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March 19, 2003 Columns No Comments




Bracket Busting

by Michael Ermitage

Everyone’s an expert come NCAA tournament time. From Dick Vitale to Jan the secretary, everyone’s got an opinion on the bracket. Here’s my space to add mine. I call this bracket “The Logan Square Answer Key.”

West

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Vermont – No. 16 seed has ever topped a No. 1 seed. Until that happens, I move them all to the second round. Winner: Arizona

No. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 9 Gonzaga – My gut feeling is that Cincinnati is going to try and out-tough and out-bang a superior-talented Gonzaga team. The problem is that the Bulldogs have a formidable front line (including 6-8 Cory Violette and 6-10 Ronny Turiaf) and have played a schedule that has groomed them for the NCAA tournament. The Bearcats will keep it close, but Gonzaga will eventually pull away. Winner: Gonzaga

No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 UW-Milwaukee – This one is sure to be a high-scoring affair with UWM forcing the pace and Irish point guard Chris Thomas gladly accepting. The Panthers play a frenzied style that’ll give Thomas room to drive and allow Irish three-point shooters to roam free. I think UWM’s superior quickness and conditioning will give Notre Dame fits. Winner: UWM

No. 4 Illinois and No. 13 Western Kentucky – Illinois has been playing well for the better part of a month, as evidenced by its Big Ten tournament title. Now they’ll be focused after being passed over for a No. 3 seed. This spells trouble for a Western Kentucky team that has a propensity to turn the ball over – a death knoll against a super-quick team like the Illini. Winner: Illinois

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Central Michigan – This game isn’t going to be as easy for Creighton as some might think. Central Michigan features Chris Kaman, a skilled 7-footer, that the BlueJays will have to defend by committee (Creighton’s tallest starter is 6-8). He’ll be as annoying as Central Michigan’s “Fire Up Chips!” chant. I rate the MAC tougher than the Missouri Valley, and thus, an upset. Winner: Central Michigan

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Colorado State – Both of these teams turned it on in their respective conference tournaments and enter on hot streaks. Howerver, the Blue Devils superior guards and athleticism will overwhelm the Rams. Winner: Duke

No. 7 Memphis vs. No. 10 Arizona State – In most games, Arizona State would enjoy an advantage in the post with super-freshman Ike Diogu. However, against Memphis, Diogu will have his hands full with Tigers’ big man Chris Massie. On the perimeter, ASU just cannot match-up and Memphis should roll. Winner: Memphis

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Utah State – This game will feature three of college basketball’s best players in Utah State’s Desmond Penigar, and Kansas’ Nick Collison and Kirk Heinrich. The game, however, will not be close. Winner: Kansas

Midwest

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 16 IUPUI – Hey Jay Bilas, Indiana lost to Kentucky by six points. Purdue beat Michigan State and Louisville, two teams that beat Kentucky. I highly doubt Kentucky could beat Indiana and Purdue at the same time…. but they’ll throttle IUPUI. Winner: Kentucky

No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 Utah – Even with a healthy Britton Johnsen, who’s recovering from mono, it is unlikely that the Utes will be able to slow down the running ducks. UNLV was easily able to push the pace on the Utes in their conference semifinal game and the hot Ducks will look to do the same. Winner: Oregon

No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Weber State – While many maintain that Weber State is a great upset pick in this five versus twelve matchup (the be-all, end-all of NCAA upset mathcups), I like the Badgers here. Wisconsin will not be out-worked or out-smarted, they are only out-athleticized (if that’s a word….). In what will be a compelling, close game, Wisconsin squeaks by. Winner: Wisconsin

No. 4 Dayton vs. No. 13 Tulsa – This game features two balanced, experienced teams. Tulsa will try and smother Dayton defensively, forcing them out of its rhythm, while Dayton will methodically work its offense and take advantage of its size advantage. The Flyers are a solid club, but may have some unfavorable matchups in this one. Winner: Tulsa

No. 6 Missouri vs. No. 11 Southern Illinois – With a superior frontcourt (see Arthur Johnson) and overall talent, Missouri should be able to fend off the Missouri Valley Champions. Winner: Missouri

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Holy Cross – Holy Cross has performed well in its limited tournament appearances, but they’ll be no match for an underrated Marquette team. Travis Diener’s ability to find wing shooters or open post players makes Marquette difficult to defend. Winner: Marquette

No. 7 Indiana vs. No. 10 Alabama – Indiana seems to be breaking out of its mid-season slump while Alabama looks mired in its recent poor play. Hoosiers advance. Winner: Indiana

No. 2 Pittsburgh vs. No. 15 Wagner – Pitt is hot, and while Wagner is no pushover (see tough game versus Uconn in Storrs earlier this year), they’ll be no challenge for the Panthers. Winner: Pitt

South

No. 1 Texas vs. Play-In Winner – Winner: Texas

No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 Purdue – While my alma mater, Purdue, sputtered to the finish, LSU finished winning seven of eight. However, Purdue’s strong defensive guard play should temper LSU’s perimeter scoring. Winner: Purdue

