I believe in bracket etiquette. I believe in one bracket for one person. And there is no need to go all Patrick Stevens when filling out your bracket and sift through piles of stats and trends. Go with your gut and your first instinct. Don't second-guess a decision because usually your pick will be the correct one.
Here was my Final Four before the season started:
Obviously, Alabama had a difficult season marred somewhat by off-court adversity. But I see no reason to change the three other picks. So my post-bracket Final Four:
Kansas over Georgetown in the final.
Unless there are chemistry issues or something (see 2006 UConn), the most talented team usually wins this thing, a team with multiple future pros. That would put UNC, Florida and Kansas in the mix. For much of the second half of the season, UNC has seemed more like 12 individual pieces than one cohesive unit, although they gelled in the ACC tournament. Florida has had its stumbles, and while the Gators will be the most popular choice, there is a reason no one has repeated since 1992. And even in 92, Duke needed a miracle shot to even get to the Final Four. Talent is no obstacle for Kansas. The question is whether Bill Self can avoid an early tournament knockout again. The Jayhawks may have to knock off one of the more complete teams around, UCLA, to get to the Final Four. I think I would have preferred if Kansas had lost late in the Big 12 tournament, but I'm still saying they'll win the next six straight.
As for the locals, Maryland got an easier road than most. Butler was fortunate to get a five seed after the Wright State loss. The other five seeds are more dangerous. G-town has a reasonably nice path to the Elite Eight. Then it really gets tough. Durant is a wild card in this whole tournament. The committee doesn't seem like the biggest fan of George Washington, for the second straight year. Virginia Tech-Southern Illinois again? And Virginia was seeded a slot or two better than I thought, but UVA-Tenn. could be fun.
Of all the tournament road trips I've been on over the past decade, only a handful I would call great, defined by great games and great extra curricular activities. Tampa is in that conversation. I may have had 15 hours of sleep in five nights. The Bog is nice and all, but we'd like to keep it running through March, so we can't write about everything, or most of the things that transpired, but the stories will live on for quite some time. ATM Kilgore will push the envelope on this as much as possible, and that's fine.
My short list of great tournament trips this decade:
1) New Orleans 2003, the Mother Russia trip
2) Phoenix 2004, man-runs-into-brick-wall near library
3) Seattle 2004, hosted by Seattle luminary Greg Bishop
4) Salt Lake 2006, mid-major convention and rodeo groupies
5) Tampa 2007, ATM machines and an epic phone message.
Again, sorry for the vagueness. I wanted to get some of that on the record, but we need to keep this Bog running too. It is similar to watching Scarface on TNT. You'll miss some gore and will have to read a lot of lips, but it's the thought that counts.
On to Buffalo, where my wife said I would be heading for three weeks now. She's better than Jerry Palm.
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