OK, the Winthrop...bandwagon...is officially overfull...NOW.
This is not good. I suspect the Vols already knew they were a trendy pick to be upset, but it's one thing for gnats like myself and that clown at the Sporting News to pick against you. It's another for the sole "expert" bracket on the world's largest sports website to say he expects you to lose to a 15 seed from the Big South. (Guarantee Lunardi's going to pop up in one of those SportsCenter soundbites saying the same thing. And Forde isn't exactly a nobody over there, either.) There's no other way to say it: this is a mighty fat slap in the face to Tennessee, and any hope Winthrop had of sneaking up on the Vols is now officially over.
The good news is that Winthrop is good enough and Tennessee just bad enough that it might not matter. It's way too late to back down from my pick now. But if the Vols do pull it out, expect to hear an awful lot of post-game chatter about "disrespect" and "wanting to show people we're for real," etc. I wouldn't blame them. Hell, it is disrespect. When you're the first 2 seed in history to have people take your chances of being upset seriously, no, people are not showing you a lot of respect.
(As an aside, can you imagine how weird it must be to be Lunardi? It's totally fair to say his Bracket picks could affect how the actual Bracket plays out. If he picks an upset like Winthrop or Utah St., it makes it somewhat less likely the upset will happen. Talk about your Catch-22's.)
There's still plenty of reasons to think Winthrop will manage it, whether they take the Vols by surprise or not:
1) Tennessee's greatest stength is its three-point shooting. Winthrop's, however, is denying the three-point shot. The Vols just don't have the players or the size to really attack Winthrop down low, where they're vulnerable. They also dont rely on dribble penetration much, which hurt the Eagles vs. CCU. Defensively, WU is a terrible match-up for the Vols.
2) Tennessee's press won't faze guards as steady as Gaynor and Martin.
3) Tennessee has zero tourney experience (aside from Pearl) while Winthrop has oodles.
4) Not that the Vols were bad on the road, but Greensboro is going to be pro-Winthrop.
5) Winthrop is just DUE. Eventually, Marshall is going to break through, and if it's not this year, when?
So there you go. Not the full breakdown I suppose I promised, but you can get that elsewhere.
Corrections from this morning's post:
1) The Million Dollar Bracket lives! Over at si.com, where actually I think it came back last year. Too bad I'm senile and forget things like this.
2) One change: Wisconsin over Arizona. I forgot that Olson is never able to get his team fired up for games like this.
3) I didn't do a good enough job this morning of making it clear that I, you, and anyone we know has a better shot at sailing to the moon in an enchanted canoe than filling out a Million Dollar Bracket. But it's always good to have goals, right?
Enjoy the Tourney, everyone. In the exceedingly unlikely event you live in Birmingham and are in the neighborhood, I'll be at the On Tap Sports Cafe in Hoover just about all day Friday. Come say hi. I'll have the BSC hat on and be rooting like a lunatic for any team with a seed in the teens.