No. 5 Connecticut vs. No. 12 BYU – BYU is going to drop as many three-point attempts as it can to bury the Huskies. Uconn will counter with inside presence Emeka Okafor and guard Ben Gordon. Tighter than many might think but Uconn advances. Winner: UConn

No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 13 San Diego – Frontcourt depth and perimeter shooting will key Stanford in this one. San Diego’s Jason Keep is a monster inside, but not enough. Winner: Stanford

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 UNC-Wilmington – There’s something about seniors in March, and the Terrapins feature four senior starters. Wilmington is a tough club, but did not receive a favorable draw here. Winner: Maryland

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Troy State – Troy State is going to try and run Xavier out of the building, taking shots as quickly and as often as possible. But with guards Romain Sato, Lionel Chalmers and Dedrick Finn, the open floor will be no problem for the Musketeers. Not to mention they can slow it down and dominate inside with David West any time they want. Winner: Xavier

No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 10 Colorado – This is a perplexing game to pick. Both these teams have looked awesome and awful (See MSU’s win at Kentucky and home loss to Toledo; see Colorado’s win against Oklahoma and road whipping at Iowa State). Izzo has already done a masterful job in getting this group this far, but the gut feeling is that it ends here. Winner: Colorado

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 15 Sam Houston State – Sam Houston State is going to attempt to run with Florida – its their game. That strategy will fail miserably against the more-athletic Gators. Winner: Florida

East

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. South Carolina State – Winner: Oklahoma

No. 8 Cal vs. No. 9 N.C. State – N.C. State has the defensive specialist in Clifford Crawford to slow down Cal’s Joe Shipp. Cal goes a bit deeper and may have more talent inside but ultimately need Shipp to score to win against a quality opponent. Winner: N.C. State

No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Butler – This is going to be a great game. It features two experienced, well-coached defensive teams. Butler deserved a better draw than this as the Mississippi State Bulldogs are playing extremely well. Bigger, stronger and faster, Mississippi State will hang on. Winner: Mississippi State

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Austin Peay – Between going inside to Marvin Stone and its vaunted full-court press, the Cardinals should roll past Peay. Winner: Louisville

No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 11 Pennsylvania – Penn isn’t your typical Ivy League contender, featuring several outstanding athletes across its roster. Oklahoma State faltered down the stretch while Penn heated up. This screams upset. Winner: Penn

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Manhattan – Manhattan is going to try like heck to get Syracuse as disorganized as possible. Fortunately for the Orangemen that might play right into their hands. Sensational freshman Carmelo Anthony might feel like he’s on the playgrounds of New York during this one, and he’ll respond. Winner: Syracuse

No. 7 St. Josephs vs. No. 10 Auburn – Auburn could pose problems here with their rebounding and perimeter defensive prowess. But St. Joseph’s is eager to prove its tournament worthiness and ultimately has the only gamebreaker in Jameer Nelson. Winner: St. Joseph’s

No. 2 Wake Forest vs. No. 15 East Tennesse State – Demon Deacons figure to dominate this one inside and out. Winner: Wake Forest

2nd Round

West

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 9 Gonzaga – Gonzaga’s many defensive deficiencies will be exploited by the Wildcats. Winner: Arizona

No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 12 UWM – There will be plenty of opportunity for Illinois “Human Fastbreak” Dee Brown to show off his talent in this one. Winner: Illinois

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 11 Central Michigan – While Duke has no defensive answers for Central Michigan’s Kaman, they’ll still dominate the perimeter. Winner: Duke

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 7 Memphis – If Memphis can continually feed Massie down low, he could get the thin Jayhawks in foul trouble. The cagey Jayhawks will overcome that and squeak by. Winner: Kansas

Midwest

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Oregon – The Ducks are a dangerous club to face in the second round but ultimately lack the defensive skill to slow down the Wildcats. Winner: Kentucky

No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Tulsa – Look for the Badgers to slow this one down and virtually eliminate Tulsa’s advantage in the open court. Winner: Wisconsin

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Missouri – Johnson and Marquette big man Robert Jackson should have quite the battle down low while Mizzou’s Ricky Paulding and Marquette’s Dwayne Wade battle on the perimeter. The Golden Eagles play together better than the Tigers, and it’ll earn them a berth in the Sweet 16. Winner: Marquette

No. 2 Pittsburgh vs. No. 7 Indiana – For Indiana to be successful, it needs to consistently hit perimeter shots. That will not happen against Pitt’s smothering defense. Winner: Pittsburgh

South

No. 1 Texas vs. No. 9 Purdue – This game will feature two of the quickest coast-to-coast guards in the nation in Texas’ T.J. Ford and Purdue’s Willie Deane. It is in the supporting casts where the Longhorns will make the Boilermakers pay. Winner: Texas

No. 5 Uconn vs. No. 4 Stanford – The Huskies are an en vogue pick to reach the Final Four. But I think their journey ends here. Stanford can match the Huskies with perimeter quickness, which will limit Uconn’s three-point shooting. Inside, Stanford can hammer Okafor inside with numerous big bodies. Winner: Stanford

