Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kentucky-Ohio State headlined my Preseason Top 32

Kentucky spoiled Ohio State's season last year. In November, I predicted
the teams to meet for the 2012 title with the Buckeyes avenging the 2011
Sweet 16 loss. The teams appear on a Monday night collision course. (AP)




Long before Deuce2Sports was born, CBSSports's Mack Attack blog featured basic predictions from yours truly.

Unlike most voters, my preseason bracket isn't based off where teams should start the year; Rather, it is where I think teams will finish. Therefore, my Nos. 1-4 are my Final Four, Nos. 5-8 are my other Elite Eight teams, etc.

I, like most, was very high on Kentucky and North Carolina, but had Ohio State as my national champion. I also went out on a limb with Xavier in the Final Four. Honestly, I was between Xavier, Arizona and Baylor, all of whom haven't exactly lived up that that over-the-top billing.

There are always those sleeper 12 or 13 seeds that reach the Sweet 16 and you see some of those projections with the likes of Belmont and Detroit.

My Top 16 features 10 Sweet 16 teams while my Top 8 features five Elite Eight squads. I had all this year's Final Four teams in my Top 11. That's not too bad of a prognostication from November.

With the Final Four set, here's a breakdown of how I did with each team (NCAA Tournament result in parenthesis):

1. Ohio State (Final Four) - The Buckeyes are still alive, and while they've had their ups and downs, few teams can get as hot as Ohio State.

2. Kentucky (Final Four) - The best team in the land. If Big Blue wins the title, having them as the runner-up in the preseason isn't too shabby, right?

3. North Carolina (Elite Eight) - North Carolina's Final Four chances took a huge hit with Kendall Marshall's wrist injury. With him, its no guarantee the Tar Heels beat Kansas, but it would have been much more likely.

4. Xavier (Sweet 16)- This pick was an awesome out-on-a-limb pick pre-brawl. At least the X-men didn't make me look completely foolish by reaching the Sweet 16.

5. Florida (Elite Eight)- The up-and-down Gators might be peaking at the right time. Fresh off a nice win over Marquette, Billy Donovan's team nailed my just-short-of-the-Final-Four prediction with a regional finals loss to Louisville.

6. Arizona (NIT) - Here's the first dud. While the Wildcats were young, I expected them to make some type of charge in the weak Pac-12. All Arizona had to do to reach the NCAA Tournament was beat Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament Final. I do think Arizona would have won at least one game in the tournament if it got there, but we'll never know if I'd be right.

7. Baylor (Elite Eight) - The Bears got to the Elite Eight, making this prediction look solid. Despite losing eight games on the year (three to Missouri and two to Kansas), Baylor is still a very talented team. I was close to making Baylor (and not Xavier) the last team in my preseason Final Four. There is nothing wrong suffering a season-ending loss to Kentucky.

8. Gonzaga (Round of 32) - Another solid year for the Zags ended in a great Round of 32 game against Ohio State. This was a stretch pick that was all based on a favorable draw.

9. Duke (Round of 64) - Count me as one of the few who wasn't shocked with Duke's loss to Lehigh in the Round of 64; The Mountain Hawks are a solid mid-major squad. That said, Duke overachieved this season and just got outplayed in March. I wanted to keep Duke out of the Sweet 16 in the preseason but I honestly couldn't think of other teams that would be better suited.

10. Louisville (Final Four) - With a big win over Michigan State, the Cardinals were surprisingly one win away from a Final Four. The comeback against Florida sent Louisville to New Orleans. Maybe we shouldn't be shocked that a Big East Tournament Champion is making another deep tournament run.

11. Kansas (Final Four) - Another solid year makes putting Kansas in the Top 16 easy every fall. Surprisingly, No. 11 was way to low.

12. Syracuse (Elite Eight) - The Orange were one Buckeye team from rolling into their first Final Four since 2003. I underestimated this team, especially Fab Melo. Though, I'll pat myself on the back that Syracuse has survived some major scares in its first three games to UNC-Asheville, Kansas State and Wisconsin.

13. Belmont (Round of 64) - We could call this another dud. Despite being a popular upset pick, Belmont couldn't handle a Georgetown team that overachieved all year.

14. Michigan State (Sweet 16) - I'll take credit for predicting a Sweet 16 year in what most felt was a barely-slip-into-the-tournament season. That said, I didn't see a No. 1 seed, nor did I see a Sweet 16 loss being a huge disappointment.

15. Michigan (Round of 64) - The team the Wolverines lost to in the Round of 64 - Ohio - made the Sweet 16, so I was on to something, right? Michigan played well all year. Had it played to its No. 4 seed, the Sweet 16 would have been an expected destination.

16. Detroit (Round of 64) - This was a flier that didn't quite pay off. While the Titans got hot late to win the Horizon League Tournament, getting a No. 15 seed felt worse when Kansas was the opponent.

17-32: Pittsburgh, UConn, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Georgetown, Alabama, Temple, Washington, Wisconsin, Purdue, Marquette, New Mexico, Drexel, Florida State, BYU, California.

I didn't fare great with that next group of "win one and go home" teams, but I correctly pegged Vanderbilt, Memphis, Georgetown, Purdue, New Mexico and Florida State in this section while many others had those squads much higher or lower.

SLEEPER TEAMS: Indiana, Oregon, NC State, Georgia Tech, Long Beach St.

I said these teams would make the NCAA Tournament (3/5) and could win a game (Indiana and NC State in the Sweet 16). That's not too shabby.

All in all, my preseason predictions, while not perfect, didn't mirror the masses and still proved to be better than the norm.

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