Monday, March 13, 2017

And now, your Probably Not The Winner

Here is what I know this morning, after an exhaustive examination of the NCAA Tournament bracket that involved five or 10 minutes of not-exactly-research:

Jack Sparrow could win this thing.

By which I mean, we've got a bracket here that's overserved with Pirates, and also Privateers and Buccaneers. We've also got a bracket overserved with Gamecocks (two of 'em!), Gaels (two of them), Rams (two) and Aggies (two, and neither is Texas A&M).

So hurry now and pencil in the likes of the Seton Hall Pirates, the New Orleans Privateers and the East Tennessee State Buccaneers. They're probably not going to win, but telling you who's going to win has never been the theme of the Blob's annual bracket analysis.

The Blob would much rather point out all the Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers in the field. Also that former IU coach Mike Davis is in the field for the third time with Texas Southern, while his former coaching address is not. Also that former CBA/NBA coaching vagabond Eric Musselman has resurfaced (at Nevada) ... and that the Vermont Catamounts, who play Purdue in a first-round 13-vs.-4 matchup, have four Indiana kids on their roster ... and that the Northern Kentucky Norse's mascot is named Victor E. Viking.

(Victor E. Get it?)

Anyway, you can keep your Villanovas, your North Carolinas, your Dukes and UCLAs and Kansases and Kentuckys. One of those is probably going to win it all. Or not. The Blob honestly doesn't care.

It does, however, care about its annual Probably Not Winners list, teams that might be fun to follow because they either have a decent chance of reducing your bracket to a cinder, or just because they have a cool, off-kilter nickname.

(I'm thinking of Bucknell here. The Bucknell Bison. No, I don't know why a school from Pennsylvania has the nickname "Bison." That's why it's cool and off-kilter).

Anyway, write these names down: Winthrop, Florida Gulf Coast, Wichita State, SMU, Vermont and Northwestern.

No, Winthrop might not shock anyone (although it could), but its best player is a 5-foot-7 guard named Keon Johnson who averages 22 points and has jacked up 235 3s this year. Two hundred thirty-five! So, yeah, you want to watch Winthrop just so you can say you were there when Keon Johnson's arm fell off.

Florida Gulf Coast, meanwhile, is the home of Dunk City, which became almost a trademark nickname when FGCU made that memorable run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013. I have a very good source (i.e.: He covers FGCU) who tells me Dunk City is back. The 14th-seeded Eagles get Florida State first, then they'd get either Xavier or Maryland. All of those teams can be had. So look out.

Look out, too, for Wichita State, which of course has been to the Final Four and is no longer much of an underdog, but which looks especially dangerous this year. Ditto SMU. Ditto Vermont, which has those four Hoosiers, and it's won 21 straight games, the most in the nation. The Catamounts won't be an easy out, especially against Purdue, which, let's face it, does not have a history of deep runs under Matt Painter.

Logic says this bigger, deeper, more versatile Purdue team should roll Vermont like a Persian rug. But we'll see.

We'll see, too, what a Northwestern team looks like in the Madness. Yes, it's a Power Five school, which technically should have disqualified the Wildcats from the Probably Not Winners list. But, come on, how do you not root for them?

I mean, this is a school that, until now, had never won 20 games in a season in its entire history. It hadn't had a winning record in the Big Ten since 1968, when Rick Mount was lighting it up at Purdue and Bob Knight was just some maniac coaching at Army. And it was the only Power Five school never to have reached the NCAA Tournament.

The only one. Seriously.

So, yeah, put them on the Blob's list, too. Even if they don't have Victor E. Viking spurring them on.

Or, you know, this guy.

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