Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen, we are back.
A year of no March Madness had made me forget how insane this tournament truly is – I won’t make that mistake again.
Four beautiful days of non-stop basketball provided just about everything you can ask as a fan – upsets, storylines, blowouts, and great hair.
I’m not going to lie, at certain points I became completely unhinged.
The first weekend was absolutely out of control and that is reflected in the Sweet 16 matchups. There is a new record for most unique seeds with 11.
Here are seven of the most pressing and insightful thoughts I have to share.
1) Sister Jean may be abusing her power.
The ramblers have advanced to the sweet-16 for the second time in the last three tournaments and I’ll admit it – Sister Jean is starting to scare me.
Judging by her pre-game prayer, the 101-year-old nun has a direct line to God and may be abusing her power to win basketball games.
"As we play the fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win. We hope to score early and make our opponents nervous," said Jean. "We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50% of layups and 30% of its 3 points. Our defense can take care of that."
What happened? They out-rebounded the Ilinni 28-24 and held them to 29% behind the arc. One has to wonder if the committee should be reprimanded for scheduling teams to play the Ramblers on Sundays, because I really don’t think its fair.
2) A certain big 12 program is dead and buried.
I have to be careful here, because this could easily devolve onto a tirade – but I just want to state that a certain Big-12 program from Austin is dead – I mean, they may as well self impose the death penalty.
I refuse to mention this school by name due to the numerous times they have choked in both men’s basketball and football.
Shaka Smart (who made $3.2 million a season) had gone six years without a tournament win for the burnt orange. Losing to an in-state private Christian college while having a $29.6 BILLION-dollar larger endowment was the final straw it appears, as Smart has “moved on” to coach Marquette.
All credit to Abilene Christian for the win, but they got absolutely thrashed by 11 seed UCLA two days later.
Shaka had once again wasted an insanely talented team, as Kai Jones, Jericho Sims and Greg Brown are all projected to get drafted this year.
All the oil / booster money in the world could not buy this program success, they are an abject failure. Sam Ehlinger once said “we’re baaaaaack,” no Sam, you’re not, and probably never will be.
This was a classic Tex*s choke job and there’s no way around it.
“That’s what I love about these Longhorns man, I get older, they stay poverty.” – Matthew McConaughey, probably.
3) CBS animations.
This is not relevant at all to the tournament play, but I have to mention it – the CBS graphics department has lost their minds with these dancing animations.
Seeing the Loyola puppet breakdancing after busting my bracket almost sent me into a spiral. Looking back on it now, they have to keep it rolling. Maybe mix in some new choreography.
4) Buddy Boeheim and the 2-3 zone are an unexpected issue.
Buddy Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange are absolutely rolling right now, and I would be lying if I said they haven’t hurt my bank account.
Boeheim is lighting the NCAA tourney on fire so far averaging 27.5ppg on a 59.4% FG percentage (56.5% from three).
After destroying SDSU in round one, the Orange controlled play against Huggins and his Mountaineers in round of 32 – they’ll be advancing to the sweet sixteen for the 12th time in Jim Boeheim’s tenure as coach.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see this coming. I watched a few Syracuse games earlier this year and they struggled mightily.
The squad has put it together when it matters most, and it seems no one can figure out the vaunted 2-3 zone, so expect them to keep buzzing.
5) Top hairstyles of the tourney
Is March Madness upstaging the Minnesota high school hockey tournament? The jury is out on that, but all I know is there has been some very impressive hairstyles so far.
Drew Timme’s handlebar stache is just out of control, Brady Manek looks like William Nylander if he was born in Oklahoma, UCLA’s Tyger Campbell might have the best hair in the nation, and Matthew Mayer has a historically gritty mullet.
6) The B1G Fraud
The B1G fraud is back. Coming into the 2021 NCAA tournament the Big Ten had nine teams looking to cut down the nets (that is if you include the Michigan State Spartans presented by Rocket Mortgage).
One only remains – Michigan.
