The Big Dance begins, and a billion brackets wait to be broken

It begins again in earnest, the event that brings commerce to a grinding halt. Starting Thursday, the NCAA tournament seizes hold of our lives and doesn’t let go until April 5. It makes bracketologists of us all and household names of schools we couldn’t have located with a GPS. (Coppin State? George Mason? Davidson?)

Even the worst installments of the sprawling event — to be blunt, the past few haven’t been vintage — offer the most riveting viewing in North American sports. It’s March and it’s mad. It’s a rite of spring. It’s the Big Dance, and 64 pep bands are ready to blare. As you’re reaching for the earplugs, here’s a quickie guide to Round 1.

The 5 most likely upsets

  • No. 13 Siena over No. 4 Purdue (Friday, 2:30 p.m.): So many people are picking this one it shouldn’t even be considered an upset.
  • No. 13 Murray State over No. 4 Vanderbilt (Thursday, 2:30 p.m.): The quick Racers from the Ohio Valley Conference are a bad match for the Commodores.
  • No. 12 Utah State over No. 5 Texas A&M (Friday, 5 p.m.): In a match of Aggies and Aggies, beware the good-shooting crew from Logan, Utah.
  • No. 13 Wofford over No. 4 Wisconsin (Friday, 3 p.m.): The Terriers played road games against five teams from power leagues — and went 2-3.
  • No. 11 San Diego State over No. 6 Tennessee (Thursday, 9:55 p.m.): Don’t look now, but the Mountain West has as many teams in the Big Dance as the SEC.

The 5 examples of joyless seeding

  • No. 8 UNLV versus No. 9 Northern Iowa (Thursday, 7:10 p.m.): The Rebels would be a chic pick to make a deep run; so, alas, are the Panthers.
  • No. 5 Butler versus No. 12 UTEP (Thursday, 4:45 p.m.): Butler is the epitome of the classy mid-major; UTEP won 16 in a row before losing in the Conference USA final.
  • No. 5 Temple versus No. 12 Cornell (Friday, 12:30 p.m.): Big Red would have been a hot pick against an unsteady opponent; the Owls are steadiness personified.
  • No. 7 Richmond versus No. 10 Saint Mary’s (Thursday, 3 p.m.): Two very good mid-majors, but one has to lose in Round 1.
  • No. 8 Texas versus No. 9 Wake Forest (Thursday, 9:45 p.m.): Two underachievers from major conferences, and one has to win in Round 1.

    Derrick Favors: Almost the ACC MVP.

    Derrick Favors: Almost the ACC MVP. (AP photo)

The 5 most talented teams

  • 1. Kentucky: NBAdraft.net lists four Wildcats as lottery picks this June or next.
  • 2. Kansas: NBAdraft.net lists three Jayhawks as first-rounders in the 2010 draft.
  • 3. Georgia Tech: The nation’s best set of big men. (Don’t forget Zachery Peacock.)
  • 4. Ohio State: National player of the year Evan Turner is complemented by William Buford.
  • 5. West Virginia: Big-time bookend forwards in Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks.

The 5 best players

  • Evan Turner, Ohio State: A 6-foot-7 point guard from Big Ten country; the closest thing to Magic Johnson since Earvin himself.
  • John Wall, Kentucky: Derrick Rose almost led Memphis to the 2008 title as a freshman; Wall is even better than Rose.
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: Knows something about winning in March. Beat Pittsburgh in a epic regional final last year.
  • James Anderson, Oklahoma State: Scored 31 points against Baylor and Missouri, 27 against Kansas, Kansas State and Texas A&M.
  • Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech: Would have been MVP of the ACC tournament had the Jackets won.

