Clarification from yesterday's Cowbell: Some of you noticed that the Sports Gal picked UCLA over Memphis in the regional finals, followed by Memphis winning it all. That wasn't a typo. Now she's claiming that (A) she had Memphis over UCLA all along, and (B) I screwed up (even though I wrote down her explanation for the UCLA pick verbatim). She's also extremely upset that I ran two Grateful Dead references without mentioning her Phish reference in the Washington region. So we might end up getting divorced over this. Let's hope she waits to file papers until after the tournament. For today: I wanted to run two brackets from people who actually follow sports to see if my mother and wife will end up doing better. So we're running my bracket as well as my buddy House's bracket. Why House? Because he watches more college hoops than anyone I know. Always a recipe for disaster with these things. Here were our picks: HOUSE BRACKET ATLANTA REGION:
Sweet 16: Duke over George Washington ... LSU Over Texas A&M ... W.Va over Iowa ... Texas over Cal. Regional Final: Duke over W.Va. Explanation: "Had to include GW because they have my favorite player in the country, Pops Mensah-Bonsu (even though he's hurt). Had to include LSU because they have my second-favorite player in the country, Glen "Big Baby" Davis. I took Duke over Texas because my card is American Express." OAKLAND REGION:
Sweet 16: Arkansas over Memphis ... Kansas over Pitt ... San Diego St. over Gonzaga ... UCLA over Marquette. Regional Final: Kansas over UCLA. Explanation: "Don't trust Memphis, notwithstanding my desire to see them go far just to see Rodney Carney dunk. Don't trust Gonzaga either, notwithstanding my desire to watch Adam Morrison become the first white player with a mustache in the Final Four in two decades. I haven't seen a ton of Kansas this year, but I'm always down with Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk." WASHINGTON D.C. REGION:
Sweet 16: UConn over Kentucky ... Illinois over Utah St. ... North Carolina over Mich. St. ... Wichita St. over Winthrop. Regional Final: UConn over UNC. Explanation: "I think UConn is the best team in the tournament and my numerous ... ummmm ... friendly, non-monetary wagers are all going to reflect that. The Wichita St./Winthrop matchup is my shout-out to the mid-majors, and Wichita St. is my pick there -- who doesn't enjoy a nice Shocker?" MINNEAPOLIS:
Sweet 16: Villanova over Arizona ... BC over Nevada ... Florida over Wis-Mil ... Georgetown over Ohio St. Regional Final: Villanova over Georgetown. Explanation: "Villanova against BC is going to be a bloodbath -- possibly the best game in the tourney. John Thompson III and [Hoyas assistant coach] Robert Burke both went to my high school, so Georgetown gets the love. Plus, I'm already envisioning CBS' pregame Rollie Massimino/John Thompson montage from the 80s and I'm choking up a little." CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND:
Final Four: UConn over Villanova ... Duke over Kansas. Championship Game: UConn over Duke. Explanation: "Keep it simple, stupid. At least that's what I keep telling myself when making my friendly, non-monetary wagers ... Duke and UConn, though both eminently beatable, are the two best teams and UConn has [at least] two more NBA-worthy players than Duke. Done and done."
