Yes, I know this is supposed to be a football blog. But it's March, baby! If the leader of the free world can take time from his day to break down the Dance, why can't Homerism talk hoops for a spell?
East Regional (Boston)
The East region looks like the best of the four to Homerism. No need to speculate about whether some talented bunch of flakes like Arizona or Wake Forest will bring it. You know what you're getting from the top teams in this region, a crop that has played consistently well all year.
Oh No They Didn't!: UCLA vs VCU
The selection committee had to go and spoil all our fun. With a strong senior leader in PG Eric Maynor and a force down low in forward Larry Sanders, VCU looked like a great sleeper pick. Until I saw the brackets, that is. I don't see how UCLA PG Darren Collison and coach Ben Howland will let the Bruins go down in the first round. Even the apparent geographic advantage for the Rams is negated by a late tip-off that will make the time zone change moot.
Most to Lose: Coach K
Duke has been on a very slow train to the second tier of college basketball in recent years following a series of early flameouts in the tourney. Count Homerism among the growing number who think the Dukies--particularly Coack K--have lost their mojo. Then again, this is the best team Durham has produced in the past three years.
Most to Gain: Pittsburgh
In the last decade, the Panthers have reminded Homerism of the New York Knickerbockers under Pat Riley in the '90s. That version of the Bricks set the NBA back light years by playing a brutish but effective style that only crumbled when faced with the brilliance of His Airness and The Dream. Pitt's physical play and emphasis on rebounding and controlling the tempo have made some Big East games tough to stomach in recent years. A Final Four bid would go a long way toward refuting the notion that the Panthers are nothing but a bunch of thugs.
Ever since this Brooklynite started playing point for Pitt, he has reminded Homerism of some pudgy old smoke hound you'd see running the show out at the park on a Sunday afternoon. You know what I'm talking about--holding jerseys, ugly jumpers, arguing about calls, pounding the ball into the pavement as he backs his way into the paint for a what-the-hell-was-that hook shot. I propose the NCAA pass a rule allowing Fields to play in baggy jeans, Timberlands and a white undershirt.
Best Bet of First Round: Duke (-22) vs. Binghamton
Given Duke's recent Tournament woes, watch for the Blue Devils to drop the hammer on Binghamton.
Best Chance for an Upset: Portland St. vs. Xavier
The Musketeers had a great Tournament in 2008, advancing to the Elite Eight. This year's team just isn't of the same caliber, though. The Vikings have some nice balance with four players averaging double figures. Plus, they have a relatively short road trip to Boise, while the X-Men have to cover almost 2,000 miles. In the end, though, this is more going against Xavier than it is a play in favor of Portland St.
Winner: Pittsburgh over Villanova
There's plenty to love about this Pitt team. The Panthers are tough, as always, but forward Sam Young gives them an element of explosiveness they have lacked in the past. Fields is a steady floor general, and PF DeJuan Blair is as rugged of a scorer as they come. Pitt gets payback in Boston after falling to 'Nova in the regular season.