For a lot of sports fanatics, March Madness is probably one of their favorite times of the year in Sports. There is nothing better than going to the bars with your buddies to watch March Madness, brackets in hand. Only in March Madness would we get to see teams like Bucknell knock off Kansas in the first round of the tournament, and teams like George Mason make the Final Four by getting hot at the right time in the tourny. But to me, the best part about March Madness is if you actually pick these upsets in your March Madness bracket sheets, and end up winning your pools! When you do that, you can brag and boast to your buddies about your sports knowledge, which is a great feeling if you are a sports junkie.
Anyways, since I watch a ton of College Basketball, I thought I would chime in about this year’s tournament. So, here are some of my thoughts about this 2009 tourny that will be starting in a couple of weeks. Hopefully these thoughts will put you in a better position to win some pools this year, especially if you have not had a chance to watch many of these teams play this year…
Now when picking my overall tournament winner, I usually look for teams with a solid PG, and a solid Big Man. This formula has worked for me in the past, so I will stick with it again this year. In my opinion, you need a solid PG to run your team and control the tempo of the game come tournament time, but most importantly, you need a solid PG to keep your team poised in crunch time. Big man wise, you need a solid big man to depend on in the post, when your teams jump shots are not falling, and you will need your big to defend the post in crunch time. In my eyes, these following teams have both, which is why I think the eventual Champion will come from one of these teams…
The Big Guns…
UCONN – A.J. Price is an amazing talent at the point, and he will keep the UCONN engine running, come tournament time. They also have maybe the biggest game changer in College Basketball right now in Hasheem Thabeet, or as I like to call him, THE BEAST! The guy is over 7 feet tall, and his wingspan is even bigger. He makes life impossible for opposing teams players when driving to the cup by swatting layups like flies all night long. And if he doesn’t block your shot, he will definitely alter it in one way or another. People are honestly just scared to play this guy, and when you are playing with fear before the game even starts, that spells bad news for your ball club most of the time. UCONN also has a good mix of other solid players and role players, which is why they will be a force come tournament time. The team will miss Jerome Dyson’s shooting touch, but they have enough talent to compensate for his injury.
UNC – North Carolina can flat out score. They have who I think is the best PG in College Basketball right now, and that is Ty Lawson. He is the little engine that could and he pushes the tempo for this UNC ballclub every night. They also have NCAA Player of the Year Candidate Tyler Hansbrough, who is a solid big man in the College Game. His relentless effort on the glass and in the post, makes UNC a tough out come tournament time. With Ellington, Zeller, and Green, they will be tough to defend in the big dance. They will definitely miss Marcus Ginyard, who is out for the season with a foot injury, but they also have enough firepower to get over his injury. Their only weakness is their defense, because they don’t play much of it. They will try to outscore you and run you off the court.
PITT – The Pittsburgh Panthers are a team no one really wants to face in the tournament. They play a rugged style of basketball, and their players are pretty much bigger than yours at every position. The thing that makes Pitt so good is that they can play at different tempos, fast or slow, but they will be physical doing so all game long. They also have a great PG in Levance Fields, and a powerful big in DeJuan Blair. They also have a great wing player in Sam Young, who will need to have a big tournament for Pitt to win it all. Pitt is a dangerous team, but their PG Fields is a little banged up. If he is healthy come tournament time, they will make a deep run into the tournament.
Now unfortunately since the brackets are not up yet, it is hard to really pick some upsets. So what I will do is list a couple of darkhorse teams, that are talented and can make runs, and a couple of sleeper teams, that no one has probably seen play or heard of. This might give you a better heads up when completing your bracket sheet…
Oklahoma – One word, BLAKE GRIFFIN! The kid is a beast on offense and defense, and his game alone might take this squad to the Final Four. Their PG and Willie Warren are good too, but their lack of bench and their one man show scares me. If a team finds a way to shut down Griffin, this team will probably struggle in the later rounds.
Villanova – They got a nice team, with a nice PG in Scottie Reynolds and a good big man in Cunningham, but what scares me about this team is that they rely on the 3 ball a little bit too much. If they go cold, they can be out quick, but if they get hot, look out for a deep run by Nova.
Arizona State- Another one man show team here. James Harden. If you have not seen him play, get used to him, because he will be in the NBA soon. He can do it all. He also does have Pendergraff next to him, as a great rebounder, but their guard play is very weak and their shooting is very suspect. Harden will have to be All World to take them far.
Memphis – Tyreke Evans is trying to do what DROSE did last year with this Memphis squad. Be a freshmen who carries his team to the NCAA Finals. The kid is really good, and they have a lot of players like Dozier, Anderson, and Taggert back from last year’s team. Not too many people get to see them play because they are in Conference USA, but this team will be dangerous.
