So let's do asterisks:
*Siena gutted out an OT win to earn the automatic berth from the MAAC conference yesterday. Two of my aunts played basketball there, and I watched with one of them when the Saints beat Ohio State in double OT in the first round last year. They almost beat Louisville in the second round, too. So there's a little upstate flair...go Albany region!
*St. Mary's pissed off everyone on the bubble from a big conference by earning the automatic bid from the WCC. They took down Gonzaga, who will obviously have a spot in the tourney, and made life miserable for the Floridas of the world.
*A fun three-point shooting team from William & Mary fell to Old Dominion. Teams like these are always real exciting; they have no interior game at all, but they can go on sudden 10-15 point bursts just by nailing from long range. And it's somehow more fun because at least three of the players look like they should be Division 3 shooting guards. ODU smartly ran some kind of 4-1 zone and successfully closed out on the shooters all game, limiting the Tribe to 53 points. ODU: where fun goes to die. Even their name is boring and stodgy.
*I'm in a conference tournament pool this year, where you pick the brackets from the 6 major conferences, and I have to make my Big East picks today. They have a particularly complex system, where the top 4 seeds get a double bye, and the opening rounds with seeds 9-16 start today. So I've got to figure out who might between Cincinnati and Rutgers, or Seton Hall and Providence, and I admit I'm grasping at straws here. I'm much more comfortable making horrible picks with teams I've watched all year. Anyway, I thought I'd share my picks with you, conference by conference. This morning...THE BIG EAST!
I'm actually pretty comfortable with those first round games. Cincy-Rutgers is my only upset pick, and there's very little reasoning behind it...the Bearcats just strike me as the kind of team who are probably really athletic underachievers, and I can see them tanking here. Of course, this is based on my perception of them during the Huggins-era, and may be completely wrong now.
For the rest of the bracket, I'm riding the hot hands. I think Nova has taken some serious confidence hits of late, so I like Marquette to upset them in the quarters. G-Town has no shot against Syracuse, so that was an easy call. Notre Dame has been on fire lately, and now Harangody's back, so I'm calling them over Pitt. And Louisville has to be riding high after that Syracuse win, right? Pitino, much as I hate him, is a good tourney time coach. I think they'll get by WVU and Notre Dame, make the finals, and go down to Syracuse in the end.
*Speaking of which, every year I go up to Glens Falls to watch the New York boy's high school basketball championships. It's a family tradition. The place is humming with "real" basketball fans, by which I mean you can't spin clockwise without seeing a lot of obesity and sweatpants and nacho detritus. And no women. But it's a lot of fun, and even though loyalties are divided with regards to the high school teams, everyone in the place is a Syracuse fan. There's a huge dining hall with big screen tvs off one of the corridors for fans who want to see the college games, and when Syracuse plays, it's overflowing. Lots of orange, lots of hooting and hollering. This year, the tournament falls on the first weekend of the NCAA tourney, so it will be mayhem.
That being said, here's my great advice for all you NCAA bracket hounds. Syracuse won't be just a local favorite; they'll be a national doll. This is especially true if they win the Big East tourney. But if you've grown up rooting for the Orange like me, you understand that the only thing predictable about a postseason Jim Boeheim team is their unpredictability. They could easily win the title this year. A lot of people will pick them to do so, and with good reason. But success for the Cuse is not a sure thing. If you want to get a jump on the competition, pick the Orange to lose in the sweet 16. Nobody but nobody will pick them to go out before the final 4, but we're not talking about a team like Carolina from last year where a final 4 is virtually guaranteed. All it takes is one hot-shooting team to bust that zone up, and a cold night from the Orange, and voila, they're gone. You're taking a risk by picking them to lose, but if it pans out, you'll have a huge advantage. Especially over this girl:
*Last thing: I'm running a bracket pool this year, and it'll be pretty big. If you want in, whoever you be, let me know. Here's a feature I think I invented, but that I firmly believe should be in every madness pool: a $100 bounty for a 16-1 upset pick. Never happened before in history, and I think the first person to pick it should be rewarded. Does this open it up to idiots who want to spend 10 dollars to pick every 16-seed? Possibly. But we'll take their money.