John S Picks The Thursday Games

1. Syracuse vs. 5. Butler

Original Pick: Syracuse over Vanderbilt

What I’ve Learned: Syracuse continues to be the best team in country when it plays well, making me continue to regret my decision to pick Kansas to win it all. With that said, this team has been thin all year, and they are even thinner without Arinze Onuaku.

I’ve been dead wrong, though, on Butler—the only 5-seed I picked to lose in the first round. Ever since a somewhat slow start, people who were high on the Bulldogs before the season—like Tim!—have let them fly under the radar, ignoring the fact that the last time this team lost was before Christmas. Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward are a dynamic pairing, and I can see them giving the Orange a serious run. In the end, though, I’ll go with favorite.

The Pick: Syracuse

2 Kansas State vs. 6 Xavier

Original Pick: Pittsburgh over Kansas State

What I’ve Learned: Not much. I suppose the Wildcats are better than I realized, but I expected them to win both the games they’ve won so far, although maybe with a little more difficulty. Xavier pulled out a close one over Pitt, which is starting to make me question Jamie Dixon’s ability to coach in the NCAA Tournament: They’ve been knocked out in the first weekend four times in nine years and always seem to lose earlier than they should, often in close games. I didn’t see either of these teams in the Elite Eight originally, but I think I may have been more off on K-State than on Xavier. For no reason at all, I don’t expect this game to be close.

The Pick: Kansas State

2 West Virginia vs. 11 Washington

Original Pick: West Virginia over Marquette

What I’ve Learned: The Pac-10 has, for the last two years, unleashed an elaborate plan to sneak a “sleeper” into the NCAA Tournament. Last year, it was Arizona, a talented team with Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, who made a Sweet 16 run as a 12-seed. This Washington team has played exceptionally and unexpectedly well in the first weekend, leading some people to tag them as a “Cinderella” despite the fact that they were a pre-season Top 25 team. The “magical run” of the Huskies will end tonight, though, if only because it would be absolutely ridiculous for Kentucky to make it to the Final Four without playing a team seeded higher than ninth.

The Pick: West Virginia

1 Kentucky vs. 12 Cornell

Original Pick: Wisconsin over Texas

What I’ve Learned: If you shoot near 60% for the first weekend, you’re probably going to win some games, regardless of how many athletic scholarships you have. What’s been so impressive about Cornell’s Cinderella run—and unlike Washington, this is a real Cinderella run—is how the Big Red has been blowing away its opponents, and putting on this offensive showcase against legitimately great defenses. Kentucky, meanwhile, won its first two games by 29 and 30 points respectively. If Cornell can shoot 60% from the field again, then I guess they have a shot—I mean, what team wouldn’t have a shot if it shot 60%?—but it’s highly unlikely they will. It’s not that the Wildcats have a great defense—they are a good defensive team, but so were Wisconsin and Temple—but really that a streak like the one Cornell’s on now doesn’t usually last long. Expect another big Kentucky win.

The Pick: Kentucky

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on March 26, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    On Xavier-KSU: “For no reason at all, I don’t expect this game to be close.” Another great call, John.

    Reply

  2. […] doubt that this was the best NCAA Tournament ever, last night’s Xavier-KSU game (which I declared would not be close) should have cemented that status. Anyway, here are some more picks you can take to the […]

    Reply

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