Bracketeering – Round 1

Bracket fever is in full swing across the country, otherwise known by our bosses as the least productive work week of the year.

Here at PortaBloggy, our “Bracketeering” (TradeMark not yet pending) doesn’t just stop at the NCAA Tournament. Our creative minds theorized what it would be like if colleges with active NBA players had these current players represent their respective schools in a mega NCAA/NBA joint bracket.

Think of it this way: The University of Kentucky has 20 active players in the NBA. This accounts for the most players produced by any school, so we gave them the #1 seed. On the flip side, Wake Forest only has 6 active players in the league, so we tagged them with the #16 seed.

Our selection committee (party of one) assembled the best possible 5-man lineup using these available players. All statistics were provided to us by our good friends over at Basketball Reference*.

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*we’re technically not friends yet, but that’s neither here nor there

Without further ado, on to…

. . .

Round 1

1. Kentucky – PG: John Wall, SG: Eric Bledsoe, F: Anthony Davis, PF: Karl Anthony Towns, C: DeMarcus Cousins
16. Wake Forest – PG: Chris Paul, SG: Jeff Teague, SF: James Johnson, PF: Al-Farouq Aminu, C: Tim Duncan

Kentucky – True to Kentucky fashion, the Wildcats kick things off as our #1 seed and tournament favorites. Top to bottom, this team is incredibly athletic, balanced, and star-studded, just like Calipari drew up. Players like Rajon Rondo, Julius Randle, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a dozen others couldn’t make the cut, showing how deep Kentucky’s presence in the NBA truly is.

The backcourt of John Wall, currently 3rd in the league in assists, and Bledsoe, averaging 20.4 PPG this year, would be a sufficient duo to take down most teams in this bracket on their own. Incredibly, they are joined by future MVP Anthony Davis, likely Rookie of the Year Karl Anthony Towns, and anchored by DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. If you can find a flaw with this team, you can have my job.

Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons feature arguably the greatest power forward of all time in Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental. Chris Paul, who has consistently averaged around 19 points and 10 assists per game during his tenure with the Clippers, is a future Hall of Famer himself. Jeff Teague has blossomed into an All Star guard in Atlanta, but Johnson and Aminu remain uninspiring. Sorry fans, you won’t be seeing a 16 over 1 upset this year. Duncan’s age, paired with CP3’s inability to win on a big stage [ducks for cover], leaves Wake Forest short of moving on.

Brandon’s Pick – Kentucky

. . .

8. Syracuse – PG: Michael Carter-Williams, SG: Dion Waiters, SF: Wesley Johnson, PF: Carmelo Anthony, C: Fab Melo
9. Texas – PG: D.J. Augustin, SG: Avery Bradley, SF: Kevin Durant, PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, C: Tristan Thompson

Lookout! It’s the battle of fanhoods for PortaBloggy contributors Kevin Hunker (Syracuse) and Brian Graney (Texas). Let’s see which writer gets bragging rights for the next year. Or, at least, until their first round of golf.

Syracuse – Syracuse is loaded with high-volume shot takers in Carmelo, Waiters, and MCW, but plagued by lackluster defense. Combined, the three scorers are shooting near 42% per game. It’s an eerily similar scouting report to Kevin Hunker’s own basketball skill set nonetheless. Wesley Johnson is a lanky wing who can play solid defense, but doesn’t have the height to effectively contain Durant (who can?). Poor Fab Melo gets his one shot to play next to the real Melo, but will struggle getting rebounds opposite Thompson.

Texas – A former MVP and a perennial top-10 MVP candidate, Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge respectively, are virtually unstoppable together. Durant’s elite versatility and Aldridge’s prowess in the paint is a sight we get to see once a year at the All Star Game.

Avery Bradley has settled in nicely as an above-average defender. Tristan Thompson, an offensive rebound juggernaut, is averaging 3.4 ORB’s per game throughout his career. His proficiency around the rim can keep alive any rare miss by either Durant or Aldridge. Augustin, nothing more than a replacement level player at this point in his career, appears to be this teams weak point. It will be tough sledding for Syracuse in guarding Texas’s bigs up front, so I’ll chalk this up as a win for Brian Graney.

Brandon’s Pick – Texas

. . .

