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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Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Washington 102 FINAL
New York 91
Oklahoma City 114 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Cleveland 12 1st Qtr 5:44
Miami 19
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Chicago
Golden State 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
DePaul 69 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 72
Ohio 43 2nd Half 11:03
Nebraska 51
Colorado 5:30 PM
Hawaii
George Washington 7:30 PM
Wichita State
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 FINAL
Rice 30
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
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Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

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