My typical Tuesday night is spent praying Gabe York won’t make the front end of a one and one, Ryan Spangler will hit a corner three, and Fran Mccaffrey won’t get T’d up after a Max Bielfeldt and one in Bloomington. If you know who more than two of these individuals are, chances are you’re a degenerate gambler like me.
One of the few positives of incessant sports gambling is an accumulation of seemingly worthless knowledge: the rotations of MAC teams, approximate free throw percentage of Syracuse’s 6th man, quirks of coaches (like Michigan coach John Belien’s refusal to play any player after their second foul in the first half) and even the reputation of certain officials. Depending on the week, and my bankroll, my picks vacillate from Aaron Sorkin to CatalinaCoke level quality. Having said that, my patented 11-factor system for busting the bracket challenge has won me almost enough to offset the roller coaster that is “Tuesday night MACtion.” The aforementioned “useless” knowledge? Here are 16 tips to avoid getting Farrah Abraham’d this March.
- Jared Fogle was wrong; your bracket should not consider “the younger the better.” Since 2009, every NCAA champion has featured at least one upperclassman in its starting rotation. Even mighty Kentucky won its only title under Coach Cal with returning starters like Terrance Jones, Doron Lamb, and senior Darius Miller.
- Indiana Coach Tom Crean has never advanced past the Sweet 16 without D Wade; this year’s Indiana squad is currently projected as a 2/3 seed. This is Crean’s 17th season as a D-I coach.
- Denzel Valentine of Michigan State is the best leader, facilitator, and most versatile on-ball defender in the country. Though I maintain, without basketball, he would undoubtedly be a virgin.
- I know you probably hate them, but Cal and Kentucky will make it to at least the Elite 8. Kentucky has more talent than any team in the nation, and for the first time since that magical 2012 season, they start a senior: forward Alex Poythress.
- Outside of Lexington, Nick Saban has a better chance of making a Final 4 than any other SEC coach. Texas A&M, the beneficiary of a historically soft schedule, has fewer wins against RPI top 50 teams than any team ranked in the top 25. Texas A&M is a likely 3/4 seed.
- Bo Ryan left more than just a jaded slam in Madison. The Badgers are one of the hottest teams in all of basketball, again populated with white players nobody has ever heard of. Since February 1, Bucky Badger has allowed the least points per possession in the BIG 10, while earning wins over Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, and Maryland.
- Baylor Coach Scott Drew is the Marvin Lewis of college basketball. Baylor, again featuring a stacked lineup comprised of three former five-star recruits, will implode in the first weekend. Drew will then sign a contract extension.
- Roy Williams won’t be the only coach whose head will be spinning when UNC takes the court. The Tar Heels feature the best mixture of experience and young talent in the country. Josh Jackson and Kennedy Meeks are an NBA level (albeit probably 76ers caliber) front line, and Marcus Paige has more tournament experience than any starting PG in the Power 5 conferences.
- Oklahoma is about as tough as Jeb Bush. They rely almost exclusively on the three, while in the bottom three in the Big 12 in rebounding, defensive points allowed per possession, and offensive rebounds allowed. It takes six wins to win a title over four weeks, they cannot stay hot that long.
- Ted Cruz leads the worst Blue Devils team in recent memory. Our presidential doppelgänger Grayson Allen is a volume shooting guard with more purposeful trips than steals this season. Brandon Ingram is a future star but too soft to play in the post (even at 6’10”) and Senior Marshall “seriously another one” Plumlee is extremely limited in the front court without Amir Jefferson. Duke will be out early.
- Villanova and Head Coach Jay Wright will fuck your bracket. Again. The Wildcats are once again highly ranked, but not particularly good at anything (rank outside the top 25 nationally in points per game and defensive efficiency) with a roster about as famous as Flavor of Love castoffs. Since 2009, Wright has failed to make it past the first weekend of the tournament, though twice a #1 seed.
- #1 Kansas is to college basketball what The Artist was to the Oscars: winner by default. This season has featured more #1 teams losing to teams ranked outside of the top 10 than any year since the AP poll began. Kansas is a decent team with a shot at a title (and a hell of a lot better than that bullshit silent film), but nowhere near the quality of #1 overall seeds in recent years.
- Cal is basically a GDI intramural team: two kids who can play but take it way too seriously (Ivan Rabb + Jaylen Brown) and a bunch of complete scrubs. Don’t get fooled by draft projections, neither have been particularly good this season (Brown’s true FG % below 40%) and have zero tournament experience. The Bears will not get out of the first weekend.
- The PAC 12 will feature the best shot at multiple early upsets. Frankly, the PAC 12 is to basketball what the BIG 12 was to football this season: all style, no substance. Oregon, Arizona, and Utah are all ranked in the top 20, with a combined one top 25 win out of conference (Arizona against a now not-so-great Duke team.) No other Power 5 conference’s highest ranked team has less than two individually.
- Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffrey is as temperamental as Bob Knight but as clutch as 2011 NBA Finals LeBron. The Hawkeyes finished the season losing 5/6, the fourth year in a row they have failed to play their final six games over .500. This is their most talented team in modern history, however. A long run is unlikely.
- Virginia offensively will continue to be as illogically disjointed and ineffective as Bernie Sanders on foreign policy. The Cavaliers are one of the nation’s best defensive teams, but never has a team so offensively limited (Virginia averages fewer points per game than any other ranked team) won a title.
Feel free to thank, or crucify, me later..
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