NCAA Picks and Logic, Day 3
4 Kentucky vs. 5 West Virginia
Logic: Well, Pun City thought it'd be Clemson in this matchup, and Kentucky was way better than Clemson this year. That said, even with West Virginia in here, this blog would have chosen Kentucky. UK is super young, but they finished pretty high in the SEC, while West Virginia finished in the middle of the pack in the (admittedly strong) Big East. To an extent, Pun City thought that UK was just young and dumb enough not to know to lose this.
Result: Kentucky, in a close game.
Hindsight: Other than projecting the matchup wrong, this was a solid pick. Even with as young as Kentucky is, they have a lot of talent, and John Calipari has been using underclassmen the last few years, so he has increasing experience with this situation, and seems to be getting better at using those pieces correctly.
3 Connecticut vs. 6 Cincinnati
Logic: Both of these teams were from the Big East, and neither would be intimidated. Cincinnati only had to play 2 Big East Tournament games, so they wouldn't be as worn out as UConn would be. Also, Cincinnati had a better conclusion to their regular season than UConn. Conversely, UConn had a better Big East Tournament than Cincinnati, but this blog was under the belief that 5 games in 5 days really might just serve to wear them out.
Hindsight: Apparently it wasn't too big of a problem for UConn to come back on short rest. Cincinnati played them pretty tough, so it wasn't an absurd pick, but Connecticut did pull away in the end. This pick was somewhat critical, and losing dropped this blog quite a few pegs in its pool. For future reference, UConn seems like they go just deep enough to where the short turnaround wasn't an issue, and Jim Calhoun probably rested these guys sufficiently in the days leading up to the NCAAs.
2 San Diego State vs. 7 Temple
Pick: San Diego State
Logic: Pun City's initial impression was to take Temple here. After thinking about it though, this blog wasn't thinking that Fran Dunphy would go from zero NCAA wins in the last 10 years to 3 in the same tournament (actually 2 to this point, but SDSU replaced Temple's entire path following this game after a change). Another call to reason was that SDSU had played well all season, and did not have a late-season distraction. This combined with the fact that both Kahwi Leonard and D.J. Gay are tough matchups for any team (even a good Temple team with Juan Fernandez), led Pun City to the pick of SDSU.
Result: San Diego State in 2OT.
Hindsight: Pun City is glad that it thought about this one twice. Of all the games to have a change of heart on, this one definitely merited the review. Fortunately the result was in this blog's favor. Hopefully SDSU can handle Connecticut this week, seeing as UConn was supposed to be Cincinnati.
12 Richmond vs. 13 Morehead State
Logic: Morehead State would get one win, but 13 seeds don't win 2 games in the tournament. Vanderbilt would get past Richmond and then have an easier game waiting for them.
Hindsight: Oops. That first round game made Pun City pay. In fairness, only about 1 in 50 people had this pick right, so it's not something to beat one's self up about. Had Pun City guessed that Richmond would face Morehead State, the pick certainly would have been Richmond, since when two double-digit seeds face each other in the NCAAs, the result is just about 100% in favor of the better seed.
3 BYU vs. 11 Gonzaga
Pick: St. John's
Logic: Too lazy to switch this after SJU had the late D.J. Kennedy injury. Initially, Pun City thought SJU would have fewer distractions than BYU, as there hadn't been any late-season dismissals with SJU. As it turned out, they had a later-season "dismissal" proxy with that injury. If Pun City had switched brackets, it would like to believe it would have put BYU in here. In any case, it was still underrating BYU after they lost Brandon Davies. BYU looks very strong, and this blog would be surprised if they didn't handle Florida this week.
Result: BYU, blowout.
Hindsight: This was the Gonzaga team that was supposed to show up on Thursday. BYU was underrated by this blog, and Pun City will have to try and recalibrate its "dismissal impact meter" in the future.
1 Pittsburgh vs. 8 Butler
Logic: Butler is good, but Pittsburgh has a Final Four-caliber team, so they should be able to handle BU. The Panthers have more size, and any coaching differences weren't enough to mitigate that discrepancy.
Result: Butler, in one of the craziest finishes in tournament history.
Hindsight: No one really could be blamed for picking either team after seeing how close this was. The Panthers did look a little nervous in the first half, without that stretch they probably would have been up enough to render late-game issues irrelevant. This was probably the best team in Pitt's recent history, but Butler had a lot of experienced guys playing well at the right time.
4 Wisconsin vs. 5 Kansas State
Logic: Well, first off, this was supposed to be UW vs. Utah State. That would have been a much easier win, this blog guesses. Beyond this, KSU had a great end-of-year run, but they didn't quite have the talent to matchup with all of Wisconsin's weapons. That, plus the coaching matchup was a complete mismatch, Bo Ryan is a significantly better coach than Frank Martin.
Result: Wisconsin, in a nail-biter.
Hindsight: During the pregame, Pun City thought that Wisconsin would play them close until the half, then gradually pull away in the second half, for about a 10-point win. This didn't happen, primarily due to a great effort out of Jacob Pullen. If Pullen doesn't hit his first 6 (mostly contested) 3-pointers, this probably would have played out as expected. That said, Pun City knew Pullen would be available, so for future games, maybe think about individual player's "result spikes" like this, although the pick was accurate, so maybe don't think too hard about that. (More than likely UW having Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer vs. KSU's Pullen would have led to a UW pick anyway).
2 Florida vs. 7 UCLA
Logic: UCLA was good, but they weren't as good as Florida. Even though Florida was overseeded as a 2, they were much better than a 7, so while this might play out similarly to a 4-5 or a 3-6, Pun City figured Florida could be counted on for a win.
Result: Florida in a close game.
Hindsight: Yep, kind of had this pegged. Luckily this blog had made a point to watch a couple Florida games on TV later in the year. More UCLA knowledge would have helped, but the Pac-10 wasn't so good that a nuanced opinion was required.