Also in Slate, Chris Wilson explains how to win your NCAA pool and Will Oremus breaks down what would happen if the NCAA Tournament were a fight to the death between mascots. Plus, you can download Holly Allen’s printable 2012 school color and mascot brackets.
Hang Up and Listen host Josh Levin, college hoops stats maven Ken Pomeroy, and Basketball Prospectus and ESPN.com writer John Gasaway were on Slate’s Facebook page on Tuesday to chat with readers about the start of March Madness. The following transcript of the discussion has been edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click on this link.
John Gasaway: Greetings all. My name's John Gasaway, and I write about college hoops at ESPN and Basketball Prospectus. If this is a gathering of Slate readers who love college hoops, I must be in the right place. What's on your mind?
Amy Childs Reichardt: Could you post your color/mascot brackets this year?
Wade Fasano: Syracuse is gonna be down without Melo, boosts chances for UK?
Josh Levin: I have a question for John and Ken about the Syracuse situation: Given Fab Melo's suspension, does UNC-Asheville have the best chance—even if it's not that big a chance—of any 16 seed in recent years to knock off a 1 seed?
Harry Johnson: I want to know how serious Ken Pom is when he says that a 16 seed will beat a 1 seed this year. Also, does Syracuse still count without Fab Melo?
John Gasaway: Wade and Josh, with regard to Syracuse and Melo, it's amazing how the absence of a player turns that player into Lew Alcindor overnight. Melo is a terrific interior defender, but the Orange will still be able to score points—an aspect of their performance that tends to be underrated. As for the 1-16 chances, Ken has that covered. Ken? ...
Ken Pomeroy: @Harry I am serious in the sense that this crop of 16's is the strongest in the history of the tourney. Chances are still slim, just less slim than usual. And yes, I still consider the ‘Cuse a 1-seed.
Ken Pomeroy: I'm with John on Melo. Fab was on the bench for 15 minutes every game, and Boeheim actually has guys to fill his role that have played in meaningful games this season. A rare luxury for him. It hurts, but isn't a killer by any means.
John Gasaway: The takeaway is this: Next year on Selection Sunday eve when Syracuse says “Big Man X is healthy and eligible!” take it with a grain of salt. After Arinze Onuaku in 2010 and now this, it seems they like to be coy about their personnel until after the brackets come out.
Josh Levin: I am less bullish on Kentucky than many people because I'm convinced that the Wildcats' point guard, Marquis Teague, is going to drive them into a ditch. I'm envisioning a UK loss in the Elite Eight or the Final Four in which Teague scores 0 points and has a lot of turnovers. Am I being overly pessimistic? Do you guys think his shortcomings are overcomable?
Ken Pomeroy: Funny how nobody is talking about Teague. Kentucky is outstanding, but personnel-wise, the point guard is the weak link. Wouldn't surprise me if the Cats overcame it because they are so good at a lot of things, but yeah, their point guard issues are going to get attention in opposing game plans.
John Gasaway: Teague might not be the new Cousy, but his mates are pretty good. What's impressive to me about UK is their offense has been stellar across all categories, including, most crucially for your concern, turnovers. I think they've been overcoming Teague pretty well to date. We'll see, though.
Jake Burgers: Which double digit seed has the best chance to reach the Sweet 16?
Ken Pomeroy: I'll vote for N.C. State.