In this Bracket Fiasco, Georgia surprises and Kentucky wins

The Hunters of Georgia State: Down but dancing. (Bill Haber/AP photo)

The Hunters of Georgia State: Down but dancing. (Bill Haber/AP photo)

Georgia State’s dancing, having won the only game that mattered despite scoring 38 points in 40 minutes and seeing its coach hobbled in the celebration. Georgia’s dancing, having won enough mid-sized games to override going 0-5 against teams in the RPI top 50. But’s that the way of Selection Sunday: As long as you’re in, you’re golden.

Not since 2001 has our state dispatched two teams to an NCAA tournament. Georgia State has fond memories of that March, having upset Wisconsin in Round 1. The Panthers could spring an even bigger shocker this time, provided guard Ryan Harrow heals and Ron Hunter finds room on the bench for his crutches. The Bulldogs … well, we’ll get to them momentarily.

As the 28th edition of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco commences, we must acknowledge the obvious: Of the 68 teams invited, only one is playing for history. That’s Kentucky, the first team to enter the Big Dance unbeaten since … well, Wichita State last season, and the Wildcats know well that being undefeated on Selection Sunday guarantees nothing. Those Shockers were undone in the Round of 32 last season by, of all teams, Kentucky.

There’s a part of me that’s reluctant to pick the Wildcats to win because it has been so long since we’ve seen an unbeaten national champion, Indiana in 1976 having been the last. The UNLV team of 1991 was every bit as good as this Kentucky crew but sustained its only loss in the Final Four against Duke. Difference is, I don’t see a contemporary challenger on the order of the Duke of Laettner and Hurley and Hill.

The gap between Kentucky and everyone else is massive. For the Wildcats to lose, it would take someone pulling a Villanova-in-1985 on them, and at a time when making baskets is akin to oral surgery without anesthesia, do we really see any opponent — even a latter-day Villanova, the No. 1 seed in the East — shooting 78.6 percent against the nation’s best defensive team?

Kentucky shouldn’t have a close game until the Midwest final, where it will face Kansas. This isn’t one of Bill Self’s best bands of Jayhawks, and they’d enter as an overwhelming underdog. But that’s not the worst thing for a powerhouse program to be in a rematch. The Wildcats beat Kansas by 32 points in November, and here we note that the unbeaten Indiana of 1975 was felled in the Mideast final by Kentucky, which had lost to the Hoosiers by 24 in December.

The West Regional figures to come down to Wisconsin against Arizona, same as last season’s West Regional did. The Badgers won then; Arizona will prevail this time. That’s not a knock on Wisconsin, which is the third-best team in the land. I consider Arizona, which is 12 points from being unbeaten itself, second-best to Kentucky, and it’s high time Sean Millers sheds the tag of being the best coach not to reach the Final Four.

Baylor is the No. 3 seed in the West, and the Bears have gained the reputation of a team that doesn’t always play to its talent. In sum, that’s the kind of opponent a No. 14 seed loves to see coming. But I’m not sure Georgia State, which got only six minutes in two Sun Belt tournament games from Harrow, its second-best player, is healthy enough to do the deed. Maybe R.J. Hunter will hit 10 treys over the Bears’ zone, but the coach’s son has made only 30.8 percent of his 3-pointers this season.

Georgia could do real damage in the East. The Bulldogs will be given little chance against Michigan State in Charlotte, but the Spartans have 11 losses, same as Georgia. Michigan State hasn’t been to the Final Four since 2010, the longest such drought under Tom Izzo. Provided the Bulldogs’ Kenny Gaines can play at something approaching full speed — he missed the SEC tournament loss to Arkansas — this is a toss-up.

Should the Bulldogs prevail, they’d face Virginia in the Round of 32, and the Cavaliers haven’t been themselves since leading scorer Justin Anderson was lost to a broken finger. Anderson returned to play 26 minutes in two ACC tournament games and didn’t score. Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs, who are nearly as tough to play as Virginia, land in the Sweet 16.

What the heck. In for a penny, in for a pound. I actually have Georgia — are you believing this? — playing in the regional final. The team that hasn’t beaten anybody of consequence will win three games in the crucible of March, and let’s recall that the Bulldogs reached the 1983 Final Four by winning an East Regional in Syracuse, N.Y. Guess where this East Regional will be staged.

Try as I might, I don’t see Georgia in the Final Four. (Almost nobody saw that 1983 team beating St. John’s and North Carolina, either.) Only Kentucky was seeded above Villanova, but the Philly Wildcats aren’t half as imposing. North Carolina State could take down ‘Nova this weekend, and Northern Iowa could prevail in the Sweet 16. The guess, though, is that Villanova is good enough to win four games, beating Georgia in the Elite Eight.

Despite not finishing first in the ACC regular-season standings or making it past the tournament semis, Duke was awarded its accustomed No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils won’t be undone by another Mercer, but they won’t win the South, either. I picked Iowa State to reach the Final Four last season, but injuries undid the Cyclones. I’m picking them again because I never buy the this-is-the-year-for-Gonzaga blather, and because Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg is the hottest coach in the land.

So that’s my Final Four: Three sets of Wildcats — Kentucky, Arizona and Villanova — plus Iowa State. I have Kentucky winning, but I’ve seen so many sure things miss that I wouldn’t bet your house, let alone mine, on it. Houston’s Phi Slama Jama lost to Jim Valvano’s N.C. State. Georgetown got Villanova’ed. Vegas tripped two steps shy of an unbeaten season. Two exceptional Duke teams (1999 and 2002) were themselves thwarted. Even Indiana, the last unbeaten, needed a second try after its 1975 miss.

I invite you to enter the Fiasco online. Our winner gets the traditional champ’s Final Four sweatshirt and a $50 iTunes gift card, plus everyone who enters our contest is automatically enrolled in the national upickem contest, which offers a $1 million prize.

