Stop me if you’ve heard this before; “This is the most difficult year I can remember in terms of picking games in the NCAA Tournament!”
I say it every year and this year probably takes the cake. It might seem easy because penciling Kentucky into the Final Four is about as safe a play as you can make but have you looked at some of these early match-ups? I can honestly see the first 32 games being 100% chalk or roughly 50% upsets. It really is that crazy this year.
Traditionally of course, the five-twelve match-up has always been the place to look when it comes to picking upsets. While that’s a great place to look, you’ll actually find more historical success in the eight-nine games where the nine seeds hold a slight edge of the better seeded eights.
The one five-twelve game I like the most is Buffalo over West Virginia. The Bulls were one of few teams to give Kentucky a scare this season and they won the Mid-American Conference. In terms of other upsets? Look for Georgetown to go do down as a fourth seed to 13th seeded Eastern Washington too. The Hoyas struggle to get out of the opening round.
In choosing my Final Four, I found it important to look at teams who could best dethrone the number one seeds. In the Midwest, Kentucky could face problems with Kansas, Wichita State or Notre Dame but all three teams will need to be near perfect.
In the West, Wisconsin will have trouble with athletic teams like North Carolina, Baylor or Arizona. In the East, Villanova can’t run and hide from teams like Virginia or Michigan State or Louisville while in the South I see Duke troubled by only Iowa State or Gonzaga.
In recent years we’ve seen teams like Butler, Wichita State and George Mason make trips to the Final Four. Will another mid-major make a similar run this year?
I would be an idiot not to put Kentucky in my Final Four. Joining them will be Arizona, Duke and Northern Iowa. Give me the Wildcats… of Arizona to cut down the nets.
Thoughts on Borland
Part of me thinks there’s something more to Chris Borland’s announcement. First of all, Borland isn’t retiring, he’s leaving the game. I’m not going to use the word “quitting,” but I understand those who choose to. I understand why Borland is leaving; he’s scared of what he’ll be like in 25 years.
He’s done a lot of research and I believe he is making an educated decision. That said, does his decision call for the hyperbole that we saw this week? Things like “the end of football is near” and “football is dying” rang out like dings from a bell.
I’m not going to go that far but there is cause for concern regarding the future of football. There will always be enough guys to keep the game alive whether at the college level or pro, but the pool is dwindling as parents say “no” to their sons’ dreams of playing the game.
We live in a culture of fear and that’s what is happening to football. Soccer, which is rising in popularity in America, has concussion problems of its’ own and also has a larger propensity of leg injuries. But I don’t hear people screaming to get their kids out of soccer do you?
The silence you hear is because there isn’t the fear associated with soccer like there is with football. It isn’t as violent and in that word itself, football is guilty in all courts of popular, yet uneducated opinion.