Monday, March 12, 2007

"The Next George Mason?" Don't Bother Looking

It seems people are spending an inordinate amount of time looking for another double-digit seed to go to the Final Four, as if Mason's improbabe run last year was the start of some sort of trend. This is lunacy. It was a once in a generation experience and we shouldn't be sullying it by assuming it can be replicated. As my man G.O.B. from Arrested Development used to say, "Come on!"

(Man do I miss that show.)

Anyway, my suggestion is to scale things back a bit and start looking for the next Bradley instead. The Braves made a huge splash in last year's tourney by advancing to the Sweet 16 and ruining the seasons of Kansas, Pitt, and Golden State (who fell hook, line, and sinker for Patrick O'Bryant) in the process. Folks are keying in on teams like Winthrop because they have some Mason, deep-tourney-run qualities, but this is fool's gold. Taking WInthrop to the Elite Eight ignores the fact that they are looking at first and second round matchups with Notre Dame and Oregon, respectively. Those two teams just happen to be two of the best shooting and scoring squads in the country. You like Winthrop to beat both of them? Hey, more power to you.

You are far better off looking for an 11-14 seed in a bracket with some overachieving teams that can be beat as long as the underdog just plays well, or some overrated teams that have no real advantage despite their higher seed. Based on these factors, I am intruiged by Davidson (but am picking Maryland), like the chances of either Wright State or VCU coming out of that Duke/Pitt debacle in Buffalo (but am avoiding it, since I don't know which underdog to back), and also think Long Beach State has the chance to win a couple of games.

However, my pick for "The Next Bradley" is Oral Roberts. I went to Allen Fieldhouse earlier this year and watched this team beat down Kansas and I remember taking note of what a great tournament team they would be. They have a star interior player in Caleb Green that can carry teams several rounds. He can score, pass, get to the line, you name it. Plus, while Oral Roberts' guards are a bit streaky and careless with the ball, they have a lot of team speed and some guys with serious stones. Ken Tutt, in particular (I like to call him King Tutt) is the type of guy that can shake off a 1-for-12 game to make a tying three as time expires.

Not only do I like what ORU is bringing to the table, but I also like where they are seeded. No disrespect to Singing Tony Bennett and his Washington State Cougars, but I watched this team play four games in the past two weeks and they are NOT a three seed. In fact, if you switched their jerseys, people wouldn't be able to tell which team was the 3 and which was the 14. I'm not saying WSU is a mortal lock to lose, just that if they don't play really well, they probably will. And if Oral Roberts gets by WSU they will face either an overrated Vandy team or an undisciplined George Washington squad. Either matchup looks pretty ideal for the Golden Eagles.

But that's just me. If you like VCU or Stanford or even Winthrop, I can see that. Just make sure you are looking for good, old fashioned Sweet 16 Cinderellas, rather than a one-in-a-lifetime underdog.

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