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10:12 a.m. - March 22, 2007
The Sweet 16 - It Has To Happen THIS Way
Well, I didn’t have time this year, thanks to the DC conference getting in the way, to do my world-famous snarky full scale round one preview, but now that it’s time for the Sweet 16, I wanted to tell you who to root for these next four games.

Now, of course, this isn’t about school loyalty, or about any comments about the basketball competence of the teams, or each team’s head coaches ability to game plan and motivate the kids.

It’s all about how I can win my NCAA pools?

Now, I don’t have much money invested in them, but it’s a pride thing, and winning these pools can also help to pay for Katie’s dance class or Kristin’s insatiable appetite for diapers. And you want to help keep my kids in Robies and Cheerios, right?

RIGHT?

Anyway, I’m ranking the teams from #16 to #1, based on the simple criteria of making myself get the maximum points possible in my pools. I had some minor variations in my brackets, but I think after I got to the Sweet 16 I basically had the same teams there.

So, let’s begin.

16 – Florida - I really, really, really need Florida to lose tomorrow. For one, I actually had Butler beating them in the Sweet 16. I really did. For two, a Florida loss would mean that my pick of Wisconsin in the final four wouldn’t hurt me at all, since almost everyone had either Florida or Wisconsin in the Final Four.

So how can this result happen, legally? (As in, no kneecapping of Joakim Noah, though the offer was nice Mr. Gilloly.) Well, Butler has had a while to prepare for anything that Florida will give them defensively, and while you can’t teach height, you can overcome it with basketball smarts and efficient hoops playing.

So, go Butler!

15 – Memphis - I had Creighton beating Memphis, and when Nevada beat Creighton I was hoping against hope that Memphis would spit the bit in round two. It didn’t happen.

Basically, this is a pre-emptive strike against those that picked Memphis in the final four, of which there are some. Any advancement by Memphis is harmful to the Smed picks, so the Tigers must be vanquished.

Plus, they’re the Tigers, and that nickname is the epitome of evil in my life. Lebanon High School, DePauw, Wittenberg – you see? Evil incarnate at all stops. Begone, Tigers!

14 – Oregon - This is another aftermath of the loss by Wisconsin to UNLV. Some people had Oregon beating Wisconsin in the Sweet 16, and in order to knock those people out, I need UNLV to keep its run up and beat Oregon.

Now, I know this violates the first principle of Smed hoops picking (never pick Syracuse, UNLV, or Oklahoma) but there’s money at stake and the game’s afoot. So let’s hope the Ducks take their ugly, heinous Nike-infused uniforms home Friday night.

13 – Tennessee - There’s nothing wrong with Tennessee’s program. They had a good season, and I like the fact that their coach, Bruce Pearl, went shirtless in the crowd of a women’s game all decked out and painted in orange to support the Lady Vols. However, they play Ohio State, who I picked to win it all. So I must hope that the Vols are bid adieu. Well challenged, young men.

12 – Southern Illinois - Normally, I would be all over rooting for Southern Illinois. They are a classic underdog, coming from a small state school in a conference that idiots like Billy Packer ignore because they don’t have big names or All-Americans. But the kids stay there for four years, they play hard, and they move on to other careers that don’t involve putting the orange in the rack.

But the Salukis play Kansas, and not only are the spousal rules in effect, but I have the Jayhawks in the final game. Unfortunately, for the Smed family coffers (and to make sure I don’t sleep in the guest room) I must root for Kansas and against a beloved mid-major.

11 – USC - The Trojans play the other team that I have in the final four – North Carolina. So realistically I must root against USC.

But also, mainly, because next year, they will have a spoiled brat of a freshman, OJ Mayo, who in his high school career has changed schools on a whim, been suspended for a technical foul and threatened to go to court over it, was caught with pot in his car, was ejected for taunting in his last high school game, and has refused to give the USC coach his cell phone number after saying that he’s going to USC to “improve his marketability” and that he told the coach “he’ll take care of recruiting.”

Yeesh. I don’t wish ill on people, but I hope that in a few years Mr. Mayo has to make the fries at a Rally’s somewhere to learn about real life.

10 – Pittsburgh - The big news is that the coach at UCLA, Ben Howland, used to coach Pitt and his protégé, Jamie Dixon, is now the coach of the Panthers. That’s all well and good, as is the stories that Howland is playing his former team. But if UCLA ever plays Northern Arizona, will they have stories like that as well?

Anyway, I have UCLA in the final eight, so I must, for the sanctity of my brackets, root against the Panthers. Besides, they’re in the Big East, and since that conference also includes Syracuse, they are tainted by just being in proximity to the Orange.

9 – Vanderbilt - Oh, this is a tough one for me. I love the fact that the Commodores seem to be the only SEC team that cares about grades instead of football. (I know this is basketball, but go with me here.) I love the fact that they have a crazy-go-nuts home court where the benches are UNDER the basket. That’s totally old school. (My freshman basketball coach made us sit under the basket at home games, because that’s the way they did it at Darlington, and it worked for him. We were 15-1, and he was the first coach to ever curse at us, so good times…)

But I didn’t have Vandy in the Sweet 16, and I have Georgetown (the horror!) in the final eight, so the Commodores must go. But I would be proud if Katie and Kristin became a Commodore at some point.

