March Gladness: A Bracket with Watchable Professionals

Ahh, March Madness. As much a sign of spring as anything, the next four days will see 48 basketball games, a 12-seed vs. 5-seed upset, a red-faced Dick Vitale and an overly exuberant Gus Johnson. You probably threw $5 into a work pool despite knowing next to nothing about the teams involved, and will find yourself following the exploits of South Dakota State more fervently than a committed alum when you realize you took them to the Elite Eight.

But as yesterday’s Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses revealed, nobody here at the Diss (except batshit crazy Arizona Wildcats fan Jordan Durlester) care for college ball too much. Never ones to let opportunity smack us in the face and run away, however, we have created an alternative March Madness bracket. Today The Diss proudly presents March Gladness: A Bracket with Watchable Professionals.

The rules are quite simple. Using players on current NBA rosters (and excluding any player out for the season with injury) we have constructed the best possible 16 college alumni teams. Each team is made up of a starting five plus sixth man, and is coached by the institutions’ current head coach. The games will follow college rules, and the schedule will mirror the March Madness schedule.

Today we have the teams, the seedings and the bracket. Next week we’ll find out who wins. Disagree with our roster choices? Think your favorite team is dramatically underseeded? Have a hunch that the 14-3 upset is possible in the first round? Let us know in the comments.

Seedings

1. Duke University Blue Devils
Starting 5: Kyrie Irving, JJ Redick, Luol Deng, Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer
Sixth Man: Gerald Henderson Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Queue the haters, Duke has the perfect blend of youth and experience, offense and defense, size and strength, all helmed by the best coach in the business and a winner of two Olympic Gold Medals. The back court pairs Irving’s explosiveness with JJ Redick’s sharpshooting (that has only gotten better since college). Deng and Battier provide a much needed defensive presence, both having the ability to lock up the best wings in the game. The Blue Devils probably won’t set statistical records, but have very few flaws to exploit at either end. Time to jump on the bandwagon.

2. University of Florida Gators
Starting 5: Bradley Beal, Chandler Parsons, Al Horford, David Lee, Joakim Noah
Sixth Man: Corey Brewer Coach: Billy Donovan

At first glance, Florida has some serious positional issues, starting with the complete lack of a point guard. Bradley Beal has handled the rock some for the Wizards this year however, and every player on the team is a plus passer. If Florida is able to get the ball up the court, they should be able to move it around the arc and run sets well. Although the Gators could be taken advantage of by smaller, quicker teams, the front court thugs of Lee, Horford, and Noah should dominate the glass and bully all opponents in the post.

3. University of Connecticut Huskies
Starting 5: Kemba Walker, Ray Allen, Rudy Gay, Caron Butler, Emeka Okafor
Sixth Man: Rip Hamilton Coach: Kevin Ollie

Don’t let their old age and diminishing marginal returns fool you. The Huskies are balanced offensively, play smart defense, and have championship experience. Albeit slightly undersized, both Kemba and Gay frequent the paint, and Butler can get boards when needed. With five solid spot up shooters and good ball movement this team can create real problems for opposing defenses. Kevin Ollie just got the Christmas present of his life from Jim Calhoun.

4. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins
Starting 5: Russell Westbrook, Aaron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Matt Barnes, Kevin Love
Sixth Man: Jrue Holiday Coach: Ben Howland

UCLA will dare opponents to miss a shot. With a Kevin Love rebound and rapid outlet, the Bruins are poised to score a good chunk of their points via the fast break. Even better than their fast break offense, and despite Kevin Love being the only true big, it will be damn tough for other teams to even enter the paint against the Bruins. UCLA might have the most natural talent in the tournament, and if it takes Matt Barnes guarding a 4 to display it, why not?

5. University of Texas at Austin Longhorns
Starting 5: Avery Bradley, PJ Tucker, Kevin Durant, Tristan Thompson, LaMarcus Aldridge
Sixth Man: DJ Augustin Coach: Rick Barnes

Durant is the pre-tourney MVP favorite, and Texas could go home with hardware if he takes full advantage of an opportunity at NCAA tourney redemption. With a back court that lacks an explosive scorer, the offense will run in part through LA, giving him the chance to show the world what Portland already knows—he can ball with the best. Texas arguably has the best 1-2 punch in the tourney, but this team’s real strength is defense. The Longhorns have speed, length and the best on-ball defender on earth. They also rebound awfully well.

6. Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jackets
Starting 5: Jarrett Jack, Anthony Morrow, Thaddeus Young, Derrick Favors, Chris Bosh
Sixth Man: Will Bynum Coach: Brian Gregory

Georgia Tech may lack the flash of the other top seeds, but they don’t mind flying under the radar. This sneaky good team has traditional skill at every single position: a ball-handling point, a 3-point shooting guard, a lanky wing capable of guarding anybody, an amazingly agile and gifted 250-pound forward and the premier small ball center in the league. The Yellow Jackets will struggle to space properly with only two credible 3-point threats, but have no other obvious weakness that can be attacked. Their motivation? Jack, Morrow, and Bynum lost in the ‘04 championship game to Okafor and Connecticut. That potential second round match-up could be a doozy.

7. University of Kentucky Wildcats
Starting 5: John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Tayshaun Prince, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis
Sixth Man: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Coach: John Calipari

Yes, Kentucky has obvious flaws. They are young. They are still developing. They lack a reliable closer. Even if they win it all resident elder Tayshaun will have to avoid getting caught providing champagne to minors. But with all risk comes reward: these recent college dropouts still remember how to dance. Bledsoe, Wall, and Cousins played together three years ago; Davis and MKG led last year’s team, lending themselves to unparalleled chemistry. Can these youngsters can handle the big stage that this imaginary tournament presents?

8. Wake Forest University Demon Deacons
Starting 5: Chris Paul, Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson, Tim Duncan
Sixth Man: Ish Smith Coach: Jeff Bzdelik

The Demon Deacons’ two, three, and four are probably weaker than their potential opponents…but who cares? With Chris Paul running the show they will no doubt get open looks, and a turn-back-the-clock Tim Duncan is putting in vintage performances nightly. He is still 36 years old, but the college rules—and tournament schedule—will allow ample time for rest. Are you ready to count out a team full of young, athletic wings sheparded by Paul and Duncan? I’m not either.

9. University of Kansas Jayhawks
Starting 5: Mario Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich, Paul Pierce, Marcus Morris, Nick Collison
Sixth Man: Thomas Robinson Coach: Bill Self

Kansas brings together the star duos from it’s two best teams in the last decade (‘03 and ‘08) with swingman Paul Pierce to form the ultimate midwestern ball club: hardworking, unlauded, win-the-ugly way. The Jayhawks are comprised of players who made names for themselves in college, but have lacked the athleticism to be elite at the next level. Despite mediocrity at most positions, they have very few glaring flaws. Revitalized in the last month, Pierce gives Kansas the X-factor they need to pull an upset.

10. University of North Carolina Tar Heels
Starting 5: Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton, Vince Carter, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller
Sixth Man: Harrison Barnes Coach: Roy Williams

Somewhere Ty Lawson is smiling. Possibly underseeded, North Carolina plays his style of basketball. Whether they look the part or not, this team is made up of players that love up-and-down, transition basketball. Felton and Carter may have put on weight (and forgotten how to jump) in the last couple years, but old habits die hard. Despite poor defensive reputations across the board and the lack of a stopper, this team plays smart, consistent defense, and will compete in every game.

11. University of Arizona Wildcats
Starting 5: Jason Terry, Andre Iguodala, Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, Jordan Hill
Sixth Man: Jerryd Bayless Coach: Sean Miller

Arizona is your prototypical run-and-gun ball club: fast and athletic but underwhelming in the half-court. Without a true point guard to direct traffic, it’s a coin flip every trip down the floor between highlight-worthy heroics and sloppy, unwatchable basketball. While the Wildcat offense ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack, their defense—outside of Iggy—is laughable. Don’t lose hope. Jason Terry and Derrick Williams are both streaky shooters, with the potential to fill a box score. If one happens to get hot, they could surprise.

