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Bracket breakdown


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Three storylines

1. Catch these coaches now: Because they won't be at their East Regional schools for long. Virginia Commonwealth's Anthony Grant could be gone in a few weeks. Ditto for American's Jeff Jones. Travis Ford isn't going to retire at Oklahoma State. Nor will Sean Miller retire at Xavier. These are facts. Well, that was conjecture. But I bet I'm right.

2. Salt in the Kentucky wound: As if it wasn't galling enough that Kentucky didn't reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years. As if that wasn't painful enough for second-year coach Billy Gillispie and his supporters. But now, the guy who left Kentucky in a huff, Tubby Smith, has taken dreadful Minnesota to the tournament ... while Kentucky sits this one out. Incredible. Plus Gillispie's old team, Texas A&M, made it. But the Aggies are in another region, so we're not talking about them here.

3. Villanova staying home: Third seeds don't often get treated as well as Villanova, which will stay home for two games by playing in the Philadelphia pod. Meaning an easy trip to the Sweet 16 for the Wildcats, even though their second-round game with UCLA would be difficult on a true neutral floor. This one won't be neutral, and Villanova won't have a tough time until it reaches the Sweet 16 and play Duke -- where I say Villanova will win. Because I'm a Jay Wright guy.

East Regional picks

Who will win: Villanova is my pick, and that scares me because the Sweet 16 will be tough for the 'Cats, against Duke. In the region final Villanova should see Pittsburgh, which it beat by 10 earlier this season (at home).

Dark-horse pick: Not one. Not from this region. This is the chalkiest region in the history of chalky regions. Remember that when you're filling our your brackets, and if you take my advice and go chalk in this region and win some money, please send some to me.

Most likely upset: OK, so it's not all chalk. No. 12 seed Wisconsin will beat fifth-seeded Florida State. Badgers coach Bo Ryan is not to be trifled with, whereas Florida State's Leonard Hamilton is a truffle to be devoured by real coaches. Nope -- not a Leonard Hamilton guy.

Best mascot: How about "worst mascot"? American is the Eagles, which is easy and cliché and lame. The mascot for a school called "American" should have been a heavy guy on a recliner watching syndicated shows of Family Guy. Or whatever comes on CBS, I mean.

Best point guard: Pittsburgh's Levance Fields has the most absurd assist-turnover ratio I've ever seen from a college point guard, nearly 4-to-1. That happens in the NBA, but not in college, where anything over 3-to-1 is incredible. But 4-to-1? Absurd.

Best post player:DeJuan Blair is phat. Maybe fat. Whatever he is, he's huge and he's great, averaging 15.6 points and 12.2 rebounds. He's Ontario Lett with game, is what he is.

Best coach: Mike Krzyzewski. You were expecting another name? You can't be serious. Coach K is in the midst of rewriting every coaching record that matters -- at Duke, in the ACC and even nationally. The man is a monster.

Best reputation: UCLA has won more national titles (11) than any school, and has almost won more titles than any two schools. Kentucky is second at seven, followed by Indiana at five.

Five stars on display

1. Derrick Brown (Xavier): I love dunkers who can shoot, and Brown is one of those. He's shooting 43.8 percent on 3-pointers and is one of the most acrobatic players in the country. Oh, and he's 6-8. No wonder the NBA loves him.

2. Sam Young (Pittsburgh): Young has been overshadowed this season by the emergence of DeJuan Blair, but Young averages 18.7 ppg and is one of the best small forwards in the country.

3. Dante Cunningham (Villanova): Awful as a freshman (2.2 ppg), Cunningham has steadily improved into one of the best power forwards in the country at 16 ppg and 7.2 rpg as a senior.

4. A.J. Abrams (Texas): He's probably not going to get there, but Abrams -- who has 1,926 points -- would be one of the most unlikely 2,000-point scorers in college basketball history. He's a 5-11 shooting guard. That's crazy.

5. James Anderson (Oklahoma State): The 6-6 sophomore averages 18.6 ppg and has scored more than 30 four times.

Five random notes

1. An Elite Eight matchup between UCLA's Ben Howland and the man who replaced him at Pittsburgh, Jamie Dixon, would be neat. Won't happen. But still ... would be neat.

2. Or how about this potential Sweet 16 game, between Villanova's Scottie Reynolds and Texas' Damion James? Both were in Kelvin Sampson's last recruiting class at Oklahoma, and both split the Sooners after Sampson left for Indiana.

3. American coach Jeff Jones played with Ralph Sampson at Virginia. Imagine a Sweet 16 meeting between American and Minnesota, which has Sampson's kid at center. That would make Jones feel old. But happy to be in the Sweet 16.

4. I'll be damned, but Murry Bartow is still coaching in college ... and he's the guy at East Tennessee State. And he still spells his first name silly. I know -- look who's talking, right?

