Doug's Saturday picks

The easy games, if there were any, are behind them. Now the belt tightens because to advance to the Sweet Sixteen you must earn your way. Very few teams are given a free ride, even the No. 1 seeds that make it, and most will, have to work for it.

East Region (Oklahoma City)
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 California
Cal went to overtime to beat North Carolina State, while the Sooners had a easy time gaining entry to the round of 32. Like NC State, Oklahoma will bang and attempt to force its will on the physically challenged Bears, but Oklahoma has some perimeter weapons to go along with its intimidating style on the front line.
Cal might have a better chance if it can slow the pace, but either way Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers must have a bigger game than Hollis Price. I don't think that will happen and the Sooners will advance.

South Region (Spokane)
No. 4
Stanford vs. No. 5 UConn
The Huskies have the best shot blocker in the country and three guards who can put up big numbers. The Cardinals must play patiently, look for good scoring opportunities and hit from beyond the arc to open it up down low. UConn has more talent, but the Cardinal is a smarter TEAM. Stanford wins a close one.

Midwest (Spokane)
No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Tulsa
I was surprised either team advanced from its first round game. However, the Hurricanes were very impressive in disposing of No. 4 seed Dayton and I should have expected it because Andre Iguodala said it would happen. Iguodala's brother Frank plays for Dayton and yet Andre told me the Flyers would fall. Considering that, how can I pick Wisconsin. Go with the Hurricanes to advance once more.

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Missouri
Missouri had an uuexpectly difficult time with Southern Illinois and Marquette had problems with Holly Cross, but the tough games should make both battle-hardened warriors entering round two. Did I say warriors? Must be an omen, because I see Dwayne Wade leading the Golden Warriors past Ricky Paulding and the Tigers.

West Region (Salt Lake City)
No. 1
Arizona vs. No. 9 Gonzaga
Although I picked Cincinnati to send the Bulldogs packing, I'm happy they made it to the round of 32. I hate the Bearcats (maybe it's just Bob Huggins I don't like) and it gives more respect to West Coast hoops. The Zags play a lot like Stanford; they play tough in the paint and don't beat themselves. Their big men also run the floor well and Blake Stepp can hit the three or drive and finish.
The Wildcats are the most offensively balanced team in tournament and the Bulldogs can't cheat on anyone to give help. It's a bonus if Jason Gardner finds his shot, then Zags have NO chance. Even without Gardner, they have little. Take the Cats.

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 11 Central Michigan
Duke will have a difficult time matching up with 7-0 center Chris Kaman, but Central Michigan simply doesn't have the talent or the bench to play with the Blue Devils who are much more athletic and simply better basketball players. Duke probably has the easiest ticket to the Sweet Sixteen.

No. 4 Illinois vs.No. 5
Notre Dame
This might be the game of the day. If not, it's the most difficult to pick. In round one, the Irish got by a very tough Wisconsin-Milwaukee, while the Illini had a surprisingly difficult time with Western Kentucky. With a freshman backcourt, regardless of how talented they might be, All-American Brian Cook will simply have to carry the Illini as far as it goes in the tournament. Notre Dame has overachieved already. Give the nod to Illinois.

(Oklahoma City)
No. 2
Kansas vs. No. 10 Arizona State
Kansas will not have anyone to match up with Ike Diogu, but conversely the Sun Devils have no one who can defend Kirk Heinrich or Nick Collison. The only chance the Sun Devils have is if they get the Jayhawks in foul trouble. KU, without Wayne Simien, has very little depth but their talent should be enough to carry them to the Sweet Sixteen.

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