One Shining Bracket? This could be it.
One Shining Bracket? This could be it.
By JIM O’CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
Some day, someone will fill out the perfect bracket sheet.
Forget any money that might come that person’s way through an office pool or an online competition. Sixty-four for 64. From the play-in game through the playing of “One Shining Moment” on championship Monday night, not a red “X” on the sheet.
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.
Here’s one man’s sheet, a page that is guaranteed to remain perfect until at least Tuesday night’s opening-round game (seedings in parentheses, winners in uppercase):
KANSAS (1) vs. Lehigh (16) — The last time Kansas, the overall No. 1 seed, met a team from the Patriot League in the first round Bucknell beat the Jayhawks 64-63. Just throwing it out.
UNLV (8) vs. Northern Iowa (9) — Both teams were ranked during the season, and the Runnin’ Rebels were helped by going through the rivalries at the top of the Mountain West.
MICHIGAN STATE (5) vs. New Mexico State (12) — Big Ten teams are usually so relieved to not be playing a conference game that they get off to a good start in the NCAA tournament.
MARYLAND (4) vs. Houston (13) — Greivis Vasquez of the Terrapins is capable of a huge scoring game, and the Cougars are not the team to stop him.
SAN DIEGO STATE (11) vs. Tennessee — Steve Fisher’s Aztecs won the Mountain West tournament, so they didn’t have to worry about getting in. Now Tennessee must worry about trying to stop freshman Kawhi Leonard, who had 16 points and 21 rebounds in the title game.
GEORGETOWN (3) vs. Ohio (14) — The Hoyas have turned things around and had a chance at beating West Virginia in Big East final.
OKLAHOMA STATE (7) vs. Georgia Tech (10) — You have to go with a player nicknamed “Big Game James,” and the Cowboys have one in James Anderson.
OHIO STATE (2) vs. Cal Santa Barbara (15) — Even if it’s somehow close, the Buckeyes have Evan Turner coming off an incredible Big Ten tournament.
KANSAS vs. University of Nevada, Las Vegas — The Jayhawks didn’t have the No. 1 ranking most of the season for nothing.
MARYLAND vs. Michigan State — Two star guards in this one; Vasquez is peaking while Kalin Lucas of the Spartans seems to still be coming back from the ankle injury.
GEORGETOWN vs. San Diego State — The Hoyas’ backcourt of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman haven’t clicked in the same game for a while.
OHIO STATE vs. Oklahoma State — The Buckeyes have had success in slowing down star players and potent offenses.
KANSAS vs. Maryland — This game is in St. Louis, and that means a lot of blue in the building.
GEORGETOWN vs. Ohio State — John Thompson III’s teams have usually done a good job defending star players such as Turner.
KANSAS vs. Georgetown — Jayhawks center Cole Aldrich won’t have to chase Georgetown’s Greg Monroe all over the court, because there is plenty of help in defending the middle.
SYRACUSE (1) vs. Vermont (16) — Put away the history books. Yes, it was Vermont that knocked off the Orange in an overtime thriller in 2005, but the Catamounts don’t have T.J. Sorrentine and Taylor Coppenrath and Syracuse’s zone is the best it has been under Jim Boeheim.
GONZAGA (8) vs. Florida State (9) — The Zags are used to traveling for big games, so the trip to Buffalo won’t bother them.
UTEP (12) vs. Butler (5) — The Miners have a big-time power player in Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter and a big scorer in Randy Culpepper. And there always has to be a 12 seed beating a 5.
MURRAY STATE (13) vs. Vanderbilt (4) — The Racers already have won 30 games, and most of those were because of some stingy defense. The Commodores managed just 52 points in the SEC quarterfinal loss to Mississippi State.
XAVIER (6) vs. Minnesota (11) — The Musketeers are about as steady as they get. The Golden Gophers beat Purdue by 27 in the Big Ten semifinals, then lost to Ohio State by 29 in the title game.
PITTSBURGH (3) vs. Oakland (14) — This could be confusing for the fans. Pittsburgh’s student cheering section is called the “Oakland Zoo” after a local neighborhood. At least one group wearing Oakland shirts will leave happy.
BYU (7) vs. Florida (10) — Jimmer Fredette had 45 and 30 points in his last two games for BYU, which has lost seven straight first-round games. Florida might just be happy being back in the tournament for the first time since repeating as national champion in 2007.
KANSAS STATE (2) vs. North Texas (15) — The Wildcats have their highest seed ever. The Mean Green matched theirs.
SYRACUSE vs. Gonzaga — This will be the Orange’s last game near home because the winner of this game in Buffalo moves on to Salt Lake City. The zone defense will make things tough for the versatile Matt Bouldin.
UTEP vs. Murray State — The “underdog” special goes to the Miners, a team that hadn’t lost since January, winning 16 straight before losing in the Conference USA championship game.
PITTSBURGH vs. Xavier — This will be a defensive coach’s dream game. First team to 60 wins, and that will be the Panthers.
KANSAS STATE vs. Brigham Young University — Can’t you see Wildcats coach Frank Martin stomping and glaring as the Wildcats find a way to cool down Fredette?
SYRACUSE vs. University of Texas at El Paso — The Orange should be at full strength by the second weekend, and the zone is just too big on the baseline for the Miners.
PITTSBURGH vs. Kansas State — The Panthers found a way to beat some of the better teams in the Big East and stopping a backcourt of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen is right up their alley.
SYRACUSE vs. Pittsburgh — The Panthers were kept from the Final Four last season by a fellow Big East school in a classic loss to Villanova. Same result, different school this time.
KENTUCKY (1) vs. East Tennessee State (16) — In the last three years East Tennessee State has beaten Georgia and Arkansas of the Southeastern Conference. The Buccaneers won’t get a third.
