Friday, March 19, 2010

Night 2: Put on Your Red Shoes and the Dance the Blues

For all you 9-to-5ers, the sweet release of quitting time is upon us. The TPS reports have been filed. The last of the sickly sweet but irresistibly free K-cup coffee has been drank. You should be home on the couch or at the nearest happy hour establishment when the evening tilts tip off. With those games in mind, here's a preview of all the other games that you won't be able to watch while CBS is stuffing No. 1 seeds down your face.

I haven't gone back and tabulated the results from today. Perhaps because I know that I didn't rock anyone's socks off with my picks. Just like yesterday, not bad but certainly nothing to brag about. Had I done better, sweeping the afternoon, then the bragging would have gone...



West Region
No. 9 Florida State Seminoles (22-9, ACC)
No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-6, WAC)
7:10 P.M. EST
HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY

Last year's Toney Douglas-led FSU club was a No. 5 seed but was upset by Wisconsin in the first round*. Douglas was then drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in order to be sold to the New York Knicks. After showing a few flashes of promise early in the season, Douglas feel off the deep end of the depth chart for months. But he's gotten some big-time playing as of late. Coach Mike D'Antoni finally pulled the plug on the wheezing Chris Duhon era and quickly realized that there was not ever going to be a Sergio Rodriguez era. And, sort of by default, Douglas is starting for the Knickerbockers tonight at the Garden when they face off with the 76ers.

If Douglas was not doing that, and was still playing with the Seminoles then I would pick them to advance past Mark Few's Gonzaga Bulldogs. He is not. And therefore I am not. In this couple the Zags are the major and the Noles are the bottom aspiring small program.'s Joe Lunardi: Florida State
SI's Seth Davis: Gonzaga
President Obama: Florida State
WWOD?: Gonzaga

*Badgers are vicious.

East Region
No. 16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions (18-15, SWAC)
No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (29-5, ACC)
7:25 P.M. EST
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL

I've previously written that I'd be disappointed, as a fan, if certain top seeds were knocked out early. I want to watch Evan Turner. I want to watch John Wall. I want to see Greivis Vasquez. One team that I wouldn't miss is Duke. This is the least novel point that I will make for as long as I can keep up this pace. Anyway, they'll be back on Sunday whereas I imagine most of the kids from Arkansas Pine-Bluff will be in church.


Midwest Region
No. 10 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (22-12, ACC)
No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys (22-10, Big 10)
7:15 P.M. EST
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

Speaking of teams not beating Duke, Georgia Tech seemed to finally get their act together in the ACC Tournament and even looked for a few minutes like they might have toppled Duke in the Final. The bold-faced name on this team is Derrick Favors, a freshman beast who will be plying his trade in the NBA this time next year. He's 6-10 and is learning how to play better and how to better control his body seemingly every minute that he's on the floor.

I think that old chestnut about freshmen not being "freshmen" when the postseason arrives holds true with Favors and I'm going to side with the momentum and NBA-ready talent over a Cowboys side that i admittedly don't know much about.'s Joe Lunardi: Oklahoma State
SI's Seth Davis: GT
President Obama: GT

Midwest Region
No. 12 New Mexico State Aggies (22-11, WAC)
No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (24-8, Big 10)
7:35 P.M. EST
Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA

My team-picking biases (that I am aware of) include a bias toward the Big East early and against the Big 10 (with one exception) as often as possible. I go in heavy for Arizona and UCLA but tend to go against the rest of the Pac 10. I'm a sucker for teams with NBA-ready players and for coaches that preach defense first. I also am in the bag for Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo (despite his conference affiliation).

Which is why I'm not going to root out reasons to pick against the Spartans. Without Goran Suton, this Spartans group can't hold a candle to last years runner-up. But with veteran point guard Kalin Lucas running the show on the floor and Izzo calling the shots from the bench there is no way that I'm going against them this early.'s Joe Lunardi: MSU
SI's Seth Davis: MSU
President Obama: MSU

West Region
No. 16 Vermont Catamounts (25-9, America East)
No. 1 Syracuse Orange (28-4. Big East)
9:55 P.M. EST
Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA

One of my younger brothers grew up playing ball with Vermont point guard Nick Vier. I remember him telling me about this kid years ago. This fact doesn't make me rate the Catamounts chances any better. It may even hurt them. There weren't a lot of NBA-ready players coming out of Franklin Lakes, NJ.

Even without injured big man Arinze Onauku, who is out with a quad injury, I just can't imagine that Vermont can hang with 'Cuse in this game. Because for all of the fuss about that quad, Big East Player of the Year Wes Johnson. That will be more than enough.

Tyler Coppenrath ain't coming through that door. TJ Sorrentine ain't coming through that door.'s Joe Lunardi: Cuse
SI's Seth Davis: Cuse
President Obama: Cuse
WWOD?: Orange

South Region
No. 9 Louisville Cardinals (20-12, Big East)
No. 8 California Bears (23-10, Pac 10)
9:57 P.M. EST
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL

In most years, I would just pencil in any Pitino-coached team into at least the second round. More often than not I'm advancing them straight to the Sweet 16. But not this year. Because I'm deferring to another of my unshakeable biases and adding a new one to the menagerie.

My recency bias is kicking into gear since I saw L'Ville play at the Big East Tournament last week. And that was the most recent game that I saw n person. They were out-hustled by a raw Cincinnati squad and the best thing that I can say about the Cardinals is that Rick Pitino's suit looked terrific. The pocket square perfectly complimented his tie.

Other than that, I was surprised to see a Pitino team that wasn't the aggressor. Cincinnati controlled the boards down the stretch and played with far more energy. Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson even threw a stiff arm at a Cards player as he drove the floor and nothing happened other than a foul being called. Despite the best efforts of eighth-year point guard Edgar Sosa, the Cards were dispatched by the Bearcats, which means I don't see how they can overcome a group of Bears.

Also affecting my decision to go with the Pac 10 champs is that my girlfriend is from Berkeley.'s Joe Lunardi: Cal
SI's Seth Davis: Louisville
President Obama: Louisville
WWOD?: Cal

Midwest Region
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara Guachos (20-9, Big West)
No. 2 The Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7, Big 10)
10:04 P.M. EST
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

When sizing up Ohio State's chances to cut down the nets there is one glaring weakness on this team: Depth.

Superstar point forward Evan Turner (one of those guys that I don't want to say goodbye to just yet), Billy Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty each play at least 33 minutes per game for a team that won it's ballgames by an average of more than 11 points. Thad Motta doesn't have a lot of faith in the bench and a deep opponent or foul trouble could spell doom down the road. Repeat: Down the road.

EVERYONE: The Ohio State

Midwest Region
No. 13 Houston Cougars (19-15, Conference USA)
No. 4 Maryland Terrapins (23-8, ACC)
10:36 P.M. EST
Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA

While watching the final regular-season meeting between the Terps and the Dukies, I was obviously impressed with Greivis Vasquez. He made off-balance runner after after off-balance runner to claim the win, and a share of the ACC regular-season title, for Maryland. But I already knew the Venezuelan was good.

What made me think this team could do some damage in the Dance was the moment when freshman center Jordan Williams grabbed an offensive rebound over Duke's senior center Brian Zoubek and broke a late tie with the put back. That bucket opened my eyes to this team.'s Joe Lunardi: Maryland
SI's Seth Davis: Maryland
President Obama: Maryland
WWOD?: Fear the Turtle

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