by Mark Pearsall
Sports fans across our country and around the globe look forward to March for one reason: the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This tournament brings all races, genders, and religions together for 18 days of gambling, watching TV, and heartbreak, as a Cinderella team gets dropped in the second round.
I have been a fan of college basketball and its culminating tournament for as long as I can remember. Filling out brackets on Selection Sunday night has been as much a Pearsall family tradition as celebrating Christmas and watching 24. While there were a couple of teams I thought should not have made the tournament, after years of watching, you have to know that nothing is ever as it seems. So I’ll run down the bracket and let you know what teams I liked and don’t liked. Then I’ll provide a little after-tournament look at my picks and see how they worked out.
As of March 16th, 2010
Right/Wrong As of April 5th, 2010
Teams I Like
1. #9 Seed- Northern Iowa: This team is all heart, with 9 players from Iowa, they are a hometown team with guts. They play fundamental ball, with shooters surrounding big man Jordan Egsleder. It’s a shame they are matched up with Kansas in the second round. UNI and Ali Farokhmanesh upset the overall #1 seed Kansas ruining brackets across the country but also giving us the first defeat of a #1 seed at that time.
2. #2 Seed- Ohio State: Forward Evan Turner leads this hot team into the tournament looking to prove he is the best player in the country. While this team lacks depth, Turner can carry the load with ease. Lack of depth hurt the Buckeyes who were handled by Tennessee with ease.
1. #11 Seed- Minnesota: I have a sick obsession with this team, in one of my brackets I have them making a Final Four run. Even after getting murdered by Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament Final, they had to beat Michigan State and Purdue to get there. A first round exit for Minnesota ended my dream to pick the next George Mason.
2. #1 Seed- Syracuse: After a second round exit in the Big East Tourney, the Orange caught some flak and many have picked an early exit for Cuse who are without center Arinze Onuaku for the first game. I think their tough zone will boggle out of conference teams that are not familiar with it. The Orange could have used Onuaku as they fell to Butler.
1. #5 Seed- Temple: Led by point guard Juan Fernandez, this team, who has beaten Villanova, Virginia Tech and Seton Hall, has proven they can play and beat the big conference teams. Temple was beaten in the first round by Cornell who made a Sweet Sixteen run.
2. #11 Seed- Washington: I love watching Washington play. The second coming of Nate Robinson is Isaiah Thomas, while Quincy Pondexter takes the role of Brandon Roy. Although they won a tournament in a weak conference, their playmakers can win games for them. The Huskies beat Marquette, then beat New Mexico, but couldn’t pull it together for West Virginia.
1. #9 Seed- Louisville: I like Louisville for one reason, and that is their potential. This team is an on and off as any team I can remember. They have beaten Syracuse twice. They were also embarrassed by the lowly St. John’s squad and Marquette. From I have them doing, I need the giant-killers to show up. First round exit for the Cardinals, another Big East team who I overrated.
2. #4 Seed- Purdue: When second-leading scorer Robbie Hummel tore his ACL, most considered them a much worse team, and I agree. They are going to play Siena, Texas A&M, Louisville/Duke, and onto an Elite Eight matchup against faulty Villanova, Notre Dame or Baylor who none of I like. A trip to the Sweet Sixteen is good for a team many had losing Siena.
Teams I Don’t Like
1. #5 Seed- Maryland: The Greivis Vasquez Show will go no farther than the second round as Kalin Lucas and Michigan St. will shut down the Venezuelan POTY candidate. I was right Michigan State would beat them, except it was Korie Luscious who hit the game winning three for the Spartans.
2. #6 Seed- Tennessee: After beating Kentucky in the regular season, they faced them again in the SEC tournament and were run out of the gym. I don’t think this team can make it past the second round. One shot away from the Final Four.
1. #3 Seed- Pittsburgh: Although they made it to the Elite Eight last year, Pitt has a history of early exits. They will lose to Xavier/Minnesota. A loss to Jordan Crawford and Xavier cemented the Panthers as perennial March stinkers.
2. #2 Kansas St.: I don’t really have a good reason. Just a feeling. Um. Went to the Elite Eight, couldn’t handle Butler, can’t really say I was right, can’t really say I was wrong, though. I’m just going to put red because I’m too lazy to change it to blue.
1. #6 Seed- Marquette: This team was so underrated, it got overrated. This Big East team won’t make a run. If Lazar Hayward gets shut down, there is no one else that can step up and take over a game. Darius Johnson-Odom is a good shooter, but not some one who can slash and draw a foul down the stretch of a tough game. Lost to Washington in the first round.
2. #4 Seed Wisconsin: I haven’t really watched them play, and all I have seen of highlights is Jason Bohannon hitting three’s and Trevon Hughes hitting circus shots. They are playing Wofford, is a potential Cinderella team, and will be matched up with Temple/Cornell who are equally tough. Lost to Cornell in first round.
1. #1 Seed- Duke: Duke hasn’t made a run in the tournament since ‘Nam and they have rough competition in the region that would make a walk to the Final Four a hard journey. Louisville might pull this off, and if they don’t Baylor or Villanova will take care of the Blue Devils. They kind of won the whole tournament.
2. #5 Seed- Texas A&M: Despite a strong finish to the season, Donald Sloan will have to do everything for the Aggies because they have no other players that have the guts or talent to step up in the national spotlight. Lost to Purdue in second round.
The National Championship Game
When Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave clanked off the rim to end the national championship game, everyone watching lost a piece of his soul. The Butler Bulldogs, who stole the hearts of basketball fans across the country, fell a few inches short of a miraculous national championship victory.
So although the greatest tournament in recent memory ended on the night of the 5th, we can look forward to more Butler next year and hopefully another mid-major (that the casual fan doesn’t know about) will come along and make a run at the championship. Who will it be? Northern Iowa? Dayton? Butler again? We will have to pray that the tournament doesn’t expand to 96 teams, letting the UNC’s and UCONN’s of the world come in and burst everyone’s bubble.
Hopefully everyone cherished the baby-faced Gordon Hayward (looking fresh out of Forrestdale) sink his threes, Shelvin Mack cutting to the basket quicker than a top NBA recruit, or Ali Farokhmanesh pulling up on a fast break and stabbing Jayhawk nation with a dagger-sharp three, because those days may be nearing an end due to tournament expansion. Until then, the country stands still for another year as we wait for next March to come around.