Husker Connection's Guide to the Madness!!

That time of year is here! Brackets are flowing through offices and the CBS college basketball theme is soon to be stuck in everyone's head. Oh to be in Vegas right now! For those of you who only watch college basketball in March or need help filling out your bracket, HC is here to help you out. Here is a breakdown of each bracket and fearless predictions of who will win.

St. Louis Region (formerly known as the Midwest)

1 seed – Kentucky. The Wildcats are the top overall seed and seem to be the hottest team in the tournament after rolling through the SEC tournament. UK is a very balanced team with an experienced backcourt led by Gerald Fitch and Cliff Hawkins. Tubby Smith has won a title before and this region points to another run to the Final Four.

Prediction: Upset in Sweet 16 by Kansas

16 – Florida A&M/Lehigh. These two teams get to play for the right to lose to Kentucky. The Rattlers from A&M are the only team under .500 in the tourney, but are hot. Expect them to win the play-in game and enjoy a couple more days in the tournament.

Prediction: Obvious first round loss

8 – Washington. The Huskies are riding high right now. They went from being off the bubble to an eight seed after beating Arizona three times and being the only team to figure out Stanford all year. Will the late season magic run end in the first round?

Prediction: Huskies ride hot streak into second round, but no further.

9 – UAB. The Blazers were on of five teams to tie for the Conference USA regular season title and are extremely quick. They love to force loads of turnovers and will be a great matchup with Washington.

Prediction: UAB loses a close one in round one.

5 – Providence. One of the coldest teams entering the tourney, Providence has lost three straight. Things can be corrected quickly though with the help of all-everything forward Ryan Gomes.

Prediction: The cold streak continues in upset to the Tigers of UP

12 – Pacific. The Tigers won the Big West tourney and have the ability to pull the upset against the struggling Friars. UP needs to find a way to stop the explosive Providence offense to win their first round game.

Prediction: Everything seems to work in beating Providence before losing to KU.

4 – Kansas. Possibly overseeded, KU received a huge break from the committee with placement in Kansas City for rounds one and two. The Jayhawks are playing much better right now than a month ago, but will that result in a third straight trip to the Final Four?

Prediction: ‘Hawks use KC and St. Louis locations on an unexpected trip to Final Four

13 – Illinois-Chicago. The Flames are a dangerous foe for KU if the game turns into a shootout because UIC is very quick, but not tall at all. If Cedric Banks and his 18.6 ppg find a rhythm then this game could be interesting.

Prediction: An early scare turns into a blowout loss against Kansas

6 – Boston College. This is the first trip to the Dance in four years for the Eagles and could be ripe for an upset. Drawing tournament mainstay Utah could not have made coach Al Skinner too excited.

Prediction: Cannot overcome Utah's tourney experience in first round upset

11 – Utah. This is not the same Utes team that was so successful a few years ago, but could cause some problems in the early rounds. Nick Jacobson is a clutch shooter and Andrew Bogut and Tim Frost is a formidable pair of big men.

Prediction: Jacobson and Co. fire on all cylinders in round one then lose to G Tech

3 – Georgia Tech. One of the hotter teams from the nation's toughest conference, the ACC, which could make a deep run in the tourney. The Jackets are not very tall, but can run with the best of them.

Prediction: A Sweet 16 run ends against Gonzaga

14 – Northern Iowa. A terrific run in the Missouri Valley tournament resulted in this automatic berth. The Panthers will need to shoot lights out and keep the game at a slow pace in order to compete with Tech.

Prediction: The threes do not fall against Tech and they are run out of the building

7 – Michigan State. Another year and another appearance for Tom Izzo's Spartans. Could the brutal non-conference schedule end up helping this team now? They made a surprise run to the Elite Eight last year, but likely will not repeat that feat this year.

Prediction: After three wins last year, the Spartans only get one this year

10 – Nevada. The Wolfpack have a win over Kansas and battled UConn in the Preseason NIT this year. They could pose some problems for Michigan State if the Spartans cannot shut down super-scorer Nick Snyder.

Prediction: ‘Pack can't compete with MSU's talent in round one

2 – Gonzaga. The Bulldogs finally get rewarded for their years of success with a high seed and a short trip to Seattle for their early rounds. Blake Stepp is probably the best player in this bracket, but the Zags have more than just Stepp and should go a long ways in the Dance.

Prediction: Elite Eight trip is ended by Kansas because the game is in St. Louis

15- Valparaiso. A tourney staple, Valpo has a history of upsets, but probably has too little to scare Gonzaga. Bryce Drew is now in the NBA and the Zags are playing at home more or less, so a victory is very doubtful.

Prediction: Homer Drew cannot will his team to an upset in the tourney again

East Rutherford Region (formerly the East):

1 seed – St. Joseph's. Yes, the Hawks went unbeaten until their last game of the year. Yes, Jameer Nelson and Delonte West are a tremendous backcourt. No, SJU is not getting out of the Sweet 16.

