Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Winks Thinks: The H-O-R-S-E Edition

There's got to be some copyright infringements all over this little logo, but in honor of St. Patrick's day I find it appropriate for the column. Think of this of as a Winks Thinks if you want, but I'm actually going to forego the column this week (since the SportsBubbler has shut down I've become more of an alcoholic on Wednesday nights, whether that's related or not I'm not sure - but hey, it's St. Patty's Day). Instead, we're going to rock a little NCAA tournament predictions on this fine afternoon. Keep in mind, I've picked the winner and have won tournaments two years in a row, so maybe I'm not as stupid as I seem. Actually, this column is long as hell and took way too long to write. Let's stamp the Winks Think moniker on it after all.

As I wrote before the season, there were about six total players in all of college basketball that I could name, so you can see I'm not the biggest follower of college hoops. I would say I'm about as casual/passionate as the majority of you in that I'll follow Wisconsin and Marquette, might watch a national game if there's nothing else on, but won't go as far as clearing my schedule for Big Monday or anything like that. But when it comes to picking my bracket, I'm not clueless to the fact that I pick teams by their color or who has the cooler mascot. I take the average amount of knowledge I have about the teams and picking brackets and I apply it.

There are two things that I think everyone needs to do before they pick a bracket. One, you have to pick your horse. Pick the team you think is going to win it all and write them in the final slot right away. Two years ago, I went with Kansas. Last year, I went with North Carolina. I won both times. I have no problem picking the one seeds and riding them, they seem to be the teams that win it year after year.

The other thing I like to do is pick my sweet sixteen first, and then go backwards from there. For example, let's look at a particular group of teams in the South bracket - #5 Texas A&M vs. #12 Utah St. and #4 Purdue vs. #13 Siena. Of those two games, I believe that it's Texas A&M that will advance and that Purdue will lose, and I think the goal is to get as many Sweet Sixteen teams alive as possible. If I were filling the bracket out round-by-round though, I might be tempted by the 5/12 upset and take Utah State. After taking that, I'd look down and be hesitant about taking another upset so I'd pick Purdue to advance. That ends up being the opposite of the picks I actually would make should I actually put some thought into it, but we'll see after this weekend which strategy works. Let's go through the bracket though and make some picks (I'll actually list these round by round form for the easier navigation of this colum however).

PS - I'm aware that had to have been one of the more confusing paragraphs I've ever written.

Round of 64

#1 Kansas vs. #16 Lehigh - I know I took them to win it all two seasons ago, but I'm once again taking Kansas as my horse. It came down to them and Kentucky between which team I wanted to take all the way, and I just think that I've seen Kentucky escape too many games that they should have lost, so I think they are due to lose one of those games soon. I don't see the John Wall story in the same fashion of how Carmelo was a one-and-done champion, I just don't. Even though I have a mancrush on coach John Calipari, I'm going with KU as my horse, a decision half based on logic and half based on the fact I had a buddy go to grad school there. Again, I don't pick by colors or mascots, just personal affliations!

#8 UNLV vs. #9 Northern Iowa - I don't know anything about either of these teams. I don't care to look which team is more athletic on the wings or which team has better play from the guards. I vaguely remember Northern Iowa advancing out of the first round a year or two ago, so let's play the experience card and pick them.

#5 Michigan St. vs. #12 New Mexico St. - Michigan State is better. Sometimes they are easy like this. I also see them advancing against the winner of the next game, so if I wanted to I could afford to pick an upset. But, that upset would be Houston, and that's not happening. But that's kind of how the "strategy" works.

#4 Maryland vs. #13 Houston - I told myself I wouldn't look up any additional information that I didn't already know coming into this column, so I'm not going to look up Houstons record but if I can remember it was pretty shitty. The only time I've seen Maryland was when Wisconsin beat them in Maui, but I have to think that they'd be better than Houston. Let's go with the Terps.

#6 Tennessee vs. #11San Diego St. - I just found out that a friend of mine, female, took Tennessee to win it all. I mean, I know some people just fill these out blindly, but you have to think that the numbers next to the teams would help them out a bit. For that reason, I was going to just say screw it and take San Diego State . It really doesn't matter because I'm going to take the winner to lose against GTown, but let's go with the Vols.

#3 Georgetown vs. #14 Ohio - Every year I like to get in one main bracket, and then experiment in the other ones. I believe I took Georgetown to upset my boys from Kansas in one pool, so with that confidence in them I have no problem backing up the Hoyas in this main pool as well.

