By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
It's lunchtime on Monday; by now you've surely filled out two brackets and plan to fill out three more. And you'll reason things the same way you did last year and the year before.
But did you win any money last year or the year before? I thought not.
If you abandon your familiar logic and consider a new approach, you just might look like you know what you're doing come Final Four weekend. Here are the issues you should think about:
+ Depth Is Key -- I've been back and forth about the depth issue for years, but I think I've finally got it figured out: It's overrated.
+ QUOTEBOOK: Selection Chairman Dan Guerrero Explains Himself
+ NCAA TOURNAMENT: First-Round Pairings Announced
+ MARCH MADNESS: Tourney No Longer Leads To April Sadness
+ COUNTDOWN: The Top 10 Title Games Since 1979
+ LIST: The Top 10 Analysts In College Basketball
+ LIST: The Top 10 Play-By-Play Men In College Basketball
Syracuse and Ohio State will make nice runs in the tournament and they will do so without great contributions from their benches. Coaches adjust their approaches at least slightly during the tournament, and, especially in OSU's case, Thad Matta is keenly aware of his lack of depth. So he'll manage his games a little more.
Each half will be comprised of five four-minute bursts. Television timeouts are longer and more frequent in the tournament. Foul trouble certainly is a potential issue, but neither of these teams lost any of their games this year because of it. And injuries? Well, you might want to pray a little bit.
+ Freshmen Are Sophomores -- Every time you hear an analyst talk about how grown up some freshmen have become because they've now got 35 college games under their belts, you should send me a dollar. Make it ten dollars, actually.
But if the freshmen have grown up, so, too, have the sophomores, juniors, seniors and even fifth-year players against whom they'll be playing. Where the freshmen are still inexperienced -- perhaps immature (<cough>DeMarcus Cousins</cough>) -- is in the area of a high-pressure, single-elimination tournament. Don't buy the freshmen-are-sophomores line.
+ A 12 Always Beats A 5 -- It's always fashionable to pick one or two 12s over 5s because historically, this is just some inexplicable danger zone for higher-seeded teams. Since the field expanded to 64-ish teams, 12 seeds have won exactly 33 out of 100 first-round games, a markedly better winning percentage than 11 seeds. Two No. 12s won last year. North Carolina won the tournament last year as a 12 seed. Just kidding.
The bottom line here is that 12 seeds win more than they probably should. But trying to predict which of the four 12 seeds will win when the position only wins 33 percent of the time means you'll most likely pick an upset where an upset won't happen, and then you'll pick the seeds to play out where the upset actually does happen. And it's also a fact -- in that it is my opinion -- that this year's 12 seeds won't win one game.
So stay away from picking the 12-over-5 upset, but if you don't, if you absolutely must pick a No. 12 to win, please don't tell everyone you knew Cornell was going to beat Temple. At least give credit to Jay Bilas because he's the only reason you will have picked it.