NCAA Picks and Logic, Day 2
Notable Picks, Day 2:
8 George Mason vs. 9 Villanova
Pick: George Mason
Logic: Mason was really tough this year, they had better athletes than a CAA team is supposed to have, and they won a tough CAA pretty handily in the regular season. Also, they were the favorite, as the 8 seed here. Villanova looked thoroughly unimpressive down the stretch, and this blog was convinced this trend was not reversible.
Result: George Mason, in a barnburner.
Hindsight: Again, seeing more CAA would have helped. This would have made the pick more educated, but Pun City probably would still have picked them. Villanova stinking down the stretch left too big of a stench to reasonably consider them, even though they looked tough early in the year. This pick was pretty well played, although Villanova played extremely well.
6 Xavier vs. 11 Marquette
Logic: Xavier looked pretty unstoppable in the A-10. They have a good system and also went deep into the tournament last year. They should have been used to playing high level opponents. Marquette looked alright down the stretch, needing to play their way into the tournament for the last month (and doing so). But they had major weaknesses and a knack for losing close games. Additionally, this blog figured lots of people would pick them in its pool, and this would be a chance to get a leg up.
Result: Marquette going away.
Hindsight: Marquette probably could have been supported by similar "consecutive important game" logic that Morehead State got. Also, Pun City forgot these two teams played last year (early), and Marquette won, against what was a better Xavier team. Granted, Marquette was better last year too, but in general the change in the two teams was comparable. Also, they both knew about each other, and theoretically MU knew more about XU since they had won the first meeting. The lesson is that a team playing well that had beaten the exact team with similar personnel recently should get picked.
7 Washington vs. 10 Georgia
Logic: It didn't take much more than Pun City thinks Mark Fox of Georgia is a horrible coach. He's a good recruiter, but within games he seriously struggles. That and he hasn't exactly risen to the occasion in the tournament lately. Beyond this, Pun City had seen Washington play a few games, and they were decent. For whatever reason, this blog had a lot of faith in the Pac-10 this year, despite not really seeing many games out west.
Result: Washington, in a very close game.
Hindsight: Georgia's talent kept them in this game, but Washington ultimately had better coaching. Pegged pretty well, although some definite anti-Fox bias thought that Washington would win more handily than actually occurred. For future reference, if it's not going to be a close game, don't pick against Georgia.
8 Michigan vs. 9 Tennessee
Logic: Tennessee had a lot of stinkers this year. Both teams have tough systems to prepare for on short notice; Michigan with their 1-3-1 zone and Tennessee with their uptempo offense and trapping defense. That said, John Beilein had made a great Elite 8 run with West Virginia, and while Bruce Pearl had gotten to the Sweet 16 with Milwaukee, this blog wasn't convinced that was any better. Basically the coaching matchup was a wash. What convinced Pun City to pick Michigan was that they had played very well down the stretch, and Tennessee was not impressive. The huge distractions Tennessee was dealing with (Bruce Pearl's probable upcoming firing) didn't help their cause either.
Result: Michigan in the biggest 8-9 blowout in history.
Hindsight: Tennessee's distractions were gigantic and ultimately got them crushed. Michigan was winning for most of the game, but not in blowout fashion until the second half. Huge distractions (player suspension, coach under investigation, player injuries) very overwhelmingly favor the opponent. Off the top of its mind, Pun City can think of Minnesota being under investigation, then losing to Gonzaga in the first round (roughly 2002?), this year's Tennessee team, St. John's losing DJ Kennedy this year, and a late injury affecting Purdue last season. Only Purdue was able to get out of the game with a win (and they somehow won two games, including one over a game Texas A&M team). If there's late negative news about a team, look for them to lose. (Another exception, though arguably not a fair comparison, is Purdue's suspension of Kelsey Barlow, but they had a 3 seed and were unlikely to lose, plus Barlow was replaceable, this blog would argue, as he was only playing 20 minutes a game - at any rate, Purdue won this year too). Maybe the rule should exclude Purdue, but only Purdue.