12. University of Southern California (USC) Trojans
Starting 5: OJ Mayo, DeMar DeRozan, Nick Young, Taj Gibson, Nikola Vucevic
Sixth Man: Brian Scalabrine (out of retirement) Coach: Kevin O’Neil

How far can pure athleticism get you? We’re about to find out, because this team is full of hyper-athletic “wings” that don’t fit together all that well. With three players that can shoot you into games—and out of them just as quickly—the cornerstone may actually be rapidly improving big man Nikola Vucevic. If he can take advantage of the lack of size elsewhere, it might be just enough to let the gunners gun.

13. Marquette University Golden Eagles
Starting 5: Wesley Matthews, Dwyane Wade, Steve Novak, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder
Sixth Man: Lazar Hayward Coach: Buzz Williams

Marquette may be easy to overlook because they don’t have a true point, start a 6’6” center, and struggle mightily to fill up a stat sheet, but don’t be fooled. The Golden Eagles have the pieces of any great cinderella: solid defense with feverish work ethic, an ice-cold 3-and-D wing, a backcourt that manages the clock well, and an all-star closer who peaks in big games. The question that begs to be asked: is Wade ready to return to top-dog status?

14. The Ohio State University Buckeyes
Starting 5: Mike Conley, Michael Redd (out of retirement), Evan Turner, Byron Mullens, Kosta Koufos
Sixth Man: Daequan Cook Coach: Thad Matta

Sure would be nice if Greg Oden was healthy wouldn’t it? Kosta Koufos is a competent center, but even he can’t answer the fundamental question facing these Buckeyes: who the hell is going to score? When the best scorer is quasi-retired Michael Redd, there are serious problems. On defense, Conley and Turner are good enough to lock almost any backcourt up. They’ll have to hope to be on the winning end of a bunch of 54-50 games.

15. Syracuse University Orange
Starting 5: Dion Waiters, Wesley Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Fab Melo
Sixth Man: Kris Joseph Coach: Jim Boeheim

The Orange have an uphill battle in front of them, but let’s try to block out the facts that Melo alone scores over half their points and that they are last in the tournament in rebounding, assists, and team PER. Syracuse has a legit superstar, a blossoming sidekick, and a three other bodies to fill the infamous 2-3 zone. Boeheim’s trademark defense should mitigate some of the trademark laziness of Melo, Warrick and co., giving them the extra energy needed to hoist the shots they shouldn’t have taken in the first place.

16. University of Washington Huskies
Starting 5: Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Quincy Pondexter, Terrence Ross, Spencer Hawes
Sixth Man: Tony Wroten Coach: Lorenzo Romar

At any moment, feisty backcourt mates Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson are liable to catch fire. During all of the rest of the moments though, they’re a pair of under-5’10” suspect defenders. Rut-roh. Better hope athletic as all get-out Terrence Ross can play both man defense and help defense, and that Spencer Hawes is prepared to patrol the paint.

Last Four Out : Michigan State University Spartans, University of Memphis Tigers, Stanford University Cardinal, Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers

Bracket

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6 Responses to March Gladness: A Bracket with Watchable Professionals

  1. Manley says:

    Quincy Pondexter is so good he counts twice!

  2. Andrew says:

    Shumpert went to Ga Tech and is better than Bynum and Morrow combined, or maybe I’m just overrating the flat top…

  3. Benoit Lelievre says:

    I like what you did there. I think the Tar Heels are underrated in that tourney, but I gotta say I like the Longhorns best.

    Say, which are the top 5 NBA prospects you think will have the best NBA careers? I like MacLemore, Marcus Smart, Shabazz Muahammad, C.J McCollum and Willy Cauley-Stein (who I think will soar in the rankings from now to June)

  4. Jp Holwell says:

    Maybe I watch too many Warriors games, but shouldn’t Harrison Barnes get the start over Vince Carter?

    • Kevin Draper says:

      I think the better question is, should Harrison Barnes start over Raymond Felton, thus shifting VC down to SG?

      I dunno, maybe? That team has 2 PGs and 2 SFs, so either way the three smaller players on the roster are going to be some weird combination of them.

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