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February 29, 2008 Columns No Comments




NCAA Tournament Crystal Ball

by Dan Hauptman and Michael Protos

Feb. 29, 2008

The Interstate 95 corridor in the Northeast connects several major metropolitan centers, which can claim to be the country’s political and economic nucleus. In the world of college basketball, the Interstate 40 corridor in the South connects several major programs, which hope to prove in March that they are the hub of basketball supremacy.

Within a few miles of I-40, Memphis, Tennessee, North Carolina and Duke have been playing top-notch basketball. All four schools are in the mix for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, though at least one of those schools will probably lose out to the likes of Texas, UCLA or Kansas. For the record, Texas is six hours from one of the few highways that crosses the entire country; Kansas is less than five hours; and UCLA is a mere two hours from I-40’s western endpoint in Barstow, Calif.

Although Tennessee and North Carolina are brethren as the only states I-40 passes through east of the Mississippi, the two are going head to head for the title of college basketball’s most dominant state. In addition to the Tigers and Volunteers, Tennessee has Vanderbilt in the top 25. Austin Peay (in Clarksville), Belmont (in Nashville) and Chattanooga are legitimate contenders for conference championships. Meanwhile, the Tar Heel state has Davidson (near Charlotte) and UNC-Asheville in play for NCAA Tournament appearances. North Carolina has a slew of strong teams that are on the bubble or potential conference tournament spoilers, especially Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Charlotte and UNC-Wilmington.

Given Vanderbilt’s contribution to the strength at the top, Tennessee gets the nod as the top basketball state. But the NCAA Tournament will be the best stage — in terms of bids and length of stay — to judge which state is king. Dan Hauptman and Michael Protos disagree on which state will claim the overall No. 1 seed. Hauptman awards the top spot to North Carolina while Protos has Memphis, Tennessee and Texas ahead of the Tar Heels.

In addition to slight variance at the top, Hauptman and Protos continue to vary widely at the bottom. For example, Hauptman has Maryland as a No. 7 seed, while Protos sees the Terrapins as one of the first teams to miss the field. On the other hand, Protos likes Arizona State to earn a No. 9 seed, but Hauptman thinks the Sun Devils are NIT-bound. Three weeks remain before Selection Sunday, and all these bubble teams need to make a move to solidify a bid.

Here’s the rest of the field, as envisioned by Hauptman and Protos. Check here next week to see how their predictions change.

Hauptman’s Hoops Horoscope Protos’ Prognostications

North Carolina
Tennessee
Memphis
Texas

Memphis
Tennessee
Texas
North Carolina

UCLA
Duke
Kansas
Georgetown

Duke
UCLA
Louisville
Kansas

Wisconsin
Xavier
Vanderbilt
Stanford

Xavier
Wisconsin
Georgetown
Connecticut

Indiana
Connecticut
Washington State
Louisville

Vanderbilt
Stanford
Marquette
Notre Dame

Clemson
Notre Dame
Kansas State
Purdue

Indiana
Purdue
Michigan State
Butler

Drake
Marquette
Michigan State
USC

Washington State
Pittsburgh
Clemson
USC

BYU
Maryland
Butler
Mississippi State

Kansas State
St. Mary’s
Gonzaga
Texas A&M

Pittsburgh
Florida
Baylor
Arizona

Arizona
Drake
BYU
Miami

Texas A&M
Miami
Kent State
UNLV

Baylor
UNLV
Arizona State
Kentucky

St. Mary’s
Ohio State
Arkansas
Gonzaga

Oklahoma
West Virginia
Massachusetts
Mississippi State

Illinois State
Oklahoma
Massachusetts
West Virginia

Davidson
Villanova
Kent State
Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois
Wake Forest
Kentucky
VCU

South Alabama
New Mexico
VCU
Illinois State

Davidson
South Alabama
Stephen F. Austin
Oral Roberts

Houston
Dayton
Oral Roberts
Boise State

Boise State
Winthrop
Cornell
Cal State Northridge

Cornell
Cal State Northridge
UMBC
Winthrop

Portland State
UMBC
Siena
Austin Peay

Austin Peay
Belmont
Rider
Lamar

American
Belmont
Robert Morris
Morgan State
Alabama State

Robert Morris
Portland State
Morgan State
Navy
Alabama State
Last 4 In:
West Virginia
Southern Illinois
Wake Forest
Kentucky
Last 4 In:
New Mexico
Illinois State
Houston
Dayton
First 4 Out:
Virginia Tech
Villanova
Arizona State
UAB
First 4 Out:
UAB
Florida
Maryland
Saint Joseph’s
Shooting Stars:
USC
Vanderbilt
Kentucky
Texas
Shooting Stars:
Wisconsin
Vanderbilt
Kentucky
Kent State
Sinking Ships:
Pittsburgh
Oklahoma
Ohio State
Michigan State
Sinking Ships:
Maryland
Arkansas
Ohio State
Saint Joseph’s
Conference Breakdown:
Big East: 7
ACC: 6
Big 12: 6
SEC: 6
Big Ten: 5
Pac-10: 5
Missouri Valley: 3
Atlantic 10: 2
Mountain West: 2
West Coast: 2
21 one-bid conferences
Conference Breakdown:
Big East: 8
Big 12: 6
Pac-10: 6
ACC: 4
Big Ten: 4
SEC: 4
Atlantic 10: 3
Missouri Valley: 3
Mountain West: 3
Conference USA:2
West Coast: 2
20 one-bid conferences

Whose field looks more accurate to you? Or are both Hauptman and Protos off target? E-mail us your comments on the Crystal Basketball or give us your own NCAA Tournament prognostications. Then check back throughout the next few weeks, as Hauptman’s and Protos’ visions for the Big Dance become clearer. Despite the extra day in February, March Madness is nearly here.

     

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