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March 18, 2:47 PM ET
Fantasy Bracket Challenge w/AJ Mass

AJ Mass
  (2:59 PM)

Good afternoon gang. We're putting the MLB talk on hold for this week, as we've developed a case of the Madness. Brackets here... brackets there... we're seeing brackets everywhere! Who's first up to channel their inner Steve Gutenberg and dance?

Nick (Greenwich, CT)

Hey Aj!! Quick question: Do u see any 12s beating the 5s? If so, who's going down? Thnx a lot!

AJ Mass
  (3:01 PM)

Afternoon, Nick. I think you could see two 12's winning. Villanova could easily catch Clemson napping, and if they hit their threes early, watch out! Also, Mason could possibly handle the Irish - if they stay close long enough, those Winthrop thoughts will creep into their heads.

Matt (Des Moines)

How do you feel about Drake's chances of getting to the Sweet Sixteen? I'm kind of worried about Western Kentucky and the whole 5/12 upset...

AJ Mass
  (3:03 PM)

Pretty good actually. I don't see them having much of a problem with WKy. And Thabeet of UConn won't effect their style of play in Second Round.

Fred, La Jolla

Coppin State all the way!!!!

AJ Mass
  (3:05 PM)

Well, they're only something like 8 octillion to 1 odds. That's not too bad. I do like their chances in the Opening Round game though... against the Tar Heels? Not so much.

Dan (Boston, MA)

USC seems like the trendy pick... Do you think Kansas State can beat them on Friday?

AJ Mass
  (3:07 PM)

Not really. I thought K-State really didn't deserve the bid in the first place. USC should be able to handle them, but not the Badgers.

Matt (Fort Collins)

I heard a lot of "surprise" that Kent State got a 9 seed. If that's the case, why so many pundits picking them to upset a solid 8 in UNLV?

AJ Mass
  (3:09 PM)

The "surprise" comes from one of several groups: people who think there is no hoops played outside of the BCS Conferences... or people who are surprised the committee actually gave amid-major credit for good season for once. I think Kent's a bit underseeded if you ask me.


Hey AJ, Baylor was the last team to make it in, doesn't that team always seem to make some noise?

AJ Mass
  (3:10 PM)

I have found that the team that I personally think doesn't belong more often than not does play very well... however last year I thought that was Stanford, and they didn't even bother to show up for their game. I actually think the Bears will beat Purdue.


Do like WVU's chances to make it past the weekend?

AJ Mass
  (3:12 PM)

I don't like the matchup with Zona. If they do manage to get Alexander really involved and can fend off the Wildcats, they do have a shot against Duke - but do I like the chances? Not really.

Joe, Illinois

ISU should be there. We got robbed!

AJ Mass
  (3:13 PM)

I agree. And yet, word is that even if Georgia hadn't stolen that extra bubble bid, it would have gone to Syracuse. The moral of the story? Don't lose by 30 in your title game.

Hoopachoo (NYC)

I have an inner Michael Winslow to channel. So while I make funny sounds like a car chase with sirens, you tell me your Final Four (I hope it has a "surprise" in it).

AJ Mass
  (3:14 PM)

At least it wasn't an inner Bobcat Goldthwait. We're going chalk with UNC and UCLA. A Texas two-step and our "surprise" of Vandy. Wouldn't want to let a Hoopachoo down.

Charlie in a box

I went to Cornell. Any chance?

AJ Mass
  (3:16 PM)

Any chance that you wouldn't have mentioned that you went to Cornell? Probably not. Big Red are a really good shooting team...and Stanford did lose to Siena this season... but I think it is asking too much to expect an upset here.

Marc (West Lafayette, IN)

Baylor over Purdue appears to be a popular upset pick. Many are saying the Boilers youth will catch up to them, but after 31 games together are they really still that young? Do you agree with the upset pick?

AJ Mass
  (3:17 PM)

As I've said, I do agree with the upset pick, but your point is somewhat valid. A young team is not as young now as they were at the start of the year - but the experience of actually playing in the Dance-- that's a new ballgame entirely. Luckily, with their opponent, that's not a big issue. Baylor's brand new to this too.

Manny, Cleveland

If I pick no upsets at all, I will win.

