EAST REGION PREVIEW (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)
Since there seem to be more than a few obvious picks in the East Region, RTC gives you the bonus coverage you’ve come to expect. Not only do we pick the first-round game – but we also pit a non-basketball alum from each school against each other in a no-holds-barred blog battle. Enjoy.
Thursday Games – Philadelphia, PA
(3) Villanova vs. (14) American (7:20 ET)
SM: Picking a 14 over a 3 is the cool bracket thing to do. Not here. The ‘Nova players could roll out of their dormitory beds, take the train into town and still dismantle the best the Patriot League has to offer. Outside of the 1-16 games, this may be the biggest lock of the first round.
DZ: Yes, an American win would definitely be one of the biggest shockers of the tournament, considering ‘Nova will virtually be playing at home and hasn’t lost to a team with a Pomeroy ranking less than 28 all season. That said, I don’t think the game will be a blowout. Standout Garrison Carr (17.8) leads a senior-laden American team that is on a 13-game winning streak and is returning to the Dance for a second straight year. ‘Nova by 12.
Alumni Throwdown – Maria Bello (Villanova) vs. Goldie Hawn (American): SM: No contest. The Cooler is a highly underrated film. Although, William H. Macy? Really? DZ: What the hell is a Maria Bello? Maybe I need to see The Cooler. Also, Goldie Hawn scares me here. I think I’ll pass on this one.
(6) UCLA vs. (11) VCU (9:50 ET)
SM: Ever since Seth Davis said he’d “put on a VCU sweatshirt” while falling all over the Rams during Sunday’s selection show, VCU has been a trendy upset pick. Well, count me in. Larry Sanders not only has a great TV show under his belt, but his arms are long enough to give Rick Majerus a real hug. UCLA doesn’t want to be in Philly, and Eric Maynor makes sure the Bruins head home early.
DZ: Maynor might be the most well-known little-known player in this year’s Dance after his shot sent home Duke in ’07, but can we expect him to do it again with a different supporting cast? That’s a lot to ask, especially when the opponent is a UCLA team that will guard his shorts off. Darren Collison and the Bruins may not make their fourth straight trip to the final four, but they won’t be bounced in the first round. UCLA by 7.
Alumni Throwdown – Jack Black (UCLA) vs. The Real Patch Adams (VCU): SM: Dr. Adams helps people on a daily basis, while Black is the brains behind one of the finest albums ever, Tenacious D’s self-titled effort. But because Dr. Adams’s story contributed to the downfall of Robin Williams, the nod goes to Mr. Black. DZ: I hope you realize you just picked a comedian who once said “Dude, if you get the nachos stuck together, that’s one nacho” over someone who brings limitless hope and joy to orphans around the world. That pretty much makes you a bad person … but yeah, I agree. The movie Patch Adams did not leave a lasting impression on me, but I consider Saving Silverman one of the most underrated comedies. Sorry, sick children – Black gets the nod.
Thursday Games – Greensboro, N.C
(7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota (7:10 ET)
SM: I’m already on record as saying that Texas is overrated and overseeded, so I have to go with the Gophers in this battle of two tourney-tested coaches, Tubby Smith and Rick Barnes. Minnesota posted a long-forgotten win over Louisville back in the fall, and has endured plenty of battles in the underrated Big Ten. Plus, I enjoyed two sub-zero days on campus in Minneapolis back in 2004, and could not have met nicer people. The Mall of America was pretty cool, too.
DZ: While it’s hard to pick Barnes over Tubby, I think Texas will avoid the upset here. The Gophers have really cooled off after a great start, winning only four of their last 11 games. And the Longhorns, while also inconsistent, have two go-to players in guard A.J. Abrams (16.3 ppg) and forward Damion James (15.4 ppg). Eleven straight tourney appearances won’t hurt either. Texas by a bucket.
Alumni Throwdown – Matthew McConaughey (Texas) vs. Tony Dungy (Minnesota): SM: Both have stood on the sidelines at big football games, but only Dungy really belonged there. The all-around good guy Dungy wins this in a landslide. DZ: What a weird matchup. You can’t say anything bad about Dungy, but I don’t dislike McConaughey nearly as much as Stewie from Family Guy. And I respect the fact that he’s essentially played himself in all of his movies, even if it did seem a little odd in We Are Marshall. Either way, I’m going with McConaughey in a major upset.
(2) Duke vs. (15) Binghamton (9:40 ET)
SM: As much as I would like to pick my America East brethren here, I have to believe that Jon Scheyer will get away with enough traveling violations to help his Blue Devils edge the Bearcats. Seriously though, D.J. Rivera is a great player (even if not a great student), but he can’t beat the McDonald’s All-Americans Coach K brings deep off the bench. Blue Devils run away late for a 15-point win.
DZ: I would love, love, love to see Binghamton keep it close – if only for my oldest friend who’s making the trip to Greensboro to see his alma mater. But I don’t see it happening. Duke is bound for a deep run after a couple of early exits, and Coach K will pick apart an athletic but undisciplined Binghamton team making its first trip to the Dance. This one could get ugly … Duke by a bunch.
Alumni Throwdown – Richard Nixon (Duke) vs. Billy Baldwin (Binghamton): SM: Be honest, you expected BU’s most famous alum, Tony Kornheiser. But we throw curveballs here at RTC. Baldwin has had a less-than stellar film career, but I mean, even a Baldwin can beat Richard Nixon in this bracket. DZ: What is this? Neither of us were alive for the Nixon presidency and I can’t remember ever thinking about Billy Baldwin once. Umm … I’ll shake things up and go with Nixon, only because I liked Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon and because Baldwin is a Yankees fan. Wait, weren’t we supposed to be talking about basketball?