1. Madness field is set
The 68-team field was announced yesterday, meaning whichever schools felt slighted by their low seeding or were snubbed altogether have had enough time to get over it. Now the focus can shift to the one topic people want to hear less about than your dreams: your bracket.
After going on a four-game tear to take the ACC tournament, Duke has shot up the odds board to gain favorite status, so picking them to win does not make your bracket unique or interesting. Neither does taking no. 12 Middle Tennessee to “upset” no. 5 Minnesota, because Vegas currently has that game at a pick ’em. No matter how much or little time you put into your picks, the odds of even making it through the first weekend with a perfect bracket are astronomically low. So why bore people by constantly telling them you have SMU in the Final Four? Instead, keep to yourself and play each round against the spread.
First round? Try taking the no. 14 seeds to cover against the no 3 teams. Florida State, Baylor, UCLA and Oregon are all favored by 12 or more points, but typically these games play out closer than that. Over the last two tournaments, only one 14 seed has lost by more than 11, and three underdogs have won outright. I wonder who will choke this year? (Looking at you, Baylor.)
2. Warriors, Cavaliers still reeling
With the excitement of the tournament surrounding you from all sides, it’s easy to forget about other forms of basketball this week. But as the NBA trudges on toward the end of the regular season, suddenly both number one seeds that were written in pen may need to be erased. Golden State opted to rest their starters in Saturday’s showdown with the Spurs, dropping their third-straight and losing the tiebreaker with San Antonio. They’re now just half a game up on San Antonio for first in the conference.
The Warriors will still be favored in the West with a healthy Durant no matter what seed they get, but a trip to San Antonio (where they’re just 1-5 in the last four seasons) in the Conference Finals is anything but a lay-up. Add in a potential shootout with the Rockets in the second round, and Steve Kerr may need to capitalize on every opportunity to rest his stars, because making a third straight trip to the Finals is going to be exhausting.
Odds are that Cleveland will be waiting for the winner of the West, but the Cavaliers aren’t inspiring a ton of confidence recently, either. Losers of five of their last seven, Cleveland is also struggling to manage the minutes of its star players. They’ve finally reached a deal with Larry Sanders, who will come in and eat up some of the minutes that were supposed to go to Andrew Bogut (broken leg), but the Cavs could also use a few wins to go along with rest. Both Washington and Boston have climbed within two games of first, and each has one more game against the Cavs.
The Finals matchup that seemed inevitable all season is getting a little less likely with each passing day. Perhaps you should get out in front of it before Klay Thompson sprains a knee or Kyrie Irving gets mono?
Photo credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (LeBron James) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.