5. Florida State assistant coach Stan Jones has the worst moustache in major college basketball. History.


Three storylines

1. But I do feel bad for Siena: Ohio State fans won't overrun Louisville in the second round. But Ohio State will get to the second round in large part because its fans will outnumber Siena's by a 100-to-1 ratio. At least. Siena is in up-state New York, and while those people would love to get out of their miserable town and spend a few days in my lovely state, they won't be able to get their hands on the tickets available to Buckeyes fans in Ohio. Poor Siena. Seriously. That's a school that surely entered Sunday morning on the tips of lots of fans' tongues as a potential Final Four sleeper, but it's hard to be a sleeper when 15,000 OSU fans are going off like alarm clocks.

2. Arizona? What the ****? Arizona doesn't belong in this tournament. Not ahead of several bubble teams, including Davidson and Penn State and Creighton. And more. Lots more. Arizona had a bad record (19-13) and a bad RPI (62) and a bad finish (five losses in its last six games). Arizona is done with its bad coach (Lute Olson), but still. Arizona? In the NCAA tournament? The selection committee did a fine job this year with the exception of Arizona, which belonged in the NIT, and not among the NIT's top 10 teams, either. Arizona. Jeez. Now I'm muttering ...

3. Izzo and BG, sitting in a tree ... Dayton's Brian Gregory spent many of the early years of his coaching career on Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State. One of the cool things about the NCAA tournament is the potential for such teacher-pupil meetings, and if both teams win twice, Dayton and Michigan State will meet in the Sweet 16. In my bracket, which you can find in our "experts" section, I'll have the pupil winning that game. Because I'm an expert. Plus I'm taller than Izzo.

Midwest Regional picks

Who will win: Louisville will win this thing for a lot of reasons, namely its enormous frontcourt and depth at backcourt. Oh, and also because the rest of this region sucks. Michigan State as a two? Wake Forest at four?

Dark-horse pick: I came dadgum close to putting Dayton into the Final Four. Yes, I did. As it is, I've got Dayton beating West Virginia, Kansas and Michigan State to get into the region final, but I didn't have the guts to pick the Flyers over Louisville.

Most likely upset: Clearly Dayton over West Virginia, and not just because I'm picking the Flyers. West Virginia shoots a ton of 3-pointers, and if it's missing ... well, game over. Dayton has great athletes who score close to the basket, and they will do that against the Mountaineers.

Best mascot: Siena's mascot is a Saint, which means the team is embodied by a 40-year-old woman who has stayed married to her husband despite his bad job and physical inadequacies, who raises her kids and works a job and also volunteers at her local church. At least, I assume that's the kind of Saint who is acting as Siena's mascot. Life's too short to look that crap up.

Best point guard: Sherron Collins is an athletic dynamo who averages 18.2 points and five assists per game after spending the previous two seasons behind Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson. He doesn't have the greatest assist-turnover ratio -- it's a lot less than 2-to-1 -- but, honestly, this region was weak for point guards. So Collins is it.

Best post player: Lots of good choices for this one, like Kansas' Cole Aldrich, Louisville's Samardo Samuels and Southern California's Taj Gibson. But I'm going with the biggest of the bunch, 7-feet-2 Luke Nevill of Utah, who averaged 16.9 ppg, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots. And shot 60.7 percent from the floor and 79.1 percent from the line. I could go on and on. Must I?

Best coach: If I'm starting a program tomorrow and going forward, I want Thad Matta of Ohio State or Bill Self of Kansas. Nothing wrong with Tom Izzo, either. But if we're talking about the most accomplished coach in this region, it's Rick Pitino. He has taken three different schools to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville) and he has won a national title.

Best reputation: Louisville, Kansas and Michigan State all have won two national titles. Louisville had Darrell Griffith, Kansas had Danny Manning, and Michigan State had Magic. This one's tough. But only Kansas had Wilt Chamberlain. So Kansas wins this category. Don't cry to me, you big baby. Everyone knows the Wilt Chamberlain Rule.

Five stars on display

1. Chris Wright (Dayton): He averages 12.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg, but that's not why he's on here. He's on here because he's a freaking freak. Maybe the most athletic player in college basketball. And he's 6-8. Yikes.

2. Kenny Hasbrouck (Siena): If Siena reaches the Elite Eight, he'll probably break the 2,000-point barrier. On a more realistic note, the 6-3 senior guard is six points away from reaching 1,900.

3. Tyrese Rice (BC): Speaking of 2,000 points ... this guy got there. The 6-1 guard has 2,090 entering the tournament, and is the leading scorer in this region. Unless North Dakota State has a guy with more. Like you'd know.

