The “home cooking” in this bracket starts with the top 2 seeds…North Carolina and Georgetown. The Tar Heels open up play in Winston Salem, a mere 80 or so miles from the Chapel Hill campus. Georgetown will also play in Winston Salem and, should they advance to the Sweet 16, play in the Meadowlands where they are sure to be heavily represented with a Hoyas contingent.
Plain and simple, this bracket is LOADED. The fourth seeded Texas Longhorns could easily have been a number 3 or even a 2 seed and not many people would have cried foul. Soon to be national Player of the Year Kevin Durant leads a four freshmen, one sophomore starting five that averages over 80 points a game. One concern for the Longhorns will be defense; they allow over 70 points a game. An off-shooting night could lead to an early tourney exit. One early exit is a lock…Durant will take his talents to the NBA next year.
North Carolina has all the tools to make it to Atlanta and win it all. Three freshmen, led by ACC Rookie of the Year Brandan Wright, and All-Amercian candidate Tyler Hansborough seemingly found their early season form in the ACC tournament. Questions still remain about this team’s toughness but, make no mistake, no one in powder blue will answer any more “tough” questions if they make it out of this region. By far the most arduous trail to the Final Four runs along the eastern seaboard.
UPSETS A PLENTY?
Outside of North Carolina, Georgetown, and Texas, every team with a higher seed in this bracket could be out after one round.
The most compelling match-up of all in the first round lies with Marquette and Michigan State. Teacher-Student. Tom-Tom. Crean-Izzo. These two have almost identical styles (go figure), almost identical teams, and almost identical stats to back it up. Marquette enters the NCAA’s losing five of eight and Michigan State, as with any Tom Izoo-led team, has saved its best basketball for late in the season, knocking off Wisconsin twice in less than two weeks. Marquette has done a better job of rebounding throughout the course of the season but you can NEVER count out Izzo, who has sent his Spartans to the Final Four4 times since 1999. If Drew Neitzel has a big day for the Spartans, it’s an early exit for Marquette.
Boston College gets great senior leadership from ACC player of the year Jared Dudley yet, at times, seems to only play well when they’re down 10-12 points. Tyrese Rice, a sophomore, averages almost 18 points per contest, and, hung 32 on Miami in the second round of the ACC tournament. They will miss the inside play of Sean Williams, who was dismissed from the team in January. If this team comes in focused and ready for a game-one challenge from Texas Tech, they should live to play on Saturday. If they play like they did in the ACC tournament, Bobby Knight and his long-range shooters (42% - 3FG, 4th in the country) could send the Eagles soaring home quickly. The one question for the Red Raiders: rebounding. They currently rank 285 in rebounding margin…OUCH!
USC advanced to the finals of the PAC-10 tournament, only to get shellacked by Oregon. The Trojans find themselves with a moniker they may have never seen: overachievers. This season was supposed to happen next season when highly-touted recruit OJ Mayo hits campus (if he can stay out of trouble). Freshman Taj Gibson, who shoots almost 60 percent from the field, will try to prevent the first round exit as they face an Arkansas team that comes into the tournament with 5 wins in six outings and start four juniors, making them one of the most experienced teams in the region. This will be a close, competitive contest but, I’ll take the Trojans based on the play of Lodrick Stewart. A big three by Stewart late in the game will, send Coach Tim Floyd on to face Texas in the second round. Careful what you wish for, USC fans.
It all comes down to the play of two men for Oral Roberts if they’re to pull off the biggest upset of the tourney this year…Caleb Green and Ken Tutt. Green is averaging almost 21 points a game and Green lights up the scoreboard for 16 a contest. Washington will try a more balanced attack. All five starters for the Cougars drop in at least 8 points per game. The Cougars finished second in the PAC-10 and they led the league in turnover margin. A lot of experts think that Oral Roberts could pull off the upset, and I’m in that pack. The Golden Eagles will not be intimidated by their surroundings (they beat Kansas earlier this year). If they continue their hot shooting, Cinderella has wings this year. And, I think they could also beat Vanderbilt or George Washington.
It’s hard for me not to take North Carolina to the Final Four but, with the best player in the country standing in the way, I just can’t do it. Texas will climb on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, narrowly escape over Georgetown in the Elite 8, and move on to Atlanta.