Semi-Expert March Madness Picks – Day 3 [LIVE UPDATES]
A couple of things before we get going today... First, Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I hope you celebrate responsibly enough to maintain the ability of reading and comprehending these picks. Second, wasn't yesterday awesome?! (Maybe even more awesome than Day 1!!) Third, after making final updates to my analysis of the games last night, I decided to wind down by playing some Tetris... if my writing, broadcasting or stand-up careers do not pan-out, I think I have a career as a professional Tetris player.
You should know the deal by now. I'll give my predictions including scores for every game in order of their start time along with a brief explanation of why I made the pick- I then come back after each game and tell you what happened and why it is that my predicted score was 50 points off (doesn't usually happen like that). I'm feeling good today- I'm thinking I'll go 9-0... What's that? Only 8 games today? Oh Snap! But seriously- like I said yesterday, I'll be satisfied with 6-2.
- Syracuse over Kansas State 71-58 Syracuse had one of the worst first round performances we have ever seen of a #1 seed. All season long they've responded to ridiculous adversity, now they have to be feeling the heat after playing so poorly against UNC-Asheville. So what if the Orange don't have anyone respectable down low? They have solid guards who will hit many more shots today than they did on Thursday, more importantly, they'll put pressure on the young Wildcats core to get the 'W.' Side Note: Unless something epic happens in this one, this might be my least favorite game today.
**With one minute to play, the score stood Syracuse 70, Kansas State 57, and I was excited. As it was, Syracuse pulled away with easy buckets in the end, winning 75-59. 5 points off of the total combined score, 3 points off the margin of victory, I call that a great start to the day! 1-0 for the day, 25-8 overall, 75.75%**
- Ohio State over Gonzaga 69-62 This Gonzaga team is truly playing inspired, and while I cannot root against that cause, since I'm human, I think Ohio State's defense led by Aaron Craft will slow down the Bulldog perimeter attack. Also- look for Jared Sullinger to play like Jared Sullinger today.
**13.9 seconds to go, Ohio State led 70-63 and I thought I was going to be spot on AGAIN today... A lucky shot and a plethora of late free throws made the final score 73-66. I give myself a hella trillion points for calling the margin of victory. #Winning. Gonzaga wore themselves out in their comeback, running out of gas then they tied the game late, finishing the rest of the game on fumes. I'm always skeptical when a team is hitting as many shots as the 'Zags were in the first half, because I have never seen keep up that pace and accuracy through an entire game. 2-0 for the day, 26-8 overall, 76.47%
- Murray State over Marquette 75-72 Marquette has the edge down low in this one, but I think the Racers are vastly under-appreciated. In a guard matchup that might look even on paper, I like the Racers to keep running all day, winning a shootout.
**My expectation for offense in this game was very similar to the forest service's expectations of wildfires around July 4th. (I was tempted to link to this wildfire- but I didn't. Or did I?! Either way, that's a link to Michael Martin Murphy and one to Doc Watson in the last two days. Who said old school country was dead?) Both teams couldn't hit much in the first half, and this was one of the fastest paced, grind-it-out games I have ever seen. I'm going to stroke my ego a bit and say that picking this upset wasn't that risky of a move, because losing right now 62-53, Murray State fell for only the second time all season. Marquette played well, and defeated the Racers on all aspects in the second half, making Murray State look at times tired, sloppy and junior high-ish. I knew my early success was setting the bar too high. 2-1 for the day, 26-9 overall, 74.28%**
- Wisconsin over Vanderbilt 60-53 Bo knows defense. Of course, the Bo I'm presently referring to is Bo Ryan, head coach of Wisconsin. Despite the fact that his round of 64 record is almost unblemished and his subsequent tournament record is almost invisible, I think this is a matchup that favors the Badgers. now that I think of it- is there a single match-up the badger cannot handle?!
**Much closer than I anticipated- Wisconsin stumbled down the end, but the big-time players came up with the big-time plays. Bonus points to me for calling Wisconsin's final score; mere kudos to Vanderbilt for making that the best game thus far today. A great big belt should be sent to the state of Wisconsin for the Marquette and Wisconsin victories today- this had potential to be a moldy day for the cheeseheads. Final score was 60-57, another exceptionally close game by yours truly. To my success, I say simply, "Discount Double Check." 3-1 for the day, 27-9 overall, 75%**
- Indiana over VCU 68-65 This is my favorite pairing today. VCU is resembling VCU last year, and while I like Indiana's assets, I am scared immensely to pick against Shaka Smart. If VCU wins, Shaka Smart needs to be brought up with more vigor in a, "which mid-major coach is better, Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens?" discussion. As I've said previously, the larger the upset, the more I like it- VCU might not be a hugely unlikely underdog anymore, so maybe this won't be a big upset if they win, but Indiana is kind of an underdog in their own right, since they haven't had relevance since they somehow made it to a National Title game with Mike Davis and a redhead point guard (Happy St. Patrick's Day Tom Coverdale).
