Doug's Thursday picks

It's the greatest sporting event of the year, and if it's not postponed by war with Iraq there's simply nothing like the excitement of the NCAA Tournament's opening day. One thing is certain; there will be some upsets. With that in mind, I'll stick out my neck and give you my predictions for the Thursday games.

Round One, my favorite day of this three-week event, is usually ripe for upsets. And when a big dog tumbles Cinderella punches her ticket for another waltz at the Big Dance. With the still relatively-new pod system in place, every region has some Thursday games. Let's take a look at my picks in each region.

East Region (Oklahoma City)
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 South Carolina State
Thurmond Zimmerman (16.1 ppg) and Moses Malone Jr. (16.1) lead the Bulldogs in scoring. You'd think a team led by Malone might be the favorite and not a No. 16 seed being sent home after one game. Oklahoma wins in a rout.

No. 8 California vs. No. 9 North Carolina State
Like most of you, I'll be pulling for all the Pac-10 teams and I'll be faithfully in the corner of the Golden Bears. What's to like about the Wolfpack anyway? After all, wasn't it NC State coach Herb Sendek who was trying to lure Mustafa Shakur away from his rightful inheritance as the Wildcats' next point guard? So much for the recruiting battles, this game is more about the present than the future. And it just so happens the Wolfpack is a tougher bunch right now.
Cal might win the battle on the perimeter, but to survive Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers must have career games because Amit Tamir and Solmon Hughes are about to get schooled in the paint by a much more physical Wolfpack front line. Julius Hodge will cause the slower Bears fits with his penetration and Levi Watkins and Josh Powell will dominate the glass, a lethal combination likely to send the Bears back to Berkeley with an early exit.

South Region (Spokane)
No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 13 San Diego
The Cardinal may or may not deserve a four seed and San Diego has always fought for respectability, even after it beat the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion early in the season when that seemed like an upset. In this matchup of West Coast schools the Cardinal simply has too much firepower.
Cardinal big man Rob Little, at 6-9 and 270, will have his work cut out for him when he bangs with the Torreros' 6-11, 290-pound Jason Keep. Little and Keep might fight to a draw, but the Cardinal has the advantage on the perimeter and overall talent. Stanford advances.

No. 5 UConn vs. No. 12 BYU
This is a game the tournament selection committee hopes goes the way of the seeding. If BYU can win two games and advance to the Sweet 16, the committee ends up with egg on its face and everybody in America must redo their bracket and shift BYU to a new region to avoid playing on Sunday.
Fortunately it won't matter, because BYU will not get into the round of 32. UConn has been coming on strong since shifting Ben Gordon to the point. Gordon, Tony Robertson and Talik Brown have the ability to create outside shots and that has opened it up for Emeka Okafor to be more of an offensive threat on the interior. Okafor has always dominated in the paint and leads the nation in blocked shots. His intimidating presence and the Huskies' perimeter shooting will be too much for the Cougars.

West Region (Salt Lake City)
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Vermont
The Vermont Catamounts play a patient style, but take what they can get. According to Arizona Coach Lute Olson, "They won't beat themselves."
Well, that's good. Because the Catamounts won't have to beat themselves to leave early, the Wildcats will do it for them. Cats win big.

No. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 9 Gonzaga
There's just nothing I like much better than cheering for the Bearcats to lose, unless it's cheering for the Bulldogs to win. After all, Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is noted for his team's physical and aggressive style. And Huggins is the same guy even after an early-season heart attack failed to slow him down. He's still a boiler on the sidelines letting off steam at ever opportunity.
To make matters worse Gonzaga has been playing without its most physical player, Corey Violette, who sprained his ankle and played only sparingly in the Bulldogs' loss to San Diego in the conference title game. Unless Violette is 100 percent, Gonzaga will have to counter with Blake Stepp bombing away from beyond the arc. If Stepp is off his game, or if the Bulldogs can't muster some help for Violette in the paint, Cincinnati will advance. I have to go with the Bearcats, and I just hate that.

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Central Michigan
On paper, you have to go with the Blue Jays but Central Michigan is playing great basketball at just the right time. The Chippewas have won nine of their last 10 games, including an upset of Kent State to win the MAC tournament championship. The Blue Jays will have a difficult time with 7-foot center Chris Kaman, but Central Michigan will have an equally difficult task in holding down Kyle Korver. The player that dominates will give his team a great chance to win. This should be another close one, but I like Central Michigan.

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Colorado State
Because this game is being played at a high (4500 ft.) altitude, you have to give the Rams a chance. They play their home games at a similar altitude, so they will be more acclimated to the conditions. Colorado State comes into this game on somewhat of a role. The Rams have won five of their last six games and are here by virtue of their triumph in the Mountain West Conference tournament. On the other hand, Duke is deep enough to survive the high altitude conditions, and if the Blue Devils take care of the ball it should be another W for Coach K. However, if Colorado State can get another big game out of Matt Nelson as it did to beat UNLV, and if it can prevent J. J. Redick from hitting big numbers, there's a chance, yet a very slim one. Go with the Dukies.

