as a deadly three point shooter and a player with a heart of a lion (I have never understood this analogy by the way....how do we know that lions have strong hearts? I contend they win battles because they are just bigger than their prey...but I digress.) The Illini have Johnny-come-lately famous fans such as Bill Murray who looked absolutely hideous at last year's championship game but can be forgiven because he is the greatest guy ever.
The Illini face the Air Force Falcons, the one team most criticized for their entry in the 2006 Tournament. The Falcons hail from the Mountain West Conference and were so certain that they would not be invited to the Tournament that they didnt even watch the Selection Show, choosing instead to gather for the regular team viewing of "Desperate Housewives." The Air Force is often considered the little brother of the military academies and is often looked down upon by the Army and Navy as being not as tough and a place for the privileged and the elite. Air Force often responds by saying, "hey look, we win....and they dont send us to Iraq....so there you go." The best player for the Falcons is Antoine Hood, a guard who led Air Force in scoring and has posted on his myspace site: "Management Majors, The Only Way to Roll." So remember that young people....if you majored in accounting, thinking you were able to roll.....you were sadly mistaken.
Illini by 8
So I got UCONN and Kentucky, followed by Washington and Illinois. I take the Cats to stay with UCONN for a while, but ultimately lose by 10 and the Illini to take a relatively convincing victory over Washington, mainly because the Pac 10 is terrible.