NCAA Tournament picks 2013: March Madness meets soccer

Jonathan Daniel

We asked our soccer writer for March Madness picks, so he gave them to us in his own language.

Many writers will pick every game of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this week, but very few soccer-centric writers will partake in this exercise. Below, a former British professional footballer who has recently started following basketball and would like to remain anonymous has offered up his picks for this year's tournament. He hasn't quite figured out basketball terminology yet.

First Four

North Carolina A&T (16) vs. Liberty (16)

Winner: Liberty

Rationale: There's simply no tactical explanation from the cohesion that results from every player holding the exact same religious beliefs. That has to galvanize Liberty's changing room.

LIU Brooklyn (16) vs. James Madison (16)

Winner: LIU Brooklyn

Rationale: I don't have any actual analysis for this one. I'm just picking the team who doesn't have any key players going to court in the near future.

Middle Tennessee State (11) vs. St. Mary's (11)

Winner: St. Mary's

Rationale: The Gaels are revolutionizing college basketball by rejecting the insular nature of the sport and setting the curve with their knowledge of foreign talent. Middle Tennessee won't know how to deal with the unique Australian style of play that St. Mary's throw at them.

Boise State (13) vs. La Salle (13)

Winner: Boise State

Rationale: These teams play matching 4-1 formations, and should cancel each other out tactically by matching four guards each on the floor. In situations like those, the game comes down to the individual one-on-one battles. Boise State scores more efficiently and should win a close one.

Midwest Region


Louisville (1) vs. Liberty (16)

Winner: Louisville

Rationale: Liberty's defense should get ripped apart by the creative passing of Peyton Siva, the physical presence of Gorgui Dieng and the sheer quality of Russ Smith.

Colorado State (8) vs. Missouri (9)

Winner: Colorado State

Rationale: Missouri's starting V are good enough to bail them out of any situation, in spite of their coach, but Frank Haith's lack of tactical acumen will be the Tigers' undoing.

Oklahoma State (5) vs. Oregon (12)

Winner: Oregon

Rationale: Oklahoma State have put together a great season, but can they do it on a sunny Thursday in the Pacific time zone?

Saint Louis (4) vs. New Mexico State (13)

Winner: Saint Louis

Rationale: The Billikens stay so perfectly organized and compact that they'll have no problem cutting off supply to big man Sim Bhullar.

Memphis (6) vs. St. Mary's (11)

Winner: Memphis

Rationale: Memphis move the ball brilliantly and should be able to use their width to stretch the back line of St. Mary's.

Michigan State (3) vs. Valparaiso (14)

Winner: Michigan State

Rationale: This is a refreshing matchup between two sides coached by club legends who care more about the supporters than the chase of money and prestige that is so common in modern basketball. Bryce Drew has a bright future and will bring trophies to Valpo in the future, but the Spartans have too much quality this year, I'm afraid.

Creighton (7) vs. Cincinnati (10)

Winner: Creighton

Rationale: While Cincinnati have a well-organized side, they simply don't have any match winners like Doug McDermott.

Duke (2) vs. Albany (15)

Winner: Duke

Rationale: While Duke have slipped up at this stage of the competition against similar opposition before, it's tough to see that happening to them again. Ryan Kelly is simply impossible to mark.


Louisville (1) vs. Colorado State (8)

Winner: Louisville

Rationale: It's going to take a team that gets stuck in for 40 minutes or an ability to score from nothing to upset Louisville, and Colorado State have neither.

Oregon (12) vs. Saint Louis (4)

Winner: Saint Louis

Rationale: Oregon don't have enough creators to break down the defense of Saint Louis.

Memphis (6) vs. Michigan State (3)

Winner: Michigan State

Rationale: The gaffer's the difference in this one. Tom Izzo is too brilliant to go out this early.

Creighton (7) vs. Duke (2)

Winner: Duke

Rationale: I'm not sure who's going to stop McDermott from scoring, but the Creighton defense is poor and should break down against the Duke attack.

West Region


Gonzaga (1) vs. Southern (16)

Winner: Gonzaga

Rationale: Gonzaga have been the top team out of the WCC for years. They've proven they have the quality to compete at this level even if they don't face great teams week in, week out in their domestic league.

Pittsburgh (8) vs. Wichita State (9)

Winner: Pitt

Rationale: The Shockers can score from anywhere at any time, but can disappear against top defensive teams. Pittsburgh should be able to keep them from scoring in bunches.

