There is no other way to do this than to just dive straight into each bracket. Since we're in Wildcat Country, what better place to start than the Midwest, where the University of Kentucky Wildcats, their 23-game winning streak, and their Number 1 ranking begin their journey to the Final Four. The Wildcats are the prohibitive favorite, not just in this bracket but in the whole tournament.
UK will beat IUPUI in the opening round, disperse of the University of Nike, wait, Oregon in the second, Brigham Young in the Sweet 16, (wait, isn't BYU in the South?), and then defeat Big East Champ, Pitt (who eked one out over Marquette) to advance onward. In the lower half of the bracket, Southern Illinois in an upset, Dayton, Weber State in an upset, Marquette, and Indiana will reach the second round. Then, as mentioned before, Pitt will defeat a good Marquette squad before crumbling under a Big Blue Crush.
What's interesting in this bracket, is the possible chance the 4-seed Dayton and UK could win two games and NOT face each other. The NCAA Selection Committee, in what is possibly one of the more boneheaded moves of all time, put BYU in the South, where if they win, would be forced to play on a Sunday, which being a Mormon school, they will not do. So, instead of switching them with another 12-seed now, the NCAA is going to wait and see if they win. If they do, they will switch with the position of the 12-seed in the Midwest. If Weber State falls to Dayton, and Dayton moves on, BYU will switch with them. So, UK could go from playing a 4-seed to a 12-seed and then Texas could conceivably go from playing a 12-seed to a 4-seed. Did you follow that at all? It is also possible, but not likely, that BYU and Dayton, Tulsa, Weber State, or Wisconsin, could go to the Final Four representing a different region than when they began the tournament. It boggles the mind and could cause bracket sheets to be ripped up across the country. If you want a real dark, darkhorse, pencil in Dayton going to the Final Four, in the South.
Speaking of the South, BYU fiasco aside, it's pretty weak. The top two seeds, Texas and Florida won neither their regular season conference, nor tournament titles. Not very inspiring. Texas and LSU will meet in the second round, where the hope is for an LSU upset. If UConn answers the NCAA's prayers and beats BYU, they would likely face a weak Stanford squad, which they should beat. So, let's put LSU and UConn meeting, with UConn going on to the regional final. In the bottom half, defending champion Maryland will go down to David West and Xavier, who will beat a Florida squad that will have a tougher time than they think with Colorado. David West will continue to be the "X" factor and knock off UConn, putting the Musketeers in their first Final Four. Of course, Texas, Maryland, and Florida all have just as good of a shot, but for some crazy reason, Xavier seems to be the better pick. And don't forget about Dayton.
You may have heard a lot of talk about how the West is the toughest region. As Flava Flav might say, "Don't Believe the Hype!" Kansas is a weak 2-seed, having exactly one good non-conference win and playing a weaker Big 12 schedule than Texas or Oklahoma. Sports people like to tell you it is the name on the front of jersey that counts, not the back. In Duke's case, it is good to remember this. Although they did win the ACC Tournament, they finished 3rd in the regular season, were 3-5 on the road in conference play, and had one good non-conference win, (against Dayton) at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The front may say Duke, but the back doesn't say Dunleavy. Duke relies too much on a perimeter game and is weak inside.
If Duke senior Casey Sanders could hit the boards like he hits his girlfriend and Duke attacks the man-to-man defense like Andre Buckner attacks opposing coaches, then Duke could go to New Orleans. But, that's doubtful. Arizona is still the best team out here, and will beat Gonzaga, Illinois, and Kansas on their way to New Orleans. Creighton will out-perimeter Duke, with senior Kyle Korver leading the way, while Wisconsin-Milwaukee will send Notre Dame and erratic point guard Chris Thomas home early. The other big snafu by the Tournament Committee was placing Arizona and UK on the same side of the bracket. If everything goes according to seed, they will meet in the semifinals, instead of the finals. When you put this together with the BYU mess, NCAA Tournament Chairman Jim Livengood, Arizona's AD and a BYU alum, it looks just plain silly.
The last bracket is the East, where, and it's painful to say, it appears Louisville is getting shafted. UL is by far the best 4-seed and can make arguments for being seeded higher than Florida, Duke, and Xavier. Alas, they will go down in the second round to SEC Tourney runner-ups Mississippi State, who will defeat number 1 seed Oklahoma to advance to the regional finals. Penn will upset Oklahoma State, and Syracuse, Auburn, and Wake will advance to the second round. Syracuse will defeat Penn, then Wake, and then MSU at the regional played in Albany, NY, about two hours from the Syracuse campus.
So, the Final Four is UK, Arizona, Xavier, and Syracuse. If this happens you can bet CBS's Billy Packer will be screaming his head off about re-seeding the Final Four, but you should just follow my lead and ignore him. He'll be really upset no ACC team made it, so unless Coach K shows up to hold his hand, he will not be happy all weekend. UK will beat Arizona in one of the best college basketball games of the year. It will be one of those games, like Duke v. UNLV in 1991, that people will think was actually the final. Syracuse, led by freshman Carmelo Anthony, will knock off Xavier, setting up a rematch of the 1996 Championship Game. Unfortunately for Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim, a perennial bridesmaid, he will once again come up short and the University of Kentucky Wildcats will win their 8th NCAA Championship in their 100th season of basketball.
If UK accomplishes this, it would mean they would close out the 2002-2003 season with a 29-game winning streak. Simply amazing.
Well, there you have it. The entire tournament broken down. Simply follow my instructions and you will probably still lose your office pool to some secretary who is picking teams based on their mascots. And that is the beauty of March Madness.
HOME | THIS ISSUE | ACE ARCHIVES