The hottest young coaches

  • Brad Stevens, Butler: The latest and best in a line of fine Bulldog coaches; his career record is 84-14.
  • Frank Martin, Kansas State: Inherited the job when Bob Huggins bolted for West Virginia in 2007; has lifted K-State to a No. 2 seed.
  • Scott Drew, Baylor: Inherited the mess left by Dave Bliss in 2003; had the Bears in the NCAA by 2008 and has them as a No. 3 seed today.
  • Tony Barbee, UTEP: A former player and assistant under John Calipari, Barbee has the Miners back in the Dance in Year 4 on the job.
  • Steve Alford, New Mexico: Resurrected his  career in Albuquerque after leaving Iowa in 2007; is 75-25 with the Lobos.

    The great Wall of Kentucky. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

    The great John Wall of Kentucky. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The best Round 1 games

  • No. 7 Oklahoma State versus No. 10 Georgia Tech (Friday, 7:15 p.m.): A clash of styles — a great guard in James Anderson against the Jackets’ massive front line.
  • No. 8 Gonzaga versus No. 9 Florida State (Friday, 7:10 p.m.): The tall Seminoles were the No. 4 seed in the ACC tournament but are the lower seed in this one.
  • No. 8 California versus No. 9 Louisville (Friday, 9:55 p.m.): Note the difference in leagues. The Bears won the Pac-10 regular-season title; Louisville finished sixth in the Big East.
  • No. 7 Brigham Young versus No. 10 Florida (Thursday, 12:20 p.m.): The Cougars need two wins to advance to the West Regional, which will be played in Salt Lake City.
  • No. 1 Syracuse versus No. 16 Vermont (Friday, 9:40 p.m.): A No. 1 seed has never lost in Round 1, but in 2005 No. 4 Syracuse lost to No. 13 Vermont.

The 5 best teams

  • 1. Kansas: Played 13 games against the RPI top 50, won 11.
  • 2. Kentucky: Team with three freshman starters lost only twice.
  • 3. Ohio State: Lost seven games; three came when Evan Turner was hurt.
  • 4. Syracuse: Uncertainty about Arinze Onuaku’s status clouds Orange sky.
  • 5. West Virginia: Hardest-working bunch in the nation.

Promotional announcement: If you haven’t entered Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco, there’s still time. Click here to do so. (Polls close at noon Thursday.) And if you’re of a mind to check out my bracket, it can be found here.

43 comments Add your comment

Herschel Talker

March 17th, 2010
1:59 pm

MB – please don’t give me any kudos. I don’t care about being first.

FIRE MARK RICHT!
FIRE BOBBY COX!

Herschel Talker

March 17th, 2010
1:59 pm

Mark Fox > Paul Hewitt

Herschel Talker

March 17th, 2010
2:00 pm

Mark Bradley > Terence Moore

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

March 17th, 2010
2:09 pm

i seem to remember the selection commitee used to spend a little more time trying to get matchups that would make good TV has the commitee got new members that are trying to make it bland or is this just the luck of the draw ? like you said about joyless seeding Mark shouldn’t some of those teams been matched up with different teams to maybe get a better shot at a cinderella making a deep run ? Don’t cinderellas mean good tv ratings?

Chris

March 17th, 2010
2:15 pm

The committee wants first and second round upsets for drama and ‘madness’ but at the end of the day, nobody really wants to see a George Mason or Davidson win it all. Just like college football, the masses want to see traditional powers in the biggest championship games or the final four.
Having said that, I fail to see why they put Kansas in the toughest overall bracket. I think that’s the general perception?

Blue

March 17th, 2010
2:15 pm

Herschel; congratulations. Your life is now complete! :)

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

March 17th, 2010
2:16 pm

UF > UGA

Billy Donovan > Mark Fox (Unless UGA fans don’t acknowledge Hoops Titles)

Herschel Talker = Trailer Park Trash

Herschel Talker

March 17th, 2010
2:19 pm

UF > UGA in 2 categories:

1. Jean Shorts
2. Mullets

Ree Roe

March 17th, 2010
2:25 pm

I’m surprised this wasn’t spun into a “Here’s a novel concept: Georgia Tech is talented” article. After all we’ve read the EXACT same “Tech is really talented” article from you for the past month. It’s getting old Mark & I say this b/c I usually enjoy reading your articles, but the tweaking you’re doing to Hewitt & Tech is low class & I say this as a UGA fan. If you think he can’t coach, just write it. But the “Tech is uber talented” angle is getting old. Thanks

-REEtweet the Roe!!

cattle dawg

March 17th, 2010
2:30 pm

Mark, great minds think alike! We got the same final 4 , championship game, an winner. We did take a different road to get there. I cant wait to get my sweatshirt.

