Tourney predictions: KU’s the team to beat

Snubs, bubbles, No. 1s, upsets, buzzer beaters, brackets of

death … it’s all happening as we speak, after hearing

the pairings announced for this season’s NCAA tournament.

As a self-proclaimed bracketologist and college hoops junkie,

I’ve seen what I like, and – for the most part – I like

what I see. Only one team truly got the shaft in my book, and that

was Mississippi State. It won half of its SEC games, won 23 games

(including Vandy, Florida, Old Dominion, and at both Houston and

UCLA) and twice took Kentucky to the limit, culminating in its SEC

Championship game loss to the Wildcats in overtime. They’re a

tourney-level team, more so than the likes of Florida, UTEP and

perhaps even Minnesota.

Oh well, that’s gonna happen. It’s great debate now,

but in the end, it’s all relatively meaningless. Neither

Mississippi State, Minnesota, UTEP nor Florida will be making the

Final Four anytime soon, so let’s talk about the teams who

might, shall we?

I agree with Duke being a No. 1 seed over West Virginia, but

they’re both unbelievable teams. I see both making extremely

deep runs in this thing. Going region by region, this is what I

think you’ll see go down in one of the most wide-open

tourneys in years.

Midwest Region – First Round Winners

Kansas – Easy call, as KU was this year’s overall No.

1 team. Lehigh will be no match.

UNLV – Great matchup with Northern Iowa, but UNLV’s

vastly underrated, and the Panthers are the exact opposite.

Michigan State – New Mexico State made a great run to win

its conference tourney, but the Spartans hardly get beat this


Maryland – Wouldn’t put it past Houston to win this

one actually, but Maryland has the veteran leadership at the right

positions to hold them off.

San Diego State – My first upset of the opening round, as

Tennessee just isn’t the same without Tyler Smith, Cameron

Tatum, Brian Williams and Melvin Goins, four of their top-eight


Georgetown – They can beat anybody, as they proved in the

Big East Tourney. Ohio just can’t match up with the size of

the Hoyas.

Oklahoma State – Georgia Tech’s prized freshmen have

impressed of late, which will make this game a fun one to watch.

Honestly, it could go either way. Call this one a hunch more than


Ohio State – Evan Turner’s the best player in the

field, including John Wall and Sherron Collins. The Gauchos of UCSB

will have their hands full, and then some.

West Region – First Round Winners

Syracuse – The loss of Arinze Onuaku will be huge.

He’s a massive part of that frontcourt. Won’t hurt them

against Vermont, though.

Gonzaga – Terrific first-round matchup against Florida

State, but the Zags know how to get it done in this tourney.

UTEP – Nobody wants to play the Miners in the Big Dance. Of

course, nobody wants to play Butler, either! Whoever wins has a

chance to make a

deep run, and by that, I mean a possible Elite Eight

appearance … I’m not kidding.

Vanderbilt – One of my favorite teams in the tourney this

year is led by a team full of veterans who’ve failed here

before when they should’ve gone further. I like the

athleticism of Murray State, but this isn’t a good team for

it to be playing.

Xavier – They put a scare in teams every year. This season,

they’ll make a sound statement over the Big Ten runner-ups.

Pittsburgh – I really don’t like Pittsburgh this year,

but I surely don’t think Oakland has the goods to knock them


BYU – This is the perfect first rounder for the Cougars.

They’ll be able to overwhelm a Gators team who can’t

match their frontcourt size.

Kansas State – Haven’t played their best down the

stretch, but they’re good enough to beat anybody on any given

day. Sorry, North Texas. No upset special here.

East Region – First Round Winners

Kentucky – There’s no Timmy Smith for East Tennessee

State to rely on any more. This one should be a blowout.

Wake Forest – One of the more intriguing first-round games,

but I like the way Texas is playing a lot less than the way Wake

is, which isn’t saying much.

Temple – I love Cornell’s team, but Temple’s a

team they didn’t wanna see. They play similar styles, but the

Owls play it better, with better players to do it.

Wisconsin – Congrats to Wofford for making its first-ever

NCAA tournament, but Wisconsin won’t be losing this one. It’s

solid all the way around.

Marquette – They know how to win games – it’s

that simple. Washington’s playing well, but it hasn’t had to

face Marquette’s schedule. Think this will end up being at least a

15-point win for the Golden Eagles.

