Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tops vs. Gamecocks; Bracket Picks

I. Shorthanded WKU Heads to Columbia, SC, For NIT Tilt
Both Western Kentucky and South Carolina lost in their conference championship games leaving them just short of Le Grand Waltz. Ironically, the teams that defeated these two are matched up the first round (South Alabama vs. Florida). South Carolina made their improbable run by going through Tennessee and Kentucky before falling 49-47 to Florida. WKU blitzed New Orleans and survived UL-Lafayette before being steamrolled by South AL.

This Topper team is wounded. Star swingman Courtney Lee is out with a broken hand, reserve PG Orlando Mendez-Valdez is out with a fractured foot, and hard-nosed reserve G/F Butch Jointer is questionable with a foot injury. Jointer likely would have replaced Lee in the starting lineup. On top of that, WKU was saddled with a 6-seed, and must go on the road against a hot SC club. It will take a massive effort to take down the Illegal Fighting Roosters in Columbia.

Keeping hyperactive F Renaldo Balkman off the glass is a must for WKU. The Tops will certainly look for Sun Belt POY Anthony Winchester to have a huge night as well. WKU also must have a productive game from enigmatic G/F Benson Callier and solid interior play from youngsters Boris Siakam, Mike Walker, and Daniel Emerson to have a chance in this game. The recipe for Topper succcess all season long has been to 1) win the overall rebounding battle, 2) retrieve at least 50% of their missed shots, and 3) make a reasonable percentage of their three-point shots (33% or more). If those things happen, WKU has a chance to topple SC on their home court.

Hopefully, the Toppers can make a run through the NIT bracket.

II. Here are my bracket picks. Fair warning, the last four years I have either been off-the-charts good (2002, 2004) or deplorable (2003, 2005). There is rarely middle ground for me on my picks.

III. Here is the all-important viewing guide for Thursday and Friday. A look at each day's prime matchups is coming tomorrow.

IV. What now?
Now that bracketology season is over, I will go back to my roots and do some game logs (or mini-game logs) for some of the tourney games. Living in Kentucky, I can promise that a Kentucky/UAB game log will happen on Friday night. Other game logs TBA.