To have Iowa (2), Ohio State (2), Purdue (4) and Illinois (1) not make it to the second weekend is a really tough look, and I’m wondering if the conference had cannibalized itself to the point of being overrated – it certainly seems that way.
Big Ten fans are probably throwing up as they read this, but Michigan is the only hope for a B1G redemption.
7) Conference of Champions.
To no one’s surprise Bill Walton has spoken the conference of champions into existence – the man is simply on a higher plane then everyone else, and saw this coming from a mile away.
The Pac-12 went 10-2 over the first weekend of play, which is just incredible considering their seeding situation. Five upsets in the first round.
I may have to adopt the fungal diet myself, simply to access the other 90% of my brain. Maybe it will help me pick more winners.
Unfortunately, only one of Oregon and USC can advance as they matchup in the sweet 16, and those are the two PAC-12 team’s I have the most confidence in.
Keep your eyes on Oregon State though, I smell an upset brewing.
WEEKEND GAMBLING PICKS:
*Full disclosure - I'm probably going to lose every bet.*
Gonzaga (-13.0) vs. Creighton
PICK: Creighton +13
Gonzaga is a very talented team and more importantly a very deep team, but I have Creighton covering in this matchup. Coming into their second-round match against Ohio, Creighton had struggled, barely getting past UCSB in the round of 64. Prior to that they got killed by Georgetown in the Big East championship game. However, I think they have found some jam and will put up a fight against the number one seed Bulldogs.
Also, Call me crazy but I may have to sprinkle Creighton ML. (+650)
USC (-2.0) vs. Oregon
PICK: Over 138, Oregon ML (+110)
A battle for Pac-12 supremacy takes place Saturday night, in what I expect will be the game of the weekend. USC’s Mobley brothers have been dominant so far in March and will probably continue that against Oregon. If USC can slow down play, they have their best shot at winning. That’s a big “if,” however, and I believe Oregon’s athleticism to overwhelm the Trojans. Oregon wins in a shootout.
Arkansas (-11.5) vs. Oral Roberts
PICK: Arkansas -11.5
It is a great story, but Oral Roberts’ Cinderella run will come to an end this weekend. Interestingly, Arkansas has already played Oral Robert’s in December, a matchup the Razorbacks won 87-76. Musselman scheduled the matchup in an effort to prepare his team for March dark horses. I suspect this will factor into an Arkansas cover.
Baylor (-7.5) vs. Villanova
PICK: Baylor 1h -4
Despite losing Collin Gillespie before the tournament, Jay Wright’s Wildcats won’t stop chugging. I’ll admit it, I got suckered into taking Winthrop round one and paid the price. However, I think Baylor is a wagon and will come out firing to start the game. The -7.5 is a bit too risky to me, so I’m going to take first half -4.
Michigan (-2.5) vs. Florida State
Pick: Florida State +2.5
On one hand you have the B1G fraud narrative, on the other hand Michigan is a very good basketball team. Florida State had an impressive win over Colorado on Monday, so I’m torn on who to pick here. This is a coinflip.
I’m literally flipping a coin while writing this - heads is Michigan, tails is FSU.
Tails … I hate the play. But FSU it is.
Alabama (-6.5) vs. UCLA
PICK: Bama -6.5
The tide shall rolleth. UCLA has had a great run, but I LOVE Alabama to cover here. The extra wear and tear of a play-in game might come into play. Bama can shoot the lights out when they have to and are an all around great team.
Loyola Chicago (-7.0) vs. Oregon State
PICK: Oregon State +7
This is tough. Loyola is a fundamentally great basketball team. They have a rabid defence, and everyone has bought into the system. My brain is telling my Loyola, but I have to ride with Oregon state simply because of how well they’ve treated me lately. Also, the game is on Saturday, so maybe Sister Jean’s pull won’t be as drastic this time around.
Houston (-6.5) vs. Syracuse
PICK: Syracuse ML (+230)
I’m riding the hot hand with Buddy and the 2-3 zone. His father Jim has something special cooking, and Houston just doesn’t do it for me. I expect the orange to advance to the Elite Eight.