Tuesday, March 16, 2010

HSL Big Dance Breakdown, Part Two: The Cinderellas

14: A pesky group of 14s, here. Look out...

Ohio (vs. Georgetown)

Big Ten followers might remember the name Armon Bassett, a 6'2" guard that played two years at Indiana before jumping ship during the Kelvin Sampson fiasco. After being a pretty good complimentary piece during his time in Bloomington, Bassett has now emerged as Mr. Everything for this Bobcats squad. In their four MAC tournament games, Bassett played 165 of a possible 170 minutes, averaged 29 a night, and got to the line almost 15 times per game. Ohio will have their hands full with the streaking Hoyas in this spot, but if Bassett continues to scorch the nets and get to the line like Wilt Chamberlain, anything's possible.

Oakland (vs. Pittsburgh)

While Pitt is always a very physical team that will hound you on the defensive end, this is not a terrible draw for Greg Kampe's Golden Grizzlies. They get to play in Milwaukee, which is only a stone's throw from Detroit (okay, about a six-hour drive, but not too bad). And OU's Keith Benson, the Summit League Player of the Year, will be the biggest and baddest guy on the court for either team. Pitt doesn't throw a ton of size at you, and if Benson stays out of foul trouble, he might be able to turn the painted area into his own personal domain on Friday afternoon. Two other players to keep an eye on: Derrick Nelson, a 9th-year Senior forward that exploded for 36 in the conference championship game; and Blake Cushingberry, Oakland's supersized shooting guard. He stands just 6-foot-3, but I'd say he carries at least a solid deuce-seventy in that frame. Well done, sir.

Montana (vs. New Mexico)

Wouldn't be the worst spot to pick an upset. Anthony Johnson for Montana is an unstoppable force on the offensive end, going off for 42 in the Big Sky title game. And doesn't it just seem a little bit strange to see New Mexico as a 3-seed? Something doesn't feel right here.

Sam Houston State (vs. Baylor)

There's some bad karma at play with this club. First of all, their nickname: the Bearkats. You read that correctly. Bearkat, with a K. I know Sam Houston State is not exactly the Harvard of the South, but you figure they could have at least brought in some knowledgeable middle-schoolers to aid with this spelling. And in an even worse slice of karma, Sam Houston, the fun-loving wrestler from the mid to late 80's, is now serving a ten-year prison sentence for multiple DUI arrests. And right before that, his house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. But yeah, besides all that, I really like their chances against Baylor. Phhhhhh.

13: We're the 13-seeds. And we're about to break your heart.

Houston (vs. Maryland)

This contest will feature one of the best individual matchups of the opening round with Houston's Aubrey Coleman facing off against Maryland's Greivis Vasquez. Both are senior guards that most definitely do not require an invitation to shoot. Coleman led the nation in scoring with 26 a game, while Vasquez took home Player of the Year honors in the ACC. The winner of this one will most likely find Michigan State waiting in round two.

Murray State (vs. Vanderbilt)

A unique team. Six players average between 9.5 and 10.6 PPG. Their tournament MVP was a freshman...that comes off the bench. The Racers also racked up a highly impressive 30-4 mark on the year, although it did come against a cupcake schedule that included back-to-back matchups in late December against a Deering High squad led by Anthony Anderson and Coach Dick Butkus. And the best they could do was split.

Wofford (vs. Wisconsin)

The kids from Wofford are making the school's first ever trip to the Big Dance, and history tells us it might be a very short visit. See, earlier this year, Wofford got wasted at Illinois by 14. And in Illinois' regular season finale, Wisconsin trampled them by 15. Combine those two results, and we discover that Wisconsin is 29 points better than Wofford. Simple math.

Siena (vs. Purdue)

Dear CBS,

Please do not stick us with regional coverage of this game. Really. We understand it is a Big Ten team, and that we should be interested. But we're not. Please show us something else. We thank you for your expected cooperation in this matter.

Signed, The Entire State of Michigan

12: Mister Twelve has won 5 of the last 8 meetings with his annual rival, Dr. Five-Seed.

New Mexico State (vs. Michigan State)

The surprise WAC tournament champion enters their matchup with Michigan State riding a wave of momentum, but the buck will stop here. The Aggies rely on their duo of high-scoring guards, Jahmar Young (right) and Jonathan Gibson. But this team is not overly physical and lacks consistent effort on the defensive end; not a great recipe for success heading into a bullfight with Tom Izzo and Co. A quick glance at New Mexico State's non-conference schedule reveals some pretty significant cracks in their armor. They played on the road against Saint Mary's and UCLA, and dropped both games by identical 100 to 68 scores. They played archrival New Mexico twice and lost each time by double digits. They took on fellow tournament qualifier UTEP at home, and got rolled by 21. When this team steps up in competition, it doesn't generally turn out very well. And it won't here, either.

UTEP (vs. Butler)

An interesting battle between two clubs that absolutely dominated their respective leagues during the regular season. UTEP went 15-1 in Conference USA, while Butler did them one better in their spotless 18-0 jaunt through the Horizon. It should be a competitive game, but Butler just plays too smart and is too experienced to get knocked off this early in the proceedings.

Cornell (vs. Temple)

I know this is the "hot" upset pick, and everybody and their brother are jumping on the Big Red bandwagon, and that this is typically the death-knell for an upset-minded team, but I say screw it: make room for one more guy on the Cornell train. These guys absolutely throttled the competition in the Ivy League, and lost by just five points in Lawrence against the Jayhawks. Ryan Wittman (son of Randy) is one of the best shooters in the country, and 7-footer Jeff Foote is a present-day Jon Koncak. Their opponent, Temple, makes the game extremely ugly and keeps the score low, but look for the experienced crew from Ithaca to advance into the round of 32.

Utah State (vs. Texas A & M)

Hey, it's the Aggies versus the Aggies. Cue lame play-by-play guy right before tipoff..."Well Jim, we should be in for a good one today, and I might be goin' out on a limb here, but I think the Aggies are gonna take this one!!" Bup, bup, bup...that's hilarious, dude. You here all week??

11: Two of the 6 vs. 11 matchups last year were decided by one point.

San Diego State (vs. Tennessee)

In both 1992 and 1993, Steve Fisher took his Fab Fivers and advanced all the way to the National Championship game. The following year, Chris Webber jumped ship, but Fisher still led the Wolverines to the Elite Eight. That's 13 NCAA victories in a three year span. It's been sixteen years since, and Fisher is yet to win another game in the tournament. But as Nicolas Cage said of his beloved Nets in The Family Man, "The Nets? Are you kidding? They suck. But they're due. They're certainly due..."

Minnesota (vs. Xavier)

Simple postseason rule for 2010: if you drop two games to Michigan during the year, and one of those losses is a 28-point thrashing at near-dormant Crisler Arena, then you are not going anywhere in the NCAA Tournament. As Kevin Bacon coldly stated in A Few Good Men, "These are the facts; and they are indisputable."

Washington (vs. Marquette)

This game has first-round classic written all over it. The Huskies are led by a lightning-quick guard named Isaiah Thomas. But unlike the original Zeke, this one is left handed, stands just 5-foot-9, and basically shoots the ball every time he touches it. U-Dub by 1 in a mini-upset.

Old Dominion (vs. Notre Dame)

One of those quirky 12:25 starts on Thursday afternoon where the arena is half-empty, the players are still waking up, and midway through the first half, the score is 11-10 with both teams combining for a zillion turnovers. First team to 35 wins this one.

Two more days till the Madness officially commences.

See ya tomorrow for Part Three.

Drop a bracket-related thought of your own, or float me an E-mail at highsockslegend@gmail.com

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