Flat Hat Bracket Challenge: Experts Blog

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March 18, 2008

8:24 PM

p. Welcome to the official blog for the 2008 Flat Hat Bracket Challenge. Log on to facebook.com to sign up and get in on the madness. Both the William and Mary Bookstore and the Campus Shop are sponsoring the Challenge and putting up prizes for the winners. Best of luck to all the entrants.

**Flat Hat Bracket Challenge Standings after Elite Eight**
1. Hunter Faulkner – 99 points
2. Emily Law – 98 points
2. Lewis Martin – 98 points
2. Katie Riff – 98 points
5. Charlie Heyer – 97 points

**Flat Hat Bracket Challenge Standings after Sweet Sixteen**
1. Josh Haney
2. Quan Lu
2. Isaac Sarver
4. Ben Arancibia
4. Andrew Hampton
4. Erik Houser
4. Matt Poms
4. Kristen Stefanowicz

**Sweet Sixteen Predictions for the East and West**

By Andrew Pike, Flat Hat Sports Editor

In the east look for UNC to run past Washington State in the sweet sixteen. The Cougars have the ability to slow down Carolina, but UNC just has too many weapons. Lawson, Ellington, Hansbrough, Green, et cetera. They will overwhelm Washington St. In the region’s other contest, Louisville will knock off the Volunteers behind Padgett and company. Tennessee can score and score, but tonight their defense will let them down.

Out in Phoenix, whatever confidence West Virginia gained from beating Duke will quickly erode, as the disciplined, efficient Musketeers prove too much for the Mountaineers. The experience of Lavender and Duncan will key the X-men’s victory. In the nightcap, UCLA will bounce back from a second round scare with Texas A&M to advance to its third consecutive Elite Eight. The Bruins combine stout defense and scoring ability – valuable traits in this tournament.

By Matt Poms, Flat Hat Associate Sports Editor

North Carolina – Washington State: In perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the Sweet Sixteen, UNC will take their high-powered offense up against Washington State’s down tempo, defensive style of play. After posting 100+ points in each of their first two contests, UNC will struggle offensively as Washington State guard Derek Lowe will look to perfect his best David Schneider impression by taking the air out of the ball and limiting the touches of UNC All-American forward Tyler Hansbrough. However, the Tarheels will prevail in the end, riding the play of guard Ty Lawson into the Elite Eight.

Louisville – Tennessee: In a matchup between athletic, sweet shooting teams, Bruce Pearl’s Volunteers will prove to be the more dynamic of the pair, taking down Louisville in setting up a marquee Elite Eight matchup between Tennessee and UNC.

UCLA – Western Kentucky: The Hilltopper’s magical run has been one of the best storylines of the tournament thus far, however, their season will come to an end here after running into the brick wall defense of Kevin Love and the Bruins. Western Kentucky will fail to score 40 points as UCLA will coast into the Elite Eight.

Xavier – West Virginia: After taking down Arizona and Duke, the Mountaineers will no doubt have the support of much of the country in this matchup. Unfortunately for West Virginia, Xavier will not be similarly inclined, graciously thanking the Mountaineers for clearing the bracket of the 2nd seeded Blue Devils by scoring a decisive victory.

**Flat Hat Bracket Challenge Standings after Second Round**
1. Josh Haney
2. James McGinn
3. Hunter Faulkner
3. Stephen Minakyan
5. Eleven tied for fifth

**Flat Hat Bracket Challenge Standings after First Round**
1. Sarah Klotz
2. Hunter Faulkner
2. Ben Aarancibia
4. Nolan Chao
4. John Patrick Giddens
4. Emily Law
4. Erin Teigen
4. Mackenzie Williams
4. Chris Yamoah
10. Eight tied for tenth

Take a look below at what our “experts” are predicting for this year’s tournament, and feel free to utilize the comment function below to offer up your own insights.

**By Jeff Dooley, Flat Hat Managing Editor**

Out of the East, I like Winthrop and St. Joe’s in first round upsets, with Butler knocking off Tennessee in the second round. If Notre Dame can squeak by George Mason in round one, I like them to take down top-seeded UNC in the Sweet 16 and then beat Louisville in the Elite 8 to make it to the Final Four.