Wisconsin (5) vs. Mississippi (12)

Winner: Wisconsin

Rationale: The Badgers have grit, heart and desire. They know what it takes to win. They might not have the best technical players, but passion wins matches more often than Hollywood passes, flicks and tricks do. They play the game the way it's supposed to be played.

Kansas State (4) vs. Boise State (13)

Winner: Kansas State

Rationale: Who cares, really. This match should be, well, boring.

Arizona (6) vs. Belmont (11)

Winner: Belmont

Rationale: The Wildcats have the better side, but I like Belmont to nick a fair number of baskets from long range.

New Mexico (3) vs. Harvard (14)

Winner: New Mexico

Rationale: They're simply more talented than Harvard, but the Crimson are intelligent enough to keep it close. Tommy Amaker's doing well to build up a lower division side after he jumped into the top level of the game at Michigan too early in his career.

Notre Dame (7) vs. Iowa State (10)

Winner: Iowa State

Rationale: The depth and pace of Iowa State should allow them to push a tempo that doesn't suit Notre Dame at all.

Ohio State (2) vs. Iona (15)

Winner: Ohio State

Rationale: Iona's unusual style of play makes them dangerous against anyone and they haven't lost by double digits since December, but Ohio State probably have too much talent to suffer this big of an upset.


Gonzaga (1) vs. Pittsburgh (8)

Winner: Gonzaga

Rationale: This simply isn't Jamie Dixon's best Pitt side, and he'll have to strengthen his squad in the summer window if he wants to advance past this point next season.

Wisconsin (5) vs. Kansas State (4)

Winner: Wisconsin

Rationale: Bo Ryan has, for the most part, gotten the better of more talented Bruce Weber sides over the years. This Kansas State side isn't as good as his Illinois teams.

New Mexico (3) vs. Belmont (11)

Winner: New Mexico

Rationale: Consistent long-range efforts will get the job done against Arizona, but not against a better New Mexico team.

Iowa State (10) vs. Ohio State (2)

Winner: Iowa State

Rationale: I don't rate Deshaun Thomas. Just don't rate him. Don't rate him. Sorry.

South Region


Kansas (1) vs. Western Kentucky (16)

Winner: Kansas

Rationale: I hear the Jayhawks' best player is a rapper of some kind? Macklemore? What absolute nonsense. Whatever happened to respecting the game? Anyway, WKU simply aren't good enough to win this match.

North Carolina (8) vs. Villanova (9)

Winner: North Carolina

Rationale: Jay Wright's suit should be the best part of this one. Poor match. Not enough quality, for me.

VCU (5) vs. Akron (12)

Winner: VCU

Rationale: Shaka Smart has his side playing some brilliant basketball. They press you high up the pitch, get stuck in, swarm their opposition to force them to give the ball away and strike quickly on the counter. Possession sides will be hoping they don't run into VCU later in the tournament.

Michigan (4) vs. South Dakota State (13)

Winner: Michigan

Rationale: Michigan are probably too complete a side to fall to South Dakota State, but you can never count out a team with a match winner like Nate Wolters. You never know when he's going to take over, and he's a triffic lad to boot.

UCLA (6) vs. Minnesota (11)

Winner: Minnesota

Rationale: These are both talented and underachieving sides, so I'm taking the one whose manager has won trophies in the past.

Florida (3) vs. Northwestern State (14)

Winner: Florida

Rationale: Billy Donovan is a top bloke.

San Diego State (7) vs. Oklahoma (10)

Winner: San Diego State

Rationale: No one knows any of these players in the Mountain West but they just compete.

Georgetown (2) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (15)

Winner: Georgetown

Rationale: Otto Porter just does all of the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet.


Kansas (1) vs. North Carolina (8)

Winner: Kansas

Rationale: UNC have the talent, but haven't made the most of it. James Michael McAdoo needs to decide how important his career is, because he's not done it for me. Just not done it. Needs to be more consistent.

VCU (5) vs. Michigan (4)

Winner: Michigan

Rationale: Trey Burke is about the only player VCU's pressing style won't pin back.

Minnesota (11) vs. Florida (3)

Winner: Florida

Rationale: Minnesota haven't proven they can play at this level, and Florida have been here in this competition before.

Georgetown (2) vs. San Diego State (7)

Winner: Georgetown

Rationale: Otto Porter is a top, top lad. Really rate him.

East Region


Indiana (1) vs. LIU Brooklyn (16)

Winner: Indiana

Rationale: The best team from the best domestic league will have no problem getting through a 16 seed.

