9 Predictions For The Rest Of The NCAA Tournament
Now that the exhausting first four-plus days of the tournament are over, about as many questions have been raised as have been answered. In 48 games of play, we’ve got a big enough sample size to see a lot of different stuff. But what can we draw from? Who is the team to beat?
Rest up for the next three days before getting back into the swing of things, and take heed of these predictions, some serious, some…less so.
No surprise here, as water generally finds its own level, teams generally aren’t capable of overachieving for six games against better and better opponents. So even though the Dayton Dates (might not be their actual team name) was able to demonstrate “grit,” “heart,” “perseverance,” and “sticktoitiveness” against Ohio State, don’t believe the hype when it comes to the next few games. However, the Stanford game seems like a really good match up between two teams who didn’t exactly float into the tournament. But the real prediction here is that you will get sick of hearing about the scrappy underdog, they will become the favorite, and you will root against them. The tournament has weird powers.
9. Dayton Will Go From Underrated To Overrated To Properly Rated
Duke lost to Mercer in the first round. Duke. Mercer. That is awesome. However, considering the vast majority of March Madness enthusiasts don’t know college basketball from a hole in the ground, you can count on many folks just assuming that Duke is still in the tournament. Because when people talk about important college basketball games, in recent history, most of those conversations have mentioned Duke. I mention this not to rail on the ignorance of the NCAA tournament audience, but to let you know: THERE’S MONEY TO BE MADE WITH THIS INFORMATION. Your bracket may be busted, but there’s always a chance you can convince a few interns or admins at your office to make a side bet on Duke getting to the final four.
8. 90% Of America Will Assume Duke Is Still In The Tournament
This one’s just a hunch, but what the hell. Let’s make it a prediction. Kentucky tore through a buoyed Wichita St. #1 seed to get to the Sweet 16, but with their #8 ranking and the narrow margin of victory, they haven’t been treated like kingslayers. Yet. There should be enough attention on Thursday's Louisville game because: a) Kentucky-Louisville is a big rivalry, b) Louisville is very good, and c) Louisville coach Rick Pitino led KY to greatness in a former life. If Kentucky can hang with and knock off Louisville, look for them to become a very loud “quiet threat” in their little quadrant.
7. Kentucky Will Knock Off Louisville And Get Taken VERY Seriously
Tom Izzo is a great coach, and with a fairly unremarkable set of standing opponents in their division. So look for MSU to play better than their #4 seed would indicate. I say that having watched them play better than it would indicate for the last two games, so maybe this isn’t that bold of a prediction, but all signs point to them being more a of a threat to the UVA/Memphis winner and subsequently, the adjacent brackets, then the masses have thought.
6. Michigan State Will Overachieve
As I’m typing this, Mercer is down 46-32 to Tennessee. But I actually made this prediction after their Duke win, so I’ll memorialize it here. They played well against Duke, but Duke also had to play terribly. And as much as people love an underdog, they’re inclined to give them a little too much credit following an upset (see entry #9). Mercer will have gotten a mercy-killing by the time you read this, allowing the Michigan guillotine to fall on the neck of the Tennessee Volunteers. And if I’m wrong, this entry will be very damning. (UPDATE: Mercer lost. I live to fight another day.)
5. Mercer Will LOSE
It’s easy to capture the attention of audiences for the first four days of the tournament. Everyone is locked in. But a fair amount of fatigue sets in after the first two rounds, and as darlings and human interest stories fall by the wayside, studio shows will frantically be digging in to discover if players from Louisville and Kentucky once had a common barber, and who that barber thinks tipped better. Then the studio show will cut to a four-minute feature on barber-tipping protocol, narrated by John Thompson. In short, in the middle rounds, the basketball gets better, but the coverage gets worse. Things generally right themselves by the Final Four and the only people left standing are the actual fans of the sport, but there’s four days of ball before then.
4. Announcers Will Grasp At Straws For New Storylines Following Wichita St.’s Elimination
Maybe a city like Miami or Newark has enough hair gel to accommodate these two coaches, but Indianapolis is going to need to start planning ahead. Possibly bringing in a tank of the stuff on an 18-wheeler being driven by Barry Melrose. This is my most aggressive prediction.
3. Rick Pitino And John Calipari Will Exhaust Indianapolis’ Supply of Hair Gel
The Memphis-UVA game hasn’t tipped off as this is written, but Pastner, the young coach for the high-profile Memphis squad has already made his mark. He did this by being young (not really praiseworthy) and by admitting he takes a hands-off approach to play calling and in-game coaching. Considering college basketball is dominated by an oligarchy of about twelve coaches who have been around since time immemorial, anyone deviating from the norm, especially a young coach with promise, will make waves and be anointed the second coming of Coach K. Win or lose on Sunday, the media will have a lot of air to fill and will take stories were they can find them. And Josh Pastner is a pretty strong story, win or lose. (UPDATE: Pastner lost. My predication is that he will still be talked about ad nauseum.)
2. Memphis’ Josh Pastner Will Emerge As A Game-Changing Coach
This is the safest prediction of the tournament. A “sure thing,” if you will.