Final Four Picks - MIDWEST

Since we're less than 48 hours away from the start of the NCAA Tournament (the play-in game notwithstanding) and since Chris Liss has already hit me with his annual "I haven't watched any college hoops this year, give me all your picks" phone call (right when I'm on deadline as ya, Chris), I figured I may as well go on record with my bracket.

First, one major caveat: I watch a ton of college hoops. I also devour every stat site known to man (,,, The Basketball State, Storming The Floor, Basketball Prospectus and others). If every contest was decided by a best-of-99 series, stats and copious observation would speak loudest. Because of the one-and-done nature of the tourney, though, one man's gut can often be much more effective than reams of data or repeated viewings of January MEAC marathons. As such, these picks are for entertainment purposes only. If you peg your life savings on the scribblings of a somewhat informed amateur prognosticator like me, or even a know-it-all pro, you're asking for trouble.
I'm going to do four posts leading up to Thursday's opening tap. We start here with the Midwest.

1 Louisville over 16 TBA: TBA's tough, but I'll buck the trend and back the Cards.
8 Ohio St. over 9 Siena: Siena's a solid team with tourney experience, but I like Ohio State with the virtual homecourt advantage in Dayton.
5 Utah over 12 Arizona: Two teams that are terrible at causing opponents' turnovers, so I'll take Utah and their superior defensive rebounding.
4 Wake Forest over 13 Cleveland St.: Senior guard Cedric Jackson leads a Cleveland St. team that would be one of my favorite sleepers...if they weren't playing a Wake team with three future NBA first-round picks.

6 West Virginia over 11 Dayton: One of my favorite teams to watch even after John Beilein bolted for Michigan. I'm picking West Virginia deep.
3 Kansas over 14 North Dakota State: NDSU is another team with a near homecourt advantage, but Kansas' superior talent wins out. For now.
10 USC over 7 Boston College: Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway called BC the most overseeded team in the tourney. I agree, and raise you a USC team that defends.
2 Michigan St. over 15 Robert Morris: Turnover margin and too many threes allowed make the Spartans vulnerable. Just not here.

1 Louisville over 8 Ohio St.: Evan Turner could go nuts against the Cards and Louisville's loaded roster would still prevail.
4 Wake Forest over 5 Utah: Wake's 10th-fastest tempo will prevail over Utah's 218th-ranked pace.
6 West Virginia over 3 Kansas: West Virginia had to settle for a #6 seed due to its mediocre record in the loaded Big East. They're much better than that -- #8 in America according to
2 Michigan St. over 10 USC: The Trojans' biggest weaknesses are a lack of size and depth -- two areas where the Spartans excel.

1 Louisville over 4 Wake Forest: Tons of talent on both sides, but Wake doesn't have an answer -- or a defender -- for Terrence Williams.
6 West Virginia over 2 Michigan St.: Da'Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff will get theirs against the Spartans' erratic perimeter D, and West Virginia's befuddling defenses will give Michigan St. fits.

1 Louisville over 6 West Virginia: ...but it'll be closer than you think.


By: Dalton Del Don
On: 3/17/2009 6:08:00 PM
Umm, I'm not sure this should be considered a good thing for you - I watch zero college basketball, then study the numbers right after the selection Sunday - but that is identical to my Midwest bracket. Identical. I was very tempted to take West Virginia to the Final Four.
By: Derek VanRiper
On: 3/17/2009 6:30:00 PM
I'm in pretty much the same boat as Dalton, but I took Sparty over West Virginia.
By: Jonah Keri
On: 3/17/2009 11:06:00 PM
Dalton, great minds must think alike. Or perhaps as a friend of mine used to say, "Fools seldom differ." I fancy myself as more of a fool than a great mind, so maybe you're the one who's in trouble!

My other brackets are a little less chalkish I think. All three coming before Thursday's tip-off.
By: Chris Liss
On: 3/17/2009 11:21:00 PM
This is definitely a case of FSD.
By: tumanic
On: 3/18/2009 12:15:00 AM
Rolling with WVU, Pitt, NC, Ucon....with NC over WVU....hoping everyone stays away from NC with Lawson's ankle....VCU is my biggest spread dog round 1 upset pick...
By: Jonah Keri
On: 3/18/2009 5:52:00 AM
"This is definitely a case of FSD."

...says the guy who watches as much WNBA as he does college hoops.
By: schoenke
On: 3/18/2009 10:10:00 AM
Isn't picking your sheet as much a factor of what everyone else is picking rather than your own picks? Why not just look at the Yahoo or ESPN page that shows the most popular picks .. and take the guys rated high in the Pomroy rankings (or whatever system) and take the guys that are getting no love.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 3/18/2009 11:38:00 AM
My general strategy is similar to what Pete wrote - try to find the best teams that aren't trampled to death in play.
By: Jonah Keri
On: 3/18/2009 11:38:00 AM
I don't enter pools, Pete, this is just how I see the games playing out.

But yes, that's exactly what I'd do if I were in a pool. The only snag is that the one-and-done format means the numbers carry much less weight, because anything can happen in 40 minutes. Which is of course what makes the tourney so much fun in the first place.

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