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NCAA Basketball Tournament 2011: The Bracketology Commandments

Hey Philadelphia 76ers...I brought you to this thread to tell you something.  Boy this is hard.  Listen, there is someone else.  Please don't yell.  It's just a fling...It will only last a few weeks.  After that I will be back.  It's just...It's just they give me something you don't.  They remind me of you in so many ways...Just younger and more ambitious.  Their name?  Why do you want to know their name?  Fine...It's the NCAA Tournament.  Wait...where are you going?  Don't leave!  (Awkward)

Sorry you had to read that folks, was supposed to be private.

Anyway, after a great weekend covering the A-10 Tournament, I am in full on college basketball mode.  I figured I would grace you all with some of my picks...After all, I am an official "Bracketology Scientist."  (It's true, ask analyst Greg Anthony!  He will vouch for me.)

First let me give you the rules I use to fill out my bracket:

  1. Don't second guess yourself.  Stay with your initial pick.  Don't let the "experts" inside your head.
  2. If undecided go with the team playing match-up zone.  Temple, Syracuse, Princeton, Richmond, ODU to name a few.  The match-up zone is hard to figure out with limited practice.
  3. Don't pick an upset unless there is probable cause.  Picking Saint Peters over Purdue simply because you "need an upset" will do more harm than good. 
  4. If undecided go with the bigger conference.  Big East, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC.
  5. Don't go with your heart.  Great, so you grew up with the starting center from Akron...Doesn't mean they will beat Notre Dame.
  6. Teams with a number one seed earned that ranking.  They are extremely talented and well coached.  They don't lose in the first round.
  7. Take into consideration injuries.  If a team was dominant with a full cast, fell apart with injuries and now are at full strength again...Pick them!
  8. Strength of schedule matters!  Teams from small conferences with high seeds are ripe for upsets.
  9. Look at the match-ups.  If a team that pushes the ball and scores at will goes up against a team that slows it down and locks up on defense, it could make for an interesting game.

Here are a few first round games which may be difficult to pick.

No. 9 Villanova vs. No. 8 George Mason

Let's start with one of the two Philadelphia teams.  Many experts are predicting a GMU victory here.  Not surprising considering the slide the Wildcats have been on.  George Mason almost knocked Nova out of a tournament in Puerto Rico last year and returns everyone.  But I would not pencil in the Patriots just yet.

Villanova was one of the best teams in the nations earlier this year when they were at full strength.  Since then they have been decimated by injuries to starters Corey Stokes and Mouphtaou Yarou.  Now Nova has the advantage of having a full week of practice with a healthy roster. 

Villanova is a very talented team who could make a run comparable to 1985. 

Regardless of whether or not the Wildcats win the NCAA Championship this year, I am going with Rule 7.  Villanova will win this game.

No. 7 Temple vs. No. 10 Penn St.

Let's get the local schools out of the way first.  This match-up had me floundering on my first rule:  Don't second guess yourself.  If you asked me about this game on Sunday, I would have answered like I did to a friend of mine who called for advice.

Friend: So who do you like in the Temple, Penn St. game?

Me: Temple!

Friend: Really that confide...

Me: Temple!

Friend: But what about...

Me: Temple!

Friend: You're an a-hole!

However, after watching Comcast SportsRise this morning I learned more about the Nittany Lions season.  They've beaten Wisconsin twice and Michigan St. twice.  Senior guard Talor Battle is averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists on the year.  Statistics like these frightened me.

I needed to reassess the rules...Oh No, Rule 5!  We need another rule!  Nice...Rule 2!  Temple's match-up zone is one of the best and most complex to figure out.  As I mentioned before, Dunphy has his team running very efficiently.  With Scootie Randall back at practice, I have Temple winning this one.

No. 5 Vanderbilt vs.  No. 12 Richmond

This is my upset special.  I was shocked when I saw how high of a seed Richmond received.  The Spiders finished the season 27-7 in a good Atlantic 10 Conference.  They won games against ranked teams Purdue and Temple as well as the A-10 Conference Championship. 

Besides a win against UNC, Vanderbilt has played a weak out of conference schedule.  In conference they lost to Florida three times, Tennessee twice and split with Kentucky.  The only other tournament teams they beat were Georgia, Marquette and Belmont, none of which are below a 10 seed.

Now a lot of you are probably saying, "Umm...they beat UNC who is a two seed."  True, they did, but it was during a Thanksgiving tournament in Puerto Rico.  To give you a little more information about how many upsets occur at tournaments in tropical places; my alma mater, Monmouth University, beat nationally ranked Vanderbilt in Hawaii when I was playing.  It happens.

Richmond matches up well against the Commodores, in a contest which adheres to several of the rules.  Spiders win this game and move on.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Belmont

People are going crazy with this game.  This has become everyone's upset special.  But why?  Belmont is the number one team in several computer simulations based on points scored, margin of victory, etc.  They were definitely the best team in the Ohio-Valley Conference...Playing against the likes of Tennessee St., Tennessee Tech, and the wildly popular University of Tennessee at Martin. 

People, it is Belmont!  Sure Wisconsin's style allows for close games, but those games are against teams like Purdue and Ohio St.  My prediction, Wisconsin by no less than 15.

Those are four of the more challenging games some of you may be undecided on.  I have included my bracket of the first round for you all to peruse.  I would put the remaining rounds, but I don't give all my information right away.  I'm not that kind of guy.  You will need to read my analysis for each round. 

Last little bit of analysis...Pace yourself people!  Don't celebrate the early games too early then be a belligerent mess for the evening. 

Happy St. Patty's Day!