Bracket Breakdown: Friday Mar 19

Parity has closed the gap in college basketball and Friday's 2004 NCAA Tournament games are loaded with upset possibilities. In this edition of "Bracket Breakdown" I'll give you some key match ups watch, point out a few "homers" and give you my upset specials.

BRACKET BREAKDOWN: FRIDAY, MARCH 19

ATLANTA REGION

at Columbus, Ohio
No. 5 Illinois (24-6) vs. No. 12 Murray State (28-5): Game time 10:25 am
The Racers will be minus second leading scorer Kevin Brown because of a felony arrest on Monday. However, with all five starters averaging in double figures, Murray State really doesn't rely on any one player. Victor Cuthbart leads the team in scoring (14.5) and rebounding (10.3) and three perimeter players shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. Illinois, which had won 12 straight before losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament Championship, has two of the nations best guards in Dee Brown and Deron Williams. They WILL be challenged!!!
Doug's Pick: Murray State

No. 4 Cincinnati (24-6)vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State (27-5): Game time 12:55
Jason Maxiel (13.7, 6.9) leads the Bearcats in scoring and rebounding, while Tony Bobbitt and Field Williams can really stroke the three. ETSU has won 19 of its last 20 games and like Cinci can light it up from beyond the arc. Jerald fields (13.2, 6.4) and Zakee Wadood (14.8, 7.8) can dominate in the paint. This will be an exciting game to watch and is much closer the seeds would indicate. The team that shoots it best from the perimeter and wins the battle of the boards will likely win the game.
Doug's Pick: East Tennessee State

Orlando, Fla.

No. 7 Xavier (23-10) vs. No. 10 Louisville (20-9): Game time 7:40
Xavier is coming off a huge win over previously undefeated St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, while Louisville has been going in the other direction. The Cardinals have lost four of its last 12 but still ended in a tie for the regular season title in Conference USA. Francisco Garcia (16.5 ppg) and Taquan Dean (10.5 ppg) give the Cardinals more than simply an international flavor in the backcourt. The two can flat out play. In a nutshell, Louisville is too good for Xavier.
Doug's Pick: Louisville

No. 2 Mississippi State (25-3) vs. No. 15 Monmouth (21-11): Game time 5:10
This game needs little commentary. After transferring from Baylor, Lawrence Roberts earned First Team All-America and Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Roberts led the Bulldogs in scoring (17 ppg) and rebounding (10.4) and could make this a rout if Monmouth does not find a way to keep him off the glass. They won't.
Doug's Pick: Mississippi State

PHOENIX REGION

at Orlando, Fla.
No. 6 Vanderbilt (21-9) vs. No. 11 Western Michigan (26-4): Game time 12:45
Vanderbilt has some talent. After all, they beat Mississippi State, Kentucky and Florida during the regular season. If Matt Freije (18.5 ppg) can stay hot, the Commodores will be tough to beat. Freije has no conscience. He's hit 170 threes and shoots .421 from behind the arc. Western Michigan is led by the inside play of Mike Williams (18.4 ppg, 7.3) rpg) and Anthony Kahn ((12, 6.9), but the Broncos can also light it up from three-point range with four players hitting better than 40 percent on three-point attempts. The team that shoots it best will win.
Doug's Pick: Western Michigan

No. 3 North Carolina State (20-9) vs. No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette (20-8) : Game time 10:15 am
The Ragin' Cajuns gave the Arizona Wildcats a scare in the Fiesta Classic and I'd love to see former Arizona assistant Jessie Evans' team knock off the Wolfpack. However, the Cajuns simply do not shoot it well from the perimeter and to have any shot at all they'll have to win the battle of the boards. That won't be easy because NC State is big and athletic inside and on the perimeter.
Doug's Pick: North Carolina State

ST. LOUIS REGION

at Columbus, Ohio.
No. 1 Kentucky (26-4) vs. No. 16 Florida A&M (15-16): Game time 5:10
Florida A&M is the only team in the tournament with a losing record and it will end the season that way. The Rattlers have Terrance Woods, one of the nation's best three-point shooters. Woods also shoots 86.8 from the free throw line. However, A&M is overmatched. Look for Eric Daniels (14.5 ppg, 6 rpg) Chuck Hayes to have a big game for the Wildcats up front. If Gerald Fitch gets hot from the outside it could get ugly.
Doug's Pick: Kentucky

