Don't Kill the Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

Work can wait, there’s NCAA brackets to fill out

03/17/2014 11:00 AM

03/17/2014 12:43 PM

NCAA Tournament brackets are like those sheets they give you at the doctor: everyone fills one out, and none of them are worth a billion dollars


You may or may not noticed that the Bossman made me fill out a bracket and put it online


to be publicly mocked.

That was actually the second bracket I filled out, and it has Kansas, Arizona, Louisville and Michigan State in the Final Four. The first bracket I filled out had Florida, Creighton, Wichita State and Michigan State in the Final Four.

The best explanation I can give for the consistency is that the Smokeshow is a Sparty, and had just sent me a picture of our baby in a Michigan State onesie.

Honestly, if that kid was dressed in a Mount St. Mary’s jersey my bracket would probably be just as accurate.

My best advice on filling out a bracket — and this is what I do in the pool I enter with my brother-in-law — is wait until Thursday morning and, basically, fade public opinion. Some 12-seed is going to move from sleeper to trendy pick to favorite. Some 1- or 2-seed is going to be picked apart until there’s a public consensus they won’t get out of the second round.



that groupthink.

You should also know that I’ve never won my brother-in-law’s pool.

But, hey, we’re all here anyway so let’s do some analysis-ing!

South Region

I’ve loved Florida all year. For most of the season, Florida and Arizona have been the best two teams. But I have two major concerns about the Gators: they shoot 66 percent from the free throw line, and they don’t have an NBA player. I like Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin to


win in the first round. Tulsa is among the better defensive teams in the country, particularly inside the three-point line^.


Think Jordan Clarkson regrets transferring?

Kansas has a tough potential matchup in New Mexico — which played without its point guard in a December loss to KU, and beat San Diego State two of three times — in the second round. The more I think about it, the more I think this could be a loss for KU, assuming Joel Embiid doesn’t play.

If KU gets past that game, a matchup with Syracuse in the Sweet 16 would be interesting. On paper, at least, it’s a bad matchup for Kansas. You need shooters to beat Syracuse’s zone, and that’s a place KU has struggled, even without accounting for three-point shooting often dipping in the NCAA Tournament. Also, Syracuse gets in a lot of passing lanes — only 15 teams force turnovers on a higher percentage of possessions than Syracuse, according to

Ken Pomeroy

— and Kansas turns it over FAR too much for a good team. Thing is, though: Syracuse has been pretty bad down the stretch. They’ve lost five of their last seven, including home games to Boston College and Georgia Tech.

I have a feeling that come Thursday I’m either going to have Florida or someone like Tulsa or New Mexico coming out of this bracket.

East Region

Michigan State has everything going for it, even beyond my baby’s wardrobe. Their best has always been as good or better than anyone else in the country’s best, but they’ve had so many injuries we haven’t seen it much. Well, we started to see it in the Big 10 tournament, with consecutive and convincing takedowns of Wisconsin and Michigan. MSU has a lottery pick in Gary Harris, another first rounder in Adreian Payne, and one of the country’s best coaches in Tom Izzo.

They are also an incredibly trendy pick already, which means the Mellinger Method will probably be to pick against them by Thursday morning.

This is an interesting bracket because the top two seeds are going overlooked in some ways. Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and before a bizarre end to its Big East Tournament, Villanova had only lost to Creighton and Syracuse this year. The profile of UConn is strong with Napier and Boatright and defense, but they’re awful on the glass and turn it over too much for a guard-first team. Cincinnati is a team that could surprise people, assuming they can get by Harvard in the first round. Iowa State, as we saw in Kansas City last weekend, is capable of some of the country’s most beautiful basketball.

Logic still points to MSU in this bracket, but they’re going to be saturated nationally by the time the tournament starts. Come Thursday morning, I’m thinking Virginia, Iowa State and Villanova are going to look good — it’ll be like the anti-chalk, chalk.

West Region

This bracket has the potential for absolute chaos. Arizona is the best defensive team in the country, and has a first-round pick in athletic freshman Aaron Gordon. Baylor is athletic, can score a million different ways, and is playing very well right now. Creighton has the consensus player of the year, and might be the best scoring team in the country. Wisconsin has the exact same team they always have, which means they’re a tough out. And San Diego State has only lost to New Mexico, Arizona, and a hiccup against Wyoming.

Also, Oklahoma State is here, though I’ll be surprised if they make it out of the second round, no matter what you’re hearing in other places.

I’m not sure where the public sentiment is going to be in this bracket. My guess is with Creighton and Doug McBuckets.

I actually love Creighton here, but if there’s too much momentum that way Arizona’s defense is a good horse to ride.

Midwest Region

This is the consensus toughest bracket, though I don’t think it’s as tough as everyone else seems to. For starters, people see "Kentucky" and think it’s Antoine Walker and Tony Delk, but this particular Kentucky team has lost 10 games, including to South Carolina, Arkansas (at home) and LSU.

For local interest, I do think it’s a bad matchup for K-State because, and this may sound strange, but spiritually it feels like K-State is trending down and Kentucky is going up. Athletically, the Wildcats could be overwhelmed.

Louisville as a 4 seed makes no sense to me. They’ve lost once since Feb. 1, have experience after winning last year’s championship, and can win games scoring



Michigan-Duke would be a great Sweet 16 matchup, two free-flowing, defense-optional teams with NBA talent all over the floor.

Wichita State will be drawing a lot of attention, and I’m sure they’ll use the tough bracket to fuel their bordering-on-silly refusal to acknowledge anyone who thinks they don’t stink.

This is a bracket with a lot of talent, and a lot of teams with very strong and specific strengths. I saw a thing last night that said Louisville would be the Vegas favorite against anyone in the bracket, which is a pretty good indication that whatever you think will happen in this bracket is both possible and unlikely.

By Thursday, my guess is that Louisville will be the popular pick, and others will be convinced by the name brands of Duke and Michigan. Which would make Wichita State attractive.

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