EA Sports Returns from Grave, Picks Kansas for TitleColumn by Bo Light
It's not easy to read MIT's oldest and largest newspaper these days. First, "Red Meat" came along, causing a wave of complaints reminiscent of the glory days of "Jim's Journal." Then, we discovered that people on campus are judged not by their character, but by their address.
Finally, just when you thought it was safe to pick up The Tech, March Madness returned, and with it came all of the bad picks, bad commentary, and bad jokes you thought were gone forever. That's right, kids, EA Sports is back to unite this divided campus (well, at least the fraction that watches basketball).
Welcome, one and all, to the Fifth Annual NCAA Tournament Preview Extravaganza!
At this point, most tournament previews complain about either a) the teams that weren't selected for the tournament, b) the seedings, or c) Dick Vitale. Well, in answer to all of their complaints: a) Michigan/Syracuse/Southwest Missouri State did not deserve bids, so quit whining, b) It doesn't matter where you're seeded, you'll play a number one seed sooner or later, c) Yes, Dick Vitale must be stopped.
All season long, commentators have designated just a few elite teams as contenders for the NCAA title. Depending on whom you talked to, there were anywhere from three to eight teams with a chance at the national championship.
All of that is out the window now. There are 64 teams with a shot at being Numero Uno. Okay, maybe 40 with a realistic chance. All right, a dozen, tops. Anyway, let's move on to the picks. Laugh all you want; I can't hear you.
North Carolina grabbed the top seed here by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Hopefully, they're not looking past Fairfield, but if they are, who could blame them? There isn't much in the top half of this bracket to keep Serge Zwikker and Company from the regional final.
In the bottom half, South Carolina should be able to cruise, despite anything you hear from Dicky V.
Teams to Watch: Long Island? Who are these guys? You can bet Villanova will find out. Also, Louisville versus UMass should be a great first round game.
Big Upset: For the second year in a row, it's Princeton coming from the 12-spot, this time to beat Cal.
Sweet 16: North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisville, Villanova.
Regional Champ: South Carolina. Hey, could you pick against a team that beat Kentucky twice?
As usual, the Southeast is the toughest region top to bottom. Top seed Kansas should survive, but the other teams in the top half of the bracket are in for some battles. Maryland could have its hands full with College of Charleston, and Arizona, well, is Arizona.
The bottom half looks to favor Duke, but any of these teams are capable of pulling the big upset. Well, maybe not Murray State.
Teams to Watch: The aforementioned College of Charleston is a wild card. Georgia came within a game of the Southeastern Conference title (yeah, so they got blown out in the final, so what?) and didn't get a third seed for nothing.
Big Upset: South Alabama over Arizona. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Sweet 16: Kansas, Duke, Georgia, Maryland.
Regional Champ: Kansas' inside game will overpower any other team in this region. Jayhawks to the Final Four.
Despite losing their last game to Wisconsin (to the eternal delight of Badger fans), Minnesota grabbed the top seed in the Midwest. They look good, but don't be fooled, folks: the Big 10 is a paper tiger.
The weak top seed, combined with some very good teams in the lower slots, make this a wide-open division.
Teams to Watch: Cincinnati was on the short list of contenders early in the season, as was Clemson. Either of these teams could make things interesting.
Big Upset: Hard to find one here. BU over Tulsa is the hometown pick, but don't hold your breath.
Sweet 16: Minnesota, UCLA, Cincinnati, Clemson.
Regional Champ: UCLA. Hard to believe a team that lost by 50-some points to Stanford would be in the Final Four, isn't it?
Once again, the West is the dumping ground for the good teams that just didn't fit in the other regions. Kentucky fans may be howling about having their team sent to the Left Coast, but they should quiet down when they realize that the Wildcats have an easy road to the regional final.
In the bottom half of the bracket, every basketball fan should be drooling over the potential matchup of Utah and Wake Forest in the Sweet 16. Finally, we will see who the best player in the country is (Hint: It ain't Tim Duncan).
Teams to Watch: Stanford has been a team to watch ever since blowing out UCLA early in the season. Not that they've done much since.
Big Upset: Oklahoma over Stanford in the first round. Just because they're a Team to Watch doesn't mean you get to watch them win.
Sweet 16: Kentucky, Utah, Wake Forest, Boston College.
Regional Champ: Keith Van Horn might be able to get the Utes past Wake Forest, but it would take three of him to beat Kentucky. I don't think they'll be able to clone him in time.
We will be back with the Final Four overview after these words from our sponsor:
Zwikker (v.) - to succeed in a stylish manner; "North Carolina zwikkered N.C. State last night."
Schrempf (v.) - to fail ignominously; "Traylor really schrempfed that free throw."
SEC fans would love to see a third South CarolinaKentucky matchup, just to see if the Gamecocks can win three in a row from the 'Cats. It's a nice thought, but Carolina has to get past Kansas first, and that's not gonna happen. Kentucky, on the other hand, has more than enough tools to beat the Bruins.
In the final, you can pick KU to win the championship and be right no matter who wins. However, EA Sports can't get off that easy. This game is a toss-up. Both teams have stars (Jacque Vaughn, Ron Mercer). Both teams have great coaches (Roy Williams, Rick Pitino). Kansas is 311, but Kentucky is the defending champ and playing its best.
Kansas is the more experienced team, but Kentucky knows how to win the big game. Kentucky is the deeper team and plays better defense, but Kansas has the tools to break the press.
In the end, the game will come down to Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, the inside game that Kentucky has no answer for. It's a barnburner, but Kansas is Number One.
And that's that. Enjoy the games, and look for EA Sports to continue on an intermittent (read: when I remember to write it) basis throughout the term.