Doug's Thursday picks

Before you read any farther, take a step back and stop to think about how successful I've been thus far. Not!!! I'm actually in LAST place in our office pool, so that should give you some insight to my expertise. Therefore, if you think these are the picks of a well-informed analyst you are even less informed.<BR>That should be disclaimer enough to protect myself from lawsuits. With that out of my system, advance at your own risk.

Midwest Regional (Minneapolis)
No. 1 Kentucky vs. 5 Wisconsin

I'm one those that thought Wisconsin would be an early exit. In fact, I had Weber State sending the Badgers home in rounds one. However, Wisconsin not only beat Weber State, the Badgers handled Tulsa to advance to the Sweet 16 and I'm still in awe. No way does this team beat Kentucky. Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch and Cliff Hawkins give Kentucky as good a backcourt as anyone, but the Wildcat front line is the deciding factor. Marquis Estill and Chuck Hayes, along with Eric Daniels and Jules Camara, have been beasts on the boards. The "other Wildcats", winner of 24 straight games, is playing the best basketball of any team in the tournament and until they show even a hint of vulnerability you have to stay with a winner. Kentucky wins this game easily.

No. 2 Pitt vs. No. 3 Marquette
I've said many times that Marquette is simply a very good (not great) team in a not-so-good conference. Dwayne Wade is one of the premiere players in the country, but after that the Eagles are somewhat suspect. Pitt, although not a dominant team either, is so methodical and patient on the offense end that the Panthers will never beat themselves. Defensively, Pitt is outstanding. Brandin Knight started off the season slowly, but has come on strong to help his team win the Big East Tournament and his stellar play has carried over to this tournament. Take Pitt in a close game.

West Region (Salt Lake City)
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Notre Dame
The Wildcats could not have had anymore of a scare than they endured last Saturday as Gonzaga took them to two overtimes, with all five starters playing more than 40 minutes each, before advancing to Anaheim. It might be just what the doctor ordered to create the kind of urgency necessary to move another notch closer to New Orleans. Notre Dame doesn't have to horses down low to give Channing Frye and Rick Anderson the problems the Bulldogs did, but the Irish have three great shooters from beyond the arc. Chris Thomas, Matt Carroll and Dan Miller are each capable of putting big numbers. Thomas can create his own shot, but Carroll and Miller are spot-up shooters. The Wildcats will win if they can make Carroll and Miller put the ball on the floor and keep Thomas our of the paint. Easier said than done, but the Irish are going to win this game on the inside. Arizona wins, but it'll be closerthan expected.

No. 2 Kansas vs.No. 3 Duke
The matchups is this game favor Kansas by an ever-so-slight margin. Nick Collison will be very difficult for Duke to handle, whereas the perimeter players of Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing and JJ Reddick probably give the Dukies a slight edge over Aaron Miles, Kirk Heinrich and Keith Langford. KU, without Wayne Simien, has very little depth on the interior, but the experience advantage might be enough. The game is too close to call, but I'd go with KU.

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