**Just as I was about to feel like an idiot for picking against Shaka Smart, Indiana had a courageous comeback with an incredible finish. Delivered in a high-pitched voice, with a creative listening technique, Sheehey sounds like the noise a hyena makes, but Will Sheehey is the biggest man in Hoosierville right now. I was hinting at it when I made the pick, that Indiana, despite being a 4 seed, almost felt like the underdog coming into this one- throughout most of the second half, they looked like an underdog. Resiliently searching for stops on defense, finding them much of the time, but then looking lost on offense. In the end, they got it done, and they are sweetly moving on to the round of 16. Final score in this one was IU 63, VCU 61. That puts me 1 point off the margin of victory with my prediction, and through my four correctly predicted games of the day, I am a combined 8 points away from the total margin of victory. 4-1 on the day, 28-9 overall, 75.67%**
- Kentucky over Iowa State 74-62 Iowa State looked great against UConn. Part of that was due to the fact that the Cyclones shot the lights out, but I think more of the credit for that game needs to go to UConn's immense mediocrity. ISU had a great season, maybe the best since that year they fell to Hampton. <--- A few thoughts about that video. First- I do not miss the days that preceded my 50" HD Zenith. Second- Bob Wenzel's sideline thoughts incorrectly identify Hampton as being from Norfolk, VA-Hampton is surprisingly located in Hampton, VA. Go figure. Back to Iowa State though- they were fortunate to have one of the most favorable "2nd round" pairings, and taking the bad with the good, they are most definitively unfortunate, drawing the most unfavorable "3rd round" pairing against John Calipari and his Fightin' Unibrows!
**Tonight's performance by Kentucky is the best performance by any team I have seen thus far in the tournament. Most of the entire team seemed unable to miss in the second half, as caught fire and burned Iowa State, winning 87-71. I liked the fight in the Cyclones to make this game semi-competitive. With 65 seconds remaining, Iowa State had the ball and was trailing by 14- I thought I was going to have another near perfect margin of victory prediction. As it is, I was 4 points off (predicted it to be 12, it was 16... I did that for those of you who may have been celebrating the patron saint of Guinness all day and did not want to do math). From here on out, I will only refer to Anthony Davis as "The Uni-Brow," or "The Best Player in the Country." (Not to be confused the The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. Interesting subplot to the evening: Right now on Syfy is Leprechaun's Revenge, starring the unsinkable Billy Zane and the Greatest Man That Ever Lived, William Devane- it might be a more appetizing viewing selection than Baylor and their blinding jerseys. 5-1 on the day, 29-9 overall, 76.31%**
- Baylor over Colorado 73-64 Colorado surprised me against UNLV (Actually, UNLV's absence was more surprising than anything); and I haven't been sold on this Baylor team all season. Forget what I said about Syracuse and Kansas State- this is my least favorite game of the day. I will be less disapproving of this match-up if Baylor decides to not wear those uniforms that look like they're about to go jogging at night. More than any legitimate analysis though, I will not pick Colorado because I am not willing to admit that a team hailing from a city with marijuana-smog is legitimate. Yes, the Colorado Buffaloes are illegitimate.
**Colorado made this one interesting- putting a scare into the Bears into the second half, but then Brady Heslip went off. The Sophomore from Ontario who averages about 9 points per game scored nine 3-pointers, leading the Bears on a video game-esque charge and an 80-63 victory. If Baylor can play like they did today, like they did for the first 2 months of the season, they are a match-up nightmare for any team. On Thursday, UNLV was so nonexistent that Colorado could out-play them with the run-and-gun game plan. The Buffs tried to do that same style tonight and unfortunately for them, Baylor actually made the trip to Albuquerque. 6-1 on the day, 30-9 overall, 76.9%**
- Louisville over New Mexico 59-55 This is a terrific game to end the night. I say that despite predicting such a low score mainly because I watched a lot of 2011-2012 Mountain West basketball. This was a tough pick for me because in two bracket pools I picked New Mexico; this was largely an emotional pick, based upon my appreciation for Steve Alford's hair, and my love for A Season on the Brink, one of the greatest sports books ever written. That being said, if you want to talk fashion (leaving Jay Wright out of the discussion because he will win every time), if you want to see a well dressed and good-looking man, Rick Pitino is a Ray Bradbury story in action. Legitimately pretending to look at this game though, the Cardinals like to run, but proved in the Big East title game that in a scrum, they can play defense. I love this game only slightly less than the Indiana-VCU game and my close score verifies my belief that this game could go either way. Watch for Peyton Siva to dominate the matchup against Kendall Williams.
**Coming in, I was calling this matchup a prime way to end the night. Not only was the matchup great, the game played out to be arguably the greatest game played all day. Louisville was in control but looked a little tired in the second half, certainly slacked a bit as New Mexico clawed their way back into the game. Elementary pick and roll by Siva and Dieng to seal the deal, and the Cards advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 59-56 win. That's right, 59-56 was the final, and I had predicted Louisville to win 59-55... Fantastic way to end the night. Coming in today, I was looking for a 6-2 record to find satisfaction, I finish the day 7-1, much better. Through the first three days, I'm 31-9, which equates to 77.5%**
For future reference, don't bet against me on St. Patrick's Day. I seem to have the Luck of the Irish (metaphorically, not like the Notre Dame Irish, who shamefully lost on the eve of St. Paddy's.) Eight more games tomorrow- since I exceeded my mediocre expectations today, I will settle for a 5-3 day, which would average out to 6-2 for the two days- does that even make sense? Too much math for the late hours of St. Pat's, so let's call it a night. There's a sufficient amount of Harp Lager strumming a tempting tune to my insides. Same place tomorrow. <-- The girl's even red-headed- a perfect finale for the holiday.