Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Basketball Time

So the time has come to turn our attention once again to college basketball. I understand that many of the people who read this blog do not care about the NCAA tournament, for reasons which are incomprehensible to me. The NCAA tournament is the single greatest sporting event in the world. If everything on television were immediately removed in favor of constant airing of every NCAA basketball tournament since 1960, I would be overjoyed.

It amazes me that there are people who like the olympics, which contain some interesting events but which are largely boring and idiotic, yet do not like NCAA basketball. College hoops has everything you could ever want - ridiculously talented athletes, regular guys having the game of their lives, dominant teams dominating, underdogs defying all expectations, down-and-out players triumphing over personal adversity, backstories with coaches who are friends or who openly despise each other, the list goes on and on and on.

So here now I will tell you exactly what is going to happen in this tournament. I save this post until now because I don't want any of you to be able to use this in your pool sheets and possibly win money. In a perfect world I would be the only person who won money in any NCAA pool, so I don't give out my analysis until after the first game tips off (which it did about 3 minutes ago.)

This year we have an unusually flat field, which is going to make for some interesting upsets. But contrary to what people believe, it does not mean we are likely to see a repeat of last year where Alabama, an 8 seed, went so deep into the tourney. I in fact do not expect any double-digit seed to make it past the sweet sixteen, and I am very confident that the only team seeded higher than 4 that has any shot at making the semifinal is Georgia Tech.

Why is this? It's because of the Greatest Swordsman principle laid out by Mark Twain in Connecticut Yankee. A great team actually has more to fear from an extremely limited team than they do from a really good team. This may seem idiotic, and maybe it is, but I think you'll see this truth play out this year.

We also have a somewhat unusual situation this year in that many of the teams that did great last year are returning the same or virtually the same team this year. This list includes Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State along with lasts year's cinderella UAB. Of these, only UAB will not repeat the performance from last year. The reason is because their secret weapon - a deeply weird set of twins - has been destroyed by an injury to twin #1. They're still a tough team but they won't get past LSU.

A couple of very overrated teams you shouldn't have going as deep as you do - Arizona, Boston College, and Louisville.

Arizona just beacuse I went through a couple-year stretch in the 90's where I always bought the Arizona hype and it always wound up busting me. Then one year I decided to get wise and picked them to lose in the second round - they won it all. So now I have a hard and fast rule that I pick Zona to go to the Sweet Sixteen and then lose. Since I adopted that rule I have cashed in at least one tournament pool for four years running.

BC is just not that good. They dominated early and faded late, and they may well lose in the first round to Penn. I have them losing in the second round to my cinderella 12, Wisconsin-Milwaukee. An interesting point here about my Upset Theory - I know nothing at all about Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The reason I have them in the 16 is that they face two vulnerable favorites. Look back through most brackets and you'll find that the upsets usually happen because a seed turns out to be weak, not because the underdog turns out to be really good. UAB and Alabama last year were exceptions, but only just barely. Perhaps you could say the rule doesn't apply to underdogs from Alabama. I say it was a fluke.

Louisville is a team that is highly touted because they are coached by Rick Pitino and because they won their conference, which is considered a major conference. But CUSA is actually a second-tier conference, and Louisville doesn't deserve their high seeding. They may well lose in the first round, and I don't even remember who they are playing. They aren't solid.

A couple of underrated teams that despite being underrated are going to lose in the first round - UPAC, UCLA.

This happens every year - it's a logical consequence of the above rule. UPAC is a push seed (the 8-9 games are usually a push, and often the 9 is stronger) where they should have gotten more credit and wound up with a winnable game in the first round. Unfortunately they are playing against an underachieving Pitt team that is probably going to blow them off the court. It's really rare that a team doesn't show up for the first round of the NCAA tourney, and that's the only way Pitt loses this game - they're too talented.

UCLA is another really good team that somehow wound up seeded 11th, even though their conference produced a 1-seed with a somewhat questionable resume. This is unfair, but unfortunately for UCLA the team they are playing (Texas Tech) is not vulnerable. A lot of people expect Texas Tech to lose because Bobby Knight is the coach and his teams usually choke in the tournament. That's an interesting theory, but it's wrong. For years Bob Knight's teams were overseeded because they were coached by Bob Knight. Now that he's out of favor with sportwriters that trend is going to stop.

Anyway, the games are well underway now, so I'm going to finish this up and go grab some lunch somewhere where I can watch scores come in. For those who are interested I have Oklahoma State beating Kentucky in the final.

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