4. DeMar DeRozan (USC): Nobody has more capital letters in his name than DeMar DeRozan, and few players in college hoops have his hype, either. If the NBA didn't have that one-year rule, he would have turned pro out of high school.

5. Jeff Teague (Wake Forest): NBA scouts love this guy. He has great scoring range and also can finish above the rim. Watch this. You're welcome.

Five random notes

1. You see Fargo? I did, and all I remember was how close the Dakotas seemed to be to Minneapolis. So how disconcerting it must be for Kansas to earn the No. 3 seed and have to play 14th-seeded North Dakota State in Minneapolis.

2. If he gets to the Final Four -- and he will -- Louisville's Rick Pitino will get out of his four-way tie (with Guy Lewis, Lute Olson and Roy Williams) for sixth among coaches with five Final Four trips ... and into a three-way tie for fourth, at six appearances, with Denny Crum and Adolph Rupp. Unless Williams gets there, too, and then the math is just too difficult to figure out at the moment.

3. Utah coach Jim Boylen is a lifer assistant, most of it in the NBA, before getting his first shot as a head coach last year at age 43. He spent the previous two seasons on Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State, but Utah isn't getting past Louisville to set up a meeting with Michigan State.

4. The Louisville-Ohio State game has the obligatory NCAA tournament storyline of the fickle player who has been connected to both schools. Sort of. Josh Chichester, a 6-8 stud forward from West Chester, Ohio, verbally committed to Ohio State but ended up at Louisville. But he stopped played basketball and is focusing only on football. No, not a great note. But better than the next one.

5. Bob Huggins spent most of his career about 40 minutes from Dayton at Cincinnati. Now he faces Dayton as coach of West Virginia. Told you -- not a great note. See why I made it fifth?


Three storylines

1. D.J. on the DL: Marquette played gamely after losing Dominic James but the fact remains that Marquette lost five of its last six without its star guard. The selection committee seemed to acknowledge that with a surprisingly low No. 6 seed for the Golden Eagles. Buzz Williams' reward for winning 24 games in the nation's toughest conference is a trip to Boise to play dangerous Utah State.

2. Dyson on the DL: Obviously UConn was a bit more successful after losing its guard. The Huskies settled in after Dyson's injury. By the way, A.J. Price doesn't suck either.

3. Boiling over: For all the (well-deserved) criticism of the Big Ten, Purdue has some late momentum after winning the conference tournament. The Boilers have a star (Robbie Hummel, preseason conference Player of the Year), a post presence (All-Big Ten center JaJuan Johnson) and its first Big Ten Tournament title.

West Regional picks

Who will win: Connecticut. It's hard to pick against a team that could afford to lose a Dyson and still thrive. After the nightly wars in the Big East, the early rounds of the tournament will seem easy for the Huskies.

Dark-horse pick: Washington. The other Huskies just won their first outright conference title in 56 years. Excellent coach Lorenzo Romar has Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas at guard and bruising Jon Brockman in the middle.

Most likely upset: No. 11 Utah State over No. 6 Marquette. The Aggies are playing close to home (Boise) and have WAC Player of the Year Gary Wilkinson. Boise being Boise, expect absolutely no atmosphere. Eagles, you're not in Milwaukee anymore.

Best mascot: Truman the Tiger (Missouri). A fluff ball who rappels from the ceiling before each home game.

Best point guard: Tyreke Evans, Memphis. Calipari took the chance and converted his best ball-handler to point early on. Evans bought in. You saw what happened.

Best post player: You kidding? UConn's Hasheem Thabeet is a shot-blocking freak.

Best coach: Mike Anderson, Missouri. Calipari and Calhoun are playing with five-stars. Anderson takes kids off the street, literally (see below) and wins with a style that is all his.

Best reputation: If we're talking ball, it's UConn. If we're talking classroom, it's Cornell.

Five stars on display

1. Hasheem Thabeet (UConn): He backed down to only one person, Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair. If they meet again, it will be in the national championship game. Until then, there are few other players in the bracket who match up.

2. Jon Brockman (Washington): His 58 career double-doubles are more than any other active player.

3. A.J. Price (UConn): In UConn's last game, that six-overtime thriller against Syracuse, Price went for 33 and 10 assists. Price is now the Huskies leading scorer (14 per game) on a very balanced team.

4. J.T. Tiller (Missouri): Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 for a team that is No. 2 nationally in steals.

5. Greivis Vasquez, (Maryland): Fear the shooter. Vasquez' 35 points against North Carolina on Feb. 21 basically put the Terps in the tournament.

Five random notes

1. Cal vs. Cal: A potential second-round meeting makes Calipari put his money where his defense is. If California is able to get past Maryland, Memphis' lockdown defense would be facing the best 3-point shooting team in the country.

