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
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
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
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
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!