The NCAA Tournament committee has met in their secret room where they've got RPI statistics and unreleased copies of Star Wars on Bluray in it's original format (I assume,) and the brackets are set. You've printed them out, tried to sort through all the play-in games (how many teams are there now? 75?) and now it's time to make your picks. You don't want to lose to Margie in accounting again, do you?
I'll do my best to assist, starting with the West.
Don't forget to print out your bracket before it's too late, which you can find right here.
Play-In Game on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 6:00 pm PT: Brigham Young University vs Iona
We now have at-large 14 seeds (when will it end committee?) which includes a BYU team that gives the West Coast Conference three tourney teams. They snuck in thanks to a win over Gonzaga in the regular season, otherwise they'd have zero top 60 RPI wins. A total of six of the Cougars losses came to top 30 RPI teams, twice to St. Marys, twice to Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and an 86-83 loss to Baylor. The Gaels of Iona only played two teams in the RPI top 60 (Marshall and Purdue) and they lost both.
I'll take the battle-tested BYU Cougars over the Leprechaun that ate some really bad fish:
In the "real" final 64:
1. Michigan State v 16. Long Island University-Brooklyn: The Spartans are the hot ticket going into the tournament after winning the Big Ten tourney and sneaking into the final one seed. LIU-Brooklyn beat Robert Morris to win the Northeast title. But how hard is it to beat one guy? Seems like it was unfair for Robert. Spartans win this one.
2. Missouri v 15. Norfolk State: Did you know that the proper way to pronounce Norfolk is "NAW-fuk"? No, really. Interestingly, the Spartans (they are also the Spartans) pushed Marquette in November before losing 59-57. Anyways, back to the picks... Missouri.
3. Marquette v 14. BYU: Trap game? Everyone was surprised when VCU went from play-in game to Final Four last year, could BYU do the same, starting with a win over the Golden Eagles? Marquette lost to LSU and was threatened by Norfolk State (as said before) and... and... No, Marquette wins it.
4. Louisville v 13. Davidson: We're getting to the point where we have to seriously consider upsets. This is the offense of Louisville versus the defense of Davidson, a team that beat Kansas 80-74. However, when it comes to RPI top 100 wins, Davidson has 2 (including over 98 Penn) and the Cardinals have 13. Louisville takes it.
5. New Mexico v 12. Long Beach State: The 49ers of LBS are no joke, finishing with an RPI of 34 and dominating the Big West (15-1) but they lack a signature win outside of Xavier. However, they lost to North Carolina by six, Kansas by eight, Ceighton by two, and San Diego State by four. The Lobos won the very tough Mountain West conference and seven top 60 wins. They also lost to Santa Clara. Can the 49ers get over the hump? Sure, I've got a good feeling about Long Beach.
6. Murray State v 11. Colorado State: I've always admired the mountains in the state of Colorado, as well as the half-price senior specials in the state of Murray. The Racers didn't only run through an easy conference schedule on their way to a 30-1 season, they also beat Memphis, Southern Miss, St. Mary's, and Dayton. The Rams of Colorado State finished fourth in the tough Mountain West, so can I pick another upset? No. Murray State.
7. Florida v 10. Virginia: Tony Bennett bolted Washington State for the fame of the ACC and has led Virginia back to the tournament. Both the Cavaliers and the Gators are stumbling their way into March Madness, Virginia has lost 5 of 8 and the Gators have lost 4 of 5. The Gators overall resume is stronger and they'll get past Bennett ball (53.7 ppg allowed) to win. Florida.
8. Memphis v. 9. St. Louis: A Billiken, the Saint Louis mascot, is a good luck charm who represents "Things as they ought to be." Is a win over the Tigers how it ought to be? No. I can't see St. Louis winning without Albert Pujols. Memphis wins.
The Thirsty 32:
1. Michigan State v 8. Memphis: The last time that Tom Izzo won the Big Ten and didn't make the Final Four was 1998, his third year at Michigan State and the first of 15 straight tourney appearances. The Tigers would be a sneaky pick if they didn't face the Spartans so early... Michigan State.
2. Missouri v 7. Florida: The Tigers beat Baylor three times, beat Texas three times, and split the season series with Kansas, including a one-point loss. They have five players averaging double-figures and finished 1st in Kenpoms ranking for adjusted offense. Who finished third in AdjO? The Gators. This might be the best game of the second round, but I'll play it safe with the Big 12 Tournament champion Missouri Tigers.
3. Marquette v 6. Murray State: Marquette is balanced on offense and defense and Murray State had one of the lowest strength of schedule rankings of anyone in the tournament. That being said, I think Isaiah Canaan will lead the Racers into the Sweet 16. Murray State!
4. Louisville v 12. Long Beach State: The 49ers are coached by Dan Monson, the guy you'll remember as the head coach of Gonzaga when they started their miracle tournament run. However, they haven't won a tournament game since 1973. Louisville advances.
The Sweet 16
1. Michigan State v 4. Louisville: The Cardinals finished 2nd in Adjusted Defense in the country but Michigan State finished third. The bigger difference is how they finished in Adjusted Offense: Louisville at 122 and the Spartans at 11. Michigan State advances to the Elite Eight.
2. Missouri v 6. Murray State: Senior Ricardo Ratliff shot nearly 70% from the field this year for the Tigers and the last time that Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament (2008-2009, under Mike Anderson) they made the Elite Eight. They'll do it again. Missouri ends the Racers run.
1. Michigan State v 2. Missouri: It would have been nice to arrive to at least one surprise team here, but the West Region has two of the top teams of March in it's region and they'll meet for a showdown of two teams that come into the tournament on fire. Anderson left Missouri for Arkansas and he'll watch from home as Frank Haith has guided the Tigers into a position to reach the Final Four. But am I going to bet against Tom Izzo and Draymond Green? Hell. No.
West Winner: Michigan State Spartans
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