New Mexico – The Lobos are the only non-BCS conference

school to get a top-three seed, and deservedly so. Montana’s

lucky to even be here. Shouldn’t be close.

Clemson – Can’t wait for this game. Missouri’s

so erratic, it’s impossible to gauge how they’ll play

from night to night, which is why I have to go with the fave here.

West Virginia – The Big East champs are coming off the

highest of highs after winning their first conference title in

school history. They’ll make mince meat of Morgan State.

South Region – First Round Winners

Duke – They get the winner of the Arkansas-Pine

Bluff/Winthrop game, but does it really matter? Winthrop’s

the best matchup regionally-wise, but Duke will win this game by 25

points, regardless.

Louisville – Cal earned that No. 8 seed, but

Louisville’s easily the best lower-seed team in the Big

Dance. They’re battle tested and should take this one going


Texas A&M – I was thinking strongly about taking Utah

State in the upset here, and that could definitely happen. But

A&M’s an underrated squad who I like winning not just one

game, but two, in this tournament.

Siena – Finally, another upset, and one I predict a lot of

people will also be choosing. The Saints have a nice history of

upsets here, and getting to face a Robbie Hummel-less Purdue team

makes this the ideal spot to pull off another one.

Notre Dame – I like Old Dominion a lot, but the Irish have

finally figured this thing out. Should be a close one, though.

Baylor – One of the true darkhorses this season I believe.

No reason they can’t go really far, as they have a nicely

balanced team. Sam Houston State got put in a bad spot here.

Richmond – I can see people everywhere playing the

10th-seeded Gaels of Saint Mary’s in this game, but I believe

that’s a mistake. Richmond’s played in relative

obscurity in the A-10, but they’re strong.

Villanova – Robert Morris is a good team, but if you think

Scottie Reynolds is gonna allow ‘Nova to lose in the first round,

you’re kidding yourself.

Second Round Winners

Kansas – Seems like an easy play, but UNLV won’t be an

easy out at all. They play everyone tough. Won’t quite be

enough to take down the Jayhawks, though.

Michigan State – Getting to the Sweet 16s is what the

Spartans do. Maryland will make this one a game, but it isn’t the

kind of team that can knock off a Tom Izzo squad this season.

Georgetown – I love what San Diego State brings to the

table, but Georgetown’s playing as well as any team in the

country right now. If he doesn’t go pro (which is likely),

Greg Monroe would be next season’s preseason Player of the


Ohio State – Has all the makings of a really fun game, with

two of the best players in the country facing off with each other

(Ohio State’s Evan Turner, Oklahoma State’s James

Anderson). Turner seems like a man on a mission, though.

Gonzaga – Here’s a shocker for ya. We all know the

Zags can knock off any team anywhere, and Syracuse is ripe for a

loss with a six-man rotation. Gonzaga will be able to guard Wes

Johnson better with Onuaku out of action.

Vanderbilt – I was as close as can be to selecting UTEP to

make the Sweet 16, but Vandy should be able to weather this storm

and move on, but I see an overtime thriller in the making.

Xavier – In what is easily the most-destroyed region at this

point, Xavier makes yet another move to a Sweet 16 in the

up-for-grabs West. I just don’t see Pitt doing much in this

tourney. They’ve been a letdown year after year.

Kansas State – Another game that could go either way almost

had me booting this No. 2 seed, but I just don’t think

BYU’s the team to make that happen, despite the efforts of

Jimmer Fredette, one of the most underrated guards in the entire


Kentucky – Wake’s an easy matchup for the Cats in the

second round. And if Texas gets by Wake instead, it’d be just as

easy. UK has, by far, the easiest road to the Sweet 16 of any team

in this tourney.

Temple – They’re as solid as they come, having

dominated the A-10 all season long. Wisconsin’s got game,

too, of course, but I like the Owls in a game between two teams

with very similar styles of play.

Marquette – Don’t sleep on this team, folks. Beating

the No. 3 Lobos of New Mexico won’t be much of an upset, as

I’ll take a Big East over a Mountain West more often than


West Virginia – Missouri would actually be a tougher battle

for the Mountaineers than Clemson would. But I already have the

Tigers moving on, so West Virginia gets an easy one in the second


Duke – How about the Blue Devils potentially having to play

Louisville in the second round?! That could be the toughest game

it’ll have to play until the Final Four. I’m taking

Duke here, but just barely. I know I wouldn’t wanna have

anything to do with the Cardinals in this tournament.

