Time to Dance: Region-by-Region picks ….
Word of warning: Proceed at your own risk. Selecting winners in the actual NCAA tournament isn’t necessarily my strong point. Of course, if we all knew what would happen, what fun would it be? For what it’s worth (lets be honest, not much) …. here are some sure-to-be-wrong picks for the upcoming 2010 tournament …
MIDWEST … Thought to be the toughest Region, Kansas’ road to the Final Four shouldn’t be too bumpy until the Elite 8. For all the big names, most potential threats are in the lower half of the bracket, meaning the Jayhawks only have to beat the survivor.
- 1st Round upset: San Diego State over Tennessee. Recent tourney history hasn’t been kind to the Vols.
- 2nd Round upset: Michigan State over Maryland. Given the Spartans’ rebounding ability – a weakness for the Terps – MSU gets enough second-chance points to survive.
- Headed to St. Louis: Kansas, Michigan State, Georgetown, Ohio State.
- Elite 8: Kansas and Ohio State. The Jayhawks are too strong for Michigan State and Evan Turner is the best player on the court against Georgetown (and just about anyone else).
- Final Four bound: Kansas.
WEST … Syracuse should actually like its draw. The Orange’s 2-3 zone can’t be simulated in practice, and both recent losses came to Big East teams familiar with how ‘Cuse plays. Certainly, Kansas State could challenge, but there isn’t a matchup in the bracket that would create a true disadvantage for the Orange.
- 1st Round upset: Florida State over Gonzaga. The Zags depend too heavily on shooting it well. Given BYU’s recent struggles in tourney play, don’t be surprised if the Gators win an up-tempo affair. An early tip is never favorable for those in the Rockies or further West.
- 2nd Round upsets: Butler over Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs have long overcome some early-season hiccups. Xavier over Pittsburgh. XU and the Atlantic 10 has been underrated most of the year.
- Headed to Salt Lake: Syracuse, Butler, Xavier, Kansas State.
- Elite 8: Syracuse and Kansas State.
- Final Four bound: Syracuse. The Orange won’t win it all, but they’ll make it to Indy.
EAST … Kentucky might be the most talented team in the Field of 65. They are also one of the youngest. Can John Wall and company continue to make plays if games get tight? The real wildcard is Texas. The Longhorns entered the season as a potential No. 1 seed and still have the talent to make it to the Final Four. UK could have a dangerous second-round game if UT outlasts Wake Forest.
- 1st Round upset: Missouri over Clemson. Either way, the Tigers win, right?
- 2nd Round upsets: Temple over Wisconsin. Talk about looking in the mirror; but this game isn’t played at the Kohl Center. Marquette over New Mexico. Love the Lobos, but this too is a mirror-image game, and few teams are better in tight games than the Golden Eagles.
- Headed to Syracuse: Kentucky, Temple, Marquette, West Virginia.
- Elite 8: Kentucky and West Virginia. Bob Huggins’ teams have not performed well recently in the NCAAs, but this team should break the trend.
- Final Four bound: Kentucky.
SOUTH … Every year there’s one Region that seems to blow up. This could be it. Despite its notable accomplishments, Duke is the No. 1 seed most prone to an early or mid-round exit. The Blue Devils simply haven’t been the same team outside Cameron Indoor, and they don’t have the advantage of playing two early games in Greensboro or Raleigh. It’s sort of a free-for-all. Time for a little fun.
- 1st Round upset: Louisville over California. Cards are up and down. They’re on the up cycle after losing in the Big East tourney.
- 2nd Round upsets: Texas A&M over Purdue. The Boilers look increasingly lost without Robbie Hummel. If you’re looking further, consider Richmond over Villanova. And take Louisville over Duke.
- Headed to Houston: Louisville, Texas A&M, Baylor, Richmond.
- Elite 8: Texas A&M and Baylor. Houston would be rockin’
- Final Four bound: Baylor. Now watch, the Bears will get upset by a talented Sam Houston team in Round 1.
FINAL FOUR … Kansas was our preseason No. 1; no reason to change now. The Jayhawks outlast Syracuse and face Kentucky for the National Championship. Hmm. Bill Self vs. John Calipari. Haven’t we seen how this ends? Kansas cuts down the nets.