SIMMONS BRACKET ATLANTA REGION:
Sweet 16: Duke over UNC-W ... Cuse over Iona ... WVU over Iowa ... Texas over NC State. Regional Final: Duke over WVU. Explanation: If Redick didn't have that mini-slump before the ACC tournament, everyone would pencil Duke in as an automatic lock for the Final Four. Personally, I thought he was burned out -- both he and Morrison went from "Those guys are pretty good" to "THOSE GUYS ARE THE NEXT BIRD AND MAGIC!" in about three seconds. Both of them seemed to wear down as the season dragged along, partly because they even were given that ridiculous "RedMo" moniker, my vote for "lamest and most indefensible sports moment of 2006 so far." Now that the games are more spread out, Redick should be fine. I'm giddy for two weeks of Duke-bashing on the Internet. Always enjoyable. By the way, this region sucks. OAKLAND REGION:
Sweet 16: Memphis over Arkansas ... Kansas over Pitt ... Gonzaga over SD State ... UCLA over Marquette. Regional Final: UCLA over Kansas. Explanation: I love how this region ends in Oakland of all places; apparently Compton couldn't finish its 20,000-seat arena in time. Anyway, I couldn't pick Memphis because they're the Seductive Pick Du Jour (and you know how badly these things turn out). As much as I enjoy Morrison's work, that's one of the worst all-around Gonzaga teams in a while -- really, you're barely holding off Loyola Marymount and I'm supposed to pick you for the Final Four? I just don't see it. By the way, watch for Julian Wright on Kansas -- a potential star who's also a pass-first guy. We need more of him. Anyway, I'm taking UCLA. They fit the March Madness formula -- they have a great backcourt (Farmer and Affalo) and one decent big guy (Bozeman), they've been consistently good all season, and they have a very good coach who hasn't gotten nearly enough attention yet (Ben Howland). Prepare for the Vitale/Bilas/Packer/Lavin lovefest over him. And don't underestimate the whole California sports resurgence that's happening right now, between the Angels, USC's football team, the Clippers and Lakers and everything else. People out here are fired up! Actually, no they're not. WASHINGTON REGION:
Sweet 16: UConn over UAB ... Illinois over Utah State ... MSU over UNC ... Tennessee over Seton Hall. Regional Final: MSU over UConn. Explanation: This bracket bugged me because two of my potential Final Four semi-sleeper teams (UNC and MSU) ended up facing each other in Round 2. Hate when that happens. You need to take chances in these things, so I'm rolling the dice with MSU as my Random Final Four Team for four reasons: (1) Three potential first rounders; (2) March experience; (3) They haven't peaked this season yet (a nice way of saying that they underachieved); and (4) Tom Izzo. Everyone always forgets about Izzo in March, then the Spartans start rolling off wins and everyone says, "Wow, that Tom Izzo can coach!" I'm going with them. As for UConn, I can't pick any college team with a best player (in this case, Rudy Gay) who occasionally mails in big games. For instance, I watched him dog a home game against Villanova a few weeks ago; at one point, Jim Calhoun even screamed that he didn't deserve to wear a Huskies uniform, which raises the question, "If Gay can't get up for THAT game, how could he possibly stay motivated for 82 games a year? Disappointing player, abysmal draft. I can't back these guys and feel good about it. Plus, you know the residual bad karma from the Laptop Scandal will come back to bite them at some point. It's inevitable. MINNESOTA REGION:
Sweet 16: Villanova over Wisconsin ... BC over Montana ... Florida over Wisc-Milw ... OSU over No. Iowa. Regional Final: Villanova over Florida. Explanation: My favorite region because of Nova, BC and Florida (three entertaining teams to watch). BC might have the most talent and swagger ... but you can't ignore the Al Skinner Factor. You just can't. Hell, they almost blew a 10-point lead to UNC with like 12 seconds to play in the ACC Tournament. (And by the way, you know it's an especially wacky tournament when Craig Smith is one of the dominant guys -- he couldn't even crack Chad Ford's "75,000 NBA Prospects to Watch in the Four Regions" list.) As for Florida, Yannick Noah's son is playing out of his mind right now; it's like someone showed him a list of the top-five potential 2006 Draft Picks in early February and he realized, "Wait a second, if I play hard for six weeks, I could become the No. 1 pick in the draft!" Still, I'm going with Villanova -- out of anyone, they seem like the most complete team to me. And it's always fun to see a 350-pound "Easy" Ed Pinckney cheering them on from the stands. CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND:
Final Four: Duke over UCLA, Villanova over MSU. Championship Game: Duke over Villanova. Explanation: Keep in mind, I always lose these pools. Always. So if I'm destined to lose, why not take one for the team (in this case, the entire nation) and slap a reverse-jinx on Duke and their Cobra Kai fan base? They're cooked. Put a fork in them. Now we can enjoy the tournament in peace.