8 – Texas A & M - Billy Gillespie has done a remarkable job in turning around the Aggies’ program, which for years bordered between moribund and heinous. I know he has pretty much scheduled the wimps of the world in the non-conference season, but his team has proven its mettle over the long haul.

However, they’re in the same bracket as my national champ, Ohio State, so they gotta go sometime. And that sometime is in the round of eight. Kiss a co-ed for me, jarheads.

7 – UCLA - When I was growing up, it was pretty much given that UCLA would go undefeated and win the NCAA tourney. Those teams were always great to watch, and when Notre Dame beat them in 1974 it was as shocking to me as anything I had seen in my 8 years and 2 months on this planet Earth.

But times have changed, and UCLA has waxed and waned since then. They have a nice team, and my power ratings had rated them the #1 team in the nation for most of the season. But spousal rules state I must pick a worthy Kansas team in the final four (but I think Kansas is legit, anyway), so UCLA must be stopped in the round of 8.

6 – Georgetown - When I was in high school, Georgetown was evil. Their coach was scowling and they had players like Patrick Ewing and Michael Graham that no one in Indiana liked.

As I got older, I started to admire John Thompson and what he was doing. While I still found it odd that an almost lily-white school fielded an 95% African-American basketball team, his players graduated and stayed out of trouble for the most part, and he, along with John Chaney, really did turn some kids’ lives around.

5 – UNLV - Someone explain to me why the Mountain West and Missouri Valley are “mid-majors”, while no one ever says that about the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA, huh? Anyway, I normally loathe the rebels because of their teams in the early 90s. I’m sure they had a FINE GPA, and I’m sure that NO money changed hands, right Mr. Fixer?

But that was then, and this is now, and UNLV needs to get in to the final eight to minimize the points of my opponents. And then, Butler can beat ‘em.

4 – North Carolina - I’ve always had a soft-spot in my heart for the Tar Heels. I always like the way Dean Smith coached, and the fact that he always had a bunch of walk-ons, started his seniors on senior day, and had his kids ready to play. I’ve always admired Roy Williams as well, either at Kansas or here at North Carolina.

But now, I have them facing Ohio State in the Final Four. And it’s no sin to be eliminated in the final four, and I just think Ohio State is a better team.

So, yes, I’m not rooting for them to win it all, but I want to ask the Duke fans in the house how they enjoyed the last couple of weeks in basketball? Hmmmm…thought so.

3 – Butler - Oh, yes, sacrilege that I would not have the Bulldogs go all the way to the final game now that my final four pick in their bracket is out of the way, but you know, spousal rules still trump home-state teams.

That and I have Kansas in the final game, anyway.

But Butler getting this far would really decimate my opponents and then I could smell victory.

2 – Kansas - When it comes to the final four, then all spousal rules are off. If Kansas has a worthy team, then I always pick them into the final four. Once they’re in the final four, I then pick on basketball merits.

This is an exciting team, and they are quite fun to watch. Sure, they’re not perfect, but then, who is, especially this season. But I don’t think they’re as good as Ohio State.

So, even though I adore Liz with my heart and soul, I, sadly, must pick against the Jayhawks in the final game. And during the final, if indeed Kansas is playing Ohio State, and I have brackets that could earn me money, I will be rooting for the Smed family bottom line, Liz can root for her beloved team, and we all will be winners in the end.

1 – Ohio State - Yes, of course, as you know by now, I have picked the Buckeyes to win it all. As you may or may not know, they are led by man-child Greg Oden, who looks to be 35 years old as a college freshman.

I have a couple of thoughts about Oden and Ohio State. First, being a resident of BFE land, where basketball is king (even though the king has been tarnished by a short-sighted move to class basketball), I’ve heard of Mr. Oden since he was a freshman at Lawrence North. Then, the big stink was that he and his family moved, after eighth grade, from Terre Haute to Indianapolis, right before the IHSAA could regulate his movement.

If he had moved after his freshman year, he’d have to either sit out a year, or have waivers from his other high school so he could compete. Normally, those waivers are pretty perfunctory if someone moves for legit reasons, but a family with a 7-foot tall basketball stud moving to a district where the high school is perennial state power may raise a red flag or two.

Second, Ohio State has a tradition of centers looking twenty years older than they are. A while ago, Granville Waiters played with Clark Kellogg and Herb Williams, and got an NBA career out of it, and now has a business and also does good work.

You see the picture on his site? That’s exactly how he looked when he was in college. The man hasn’t aged. It’s also interesting that he only averaged over 10 points per game once in college, and wound up playing for some years in the NBA and in Europe. Oh, to be 6-11 and bald at age 18.

Anyway, I have the Buckeyes going all the way. And if they do, and the other teams behave, I MAY be in the money. (But who really knows.)

Mind you, this is all for fun, so please, no wagering.

Oh….

 

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