UCLA/ Purdue/ MSU – All three teams can cause mismatch problems and have good depth on their roster to wear you down. They are all big programs with good coaches, so look for them to do well come tournament time.
Teams That Should Win, But I'm Not Sold On...
Disclaimer - The first three squads on this list will probably make it deep into the tournament. I have them listed here because I just don't see them actually winning the entire thing...
Lou - My buddy "OCHIN" is going to be pissed about this, but I just don't see Lou winning the tournament this year. Now I gotta give credit where it is due. Lou won the BEST CONFERENCE EVER, in the Big East AKA BEAST. They beat some of the best teams in the country, and they took care of biz vs my MU squad. Now some of you guys might think I am hating on this squad because they are our rivals, but I'm really not. TWill is a sick with it player for sure, and they got a solid Coach and a lot of talent on this squad, but even with all that being said, I just feel like Sosa will be this squad's downfall. Lou's PG position is their biggest weakness, and teams will exploit it come tourny time. Wait until Sosa has to go against Lawson or Price in a big game. It won't be fun for the 'Ville. Lawson would eat Sosa for lunch. I'm sure this squad will make it pretty far in the tournament, but they will not win it all. You can put that on the board.
Duke - Duke is always on TV, so trust me, I've seen them play a lot this year. This team has some talent with Henderson, Scheyer, and Singler , but they just don't have that "it" factor to me. Everytime I see them play in a big game, they just can not pull through. I just feel like they don't have a PG that can control the tempo in big ball games, and this will hurt them later in the tournament. Nolan Smith is sick, but he is too young still. And no offense Dukies, but Paulus is garbage.
Kansas - Collins is amazing. Chitown represent baby! Aldridge is a beast to. But, I just don't think this team is deep enough, or is experienced enough. They have the talent, but they are too young in important spots. This goes a little bit against my normal thinking where if you have a solid PG and a good big you will do well, but this squad is just too inexperienced for me to take to go deep.
Marquette - It pains me to say this, but I just don't see MU making a deep run into this tournament. Without DJAMES, this is just a completely different squad. I think a lot of people took DJames' game for granted, and now everyone is realizing just how important he was for our squad. He was the engine of this team, and made everyone better around him. He was their leader, on offense, and on defense. The squad will miss his drive and dish all day for open layups or threes, but I think the team will miss Djames most on the defensive side of the ball. He was amazing vs other team's PG's. Acker and Cubes are good role players, but unfortunately for us, they are not DJAMES. I honestly still think that if we had DJames, not only do we beat Lou at Lou, but we win the Big East, and make the Final Four this year. Yes, this squad was that good. No, I am not being biased. I also just want to take a quick second to say thanks to our all our Seniors this year, especially the Three Amigos. The Three Amigos were fun as hell to watch, and they will definitely be missed by all us MU fans. They were all not only great players, but great guys for our School and our Community at MU. I wish them nothing but the best of luck, and hope they can all hopefully make it on the next level in the League or wherever they want to play. I got a soft spot for DJames especially, because I feel like I got a chance to really see him grow as a player from his freshmen year. I also remember meeting him outside of Real Chili, and he was one of the nicest guys to all his fans. That is what makes this year and his injury even tougher to handle. Hopefully he recovers soon, and does big things! As for MU, I just don't think this will be their year, but if McNasty and Wes get hot, look out! But look out for us next year for sure! Lazar and Jimmy will be doing big things, and Buzz's recruiting class coming in is sick. MU FOREVER!
Davidson – You saw what Stephen Curry did last year right? Jason Richards their PG is gone this year, but even without him, they have a team that Curry can put on his back and take deep, so look out for them. The thing is, I don't know if they will get into the tourny. I'm praying for them to get in somehow.
Gonzaga – this team is really not a sleeper but a lot of people don’t get to watch them play. Talent wise they are up there with any team in the country. The problem with this team is they might have too many good players. They have some chemistry issues, because everyone wants to be the man. If they can play like a team, I love the Zags to go far. Pargo and co are fun to watch.
Saint Mary’s – If Patty Mills is a 100 percent healthy, this team will be fun to watch and go far in the tournament. They have a good team around him and some nice role players. He is one of the best in the game, and if he gets hot, watch out, it can be a Davidson type run like last year.
VMI – This is the highest scoring team in College Basketball . They have a pair of twin brothers in the Holmes Brothers that you will get to see in the tournament. This could be a dangerous team with their High Octane offense if they get the right matchup.
Utah State- This is a dangerous team that we don’t get to see much. Gary Wilkinson is a solid player.
BYU – This team plays like a team and is skilled at every position on the floor.
Also loving Cleveland State and North Dakota State. Both look like teams that can get a win or two come tournament time.
Anyways, sorry for the long post, but those are my thoughts on this year’s tournament. I hope they come in handy when you are filling out your bracket, so good luck! I'll try to do another one once the brackets really come out. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!