THE ONE-SEED: OHIO ST
The Thad Five is just fun to say. Lost in the Greg Oden hype is that the other four freshmen are pretty damn good. Conley and Cook both average 10 points a game, meaning the Buckeyes didn't just get the best college center they got a backcourt. Ivan Harris is the kind of senior leader which make these freshmen classes work.
How you interpret OSU's resume says a lot about you, more than it does Ohio St. If you're a glass half-full kind of guy, only three teams beat the Buckeyes: UNC, Florida, and Wisconsin. This just in, those teams are good. Or, if you're glass half-empty kind of guy, you might point out that OSU beat Tennessee and then the Big Ten, which kind of sucks this year. You mean, Ohio St beat up on Purdue and Michigan? Color me impressed.
I think you know what kind of guy I am: the Big Ten sucks this year. The Buckeyes are really good, but they have had trouble with athletic teams who can run, which don't exist in the Midwest, but exist in this bracket. Ohio St, contrary to popular belief, beats you with its guard play, and this just in: Virginia's guards are better. Though they don't have that Oden guy.
THE BOTTOM HALF
Memphis played exactly five tourney teams this year. They lost three of them, and needed OT to beat Gonzaga. That leaves them with one really good one: Kentucky, which ain't as good as it used to be. Which is my wy of saying that I'm not sold on them. They do have some studs on the perimeter, but have problems with physical teams. And Texas A&M is about as physical as they come. Memphis can't be happy with the prospect of playing them in the state of Texas.
That's a nice homecourt advantage, but maybe not as cushy as Louisville getting A&M in Lexington. Lousiville is a hard team to beat, even harder at home. So, if Memphis is lucky, they won't even get the Aggies. Nevada's season is absolutely coming apart at the seams, which is not good news for Memphis, because that means they might get Creighton, another tough defensive team that plays incredibly physical.
THE 5-12 UPSET
Long Beach has four guys who can absolutely bomb from beyond the arc. They have almost no post game, and they are almost hopeless in a half-court game. The 49ers (Can I call them the Dirtbags? That's the baseball team's nickname) like to run to make up for their weaknesses, and they can only win if its a track meet and becomes a contest of who can hit the most shots.
Enter Tennessee. The Vols lack a post game themselves and they hate to play a half-court game. Tennessee wants to run and make it a contest of athleticism. Bruce Pearl has been trying to transform this into a defensive club comfortable with any pace, but that hasn't happened. The Vols aren't built to exploit the 49ers gaping weaknesses.
Thad Matta's old team, Xavier is a tough team, but they lack any post presence which kind of makes an upset of Ohio State unlikely. Creighton, however, are a bunch of mean bastards. If you can score 70 points, you deserve a medal. And Nate Funk is the kind of guy who can carry your offense. They might be one of the toughest outs in the tourney and seem built to beat running team like Memphis, who haven't played a good team this calendar year.
Other than that, the pickings are slim. Stanford is a weak selection, and they get Louisville in Kentucky. That's a tall order. Albany is not a real talented team, but they are gutty. Unfortunately, so is Virginia. In fact, all of the lower seeds just seem to be a worse version of the top seeds. If a bracket is going to go chalk, it could be this one.
THE PICK: TEXAS A&M
I think you've picked up on the fact I'm not a fan of Memphis. I think they pose almost no threat to Ohio State. And OSU is a really good team and they are remarkably well-coached. Freshmen teams make me uncomfortable, but if one can make the Final Four, it's one coached by Thad Matta. I'm just not comfortable picking them. Which pretty much leaves me with Virginia and Texas A&M. Virginia has guts, but guts can't play the post. Texas A&M has guts, but they also have Acie Law, who by tournament's end, may be the Texas player everyone in the nation is talking about. He is pretty much the definition of a clutch player, and if anyone can carry his team to the Final Four in what looks to be the weakest bracket, it is Law. Besides, going back to my rationale for Wisconsin: defense doesn't go cold.