Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NCAA Tournament Preview: Atlanta/Oakland Regions

First, because I don't want to spend a great deal of time on this, read this and realize that the Minnesota Vikings just owned the Hawks in their negotiations with Hutch. That bad feeling I had when we didn't franchise Hutch? It's back. In spades.

Fortunately, we have a little thing called the NCAA tournament to keep us occupied in the meantime. Of course, I've also had a new dog (pictures forthcoming) and Star Wars: KoTOR II to keep me occupied. And a thing called Spring Break, which I am currently on. Thank you, academic calendar, for teaching me the magic the world has to offer.

The Crushed Optimists' staff will start our preview with the Atlanta, or Duke, bracket, one that will assure us of screaming at the TV when yet another cheap foul is called on a Duke opponent while Dukie V screams about the greatness of Coach K and JJ Redick (who I do actually like). Here's a quick look at the eight games in Round 1.

Atlanta Region:

(1) Duke vs. (16) Southern: Ummmm, you know, CBS will probably decide to have this game be nationwide, leading to most basketball fans throwing things at their TV, because, honestly, there is no way that this game is close. Duke wins.

(8) George Washington vs. (9) UNC-Wilmington: This all depends if Pops is back and healthy, but it sure seemed like the committee rocked George Washington, a team that had risen to 6 in the rankings, in giving them a #8 seed. Out of respect for the regular season they had, I'll choose them to continue to a neat 2nd round matchup with the Duke-sters.

(5) Syracuse vs. (12) Texas A&M: Let me get this straight. One week ago Syracuse wasn't even in the tournament. They then go on a hot streak helped by two miraculous 3s by McNamera, and all of a sudden they are a 5 seed? Put it this way. 2 years ago UW went on a miraculous run, beat the undefeated Stanford Cardinals, and were perhaps the hottest team in the nation going into the tournament. They were rewarded with.... a #8 seed. I'm picking A&M just out of protest. even though I know nothing about them and A&M are the morons who decided to get some free publicity out of the Hawks run.

(4) LSU vs. (13) Iona: I must not have paid as much attention to college basketball this year (probably because of the Hawks), because I know very little about both these teams, except that LSU has a beast in the middle. Usually beasts in the middle are good for at least one win, right? LSU.

(6) West Virginia vs. (11) Southern Illinois: I have been hurt multiple times by the Salukis the past few years, and this is their weakest team in awhile. Sure, they play good defense, but West Virginia has the sharpshooters and the precision offense to deal with that.

(3) Iowa vs. (14) Northwestern State: I have absolutely no idea how Iowa won so many games this season, resulting in a #3 seed. Sure, they are an extremely tough team, and they should win at least one game in this tournament, but they really aren't the 3rd most talented team in this bracket, and the next game (probably against West Virginia) might be the end of the line.

(7) California vs. (10) NC State: Again, NC State is another team that, while talented, seemed to play a tad above themselves this season, especially this year missing their dynamic playmaker Julius Hodges, who moved on to greener pastures. Cal boasts that same beast in the middle with Leon Powe, who, once again, should guarantee at least one win in the tournament. However, Cal can suck with the best of them....

(2) Texas vs. (15) Penn: Another big team that I despise. Texas. Yes! Of course they will win this game, but, wow, I don't like Duke, Texas, or Iowa (I don't despise Iowa, I just have no idea how they won so many games). This regional is a real blah one for me, and I will gladly move on to the Oakland region.

First-round winners: Duke, GW, Texas A&M, LSU, West Virginia, Iowa, Cal, Texas (only one upset!)

Dark Horse Team: West Virginia (I would say GW, but that second-round game against Duke is a doozy)

Most disappointing team: Iowa (losing in 2nd round to West Virginia)

Pac-10 team: Cal, losing in 2nd round to Texas, who has the big men to beat up Powe while the offense to completely outscore the Bears.

Probable Final Four Team: Duke. I pray I'm wrong with this one.
Other possibilities: Texas, West Virginia

Oakland Region:
(1) Memphis vs. (16) Oral Roberts: This game will cause me to release a few giggles because of the name "Oral Roberts", which always causes me to act like a 10 year old, but no upset here.

(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Bucknell: This is largely the same Bucknell team that took out Kansas last year. They are experienced, talented, and hungry to do the same this year. I can't help but wonder if Arkansas actually played anyone this year.... Bucknell advances.

(5) Pittsburgh vs. (12) Kent State: I've underestimated Pitt several times the past couple of years, while I know nothing about Kent State. Sure, Pitt's a boring choice, but... oh well.

(4) Kansas vs. (13) Bradley: Now, Bill Self did a miraculous job with this team this season, but there is no way they should be a #4 seed, even if they did just beat Texas to win the Big 12 tourney. This is a team primed for a big upset once again. It could happen in this first round game....

(6) Indiana vs. (11) San Diego St: I like what I see on SD State, who possess a dynamic offense and a prime scorer, while Indiana, even with Killingsworth (that great big man), seems to be a team that always plays under their competition. I think a #6 seed is too high for them, and they will exit stage right in Round 1.

(3) Gonzaga vs. (14) Xavier: The only reason Xavier is in this tournament is because of the loss of GW in the A-10 tournament. The only reason Gonzaga is a #3 seed is because..... I have absolutely no idea. The notion that Tennessee deserved a #2 seed more than the Zags is ludicrous. That being said, the Zags have a bad habit recently of faltering under pressure, but this is the easiest bracket they have been in during their run. It's literally now or never.

(7) Marquette vs. (10) Alabama: I didn't pick the 10 seed to win in the Atlanta region, so I must pick them here, simply because 10 seeds beat 7 seeds more than half the time. Marquette can go through some amazing cold spells, and Alabama has been gradually improving this year.

(2) UCLA vs. (15) Belmont: Good for Ben Howland in getting this #2 seed. I appreciate the gift to the Pac-10 conference, and UCLA has the talent to go far. They will definitely make it past this game.

First round winners: Memphis, Bucknell, Pitt, Bradley (could go either way here), San Diego State, Gonzaga, Alabama, UCLA

Dark Horse Team: Bucknell (watch them perhaps beat Memphis?)

Most disappointing team: Kansas (Round 1 loss?)

Pac-10 team: UCLA, who has an easy road to the Sweet 16, where they will probably play Gonzaga. The winner of that game, I believe, will go to the Final Four.

Probably Final Four Team: Gonzaga. They have fooled me the past four years, but this year sets them up very favorably. They will beat Xavier, and they are better than either Indiana or San Diego State. That means that they would have to reach to beat UCLA, which they entirely are capable of doing, and beat Memphis/Pitt in the Elite Eight.
Other possibilities: Memphis, UCLA, Pitt

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