Midwest Region (Nashville)
No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 16 IUPUI
IUPUI might seem to have an experience advantage with 25-year-old Matt Crenshaw, a veteran of six years in the Navy. Well, six years as a three-time member of the all-Navy team might earn him some elderstatesman respect, but unfortunately it won't win many basketball games. Kentucky has the advantage on the front line and in the backcourt. In short, the Wildcats advance.
No. 8 Oregon vs. No. Utah
The Utes are playing without Britton Johnsen and were 3-3 over the last six games without him. Oregon, winners of the Pac-10 Conference tournament, is on a three-game winning streak. The Utes would like to slow it down, the Ducks want to run. If the Ducks two Lukes, Ridnour and Jackson, are on their game, it will be no contest. If Utah coach Rick Majerus can come up with a gimmick defense to slow the Quack Attack down, the Utes could make it close. Yes, I said close, but either way the Ducks win.
No. 2 Pitt vs. No. 15 Wagner
Pitt's Brandin Knight is still hobbled by a sprained ankle, but he played through the pain and helped the Panthers to the Big East Tournament title. In the long run, Pitt will go as far as Knight can lead it. Pitt has some very talented complimentary players. This could be a game that gives Knight the opportunity to rest, and he could use it to get ready for Indiana or Alabama. Wagner is simply happy to a part of the Big Dance. Enough said, Pitt advances.
No. 7 Indiana vs. No. 11 Alabama
This is a matchup of two teams going in the wrong direction. The Crimson Tide lost seven of its final 10 games and Indiana was an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament. Neither team deserves to be in the tournament and for either team a win is a step forward. It's too bad they play each other because I don't believe either should go on. I'm starting to ramble, so let's just say Indiana wins by default.
South Region (Birmingham)
No. 1 Texas vs. No. 16 UNC-Asheville
UNC-Asheville is only the 17th team ever to make the NCAA Tournament field with a losing record. Add to that the fact that they had to go to overtime to defeat Texas Southern in the play-in game. That, and the fact that a 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1, is all you need to know to pencil in Texas to face the LSU/Purdue winner.
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 Purdue
LSU was one of only three teams to defeat Arizona this season and beat No. 4 Florida in the SEC Conference Tournament, so the Bengal Tigers might just be riding a wave of confidence coming in. Purdue has been up and down (mostly down of late) and it won't be easy playing in Birmingham where LSU should have the home crowd on its side. The Tigers move on while the Boilermakers go home.
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Troy State
Xavier, with All-American David West, has the inside-outside combination to make a deep run in the tournament, but the Musketeers probably drew the toughest 14 seed and this game is likely to be closer than most people anticipate. In the end, Xavier advances.
No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 UNC Wilmington
Maryland is not the team it was last year when it won the national championship and has been on a slide recently. Wilmington upset Southern California in the tournament last season, but it is not as talented either. This game could actually be close, but the Terps end the skid and advance to the round of 32.
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 15 Sam Houston State
The Gators are very young. Point guard Brett Nelson was injured earlier in the season and lost his starting job, giving way to freshman Anthony Roberson. Another freshman, Matt Walsh, gives the Gators a solid future in the backcourt. However as bright as that future might be, it's still the play of Matt Bonner that will determine the fate or the success of the Gators. Sam Houston State is simply overmatched. Take the Gators in a rout.
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Colorado
If this game were being played in the West, I'd give the Buffaloes a shot. Colorado is a much different team at home than it is on the road. Colorado defeated Kansas and Texas, among others, in Boulder, but could not win away from the high altitude, going 1-7 in Big 12 road games. Tampa is at sea level and even though Michigan State is rebuilding, the Spartans still have Tom Izzo at the helm. MSU advances.
East Region (Birmingham)
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Austin Peay
Louisville, after slipping a bit, won the Conference USA Tournament and seems to be playing like the team that won 17 straight at one time. Austin Peay has a win over Memphis on its resume, but it's not in the same class with the Cardinals. Take Louisville to advance.
No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Butler
The Bulldogs took Kentucky to the wire in the SEC tournament and when Mario Austin shows up they can beat anyone. Butler gained respect early in the season, before fading down the stretch. This is a story of two teams going in opposite directions and I don't see the trend changing any time soon. MSU goes to the round of 32, Butler goes home.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Manhattan
The Orangemen have the best freshman - and quite possibly the best player - in the college game in Carmello Anthony who averages a double-double, 22.7 ppg and 10 rpg. The Jasper have a prolific scorer in guard Luis Flores (24.8) and and Manhattan is 7-1 this season at neutral sites and 16-4 on the road. This game should be very, very close but take Syracuse to advance.
No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 11 Penn
Penn might actually have the edge in experience over the Cowboys, but Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton's team is stingy defensively. Quaker's forward Ugonna Onyekwe averages 16 points and is very quick to the glass (6.4 rpg). Penn can win this game if the Cowboys don't keep Onykwe off the boards. OSU is led by its guard tandem of Victor Williams and Tony Allen, who combine for almost 30 points per outing. Defense most always wins out, so take the Cowboys.
No.2 Wake Forest vs. No. 15 East Tennesee State
Wake got bounced from the ACC Tournament by NC State, but the Deacons have ridden the coat tails of All-American Josh Howard to a 24-win season. Howard has done it inside and outside, averaging 20 points and eight rebounds per game. If ETSU can shut down Howard they have a chance. Not!!! Go with the Demon Deacons.
No.7 St. Joseph's vs. No. 10 Auburn
The Hawks usually go as Jameer Nelson goes. Nelson leads the team in scoring and assists. If the Tigers can keep the ball out of his hands, they a shot at what would be a mild upset. St. Joe's holds it opponents to under 60 ppg, but Auburn comes to the Big Dance having won its last six tournament first round games. It won't be easy this time around, but it the Tigers are going to be successful they must work the ball into Marquis Daniels and beat the Hawks on the inside. Auburn has played more tough games and that should be the difference. Take the Tigers.
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