email John Stansberry
I think I might sorta know about this NCAA
Every doggone year I do the same thing, and every
year I agonize over it. I get my March Madness
bracket and just LABOR over it, like itís the LSAT
and Iím trying to get into law school.
Some years Iíve done pretty well, and other years,
well, other years my bracket looked as if a circus
monkey filled it out. But with less than 10 hours to
go before the first play-in opening round game or
whatever that hell you call it is going to tip off,
I still havenít filled out a bracket.
At this point, with the deadline so close, Iím going
to do something Iíve never done before: give myself
a five minute time limit to fill out the bracket and
then be done with it.
I donít want to deal with the frustration this time
around. In the past Iíve pondered the thing for
hours, researched stats, filled it completely out,
and then gone back to it because there was some 5/12
game I suddenly wanted to switch around. You know
what that does? It starts the whole damn process
So Iím going to go with the things I think I might
sorta know about this field and just have at it. So
Iíve talked myself into thinking that 15th seeded UCSB is going to
take out 2nd seeded Florida in the Southeast Region.
In Tampa no less. Do I have that much against the
Gators? Not really, Iím not holding that loss to
Kentucky in the SEC Tourney final against them to
the degree that others are.
I guess Iím just of the mindset that UCSB, despite a
decidedly lackluster regular season, might be
playing extremely loose. They went dancing last
year, slept through most of the campaign and
probably didnít really expect to make this
tournament. Therefore, the pressure on the Gauchos
is even lower than it normally is for a 15 seed.
UCSB is actually a decent defensive team, ranking
first in the Big West blocked shots (4.2 bpg) and
steals (7.3 spg). And with two reliable scorers in
juniors Orlando Johnson (21.1 ppg) and James
Nunnally (16.4 ppg), points in crunch time probably
wonít be an issue for them. Okay, Iíve done it, Iíve
talked myself into this upset special.
Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, keeps telling me
that 14th seed Belmont is going to take out 3rd seed
Wisconsin in the Southeast. Heck, Iím leaning that
way as well, just look at how Rick Byrdís team
dominated the Atlantic Sun. The Bruins are forcing
an INSANE 19.2 turnovers a game.
In Wisconsin, you would think that Belmont has the
perfect matchup. Why? Because Wisconsin doesnít
claim a huge edge in terms of overall athleticism.
Yup, nobody is going to confuse the Ď10-í11 Badgers
with being the Ď90-í91 Running Rebels. Also, Bo
Ryanís team hasnít exactly been playing its best
basketball in the last week and a half.
But donít sell the Badgers short because of their
recent swoon. Theyíve committed just 229 turnovers
in 31 contests to this point, and a team that takes
care of the basketball to this degree is a team
Belmont will have difficulty with. As badly as I
wanna follow the crowd and pick the upset in this
one, my gut is telling me to go with Wisconsin.
I have been singing the praises of San Diego
State all season, so much so that many people
believe Iím now a bigger Aztec fan than Marshall
Faulk. Iíve stuck with this team this far, so I
might as well stick with them even further.
Doing so implies that I might even pick SDSU over
the top seed in their region, defending national
champ Duke. And Duke will be that much better if
freshman point guard Kyrie Irving is available and
Iíd feel a lot better about the Aztecs if they had a
more reliable scoring option on the wing. But any
offensive deficiencies this team has are for the
large part masked by solid defensive play. In Ken
Pomeroyís latest defensive ratings, SDSU is fourth
nationally, right behind Duke.
Also, Iíll always give the time of day to a team
that can rebound, and the Aztecs have a healthy +6.7
margin on the season. Yeah, Iíve talked myself into
going a little further with this team.
Thereís an awful lot to like about Kansas, the
top seed in the Southwest Region. The Jayhawks seem
capable of hitting another switch offensively to get
that 3 or 4 minute spurt thatís needed to pull away.
Theyíre the countryís best shooting team (51.8%) and
one of the best at generating second chance points
(+7.7 rebound margin).
But I felt so much more positive about last yearís
Kansas team than I do about this one. And as you
recall, that bunch couldnít get past Northern Iowa
in the Ď10 NCAA Tournament. Iíve just got this
nagging feeling that the current Jayhawk backcourt
can be had by the right kind of team, say, a team
like the Southwestís 4 seed, Louisville.
If these teams hook up, I feel good about
Louisvilleís chances. The Cardinals have generated
an impressive 546 turnovers on the season, and like
I said, I think KUís guards (Tyshawn Taylor
especially) are susceptible to pressure. Iíll look
silly if Kansas ends up cutting down the nets, but
hey, Iíve already made up my mind.
I think I wrote off Vanderbilt over a week ago,
and Iím sticking with that notion. Thatís because
Kevin Stallingsís team flat out canít take care of
the basketball. The Commodores are -0.9 in turnover
margin, a figure that ranks 243rd nationally.
If fact, Vanderbilt has turned it over 80 more times
than its first round opponent, Atlantic 10 champ
Richmond. Another feather in Richmondís cap is point
guard Kevin Anderson, whoís started 128 straight
games at point guard. Never underestimate the
importance of solid guard play in this tournament.
In last yearís tournament, Vandy was taken out in
the first round by Murray State. Iíve convinced
myself that history will repeat itself this week.
Okay, Iíve now blazed through the brackets, taking
the things I think I might know and coming up with
this Final Four:
East - Syracuse (?!?!?)
West - San Diego State (I canít quit the Aztecs)
Southwest - Notre Dame (How did that happen?)
Southeast - Pittsburgh (Only #1 seed I showed love
Now that I look at that, Iíve got that old urge to
do some more bracket readjustment. Then again, screw
it, Iíll keep this train wreck so all of you can
have something to laugh at.
John Stansberry is a senior writer for collegeinsider.com.
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