AJ Mass
  (3:21 PM)

I doubt it Manny. Four #1 seeds making it to the Final Four? Hasn't yet happened. And none of them making it has happened twice. You have to have a few upsets in there somewhere along the line.

Roo-Diddly, Here

Winthrop gonna do it again? I think they will. Roo has spoken.

AJ Mass
  (3:23 PM)

Really, Roo? I'm certainly going to root for the Eagles, but I don't think they're nearly as good, nor Washington State nearly as vulnerable as Notre Dame was last season. But if every 1-4 got upset, I'd be the happiest guy around. It's those early upsets that make the tournament so much fun to watch.

John (LA,CA)

How many possible combinationsa re there in the tourney? I need a perfect bracket.

AJ Mass
  (3:25 PM)

About 9 followed by 18 or so zeroes. Good luck with that arts and crafts project.

Simon, LA

I have Brooke over Archuleta in my bracket. How about you?

AJ Mass
  (3:26 PM)

I don't know which I'm more embarrassed by... that I get the reference or that I agree with it. Chekiezie over Castro in an upset!

Joe, Indiana

Why doesn't NC have to travel? It's not fair.

AJ Mass
  (3:29 PM)

Sure it is. You earn the #1 seed, you get to stay close to home. UCLA is in Anaheim. Sounds like a Hoosier fan who's a bit nervous about a possible 2nd round matchup.

Tom, Chicago

Talking brackets are pointless. Takes no skill to win.

AJ Mass
  (3:31 PM)

I disagree. You can't blindly pick all the 16-seeds to win and expect to win, can you? I grant you that surprises happen and that someone with limited hoops knowledge can win your office pool - but they still have to pick a lot of favorites and the "right" upsets to do so.

Saint Anthonio (TX)

Upset Spizzy's: Butler over Tennessee, Marquette over Stanford, and Xavier over Duke.

AJ Mass
  (3:32 PM)

I'll agree with Xavier making the 8. Not going along with you on the other two, though.

Geoff (NY)

Think SU can win it all this year? The NIT that is.

AJ Mass
  (3:33 PM)

They may win it all, or get eliminated in the first round. Either way, it doesn't matter to me. I don't watch the "Nobody's Interested Tournament"

Kyle Las Vegas, NV

Who do you have #8 Unlv vs #9 Kent State?

AJ Mass
  (3:35 PM)

Sorry to tell you Kyle, I'm on the Kent State bandwagon here. I don't think they'll go as far as they did in 2002, but they'll challenge Kansas.

Philly Jimmy

Temple, St. Joe's or Nova. Who goes further?

AJ Mass
  (3:36 PM)

Can I pick none of the above? I have all three bowing out, though I give Temple the least chance at pulling an upset.

Vernisel (SF)

Everyone is picking Davidson over the Zags largely due to location of the game (Raleigh). But how do the teams match up talent wise? Seems to me Gonzaga is more balanced, deeper, and is getting slighted by all the pundits, which pust Gonzaga in the underdog role that they thrive in. How do you think the teams match up from a personnel perspective?

AJ Mass
  (3:39 PM)

I think the two teams are very evenly matched talent-wise. It's going to come down to which team has the hotter hand that day and could easily be the most entertaining first-round game. I wish they hadn't been paired against each other, because I could see both making a deep run had the brackets broken differently. You are right that the Zags are deeper, but Davidson doesn't get into foul trouble, so it's not an issue.

Smrek (SF)

SMC v do these teams match up? It's a little known secret that SMC thrives in the open court, up-tmepo style. Are the Canes going to play right into the Gaels' strength by trying to push tempo?

AJ Mass
  (3:41 PM)

I don't think the Canes will be able to dictate anything... that's the issue. Gaels will push that tempo regardless and Miami will not be able to slow it down... like you said, if they do try and run and gun it's suicide.

Jonny (NJ)

I think Oklahoma, Butler, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Miami, and Drake all go down before the weekend. Any thoughts?

AJ Mass
  (3:42 PM)

I like Drake to be playing against UCLA next weekend, but otherwise, I agree with you.

Rebecca, St. Louis

Will a 16 beat a 1 this year?

