Friday, March 25, 2005

MARCH MADNESS REVISED

Sixty-four into one isn’t even going to be close for me…I was humiliated once again by the tourney and second round upsets. Brigstah, a.k.a. Knows Picks in the online pool, is again demonstrating the might of a canny, scientific mind and an unwavering faith in Villanova, so I guess I’ll take the difficult path and rather than call him up and ask his opinion, I’ll take a shot on turning sixteen into one:

CHICAGO:

Wisconsin-Milwaukee (12) vs. Illinois (1)

Yeah, everyone has to root for a twelve seed in the sweet sixteen, even if they are Cheeseheads, but I picked Illinois all the way and dammit that’s the way it will be.

Arizona (3) vs. Oklahoma State (2)
This is the second-best match-up of this round, and both teams are hot and evenly matched. When in doubt, bet on the Stoudamire (unless it is an NBA game), so I’m giving the edge to Salim Stoudamire and the Arizona Wildcats.

ALBUQUERQUE:

Louisville (4) vs. Washington (1)

Washington, who should have been a two or three seed according to the national pundits, has been playing angry with the perceived slight from the national press. Louisville is coached by Rick Pitino. Though I’ll never forgive Pitino for dumping Red Auerbach from the Celtics and destroying a proud dynasty, I have to give him the edge because he has his team ready to play in the tourney. How were they not a two seed?

West Virginia (7) vs. Texas Tech (6)

Bobby Knight and Texas Tech should beat West Virginia, but I’m riding the Big East train on this game. Knight knows how to lose in the tourney with the best of them, and since whoever wins is getting taken down by Illinois; I’m saying it will be West Virginia.

SYRACUSE:

Villanova (5) vs. North Carolina (1)

Nova in the elite eight? Could it happen? Well, sure it could happen, but will it happen? I’d feel a whole heck of a lot better if the Wildcats had Curtis Sumpter healthy, so I’ll go against my heart and go with my head that says NC just has too much for the plucky Wildcats who at least make it a game and weaken NC for their demise against instate rival NC State in the elite eight.

NC State (10) vs. Wisconsin (6)

Well, I guess I gave up this game in the previous paragraph. No problem, Julius Hodge is going to stay hot, the spirit of Jim Valvano will be in the building, and another Cheesehead team goes down.

AUSTIN

Michigan State (5) vs. Duke (1)

Duke has to lose sometime in this tournament, right? I can’t bear watching those smug, arrogant, Blue Devils and Coach K waltzing into the final four again. Again, the head overrules the heart and that annoying Daniel Ewing and equally annoying J.J. Redick survive at least one more round.

Utah (6) vs. Kentucky (2)

I’ll say it right now: I know nothing about Utah (the team, I know that the state gave us Mormons, a governor who is a travel agents dream, and John Stockton wearing short shorts and long socks like he was on a roller derby team) other than Andrew Bogut. I do know that even my Dad, who hardly follows college basketball, is all worked up about Andrew Bogut as well. I defer to the wisdom of my Dad and watch Bogut and the Mad Mormons take out Kentucky and then face the Dukies.

Whatever happens, I can’t do any worse than having picked Syracuse to be in the final game.

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PATS DRAFT – ANOTHER SHOT:

After yesterday’s nugget on my thoughts on the Patriots actions in the upcoming draft, I thought I’d do a little research to try and find players who may be on the Patriots radar for the draft. Basically, I’m trying to guess who fits the Belichick/Pioli mix. Some guys who jump out as possible early round picks (that is, they will likely be available when the Patriots pick in the first, second or third round and seem to have that certain something that would make them fit the Patriots system) include the following:

1st round – DeMarcus Ware - Troy (Ala.) State - DE/LB
I know what I wrote about the Patriots not addressing linebacker early, but I’ve read that this guy is the second coming of Willie McGinest, and if he is available late in the first round he may be too enticing for Belichick to pass up - in fact, he could be someone they trade up in the draft to snag. According to the various draft analysts and websites out on the web (at least the reputable ones, I hope), Ware has played in two (LB) and three (DE) point stances in college and has acknowledged that the Willie McGinest/Mike Vrabel 3-4 OLB spot would be a great fit. Like McGinest, Ware is a sick combination of defensive lineman strength, linebacker speed, and NBA athleticism.

2nd/3rd round – Jason Campbell – Auburn – QB

Although some mock drafts have Campbell going late in the first round, most have him where you expect to find a project quarterback, the second or third round. Campbell is both big and strong, almost six foot five and weighing in at 230 pounds. He’s known as a high character person and has adapted well to a horrible situation of having four different offensive coordinators. The tools are there, but he needs coaching big time. One site referred to him as a boom or bust prospect. Somehow, sitting behind Brady and learning for a couple of years could be the perfect situation for the kid.

1st/2nd – David Baas – Michigan – G

If the Patriots pick a guard in the second round, Baas is the only one who projects to be worth the pick. He fits the Patriots mold as being very similar to Dan Koppen: he can play right away, is very smart, has good fundamentals, but needs to get bigger and is not an athletic lineman. Baas can also play center, and you know that Belichick/Pioli love that versatility. What I liked most of all is that he was described as being a hard worker and played with a mean streak.

2nd/3rd – Brandon Browner – Oregon State - CB

Another project, Browner is coming out of college early as a sophomore. Browner, by all accounts, should have stayed in school. Browner is perfect for the Patriots because they don’t need him to play right away and he can ease into the role. His physical gifts are lauded by all. The word that shows up everywhere near his name is potential. He’s giant for a cornerback (Six foot three and two-hundred and twenty pounds), athletic, and has great speed. Like Eugene Wilson, he could play corner or be a nickel safety (safety first and second down, and cover a wide receiver like a cornerback on third down. Just think of how good this kid could be with a couple of years of working with Eric Mangini.

1st/2nd round - Josh Bullocks – Nebraska - S

Never mind the bollocks, here’s Bullocks! Bullocks is a ballhawk safety. He is one of those guys that has the instincts to always be around the ball making a play. Seems like a perfect fit in the Belichick defense. I don’t care if he’s Big 12, Big East, or Division IV football, ten interceptions in a season makes you stand up and take notice. Another note that caught my eye on Bullocks is that he puts a lot of time into film study, another trait that should serve him well in the view of Belichick/Pioli, who are always looking for intelligent players.

That’s my best guess for the Patriots picks as of right now. It is still early, and these guys could move up or down or off the board with a month to go before the draft. But right now, they all look good to me.

* * *

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