5. UCLA – PG: Russell Westbrook, SG: Jrue Holiday, SF: Arron Afflalo, PF: Trevor Ariza, C: Kevin Love
12. Georgia Tech – PG: Jarrett Jack, SG: Iman Shumpert, SF: Thaddeus Young, PF: Chris Bosh, C: Derrick Favors

UCLA – What an outstanding backcourt. Next to Steph Curry tha god, Russell Westbrook is undoubtedly the best point guard in the game. A truly elite playmaker, he may even have supplanted Kevin Durant as the best player on his team [ducks for cover]. Paired alongside the versatile playmaker in Jrue Holiday, UCLA will be able to feed Kevin Love down low or around the three point line with ease. Add in underrated wings in Afflalo and Ariza, the scoring should never be in drought. Defense, however, may be the knock against this team.

Georgia Tech – A talented frontcourt in Young, Bosh and Favors won’t be enough to offset the deficiencies in the backcourt. Jack is a serviceable veteran and is capable enough to share the rock with the bigs up front. Shumpert, with all of his glorious hair, rap songs, and Instagram posts, has settled into the role of a “Three and D” shooting guard. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the frontcourt won’t be able to carry this team to a win over UCLA.

Brandon’s Pick – UCLA

. . .

4. North Carolina – PG: Ty Lawson, SG: Danny Green, SF: Vince Carter, PF: Harrison Barnes, C: Tyler Hansbrough
13. LSU – PG: Marcus Thornton, SG: Garrett Temple. SF: Anthony Randolph, PF: Brandon Bass, C: Glen Davis

North Carolina – The Tar Heels boast a talented, balanced lineup. Vince Carter may be riding into the sunset, but he can still be an efficient player and veteran presence for this young squad. Harrison Barnes is finally coming into his own on the Golden State Warriors, and is certainly due for a sizable payday this summer.

On offense, the backcourt of Lawson and Green can be quite competent. Lawson, an undersized point guard, is a dynamic scorer and passer when healthy and not in jail. Danny Green is as good as they come at knocking down threes.

On defense, Lawson probably should take a defensive driving course for his abundant DUI arrests…and for allowing opposing point guards to drive to the hoop. Similarly, Green is a known liability against quick, athletic guards, which puts UNC at a bit of a disadvantage on the boards.

LSU – Aside from Brandon Bass and Marcus Thornton, no other player on this roster is a quality NBA starter. Anthony Randolph never panned out despite his potential, and Garret Temple can kick rocks. Big Baby can take all the charges he wants, but at the end of the day, he’s still Big Baby.

As long as Lawson can avoid getting pulled over on his way to the game, UNC will have no problem handling this sub-par LSU team.

Brandons Pick – North Carolina

. . .

6. Arizona – PG: Jason Terry, SG: Andre Iguodala, SF: Derrick Williams, PF: Aaron Gordon, C: Jordan Hill
11. University of Connecticut – PG: Shabazz Napier, SG:Kemba Walker, SF: Rudy Gay, PF: Charlie Villanueva, C: Andre Drummond

Arizona – The trio of Williams, Gordon, and Hill up front feature some of the best raw, athletic talent. You may or may not have seen Aaron Gordon sit on air during the dunk contest, but now combine that with defensive guru and reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, and you have an Arizona team that can be aggressive with its strength and balance. Oh, and let’s not forget Jason “The Jet” Terry. The maker of many clutch baskets in his heyday. How can you bet against The Jet?

UConn – …and UConn is exactly why you can safely bet against The Jet. As the old adage goes, the three things you can count on in life: 1) death, 2) taxes, and 3)never bet against UConn in a tournament. Sure, Jeremy Lamb is a more talented player than Shabazz Napier. But Shabazz has that UConn magic. When in doubt kids, don’t ever doubt the UConn magic.

Brandon’s Pick – UConn

. . .

3. Duke – PG: Kyrie Irving, SG: JJ Redick, SF: Luol Deng, PF: Jabari Parker, C: Jahlil Okafor
14. Michigan – PG: Trey Burke, SG: Tim Hardaway, Jr. SF: Jamal Crawford, PF: Glen Robinson, C: Mitch McGary

Duke – You may hate Coach K, Laettner, the Cameron Crazies, and everything Dook, but you can’t deny their consistency year after year. The backcourt of Kyrie and Redick is a highly effective pairing. JJ is shooting an insane 48% from beyond the arc this year, and Irving has an effective field goal percentage at over 50%.

