Thursday, March 17, 2005

Last minute bracket tips

Here's a public service for your NCAA bracket: when all else fails, go with the team that has the best player on the floor.

Why? Because when two teams are relatively evenly matched, it's the best player on the floor who will ultimately make the difference. And the best player is worthy of that title because he comes up BIG in clutch situations.

This is why Kansas (Simien, Langford), UNC (May), Syracuse (Warrick), Duke (Redick/Williams), Wake (Paul), Illinois (Brown/Williams), Ok. State (Lucas) are all attractive can-win-it-all teams -- these players give those teams the extra edge they need in an even matchup.

Look at the recent past champions: 2004 UConn had Okafor, 2003 Syracuse had Anthony, 2002 Maryland had Dixon, 2000 Mich. State had MoPete. Duke's 2001 champ doesn't count because it had 3 players better than most other team's best player (Battier, Dunleavy, J. Williams) but the other four squads that won in the '00s all had one player who was so far above any of the competitors that they had no answer for him.

And finally, one other tip. If you have two teams that seem even, go with the bangers over the jumpers. The game has changed since 1986, when a high-flying Louisville could just outjump a stronger UNC team. Instead, interior power is a key ingredient. It kept Kansas in the 2003 title game; it helped UConn win last year, and it made the difference in Maryland's Final Four win over Kansas in 2002 (which effectively was the national title game). Sure, the human pogo sticks can do some work, but the increased athletic talents of players now means that a 215 pound jumping jack will be going up against a 275 pound jumping jack and I know who's likely to win that battle.

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