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

March 17th, 2010
2:34 pm

UF > UGA in additional categories:

National Championships (Mens Sports)

Quarterbacks that like to spoon each other (Stafford/Cox)

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

March 17th, 2010
2:36 pm

I think we need the poster know as Russ, The Temporary Mascot to weigh in on this topic…

hehe

March 17th, 2010
2:37 pm

Lot of dogs on this blog, but they don’t have a dog in this hunt.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

March 17th, 2010
2:38 pm

i stepped out on a limb in my picks i have a 3 seed winning it all and only one number 1 seed making it to the final four , maybe I will get something for having the worst picks.

Russ

March 17th, 2010
3:00 pm

Duke gets no love?

todd grantham

March 17th, 2010
3:10 pm

Mark, what is the difference between the most talented team and the best team? a dificient coach?

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 17th, 2010
3:21 pm

Herschel Talker likes men who like men.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 17th, 2010
3:22 pm

Herschel Talker > Paul Hewitt.

this just in on espn

March 17th, 2010
3:41 pm

ga tech is again in danger of losing players due to failing ncaa acedemic guidelines wrt graduation rates. gt is one of 6 teams in the ncaa that fall in this category.

this will be the second time in 3 years that gt may get disciplined with a loss of scholarships.

who i want to hear from are those phew lovers who defend phew by saying that he graduates all his players and he is a class act.

one of 6 schools in a field of 65.

phew cheats academically and still cant win to save his life.

also….. you can add seton hall to the list of 3 schools who will get phew’s resume. it seems that seton hall fired their coach for his conduct. (tooo many technical fouls in a season with 7) phew would be a perfect fit at seaton hall because phew lacks the passion for the game and for winning that come with getting technical fouls.

has phew ever even had a T in 10 years at gt? maybe 1 from his favorite ref named rose/

wesleywhatwhat

March 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

i love the tech players but to claim that favors is a top five player in the NCAAs make me question if mark bradley has watched much basketball this season.

does the ajc have editors anymore?

juvenal

March 17th, 2010
4:08 pm

an excellent article, i’m really starting to get excited-a shame so many don’t see what a beautiful forest(Forrest?)this is because of their particular tree-i was blessed to go to all 5 games on the way to Denver, there really is nothing like it-did you catch the old George Will column during the Hoya’s ’80’s runs?

Monticello Dawg

March 17th, 2010
4:25 pm

UF over UGA in national champions (men’s sports): Think you might want to tweak that one. If you specify football and basketball, yes, but if you are saying men’s sports as a whole., I would like to see some evidence. Dogs have NCs in football, baseball, tennis (multiple), and golf.

Too Easy

March 17th, 2010
4:38 pm

Then, Ramble, HT must love you.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

March 17th, 2010
4:38 pm

I’m a little late because I was getting a, uh, touch-up. It takes that paint forever to dry, so I can’t sit down yet. I don’t see any teams named the Bulldogs in this NCAA thingy, so it’s all boring to me.

If you’re a gambler, put your money on the teams that Bradley didn’t pick. He’s almost always wrong.

Now I’ve got to shift my weight till this stuff dries.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 17th, 2010
4:45 pm

Too Easy, It is what it is.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 17th, 2010
4:53 pm

doesn’t mean I have to love him back.

