Sports Couple's March Madness picks
In case you missed part one of our March Madness preview, "How to win YOUR pool", check it out here.
Today the Sports Couple talks picks for the 2012 tournament. Without further ado, our upsets, teams we like, teams we hate, and our Final Four predictions.
The best part of March Madness is the inevitable string of upsets and the equally inevitable Cinderella run that comes to a crashing halt in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8. With that in mind, here are our top three consensus upset picks for this year’s tourney.
North Carolina State: NC State Calyn's sleeper pick to win it all (see below), so I definitely have them beating San Diego State in their first game. The Wolfpack were up and down this year and struggled against top teams – they did not beat a ranked team all season. The good news is that SDSU is a weak #6 with a weak schedule and almost no quality wins. Playing in the ACC has more than prepared NC State to knock off the Aztecs. Another good stat: NC State had 12 losses all season – 8 of them to ranked opponents.
New Mexico State: They are an athletic team going up against a bad road team in Indiana. Indiana is without its top bench player in Verdell Jones and, after starting the season 15-1, the Hoosiers closed out with a 10-7 mark in their last 17.
Belmont:: Yeah, we know, another clichéd upset. Four reasons why we like Belmont: 1) Georgetown has suspect perimeter defence and Belmont can shoot the three. 2) Georgetown went 4-5 down the stretch. 3) Georgetown has lost to a double digit seed in each of the last two tournaments. 4) Belmont is under seeded, Georgetown is over seeded. ESPN’s computer simulation gives Belmont a 30 percent chance to win. Not bad odds for a 14-3 matchup.
Top seeds in trouble:
Calyn: Syracuse is the more likely #1 to flame out early now they are without Fab Melo, but the loss of Branden Dawson is equally damaging to Michigan State. The Spartans look vulnerable and I could see them losing in the second round to Memphis. Even if they survive an early scare I don’t see much hope of them beating Missouri. Their propensity to lose to top teams (North Carolina, Duke, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State) is an ominous sign with the Tigers lurking.
Nolan: Agree with everything Calyn said above, though I find it really hard to go against Tom Izzo. Also, I am a little worried about Kentucky’s youth: two starting freshman, two starting sophomores. Teams with too much youth can get rattled easily. Both MSU and Kentucky have tough 2nd round matchups waiting for them.
Let’s take a closer look at the number two seeds. Outside of Ohio State, I’m not sold on any of the two seeds making it to the final four. I really want to take Mizzou but small four guard teams never seem to make it. Counterbalancing my fear of four guard teams, Mizzou is number one ranked in Kenpom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency – six of the last seven NCAA winners were ranked one or two (Kentucky is two). Duke is too small and too reliant on the three ball, and Kansas lacks depth. Admittedly, Ohio State faces a tough matchup in the sweet 16 against Florida State.
Sleeper to win it all:
Calyn: NC State I would like to pick Marquette but I think they are going to lose to a more talented Missouri squad. That leaves me picking North Carolina State as my sleeper-du-jour. As I wrote above, I like the Wolfpack to dispatch an overrated San Diego State in their first game. Their likely next match up is Georgetown, another winnable game. The next round is where it gets interesting for this sleeper pick. In the Regional Semis they will likely face Kansas. As you will see in my Final Four picks below, I have Kansas making it to New Orleans, but if Kansas is going to lose before the Final Four I think it will be against NC State. If they can pull off the upset then I like their chances against UNC. They lost all three against the Tarheels this season, but the margin of victory shrunk each time, culminating in a tough two-point loss in the ACC Tournament.
Nolan: Wichita State: Yeah, I’m on the bandwagon, along with every other NCAA prognosticator. Four starting seniors (including a senior starting backcourt) and a seven foot big man is a recipe for success in the tournament. I’m a little worried about Shaka Smart and VCU, but Wichita has way more talent. If Kentucky goes down to Uconn and Indiana loses to New Mexico State, Wichita State will cruise to the Elite Eight.
Calyn’s Final Four picks:
Some years it just makes sense to pencil in the top four seeds into the Final Four. This is not one of those years. The only #1 seed I have in the Final Four is Kentucky, and they will be in tough against Duke in the South Regional Final. As for the other three, I don’t see any of them making it (although UNC would not totally surprise me).
Missouri: In the West, I don’t see Michigan State beating Missouri. The Tigers start four seniors and although they are on the small side, they have great chemistry and don’t turn the ball over. They will lose the board battle against Michigan St., but I see them hitting enough 3s to send the Spartans packing.
Kansas: The Midwest is going to come down to the top two teams. It would be easy to pick #1 UNC to prevail over Kansas, but I like the Jayhawks to take this one on the back of Tyshawn Taylor, who I expect to have a big game in the Regional Final.
Florida State: Florida State knocked off #2 Notre Dame in last year’s tournament, and look poised to make some noise again this year. They beat Duke and UNC twice this season including wins over both in the ACC tournament. The Seminoles are lucky to find themselves in an East Region that is home to two vulnerable top seeds. The loss of Fab Melo will be too much for Syracuse to overcome. Ohio State is inconsistent and I expect them to lose a close one to Florida State in the Regional Semifinals.
Kentucky: I like Kentucky to come out of the South. I don’t think it will be easy for the Wildcats, a tough Regional Final match up with Duke could derail their National Championship ambitions, but I see their superior talent pushing them through on their way to a national title.
Kentucky: As stated above, I am nervous about this selection. I won’t be taking Kentucky to win it all in my bracket because too many other competitors in my pool will have Kentucky – and I just don’t see them as a heads and tails favourite. If they make it by UConn in the 2nd round, Kentucky should coast to the finals.
Missouri: Probably the most skilled team in the tournament, they should be a number one seed ahead of Michigan State. They’ve got four seniors and a great up tempo offense. On talent alone, they’ll beat Marquette in the Sweet 16, and face MSU in the Elite Eight.
Ohio State: Their road to the final four just got a lot easier with the loss of Syracuse’s Fab Melo. Florida State will be a stiff challenge for OSU in the Sweet 16. If William Buford and Aaron Craft can knock down some outside shots, Ohio State makes it to the Final Four.
North Carolina My pick to win it all. 2nd in the nation in points per game, 4th in assists and 1st in rebounds. They’ve got size, depth and leadership. A sweet 16 matchup against Kansas 100 miles away from the Kansas campus is scary, but I just can’t get by Kansas’s lack of depth outside their starting five. I’m picking UNC to win it all because too many brackets have Kentucky. I would rather try to beat out five guys in my pool that have UNC to win, over 25 that have Kentucky.
That's it. We're probably wrong, but if we aren't we'll bring up our amazing prognostication for years to come. Enjoy the tournament.