Even though we are surely going to trounce you in the New York Magazine NCAA Pool (join now!), we thought we’d give you little guides to the brackets of the NCAA Tournament nevertheless. The tournament begins Thursday at noon, and we expect to see you in the office, sonny boy. Here, the East and Midwest Regions.
Player You’ll See in the NBA Next Season: John Wall, Kentucky. In a nightmare situation, the Knicks “win” the draft lottery, and the Jazz, who have the pick, grab the next generation of point guard … for Stephon Marbury. Isiah is immortal. (Note: This assumes Deron Williams leaves. Which he has certainly hinted at.)
Best First-Round Game: No. 5 Temple versus No. 12 Cornell. ESPN’s Jay Bilas has Cornell making the Final Eight, because Jay Bilas is smarter than you. (He was, after all, in the Dolph Lundgren movie I Come in Peace.) The A-10 champ versus the Ivy champ: Proof that the NCAA only loves the BCS schools.
Big East Ties: There are eight freaking Big East teams in the tournament: The East bracket has No. 2 seed West Virginia and No. 6 seed Marquette, which dispatched St. John’s in the Big East tournament.
Upset Special: No. 10 Missouri over No. 7 Clemson. Everyone wants to pick against Kentucky in this bracket, because they have a ton of freshmen who won’t be around next year. (Hence, Bilas’s Cornell pick.) We don’t see a ton of upsets in this bracket — lots of “chalk,” as they say — so the only lower seed we have winning is Mizzou, which made the Elite Eight last year.
Winner: Kentucky. John Calipari did an amazing job of
cheating putting together the most talented team in the country overnight. Freshman nerves aside, the Wildcats can turn it on at any time.
Player You’ll See in the NBA Next Season: Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech. A massive man-child, Favors could go as high as No. 3 next June. He’s a clear step behind Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner, though: The physical tools are there, but he hasn’t quite figured it out yet — which is why Georgia Tech just sneaked in the tournament as a No. 10 seed.
Best First-Round Game: No. 8 UNLV vs. No. 9 Northern Iowa. You probably think of UNLV the way they were twenty years ago, flying down the court and dunking and throwing up three-pointers. They’re not like that anymore: Former Atlanta Hawks (and Illini) head coach Lon Kruger has them defensively oriented. Just like their opponents here, from Kurt Warner’s alma mater. This game might end up with fewer than 100 points.
Big East Ties: Only one in this regional: Georgetown, a No. 3 seed, which faces MAC champion Ohio in the first round.
Upset Special: No. 11 San Diego State over No. 6 Tennessee. Vols coach Bruce Pearl has done an excellent job with an undermanned team, but SDSU has a certain feel to them. Maybe it’s their coach, Steve Fisher, one of the four coaches (Bill Self, Gary Williams, and Tom Izzo) in this regional who have won a national title before, with Michigan in 1989.
Winner: Kansas. The two biggest challenges for the Jayhawks are from the Big Ten, particularly Ohio State, which might be the strongest No. 2 seed. But Kansas is so much deeper than the top-heavy Buckeyes. Bill Self and his toupee should be Indianapolis-bound.