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2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Picks

Posted by sportsmaven on March 19, 2009

Three hours until tip off of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Today launches two of the most unproductive work days of the year.  I’ve already completed and posted my women’s picks yesterday.  The men’s bracket is more of a challenge.  In the women’s game, the difference between the best and worst teams is much greater than in the men’s game. That fact makes the men’s brackets more difficult to choose, as more teams have a chance to upset higher seeded teams.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There are really four strategies you can follow in doing your brackets.  The first strategy is just to pick the higher seed and let the lesser teams get washed out and separated.  There are always going to be upsets, but how do you decided which high seed is vulnerable?  You don’t.  Let the law of averages rule overrule luck.

The second strategy is to pick which teams will be upset in which rounds.  Play the hot hand, requires some working knowledge of which teams are peaking going into the tournament and which teams are upstart enough to engineer an upset.

The third strategy is to find an expert’s brackets and choose those picks.  The ESPN experts picks.  Leverage their knowledge and exposure to the game to make your picks.  You might even do well with this strategy if you want to win the office basketball pool.  It’s not sexy, nor a challenge, but it seems better than the last strategy – what I call the women’s pick.  Pick by favorite team, mascot names, colors, and allegiances.  This is the most random of all methods, but one that seems to produce a winner on rare occasion.  Even resourceful women ask their men to make their picks, but those who opt to make their own, good luck!

So, for those who exercise the choose the experts picks, here are my picks.  Good luck if you decide to use these picks.  If you win anything, I want my cut of the payout:

First round winners:

Midwest Region: Louisville, Ohio State, Arizona, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Kansas, USC, Michigan State

West Region: Connecticut, Texas A&M, Purdue, Washington, Marquette, Missouri, Maryland, Memphis

East Region: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Florida State, Xavier, UCLA, Villanova, Texas, Duke

South Region: North Carolina, LSU, Illinois, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Syracuse, Clemson, Oklahoma

Sweet 16: Louisville, Wake Forest, Kansas, Michigan State, Connecticut, Washington, Marquette, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Florida State, UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Oklahoma

Final 4: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, North Carolina

National Championship Game: Louisville vs. North Carolina

National Championship: Louisville

I wrestled back and forth between Louisville and North Carolina before choosing Louisville.  This is, perhaps, Rick Pitino’s best team at Louisville and they look poised for a run all the way.  I thought going into the tournament that the two teams that the biggest chips on their shoulders would be Louisville and Memphis.  The arguments against Memphis always starts and ends with their soft conference schedule.  I think Memphis is one of the 4 best teams in the country.  I just hope they prove me correct in this tournament.

There are the picks, and with more than an hour to spare.  Check back often, as I will update my progress after each round.

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Fighting Illini Put Up The Rock, But It Comes Down As Bricks

Posted by sportsmaven on March 17, 2009

On the eve of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the University of Illinois, the mood is cautiously optimistic, teetering on a miniscule bit of giddiness.  While the Illini have struggled all season with consistency and leadership, they have forged a very solid 24-9 record, with big wins over Purdue (twice), Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin, all ranked teams this season.

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Illini Coach Bruce Weber was named a finalist for the 2009 Jim Phelan National Coach if the Year Award, as well as witnessing the emergence of sophmores G Demetri McCamey, F Mike Davis and C Mike Tisdale.  The Illini secured a 5th seed in the South Region and was promptly dismissed by CBS basket ball analyst Clark Kellogg as the 5th seed most likely to be upset.

Defensively, the Illini have sparkled as a team, playing outstanding team oriented, in your face defense.  Of all the key statistics, defense is what propelled the Illini to a 8 game improvement in the win column from last season.  The Illni are 3rd in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 56.5 points per game, 7 pts./game less than last season.

Offensively, the team is roughly the same as last season, averaging 65 points per game, an abysmal 231st in the nation.  Their 60.2 pts./game in Big 10 play would put Illinois at 300th in the nation in scoring.

“These are the times that try men’s souls” is the phrase that seems to permeate from every ounce of Bruce Weber’s arm-waving, gyrating displays of encouragement, exclusively saved for McCamey and Davis.  It may be a lot to ask of men of such youth and greenness, but with the loss of senior G Chester Frazier due to a hand injury, McCamey, Davis and Tisdale must mature in a hurry.  They must mature in the most challenging of environments, the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The future starts on Thursday, March 19th at 9:55pm EST in Portland, Oregon where the new Fighting Illini tip off in their first round matchup against Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers.  With strong recruiting classes in 2009 and 2010, the big success of the Illini men’s basketball resides in the future, but on Thursday night, three sophmores begin laying the foundation of better things to come.

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