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Before you fill out your bracket read what our “experts” have to say about this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Jeff Dooley, Flat Hat Managing Editor
My Final Four: Louisville, Washington, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma
National Champion: Louisville
In the Midwest: I see the Cardinals as having the easiest road to the Final Four, although a Sweet 16 matchup vs. Wake Forest could be a really tough game. I like Tyrese Rice and Boston College to make it to the Elite 8.
Upset watch: No. 14 North Dakota State over no. 3 Kansas
In the West: The UConn Huskies will be the first no. 1 seed to lose. They’re struggling without injured guard Jerome Dyson, and their supreme inside advantage will be nullified in the second round against a BYU team that can shoot the lights out from deep. This year’s Stephen Curry is Washington freshman guard Isaiah Thomas. He’ll be the reason why the Huskies upset Memphis to get to the Final Four.
Upset watch: No. 12 Northern Iowa over no. 5 Purdue
In the East: Full disclosure: I’m a huge Villanova Wildcats fan. While I did my best to remain objective, I do have them knocking off Duke in the Sweet 16 before falling to Pitt in the Elite 8. The Panthers’ trio of DaJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields is the best in the country.
Upset watch: No. 12 Wisconsin over no. 5 Florida State
In the South: I think everybody is sleeping on Oklahoma. Who would you rather take in a Tyler Hansbrough-Blake Griffin showdown? Remember how well Psycho T did against NBA caliber bigs last year vs. Kansas? The Sooners squeak by the Tar Heels in the regional final.
Biggest upset: No. 13 Akron over no. 4 Gonzaga
So why Louisville? They remind me of Carolina back in 2005. They’re incredibly deep, and they’re the one team in the field that will not lose if they play their best game. Oklahoma will pose a tough challenge in the final, but I think Terrence Williams and co. will get the job done for the Cards.
Andrew Pike, Flat Hat Sports Editor
My Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and UNC
National Champion: Pittsburgh
In the Midwest: There aren’t many teams in this region that can challenge the Cardinals. An “on” Wake Forest (the team that beat UNC back in January) could be a difficult out, but a no. 2 like Michigan State in the Elite 8 won’t make Louisville sweat.
Upset watch: This is a mild one — No. 10 USC over no. 7 Boston College.
In the West: This region is built for a UCONN-Memphis final, and that’s what will happen. Purdue could make a run at UCONN, but 7’3″ Hasheem Thabeet and A.J. “laptop” Price won’t be satisfied with only a Sweet 16 appearance.
Upset watch: No. 11 Utah State over no. 6 Marquette.
In the East: This region has plenty of dangerous teams: Pitt, Duke, ‘Nova, Xavier, the ‘Noles. It’s a deep region. Still, I like Pittsburgh to emerge, beating Duke and exposing the Blue Devils’s weak interior defense in the Elite Eight.
Upset watch: A second-rounder — no. 6 UCLA over no. 3 Villanova.
In the South: Tyler Hansbrough and co. came back for a national title. Getting past Oklahoma will be a true test, especially for Hansbrough as he goes up against national POY favorite Blake Griffin. UNC beats back Butler, Gonzaga and OU to earn a trip to Detroit.
Upset watch: No. 12 Western Kentucky over no. 5 Illinois
Pittsburgh is the team to beat. The Panthers come into the tournament rested and ready. With DeJuan Blair (15.6 points and 12 boards a game), Sam Young (18.7 and 6 per game), and Levance Fields (10.7 points and 7.6 assists) on the floor, it’s tough to bet against Pittsburgh, even if they face Louisville in the final.
Matt Poms, Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor
My Final Four: Wake Forest, Memphis, Pitt, UNC
National Champion: UNC
In the Midwest: Jeff Teague goes off in the Sweet Sixteen as Wake buries Louisville behind Teague and their monstrous frontcourt. Keep an eye on a sneakily good West Virginia team to give Kansas and Michigan St. a run for their money as well.
Upset Watch: No. 12 Arizona over no. 5 Utah
In the East: Pitt is a great team, but if DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble they are vulnerable on the boards. Florida State will give them a run for their money. Duke also buries its recent tournament struggles and makes a run to the Elite Eight, after winning a Sweet Sixteen rematch with Eric Maynor and VCU.
Upset Watch: Is it an upset if nearly everyone is predicting it? No. 11 VCU over no. 6 UCLA
In the South: North Carolina takes down Oklahoma in an epic Elite Eight matchup between Tyler Hansbrough and Blake Griffin. Griffin wins the individual duel, but the deeper Tar Hells advance. Also watch out for a very good Syracuse squad — if they’re not exhausted from their 7-overtime Big East tourney run, that is.
Upset Watch: No. 12 Western Kentucky over no. 5 Illinois
In the West: Memphis wins the weakest regional, downing Washington, which defeats UConn and makes a run to the Elite Eight. Keep an eye on my Terps as well though: They’ve beaten three teams better than Memphis this year and, with another big game from Greivis Vasquez, could very well spoil my predictions with a second round upset of the Tigers. I won’t be too disappointed.
Upset Watch: No. 11 Utah St. over no. 6 Marquette
Memphis’ defense and outside shooting downs Wake in the Final Four, while UNC proves too deep for DaJuan Blair and Pitt. In the final, Blair fouls out early attempting to guard Tyler Hansbrough and the Tarheels coast to a national championship. In an ironic twist, Bill Self is spotted in the stands wearing a Carolina logo ironed on to his shirt.
Chris Weidman, Flat Hat Assoc. Sports Editor
My Final Four: Louisville, Memphis, Villanova and Gonzaga
National Champion: Villanova
In the Midwest: I like West Virginia with Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks at the forward position to make some noise and carry the Mountaineers to the Elite 8, but the Louisville Cardinals will prevail. Wake Forest will make an early exit by way of Utah and look for Michigan State to rekindle their always-present tournament magic and turn some heads.
Upset watch: No. 6 Mountaineers hunt down no. 3 Jayhawks (barely an upset).
In the West: This region will show you who should have been the number one seed — Memphis. The Tigers are athletic and apparently can shoot free throws this year. Look for Purdue to make some noise and eliminate Connecticut (if UT-Chattanooga doesn’t) thanks to balanced scoring and staunch Big Ten defense.
Upset watch: No. 16 UT-Chattanooga over no. 1 Connecticut.
In the East: Show me some love Philly. Villanova? I think so. Who will stop them? American? Get a life. VCU will be a breeze. Duke? Choke. Florida State? Ha. The Wildcats aren’t here to party. They are here to dance ladies and gentlemen. I can hear “Gonna Fly Now” playing on SportsCenter already. Scottie Reynolds running up the steps to the Art Museum. I might have to go home for the second parade down Broad Street in 6 months.
Upset watch: No. 5 Florida State over no. 1 Pittsburgh
In the South: Sorry Tar Heels, but the boys from Spokane are going to be too much for any team to handle (except for Villanova). The dominant down-low tandem of Josh Heytvelt and Justin Daye is unstoppable some nights, and, if the Bulldogs were a part of a major conference (sorry WCC), this team would have much more national notoriety.
Upset watch: No. 11 Temple over both no. 6 Arizona State and no. 3 Syracuse. It’s Christmas in March!
(Villanova) Wildcats wax (Memphis) Tigers in battle of the felines. Why? The Wildcats will cruise with the combo of Scottie “Too Hottie” Reynolds and Dante “I’ma cut down the nets” Cunningham. Enough said.