NCAA Tournament: Initial Thoughts
I didn’t watch college basketball as much this season as I have in the past, which means this will probably be my best bracket performance to date. However, I did tune in for a fair amount of games, including twice seeing the Maryland Terrapins, the team for which I root (although it’s like how I feel about the Sixers, in that I can’t pretend it’s at the same level of caring as my other teams), lose to Duke. But I’m warming up to Maryland basketball because provided the right players stay (Terrell Stoglin, Jordan Williams, Pe’Shon Howard), this should be one of the better teams in the ACC again pretty soon. Terrell Stoglin is going to be really fucking good. Alright, time for first impressions of this year’s tournament.
First round upsets:
12 Richmond over 5 Vanderbilt
13 Belmont over 4 Wisconsin
12 Utah State over 5 Kansas State
11 Gonzaga over 6 St. John’s
Lesser first round upset:
10 Michigan State over 7 UCLA
First round upset that I want to pick:
(but ultimately won’t because I lack the testicular fortitude)
13 Oakland over 4 Texas
Late addition: 14 Wofford over 3 BYU
The five most intriguing second round matchups:
3 Syracuse vs. 6 Xavier
2 North Carolina vs. 7 Washington
4 Louisville vs. 12 Richmond
3 BYU vs. 11 Gonzaga
12 Utah State vs. 13 Belmont
Surprise Sweet 16 teams:
Sweet 16 threats:
10 Michigan State
First impulse Elite Eight:
Duke, Connecticut, Kansas, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky
NBA prospect you’ve never heard of:
Kenneth Faried - PF - Morehead State
Dude’s legit. He’s very Paul Millsap-like (henceforth referred to as Millsapien), in that he has been the nation’s best rebounder — from a non-power school, too — over the last three seasons (he has finished third, second, and first, in that order). Faried is also very Millsapien-like in that nobody knows his name or who he is because his highlights are never on Sports Center (and Morehead State is never on TV). You can be sure NBA teams are well aware of him, though, and that he will be drafted in June. I don’t think Faried is going to be as good a pro as Millsap (because he’s not as strong and is a lesser scorer), but he has the skills to be a valuable contributor for a team as an energy player and tenacious rebounder.
Player you must root for (and, really, why wouldn’t you?):
David Stockton - PG - Gonzaga
Son of John. David is following in his father’s footsteps as a member of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Whether he follows in his father’s footsteps as a player is yet to be seen, but if that kind of unbelievably crushing (and idiotic) pressure has gotten to him, I bet his dad would be disheartened. It’s pretty hard to follow up the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals. Right now Stockton is one of the Bulldogs’ bench players, a guy who averaged the third-least amount of minutes on the whole team. Still, you can’t help but notice him when he’s in the game, and it’s not only because of his name. All I know is that it’s fun watching David Stockton play basketball, and here’s to him having the chance to develop into one of the nation’s better point guards over the course of his college career.
Player who qualifies as a must-watch:
Deniz Kilicli - PF - West Virginia
You shouldn’t watch Deniz Kilicli because he’s good, but rather for the entertainment value that he will assuredly provide. Seriously, his game is so ugly, it’s beautiful — in a perverse, unnatural way. You won’t be able to take your eyes off him, and you’ll practically be begging for West Virginia to give him the ball at the offensive end just so you can see him unfurl that trademark hideous hook shot. It’s like passing by a car wreck. A 6-9 sophomore power forward from Turkey, Kilicli weighs 270 pounds (of solid muscle) and is as imposing a physical specimen as there is in college basketball. He’s nicknamed the Istanbull, which could not be more appropriate. If any player has ever looked like a Mountaineer and was meant to play for West Virginia, it’s this fucking guy. Each time I look at Kilicli’s face, I immediately think he’s killed at least three people with his bare hands. No player in the nation looks scarier. Oh, he’s a fairly useful basketball player, too, and serves as an important contributor off the bench for Bob Huggins’ squad.