#7 Oklahoma St. vs #10 Georgia Tech - For some reason, I'm kind of down on the ACC teams not named Duke. Maybe it's because on Sunday night I watched Jay Bilas, Dickie V, and Bob Knight talk for two hours about whether Virginia Tech should have gotten in over Georgia Tech that I've just turned anti this conference, but I'm going with the Cowboys here.

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 UCSB - Ohio State.

Round of 32

#1 Kansas vs. #9 Northern Iowa - Kansas is my horse. Gotta ride my horse.

#5 Michigan State vs. #4 Maryland - Here's a little more where the Sweet Sixteen theory comes into play, in that out of the four teams in this little sub-bracket I did see the Spartans advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. For that reason, I don't see a need to breakdown Michigan State's style of play against Maryland, because I'm not entirely sure Maryland will even be this far. So let's play it safe and pick Michigan State.

#6 Tennessee vs. #3 Georgetown - Sorry friend, Tennessee's run ends here.

#7 Oklahoma State vs. #2 Ohio State - I have to admit, even though KU is the horse they are in one tough bracket, evidenced by the fact that I did take Georgetown to beat them in one such pool. If not Georgetown, I could see Ohio State being the one to end their run mainly because of Evan Turner. So let's advance the Buckeyes here.

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

#1 Kansas vs. #5 Michigan State - H-O-R-S-E

#3 Georgetown vs. #2 Ohio State - Now here's where you have to start making tough decisions. If either of these teams beat Kansas, I'm done. But if Kansas does knock one of them off in the Elite Eight, then this pick could be huge to give me the edge against other people that pick the Jayhawks. At press time, I'll be honest, I can't make this pick. I'm trying to imagine Georgetown/Marquette games and Ohio State/Georgetown games. I do want to pick the Hoyas, but I think Ohio State has been playing better as of late. I'm 51/49 going with Ohio State right now, but could very easily change that by Thursday morning.

#1 Kansas vs. #2 Ohio State or #3 Georgetown - Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.

Round of 64

#1 Syracuse vs. #16 Vermont - I'm a little put off by Syracuse's seven-man rotation, which is now down to six because of an injury. Granted, I couldn't tell you who any of those seven guys are, but I know it's enough to make me hesitant about picking this team. Obviously I'm going Orange here, but how much further than the Sweet Sixteen I'm not quite sure.

#8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State - Florida State isn't a team you pick in the tournament. Gonzaga is. Pretty compelling argument, I know.

#5 Butler vs. #12 UTEP - Everyone, and I mean everyone is going with UTEP here as their 5/12 upset, and for that reason I'm hesitant to do it. Looking at the board, I don't see any 12 seeds getting to the Sweet Sixteen, so I'm going to play it safe and go all five seeds in these games, because I think they have the better shot in the next round. I know that a 12 seed will win, but I'd rather just get it wrong by not picking one then by picking the wrong one and losing out on more points, if that makes sense.

#4 Vanderbilt vs. #13 Murray State - Now this is a situation in which why the previous game doesn't matter much, because I decided that Murray State is going to be my double-digit seeded horse to the Sweet Sixteen, and that they'll beat the winner of Butler/UTEP anyways. Murray State Racers Fever.

#6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota - I want to pick the Gophers because of their play in the Big Ten tourney, but they have "Just Happy to Be Here" syndrome, and that's never good. Let's go with Xavier.

#3 Pittsburgh vs. #14 Oakland - Shittsburgh over Jokeland, because I learned three days ago that this Oakland was actually near Detroit and not on the West Coast.

#7 BYU vs. #10 Florida - Florida. And not because I'm a Gator fan for no reason either. And I relalize that Florida has no business being in this tournament, but I'm going Gators. I have one other rule that I follow every year to great success, and that is that I never pick BYU. The reason is selfish, I dated a Mormon girl in high school and I'm still scarred by that experience. Don't get me wrong, she's a great girl and I enjoy catching up with her every now and again, but dealing with the Mormon experience is a tricky thing, especially for a high school male with accelerated hormones. No R-rated movies, no caffiene, no sex. Although trust me, dating a Mormon was not the reason that I wasn't having sex in high school, but just go with me here.

#2 Kansas State vs. #15 North Texas - Some decisions come with a backstory, some decisions are just Kansas State.

