Anonymously Through the Brackets: Rubie Flies Over the Midwest

Peter Aiken

Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2014 NCAA Tournament? Up to your eyeballs in expert picks chock-full of astute takes on players to watch and budding upsets?

Fear not, friends: your pals at Anonymous Eagle are here to inject some half-baked, homespun "insight" into the proceedings, with our annual region-by-region tour, as we go Anonymously Through the Brackets.

For each region, we'll give you our patented Anonymous Eagle Half-Arsed Analysis with: a gutless pick to win the region; a sleeper regional champ; a CRUSH YOUR MAN upset special; a player we'd pay to watch; and something you're not going to want to see.

Without further ado:

GUTLESS WONDER PICK TO WIN

If you had half-an-ear tuned to the various talking heads following the unveiling of the brackets, you no doubt heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Louisville's seeding. "They're the defending champs!" the Vitales and Gottliebs screamed and shrieked. "They've won twelve of thirteen!" "They just won a conference tournament game by 60 points!" And I understand all that, and if you've got your doubts about Wichita State (more on that in a second), Louisville looks like it could waltz to Jerryworld, with a draw of Manhattan followed by (probably) a suddenly shaky SLU team (which has lost four of five) and then the Shockers (or Kentucky) and then one of the overrated teams from the bottom of the bracket, like Duke. Throw in the glitzy KenPom ratings -- Louisville features the highest-ranked combo of offense and defense in the field, with the 10th-rated offense and 6th-rated defense -- and the Cards look like a safe bet.

CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX BOLD PICK TO WIN

But here's the thing:

I have no idea how good Louisville is, and neither do you, because they've very rarely been tested this year. SMU got a buttload of grief for its comical non-conference schedule, and with good reason, but guess what? Louisville's non-conference schedule was almost as bad as SMU's, featuring the likes of Hofstra and Cornell and Hartford and UMKC and Florida International, and the only games they played against teams with a pulse -- North Carolina and Kentucky -- the Cards lost (and, in the case of the UNC game, they got blitzed). Then you had the AAC conference slate, where half the teams in the league finished below 130 in KenPom's rankings, and four of them finished below 159. There's no Gorgui, no Behanan, and most importantly, no Peyton Siva, who stirred the drink for UofL in March last year. This has all been a long way of saying: I don't think it's happening this year, you guys.

So who does that leave? I'm not sure if a No. 1 seed can qualify as a Bold Pick to Win, but Wichita State seems to fit the bill. With all the talk about the Midwest being the GROUP OF DEATH yesterday, you'd have thought the Shockers were going to have to face all of the top 6 seeds at once in some kind of Royal Rumble-style melee. But the more I think about it, the more I like the Shockers' draw: they'll skate into the Round of 32, and then they'll get Kentucky (assuming UK gets by K-State, which isn't necessarily a safe assumption), which is the kind of team that Wichita eats for breakfast and shits out before noon. I mean, really: if the seeds were reversed, and Kentucky was on the top line and WSU was the 8, people would be tripping over themselves to pick the Shockers.

That Sweet 16 matchup against Louisville promises to be all kinds of awesome, because after the Cards, the Shockers feature the Tournament's second-best combo of offense and defense, with their offense rated 8th and their defense 10th by KenPom. And since they met in the Final Four last year, WSU is just as battle tested as Louisville is, and I hope they make all the folks who are poo-pooing their impressive accomplishments this season eat a big ol' shitburger.

CRUSH YOUR MAN UPSET SPECIAL

I think Tennessee can make some noise in this bracket. Iowa is coming apart at the seams, with only a narrow win over Purdue preventing the Hawkeyes from entering the Dance on a seven-game losing streak, and UMass has been plummeting down KenPom's rankings for the last three months, dropping from its high-water mark of 23 on December 14 to 52 following its loss to George Washington in the A-10 tournament. (Plus: they're from the A-10. They're bedfellows with Dayton. We all see what's going to happen here.) And I'm of half-a-mind to take the Vols over Duke, too, since the Blue Devils' Charmin-soft defense gets annihilated on the glass and Tennessee is one of the best offensive-rebounding teams in the country. You know what? I just talked myself into it. Let's get nuts and make a memory. Vols to the Elite Eight.

PLAYER I'D PAY TO WATCH

Russ Smith seems like the obvious choice here, but, for whatever reason, he's just never been my particular brand of vodka. And if the Bucks have any luck, I might be paying to watch Jabari Parker play next season. I've always been a sucker for VOLUME SHOOTERS, so the pick here is Manhattan's George Beamon, who put up 30 shots for the Jaspers in the last two games of the MAAC tournament, including a staggering 18 in the win over Quinnipiac. Beamon's chucked at least 20 shots in a game on five occasions this year, but he's yet to put up 25 shots in a game. C'mon, George. Be my baby tonight.

HIDE YOUR EYES IF

Cal Poly manages to get by Texas Southern in the 16-seed play-in game. Before bluffing their way to the Big West tournament crown, Poly had lost 10 of 13, including a 16-point drubbing by Santa Barbara at home 10 days ago. Arizona sleepwalked to an 11-point win against Cal Poly to open the year, but I wouldn't expect Wichita to do the same. The line would probably be 25, and I'd still be tempted to take the Shockers.

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