Actually am watching the play-in games tonight. UNC-Ash versus UALR is on right now. I picked UALR for the streak for the cash game on espn.com, so far so good.
News out of Duke is that Kyrie Irving has been cleared for full participation, which means we could see him this weekend. Huge for the Devils, if they can get past the second round against either Michigan or Tennessee then Irving will get a full week of practice in and could be back in the form that made Duke look every bit the part of a repeat team earlier this year.
While Duke got some good news Purdue’s tourney run hopes took a bit of a blow, as they suspended Kelsey Barlow for the rest of the season. The sophomore was the best perimeter defender for the Boilers and averaged about 20 minutes a game, so he will be missed.
Upsets are tough to predict (see my picks last year) and this year will be especially difficult. I don’t consider it an upset when a 9 beats an 8 or when a 10 beats a 7, here we go.
#12 Richmond over #5 Vandy: This might be the easiest one of the entire tournament. Vandy was knocked out in the first round a year ago at the buzzer to Murray St. and they have not been playing well down the stretch this year. The Commodores have gone 3-7 in their last 7, while Richmond has won 7 straight and 11 of their last 12 overall. This one isn’t as much about match-ups as it is momentum and Richmond obviously dominates in that department.
UALR has let UNC-Ashville back into the game to maybe make the first play-in game a memorable one. Gus Leeper, an Austin, TX kid, just fouled out, 4 point game with a minute to play. Wow. Big shot by the kid with the unfortunate name of Dickey. UALR’s head coach looks scary.
#13 Belmont over #4 Wisconsin: Now this is a numbers/match-ups thing. Belmont averaged 80 PPG this season and if you watched Wisconsin’s thrilling Big Ten Tourney game against Penn St. you know that they have been struggling offensively. The Bruins also have the size to defend Leuer inside and proved that in the two games against Tennessee a team much more athletic than the Badgers.
UALR was the better team, but they went down and the Bulldogs from UNC-Asheville now get the pleasure of getting smacked around by Pitt. Starting this picks season out well, glad these don’t count or my perfect bracket would be toast.
#12 Utah St. over #5 Kansas St: The Aggies are a veteran team, with tournament experience, that are under seeded. They got blasted a year ago in the first round and I think that will motivate them to prove themselves. For the Wildcats they’ve been playing really well lately against everyone not named Colorado, but they are a one-horse team and it’s hard to tell which Curtis Kelly will show up. He’s been on fire lately, but I’m betting the lights of the dance will cool him off a bit, along with non-Big 12 refs calling him for his physical play.
Clemson just hammering UAB out of the gate. UAB sure looking like a team that does not belong in this tournament, lots of time left though. Was thinking of taking the Tigers over West Virginia, we’ll see.
#11 Gonzaga over #6 St. John’s: This is a border line upset pick at best, but it is tough to pick it still. You can’t underestimate what the loss of DJ Kennedy does to the Red Storm and they haven’t played a game without him yet. I like Sacre holding down the middle, eliminating some of the driving lanes for Dwight Hardy. The Bulldogs are also incredibly deep and this seems like a bracket for them to go on a run.
Tru TV has got to stop running all these promos and just use this time to get what little ad revenue they’re used to. People don’t watch your channel for a reason, just try to cash in on these next couple of weeks.
Okay, not going to pick Clemson. I like how West Virginia plays defense and their strength is on the perimeter, which should limit Clemson’s best player Stitt.
In the 7-10 and 8-9 games I like Old Dominion, Michigan St., and Penn St.
#12 Memphis over #5 Arizona: I hate the Pac 10. I’m really hoping VCU beats USC tomorrow, but that’s neither here nor there. This Memphis team has had a lot of ups and downs this year but played their best game of the year knocking of UTEP in El Paso (a place they had lost by 27 ten days earlier against the Miners) to win the Conference USA tourney. The Tigers also have enough athletes and talent to not be intimidated and maybe even contain Derrick Williams.
That’s all I like for upsets of Friday. Really. Marquette over Xavier was a thought and USC over Georgetown isn’t a stretch if USC does beat VCU tomorrow night plus you don’t know how effective Chris Wright will be, but we’ll wait to see how the Trojans look tomorrow. I’ve also heard a lot of talk on Oakland over Texas, but I can’t do that to the Horns, just because I don’t think the Golden Grizzlies have anyone who can defend Jordan Hamilton.
In the Friday 7-10 and 8-9 games I like Tennessee, George Mason, Texas A&M, UNLV, and Washington.
Brackets will be filled out tomorrow, before you turn them in or the Thursday deadline check back here and I’ll let you know who will be my picks and why for the Sweet 16, Final Four, and the eventual champ.