Who are you picking in the men's and women's NCAA tournaments and why?
No risk, taking the No. 1s all the way
By Amanda Rykoff
I confess that I don't like to take too many risks. Sometimes that serves me well in my tournament picks; sometimes not so much (I'm looking at you, George Mason). I also have a tendency to overanalyze to the point of paralysis. But I'm playing it safe this year and picking the consensus No. 1 seeds to win both the men's and women's tournaments. That's right: Kentucky and Baylor, come on down, you're my picks to be the 2012 NCAA men's and women's basketball champions.
I had Kentucky penciled in as my national champion a couple of weeks ago (UNC, Syracuse and Kansas also received strong consideration). While the Wildcats' failure to score a basket in the final eight minutes of the SEC championship game against Vanderbilt gave me pause, I'm sticking with them. Coach John Calipari's kids are the overall No. 1 seed for a reason -- they're extraordinarily talented and provide matchup problems for just about every team they face, especially on the defensive end, where they can be stifling. Freshman center Anthony Davis is the presumptive player of the year and fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist impresses me with each game he plays. Factor in the Wildcats' road through Louisville (yep, you read that right) for the first two rounds, nearby Atlanta for the regionals and New Orleans for the Final Four and I'm sold.
On the women's side, I'm going with Baylor for largely the same reasons as I'm taking the Wildcats. The Bears are undefeated and are the best team in the country. Speaking of matchup nightmares, Baylor also has the best player in the nation in Brittney Griner. For the record, I also like Stanford and Notre Dame to make a serious run, but I see no reason why the Bears won't keep the championship in the Big 12. Look for Griner and Kim Mulkey to cut down the nets in Denver this year.
Of course, they do call it March Madness for a reason. I could be ripping up my brackets after the first weekend.
Cuse won't be intimidated by tourney
By Michelle Smith
On the men's side, losing in the Big East conference tournament shouldn't do anything to diminish Syracuse's impressive season. The Orange's play on the court is made more impressive by all the distractions the program has faced from the accusations of sexual abuse leveled at assistant coach Bernie Fine, to the suspension of center Fab Melo, to an alleged cover up of drug use by players no long in the program.
On the court, the Orange did all they could do. They won almost every time they played. Syracuse is deep and focused and after everything the Orange players have been through this season, winning six in a row in the NCAA tournament can't seem so daunting.
When it comes to the women's tournament, it's hard to deny Baylor is the best team in the country with the best player in Brittney Griner. The Bears go into this tournament with a 34-0 record and have barely looked vulnerable.
There's simply nobody like Griner in women's basketball. She changes every game she plays in a significant way. And she is surrounded by talent, particularly guard Odyssey Sims, who has had a star-making year. In a season when powers Tennessee and Connecticut are not quite where they have been, the Bears have stepped in as the team to beat. And nobody's done it yet.
Kentucky will take men's title; women's goes to Terps
By Melissa Jacobs
As tempting as it is to pick any number of other teams, this is Kentucky's year. John Calipari has had plenty of good teams before, but never one this talented and focused. Conference tournament loss aside, the Wildcats, led by Anthony Davis and a punishing defense, have pretty much ravished the SEC. Since the tournament is so much about upsets, I always seek out a variety of paths to beat the No. 1 seeds, but in Kentucky's case, that path seems nonexistent. Boring, I know.
As for the women, I will be a little less boring. Coming up with compelling arguments for all four No. 1 seeds to contend in Denver is not difficult, but my pick is Maryland. Momentum is as an important in college basketball as any sport and the Terrapins have just that. They have won seven consecutive games and 10 of their last 11. Included in that streak are wins over two top-15 teams. Maryland also enters the tournament with an advantage: The ACC tournament ended a week ago so the team has had ample time to rest, relax and maintain focus. C'mon, Terps; make me look smart.
Diggins, Irish have unfinished business
By Adena Andrews
I hold a master's of science in sports administration. I was a top-10 student in my high school. I'm an awesome Words With Friends player. So, naturally, filling out my bracket involves an extremely complex scientific method. What is my method, you ask? Pay close attention: eenie, meanie, miny, moe, pick ...
While that's not my decision process in its entirety, it might as well be. Every March I discover that while sports are my profession, that doesn't matter when it comes to making my March Madness picks. The person who picked a bracket based on mascot fierceness is more apt to win than me. That's why they call it madness. It's a two-week crapshoot and I love every minute of it.
That being said, here are my picks:
For the women, I see Notre Dame winning because Skylar Diggins isn't done yet. The Fighting Irish came too close to winning it all last season and they're determined to take it this time. This was a hard pick for me over Brittney Griner and Baylor, but the truth is, teams win championships -- not individual players. As great as Griner is, her dominance alone isn't enough to win a title.
For the men, I see the Louisville Cardinals going all the way. At 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng is a force in the paint, averaging nine boards and three blocks a game. With six different players averaging nine-plus points a game, the Cards are well-rounded.
For now, these sound like good picks, but I'll probably have my face buried in my palm by the Elite Eight due to a busted bracket.
Rooting for the underdog
By Jane McManus
Is it hot in here?
Does anyone else find the whole exercise in picking teams to be a bit stressful? Since I need more time on the bracket, I'm picking the same thing in both the men's and women's NCAA tournaments.
I'll start with the men. Since I covered the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for a few years in my former life as a newspaper reporter, I got to see Manhattan College beat Florida in 2004. There really isn't anything quite like the NCAA tournament, and watching a mid-major team beat a big-conference program means a lot for those smaller programs.
This year, the MAAC sent the conference champion Loyola, but that didn't stop the selection committee from picking Iona. So I'll be watching the guys who are expected to serve as punching bags in the early rounds.
The women's tournament hasn't traditionally had as many underdog-type teams shock the world. Is there any hope that one could challenge undefeated Baylor?
In the meantime, I'll be watching UConn without Maya Moore, and Notre Dame with Skylar Diggins.