â†µToday's Calls: Your Bracket vs. The Field. (Does anything else matter today?) â†µ
â†µThe Opening Pitch: Finish your bracket yet? I hate mine already. There is rare loathing like the epic self-doubt that creeps in when trying to make "from-the-gut" picks on your bracket, convincing yourself that -- yes -- THIS year you're going to finally get it (mostly) right. â†µâ†µ
â†µTop Story Line: The Big East's big expectations. Three 1-seeds puts the league on a collision course with the fabled '85 Final Four. Louisville is apparently the team to beat, and UConn earned a 1-seed nod over Memphis, even though the Huskies aren't the same team without Jerome Dyson. â†µâ†µ
â†µAll the talk about the Big East being just so amazing this year comes down to this: How many Big East teams make the Final Four? How many regional finals are Big East vs. Big East? (Could happen in the Midwest, West and East.) How many Big East teams make the Sweet 16? â†µâ†µ
â†µWe all know that the Big Three are the favorites to advance to Detroit. Beyond Villanova using home-court advantage to get past the UCLA-VCU winner, does West Virginia knock off Kansas and/or Michigan State? Does Marquette get out of Boise? Is Syracuse the team to knock off UNC? â†µâ†µ
â†µAbove all else, anything less than a national title for the Big East should be considered a big failure. â†µâ†µ
â†µWhat you'll get after the jump: Top seeding issues, top Cinderellas, top geographic advantages, regional quick hits and my pick to win it all (Hint: Won't surprise any of you who read my preseason picks column. Nothing like consistency! Or familiarity bias.) â†µâ†µ
â†µTop Seeding: Count me among those who don't buy Memphis as being worthy of a 1-seed -- they played a tough out-of-conference schedule to make up for their weak league, but they lost to Georgetown. Georgetown! â†µâ†µ
â†µThe 2-seeds read like "Teams that could have been a 1-seed if only they didn't choke it away by not really caring about their conference tournaments": Oklahoma, Michigan State. Duke as a 2 just makes their inevitable collapse all the sweeter. â†µâ†µ
â†µVillanova's 3-seed is sort of a joke: Their first two rounds will be played in Philadelphia. ... Kansas and Mizzou as 3's speaks to how highly the selection committee regarded the Big 12. ... Syracuse as a 3 means the committee loved that 6-OT win over UConn as much as the rest of us. â†µâ†µ
â†µTop Cinderellas: The committee did the top Cindys no favors -- Siena was a popular pick; they get Louisville in Round 2. ... Butler was treated similarly, getting a 9-seed and a date with UNC in Greensboro if they advance. ... And soul-crushing: VCU has to beat UCLA just for a chance to play ‘Nova in Philly. â†µâ†µ
â†µTop Players to Watch: It's all about Tyler Hansbrough. For arguably the greatest player in UNC history -- and perhaps one of the Top 10 players in NCAA history -- either he wins a national title and fulfills his mandate or he doesn't and he is this generation's Ralph Sampson. â†µâ†µ
â†µRunner-up: Jonny Flynn. I don't know how far Syracuse will get -- given that they potentially have to get past Oklahoma and then, likely, UNC -- but during the Big East Tournament, Flynn proved himself to be the most dynamic guard in the country, the kind who can carry a team through the Tournament. â†µâ†µ
â†µThis year's Kevin Durant/Michael Beasley/OJ Mayo, a one-and-done NBA prospect who has one chance to make an impact on this Tournament: USC's DeMar DeRozan. BC is a favorable 1st-round draw, but facing Michigan St. in Big Ten country will do him no favors. â†µâ†µ
â†µMust-See Head-to-Head Matchup: UCLA's Darren Collison, veteran of 3 Final Fours, versus VCU's Eric Maynor, driving force behind VCU's 1st-round upset win over Duke in '07. Looking down the road: How about Tyler Hansbrough vs. Blake Griffin? â†µâ†µ
â†µTop Geographic Advantage: Villanova is the biggest winner. They pulled a rough draw, having to face the UCLA-VCU winner in the 2nd round; having that game played at home in Philly is huge. (Although didn't Georgetown just beat ‘Nova in Philly a few weeks ago? Ominous foreshadowing!) â†µâ†µ
â†µRunners-Up: UNC and Duke playing the 1st 2 rounds in Greensboro. ... Louisville in Dayton. ... Michigan State in Minneapolis. ... Gonzaga and Washington playing in Portland. ... Oklahoma and Memphis in Kansas City. â†µâ†µ
â†µRegion-by-Region Quick Hits: â†µâ†µ
â†µTop Story Line: Louisville as No. 1 No. 1.
â†µToughest Call: WVU-Dayton
â†µ5/12 Mania: Arizona over Utah? No!
â†µUpset Special: WVU over Kansas
â†µDream Matchup: Louisville-Kansas
â†µGutsy pick to win region: Wake Forest
â†µGutless pick: Louisville
â†µShanoff pick:: Louisville (It's a set-up!) â†µ
â†µTop Story Line: UConn-Memphis, who ya got?
â†µToughest Call: N. Iowa-Purdue
â†µ5/12 Mania: N. Iowa over Purdue? Yes!
â†µUpset Special: Maryland over Cal
â†µDream Matchup: UConn-Memphis
â†µGutsy pick to win region: Washington
â†µGutless pick: Memphis
â†µShanoff pick:: Memphis (Meh-mphis.) â†µ
â†µTop Story Line: Toughest region?
â†µToughest Call: UCLA-VCU
â†µ5/12 Mania: Wisconsin over FSU? Yes!
â†µUpset Special: Texas over Duke
â†µDream Matchup: VCU-Duke
â†µGutsy pick to win region: UCLA
â†µGutless pick: Pitt
â†µShanoff pick:: Pitt (Classic mistake) â†µ
â†µTop Story Line: Hansbrough's Last Stand
â†µToughest Call: Western KY-Illinois
â†µ5/12 Mania: WKU over Illinois? Yes!
â†µUpset Special: Gonzaga over UNC
â†µDream Matchup: Hansbrough vs. Griffin
â†µGutsy pick to win region: Gonzaga
â†µGutless pick: UNC
â†µShanoff pick:: Syracuse (Hmm...) â†µ
â†µBubble Snubs: San Diego State (RPI: 34), Creighton (40) and St. Mary's (48) were the most egregious. You can't possibly tell me that you'd rather see Arizona (RPI: 62!), Wisconsin, Maryland, Michigan or Minnesota than a couple of teams that had real Cinderella potential. â†µâ†µ
â†µWho Wins It All: Louisville. I am battling two competing forces. On the one hand, I am always loathe to pick the Tournament's No. 1 overall team; on the other hand, back in November, I picked Louisville to win the national title. "I told you so" is just too powerful. â†µâ†µ
â†µI have to say: Given the way that every top contender underachieved throughout the past week, it is hard to say with any confidence that "Oh, of course [fill-in-top-team-here] is going to win 6 straight." Complete picks and predictions coming Wednesday. â†µâ†µ
â†µThe Last Word: As if you're thinking about anything besides your bracket. Oh, OK ... â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Jay Cutler needs to grow up. But Josh McDaniels needs him. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Dwyane Wade: 50. Really: Just give him the MVP already. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Chip Kelly will be a better coach at Oregon than Mike Bellotti. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Good investigative sports journalism produces results. â†µâ†µ
â†µDan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at @danshanoff â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.