Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Flight Plan For Fly-Over Country

The WWOD? Preview of Today’s Game in the Midwest Regional

Since I've embraced the madness and made a self-diagnosis of my condition I figured that I need not be shy about the symptoms of my dementia. And, what shows off the mannerisms of my madness better than to add another tournament preview to the bonfire of unasked and unfounded prognostications? To put my late night ramblings into some context I’ve also included the pick from Vegas, the pick from noted college basketball blog Storming the Floor as well as the teams tapped by noted ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

#1 Kansas vs. #16 Portland State
Thursday at 12:25 PM EST in Omaha, NE
Vegas Kansas (-22.5)
Storming the Floor: Kansas
Joe Lunardi: Kansas
WWOD?: Bradley. Bucknell. Portland State? I don’t think so. Let’s say it all together now, “No 16 seed has ever beat a 1 seed in the history of the Tournament.” And, though Kansas has a history of flame-outs this time of year they also have history on their side. And, though I’m not entirely sold on this supremely talented but sometimes casual looking team to make it to San Antonio I do not think they could possibly go this early. In their own way, and it’s probably helped by the color scheme, they remind me of the Pistons. They can be so very, very good, perhaps even the very best when they are pressuring you and playing aggressively on offense, but sometimes you get the impression that they just don’t show up mentally.

#8 UNLV vs. # 9 Kent State
Thursday at 2:55 PM EST in Omaha, NE
Vegas: Kent State (-2)
Storming the Floor: UNLV
Joe Lunardi: Kent State
WWOD?: Talk about your classic 8/9 game! Both teams won their conference tournaments. Both teams have been recent tournament experience. Both teams play defense so it’s not contrast in styles. And the higher seed is giving points. I successfully picked UNLV to win two games last year beating Georgia Tech and then upsetting Wisconsin, but I feel like I shouldn’t push my luck with them this year. And though this is one where I will probably go both ways on from bracket to bracket, I feel like the location probably puts Kent State over the top in real life.

#6 USC vs. #11 Kansas State
Thursday at 7:10 PM EST in Omaha, NE
Vegas: USC (-3.5)
Storming the Floor:
Joe Lunardi: USC
WWOD?: And, here is grand-daddy of them all. This is the first round game that everyone is hyped about. It pits two of the best one-and-done freshman from one of the best one-and-done freshmen classes against each other. Mayo vs. Beasley. All the paper-prowess of this game means that it will probably be boring. Right? Since it is March and the unexpected is to be expected. And, if it were boring that means that USC would probably win because for K-State to win Beasley would likely have to go for 30 and 15, which wouldn’t, by definition, be boring to watch. I also saw USC play in person last year at the Meadowlands. They lost to UNC but they were so much better than their opponent. They dominated the first half and played the best team basketball that maybe I’ve ever seen. And, then they came out in the second half and it seemed like someone had slapped a cover over their rim. They missed every shot and then whiffed on every rebound. It was surreal and UNC seized the opportunity to take the game. Still, I remember how good USC looked and I think that swapping out Mayo for Nick Young (now a Wizard) means that they can’t be much worse. If anything, they may be even better this year. And, as much as I loved watching Beasley a month ago and think he is reason enough to take a flyer on K-State, I have a feeling that maybe Mayo uses this game and this tournament to rewrite the story of his one college season, where he was overshadowed by kids who he had overshadowed coming out of high school.

#3 Wisconsin vs. #14 Cal State, Fullerton
Thursday at 9:40 PM EST in Omaha, NE
Vegas: Wisconsin (-11.5)
Storming the Floor: Wisconsin
Joe Lunardi: Wisconsin
WWOD?: The Badgers are another team that I traditionally steer clear of (see last year’s correct pick of UNLV), but this isn’t the time or the place for such behavior. If they were playing baseball in sunny southern California then I would surely take Fullerton. However, they are playing basketball indoors and in the Midwest. Advantage Wisconsin.

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