(Indianapolis)
No. 4 Oklahoma City)
No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 South Carolina State
Thurmond Zimmerman (16.1 ppg) and Moses Malone Jr. (16.1) lead the Bulldogs in scoring. You'd think a team led by Malone might be the favorite and not a No. 16 seed being sent home after one game. Oklahoma wins in a rout.

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No. 8 California vs. No. 9 North Carolina State
Like most of you, I'll be pulling for all the Pac-10 teams and I'll be faithfully in the corner of the Golden Bears. What's to like about the Wolfpack anyway? After all, wasn't it NC State coach Herb Sendek who was trying to lure Mustafa Shakur away from his rightful inheritance as the Wildcats' next point guard? So much for the recruiting battles, this game is more about the present than the future. And it just so happens the Wolfpack is a tougher bunch right now.
Cal might win the battle on the perimeter, but to survive Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers must have career games because Amit Tamir and Solmon Hughes are about to get schooled in the paint by a much more physical Wolfpack front line. Julius Hodge will cause the slower Bears fits with his penetration and Levi Watkins and Josh Powell will dominate the glass, a lethal combination likely to send the Bears back to Berkeley with an early exit.

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South Region (Spokane)
No. 4 Stanford vs. No. 13 San Diego
The Cardinal may or may not deserve a four seed and San Diego has always fought for respectability, even after it beat the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion early in the season when that seemed like an upset. In this matchup of West Coast schools the Cardinal simply has too much firepower.
Cardinal big man Rob Little, at 6-9 and 270, will have his work cut out for him when he bangs with the Torreros' 6-11, 290-pound Jason Keep. Little and Keep might fight to a draw, but the Cardinal has the advantage on the perimeter and overall talent. Stanford advances.

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No. 5 UConn vs. No. 12 BYU
This is a game the tournament selection committee hopes goes the way of the seeding. If BYU can win two games and advance to the Sweet 16, the committee ends up with egg on its face and everybody in America must redo their bracket and shift BYU to a new region to avoid playing on Sunday.
Fortunately it won't matter, because BYU will not get into the round of 32. UConn has been coming on strong since shifting Ben Gordon to the point. Gordon, Tony Robertson and Talik Brown have the ability to create outside shots and that has opened it up for Emeka Okafor to be more of an offensive threat on the interior. Okafor has always dominated in the paint and leads the nation in blocked shots. His intimidating presence and the Huskies' perimeter shooting will be too much for the Cougars.

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West Region (Salt Lake City)
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Vermont
The Vermont Catamounts play a patient style, but take what they can get. According to Arizona Coach Lute Olson, \"They won't beat themselves.\"
Well, that's good. Because the Catamounts won't have to beat themselves to leave early, the Wildcats will do it for them. Cats win big.

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No. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 9 Gonzaga
There's just nothing I like much better than cheering for the Bearcats to lose, unless it's cheering for the Bulldogs to win. After all, Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is noted for his team's physical and aggressive style. And Huggins is the same guy even after an early-season heart attack failed to slow him down. He's still a boiler on the sidelines letting off steam at ever opportunity.
To make matters worse Gonzaga has been playing without its most physical player, Corey Violette, who sprained his ankle and played only sparingly in the Bulldogs' loss to San Diego in the conference title game. Unless Violette is 100 percent, Gonzaga will have to counter with Blake Stepp bombing away from beyond the arc. If Stepp is off his game, or if the Bulldogs can't muster some help for Violette in the paint, Cincinnati will advance. I have to go with the Bearcats, and I just hate that.

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No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 Central Michigan
On paper, you have to go with the Blue Jays but Central Michigan is playing great basketball at just the right time. The Chippewas have won nine of their last 10 games, including an upset of Kent State to win the MAC tournament championship. The Blue Jays will have a difficult time with 7-foot center Chris Kaman, but Central Michigan will have an equally difficult task in holding down Kyle Korver. The player that dominates will give his team a great chance to win. This should be another close one, but I like Central Michigan.

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No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Colorado State
Because this game is being played at a high (4500 ft.) altitude, you have to give the Rams a chance. They play their home games at a similar altitude, so they will be more acclimated to the conditions. Colorado State comes into this game on somewhat of a role. The Rams have won five of their last six games and are here by virtue of their triumph in the Mountain West Conference tournament. On the other hand, Duke is deep enough to survive the high altitude conditions, and if the Blue Devils take care of the ball it should be another W for Coach K. However, if Colorado State can get another big game out of Matt Nelson as it did to beat UNLV, and if it can prevent J. J. Redick from hitting big numbers, there's a chance, yet a very slim one. Go with the Dukies.

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(Indianapolis)
No. 4