This was supposed to be a simple bracket, which is why I was tasked with making my triumphant return to SFBE to spew Orange chalk all over this place.
Syracuse is (was) unequivocally the best team to ever walk Marshall Street, or any street for that matter. You could write "'Cuse" six times in a blood Orange market and then have your black lab dog fill out the rest.
As Kenny Powers would say, "it's not extreme arrogance, if you'ref#%!ing right."
But then neglecting to do school work happened, and the Orange lost eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots a game because Fab Melo said to hell with the student part of being a student-athlete.
Sure, those stats can be replaced, but it's everything that the stat sheet doesn't say about Melo that can't be replaced, and why everything is all messed up now. His missing presence in the middle of the famed 2-3 zone has drastically changed the landscape of the entire NCAA Tournament.
With this in mind, look for Vandy and their senior leadership and momentum coming off the SEC Championship to challenge the Orange in the Sweet 16. On the bottom of this bracket, ACC Conference Tournament winner in Florida State will meet the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Sweet 16, battle and emerge victorious.
The Bucks have struggled throughout the year with big physical teams, and that is exactly what the ‘Noles will bring to the table. Look for the strong guard play of FSU and a balanced attack up front to cut down the East Regional nets in Boston, somewhat avenging a loss to Boston College in their most recent trip to the Hub.
Florida State. I already said that.
A balanced deep team that has a physical front court and strong guard play. They have beaten both UNC and Duke twice, so they can play with anyone. Leonard Hamilton is on to something here.
Five players you want to know about
- Deividas Dulkys (Florida State) - He is reeling right now and is the motor of the team. He keeps themf ocused on the goal and calm on the court while still bringing the fire and passion needed to advance int he one and done scenario.
- Kris Joseph/Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse)- Their lives just got a bit more complicated. The only way the Orange have a shot at redeeming their championship hopes is through the leadership and scoring of the senior Joseph and the rebounding and defense of the young'n Christmas, who now must log actual game minutes.
- Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State) - A nice inside/outside guy whose struggled to play well inside and outside. Thomas is a big of an enigma on the court. Nick told me Thad Matta has taken to call him "Shaun" this season because he doesn't play any "D". How cute. Time for this kid to sack up.
- Will Cherry (Montana) - The best defensive player in the Big Sky led his team to a 15-1 record in conference and should put Wisconsin on upset alert early Thursday afternoon.
- John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) - Jenkins brings his 20 point average and 45% three point shooting into a tournament that demands superb guard play for advancement. His parents have a few more tears they would like to shed in Boston and his play will determine whether they are joy or grief.
Who will overachieve?
I wish I could say this would not apply, but my beloved ‘Cuse are no longer the same team, and will allow Vanderbilt to challenge for the East Region.
Who will underachieve?
Wisconsin. Expect an upset at the hands of Montana.
Describe this bracket in one word