NCAA Tournament

NCAA Tournament Predictions: How’d I Do?

After writing my Nantzatron column, I got one comment:

You should post an updated analysis of your top 16. I’d like to be able to compare your guesses to what actually happened without having to navigate ESPN.com.
-Clare, New York

Alright, twist my arm. Here are my original Sweet 16 picks, with what actually happened underneath.

Original Prediction:
16. Siena (Vanderbilt, Clemson): Siena beat Stanford, why can’t they win a couple of games against overrated teams from big conferences? No way they make it past Kansas, though. Original Prediction
What Really Happened:
Beat Vandy 83-62, lost to Villanova 84-72: Siena spanked Vanderbilt, but fell by twelve points to Villanova, a No. 12 seed who upset Clemson one round earlier. Maybe I underrated the Big East this year.

Original Prediction:
15. Washington St.
(Winthrop, George Mason): Maybe at the beginning of the season I’d give them a snowball’s chance to get past this round, but not now, not against North Carolina.
What Really Happened:
Beat Winthrop 71-40 and Notre Dame 61-41, lost to UNC 68-47: Now this is more like it! Wazzu did as well as anybody could possibly hope, winning by 31 over Winthrop and by 20 over Notre Dame. North Carolina has been on a tear though, and easily ended the Cougars’ run.

Original Prediction:
14. Michigan State
(Temple, Pittsburgh): Tom to the Izzo, Michigan Stizzate. I almost never pick against the Spartans, unless the team they’re playing has far more talent. I don’t know if it’s because Izzo has such a close relationship with Steve Marriuci, They won’t beat Memphis, but most people don’t even give them a chance of beating Pitt.
What Really Happened:
Won 72-61 over Temple, 65-54 over Pitt, lost 92-74 to Memphis: You can never go wrong backing Izzo, and Michigan State played two great defensive games against Temple and Pitt before getting run out of the gym by Memphis.

Original Prediction:
13. Xavier
(Georgia, Purdue): Now that they’re actually getting national recognition, I just don’t see Xavier making a huge run. There probably aren’t many people outside the Pacific Time Zone who will agree with me, but I see them losing to Arizona.
What Really Happened:
Beat Georgia 73-61, Purdue 85-78, W. Virginia 79-75, lost to UCLA 76-57: Well, I was half right here. Xavier actually made it to the Elite Eight before falling to UCLA, and their opponent in the Sweet 16 was definitely not who I predicted, as you’ll see later.

Original Prediction:
12. Connecticut (San Diego, Western Kentucky): As good as San Diego played in the WCC Tournament, they’ll be playing UConn in Tampa, not at home. It won’t matter where they play when they face UCLA however, as the Bruins will easily advance.
What Really Happened:
Lost 70-69 to San Diego: Wow, did I have the WCC all wrong. I picked St. Mary’s and Gonzaga to win their first round games (insert buzzer sound here), and the one WCC team to win their first round game was San Diego.

Original Prediction:
11. USC
(Kansas St., Wisconsin): This is a good finish for USC, a young team that had to grow up quickly in the monstrous Pac-10. Although this might be O.J. Mayo’s best showing yet, the Trojans got stuck in a monstrous region, and they’ll fall to Georgetown.
What Really Happened:
80-67 loss to Kansas St.: The first of two wonderful examples of Pac-10 overration (yes, I know I just made up a word). Whether or not it was due to rumors of Trojans head coach Tim Floyd actively looking into the Indiana coaching job, USC didn’t even try in their only Tournament game, an 80-67 loss to Kansas St. I’m still upset at myself that my allegiance to the Pac-10 made me forget a first round rule: don’t pick against the team with the best player, and Michael Beasley is probably going to be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA Draft.

Original Prediction:
10. Tennessee
(American, South Alabama): Bruce Pearl vs. Rick Pitino? Pretty easy decision. It won’t take much for the Volunteers to get to the Sweet 16, but Louisville will make sure they get no further.
What Really Happened:
Beat American 72-57, Butler 76-71, lost 79-60 to Louisville: Got this one right. Well, except the part about Butler losing to South Alabama in the first round.

Original Prediction:
9. Stanford
(Cornell, Marquette): This will be it for the Cardinal, who don’t have nearly the guard play to go further than this. This is more an appreciation of the talents of Texas’s D.J. Augustin, not an indictment of Stanford, who hasn’t played defense this well since Mad Dog used to dunk all the time with two hands.
What Really Happened:
Won 77-53 over Cornell, 82-81 over Marquette, fell 82-62 to Texas: Stanford did what I thought they would, although I thought they’d put up a little more of a fight against the Longhorns.

