by Aaron Marks
Ok. I admit it. I'm not very good at this bracket thing.
I watched more college basketball this year then I've ever watched in my life... and I still can't figure it out. The only thing that makes me feel better about this is that I've come to the realization that none of the other “Experts” have a clue either. There is no rhyme or reason as to why things happen the way they do in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. While I got some things right so far through the first two days, I sure missed a whole lot as well.
I will update this posting throughout the tournament but here is what I know, and what I really don't know after two days of tournament play.
Morning of Day 3... start of the 3rd round and field of 32...
What I got right:
Hey give me credit. I'm going to start off with the things that I was right about. It's not much... but maybe I'm not THAT bad at this.
- The Atlantic Ten is really good...so what happens when a mid-major is on the verge of being in the same league as a BCS Conference? They break up the band. I have been really high on the A-10 all year. And all year people told me that was ridiculous. Well this is one I can stand on the roof tops and scream that I was right. I don't care what happens the rest of the way, when your five teams start the NCAA Tournament 6-0 (yes... LaSalle is 2-0 so far taking down fellow mid-major Boise State and Kansas State), you have proved you are a force. I'm really excited about the upcoming match ups involving A-10 teams... most notable the VCU vs. Michigan game today. I picked VCU to win this game in my bracket, so that means the Wolverines are likely to win. But it's going to be a great game. The really crappy part about the A-10's success this year? Two of their best teams are leaving for the “New Big East” next year.
- Home Court advantage is really important... this could go into things I got wrong as well I supposed because I didn't buy into it! I had Cal losing in the 2nd round to UNLV because I was so high on the Mountain West (this will highlight things I got wrong), but I did say for Cal to be playing as a 12 seed in San Jose was a major advantage. It was. And it may be again today when they take on Syracuse. Also both Michigan teams had zero problems in their 2nd round games. It sure is nice to drive 75 miles to play in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Did you know the kids from Cal went to class on Wed?! Who goes to class the day before you play in the NCAA Tournament? I wonder if they just car pooled to San Jose. Total Distance between campus and the arena: 45 miles. They could've taken a ferry as well and done some sight seeing down the San Francisco Bay. Would've shortened the miles traveled to.
Things I got wrong...this list could get lengthy. I'll keep it to the top three the really ruined my bracket, and everyone else who listened to me.
- The Mountain West is NOT really good...this one makes no sense to me. Mountain West basketball has always been strong. It's a cool climate at most of those campuses so the kids prefer the gym to the football field. They go on the road, they play tough schedules, and the NCAA Tournament should not intimidate them. And I've followed Mountain West basketball since I was a kid since I'm from that part of the country. HOW I ask you... HOW does New Mexico lose to Harvard, a team that awards no scholarships?! A team that lost it's two best players before the season started. A team that has NEVER won an NCAA Tournament game. And it wasn't just the Lobos. UNLV was playing 12 seed Cal. Yes the home court advantage is important but this is a team that should play better than what they did. Overall the Mountain West has been a major disappointment. I thought the Lobos could make a run in the wide open West Regional. I thought UNLV could knock off Syracuse who has been suspect at best the last month of the season. They will never get that chance though and I've lost a Sweet 16 and Final 4 team in the process.
- The Big East, in their final year we currently know them, will continue to disappoint in the tournament... Notre Dame has now made it 12 consecutive trips to the tournament without making it through the first weekend. Georgetown, yes my beloved Hoyas this year, have made it six consecutive tournaments being knocked out by a double digit seed. Villanova looked unmotivated against a UNC team deserving of an 8 seed. Of the eight teams (most of any conference) in the tournament three made it through the first set of games. And they can thank Davidson for throwing the ball out of bounds at the end of the game against Marquette thus stealing defeat away from the jaws of victory. They lost to teams like Creighton, Witchita State, and Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU has been a division I program for two years. Two years!!! Them beating G'Town is like Old Dominion beating LSU in football in a post-season game that actually matters. What a joke. Thank God this conference as we know it is breaking up. Maybe the new Big East will compete like we expect them to in the post-season. Hey... they are stealing teams away from the A-10. That's a good start.
- When filling out your bracket... rely on the trends...this one baffles me. It really does. But it's true and I'm done fighting it next year. Notre Dame has gone twelve consecutive tournaments without getting through the first weekend... will they bust through eventually? Sure. But as a 7 seed its unlikely so don't be the one guy in the office to say that they will (yea that was me). The Big East and Mountain West have underperformed in recent years. But why? When your team changes every year how is it that you continue to see the same results? Is it poor coaching? Are teams just cursed to play basketball this way? A trend has a start and end point...unless you're the Chicago Cubs. But I'm done being the guy determining the end point. Just go with how the team or conference has done in the past and roll with it. If you did that this year then you're in far better shape than me.
We can break this tournament down all we want to. We can look at stats and RPI but when all is said and done, just throw it out the window. A friend of mine had his dog select teams based on tortilla chips he identified as one team or another. It was actually two dogs rotating the games. The dogs are smoking me right now. When all is said and done, look at the trends and take expert opinions with a grain of salt. Most of us spend most of our time on air, on camera, and in our columns trying to persuade you why something unexpected will happen. We don't get paid to persuade you of something happening that's always happened before. And as my producers and interns will tell you, we can be very persuasive.
Don't buy into it.
Aaron Marks is the Afternoon Drive Show host for CBS Sports Radio 100.3 'The Team' in Myrtle Beach, SC. “The Drive” airs daily M-F 3-6 p.m. Aaron also broadcast play by play for college basketball and baseball. Follow Aaron on Twitter @AmonFM