This year's NCAA men's basketball tournament could be a good one. There really isn't a weak bracket. I'll get into my Final Four picks, and justifications, later in the week. But here are some upsets and surprises that I see in the first two rounds.
Butler over Wake Forest: Wake Forest was very good at the start of the year. But I just think they have been going through the motions for a while now. I think Butler is a solid, consistent team.
|Robert O'Kelley and Wake Forest were ranked in the top 10 earlier this season.|
Xavier over Notre Dame: I just don't like the way Notre Dame finished the season. This may have more to do with the way Notre Dame didn't play than with how Xavier did play.
Oklahoma State over USC: In the wake of this season's tragic plane crash, Oklahoma State is the tournament (and national) sentimental favorite. This pick is strictly on coaching experience, Eddie Sutton over Henry Bibby.
Creighton over Iowa: I might feel differently if I knew whether or not Luke Recker could contribute for Iowa. But I liked what I saw with Creighton all year. Plus, they have a lot of seniors and the experience will help. Iowa was a good team at the beginning of the year but has seemed like an overachiever of late. I don't know how long they can keep it up without Recker.
Georgia State over Wisconsin: I can almost hear you saying, "Georgia who?" But remember, this team is coached by Lefty Driesell and has transfers who have played in the Big East and the ACC. Talented players who are just not playing in front of the band from a big-time school. Wisconsin will try to maintain a slow tempo in the game. If Georgia State can get the game flowing past a 54-52 final score, then I think they can win.
St. Joseph's over Stanford: This is a second-rounder, but I have been on St Joe's bandwagon for a while. Freshman Jameer Nelson is one of the best point guards in the country. And Phil Martelli is a good, underrated coach. Stanford just seems to be a bit slow and methodical for a No. 1 seed. This is a classic David-and-Goliath matchup. But all the No. 1 seeds won't make the Final Four.
Georgetown over Arkansas: Nolan Richardson will give you his 40 minutes of hell, but the Hoyas' backcourt is very strong, especially Kevin Braswell. He'll handle the pressure. I also like the presence inside of forward Mike Sweetney. Craig Esherick does not have a lot of head-coaching experience, but he was John Thompson's right-hand man for all of those NCAA runs in the 1980s and '90s. He probably picked up more than a few tournaments tips.
Providence over Penn State: Just a gut feeling from having seen both teams. I think they'll get it done on a neutral court. The Friars may win two games in this tournament, actually. Don't laugh. They could beat North Carolina.
Gonzaga over Virginia: This is no Cinderella team. This year's Zags could be better than the last two editions. They have top players in center Casey Calvary (19 ppg) and guard Dan Dickau (18 ppg). Don't forget the conference freshman of the year in guard Blake Stepp. Their guards may be too much for Virginia's backcourt. Plus, the Cavaliers just don't play well on the road. And Memphis is a long way from Charlottesville.