No. 8 Washington (19-11) vs. No. 9 Alabama-Birmingham (20-9): Game time 7:40
UAB beat Cincinnati during the regular season, but that's its only significant accomplishment. The Blazers have talent. They are quick and athletic and match up very well with the Huskies, especially on the perimeter. If UAB can shut down Nate Robinson and keep him out of the paint, while find a player to match up with Mike Jensen, the Blazers have a shot. This will be one of the more exciting games to watch and it should be very close.
Doug's Pick; Washington

at Kansas City, Mo.
No. 5 Providence (20-8) vs. No. 12 Pacific (24-7): Game time 5:25
If the Tigers had not won its conference tournament, they would be sitting at home watching this tournament on TV and playing in the NIT. Miah Davis is hitting 85% of free throws, but Davis will have to spend a lot of time at the charity stripe if Pacific wants to stay close. Won't happen. Pacific the worst No. 12 in the tournament!!!
Doug's Pick: Providence

No. 4 Kansas (19-11) vs. No. 3 Illinois-Chicago (24-7): Game time 7:40
KU has had an up-and-down season under first-year coach Bill Self, who has tried to make the Jayhawks a more deliberate team and rely on the inside presence of Wayne Simeon, David Padgett and Jeff Graves. It has been an easy transition, especially for point-guard Aaron Miles, after playing up-tempo under Roy Williams during his prior two seasons. The Flames have a great season, but KU will putout their fire.
Doug's Pick; Kansas

at Milwaukee, Wis.
No. 6 Boston College(23-9) vs. No. 11 Utah (24-8): Game time 10:30 am
Boston College and Utah have identical 83.87 Sagarin ratings, so why are the seedings so radically different? Because Sagarin is faulty, Boston College plays in a stronger conference. The Eagles beat Pitt and Syracuse and played UConn close. Conversely, the Mountain West was weak conference and Utes played a cupcake non-conference schedule. Guess which team wins?
Doug's Pick: Boston College

No. 3 Georgia Tech(23-9) vs. No. 14 Northern Iowa (21-9): Game time 1:00
the Yellow jackets get great play out of a trio of guards. Jarred Jack and Lee Elder start in the backcourt, while former UA reserve Will Bynum has been an offensive spark coming off the bench . Georgia Teach surprised UConn in the pre-season NIT and finished second in the ACC, the nation's most difficult conference. The Panthers had big wins over Southern Illinois and Creighton, but the Yellow Jackets are better than either.
Doug's Pick; Georgia Tech

EAST RUTHERFORD REGION

at Milwaukee, Wis.
No. 6 Wisconsin (24-6) vs. No. 11 Richmond (20-12): Game time 5:20
The Badgers won the Big Ten Tournament in impressive fashion, the Big Ten is down conference this year. However, for the NCAA Selection committee to take the Spiders, the third place team in the Atlantic 10 Conference, is criminal. Even the Big Ten is better. This is home game for Wisconsin and it would be embarrassing for the Big Ten and the Badgers if they lose in Milwaukee.
Doug's Pick: Wisconsin

No. 3 Pittsburgh (29-4) vs. No. 14 Central Florida (25-5): Game time 7:50
Robert Morentin (11.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) must have a huge game if CFU is have any chance at the upset. But Chris Taft (11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is more like likely to have the big game. Pitt can play physical and or use its athleticism to force its will on an opponent. There is simply no way this game is close. (
Doug's Pick: Pittsburgh

at Kansas City, Mo.
No. 7 Memphis (21-7) vs. No. 10 South Carolina (23-10): Game time 10:30 am
South Carolina had a hard time distinguishing itself in the tough SEC race, while Memphis, along with six others, finished tied for the regular season title in Conference USA. , The Gamecocks had big wins over XX, YY and ZZ. Memphis played well at home but its share of problems on the road. There are no home games in the tournament. Well, at least that's the theory.
Doug's Pick: South Carolina

No. 2 Oklahoma State (27-3) vs. No. 15 Eastern Washington (17-12): Game time 1:00
After during the season, it was unjust to give OSU a No. 2 seed. They deserved a No. 1. The Cowboys rolled through Big 12 regular season and the conference tournament, beating Texas three times along way. Like Mississippi State and Texas, the Cowboys have also benefited from a Baylor transfer. John Lucas. Tony Allen plays along side Lucas in backcourt to give the Cowboy's one of the better guard combos in the country. Ivan McFarlin has played big on the front line, averaging 12.1 ppg, and 6.4 rebounds. He's also blocked 46 shots shot 57.9% from the field.
Doug's Pick: Oklahoma State


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