Round of 32

#1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga - Still worried about the Orange, but not enough to take them to lose here. Plus, they were the number one team in the country a week or so ago, no I shouldn't be too afraid of picking them.

#5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State - I'm going to get burned so hard with these decisions, but I'll keep racing with Murray State. Half because I'm sticking by my pick, half because I'm nostaglic about my old Murray Flexor bike. Ask Zar how much I loved that bike when you get the chance. Although my Diamondback was pretty tight, too.

#6 Xavier vs. #3 Pittsburgh - I know for sure that Pittsburgh will win their first game. I don't know for sure that Xavier will win theirs, that's how we pick Pittsburgh here.

#2 Kansas State vs. #10 Florida - If Florida miraculousy wins their first game, they won't find a way to win their second. Man this regional blows.

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

#1 Syracuse vs. #13 Murray State - Even though I don't really feel confident, they do have a sweet path to the Elite Eight.

#3 Pittsburgh vs. #2 Kansas State - I kind of like Kansas State this season on the fact that they are affliated with Kansas. Kansas State is getting the win here by association, which may hurt me in the end.

#1 Syracuse vs. #2 Kansas State - In my gut, I think Syracuse can still get to the Final Four, but I also don't want to take all number one seeds. But I don't want that to be my strategy, I want to take the team I think will win. Filling out brackets is tough stuff, and I can't tell you how many times I've second guessed myself already, it just comes with the territory. Let's go with Kansas State. Even though I the likely hood of Syracuse getting to this game is better than that of Kansas State, I'm going to take a "risk" and pick a two seed to go to the Final Four.

Round of 64

#1 Kentucky vs. #16 East Tennessee State - I don't even know why they play these games, but holy hell is it going to be something when a one seed gets upset in the first round.

#8 Texas vs. #9 Wake Forest - Well, neither of these teams are going to beat Kentucky, so it doesn't matter. But because of my ACC bias I'll go with the Longhorns here.

#5 Temple vs. #12 Cornell - Cornell is a sexy pick this year, even to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. But I'm anti-picking a 12 seed this year, and I'm even more anti Cornell because it reminds me of Andy Bernard which reminds me of The Office which has sucked hard as of late, especially the episode where Pam gave birth. Temple.

#4 Wisconsin vs. #13 Wofford - You gotta love know that our Badgers are either going to go to the Sweet Sixteen or lose this game on Friday. I've seen some ESPN guys take Bucky all the way to the Elite Eight over Kentucky, and in some cases even to the Final Four. Granted, I don't know if Bill Simmons' friends count as "ESPN guys" but still. Bucky could make a run in this tournament, I'm a little excited to see what happens.

#6 Marquette vs. #11 Washington - Hell, Marquette could make a run in this tournament too. I'm so in love with Marquette lately, as they have been twelve times as fun to watch in comparison to the Badgers, the team with where my true allegiances lie. Marquette has been playing great as of late, they excel in pressure situations, and they have the experience this season of big game atmosphere thanks to all their close games in the Big East. In one pool, I took them Elite Eight, and I wouldn't say it's that inconceiveable to see a Marquette/Wisconsin matchup to get to the Final Four. It won't happen, but it could.

#3 New Mexico vs. #14 Montana - New Mexico wins the battle of State I Never Plan to Visit.

#7 Clemson vs. #10 Missouri - Anti-ACC, remember? Missouri wins it.

#2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State - I haven't given too much commentary on any 2/15 matchup yet, and I don't plan to start now.

Round of 32

#1 Kentucky vs. #8 Texas - Again, I'm not even sure Texas will win round one, so why get crazy and take them to knock off a one seed? I'm siding with Ashley Judd on this one.

#5 Temple vs. #4 Wisconsin - I have a rule where I try not to be a homer, especially in pools where I know that a lot of people are going to pick Wisconsin and Marquette because they are homers. But I just like the matchups for the Badgers, and I'm taking them to the Sweet Sixteen. Please don't let me down, Badgers.

#6 Marquette vs. #3 New Mexico - I couldn't know less about New Mexico, and I'm half hard for Lazar Hayward right now, so wow, I'm going to really take both Wisconsin teams to the Sweet Sixteen. This is sure to end in disaster.

#10 Missouri vs. #2 West Virginia - Just for the record, I actually wouldn't mind visiting New Mexico or Montana, I'm just not going to go out of my way to visit either state. You'll catch me dead before you catch me in West Virginia though. I'll pick them here though.