Prediction: The overrated Hawks are taken out by Wake Forest in the Sweet 16

16- Liberty. If a 16 seed is going to pull an upset this year, this is your best bet. Liberty dominated the Big South tournament, but the competition takes a slight step up from that league.

Prediction: The Flames are doused in round one

8 – Texas Tech. Bobby Knight has been on a terrible streak in the Dance, but with Andre Emmett on his team he could advance out of the first round for the first time in his last six tries. The 49ers are tough matchup in this 8/9 game.

Prediction: Tech gets it done before being shot down by the Hawks

9 – Charlotte. Bobby Lutz knows how to win in the postseason and will give the Red Raiders an excellent game. The 49ers can bomb away from 3-point land and will need to make those shots to win.

Prediction: The 49ers pan for a win and come up empty

5 – Florida. The Gators came out of their funk in the last week, but are still ripe for an upset. This entire team is streaky and primed for an upset if their shots are not going down with regularity.

Prediction: Billy Donovan goes back to Gainesville with a first round loss

12 – Manhattan. Bobby Gonzalez is the hottest coaching prospect in the country and the Jaspers are a great choice to be this year's Cinderella. If any unknown team is going to make a magical run to the Elite Eight, this is the team to do it. Luis Flores is a player to watch in this bracket.

Prediction: Upset the Gators, but fall on a buzzer-beater to Wake Forest

4 – Wake Forest. Chris Paul is one of the top freshmen in the country and the Deacons have interior talent to beat everyone else on their half of the bracket. Playing in Raleigh for the first two rounds will only help this team.

Prediction: A run to the Elite Eight before falling to Oklahoma State

13 – VCU. The Rams are coached by former Duke player Jeff Capel, the youngest coach in Division 1 at 29. They have no height and will have a hard time matching up with Wake Forest in every area.

Prediction: One and done, but better than not getting to the Dance at all

6 – Wisconsin. The Badgers won the Big 10 tournament with ease, but were not rewarded for it as a six seed. They did get a great bonus from having their first two rounds scheduled for Milwaukee. Devon Harris can carry this team on his shoulders when necessary, but the supporting cast is more than capable of winning games themselves.

Prediction: Using the "home-court" advantage, UW upsets Pittsburgh before losing to OSU

11 – Richmond. The Spiders will be on the road for their first round game and that suits them just fine. They won at Kansas and Colorado this year and could scare Wisconsin as well.

Prediction: The upset bid falls short in round one

3 – Pittsburgh. The Panthers got shafted with this seed and location, which may affect their performance on the first weekend. After winning the Big East and getting to the Big East final, Jamie Dixon's team deserved a two seed closer to home.

Prediction: Pitt cannot get past the Badgers in Milwaukee and go home upset with the NCAA

14 – Central Florida. UCF is not just a football school known as the alma mater of Dante Culpepper, but they might need Dante's size to compete with Pittsburgh. The Golden Knights might catch the Panthers focused too much on their poor seeding and get the upset, but do not bet on it.

Prediction: First round exit

7 – Memphis. John Calipari has assembled a very talented group of players in spite of losing plenty to the NBA draft early. One of the Conference USA champions, the Tigers have not received much attention all year. Will the talented youngsters play up to their capabilities?

Prediction: In a minor upset, the Tigers are beaten by the Gamecocks

10 – South Carolina. Dave Odom knows Dance success in his years with Wake Forest and has a nice mix of sharpshooters and big men to win in the first round.

Prediction: USC takes out Memphis before succumbing to OSU

2 – Oklahoma State. The Cowboys probably deserved a number one seed, but that does not take away the fact that this team could do some major damage in this tournament. OSU can score and defend as well as anyone. Eddie Sutton has a great team on his hands.

Prediction: A trip to the Final Four, beating Kansas, then falling to UConn in the final

15 – E. Washington. Not much to say about EWU because they do not stand a chance against the Cowboys. At least they got to play in the Dance.

Prediction: Blown away by Okie State

Atlanta Region (formerly the Southeast):

1 seed – Duke. Another year and another number one seed for the Blue Devils. It will not be an easy road at all, but this team is talented enough to handle any challenge. Expect a crazy Atlanta Region!

Prediction: Duke wills their way to another Final Four before losing to UConn

16- Alabama St. The Hornets are a nice story out of the SWAC. They started 3-12 before making a wild run in the conference tourney to get a Dance invite. They will be totally overmatched by Duke.

Prediction: Hopefully Duke does not crush their spirit

8 – Seton Hall. Andre Barrett leads an experience Pirates team that finally met expectations this year. Unfortunately, SHU gets the most talented ninth seed in tournament history: Arizona. Maybe they can catch the Wildcats looking ahead to Duke.

Prediction: They cannot match up talent-wise and lose in round one

9 – Arizona. ‘Zona went from being an early season favorite to out of the polls altogether by season's end. If Lute Olsen can focus his team, they have the ability to make a Final Four run, but that focus has not been seen all year.

