Saturday, November 20, 2010

College Basketball Preview and Week 11 Picks

I’ll be completely honest. My build up and preparation to this College Basketball season has been far less than it usually is. That isn’t a good sign when I’m getting ready to write a college basketball preview. I realized that my knowledge level was significantly lower than usual when I started writing a preview, and how no idea what to write. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than excited for College Basketball this year. However, I just hadn’t put myself in a mental state where I was fully ready for a College Basketball preview. I blame my lack knowledge on three things. First, I was totally stoked for the start of NFL and College Football, and neither have disappointed. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying I’m in love with these football seasons. Second, the fact that I have been preparing for this NBA season since LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach might have something to do with my lack of preparation of College Basketball this year. Third, and most importantly, I have no favorite team in College Basketball. This really isn’t a huge issue. I have never had a consistent favorite team in College Basketball, and it hasn’t hindered my interest yet. I think it’s time for a change though. Instead of having one or two year affairs with a team, it’s time for me to settle down with a school.

This decision isn’t as simple as me just choosing a team. Actually, I have no decision to make. Instead, I’m leaving it to fate. Let me backtrack. Prior to last year’s tournament, I had the same feelings as I do now. I need a favorite team in College Basketball. Shouldn’t someone who is as big of a fan as me have a favorite team? So I left it to fate. Whichever team won the 65 team tournament would be my new team. Well, a monkey wrench was thrown into my plan. Duke won the tournament, and I refused to call Duke my favorite team. That wasn’t going to happen.

Well, I’m back at it again this year. However, reluctantly Duke isn’t going to be excluded. If Duke wins the 2011 tournament (gulp) they will be my favorite team. Sure, that sounds really similar to a guy getting trapped with a girl because she gets knocked up, but in reality, it happens. I’m not an exception. If Kentucky wins the tournament, they will be my favorite team. In translation, that’s like marrying the really hot girl. The hot girl who might cheat on you though. If Austin Peay wins the tournament, they will be my favorite team. That’s finding the inner beauty in a not so pretty girl and marrying her. It doesn’t matter who it is. Whoever wins the tournament, I’m marrying.

Of course there are some stipulations. I can’t possibly be locked into a relationship forever. I need a way out. So after three years, I can get a divorce. If things are going south or if there is another team that has stolen my heart, I need to be able to get out of the situation. If I’m enjoying my time with my team, I can sign on for another three years. Also, at any point I can opt of my team if:
A. The team is a part of a major academic or legal scandal which disallows them from being in the NCAA Tournament or dismembers their team (fingers crossed Kentucky doesn’t win the title this year!)
B. Florida Gulf Coast University turns into a perennial Cinderella Team. Hey, they can’t get into the tournament this year, but when they are eligible watch out for my FGCU Eagles to become the next George Mason.
C. My team perishes in a plane crash. I don’t wish that scenario on any team, even Duke.

Before I realize where I want to be, I need to look at my past relationships.

North Carolina Tar Heels (2004-2005)- I guess you could say it was a little bit of a bandwagon pick. They had a lot of good players and I jumped on just in time for a title run. I was excited about it. It was my first title since the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls days. Yeah, the Tar Heels and I had a good year.

Gonzaga Bulldogs (2005-2006)- My affair with the Gonzaga Bulldogs was due to one player: Adam Morrison. I quickly fell in love with Morrison. White boy with serious game (Gus Johnson thought he was perhaps the next Larry Bird), scoring machine, diabetes, slamming the basketball against his head… what isn’t to love? Unfortunately, the Bulldogs got knocked out in the Sweet 16. Although I was saddened, the closing moments of Gonzaga’s loss to UCLA remains Gus Johnson’s most legendary play call.

Florida Gators (2005-2007)- After I broke up with Gonzaga, it was time for a new team. I took the team of my brother Paul Clark, and made them my new team. Florida was my most successful relationship. In my two seasons with the Gators, I got two championships, Joakim Noah dancing crazily after winning the SEC Championship (check it out on You Tube) and the emergence of a phrase, rather a word, that I cannot say in this blog. I’ll just say this, if you were describing Lee Humphrey (who ironically enough Pauley was complimenting) you would not use this word.

Texas Longhorns (2006-2007)- While I was with the Gators, I had a relationship on the side with Texas. We never met, just texted. Think of it like a Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger relationship. I was big on Kevin Durant, and even went as far as picking Texas to reach the National Championship and lose to the Gators. That didn’t really work out. Durant was awesome, but the team underachieved. Little did I know, there was a third team in this tournament that would soon steal my heart.

