One of the the things that always burns my brownies as a host is when people hold you to opinions/statements you previously made when new information has revealed something different. This happens every year when people fill out their brackets – they feel beholden to these selections for a three week period.
Not me. With what we’ve gathered in the tournament’s first week, I present to you my highly educated, never doubted (yeah, right) Sweet 16 selections.
1. Stanford over Dayton – Dayton comes with a great story, Stanford comes from a great basketball conference. In the end, I think Stanford is more battle-tested.
2. Wisconsin over Baylor – the classic style vs. substance game. No hating on Baylor, as they are the flavor of the month, but nothing beats a delicious classic – Wisconsin is like a good vanilla bean ice cream – not flashy, but fundamentally sound, and reliable. Badgers win.
3. Florida over UCLA – Nine of the past ten NCAA Champions have at least one NBA first round pick. The Gators have none. UCLA may have as many as three. Uh-oh. Marc’s alma mater, the University of Florida, survives, but does so in screechingly close fashion.
4. Arizona over San Diego State – in a year with outstanding Sweet 16 matchups, this one leaves something to be desired. It features the largest point spread (‘Zona by 7.5), and since the Wildcats beat the Aztecs in San Diego earlier this year, I’m supposed to believe this will be different on a neutral court? Nope.
5. Michigan over Tennessee – If these were picks based on confidence ratings, I’d have the least of it in this game. I really have no idea how this will play out. Tennessee’s been dominant in the tournament, but they really haven’t beaten anyone of note. To me, Michigan reigning of champion of the Big Ten, perhaps the best conference in college basketball this season, counts for something.
6. Uconn over Iowa State – Look, Iowa State is a Final Four team in my bracket – I’m making the change here because their most gifted offensive player, Georges Niang, broke his foot in the tournament. It should be considered a referendum on the state of UNC basketball and a great tribute to the Cyclones that they got by the Tarheels without him. Shabazz Napier is the real deal for the Huskies, and he’ll be too much for the boys from Aimes.
7. Louisville over Kentucky – by double digits. People are talking about Kentucky like they’re a #1 seed now. They’re not. Kentucky was, in fact, underseeded, but Wichita State was over-seeded. The Gators beat UK by 19 points 19 days ago. Louisville might be, on paper, the best team in this tournament. The Cardinals make a statement, not just for themselves, but also highlight the gap between the height of college basketball and the likes of Kentucky and Wichita State.
8. Virginia over Michigan St. – Isn’t it something that in this tournament, I almost feel as though I need to APOLOGIZE for taking a one seed over a four? Michigan State went 6-7 over a six week stretch from late January to early March. And while they’re now healthy, I’m not as impressed as everyone else. Harvard – HARVARD, was tied with Sparty late in the game last Saturday. Virginia’s defense is the difference, and they shock the world with a win, however insulting that is to say given their seed.