March Madness is here, so let's talk about the NCAA Tournament and pretend to know what we're talking about. Need a printable March Madness bracket? Grab one here.
March Madness, alright!
I've watched less college basketball this year than ever before, so based on how incredibly clueless I have felt this week, I'm almost certainly going to have the most successful bracket of my life. And to fit in with everyone else around here--with all the scientific predictions from the rest of the SB Nation staff--I'll throw in some rambling of my own. Isn't that part of tradition with March Madness? We all pretend to know what we're talking about with teams like Creighton or New Mexico. It's a beautiful thing when everyone's bullshitting together.
With that in mind, here are some things to watch from someone who hasn't watched very much college basketball this year. We begin with Louisville.
Louisville is so screwed.
The reasoning is thin here, because Louisville looked better against Syracuse on Saturday night than any team has looked all year. They have an experienced point guard as their star, a great coach, and more size and athleticism than just about any team in the field.
But that's precisely why you should pick against them after a season where nothing made sense and no potentially-great team has been able to stay on top for more than 10 days. They are the best team, so they have to go out early. Also, thanks to Adidas, Louisville now plays basketball in softball jerseys with camouflage sleeves. There's gotta be justice.
The story quietly looming over everything (1/2)
Generally March isn't the time to get preachy about college athletics, because it's more fun to just enjoy yourself and then spend the summer months explaining why the NCAA is completely full of shit and the entire system should be firebombed as soon as possible. This year's different, though -- Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit is moving forward, college administrators are already babbling out irrational responses, and the backwards logic of the whole system is about to go on full display. For further reading, check out Dan Wetzel's column today. This is going to be awesome, and should be discussed as often as possible over the next few weeks.
The story quietly looming over everything (2/2)
Everyone can tell their Kentucky jokes after the NIT loss and enjoy the batshit fans blaming liberal socialism for the way this season ended, but next year Calipari's got arguably the best recruiting class in history, and things could get truly cruel. They landed Julius Randle on Wednesday, and if they somehow end up with Andrew Wiggins we should just cancel the season. Either way: This March, we are talking about how talent's down across college basketball. Next March there's a pretty good chance we'll be talking about how all the talent came back, only somehow it all ended up at Kentucky.
Birds (and NBA scouts) fly South
If you're one of those NBA fans who only watches college hoops to study future lottery picks, the South regional should be a lot of fun. Potential lottery picks include Shabazz Muhammad, Otto Porter, Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III, and Ben McLemore, who could be the number one pick overall in three months, so we all probably check him out this week.
There's also James McAdoo for 8th-seeded UNC, who was a fringe lottery pick last year, came back to school as a player of the year candidate, and then spent the entire year getting exposed and underwhelming everyone. Just like UNC! [/guzzles bleach]
Players who seem pretty great
I've only seen a handful of Michigan games, but there's no college basketball player more fun than Mitch McGary, the goofiest almost-good player college basketball has seen in years. He's like a puppy who hasn't totally grown into his body yet, which means it's way too much fun watching him careen all over the court before his flying limbs inevitably lead to at least three stupid fouls and/or turnovers. I want to legally adopt Mitch McGary just for entertainment's sake.
Others to enjoy: Otto Porter (Georgetown), Shane Larkin (Miami), Mike Bruesewitz (Wisconsin), Trey Burke (Michigan), Peyton Siva (Louisville), Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), Victor Oladipo (Indiana), Keith Appling (Michigan State), Brandon Paul (Illinois), Rodney McGruder (Kansas State), P.J. Hairston (North Carolina), and Eugene Edgerson (Arizona), who graduated 12 years ago but should still be grandfathered into every NCAA Tournament.
Players who are absolutely insufferable
Coaches who seem pretty great
Jim Larranaga is just the best.
Coaches who are absolutely insufferable
[Literally every other college basketball coach]
Not even sure what that means, but it's a good reminder that following rappers on Twitter is always a good idea. And speaking of rappers, when Rick Ross wants his chef to cook dinner, he will call him up and say, "A yo Bullfrog. 8 o clock. 15 people. Make it sexy."
None of this has anything to do with college basketball, but still. The more you know.
We need Bill Walton somewhere
"Robert Morris standing tall, walking like a giant, signing the Declaration of Independence, taking down Kentucky." - Bill Walton— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) March 20, 2013
Everyone will say March isn't the same without Gus Johnson, and that's true, but we're losing just as much not having Bill Walton around. He's been incredible on ESPN, as David J. Roth notes over here, and he'd only be more amazing with a bigger platform, where we could pair him with Jim Nantz and watch as Walton's hippy rambling slowly drives Nantz to attempted homicide on a nearby scorekeeper, a crime that gets Nantz put in prison for life.
Next year, hopefully.
This year's Cinderella?
Oregon! Let's say Oregon is going to beat Oklahoma State and St. Louis. Definitely.
Gonzaga is SPORTSWRITER MAGIC
John Feinstein in a Washington Post story I saw today: "If you think college basketball is only about glamour teams, then this kind of season isn’t for you. If you really love the game, not just the names, this season’s been fabulous. Gonzaga number one? I’ll take that every day over a bunch of pros-in-training dominating at Kentucky or any of the other factories."
So many things to hate in that paragraph. God. While college basketball is great, the people who love college basketball more than any other sport are generally the absolute worst. Can't wait till Gonzaga loses in the second round this year.
Miami is winning it all.
Full bracket here:
And ... Yep!
We're going with Miami.
Hurricanes-Hoosiers should be the best game of the tournament if they both make it that far, but I'm rolling with Shane Larkin, who's basically the perfect undersized, shoot-first college point guard who you eventually come to recognize as pure evil.
He lit up the ACC all year long, and paired with a solid senior guard (Durand Scott) and a solid, deep frontcourt, Miami's every bit as loaded as Indiana, only with less pressure. (This is what I'm telling myself. Just nod like it all makes sense.)
Elsewhere: Michigan State beats Duke in the Midwest because we will never ever root for Duke to win anything meaningful, and then Izzo and co. also beat Louisville because Louisville is totally screwed. Ohio State wins a West regional full of terrible teams, but only because I was too scared to pick New Mexico. Georgetown wins the South region in my bracket even though they'll probably get upset in the second round and I'd rather pick Michigan. I specifically avoided picking UNC to the Final Four because they're my favorite team and there's already enough working against them this year even without my jinx.
But yes: Miami will shock everyone and win the National Title and then Rick Ross will invite the entire team to dinner to celebrate.
"A yo Bullfrog. 8 o clock. 15 people. Make it sexy. Champs in the building."
Then the night will end with Jim Larranaga at King of Diamonds with Rick Ross and Barry Larkin, and if you can't root for that, then I don't know what to tell you.
MAKE IT SEXY, MIAMI.