18 Mar 19
The Mercury News
* The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from March 18, has been made available in archived form …
NCAA Tournament Picks
(I’ve got 67 winners right here)
You have to pick upsets — not only the hot upsets but the stone-cold ones, as well … the upsets nobody considers .. the unknown unknowns, so to speak.
There are a few scattered through the picks below.
You’ll also notice that I’m all-in with counter-narratives in two significant spots:
• Virginia, one year after becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16, will experience near-complete redemption and climb within one victory of the national title.
These Cavaliers are vastly better offensively than previous editions and just as good defensively. Add one of the cosmic constants of March — the dominance of least-expected events — and you have the national runner-up.
• Duke, the betting and office-pool favorite, won’t win the national title … or even the East region.
I’m riding Michigan State, which has a Hall of Fame coach (Tom Izzo) and the best point guard in the tournament (Cassius Winston) and is as tough as any team in the field.
The Blue Devils have the most talent and should be the betting favorite, but again: March is the time for counter-narratives and least-expected events.
First Four winners: North Dakota State, Prairie View, Arizona State and Belmont.
First round: Duke over North Dakota State, UCF over VCU, Mississippi State over Liberty, Virginia Tech over St. Louis, Belmont over Maryland, Yale over LSU, Louisville over Minnesota and Michigan State over Bradley
Second Round: Duke over UCF, Mississippi State over Virginia Tech, Belmont over Yale and Michigan State over Louisville
Sweet 16: Duke over Mississippi State and Michigan State over Belmont
Elite Eight: Michigan State over Duke
First round: Gonzaga over Prairie View, Syracuse over Baylor, Murray State over Marquette, Florida State over Vermont, Arizona State over Buffalo, Texas Tech over Northern Kentucky, Nevada over Florida and Montana over Michigan
Second Round: Syracuse over Gonzaga, Florida State over Murray State, Texas Tech over Arizona State and Michigan over Nevada
Sweet 16: Florida State over Syracuse and Texas Tech over Michigan
Elite Eight: Texas Tech over Florida State
First round: Virginia over Gardner-Webb, Oklahoma over Mississippi, Oregon over Wisconsin, UC Irvine over Kansas State, Villanova over Saint Mary’s, Purdue over Old Dominion, Cincinnati over Iowa and Tennessee over Colgate
Second round: Virginia over Oklahoma, Oregon over UC Irvine, Villanova over Purdue and Cincinnati over Tennessee
Sweet 16: Virginia over Oregon and Villanova over Cincinnati
Elite Eight: Virginia over Villanova
First round: North Carolina over Iona, Utah State over Washington, Auburn over New Mexico State, Northeastern over Kansas, Iowa State over Ohio State, Houston over Georgia State, Wofford over Seton Hall and Kentucky over Abilene Christian
Second round: North Carolina over Utah State, Auburn over Northeastern, Iowa State over Houston and Kentucky over Wofford
Sweet 16: North Carolina over Auburn and Kentucky over Iowa State
Elite Eight: North Carolina over Kentucky
Semifinals: Michigan State over Texas Tech and North Carolina over Virginia
Championship: North Carolina over Michigan State
The Hotline’s best bets for the first round will be published Wednesday. — Jon Wilner.
Hot off the Hotline
• ‘Saturday Night Five’ was heavy on projections for the NCAA reveal, with a focus on the three Pac-12 teams in the mix, but I devoted the final section to commissioner Larry Scott’s press conference from T-Mobile Arena prior to tipoff of the championship game. Scott and Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano discussed a range of off-the-court topics; I didn’t attend but read through the transcript and published key comments.
• The Pac-12 was both a winner and loser from Selection Sunday. My column tilted west but accounted for developments from around the country.
• ICYMI: The Friday newsletter featured a look at salaries for Pac-12 basketball coaches using the newly-published figures from USA Today. Only one coach is among the highest paid in the country, Larry Krystkowiak, and he hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in years. Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form using the following hashtag:
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State of Affairs
• The Oregonian’s John Canzano assessed developments from the Pac-12 executive meetings in Las Vegas and the news conference with Scott and DiStefano: “My AD sources say they’ve asked for, but haven’t received good answers about the expenses of the conference. They’d like to know if Larry Scott is using a chartered plane, limousines and marble soaking tub on every trip he bills to the conference. He’d like them to mind their own business, and let him soak in peace.”