Sweet Sixteen and Final Four

#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Wisconsin - Oh, how the temptation is here to pick Wisconsin. I've heard all the right things too that would make me pull the trigger about how their style of play would slow down Kentucky's, and how their defense could be the recipe for success here. But then I envision the game, and I see Kentucky up twenty points by halftime. This is where the homerism stops, I'll go with the Wildcats.

#2 West Virginia vs. #6 Marquette - Put a halt to the homerism here too, folks, I'm going to go with West Virginia. As much as I think Marquette and Wisconsin could get to the Elite Eight and face each other, as much as I want that to happen, I just can't pick it.

#1 Kentucky vs. #2 West Virginia - Before the tournament began, I gave serious consideration to making Kentucky my horse before I finally settled on Kansas. One reason was because I was feeling West Virginia a little bit (the basketball team, not the landfill of a state). In fact, just yesterday I was set up for a West Virgina run to the finals, but then I had a conversation with Bear about taking them. Now, Bear isn't terrible at this kind of stuff, and he does pretty well in fantasy leagues and such, but everytime we talk about something or he gives me advice, it never ends well. I mean, I'm still waiting for Luis Matos to be a stud for the Orioles. So, take your West Virginia pick Bear, I'm going with Kentucky.

Round of 64

#1 Duke vs. #16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff - Is there anything more meaningless than the play-in game? I mean, it's cool that one extra team gets the chance to make the tournament, but that slot goes to an average school from the major conference, and it's two winners from the smaller leagues that are forced to duke it out on the Tuesday night before the tournament start. No pun intended, I mean that. Anyways, yeah, Duke.

#8 California vs. #9 Louisville - If you think I'm rocking an ACC bias right now, that's nothing compared to how bad I think the Pac-10 is. I'm going with Rick Pitino's kids from Texas Western, I mean Louisville, on this one.

#5 Texas A&M vs. #12 Utah State - Texas A&M, see above.

#4 Purdue vs. #13 Siena - I talked big about taking Siena before, but I'm going to go with Purdue. I'm usually all talk when push comes to shove, this is a minor example of that being true.

#6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Old Dominion - I feel like I've been taking Old Dominion as an upset ever since I started filling out brackets in third grade, but I'm thinking Notre Dame had enough in them to get the victory here. Honestly, if you've come here for in-depth analysis, this is not the blog. I think we've learned that by now.

#3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston St. - A lot of people are high to the sky on Baylor right now, but I don't think I've watched a Baylor team play ever in my life. Clearly they'll win here, but I'm not ready to take them to the Final Four like me people. Then again, "some people" refer to professional college basketball analysts, and I am a slouch that blogs about wrestling in my spare time. You figure it out.

#7 Richmond vs. #10 St. Mary's - Heads, Richmond. Tails, St. Mary's. Heads it is.

#2 Villanova vs. #15 Robert Morris - Sorry Bobby Morris.

Round of 32

#1 Duke vs. #9 Louisville - I know that Duke is always a popular pick, and that they always let people down, but I'm going to ride them again. I actually got into a pattern where I was picking Duke to win the tournament every season, and that never ended up well. I'm not that high on Duke this, but their bracket is weak sauce and if there is a year to finally cash in on them it has to be this year. Then again, the definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different reason, so we'll see.

#5 Texas A&M vs. #4 Purdue - I balked on Siena, but I'll say with A&M here.

#6 Notre Dame vs. #3 Baylor - When in doubt, take the higher seed. Baylor it is.

#7 Richmond vs. #2 Villanova - When in doubt, take the higher seed. Villanova it is. If you're familiar with any of my columns, I tend to mail it in towards the end of the column after I've been writing for two straight hours, which is clearly what is happening here.

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

#1 Duke vs. #5 Texas A&M - Duke. Seriously, we're winding it down here.

#3 Baylor vs. #2 Villanova - I mean if this was the bracket that Kansas was in then I would be collecting money from everyone right now. How much more intimidating are Ohio State and Georgetown when compared to Villanova and Baylor? I don't even want to pick a winner here, but I'll go Nova.

#1 Duke vs. #2 Villanova - Duke.

Phoned in Final Four Picks

Kansas over Kansas State, Duke over Kentucky (again, Duke has a better shot of getting here than Kentucky does in my opinion). Kansas takes the cake.

Goodnight everybody!

See you at Jenz Corner Bar...


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