AJ Mass
  (3:43 PM)

The day is coming... one of these years things will break right. I don't see it happening this year. If I had to pick the closest 1-16 game, I'd go Portland State- Kansas.

Poochie (Texas)

Everyone seems to be completely discounting Stanford because they are "unathletic". However, they beat some very athletic Pac-10 teams, nearly beat UCLA twice (actually DID beat them once, but that's for aother day) and handled some quality PG's in Collison, Mayo, Bayless, etec. So how doe sTexas match up with the Cardinal? Obviously Augustine presents problems with his quickness, but do the Lopez present bigger problems for us down low. That game scares me, especially since everyone is chalking up Texas into the Elite 8.

AJ Mass
  (3:47 PM)

Once you get into the Sweet 16, you should take every team as a serious threat. But I think one of the key factors people fail to take into account is coaching. Texas wins in that category hands down. With as much time to prepare for your Sweet 16 opponent, Barnes give the Horns a huge edge. Stanford playing well against teams they are familiar with doesn't impress me come tournament time.

tom (nj)

the reason a 15 has beaten a 2 but a 16 hasn't beaten a 1 is because there is a bigger gap between the 1 and 2 or 15 and 16?

AJ Mass
  (3:49 PM)

I think for a time, it was because the 16's were far too weak. Remember that a lot of the 16's are the lucky winners of a weak conference. In years when the SWAC, MEAC and conferences like that hold serve, the 16's are strong enough to win, if the 1's have an off day.

Scottie (Raleigh)

IS a UNC/Wazzu matchup a scary matchup for the Heels? Wazzu is as good as anyone at taking the air out of the ball, and has been extremely effective at imposing their will on run and gun teams like the Heels. We have all seen UNC struggle in the half court...remember their loss to Gonzaga last year? This game seems like a trap for UNC...Wazzu swept an athletic AZ team, dominated a run and gun Oregon team, held their own at UCLA and split with USC> The only Pac 10 team Wazzu couldn't beat was Stanford, who happens to play a similar half court style of play. Your thoughts?

AJ Mass
  (3:52 PM)

I'd actually be more scared of Notre Dame coming out of that "pod" - only because I don't think anyone beats UNC but UNC - except for an absolute lights out downtown barrage, which ND is capable of. Your analysis is well reasoned and I think WSU probably plays Heels close, but I just don't see them winning.

Jim, Roanoke

VCU got the shaft, They should be there,

AJ Mass
  (3:55 PM)

Should they have been given more consideration? Yes. It's tough when a school wins its conference by 3 games and gets no credit for it and a .500 team from a major gets in. Teams like VCU and SF Austin are a lot better than people give credit for. You want to argue that the rules should change, I'll listen to you, but under the current setup, I wouldn't have put them in.

AJ Mass
  (3:56 PM)

We've only got time for a few more...

Dobleve (Denver)

DO you think Duke is getting overlooked a bit? They had a tremendous season, are as well coached as anyone, and seems to match up pretty well with the teams in their bracket. None of AZ/WVU/Xav have dominant low post games, which would play right into Duke's strength. And a mtachup with UCLA...Kevin Love is a load, but he is undersized and Duke seems to have more success with those types than legitimate big men. Simply put, do you think Duke is getting shortchanged and comes in to thsi dance a bit underrated?

AJ Mass
  (3:59 PM)

Overrated by who? They're a 2-seed! Look, Duke always polarizes the country... either they are an odds-on favorite, or they're "sure to get beat early". I never discount the Devils, but I don't see them coming out of this bracket.

Barry (Minneapolis)

AJ. You can't seriously give Rick Barnes a coaching advantage. Have you seen his teams play? There is no coaching, they have Augustin run up and dribble, and then shoot, or he'll pass it to Abram's, who will shoot. Did you watch last year, he couldn't do anything with Durant and Augustin.

AJ Mass
  (4:01 PM)

Over Trent "0-2 and lost by a total of 43 points in the last two years" Johnson I do.

AJ Mass
  (4:02 PM)

Thanks for all the questions gang... Keith Lipscomb will be in tomorrow at 3 pm to talk more NCAA, and we'll be back next week with fantasy baseball as well as some more NCAA talk. Have a great afternoon! Be sure to get your brackets in for ESPN's Tournament Challenge!