Original Prediction:
8. Louisville
(Boise St., St. Joseph’s): Even though they’ll beat Tennessee, these Cardinals aren’t as good as some of Pitino’s prior squads. They’ll lose to North Carolina, by a lot.
What Really Happened:
Beat Boise St. 79-61, Oklahoma 78-48, Tennessee 79-60, lost 83-73 to North Carolina: They didn’t lose to the Tarheels by that much in falling 83-73, especially when considering how badly North Carolina beat their first three opponents. Hmmm, three straight picked correctly – maybe I should start gambling more.

Original Prediction:
7. Arizona
(West Virginia, Duke): As you can see, I love the Pac-10. Always overrated in football, underrated in basketball. And no, Duke does not impress me. Here’s an idea on how to beat the Blue Devils: guard the three-point line. They won’t beat conference rival UCLA, but the Wildcats are going to be a lot better next year.
What Really Happened:
Lost 75-65 to West Virginia: Oh yeah, this is why I don’t gamble. Of course it was a gamble to take the Wildcats in the first place, especially without Lute Olsen at the helm. West Virginia pulled a Villanova on me, making it to the Sweet 16 after beating Arizona and putting a comically overrated Duke team out of their misery.

Original Prediction:
6. Memphis
(Texas-Arlington, Mississippi St.): Only one loss all year, maybe the most athletic team in college ball, and John Calipari (18-9 all time in the NCAA Tournament) coaching. I think they can at least win their first three games, but they aren’t as tough as Texas.
What Really Happened:
Still Active, beat Texas Arl. 87-63, Miss. St. 77-74, Mich. St. 92-74, and Texas 85-67: OK, I’m wrong about Memphis. Not only did they make it to the Final Four, but I am more than a little scared for UCLA in this Saturday’s semifinal. Maybe there was a reason they only lost one game, as Texas found out yesterday.

Original Prediction:
5. Georgetown
(UMBC, Gonzaga): This was probably the hardest choice, whether or not the Hoyas or Kansas would get the chance to go and beat North Carolina in the semifinals. While Georgetown was great last year and may be the best defensive team in the country, Kansas is just too talented.
What Really Happened:
Won 66-47 over UMBC, lost 74-70 to Davidson: Yeah, I know. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But did anybody see Davidson coming? Maybe I should respect 20+ game win streaks going into the tournament a little more next year.

Original Prediction:
4. North Carolina
(Mt. St. Mary’s, Arkansas): I’m not even sure they’re one of the top four teams in the country, but they are in a pretty weak bracket. They’ll lose to Kansas, a much better team than anybody in the ACC.
What Really Happened:
Still Active, won 113-74 over Mt. St. Mary’s, 108-77 against Arkansas, 68-47 over Washington State, and 83-73 over Louisville: North Carolina is definitely one of the top four teams in the country. Their next game should be the tournament’s most exciting.

Original Prediction:
3. Texas
(Austin Peay, Saint Mary’s): It’s almost a cliché, but guard play wins tournament games. Point guard play, specifically. If there’s a better PG than Augustin this year, I haven’t seen him. When they play UCLA it might be the best game of the tournament. However, the Bruins have a pretty good point guard in Darren Collison, and just a little bit more depth.
What Really Happened:
Beat Austin Peay 74-54, Miami 75-72, Stanford 82-62, lost to Memphis 85-67: Texas was as good as advertised, until they ran into the Memphis buzzsaw.

Original Prediction:
2. Kansas
(Portland St., Kent. St.): Just a ridiculously talented team, Kansas made it through the second-toughest conference in the country, but they won’t be able to beat UNC and UCLA in consecutive games. They’ll come close, though.
What Really Happened:
Still active, beat Portland St. 85-61, UNLV 75-56, Villanova 72-57, and Davidson 59-57: Kansas might be as good as UCLA defensively, only giving up 58 points per game in the Tourney so far. Whether they can stop North Carolina will be one of the most interesting plot lines this weekend, although all CBS or ESPN will care about is the fact that Roy Williams used to coach for the Jayhawks. Yawn.

Original Prediction:
1. UCLA
(Mississippi Valley St., Texas A&M): After watching years of Steve Lavin-coached Bruin squads, it’s still kind of weird to watch UCLA games with actual plays and defense. Although the fact that seemingly half the nation is also picking the team I choose every year to go all the way worries me, I can’t pick any other team. They’ll make it to the Final Four for the third straight year, and this time they’ll win the whole thing.
What Really Happened:
Still active, won 70-29 over Miss. Valley St., 51-49 over Texas A&M, 88-78 over W. Kentucky, and 76-57 over Xavier: They barely got past Texas A&M, but haven’t looked back since. I think they’ll beat Memphis, because the Bruins have shown an ability to win both low scoring and high scoring games, and because they shoot their free throws better than the Tigers. Am I sure about this prediction? Uh, no.

Predictions correct: Eleven of the Sweet Sixteen, Six of the Elite Eight, three of the Final Four.

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