Have I mentioned that I love this time of year? When else is the majority of the male demographic between the ages of 22 and 40 glued to TruTV on a Tuesday night to see whether the Western Kentucky Hilltopers can mount a 16-point second half comeback in the last 5 minutes against the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils? I mean, I only watch TruTV when Forensic Files is on and there's a particularly juicy murder to be solved. And I've never seen the Delta Devils play. Ever. So, yeah, this is fun.
A friend of mine used to run a march madness challenge where each participant picks 4 teams and earns points based on the seed times the round of each game they win. For example, a 1 seed gets 1 point for the first round, 2 for the second (Sweet Sixteen), 3 for the third (Elite Eight), 4 for the fourth (Final Four), 5 for the fifth (National Semifinal), and 6 for winning the National Championship for a grand total of 21 points. A 12 seed who advances to the Sweet Sixteen would earn 36 points (12 for the first round, 24 for the second). If you picked VCU last year, you probably did fairly well.
Well, I haven't heard from him yet this year so either he's been too busy to send out the invitation or he no longer considers me a friend. But as folks are filling out their brackets this week, I figure a few trendy upset picks may be in order. So here are my four "money" picks - either low seeds who I expect to win a couple games or high seeds who are locks to go far:
(5) Vanderbilt - This may go against the typical 5-12 upset logic, but hear me out. Vanderbilt is hot right now and playing with a ton of confidence after beating overall No. 1 seed Kentucky to win the SEC tournament. They draw a first-round game against Ivy champ Harvard. Harvard is a pretty good team, but they just don't match up physically against Vanderbilt, so I don't see the upset happening here. The rest of the bracket is pretty much wide open now that Syracuse's Fab Melo has been ruled ineligible---a hot Florida State team and a talented Ohio State squad loom large, but the only thing keeping Vandy from the Final Four is...Vandy.
(13) New Mexico State - At 26-9, this senior-laden team comes into the tournament having won 9 of their last 10. Indiana bowed out of the B1G tournament with an 8-point loss to Wisconsin after guard Verdell Jones III tore his ACL the day before in a win against Penn State. After Indiana's recent absence from the tournament and given NMSU's experience and recent quality of play, I think the absence of Jones will be the difference in an NMSU win. After that, the Aggies could face either VCU or Wichita State---both quality teams, but neither appreciably more talented than NMSU. In contests like this, you have to take a bit of a flier, and this is that flier. If NMSU can win 2 games, that's 39 points---a huge boost.
(8) Memphis - Picking 8 seeds in this exercise usually isn't a great idea, as the risk of a second-round exit to a 1 seed is prohibitively high. But Memphis isn't just any old 8 seed. And Michigan State isn't exactly 2005 North Carolina here---they're beatable. Memphis is battle tested, having played 9 games against tournament teams and having won 11 of their last 12. I have a hunch the Tigers are going to pull the upset here, clearing a path for them to rack up bunches of points.
(4) Louisville - Much like the Vanderbilt pick, the Cardinals are hot after winning the Big East tournament, which has boded well for recent Big East champs since WVU and UConn made the Final Four in 2010 and 2011, respectively. As a 4 seed, the Cards should rack up points fairly quickly, and a first-round game against Davidson ought to get them acclimated quickly to tournament play. Subsequent games against New Mexico/Long Beach State and the Memphis/Michigan State winner shouldn't present too much of a problem either.
Those are my "money" picks. What do you think---are these the best four teams set to rack up points quickly based on the formula? Or do you have a better idea? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to join the Smoking Musket Bracket Challenge on Yahoo! to test your skill against TSM staff and other members for bragging rights and prizes!
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