No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 3 Xavier – This may be the best matchup of the second round. Certainly, Maryland’s experienced and heady guard play will match up well with Xavier’s talented backcourt. Do the Terrapins have an answer for West? West has disappeared in other big matchup games in his career and unfortunately, I think he’ll pull one more disappearing act in this one. Winner: Maryland

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 10 Colorado – While the Buffs have enough to get past a down MSU team, they will not be able to matchup with a talented Gator squad. Winner: Florida

East

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 N.C. State – N.C. State does not have enough inside to expose any weaknesses Oklahoma has there. Furthermore, Oklahoma will be very comfortable playing at the slow pace N.C. State prefers. Winner: Oklahoma

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 Mississippi State – Louisville should be able to turn Mississippi State over, which ultimately is the spark that leads to many Louisville blowouts. But the Rebels will out-rebound the Cardinals and score some easy points themselves. Winner: Mississippi State

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Pennsylvania – On paper, Syracuse should get this one. But the young Orangemen may get a little frustrated by the experienced Quakers, particularly when the Ivy league sharp shooters are hitting their shots against the 2-3 zone. Finally, Syracuse may be looking ahead to playing in Albany, a regional they won’t get to. Winner: Penn

No. 2 Wake Forest vs. No. 7 St. Josephs – St. Joe’s will have to play Wake even on the boards, but if they are able to accomplish that, they have the guard play to down the Demon Deacons. Winner: St. Joseph’s

3rd Round

West

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 Illinois – This is the kind of game where Arizona’s experience will carry it through. While Illinois’ freshmen guard tandem will be dealing with being on the biggest stage of their careers, Arizona’s three senior starters will be focused. Beyond that, Arizona has the bodies inside to wear down Illinois big man Brian Cook. Winner: Arizona

No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 3 Duke – Kansas is most vulnerable when it is forced to play a halfcourt game and none of its opponents in this regional will do that, including Duke. In what will be an entertaining, offense-filled game, the Jayhawks advance. Winner: Kansas

Midwest

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 5 Wisconsin – An undersized and under-manned Wisconsin team will have exceeded expectations by getting this far. Kentucky could be somewhat tested here, but should advance without much trouble. Winner: Kentucky

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 2 Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh has the quickness at guard and the power inside to frustrate a normally solid defensive Marquette team. In addition, Pitt’s experience may weigh heavily in this high profile game. Marquette is a relatively young team and it has showed in pressure situations. Winner: Pittsburgh

South

No. 1 Texas vs. No. 4 Stanford – Stanford has the ingredients to beat Texas. It has enough inside might and perimeter quickness. It would be a monumental upset, considering this game will be played in San Antonio, quite the trek for a West coast team. I’m picking them anyway. Winner: Stanford

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 6 Maryland – Maryland doesn’t have the big time inside scoring that usually downs Florida. The Gators are comfortable both running-and-gunning and playing the half-court game. Maryland may try both approaches, but to no avail. Winner: Florida

East

No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Mississippi State – This will be a beauty. Look for a repeat of their previous meeting, with Mississippi State’s Derrick Zimmerman shutting down Hollis Price and Mario Austin scoring inside. Winner: Mississippi State

No. 7 St. Joe’s vs. No. 11 Pennsylvania – St. Joe’s is primarily a guard-oriented team and does not offer the matchup problems most major Division I schools normally pose for Penn. Winner: Penn

4th Round

West

No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 2 Kansas – This meeting will be a rematch of an earlier contest in Lawrence, Kan., in which Arizona erased a 20-point deficit to win going away. This will not be the case in the rematch. Roy Williams will have adjusted and Kansas returns to the Final Four. Winner: Kansas

Midwest

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Pittsburgh – This figures to be a grueling, low-scoring affair. But in the end, Kentucky just has too many scoring options for Pittsburgh. Winner: Kentucky

South

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 4 Stanford – While Florida’s freshmen garner many of the headlines, it will be its senior trio of Brett Nelson, Matt Bonner and Justin Hamilton that overpower Stanford on a national stage. Winner: Florida

East

No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 11 Pennsylvania – The Cinderella Ivy League run will end for Penn right here as Mississippi State will edge by on pure toughness and physical superiority inside. Winner: Mississippi State

National Semifinals

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Kansas – Kentucky has the guard play in Keith Bogans and Gerald Fitch to disrupt Kansas’ need to run. Couple that with an imposing inside force to occupy the Jayhawks’ Nick Collison and Kentucky advances. Winner: Kentucky

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 5 Mississippi State – These two teams met just once in conference action and the Rebels’ Mario Austin had a tremendous game. Yet, Mississippi still lost on its home floor. History repeats itself here. Winner: Florida

National Final

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Florida – Once again, Kentucky’s defensive guards lock down on the perimeter. And without consistent perimeter scoring, Florida is done for. National Champion: Kentucky

There’s all the ammo you’ll need to win the office pool. Kentucky cuts down the nets with Keith Bogans Tournament MVP.

     

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