”Antawn, you’re AWE-some ba-bee! He says, åYou can’t guard me, Mr. Diaper Dandy, because I’m a P-T-Per! Are you kidding me?!’ It’s gonna be Shtruggle City! You better get a TO, Coach K! Get a 20, ba-bee!“
If you didn’t need a translator to understand that passage (a paraphrase from Dick Vitale’s pensive musings during Sunday’s ACC championship game), chances are excellent you’re already infected with the roundball delirium commonly described as March Madness.
For the next several weeks, a shockingly high number of our citizens will succumb to the fever, which is treated most successfully with prolonged exposure to television, preferably among friends, and with controlled doses of your favorite chilly beverage.
Amidst all this revelry, of course, some of us still have to work, dutifully maintaining the Scene Sports Desk at McCabe’s Pub, filling out and revising our tournament brackets and watching the unfolding office pool carnage.
As a public servicewith full knowledge that some of you will cynically regard them as a primer on what not to dowe offer several touts for successful bracket-management.
♦ When in doubt, favor the strongest conferencesACC men and SEC womenand sacrifice the weak.
Following this logic, tabbing 12th-seeded Florida State over WAC champion TCU might be a surprisingly sturdy limb on which to venture, and sixth-seed Clemson could similarly break through in the Midwest. Conversely, the tournament in recent years has exposed the overrated Big 10 as a playhouse of pee-wees. Pick them at your peril.
♦ Conventional wisdom holds that teams with the best guards advance farthest. Or is it just coincidence that three of the country’s best backcourts have helped their teamsNorth Carolina, Duke, and Arizonaearn No. 1 seeds?
Of course, having the SEC’s best pair of guards didn’t exactly prevent South Carolina from watching all but the first round on TV last year. Or as Dickie V. might bellow, ”No guarantees, baby!“
♦ Survey them by secret ballot, and most coaches would sooner receive barium enemas than draw Princeton or Temple in the first round. The Tigers’ backdoor-cutting offense and the Owls’ stifling matchup zone often leave tourney foes vexed and cursing. Even against higher seeds, they’re never an indefensible pick.
♦ Crave simplicity? Since you’ll never guess correctly where all of the upsets will occur, try riding with the higher seed in every game. Your bracket will still contain warts. (Never have all four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four.) But you still may finish ahead of many prideful pickers whose egos deter them from following this unmanly strategem.
♦ If you do go looking for upsets, remember that lightning tends to strike in the same spots. Tenth seeds defeat No. 7s so often that their wins induce yawns. Two of this year’s 12th seeds are well armed and should be considered dangerous. Almost every year, a No. 14 humbles a No. 3. (Keep a keen eye on Charleston).
But you can carry this thinking only so far. Anyone brazen or lunatic enough to pick a 16th seed should be interviewed immediately by Tennessee Democrats as a potential candidate for governor.
♦ Contrary to known laws of physics, hot objects won’t burn you at tourney time. Forget overall records. Instead, look for teams on a roll.
Kentucky (notwithstanding loopy fans who fretted that four losses spelled an unsalvageable season) stomped a strong SEC tournament field flatter than a Marine sergeant’s haircutand could easily continue ripping folks all the way to the Final Four.
♦ In the women’s tournament, you need remember only one name: Tennessee. There’s a greater statistical probability of Bill and Monica running away to Pago Pago together than of the Lady Vols losing this year (or next). The only debate is over who’s playing for second.
How it looks from the La-Z-Boy
Sifting through the voluminous complaints about glitches in our computer analysis of the tournament field last season, it came to our attention that, incredible as it may seem to some, people are actually using the opinions expressed in this column to place financial wagers (!) in office pools. (Why, after last March’s bloodbath, we don’t know.)
Please remember that these predictions are for amusement purposes only. And remember if you happen to win your pool using these touts, we’d like a cut.
