How’s your NCAA Tournament bracket doing? That is the question that I have heard the most today. Not too bad, actually. I had Duke, Syracuse, Villanova, Wichita State, and Kansas all not surviving the weekend anyway. I just didn’t always pick the right team to beat them.
In one of my work pools I made the mistake of having Creighton beat Baylor — and Oregon — so I have some ground to make up there. But here, I get to wipe the slate clean and just pick this round again. So far with the round-by-round picks, including the play-in games, I am sitting at 37-15. No one ever said that this was an exact science.
EAST REGION at NEW YORK, NY:
(1) Virginia vs. (4) Michigan State:
After the Cavs’ lackluster performance against Coastal Carolina, I thought Memphis would give them problems. They didn’t. Virginia’s defense made Memphis play mostly in the halfcourt, which is not their strength. Memphis is like a puppy. They want to run. Virginia became dog trainers, tightening the defensive leash and opening up a 27-point lead. They never came close to giving that up, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995. Who would have thought that Virginia would be the only ACC team to survive the first weekend?
Michigan State looked like they were going to run off and leave Harvard. The Crimson had other ideas, erasing a 16-point deficit to take a late lead against basketball royalty. Michigan State calmly took the lead back the very next time down the court, and held on to it for dear life. Harvard showed tremendous character coming back from that far down, but Michigan State was just too much for the undersized Crimson to overcome.
This should be a defensive war. Both teams are very good at taking the other team out of their comfort zones. It’s going to come down to who has the better athletes and who plays more as a team. I picked Michigan State in my bracket, but I am nervous about the pick after seeing how Virginia handled Memphis. The Spartans have not looked great in the NCAA Tournament thus far — not like they did in the Big Ten Tournament. Will they find that team? (Pick: Michigan State)