2. Before he transferred to Missouri from Delaware, Tigers guard Zaire Taylor was "close to homeless." Taylor had quit the Blue Hens but was still taking classes so he could transfer. He and his mother ran out of money to the point where Taylor slept a few nights in a computer lab.

3. The Missouri Valley's upset legacy in the tournament is at stake with Northern Iowa facing Purdue in the first round. Panthers coach Ben Jacobson has assembled a Big Ten-like team. It is big, brawny and plodding. Seven-feet-one center Jordan Eglseder and 6-8 Adam Koch together average 23 points and 12 rebounds per game. Mr. Hummel, Mr. Johnson, your move.

4. Mississippi State saved college football's best conference some basketball embarrassment by winning the SEC Tournament. It's obvious that had not the Bulldogs won the SEC, the conference would have received only two teams (LSU, Tennessee) into the bracket.

5. Memphis has won 61 Conference USA games in a row. It went unbeaten (16-0) in league play and is 31-3 heading into the tournament. Evans was its only first-team All-Conference USA selection.


Three storylines

1. 'Cuse out of gas?: Syracuse gets a few days off after that marathon of a Big East tournament. But just a few. Are the Orange on fumes or is adrenaline a great equalizer?

2. Moving on?: Mark Few might be coaching his last game(s) at Gonzaga. His name has popped up at Arizona and Oregon. He couldn't be blamed for leaving after leading the Zags to 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments.

3. Blake Griffin's temper: It doesn't show much on the court but you wonder when it will. Oklahoma's National Player of the Year candidate is routinely mugged. This season alone Griffin has been tripped, punched in the package and hauled down by his neck. Sometimes officials call fouls, sometimes they don't. Watch out if this guy ever loses it. Someone is going to pay.

South Regional picks

Who will win: Carolina. Bet the house, the car and your 401(k). The Heels have everything. Lawson will be ready. Tyler Hansbrough is making it a private crusade in his senior year. Remember back in November when the title was Carolina's to lose? We've come full circle. North Carolina will get to the Final Four, at least.

Dark-horse pick: Syracuse. The Orange's season was made in the Big East tournament, right? Take a look at the bracket. They could meet Oklahoma in the Sweet 16. Right now, I'd make 'Cuse the favorite.

Most likely upset: No. 12 Western Kentucky over No. 5 Illinois. There are so many people picking this it's almost not an upset. The Illini play Bruce Weber's kind of defense but they are painful to watch on offense. They were held to 33 by Penn State and 36 by Minnesota.

Western Kentucky went to the Sweet 16 last season, lost its starting backcourt and rebounded this season to win 24 games while beating Louisville and Georgia in the process.

Best mascot: Syracuse's "Otto". A walking orange costume is perfect for hiding one's shame.

Best point guard: Lawson. The point (guard) has been made.

Best post player: Griffin. Hard to argue against CBSSports.com's Player of the Year -- 6-10, 250, all elbows and effort.

Best coach: 1) Few. 1a) LSU's Trent Johnson.

Please remove the mid-major label from Gonzaga because it is a high major thanks to Few's nurturing. Since 2004 Johnson has led three different schools to a total five NCAA tournaments. (Nevada, Stanford, LSU)

Best reputation: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Non-Carolina division: Butler.

Five stars on display

1. James Harden (Arizona State): Takes over Greg Oden's title as "Most Likely To Pass For a 40-Year-Old." The Pac-10 Player of the Year will be a top five NBA pick.

2. Hansbrough, (North Carolina): The only things left to accomplish are to win a title -- and find anonymity in the NBA.

3. Jonny Flynn, (Syracuse): Played 67 of 70 minutes against UConn, then swept the court, cleaned the lockerroom and did the team's laundry.

4. Dionte Christmas, (Temple): They're the cuddly Owls again thanks to a perimeter attack led by Christmas.

5. Griffin, (Oklahoma): Double-doubles R Him.

Five random notes

1. Everything else is maize and blue gravy. Michigan hasn't been to the tournament since 1998. The last official trip was in 1995 because the NCAA forced the school to vacate appearances in '96 and '98.

2. Illinois' best defender Chester Frazier will see a specialist Tuesday to determine if he can play against Western Kentucky (and beyond). Frazier has been out with what is believed to be a broken hand.

3. After losing four starters, coach Brad Stevens led Butler to the Horizon regular-season title. His team is so young that on Senior Night there weren't seniors to honor. Three freshman starters led Butler to 26 wins.

4. The last five times North Carolina has been a No. 1 seed it has advanced at least to the Elite Eight.

5. This is where disgraced former prodigies end up: Anyone remember Todd Bozeman? The former Cal coach is in his first NCAA tournament since 1996 as Morgan State's third-year coach. Bozeman was banned from coaching for eight years by the NCAA after it was discovered he had paid a Cal recruit. This is Morgan State's first NCAA tournament.

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