In the East, Duke will likely advance to the Sweet 16, but will have a tough game with either Notre Dame or Charlotte, a team from the same state, but not the same league, if you take our meaning, and they would enjoy the chance to embarrass the ACC. They almost did it to UNC a few years ago, you may recall.
If it's to be Notre Dame, then Coach K has to play former assistant Mike Brey. Skip Bayless alert: when the former ChiTrib writer said Notre Dame was settling for mediocrity, we called him in on it. Does anyone know where he is currently misinforming the public? We'd like to remind him of his poor judgment.
Notre Dame is a team Duke would be expected to beat, but Brey knows Duke inside out. He uses a lot of what he learned here. It's not going to be a cakewalk or anything, regardless of who Duke plays on Saturday.
Being slightly subversive, or perhaps just having an eye on story lines, the NCAA put Utah and Southern Cal in the bottom half of that bracket. So if SC wins, then Duke gets a rematch of last year's very intense game, which Duke had to really work for, and if Utah wins, then Chris Burgess gets a chance to underscore his reasons for leaving Duke, and his dad gets a chance to reclaim the soapbox. Our guess is that would provide a subtle motivation.
As of now,we'd expect Cal, Pitt, Oklahoma State, and Bama to advance. However, OSU has not been at their best recently, and Pitt has a major injury to deal with, so let's leave those as potential shockers for now. Kent State is a MAC team, and you know how those guys can be.
In the West, Cincinnati faces a potential beartrap with UCLA. The Bruins should call themselves Jekyll and Hyde and make their road jerseys Lavin-der. Who knows what to expect? They stuck it to Kansas and can periodically hit greatness. They could manage it for one game, or for six. Cincinnati better be ready for anything, including Ole Miss. Ole Miss shouldn't beat UCLA, but UCLA shouldn't lose the games they lose, either.
Missouri is a dangerous #12 seed. They are small, but so are most teams these days, and their coach has been to...let's see...three Final Fours as a player and at least one as a coach. Who else has been to that many? Well, let's see...the guy at Notre Dame and the guy at Duke can match him. Henry Bibby has three titles from his UCLA days. Lute Olson and Steve Fisher have two Final Fours and one title each. We're missing some people we're sure - Eddie Sutton of course! - but it's a big field and hard to keep up.
Trivia question: how many Final Fours has Coach K been to? It might be more than you think.
We admire Davidson quite a bit, but we don't think they can pull off Ohio State. Gonzaga is bound to be mad about slipping to a #6 seed, and who could blame them? They'll likely get Arizona in the second game, and will love sticking it to a Pac-10 team if they can. We don't know that they can, but Dickau and Walton on one court is worth the price of admission. We love both of those guys.
We'll take Xavier over Hawaii, Oklahoma over Xavier and in the Sweet 16.
In the East, Maryland has several teams they have to be wary of, starting with Wisconsin. We don't know a lot about the Badgers, but this is the first year the new guy has run things, and they still have a lot of Tony Bennett's guys who know how to slow a game down. That's always been a problem for Maryland.
Marquette should advance, and they are a very, very tough team, and Jay Bilas fingered them as a darkhorse to watch. Wise call. The Terps will be motivated, though. If they had won the ACC, we'd pick Marquette in an upset, but that's harder to do with a wakeup call. Just past them lurks Kentucky, Texas Tech, Georgia, Michigan State, and UConn. If we were Maryland, we would worry about them in this order of magnitude: Kentucky, UConn, Michigan State, Marquette, Texas Tech, and Georgia. N.C. State has proven they can beat Maryland, but getting past Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun will be very tough, and Marquette's coach sharpened his craft at Izzo's side.
Kansas also got a handy wakeup call, losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tourney. Stanford, with their very patient, patterned attack, is a potential problem. Florida has not played inspiring ball of late, and so we would expect Illinois to beat them assuming neither team suffers a shocking upset. Actually, though, Creighton is a basketball school, though a lot of people don't know that (Willis Reid went there and Eddie Sutton coached there), and SDSU's Bill Fisher, who used to coach Michigan, would love a whack at a Big 10 school like Illinois.
In the bottom half of this bracket, we confess to a certain ignorance of Pepperdine, Oregon, and Mississippi State. We do know something about Texas and Rick Barnes, though, and we think they have a tremendous shot at the Sweet Sixteen. Can anyone add to our knowledge of the field?