Thursday, March 19, 2009

Midafternoon Games

No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers (25-9, Big 10)
No. 12 Northern Iowa Panthers (23-10, Missouri Valley)
Portland, Orgeon
2:30 P.M. EST

Just as you're sobering up from your illicit lunch beer, we've got a 5/12 game featuring a team out of the little-thought of Big 10. Upset alert, right? Meh. These Northern Iowa Panthers are no Wildcats. And, by Wildcats, I don't mean hoopcats I mean 2008 Davidson Wildcats, who went all the way to the Elite Eight last year. The Panthers got hot after a slow start (and were co-champs of the MVC regular season with Creighton) but still needed to win the MVC Tournament - topping Illinois State in OT - to assure themselves a place in the CBS Invitational (Creighton, with a better overall record, didn't get in).

The Boilermakers topped Illinois (who, if my math is correct, is better than Illinois State) to reach the title game of the Big 10 tourney. They lost to Ohio State in a close game, but still earned an at-large bid. They were runner up in the regular season to Michigan State, who they did beat once this year. They also beat Boston College (and Ohio State and a bunch of other Big 10 also-rans). And they went to overtime with Oklahoma. But, it's that win over BC - which I witnessed at Madison Square Garden during an early-season tournament - that is probably pushing me the Purdue way. Normally, I pick against the Big 10 when filling out a bracket. I believe in that strongly. Against long-held Big 10 prejudices, I'm going to tap Purdue to fight off the upset-minded Panthers and their big 7-1 center. They've got the superior wing players and have far more experience.

According to, the No. 12 seed edged the No. 5 seed in 13 of 32 games since 2001. Another way to look at this is to say that the No. 5 seed has won 19 out of 32 times. I'm a glass half full sort of guy. Especially when that glass is half full of beer and and contains a shot of whiskey.

No. 1 University of North Carolina Tar Heels (28-4, ACC)
No. 16 Radford Highlanders (21-11, Big South)
Greensboro, North Carolina
2:50 P.M. EST

Apparently the Highlanders have a 6-10 center of Belarusian extraction. His name is Artsiom. That's his first name. He'll be battling America's (non-Tebow) golden child Tyler Hansbrough in the paint. Few things would make me happier (today) than Arty taking over this game and going for 25 and 20 (he averages 16 and 11). I don't anticipate this happening, though. Just like I don't anticipate many things that could make me happy today happening.

No. 1 University of Connecticut Huskies (27-4, Big East)
No. 16 University of Tennessee - Chattanooga Mocs (18-16, Southern)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
3:00 P.M. EST

The big news pertaining to this game is that UConn coach (and noted altruist) Jim Calhoun was rushed to a hospital today. He won't be coaching the Huskies this afternoon. Still, I don't think if Artsiom Parakhouski was called upon to coach UConn, sans translator, that Chatanooga could take these guys. The Mocs entered the Southern Conference tournament with a sub .500 record. The Huskies, meanwhile, have the best paint presence in the nation (but not the best shot-blocker, that's Mississippi State's Varnado) and four players scoring 13+ points per game. Maybe if UT- Chattanooga comes out 5 for 6 from behind the arc (if this were to happen it would probably be thanks to 5-11 senior guard Stephen McDowell, who shoots 43% on three-pointers) and things get a little harried right away then Calhoun's absence could become a problem. Maybe. Otherwise, I think not. Huskies advance.

No. 7 University of California Bears (22-10, Pac-10)
No. 10 University of Maryland Terrapins (20-13, ACC)
Kansas City, Missouri
3:00 P.M. EST

Ah, finally something worth really considering. As I mentioned earlier, going away from the Big 10 (just not today) is something I do this time of year. It's one of my bracket strategies. Just like siding with senior guards and experienced coaches when possible. And not putting too much faith in hoopsters from Belarus. Another strategy is follow the best players, at least through Round 1. And Maryland's General Greivis Vasquez the best player in this game. He recently registered a triple double in an upset win over UNC. He can win this game for his team. Unfortunately, if he doesn't win this game for his team then his team won't win this game. I'll pick Maryland in more brackets than I'll pick the Bears. Technically this would be an upset, but it's hard to think of a 20-win ACC team really being that much of an underdog on the first day.

UPDATE: WWOD is still perfect on picks through seven games. And has officially put the kibosh on later selections.

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