TEXAS (8) vs. Wake Forest (9) — Two of the most disappointing teams meet and you have to figure the bigger disappointment will prevail.
CORNELL (12) vs. Temple (5) — The Big Red isn’t your average Ivy league team. It has a 7-foot center, a great shooter and a solid point guard. Cornell coach Steve Donahue was an assistant to current Temple coach Fran Dunphy at Penn. Dunphy is looking to snap a 10-game losing streak in the NCAA tournament.
WISCONSIN (4) vs. Wofford (13) — The Badgers prevail in the only first-round matchup between schools that begin with the same letter.
MARQUETTE (6) vs. Washington (11) — The Golden Eagles live to win close games. They played 21 games against Big East opponents; 12 were decided by four points or less with Marquette winning seven of the last eight games in that situation.
NEW MEXICO (3) vs. Montana (14) — The Lobos have the highest ranking in school history and the best by a team from the Mountain West.
MISSOURI (10) vs. Clemson (7) — Two “middle-of-the-pack” teams from power conferences, but Missouri coach Mike Anderson has a lot more NCAA success than Clemson’s Oliver Purnell who is 0-5 in the tournament.
WEST VIRGINIA (2) vs. Morgan State (15) — The Mountaineers won the Big East tournament by keeping the score low, the pressure intense and giving the ball to Da’Sean Butler at the end.
KENTUCKY vs. Texas — The Wildcats’ trio of freshmen will have an NCAA game under their belt and junior Patrick Patterson should be able to dominate inside against Dexter Pittman.
WISCONSIN vs. Cornell — The refs might be the only people in the building not wearing red. The Badgers have become a well-rounded team with the return of Jon Leuer from a broken wrist.
MARQUETTE vs. New Mexico — Lazar Hayward of the Golden Eagles is a tough matchup spending his time down low and outside the 3-point line. If it’s close, Marquette gets the nod.
WEST VIRGINIA vs. Missouri — The Mountaineers will slow down the Tigers, and coach Bob Huggins still won’t be wearing a tie.
WISCONSIN vs. Kentucky — Badgers coach Bo Ryan has an exalted status among coaches for how he prepares his teams, and this will be his biggest challenge. Wisconsin has the speed to stay with Wildcats point guard John Wall and the bulk to keep DeMarcus Cousins away from the basket.
WEST VIRGINIA vs. Marquette — Another all-Big East matchup with a Final Four berth at stake. West Virginia won the only matchup this season, 63-62.
WEST VIRGINIA vs Wisconsin — The Mountaineers have been one of those teams that hung around the top 10 all season without a lot of fanfare, and Huggins is more than happy to have a team like that win.
DUKE (1) vs. Ark.-Pine Bluff-Winthrop winner (16) — Arkansas-Pine Bluff is making its first appearance. Winthrop has won one game in nine trips. Duke has Coach K and three pretty good players whose last names start with S.
LOUISVILLE (9) vs. California (8) — Rick Pitino sounded like a coach on a cause when the Cardinals lost their first game in the Big East tournament. Pac-10 teams don’t have a great record at making a trip across the country.
UTAH STATE (12) vs. Texas A&M (5) — Trust me, take the Aggies in this one. Stew Morrill’s Utah State team cracked the field as an at-large and will be playing with the hopes of all the mid-majors who don’t get that reward.
SIENA (13) vs. Purdue (4) — The Saints would have been a good pick based on their recent NCAA tournament success that includes a win each of the last two seasons. They become a better choice because Purdue just isn’t the same team without Robbie Hummel.
NOTRE DAME (6) vs. Old Dominion (11) — The Fighting Irish have undergone a complete overhaul in terms of offensive style and then they get Luke Harangody, the second-leading scorer in the nation, back from an injury.
BAYLOR (3) vs. Sam Houston State (14) — The Bears will prevail over the Bearkats for some Texas bragging rights.
RICHMOND (7) vs. Saint Mary’s (10) — The Spiders battled through a tough Atlantic-10 season, setting a school record with 26 regular-season wins and moving into the Top 25 for the first time in 24 years.
VILLANOVA (2) vs. Robert Morris (15) — This is the kind of game the Wildcats need after losing five of their last seven to Big East teams.
DUKE vs. Louisville — The Blue Devils won’t have to worry about being beaten on the boards, and they usually prevail in a backcourt-dominated game.
SIENA vs. Utah State — The Saints are a veteran team that relies on doing the little things to win. This sounds like a Bracket Buster game in late February.
NOTRE DAME vs. Baylor — The Fighting Irish play defense well enough to handle the likes of LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter, Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy.
VILLANOVA vs. Richmond — The thing that has hurt the Wildcats late in the season was interior defense after teams beat the trap. The Spiders don’t have that kind of interior game.
DUKE vs. Siena — The Saints’ run ends, but there could be a scare here as well.
NOTRE DAME vs. Villanova — The Wildcats won the only meeting during the season but that was when the Irish tried to outscore teams instead of beating them.
DUKE vs. Notre Dame — The Blue Devils get back to the Final Four for the first time since 2004 and the three Ss — Scheyer, Singler and Smith — are the main reason.
KANSAS vs. Syracuse — The Jayhawks move a step closer to being a preseason No. 1 that went on to the title. This is the kind of game where Kansas’ bench steps up big, especially Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed.
DUKE vs. West Virginia — The country will be split on Duke as it always is with fans of the Blue Devils recalling the days of Laettner and Hurley.
KANSAS vs. Duke — The names alone make for a great night, but Bill Self can move himself up that huge step to being a coach with two national championships as these Jayhawks cap a season they started and finished on top.