Chip Scoggins: NCAA tournament will be an unpredictable affair

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2014 - 10:46 AM

Unpredictability — that’s the only thing you can count on this season

Grab your bracket and pull up a chair. And bring darts, if you have any handy, because that’s the best method for picking winners in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year.

Oh, we could bore you with a detailed breakdown of RPI rankings or strength-of-schedule comparisons. But that seems like a waste of time, judging by the topsy-turvy nature of this college basketball season.

Wichita State went undefeated, Virginia won both the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, and Nebraska became a basketball school.

This isn’t just any old March Madness.

The Atlantic 10 earned the same numbers of berths (six) as the Big Ten and ACC. Kentucky, ranked No. 1 in the preseason amid unbridled hoopla over its freshman class, finished unranked and earned a No. 8 seed. And Michigan State will be a trendy Final Four pick as a No. 4 seed.

Need a road map to guide your picks? Find a cool mascot. Odds are that team probably has a fighting chance to advance to the Sweet 16.

It’s not hyperbole to suggest that a dozen teams have a realistic shot to advance to the Final Four. Florida and Arizona will enter as favorites to cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas, perhaps only because somebody has to fill those shoes.

This is going to be fun.

“We say this every year, so maybe there’s more and more parity in college basketball every year,” said Ron Wellman, chairman of the tournament selection committee. “This year is unlike any of the five years that I have seen [as a committee member]. I think that’s good for college basketball that we have the parity that we do and should produce a great NCAA basketball tournament.”

That parity has redefined what constitutes an upset, which has long been the hallmark of the tournament. Two factors have conspired to gradually erode the divide between traditional power schools and everyone else. The one-and-done exodus of players to the NBA has forced elite programs to reconfigure themselves annually while other programs can thrive on continuity and experience.

The growth of AAU and travel basketball at youth levels also has leveled the field and dispelled the notion that certain teams and conferences belong in a midmajor box, because there simply are more high-quality players in college basketball these days.

This tournament likely will provide further proof that the field is wide open. Here’s why:

Florida earned the No. 1 overall seed after winning its 26th consecutive game in the Southeastern Conference championship game. The Gators flattened the SEC like a road grader and have one of the sharpest minds in college basketball in Billy Donovan. But …

Arizona owns one of the best lock-down defenses in college basketball, which means the Wildcats can advance even if their offense falters. But …

How do you pick against a team that hasn’t lost all season? Wichita State cleverly managed to turn an undefeated record into an underdog mantra after outsiders poked holes in its weak schedule. The Shockers made the Final Four last year, so their success is not exactly a revelation. But …

Watch out for Virginia. No, that’s not a sentence ripped right from the 1981 sports pages. The Cavaliers didn’t pull off the ACC double — regular-season and tournament champions — merely by accident. The Wahoos are legit. But …

Michigan State is a team nobody wants to play right now. The Spartans got hit particularly hard by the injury bug this season and lost six Big Ten games. They’re finally healthy and looked like a typical Tom Izzo team in winning the Big Ten tournament.

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  • Virginia pulled off an ACC double, winning both the regular-season and conference tournament championships. It vaulted the Cavaliers to a No. 1 seed.

  • Chip Scoggins cuts up the field eight ways and provides advice for your bracket:

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Cincinnati - M. Latos 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Boston - J. Kelly 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - S. Greene
Detroit - K. Lobstein 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Miami - B. Penny
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Toronto - R. Dickey 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Arrieta
LA Angels - C. Wilson 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 7:10 PM
Minnesota - T. Milone
Texas - D. Holland 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Pittsburgh - J. Locke 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Washington - D. Fister 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
Arizona - W. Miley 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

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