A Realist

March 17th, 2010
4:57 pm

C’mon folks……y’all are taking Mark Bradley too serious……he just likes to see his words in print…..he really doesn’t know anything…..he’s kinda like the old running back from South Carolina…..that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

RAMBLE ON!!!

March 17th, 2010
5:00 pm

haha Too easy, you got me.

Um, I guess he really loves you too. Hah!

GT

March 17th, 2010
5:00 pm

Duke is like Ohio State or the Big Ten in football. How many years can they be seeded above better teams and lose early. Sports unlike politics or most things in life has a reality check, and yet we have somehow in this commercial world managed to ignore that like an alcoholic.

atlvol55

March 17th, 2010
6:07 pm

Wow Bradley I didn’t think you knew that much about college BB. I’ll have to say I agree with almost all of your observations…just hoping you are wrong about the San Diego St. pick!!

Hoops Dude

March 17th, 2010
7:12 pm

Great analysis on this site. I like the way this guy thinks. Check it out:

http://www.ncaabracketmaster.com

Herschel Talker

March 17th, 2010
8:13 pm

RAMBLE ON!!! – You’ve been very quiet ever since 30-24 and 73-66.

GT VET

March 17th, 2010
8:48 pm

Yea Herschel talker you keep those scores close to ya heart cupcake,they will get you along with 50 cents about nothing,but hey Im sure Hussain Obama is gonna share the wealth with ya..BTW did you catch that GT vs ugay baseball score???guess not didnt see it on your post…also was wondering who is uga playing in the first round of ncaas,lol whoops i meant nit..no?? didnt make that one either??ohh well hey you still got those scores to keep ya all cuddly…

Jack this OSU and OSU

March 17th, 2010
9:17 pm

wow nice article…ok Oklahoma State going down and GT vs. Ohio St will be a knock down drag out Rocky Balboa ending with Buckeyes falling short and the nation looking on. KICK SOME BIG TEN BUTT

hind tit

March 17th, 2010
9:56 pm

tech should get this far with my grand child coaching with the players they have and shes 11 years old.

Lil' Barry Bailout

March 17th, 2010
10:12 pm

I’ve given up predicting what Tech will do in any given game. All I know is that it will be ugly.

CJ Dawg

March 17th, 2010
10:54 pm

UGA basketball > Gt basketball…this year
UGA football > GT football……this year
UGA all around sports > better than UF, GT and just about alll the others
UF, GT fans > UGA fans at jumping on board the ol’ bandwagon.

Bottom line, fans are fans. Sports are sports. Let’s just enjoy the games. And….GT and UF fans are some nerdy, pale faced ugly folks that are either inbred or bred by other nerdly folks. Enjoy the mullets and jean shorts or enjoy the stubbly, thick legged pale faced gals with hairs coming outta there moles…..

Dan

March 17th, 2010
10:54 pm

Herchel hopefully you and the entire UGA bball team enjoy watching Tech on Friday. Mark Fox is not even a good coach and UGA fans are all on their nuts!! Haha You have two lottery picks on your roster and have a 14-17 record and are happy with that. LOL

[...] See the rest here:  The Big Dance begins, and a billion brackets wait to be broken … [...]

chad

March 18th, 2010
8:01 am

Just a little FYI FSU was the 3 seed in the ACC tournament…….hopefully they will play better in the NCAA tournament

Independent

March 18th, 2010
12:08 pm

I’m sure if Obama’s picks don’t pan out with wins that he’ll get congress to “deem” them the victors.

Brock

March 18th, 2010
1:23 pm

CJ Dawg- are you retarded or just 9 yrs old? My apologies to all 9 year olds. I know most of you aren’t as dumb as this guy.

GT VET

March 18th, 2010
10:57 pm

Brock im sure your on to the truth there,no doubt he or it is aprox 9 yrs old but hey we could be wrong,it could be 8.but then again like alot of ugay fans ,age and stupidity go hand in hand kinda like boys at uga go hand in hand