If Clemson can beat my Villanova Wildcats in round one, watch out for the Tigers to upset Kansas. However, I think the Cats will nip the Tigers. What makes Clemson capable of upsetting a top team like Kansas is its ability to play fast and physical. But against a smaller team like Villanova that can draw more foul calls, Clemson’s advantage is taken away. If the Wildcats shoot decently well, they’ll get the upset. In round two, I like Davidson over Georgetown in another upset, with Kansas cruising past Wisconsin in the Elite 8 to get to the Final Four.

The South is the worst region in my opinion because I can’t see top seeds Memphis or Texas taking care of business. I like Marquette to make it to the Final Four – the Golden Eagles are an overlooked team with excellent guard play. Upset watch: Cornell over Stanford in the first round.

In the West, I like UCLA to make it to the Final Four. Xavier will make a valiant run to the Elite 8 after Arizona clears the way for them with an upset of Duke in the second round. I like Western Kentucky to make it to the Sweet 16, with San Diego and Baylor also recording first round upsets.

Final Four:
UCLA 72, Marquette 57
Kansas 74, Notre Dame 73

National Championship:
Kansas 78, UCLA 75

**By Andrew Pike, Flat Hat Sports Editor**

I’m thinking the East will be the least upset-prone region. Contrary to what Patriots fans would have you believe, this year’s George Mason is not George Mason – not even close. Look for UNC to hold court in this bracket. A Sweet Sixteen matchup with Notre Dame could test the Tar Heels, but I don’t picture them folding (see recent wins over Duke, Virginia Tech, and Clemson for proof). Bruce Pearl’s orange blazer won’t be enough to lead the Volunteers past the Heels in Charlotte.

In the Midwest, an overrated Georgetown squad will bow out to Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers in the round of 16. Stephen Curry can carry Davidson past Gonzaga, but the Hoyas have too much talent for the Wildcats. I like Michael Beasley over O.J. Mayo, and Clemson as a Sweet Sixteen team. In the end, Kansas will remain, pushing the tempo to hold off Clemson and ease past Wisconsin.

Give Texas the edge in the South. After wins over Austin Peay, Miami and Marquette, the home crowd in Houston will buoy the Longhorns to the Final Four one season after the departure of Kevin Durant. I’m picking Temple to send Tom Izzo’s Spartans home early and Marquette to knock off Stanford in round two. Memphis coasts into the Elite Eight at 36-1 and leaves 36-2 thanks to D.J. Augustin.

From the West comes UCLA. Two straight Final Fours, Collison, Love, and Shipp give the Bruins enough experience and talent to earn a trip to San Antonio. Baylor and Arizona will come up with first round wins, but that’s it. Drake’s good, but not UConn good. The Bulldogs will need to shoot lights-out from beyond the arc to beat the Huskies. Duke will emerge from the bottom of the bracket, surviving a Sweet Sixteen scare from a strong Xavier team. In the regional final, UCLA makes big plays down the stretch to end Duke’s season and leave Coach K dreaming about Olympic gold.

Final Four:
UCLA 79, Texas 70
Kansas 86, UNC 82

National Championship:
UCLA 77, Kansas 69

**By Carl Siegmund, Flat Hat Staff Writer**

National Champion: Tennessee Volunteers. What they lack in men’s basketball pedigree, they make up for in sheer athleticism. All-American guard Chris Lofton leads a cast of players that is talented enough to beat any team in the country. The Vols are well-coached and have an experienced backcourt – two of the biggest keys to a championship. If the seeds hold up, an East Regional final against North Carolina could be the most intriguing and highest-scoring game of the tournament.

Final Four — Tennessee, USC, Pittsburgh, UCLA

I started by penciling in Georgetown, instead of USC and then Stanford, instead of Pittsburgh. Then I remembered how uninspired and lackadaisical Georgetown played during their non-conference schedule. Stanford’s history of choking in the tournament also caused me to second guess my decision. USC and Pittsburgh are two of the most dangerous teams in the nation right now and can definitely make a run to San Antonio. First, Pitt will have its hands full with no. 1 seed Memphis in the Sweet 16. USC must take care of business against an upset-minded Michael Beasley and Kansas State in the first round. It’s a gutsy Final Four. I’m proud to say it’s not the same uninspired one which professional “bracketologists” are churning out.

