THE BRACKETS - FIRST IMPRESSIONSFirst off, any of you who harbored hope of a miracle NIT bid for our Bears should check the invite list. Washington didn't get an NIT bid, so it's clear Cal was never in the mix. Aside #1: Washington was a regional cover for the frickin' SI college hoops preview - has any team received that kind of hype and failed to make the post-season? Aside #2: UW got screwed.
On to the NCAA's. Bear-less as it might be, it's still the greatest sporting event in America. We observe certain rules in rooting in March, and here they are:
* Thou shalt root for the Pac-10, excepting Stanford. I have never bought the theory that conspicuous failure is good for the conference and its teams. So I will root for five of the six teams in the Tourney to do well, and I'll even root for Stanford to get by Louisville because Rick Pitino gives me the heebies. Three or four conference teams in the Sweet 16 would be great for our rep, and perhaps give Tom Hansen a reason to wake up and renegotiate our TV deal.
* I like to pick two types of dark horses. The first is an actual long-shot (8 seed or below), and the other can be anything between a three and five seed. This year, the real dark horse is Holy Cross. Why? No reason. The legitimate dark horse? Texas A&M. Hardcore school with passionate and polite fans, and you've got to love Acie Law's game.
* I'll enter too many pools with at least three different approaches to filling out the bracket. The first is a thoughtful analysis, looking at proven Tourney factors like Adjusted Scoring Margin and previous trends (such as the frequency of 5/12 upsets, etc); the second will be a more subjective bracket that is inevitably wrong; and the third will be totally random (and will probably out-do the first two. Right now I'm in Neuheisel's pool, and that's it - anyone else want to take my money?
As for the brackets themselves, I don't think Cal hurt UCLA too badly by knocking them down to a 2 seed in the West. Kansas is the softest of the 1 seeds IMO, despite their high ranking. If UCLA were a 1 seed, who knows what kind of 2 seed would have been shipped West? Wisconsin's the only 2 seed who I think would be an easier matchup than the Jayhawks. BTW, Ben Howland spent an inordinate amount of time praising Cal and Ubaka in his interviews this afternoon - very nice pub.
Oregon seems to have a nice field in front of them; their two-seed, Wisconsin, is rather weak. Florida looms in the Elite 8, however. Vitale suggested that Arizona could knock off Florida in the 2nd round, which shows you how much Vitale has watched Arizona this year.
Ohio State has the easiest road to the Elite 8 (BYU, Tennessee/Virginia in front of them). Washington State got an awful draw, in the same side of the East bracket with Georgetown. That assumes of course they can get past Oral Roberts (who beat Kansas) in the first round. SC has a likely second round matchup with Texas, so scrap them from the Sweet 16 list. Unless, that is, they can find a way to stop Vince Young and the shotgun spread.
More on the Madness tomorrow.