Analytically, Syracuse looks like it has a bye into the regional final, where Ohio State will most likely be waiting. That would be better than the Pitt-Villanova matchup at the Garden in 2009.
It would be a huge event if Cincinnati and Ohio State met in the regional semifinals at the Garden. The bitterness between these schools is thick. Thereís a long history, but the teams havenít played much recently.
How about Syracuse vs. Vanderbilt in the other semi? Quite a doubleheader. Heck, the sports radio guys might even talk about it.
Kentucky coach John Calipari was in all-star whine mode about the tournament before he even saw the pairings. Does it really matter? In fact, his region is the easiest. Duke, the No. 2 seed, is flawed. Baylor, the No. 3 seed, has fallen short in big games this season. Indiana has lost a key player in Verdell Jones, so the Hoosiers arenít really a threat. The Wildcats will be in the Final Four.
Long shots to crack Final Four
Not sure we have that mid-major overachiever this season. Iona could be this yearís Virginia Commonwealth, but the Gaels have to be in the right frame of mind. Before the season began, I viewed them that way, but they failed to play up to my expectations. Still, itís possible. Iíd say UNLV, but they wonít be able to get past Kentucky. Same for Wichita. Murray Stateís in a OK spot, but theyíll have to beat Missouri just to get to the Elite Eight.
The first four
Itíll be an entertaining two days for the best college basketball fans in the nation in Dayton, Ohio. All four games are evenly matched. Iím especially interested in BYU-Iona, because both teams could reach 100 points. Cal-South Florida has the makings of a down-to-the-wire event. The 16s are also tossups, Mississippi Valley vs. Western Kentucky and Lamar vs. Vermont.
Best round-of-64 games:
Florida State-St. Bonaventure: I expect Florida State to have a letdown after winning the ACC tournament and the Bonnies are really playing on a sharp edge.
Gonzaga-West Virginia: This is practically a home game for the Mountaineers, but Gonzaga has really come on in the latter half of the season.
Michigan-Ohio: What a chance for Ohio to get some regional bragging rights. The Bobcats play hard, expect a tight one.
Georgetown-Belmont: The Bruins will try to speed things up; the Hoyas arenít deep and that could mean this one will be close.
San Diego State-NC State: Low-scoring, defensive struggle.
Iowa State-UConn: Just one more chance to see my favorite player, Royce White of Iowa State. Not sure the Huskies have anyone to match up with him.
Notre Dame-Xavier: X seeking redemption, ND happy to be here but evenly matched just the same.
Memphis-Saint Louis: Billikens will try to slow this game to a walk. If they succeed, theyíll win.
New Mexico-Long Beach: This could be the 12-5 upset.
Murray State-Colorado State: The Racers must prove themselves worthy.
Marquette-BYU or Iona: Should be a high-octane offensive matchup either way.
Florida-Virginia: Both teams have failed in big situations and can make up for it here.
- Michael Vega
- Mark Blaudschun
- Nancy Marrapese-Burrell