5 Arizona vs. 12 Memphis
Logic: Sean Miller is a very good coach in general. Arizona won a tough Pac-10, and had Marcus Williams, a probable lottery pick this year. Memphis is coached by Josh Pastner, who U of A passed up in the process of choosing Miller. This blog doesn't really know how good of a game coach Pastner is, but it is wont to believe that he must be at or below average, seeing as he is known for his recruiting. Conference USA wasn't too great this season, and Memphis didn't strike this blog as being particularly disciplined when this blog was able to watch them. Based on seeding, Memphis needed to win their conference tournament just to get in to the tournament, so that was another strike against them.
Result: Arizona in a barnburner.
Hindsight: Not sure what, if anything, can be learned from this. It might have helped to see some of the Conference USA tournament games. Memphis going in to UTEP to get that title probably should have struck this blog as more impressive than it did. Arizona maybe didn't play as well as their ceiling would dictate this year, but this blog doesn't feel like it saw enough of their games to make that judgment. Pun City had Memphis underrated and Arizona either properly rated or slightly overrated, but as it turned out, not enough to pay for it.
7 Texas A&M vs. 10 Florida State
Pick: Florida State
Logic: Pun City had seen Texas A&M about 5 times this year on TV, and they really did not impress very much. Outside of their Duke game, this blog hadn't seen Florida State too much. It was known that Florida State had a pretty high ceiling, so they were capable of good things if they showed up, but obviously to be a 10 seed, they had to have struggled some this year as well. The pick was definitely dictated by Texas A&M not having too high of a ceiling, as well as it seeming like a rebuilding year for them in this blog's opinion.
Result: Florida State in a close game.
Hindsight: This was fairly on point. One fact this blog didn't know until after the game was that FSU had not won in the tournament since 1998. It's unclear if prior knowledge of this would have changed Pun City's pick, as an argument could be made that they were overdue, or that they were doomed to lose. FSU certainly had better athletes than Texas A&M did, but Mark Turgeon coached them to within a few points of this game.
8 UNLV vs. 9 Illinois
Logic: UNLV was one of Wisconsin's few losses this season, and they had two top-10 teams in the Mountain West this season. Illinois was extremely inconsistent, Pun City believes not winning two games in a row over the last month and a half of the season. Even if Illinois's "good" team showed up, this blog didn't figure it was in danger of beating UNLV. The Rebels were likely to get a solid win.
Result: Illinois in a blowout
Hindsight: Whew, where to start here. First- UNLV hadn't won the Mountain West tournament on their home floor, so that should have been a red flag. (Primarily since they hadn't even finished 2nd). Second - UNLV was probably due for a loss in the first round, since they'd done better than expected during the last few tournaments. Third - While BYU and San Diego State were very good in their conference this year, UNLV hadn't actually beaten either of them, so that was some dumb logic in the first place. Illinois showed up with their good team, but Pun City is convinced that it hadn't thought through the UNLV evaluation well enough to deserve a win, even if Illinois's bad team showed up. This was a mistake in judgment, due to not reasoning out the UNLV evaluation thoroughly or accurately.
6 Georgetown vs. 11 Virginia Commonwealth
Logic: Two-pronged approach to the logic here. First, Georgetown just lost to Ohio University in a 3-14 upset last year, so they had to have learned from that, and it wouldn't happen again. Second, VCU had the short turnaround from Wednesday to Friday, needing to fly from Dayton to Chicago in between.
Result: Virginia Commonwealth, resoundingly.
Hindsight: The "it couldn't possibly happen two years in a row" argument fared very poorly this year. VCU benefited the way that Pun City had hoped that Clemson would benefit given the recent game, as opposed to Georgetown's one Big East game. John Thompson III, outside of his Final Four appearance, does not appear to be a good tournament coach. VCU came out of that tough CAA and had played meaningful games for a long period. An additional bonus, one to keep in mind, was that VCU was an 11 seed facing a 6 with the short turnaround, while Clemson was a 12 facing a 5. Low seed differential and keeping in game atmospheres (while GU did not) led to this win for VCU. Also there was probably a decent amount of the AAU "not intimidated" factor here, as VCU's guys were probably from the same areas that GU's guys came from.