I close by noting that over the breadth of the Fiasco, my alma mater — that’s Kentucky — has won three NCAA championships. I picked the Wildcats in none of those years. I’m picking them this time. If they’re good enough to beat the Bradley Jinx, they deserve to be included among the greatest teams ever.

For my full bracket, click here.

Reader Comments 1

23 comments
LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Dogs did real damage didn't they!!!  lol

Baghead
Baghead

Bradley,  I'm going to go ahead and label your illness as DHTS, otherwise known as Delusional Homer Tard Syndrome.  Yet again, typical non-logical adolescent writing from Bradley.  "They haven't beaten anyone of consequence" and 'let's remember that they would play a regional game in the same spot they did 32 years ago'.  32 years! As if that has any bearing on anything in today's bracket.  I don't get your purpose with this publication any longer.  Are your articles meant to be humorous?  We're not actually supposed to take this seriously are we?  Does anyone write real articles, with real intent and research at the AJC sports desk?  Why don't you research and write an article on Mark Fox's pathetic record and recruiting in Athens since he became head coach?  

creative
creative

@Baghead Tough guy...Its sports dude and he gives his opinion. Are you really that upset?  A 10 has NEVER beaten a 7 before....What would you consider a REAL article?  Are you a writer?  Can you do better?  Start your own site.  You could call it  www.itakesportswaytooseriosly.com/momsbasement.com

Baghead
Baghead

@creative Nah.  I've just read too many of his stuff, in particular his unbiased support for one of the worst GMs in professional sports.  I love my Bulldogs, so yes I have tended to take the a little too seriously.  I should back off knowing that our AD doesn't have a national championship agenda in mind.  It's all political.

TOJacket
TOJacket

When did MB start sniffing glue again?

Nowayjose9
Nowayjose9

Uga in sweet 16? Now that's funny. 

DoctorJNB
DoctorJNB

1991 UNLV every bit as talented as this year's Kentucky team?   Did the 1991 Running Rebels have 9 McDonald's All-Americans, or 9 future NBA draft picks?   I don't think so.


And the explanation for UK's victory over the 74-75 Indiana squad in the NCAAs after suffering a regular season loss is simple - Bobby Knight assaulted Joe Hall in the regular season game in Bloomington, and Hall and his team never forgot it.   They vowed revenge in the 1975 Mideast Regionals in Dayton, and they got it.  That didn't happen between Kentucky and Kansas this year.


All that being said, I agree with your assessment that Georgia should take Michigan State, but I don't think they'll get past Virginia despite their injuries...

partlycloudy
partlycloudy

I hope the Dawgs pull off a miracle upset.  And I hope UK does not lose a game.  SEC first, then ACC, except for Notre Dame.  Down with ND.

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

Curious how many times MB has seen the Wildcats play, the Villanova Wildcats that is? They may win one game or 5 games, but their basketball IQ is off the charts, they rarely turn the ball over, and like Indian's 76 team, the ball seldom touches the floor in the frontcourt. It is pass, pass, and more passes. Tough to defend.

JamesBullows
JamesBullows

It's a real shame Harrow is likely going to still be injured for the game. I think with him and RJ healthy, State would stand a real chance of progressing.

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

@JamesBullows  You are blinded by your bias. GA State couldn't beat a good high school team.

PantherWin
PantherWin

@ImaNitwit Based on one game you IDIOT? GSU has two NBA players on its roster so please just shut up. They blew out a good Green Bay team and gave Iowa State a decent game on the road. So Again. JUST. SHUT. UP.

MikeS777
MikeS777

That's as bold a prediction as I can think of.  I just don't see UGA beating Michigan St.  They haven't beaten anyone very good all season.  Honestly I'm surprised the SEC got 5 teams in this tournament.  I thought UGA's schedule meant they should get in the tourney as the 3rd SEC team, but I'm surprised LSU and Ole Miss got in.  As good as the SEC is in football, its the very definition of top heavy in basketball. 

The ACC on the other hand is the brutal conference in basketball. ESPN camps out there like they do the SEC in football and for good reason.  Even though Kentucky beat UNC and Louisville early in the season, no way can you convince me they would run an ACC conference schedule undefeated.  I was surprised to see Miami not make the tourney.  I certainly don't think UGA is better than Miami or Pitt for that matter.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

There were some strange picks by the selection committee.  UCLA, Indiana and Ole Miss in???  Dayton in one of the play-in games as an 11 seed?

All 5 teams from Indiana in the same region? 

MarkBradley
MarkBradley moderator

Don't believe that NBA frontline made it to the Final Four, as it turned out. Believe it was upset by a team from the SEC, albeit two rounds later.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@MarkBradley @PaulinNH 

He had much better players the year before and the year after.  Taking that team to the FF with the victory over UNC was quite an achievement.

MarkBradley
MarkBradley moderator

@PaulinNH Kentucky beat Ohio State, the No. 1 seed with Jared Sullinger, two nights before beating Carolina. That Kentucky team lost at Georgia, if you recall.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@MarkBradley 

Sullinger was a great player as a FR at OSU.  The jury is still out on him up here in the NBA

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

The last time UGA made the tourney they played in Charlotte and MB had them beating Washington and a UNC team that had an NBA frontline.  Didn't quite work out.

UK will breeze to the Final Four

Aikendawg
Aikendawg

Dog gone it! I agree! If Georgia finishes the drill in the paint and scores they can win the East.

Trackbacks

  1. […] to the third-seeded Bears happen an hour earlier to No. 3 seed Iowa State. The Cyclones — my pick to lose to Kentucky in the NCAA final, yikes — had let UAB linger, and the favorite that can’t distance itself in the early rounds […]