Y’know, were it not for my West bracket being completely busted–oh, and picking Gonzaga to win it all–I might be in decent shape in my office pool. Although I went 0-4 in the West region, I otherwise batted .750 in the third round as my other six Elite Eight picks all made it to the Sweet 16. But alas, my national champs bowed out early, so as it stands I’m in 24th, albeit with a commanding lead over 25th (aka last) place. Too bad the prize money only goes to the top three…
That said, since my bracket wouldn’t voom if I put four thousand volts through it, I’m throwing my support behind the La Salle Explorers. If I have any hope of finishing, oh, in the top 20 or so, I’ll need everybody’s West region to be as bleedin’ demised as mine. And hey, it’s not entirely unprecedented for a team to go from the First Four to the Final Four, either. La Salle need look no further than two spots up the A-10 standings to see the VCU Rams, who burst onto the national scene when they did so two years ago. Did I mention that La Salle defeated VCU–in the latter’s gym, no less? Of course, they weren’t playing against the 2011 team…
But they do face a relatively easy opponent in the Sweet 16, with Wichita St. being the third-lowest seed to advance to the fourth round. Of course even on paper, it’s hardly a cakewalk, as Wichita State has four more wins on the season than the A-10 also-rans–to say nothing of the fact that they blitzed 20th-ranked Pitt and knocked out the top team in the country during the tournament’s opening weekend. WSU may have only shot 33 per cent from 3-point land (how appropriate!) on the year, but they upped that number to 50 in shocking the Zags last Saturday. And while they’re hardly the highest-scoring team in the nation, they totally play some tough D, holding both highly-touted opponents under 36 per cent from the field.
La Salle doesn’t put up quite as many points as Gonzaga, but they still averaged 72.4 ppg against a deep A-10 conference that sent five teams to the tourney (mind you, the fourth-place Explorers are the last ones standing). I wasn’t so big on them after their second-half squeaker vs K-State, but then they proved they could run ‘n gun with the Runnin’ Rebs, matching the SEC tourney champs bucket-for-bucket in their third-round win. Because who doesn’t wanna see a four-guard squad from North Philly in the Final Four? I’m sure Bill Raftery would leave some Depends on the deck for his alma matter, let’s put it that way… La Salle 72, Wichita State 69.
Of course, the Upset Special Game of the Night doesn’t tip till 10:17 pm (on the East Coast), so there are a few games to go before we get to see the future NCAA champs in action. Here’s who I like in the other three contests:
7:15 pm: Miami over Marquette – Through their first two games, this Marquette team is starting to remind me of last year’s Kansas squad, a team that should’ve lost pretty much every regional game, but somehow managed to survive each time. Of course, Kansas made it all the way to the national championship game in 2012, but I can’t see that happening this year for the Jayhawks–or the Golden Eagles, for that matter. This Marquette team that barely squeaked past Butler and Davidson is about to meet a major roadblock in the ACC regular-season and tournament champs. Arguably the top two-seed in the tourney, Miami was ranked as high as second during the season. And sure, they’ve had some upsets along the way, but this is a team that bent Duke over, stole their anal virginity, took all their money, kicked their dog and burned their house down en route to a 90-63 thrashing in late January. Marquette might wanna wear a collective ass-condom.
7:47 pm: Arizona over Ohio State – Speaking of barely surviving, the Fuckeyes (as the Fab Four used to call ‘em) needed a virtual buzzer-beater to beat Iowa State, a 12-loss team from the Big 12. Their reward is a trip to Los Angeles, where Arizona ties run deep–and not just in the Mexican gangs. The Wildcats have six players from the L.A. area, including starting forward Solomon Hill, who averages 13 points a game when he’s not playing in front of his folks. Suffice to say there’ll be a lot of encouragement for the Pac-12 program, who are now my most-logical pick to win the West. The heart says La Salle, but the brain’s telling me Arizona’s got this region.
9:45 pm: Syracuse over Indiana – Holy upset special, Batman! Gonzaga might have been the only one-seed not to make it to the Sweet 16, but my bracket has two more of them falling to four-seeds in this round. The Hoosiers suffered a third-round scare against a Temple team that tied with La Salle in the A-10 standings, while only mustering 58 points on a mere 45 attempts. Had the Owls been able to get it going from beyond the arc (3-24, hoot!), it might have been goodnight for the Big 10 champs. Enter the Orange, a team that held its first two tournament foes to a mere 47 points per game. Sure, they weren’t so impressive against Cal, but Syracuse still went 12 minutes–that’s an entire NBA quarter of basketball–without hitting a field goal, yet managed to win the game. Hey, defense wins championships, right? (I have ‘em losing to Miami in the next round though, heh heh.)