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March 23, 2011

The Bracketless Bracket Leader Speaks

All of the NCAA tournament's 6 and 7 seeds have washed out after the first two rounds, as have all the teams seeded 13th and below. That leaves nine of the 16 seed lines still alive in Gelf's Bracketless Bracket tournament, and Joel Landas is the only contestant to have a team still playing in each one. As the current leader, Landas is also the only contestant to have racked up more than 3000 points, and he has a 260-point lead over his closest competition.

How did the 27-year old film student do it? After learning about Gelf's contest on basketball-reference.com, Landas focused on three things in determining which team to select from each seed line: defense, interior size, and the presence of NBA talent. For the latter two, Landas relied heavily on draftexpress.com, the site of independent professional hoops scout Jonathan Givony. Below, Landas breaks down his reasons for choosing each team:

#16. NC-Asheville (0 wins)

Magic 8-Ball. Knew jack about these squads.

#15. Akron (0 wins)

Zeke Marshall, a true 7-footer who will likely see minutes at some level of professional basketball. Actually took Akron as a longshot against Notre Dame in a couple of the ten conventionals I filled out over on ESPN (ten being the max they allow, they get nearly six million entries playing for a ten grand first prize, being a poor student I take all the free lottery tickets they give me). That didn't play, of course, as despite ND being a bit small in the post they were way deeper and well coached.

#14. Indiana State (0 wins)

Cause Larry went there. Really only knew anything about St. Peter's; as an upstate New Yorker I watched them making a mini-Cinderella run through the MAAC tourney this year after Siena's collapse in the wake of much of their core graduating left a power vacuum at the top of the conference.

#13. Morehead State (1 win)

Kenneth Faried, the most prolific rebounder in D-1 history, versus a seemingly teeny-tiny Louisville squad except for Terrence Jennings, who's just never been that kind of workhorse on the glass. All those extra offensive possessions add up.

#12. Richmond (2 wins)

The most influential Givony pick for me, as not only did he briefly point up the matchup problems they posed for Vanderbilt with Kevin Anderson at the 1 and Justin Harper at the 4 (the 2 weakest slots for Vandy), but DraftExpress gave Harper a full write-up in the week prior as a potential tournament breakout, Omar Samhan style. Probably would have mostly stuck by Vandy had it not been for the push.

#11. Marquette (2 wins)

Again moved by Givony's love for their principal leaders, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler. He was dead right having them send Syracuse packing, which after witnessing plenty of shaky basketball from the Orange this season I didn't need much persuading on.

#10. Florida State (2 wins)

One of my favorite teams to watch as an aficionado of great D, with one of my favorite players in Chris Singleton (wearing a Nets uniform after this summer hopefully). Givony's distrust of Notre Dame just made me more confident picking the 'Noles over the Irish, given State's big athletic edge.

#9. Tennessee (0 wins)

My first miss. I really thought with Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris they'd have the juice to out-talent Michigan, and their subsequent complete dismemberment by same to me ranks as the second most surprising thing in the tournament this year after VCU's hummingbird run. Illinois would've been my choice had they not been meeting my champion, Kansas, in the second.

#8. Butler (2 wins)

Actually wasn't buying them as repeat Cinderellas, but of the four seeds I had the most confidence in them winning their first. Then of course they went and put the hard nail through my ESPN brackets, as not once did I have them slipping by Pitt. The matchup against Wisconsin should be a great watch, so similar in style and personnel.

#7. Texas A&M (0 wins)

Another miss, to me the hardest seed to pick. Should've trusted Florida State in their opening matchup, but it was reported the day before that Singleton might not play and I wavered, thinking either team could make it by Notre Dame (should point out, as they keep coming up in a negative light, that I actually liked watching the Irish this year and have nothing against them).

#6. Cincinnati (1 win)

Yancy Gates down low, plus Georgetown and St. John's sporting wounded stars and my trust in Marquette over Xavier. Plus I would never bet against a dude named Yancy anyway, even if he were a London Sillynanny.

#5. Arizona (2 wins)

Derrick Williams, and the vague feeling that Texas might be vulnerable when their coach couldn't win a title with Kevin Durant.

#4. Wisconsin (2 wins)

I dated a cheeser girl once upon a time. But really, this was the second hardest pick for me because of Kentucky, who might yet prove me wrong. Love me some Jon Leuer, though.

#3. Connecticut (2 wins)

I think at this point, even over Jimmer, Kemba Walker is the one player most apt to make you feel stupid if you pick against him. That and, all else being equal, I wear my Big East bias on my sleeve.

#2. North Carolina (2 wins)

Harrison Barnes' recent exploding to life, along with all their other young talent, along with Notre Dame and Florida being perhaps a bit overseeded, along with being unwilling to side with San Diego State against the Kembas.

#1. Kansas (2 wins)

My trusting of quality size comes into play here, as though I think Duke, Ohio State and poor, poor Pitt all hold some advantage in the backcourt, I think the Jay's combination of talent, experience, and depth in the front—with Thomas Robinson coming off the bench behind the Morris twins—gives them a winning edge, even against a monster like OSU's Sullinger in a prospective final. For Kansas to drop a title game against a fellow #1 seed, I think their guards would have to be heavily outclassed down the stretch, and I'm banking on them basically holding the line enough to let their bigs take over.







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