Texas A&M – One of the surprise Sweet 16 teams should be

the Aggies of A&M. They have a seriously nice draw. Not easy,

by any means, but nicer than almost any other mid-seeded team.

Baylor – Notre Dame won’t be an easy out. But Baylor

has the bigs to be able to handle Luke Harangody, and the athletes

to stick with the good shooters of the Irish as well.

Villanova – Richmond’s gonna give them all sorts of

hell, but ‘Nova will find a way, even if it’s by the slimmest

of margins.

Elite Eight

Kansas – Now

this is a top-notch Sweet 16 game with the Jayhawks going

against Michigan State. This isn’t the same Spartans team as

in years past, though. Kansas will take this one without much of a


Georgetown – Another tremendous pairing – Hoyas/Buckeyes

– Greg Monroe/Evan Turner – Big East/Big Ten. It could

absolutely go either direction, but Georgetown’s won bigger

games this year.  This is why I’m going with them.

Vanderbilt – This is big news if the Commodores can make it

to the Elite Eight, but it becomes more of a reality if Gonzaga

takes down Syracuse, as I’ve already predicted. It’ll

be Vandy’s best season ever if it’s able to pull it off,

having never made an Elite Eight in school history.

Kansas State – I’m not a huge Wildcats fan this

season, but they have a terrific road in order to do well in this

thing. I have them beating Xavier in the Sweet 16 round, but if it

were Pitt instead, I’d still say the same thing.

Kentucky – Whether they’re playing Temple or

Wisconsin, I don’t see them having any problems whatsoever.

Sure, Temple’s tough on some teams, but they don’t have

the athletes to compete with the fab freshmen of UK.

West Virginia – Nobody wants to play these guys right now,

but they also don’t wanna have to play Marquette again,

either. They only beat them by one at home for the only time they

met this year. They’re definitely the better team, but this

is a tough test for sure.

Duke – Texas A&M could give ‘em some problems, but

in the end the Devils are easily the better team here. They have

the easiest bracket as a whole, which shouldn’t be the case

for a team that was the lowest rated of the No. 1 seeds.

Villanova – I really love Baylor. In fact, I think they may

be the better team here. However, I just don’t see them being

able to put together a three-game run with their personnel. ‘Nova

may not be title-worthy, but it knows how to win these kind of


Final Four

Kansas – The No. 1 team in the country makes it happen, as

it should. I just said the same thing about Baylor that I’m

getting ready to say about Georgetown: they’re a tremendously

talented team, but beating too many good teams in a row may be

asking too much. They’ll be all out of miracles by the time

they reach the Jayhawks. Go with the ‘chalk’ in this


Kansas State – Beating Vandy shouldn’t be a problem.

Their toughest matchup would’ve come if the Orangemen were

still around. Either way, how exciting would a fourth matchup with

Kansas be, and this time in the Final Four?! I think it’ll

happen, thereby making it the biggest sports attraction in the long

history of that state. Yes, that’s a bold statement, but I

challenge you to find a bigger one.

West Virginia – That’s right, folks, I have the

Mountaineers taking down the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. Deal with

it! I really don’t think UK has what it takes to win the

whole thing this season. Three of their top four players are

freshmen. That is asking a lot of any team, no matter how talented

are those three guys. WVU is as motivated as any team in the

country, and it has the coaching mettle to get the job done.

Duke – This is an easy call actually. I don’t think

Villanova should get

this far, but I just couldn’t find anyone who could

beat them ‘til now. Unless the Devils can’t make a

three for their lives, they’ll win this one handily.

Championship – Kansas vs. West Virginia

Kansas State’s lost just six games since the New Year, and

Kansas accounts for three of them. Add a fourth, as it just doesn’t

match up with the Jayhawks. Whereas West Virginia matches up with

just about anybody, and you can count Duke as one of those teams. I

love what the Mountaineers are doing right now and see them making

their first-ever finals appearance this season.

In the end, though, those teams who get there for the first time

rarely get over the hump. Kansas has been there before, having won

just two seasons ago. They’ll do so again this year. Your

2010 national champions will once again be Rock Chalkin’ all

the way back to Lawrence, Kansas!