• The Huskies started getting a bit nervous halfway through the bracket reveal, then found blessed relief when the Midwest field was announced.
• Oregon coach Dana Altman was happy to receive a Friday tipoff assignment (in San Jose against Wisconsin) after the rigors of Las Vegas and with final exams this week.
• One sign that ASU’s revival under Bobby Hurley is different than previous Tempe upturns: The Sun Devils have qualified for the NCAAs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in decades.
• Yahoo published thorough breakdowns of matchups and storylines. Here are the links to regional deep-dives for Washington, Oregon and Arizona State.
• If you’re wondering about the true seed list — how the selection committee ranked all 68 teams before accounting for procedures governing placement — it’s right here.
• A college football fan’s guide to the college basketball postseason, from Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples.
• All 68 teams, ranked, via CBS Sports columnist Matt Norlander.
• Arizona State is a slight favorite; Washington and Oregon are slight underdogs. All the first-round points spreads can be found on the vegasinsiders page.
• Were results based on classroom performance, the Pac-12 wouldn’t send anyone to the second weekend. Inside Higher Ed’s annual academic bracket.
In the news
• Washington State needs a basketball coach. Why not hire the Mike Leach of hoops?
• Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith talks spring practice, the QB competition and more after a handful of workouts.
• Tailback Joshua Kelley is central to UCLA’s improvement in Year Two under Chip Kelly, and he’s “obsessed with getting better.”
• Cal quarterback Chase Garbers emerged from weeks of spring practice as the frontrunner for the starting job after showing “great command,” according to coach Justin Wilcox.
• Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault will be limited this spring as he recovers from multiple surgeries. The focus in Boulder is on the other wideouts.
• The leader of Washington’s revamped secondary is nickel Myles Bryant, who just a few years ago was one of the newbies.
• Oregon has three scholarship quarterbacks, and two of them haven’t played competitively for the Ducks. Tyler Shough needs to scale his learning curve, quickly.
• Stellar breakdown of Arizona’s depth chart from the Daily Star’s Michael Lev. There are questions on both lines of scrimmage.
On the hardwood
• Colorado received an NIT bid — the only NIT bid for the conference — and that will undoubtedly help the Buffs’ young roster prepare for next season.
• What’s next for Cal basketball? There’s nowhere to go but up, or so you’d think. “The disjointed nature of Cal’s improvements and regressions make it difficult to evaluate the source of the problems,” writes the Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons. (More than a few Cal fans think the source of the problem is at the head of the bench.)
• USC, which underachieved with the best of them this season, was passed over by the NIT.
• Utah will return many of its top scorers next season, but the faithful are growing impatient after a third consecutive season ending short of the NCAAs.
• The story of Washington’s courtship of Mike Hopkins and the steps he took to build his program, as told by Percy Allen of the Seattle Times. “To be honest with you,” Hopkins said, “I was scared out of my mind … But now you’re here. New faces. New place and I remember things were moving so fast. Every day there was something. It’s like a blur now just thinking about it. But you go back to what do you value?”
• A double shot of USC athletic director Lynn Swann from the L.A. Times’ Arash Markazi. In the first installment, Swann reveals that he was “blindsided” by the admissions scandal, which should come as no surprise to USC fans. In the follow-up, Swann reveals that wants to reman on the job for 10 more years, which is the last thing those same USC fans want to hear.
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What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• Best bets for the first round are coming Tuesday.
• Brian Bennett’s weekly Pac-12 basketball column wasn’t published as usual this morning; it has been pushed back to mid-week. He’ll dig into the Pac-12 matchups in the First Four and First Round.
• Also coming mid-week: SEC basketball has improved dramatically in the past few years. Are there lessons from the turnaround that could be applied to the Pac-12?
The next newsletter is scheduled for Wednesday. Like it? Please forward this email to friends (sign up here). If you don’t, or have other feedback, let me know: email@example.com.
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