Like this is going to be about anything else
Whoever said, “you can’t always get what you want” was obviously a college basketball fan. The NCAA Tournament is the single most mind-numbingly painful experience for me when it comes to sports, and for one reason: I’m almost never right.
I offer the disclaimer right off the bat that I stink at filling out NCAA Tournament brackets. See, right there is proof. I just made a baseball reference while talking about college hoops.
But here goes. Today on “The List,” my woeful, pitiful and unenviable attempt at telling you who’s going up, who’s going down and who’s ready to burst onto the national scene:
Best first-round game: The Butler-LSU matchup not only looks good, it smells good, too. The Bulldogs took out Northwestern and Xavier and lost to Ohio State by four in the regular season. What happened to the Tigers after they began the season with 12 wins in 13 games? March happened. LSU has lost three of its last four and all to teams that weren’t that impressive. That extra spice you taste is overtime and a Butler trip to the round of 32.
Biggest surprise: Clemson or Michigan. Take your pick. Assuming Oklahoma or Syracuse advance in the bottom of the South bracket, either of those teams will get all they can handle. Clemson stinks like grandpa’s house slippers lately, but a win over the Wolverines would take the confidence level out of the atmosphere. Michigan, on the other hand, has an advantage right from the jump—almost no one acknowledges they were able to beat Duke, Illinois, Penn State, Minnesota and UCLA.
Biggest disappointment: How about Washington wasting that No. 4 seed in the West after a Mississippi State upset? I don’t see how the Huskies will handle the length of the Bulldogs’ defenders, especially shot blocker extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado. But if this turns into a shootout, Washington will laugh into the second round.
Hype you shouldn’t believe: VCU over UCLA. Let’s not read too much into the regular season, people. Fact is, Eric Maynor is asked to do too much for VCU. UCLA has five players that score 8.5 points or more per game. VCU has three, including Maynor’s team-leading 22.4. Not exactly what I want to see from my point guard in March.
Cinderella: The most likely candidate here is Siena. I think the Saints will beat Ohio State in the first round, which means a matchup with Louisville is all but assured. Call me crazy, but I’m not too impressed with the Cards. A team of their caliber that loses to UNLV at home and Western Kentucky on a neutral court raises my eyebrow, and not in a good way.
National champs: Memphis. Any team that can play defense that well, spreads out its scoring evenly and was in the big game a year ago gets my seal of approval. Let’s just hope John Calipari uses his time outs wisely.
– George L. Jones is a guest columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.