Luke Graham: Call me 'money,' it's tournament season

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Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Luke here.

There are three things that are holy in the Graham family.

St. Patrick's day.

Thanksgiving.

And, of course, the NCAA tournament.

It's not hard to admit March may be the best sports month of the year. I would like take this moment to admit I am a basketball junkie. The number of college basketball games I watched this year is closely approaching the century mark.

I don't know if that's an indictment on my social life, or a high five to my dedication.

But one thing I know - ESPN's Joe Lunardi aside - is I am rock solid at picking the tournament. Some call it a gift. I call it a skill.

Besides a brief lapse last year (Thanks, George Mason) that led to a run across downtown Boulder in female garments, I'm usually money.

Money in the bank, baby!

So without further ado, the cheat sheet that will help you walk around the office with your head a little higher.

Several rules to follow.

1. Forget the mid-majors.

Every year one makes a run to the Sweet 16 - sometimes to the Final Four like George Mason - but keep away from the human-interest stories and stick with teams from the major conferences.

2. Ride teams with good guard play.

No matter who the champion was, or Final Four team for that matter, the last couple of years, there always has been a common; great guard play. This year, look at Marquette, Butler, Oregon and Texas A&M.

3. Chalk up Texas in the Elite 8 - maybe the Final Four.

Why? KD or Kevin Durant. The boy has game. He's the best player in college, probably a top 10 player in the NBA right now, along with an improving point guard D.J. Augustine. Don't ride them too hard, however, as Longhorn head coach Rick Barnes may be the equivalent of Roy Munson in "Kingpin."

4. Follow good coaches.

Where Rick Barnes is the ying, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Billy Donovan are the yang. Good coaches are as important in the tournament as good players.

5. Four teams you wouldn't expect to advance, but will.

Creighton's senior loaded, has great guard play and a good coach in Dana Altman. Chalk them in the Sweet 16.

Winthrop almost beat a No. 2 seed in Tennessee last year. They return everyone, and will make it to the Elite 8 this year.

Washington State. Hey, they're a No. 3 seed, but little known coming out of the Pac-10. They were my favorite team to watch the last quarter of the season. Plus guard Derrick Low, one of the best guards in the nation, fills the quota for coolest tattoo in the nation - a tribal pattern from ankle to hip.

UNLV has a real shot of making it to the Sweet 16. They get to it on the defensive end and have four capable scorers.

6. Chalk this up as your Final Four.

Georgetown, Texas A&M, Kansas and Florida.

Why? It's really simple. They all have post players you can dump the ball into and expect a bucket, foul or dish out for a 3-pointer. Plus, all the teams fill the above quota.

7. The champs.

I can't give that away, I have a family reunion coming up. I still need to be able to walk around the Graham-clan with my head high.

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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