Deng, while getting up in age, has been a bulldog on defense throughout this career. Rounding this team off with talented young stars in Parker and Okafor, this Duke squad should have great ball movement and chemistry, and will find a way to win games.

Michigan – This version of the Fab Five doesn’t compare to the original of the 90’s. Former 6th man of the year and Mr. Crossover, Jamal Crawford is the only veteran on this team. The other four all played together in the NCAA championship game against Louisville in 2013. With none of those four standing out as anything more than young bloods learning the game, the Wolverines won’t have the experience to outlast the Blue Devils. ESPN won’t be making a 30 for 30 on this one, folks.

Brandon’s Pick – Duke

. . .

7. Florida – PG: Nick Calathes, SG: Bradley Beal, SF: Chandler Parsons, PF: Al Horford, C: Joakim Noah

10. Washington – PG: Isaiah Thomas, SG: Nate Robinson, SF:Terrence Ross, PF: Quincy Pondexter, C: Spencer Hawes

Florida – Featuring Billy Donovan era NCAA champions in Horford and Noah, it would be hard for opposing big men to clean up the glass against these two. Noah, who plays with passion and loves to get under opposing team’s skin, may be the scrappiest center in the game.

Parsons, shooting 42% from the 3 this year and 49% overall, and Bradley Beal, whose numbers are increasing all around year after year, form a solid core for this Gators team. As for Nick Calathes? Kicking rocks.

Washington – Breakout player and first-time All Star Isaiah Thomas is taking the league by storm. The pint-sized point guard is 10th in scoring this year, and quietly leading the Celtics on a charge into the postseason. Nate Robinson may be bouncing around the league, but there’s nothing more fun than watching Krypto-Nate bounce to the rim. He even did it wearing Shaq’s elephant sized shoes!

Terrence Ross is a complementary piece to this team, just like his complementary role to Lowry and DeRozan in Toronto. However, Pondexter can kick rocks and Hawes is terribly overrated and overpaid, whose numbers and minutes are diminishing each season.
Bracketeering at PortaBloggy isn’t for the faint of heart.

While Florida is the superior team, anything can happen in March (Hi FGCU). The diminutive duo of Isaiah and Nate will blow up for alternating 15-point scoring runs, and the Huskies pull out the upset in OT. If that’s too much for you to handle, you too can kick rocks with Calathes and Temple.

Brandon’s Pick – Washington

. . .

2. Kansas – PG: Mario Chalmers, SG: Andrew Wiggins, SF: Paul Pierce, PF: Marcus Morris, C: Markieff Morris
15. USC – PG: O.J. Mayo, SG: Nick Young, SF: DeMar DeRozan, PF: Taj Gibson, C: Nikola Vucevic

Kansas – Led by The Truth, the Jayhawks are a well balanced squad. Pierce may be old, but he’s adjusted to the game in his elder age rather nicely. Chalmers, love him or hate him, is a solid distributor and has plenty of big game experience from his time with the Heat.

Former top overall pick Andrew Wiggins would benefit with real life experience playing under Pierce’s wing, rather than the abyss that exists in Minnesota in regards to developing young stars. Wiggins is an effective scorer still learning the game, but has the talent to contribute at a high level today. Hopefully they don’t ship him up to Boston when he’s ready to win a ring…

The Morris twins, headcases they may be, have that from the womb to the hoop chemistry. Both big bodies and above average rebounders, they will keep Kansas competitive in every game.

USC – Let’s go from the bigs down for this one… Vucevic is an underappreciated player on a rebuilding Orlando team. A big body with a deft touch, many teams would be more than happy to have Vucevic anchoring the paint. Taj Gibson, more of a 6th man than a starter, has the length and experience to contribute nicely.

DeMar DeRozan has improved tremendously over the course of his career, and earned a well-deserved All Star berth this season. He reminds me of a young Kobe-lite. As for Swaggy P and OJ Mayo…oh boy. Unfortunately for USC, they’ll end up forfeiting this game as the two will be ejected for fighting (each other) in the first half. Swaggy P get’s KO’d in case you were wondering.

Brandon’s Pick – Kansas

And that about wraps up Round 1 coverage. Round 2 featuring the Elite 8, Final 4, and the Championship game is coming your way later on.

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