Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pencils Down. Brackets to the Front of the Room.

No. 9 Butler Bulldogs (26-5, Horizon League)
No. 8 LSU Tigers (26-7, SEC)
Greensboro, North Carolina
12:20 P.M. EST

And, we’re off. Out to jump the opening tip of the opening game of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will likely be 6-11 Chris Johnson from LSU and 6-8 Matt Howard from Butler. It’s the 8/9 game, which means that there is no true upset here.

Butler has knocked off Xavier, Ohio State, UAB and Davidson this season and edged the Green Bay Phoenix and the Cleveland State Vikings for the Horizon league regular-season title. They were upset by Cleveland State in the conference tourney and entered the Big Dance thanks to an at-large bid. Any school that feels they should’ve been in the field of 65 should feel free to blame Butler for dropping that last game. The Bulldogs drubbed South Alabama in the opening round of last year’s tourney before coming up five points shy of Tennessee in the second round. The two top scorers from that team were seniors. I don’t know what they’re up to right now.

This dancing experience may be why Butler is only a 1.5-point underdog to the regular-season champs of the SEC. Like the Bulldogs, the LSU Tigers also lost in their conference tournament after sewing up their league’s regular-season crown. LSU’s best win is probably their road triumph at Tennessee. Looking over their schedule there aren’t too many marquee wins. And someone over at Sports Illustrated wrote that they mailed it in after clinching the SEC regular-season title. Nevertheless, I took the boys from the power conference in most brackets that I filled out. They play a lot of upper classmen and should have the horses (or Tigers) to win this one against Butler. And they’re better than Cleveland State. For sure.

No. 2 Memphis Tigers (31-3, Conference USA)
No. 14 Cal State Northridge Matadors (17-13, Big West)
Kansas City, Missouri
12:25 P.M. EST

The Matadors are getting 20 points in this game. And, I don't think that I can take them. This season the team's leading scorer was arrested for armed robbery, the senior point guard was in a car accident that killed someone else in his car, and the coach (whose son was also implicated in that robbery) was nearly killed in a separate traffic accident. They've got issues. Is this a what-doesn't-kill-us-makes-us-stronger group? Maybe. Probably. But I still don't think they're strong enough to knock off (and maybe not even to cover the spread) a 31-win Memphis club that thinks they should have been a No. 1 seed.

No. 8 Brigham Young Cougars (25-7, Mountain West)
No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies (23-9, Big 12)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
12:30 P.M. EST

These teams met in the opening round of the tourney last season. The Aggies won that mathcup. But here we are again. Weird. BYU is favored by 3 points this time around. The school is located in Provo, Utah. And composed of 98% Mormon students. Although I wouldn't be shocked if 76% of that non-Mormon 2% played on the basketball team, I can't pick a team whose out-of-bounds plays may have been revealed on a set of golden plates that was dug up somewhere in New York state during the nineteenth century. And, I'm not saying that isn't a perfectly reasonable way to uncover information. I'm just saying that the game has evolved so much. Right. Aggies are the pick.

UPDATE:All three WWOD picks are looking good as these three games head into their respective halftimes. The one surprise is the Matadors of Cal State Northridge. They trail by just three points, 34-31, to Memphis and look solid.

UPDATE #2: Butler is out the gates hard in the second half. They've got the lead, 44-43, from LSU.

UPDATE #3: WWOD is 3-0 in picks.

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