By Jeff Portnoy
Although its not the strongest XMAS field we have seen, it is a balanced field. In fact, UH has the lowest Pomeory rating of any team in the field at 207. And ESPN didnt do UH any favors with its seedings.
First the teams and their Pomeroy preseason rankings. Iowa St 38;Boise 42;St Marys's 52: Oregon State 73:George Mason89; Akron 108: South Carolina 133, and UH 207. First every team in the Classic has a higher Pomery than any other home opponent except New Mexico State and every team has a higher Pomeory than any team in the Big West ( we will look at that part of the schedule later this week.
Uh opens up against Boise St. Boise has all 5 staters returning and is picked to finish 3rd in the Mountain West. Some say they could win the Conference( not an easy feat with schools like New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State in the MWC). You have to wonder why ESPN would have Hawaii play Boise in the first round unless they dont want the Warriors playing in the feature game in Round 2. Even though Hawaii plays well in the Classic, I have to think this Boise team is just too tough.
The other first round game in that half of the bracket is South Carolina/St Mary's. I like the Gaels. St. Mary's is picked to finish either second or third behind Gonzaga and BYU in the West Coast Conference and one of its assistants is former UH assistant Eran Ganot. They do lose last year's Conference player of the year, Matthew Dellavedova, but i think they have too much for the gamecocks who are coached by Frank Martin, easily one of the most entertaining coaches in college baskeball.
The other bracket has Iowa State vrs George Mason and Oregon State vrs Akron.Everybody remembers the incredible run the patriots had a few years ago in the NCAA's, but this is not the same team. They are picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10, while Iowa State is a probale NCAA team this year. I like the Cyclones. In the Oregon State/Akron game, I am hosting the Beavers so i am picking them to move on even though they are picked to end up in the bottom half of the Pac 12. I am guessing the president will make an appearance and that should be enough to get past the Zips ( one of the best nicknames in college sports).
In Round 2, i like Iowa State to get by Oregon State ( how sad) and Boise to get by St. Mary's. I think Akron will beat George Mason and in the only consolation game that matters, I like Hawaii to beat the big boys from the SEC, South Carolina. At home and in the Classic, I go with the Rainbows. I am assuming they will be at full strength by then .
For 5th place, I have Hawaii playing Akron. I will be a homer and take the Rainbows to beat the Zips.. For 7th place, i am going with George Mason. I think he signed the Declaration of Independence and that is enough for me.
In the Championship bracket, i like St Marys's to beat Oregon State, and Boise to win it all. How close will i be. probably not very close, but if you are a basketball fan, it will be the best basketball played at home all year. Might not mean as much as Conference play, but the quality will be better.