Brackets take a beating

By Jim Jaworski

(photo illustration by Andrea Cadamuro)

This year’s NCAA tournament has been filled with upsets, buzzer beaters, close games, and tons of excitement. With the first weekend now in the books, it’s time to get ready for the second weekend of action which will bring us down to the Elite 8 and the Final Four, which will square off next weekend in Houston.

As most people have are about ready to throw their brackets out because their picks went nothing like they have planned, there are still plenty of reasons to watch; there are some great matchups, and there should be some exciting games if they continue as the first two rounds went.

My bracket, like most people’s, is the worst it’s ever been. This is despite the fact that this was a year when I watched more college basketball than before, and did more research on every team than ever before. This just shows you how much that matters when making your picks for the bracket – but anyway, here are my picks for the Sweet 16 and for the rest of the weekend:

Starting in the East Bracket, No. 1 seed Ohio State is playing No. 4 seed Kentucky. In this one I like Ohio State; I think their inside game is much better than Kentucky’s they have a more mature team. Kentucky is young yet again this year, because they sent last year’s entire lineup to the NBA.  I think it will be close for a while, but in the end Ohio State will pull it out to a fairly comfortable lead before the buzzer sounds.

Marquette (an 11 seed) is facing North Carolina (a No. 2 seed). I have Marquette winning this game, mainly because they’re hot, their outside shooting has been lights out, and they have a great free-throwing team which could be huge down the stretch. North Carolina has been streaky and should have lost their last game to Washington, but due to some creative refereeing they are here in the Sweet 16. Who goes to the Final Four? I think Marquette’s run ends and they close by double digits to Ohio State, which is overall a better team and deserves to be there.

In the West Bracket, Duke is playing Arizona. Duke is No. 1 while Arizona is a No. 5 seed. Duke has been battling Ohio State much of the year for the overall No. 1 team in the land. I like Duke in this one for their outside game and I feel they are a more complete team than Arizona, but I think this one will be close – probably closer than Duke will like – but they will close it out in the end.

The other game, UConn vs. San Diego State, is a classic 3 vs. 2 seed matchup. Although San Diego State surprised a lot of people with how good they were this year, UConn is undefeated in tournaments. They won the Maui invitational in the beginning of the year and they won the Big East tournament leading up to the NCAAs. They are young but they seem to shine come tournament time, so I’ve got them beating not only San Diego State but Duke as well. I think Duke is good but they’ve had better teams and UConn loves tournaments, so I am sending UConn to the Final Four.

In the Southeast, No. 4 seed Wisconsin is playing No. 8 seed Butler. Butler just knocked out No. 1 seeded Pittsburgh, but I think their runs ends here and they lose to Wisconsin. They have two players in consideration for player of the year, and although Wisconsin had some bad losses they also have had some great wins. They tend to play to their opponents but they will pull out a close win vs. Butler.

The other game is BYU vs. Florida, in which I’m picking BYU. Even though BYU lost their center because he was suspended from the team, Jimmer Fredette has played out of his mind and is going to take them places. No big man, no problem – Jimmer goes off big against Florida, which I think is an overrated 2 seed, and takes them past Florida and past Wisconsin. I think the BYU vs. Wisconsin game, and the Duke UConn game, will be the two best games of the tournament. Look for all the big players on all those teams to make big shots throughout those two games.

The final bracket has No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Richmond. I like Richmond but their run is over; they’ll keep it close first half but get blown out big in the second. But Richmond should be proud that they made it to the Sweet 16.

The other game has No. 10 Florida State vs. No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth University. If anyone says they had this picked originally, they’re lying. This is a great matchup but I’m taking VCU to go to the Elite 8, ruin everyone’s bracket, and be the Cinderella story of the tournament. Although I think they have nothing for Kansas, I think they can get by Florida State.

So, at the end of the weekend I see the four heading to Houston being Ohio State, UConn, Kansas, and BYU. Should be a great weekend of action – be sure to tune in to CBS to catch all of the action. It starts tonight, so make sure you catch the games, sit back, watch, enjoy, and get ready for more upsets. Afterward, you can reread this article and say, “What was he thinking?”

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