Davidson Wildcats (2007-2009)- When I walked into HSBC Arena for the first round matchup of Davidson vs. Maryland, I had no idea that Stephen Curry would soon hold the key to my heart. Curry scored 30 points, and I was on board. Fast forward to the 2008 Tournament. I hadn’t yet fallen for Davidson, rather it was just like a girl you text occasionally. See how their doing, what’s going on but that’s it. I had faith in Stephen Curry, and picked Davidson to make a run to the Sweet 16. 40 points versus Gonzaga later, I was in love. Davidson was my team, for the rest of the tournament, and I was devastated when the Cinderella run ended in the Elite Eight versus Kansas. I stayed with Curry and Davidson for the 2008-2009 season, despite a significantly worse team. They failed to make the tournament, and for the first time, I was without a team in the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State Buckeyes (2009-2010)- Looking back, I have no idea what this was about. I liked the way Evan Turner played, even though I didn’t really like him personally. I guess this is equivalent to getting a girl who you just had stuff in common with, despite no physical attraction. I liked that Turner was a triple double threat. I didn’t like him though. The Buckeyes lost in the Sweet 16 and I wasn’t too upset.

Obviously I have some preferences of teams I would like to see win this year’s tournament. I broke them up into four categories.

Cinderella Teams
Xavier- The Gonzaga of the East. Every season they seem to make a decent tournament run. I like that out of a team.

Gonzaga- The Xavier of the West. The original Cinderella team is a good choice to be a fan of. Plus, I have a year under my belt as a Gonzaga fan and a Gonzaga T shirt that might fit if I lost 15 lbs. Let the workouts begin!

Butler- The ultimate Cinderella. If Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot went in last year, I’m not even writing about needing a favorite team.

Power Houses
Michigan State- I wouldn’t be complaining about liking the team that seemingly makes the final four every year. Tom Izzo consistently assembles a good team.

Syracuse- Although I strongly despise “The Bandwagon” (if you don’t know what “the bandwagon” check out my Running Diary of the NCAA Tournament) Syracuse would be an enjoyable team to call my own.

Friend’s Favorites
Villanova- The Wildcats are the team of good friend Collin Stucko. One thing I’ve learned about Collin over the last ten years: He’s passionate about his teams and it’s a lot more fun to be rooting for the same team as he is than rooting for an opposing team. He can get mean and ignorant when his team is successful. Something I would love to join in on.

Florida- I had my two year run when they won back to back championships, mainly because of Paul Clark. Even the last few years I consistently root for Florida to do well. I have plenty of Gators gear. Florida is a near perfect match.

Emerging Contenders
Kansas State- I have to say I love Frank Martin almost as much as I love Jacob Pullen’s beard. Pullen won’t be in Manhattan forever, but winning a Title would be a nice start for mine and K State’s relationship.

Baylor- I’m not quite sure what I like about this team, but for some reason I already like them. Maybe it’s because they turned into a contender overnight. Maybe it is because they nearly eliminated Duke last year. Or maybe it’s because they recruit guys with names like Tweety Carter, Quincy Acy and LaceDarius Dunn.

Oregon- The Ducks are in no way an emerging contender. The fact is they have the coolest court in the NCAA. You can find it on the internet. Trust me, it’s a revelation. It is a challenger to Boise State for best home court/field.

The Picks
Sweet 16- Baylor, BYU, Duke, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Missouri, Murray State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Syracuse, Villanova

Elite Eight- Duke, Florida, Kansas State, Michigan State, Ohio State, San Diego State, Syracuse, Villanova

Final Four- Duke, Kansas State, Michigan State, Syracuse

National Championship- Michigan State over Duke

I need to be optimistic that things aren’t going to be terrible for the next three years. Michigan State over Duke in the championship. Fingers Crossed!

College Football
Wisconsin over Michigan
NC State over North Carolina
South Florida over Pittsburgh
Stanford over California
Ohio State over Iowa
Virginia Tech over Miami FL
Arkansas over Mississippi State
Nebraska over Texas A&M
Baylor over Oklahoma
San Diego State over Utah

Miami over Chicago
Cleveland over Jacksonville
Pittsburgh over Oakland
Tennessee over Washington
New York Jets over Houston
Baltimore over Carolina
Green Bay over Minnesota
Kansas City over Arizona
Dallas over Detroit
Buffalo over Cincinnati
New Orleans over Seattle
Atlanta over St. Louis
New England over Indianapolis
Philadelphia over New York Giants
San Diego over Denver

Current Records
College Football- 49-31 (5-5 last week)
NFL- 69-47 (6-8 last week)
Yahoo! College Football Picks- 112-100 (7-12 last week, 3,290th in the country)