First Round: North Carolina over Navy; Illinois-Chicago over North Carolina-Charlotte; Princeton over UNLV; Michigan State over Eastern Michigan; Xavier over Washington; South Carolina over Richmond; Oklahoma over Indiana; Connecticut over Fairleigh-Dickinson.
Second Round: North Carolina over Illinois-Chicago; Princeton over Michigan State; Xavier over South Carolina; Connecticut over Oklahoma.
Sweet 16: North Carolina over Princeton; Connecticut over Xavier.
Regional Finals: North Carolina over Connecticut.
First Round: Arizona over Nicholls State; Tennessee over Illinois State; South Alabama over Illinois; Maryland over Utah State; Arkansas over Nebraska; Utah over San Francisco; Temple over West Virginia; Cincinnati over Northern Arizona.
Second Round: Arizona over Tennessee; Maryland over South Alabama; Arkansas over Utah; Temple over Cincinnati.
Sweet 16: Arizona over Maryland; Temple over Arkansas.
Regional Finals: Arizona over Temple.
First Round: Kansas over Prairie View; Murray State over Rhode Island; TCU over Florida State; Ole Miss over Valparaiso; Clemson over Western Michigan; Stanford over Charleston; St. John’s over Detroit; Purdue over Delaware.
Second Round: Kansas over Murray State; TCU over Ole Miss; Stanford over Clemson; Purdue over St. John’s.
Sweet 16: Kansas over TCU; Stanford over Purdue.
Regional Finals: Kansas over Stanford.
First Round:: Duke over Radford; Oklahoma State over George Washington; Syracuse over Iona; New Mexico over Butler; UCLA over Miami (Fla.); Michigan over Davidson; Massachusetts over St. Louis; Kentucky over South Carolina State.
Second Round: Duke over Oklahoma State; Syracuse over New Mexico; UCLA over Michigan; Kentucky over Massachusetts.
Sweet 16: Duke over Syracuse; Kentucky over UCLA.
Regional Finals: Duke over Kentucky.
Women’s NCAA Tournament
First Round::Tennessee over Liberty; Western Kentucky over Stephen F. Austin; Oregon over Rutgers; Iowa State over Kent; Vanderbilt over Cal-Santa Barbara; Illinois over Wisconsin-Green Bay; Florida International over Marquette; North Carolina over Howard.
Second Round: Tennessee over Western Kentucky; Iowa State over Oregon; Vanderbilt over Illinois; North Carolina over Florida International.
Sweet 16:: Tennessee over Iowa State; North Carolina over Vanderbilt.
Regional Finals: Tennessee over North Carolina.
First Round: Stanford over Harvard; Arkansas over Hawaii; Kansas over Tulane; Iowa over Massachusetts; Wisconsin over Virginia Tech; Florida over Montana; Utah over Louisville; Duke over MTSU.
Second Round: Stanford over Arkansas; Iowa over Kansas; Florida over Wisconsin; Duke over Utah.
Sweet 16:: Stanford over Iowa; Duke over Florida.
Regional Finals: Stanford over Duke.
First Round: Old Dominion over St. Francis; Nebraska over New Mexico; Memphis over Youngstown State; North Carolina State over Maine; Virginia over SMU; Arizona over Santa Clara; Georgia over George Washington; Connecticut over Fairfield.
Second Round: Old Dominion over Nebraska; North Carolina State over Memphis; Arizona over Virginia; Connecticut over Georgia.
Sweet 16: Old Dominion over North Carolina State; Arizona over Connecticut.
Regional Finals: Old Dominion over Arizona.
First Round: Texas Tech over Grambling; Notre Dame over Southwest Missouri State; Drake over Colorado State; Purdue over Washington; Clemson over Miami (Fla.); Louisiana Tech over Holy Cross; UCLA over Michigan; Alabama over North Carolina-Greensboro.
Second Round: Texas Tech over Notre Dame; Purdue over Drake; Louisiana Tech over Clemson; Alabama over UCLA.
Sweet 16: Texas Tech over Purdue; Louisiana Tech over Alabama.
Regional Finals: Texas Tech over Louisiana Tech.