Upsets – No. 10 Davidson will role to the Sweet 16. After battling Maryland close in last year’s first round and taking several Top 25 teams to the wire earlier in the season, the Wildcats are poised to breakthrough to the tourney’s second weekend. Mid-major darling Drake is, in my opinion, a lock for the Sweet 16, if only they can figure out how to neutralize 7’3’’ Connecticut big-man Hasheem Thabeet. No. 12 George Mason over no. 5 Notre Dame is my biggest upset. GMU seniors Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas are still not garnering the respect they deserve.

**By Chris Weidman, Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor**

National Champion: Congrats UNC, you get to grab the scissors and manicure the nets, sorry if I spoiled the ending.

Before giving my ‘expert picks’… My hometown teams from Philadelphia deserve praise. Temple, St. Joseph’s and Villanova all made it to the dance despite each teams valiant effort to waste solid tournament quality stretches of their season. The City of Brotherly Love has had at least one team playing in March Madness for 31 straight years. Dynasty anyone?

The Philly Matchups:
St. Joe’s over Oklahoma. The Hawks beat ranked Xavier twice in one week and have tallied eight wins over the top-100 RPI.
Temple over Michigan State. Intriguing because the Owls are on a role and Michigan State, well, they’re not.
Villanova over a tired Clemson team. Write it down, chalk it up and thank me later. The Wildcats move on to stuff Vanderbilt in the round of 32 before shooting down the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16.

Before I anger the 112 percent of our student body that hails from “NoVa,” I offer Georgetown credit as the Hoyas should reach the Final Four with Hibbert standing tall and the brilliant coaching of John Thompson III.

Did anyone see Baylor bouncing like toddlers when the Bears’ name was called Sunday? Isn’t that what sports is all about? Baylor demolishes Duke, before fading against UCLA ending a George Mason like run.

In the South region, the Panthers will chomp the Tigers as Pitt upsets Memphis only to fall to the twin towers of Stanford.

Final Four: UNC, Georgetown, UCLA and Stanford.

Avenging two late season losses to UCLA, Stanford rises to their first championship game since winning it all over Dartmouth in 1942. The other San Antonio pairing allows UNC’s Hansbrough to topple Hibbert while grabbing over 20 boards to spur the Tar Heels past the Hoyas. Sorry Lopez brothers, UNC is too good for the West Coast this year. The Heels win their second championship in four years 86-73.

**By Matt Poms, Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor**

Once again, it’s that time of year when millions of Americans gather around office water coolers and internet message boards to debate the relative merits and vagaries of the selections of the NCAA tournament committee. This time, however, the committee has curtly deprived us of that privilege by producing one of the least controversial brackets in recent memory.

A host of damaging, late season losses by major conference bubble teams vastly depleted the amount of squads with valid tournament resumes, leading to a fairly straightforward selection process.

When the official bracket was released, Virginia Tech and Illinois State were the only two schools with legitimate gripes about their exclusion from the field, with Oregon and Arizona profiting at their expense.

In the end, the 2008 season gave way to an extremely top-heavy field, suffering from a dearth of teams with genuine Final Four chances.

That is not to say that upsets will not be healthily evident over the first weekend.

On Thursday, look for Michael Beasley and his 26.5 ppg to single-handedly overwhelm O.J. Mayo, as 11th-seeded Kansas State as takes down sixth-seeded USC in the Midwest regional.

In the East, every William and Mary student’s favorite mid-major, the 12th-seeded George Mason Patriots, similarly drew a favorable first round matchup with no. 5 seed Notre Dame. Expect Will Thomas and company to handle an Irish squad which has failed to advance in March the past two years.

After the annual turmoil of the initial two rounds, 2008 will not see another Mason-like run, as experience will rule the hardcourts.

Both UCLA and Georgetown will return to the Final Four, to be joined by UNC and Texas.

In San Antonio, Tyler Hansbrough and Kevin Love will dominate, setting up an epic title game matchup between the two big men.

In the final, Hansbrough’s experience will win out over Love’s youth and UNC will defeat UCLA, allowing Roy Williams to cut down the nets in San Antonio for the second time in four seasons.

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