N.C, State (8) vs. Temple (9)

Winner: N.C. State

Rationale: This would have been a cracker in the days of John Chaney and Jim Valvano. An absolute stormer.

UNLV (5) vs. California (12)

Winner: UNLV

Rationale: The only reason to pick against UNLV is if you put any stock in preseason friendly matches.

Syracuse (4) vs. Montana (13)

Winner: Montana

Rationale: I don't know how Syracuse have gotten away with this negative 2-3 gimmick for so long.

Butler (6) vs. Bucknell (11)

Winner: Butler

Rationale: They just play the game the way it's meant to be played.

Marquette (3) vs. Davidson (14)

Winner: Davidson

Rationale: Both teams have got so much history. Dwyane Wade. Steph Curry. Brilliant history. Davidson have got more match winners.

Illinois (7) vs. Colorado (10)

Winner: Colorado

Rationale: Jim Croce has done brilliantly to get this far, but Colorado have had more time to gel. Illinois will be better when Croce's had more time to bring some of his own players in.

Miami (2) vs. Pacific (15)

Winner: Miami

Rationale: Who names a team after an ocean? Nonsense.


Indiana (1) vs. N.C. State (8)

Winner: Indiana

Rationale: N.C. State have all the talent in the world but they just can't get the ball in the net consistently. They miss too many sitters for me.

UNLV (5) vs. Montana (13)

Winner: UNLV

Rationale: Montana doesn't have anyone with the quality of Anthony Bennett. Top player.

Butler (6) vs. Davidson (14)

Winner: Butler

Rationale: Brad Stevens will get his tactics spot on in this one.

Colorado (10) vs. Miami (2)

Winner: Miami

Rationale: Shane Larkin is a born winner. Just like his dad.

Sweet 16

Louisville (1) vs. Saint Louis (4)

Winner: Louisville

Rationale: You know SLU will get their tactics right, stay organized and take away the passing lanes, but Louisville have too much individual skill to fall here.

Michigan State (3) vs. Duke (2)

Winner: Michigan State

Rationale: Ryan Kelly will prove difficult to mark again, but Duke aren't tough enough in the middle and should get out-muscled in the 50-50 challenges.

Gonzaga (1) vs. Wisconsin (5)

Winner: Wisconsin

Rationale: It's all about getting stuck in when these big moments come and Wisconsin do that.

New Mexico (3) vs. Iowa State (10)

Winner: New Mexico

Rationale: New Mexico are too big for Iowa State to deal with.

Kansas (1) vs. Michigan (4)

Winner: Michigan

Rationale: Trey Burke isn't a rapper.

Florida (3) vs. Georgetown (2)

Winner: Florida

Rationale: I can't separate these teams, so I'm making my pick based on those new statistics they have. Personally I don't think numbers can tell you more than people who know the game, but I feel like these teams are level on quality.

Indiana (1) vs. UNLV (5)

Winner: Indiana

Rationale: Just too much quality for me. Too much quality.

Butler (6) vs. Miami (2)

Winner: Miami

Rationale: Jim Larrañaga has his team playing with Latin flair, and that'll be the difference.

Elite Eight

Louisville (1) vs. Michigan State (3)

Winner: Michigan State

Rationale: It's tough to choose between two top gaffers like this, but Louisville have been disappointing in big moments lately.

Wisconsin (5) vs. New Mexico (3)

Winner: New Mexico

Rationale: Wisconsin know how to stop anyone from playing their game, but they won't be able to put the ball in the net against the Aggies.

Michigan (4) vs. Florida (3)

Winner: Florida

Rationale: Billy Donovan's been here before. Too much experience. You need experience.

Miami (2) vs. Indiana (1)

Winner: Indiana

Rationale: Miami just don't have teams like this in their domestic league. They're not going to know what hit them.

Final Four

Michigan State (3) vs. New Mexico (3)

Winner: Michigan State

Rationale: With the talent on the pitch even, the tiebreaker is the team with the manager who's won trophies.

Florida (3) vs. Indiana (1)

Winner: Indiana

Rationale: Tom Crean faltered when he got to this point with top talent when he was with Marquette, so I'm reluctant to say that they'll get over the hump this time around, but it's so hard to pick against their squad.

Champion: Indiana

It's tough to imagine Tom Izzo getting this far and not finishing the job, but the Hoosiers got the better of them twice in the regular season. Picking against the more talented side, when they've beaten their opponent on the road earlier in the season, seems unwise.

More in College Basketball:

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