Prediction: The ‘Cats take care of the Hall, but lose to Duke

5 – Illinois. This young squad went through some tough times, but still managed to win the Big Ten regular season title. They might be rounding into form at the right time. Too bad they have to play in Columbus with Cincinnati their liking second round opponent.

Prediction: Illini take care of weak Murray St. team, and then lose to Cincy

12 – Murray St. The Racers had two players arrested on drug charges this week, so that was not a good start to the tournament preparations. This distraction will prevent any upset from happening and send the Racers home quickly.

Prediction: Illini are too much for shorthanded MSU

4 –Cincinnati. A typical failure in early rounds, Bob Huggins and the Bearcats are playing well enough to avoid that this year. Playing close to home in Columbus does not hurt either. Jason Maxiell and Tony Bobbitt will need to play well to get UC to the Sweet 16.

Prediction: The Bearcats experience gets them a Sweet 16 loss to Duke

13 – E. Tennessee St. ETSU is a talented team that could scare the upset prone Bearcats. The Buccaneers can score at will most of the time and could take advantage of the occasional defensive lapse from Cincinnati. It is too bad this game is in Columbus.

Prediction: An overtime heartbreaker for ETSU in round one

6 – North Carolina. The Tar Heels are one of the most erratic teams in the field this year, but are talented enough to make the Final Four. The one thing holding UNC back is a lack of depth and playing in the thin air of Denver will not help at all. Facing "hometown" favorite Air Force will not be fun either.

Prediction: After putting away the Falcons, Texas' depth gets the best of UNC

11 – Air Force. Although the Falcons do not deserve to be in the tournament, they might hang with North Carolina for two reasons: the game is nearby in Denver and the altitude might wear down the Heels. Even with those positives, the Falcons are not talented enough to get the victory.

Prediction: Play one game and then it is back to protecting the country

3 – Texas. The Longhorns have had some problems scoring of late, but their depth will be a major advantage in Denver and beyond. The load of seniors will be very experienced and result in some tough fought wins. They will miss T.J. Ford against Duke.

Prediction: Talented depth takes UT to the Elite Eight before Duke does them in

14 – Princeton. The offense made famous by Princeton has made life difficult for many a top seed and led to many upsets at the hands of the Tigers. This year may be a bit harder for the win because the shooters are not as consistent to make the offense work.

Prediction: Princeton fails to get the upset this year

7 – Xavier. The Musketeers took previously unbeaten St. Joseph's behind the woodshed in the Atlantic 10 tournament on their way to the tourney title. Romain Sato and Lionel Chalmers are a backcourt duo to be feared right now. Unfortunately for Thad Matta's crew, they have to face one of the best 10 seeds in tournament history: Louisville.

Prediction: In an extremely tight game, Xavier gets the victory before losing to MSU

10 – Louisville. If the Cardinals had stayed healthy all year, then they could be sitting as top 3 seed instead of a 10. Rick Pitino is a great tourney coach, but he still has to deal with injuries and a team that has slid off of the map to end the season. If everything comes together UL could do some damage, but it is hard to expect that to happen.

Prediction: Cardinals cannot fly out of the first round

2 – Mississippi State. An early loss in the SEC tourney knocked them out of top seed consideration, but this team is still dangerous. Lawrence Roberts was SEC player of the year and his supporting cast is very good. If they are shooting well from outside, they can beat anybody.

Prediction: The Bulldogs go cold and get tripped up in the Sweet 16 by Texas

15 – Monmouth. The pride of the Jersey Shore makes another trip to the Dance. They took advantage of having the NEC tourney final on their home floor to get into the dance. Mississippi State is a very bad matchup for Hawks.

Prediction: Thanks for coming Monmouth

Phoenix Region (formerly the West):

1 seed – Stanford. Undefeated until the final game of the regular season, the Cardinal righted the ship in the Pac-10 tournament and avenged their only loss to Washington. With Josh Childress, Justin Davis, and others, this team is as loaded as any other and could make a deep run.

Prediction: A trip to the Elite Eight before running into the UConn buzzsaw

16- Texas-San Antonio. UTSA gets in, but will not do much of anything against Stanford. The Roadrunners will host the Final Four, but have zero chance of playing in it themselves.

Prediction: Better to have made it and lost then to have not made it at all

8 – Alabama. The Tide is rolling right now. They finished strong with Kennedy Winston leading the way to an at-large berth. They will need to shoot very well if they want to do more than win one game and they are just a bit too inconsistent for that to happen.

Prediction: Lose to Stanford in round two after a victory over the Salukis

9 – Southern Illinois. SIU is struggling coming into the Dance and will probably be ousted earlier if either their poor shooting or poor defense continues. A second consecutive one and done tourney is probable.

Prediction: A loss in the first round makes the Missouri Valley winless

5 – Syracuse. The defending National Champions are missing Carmelo this year, but managed to finish strong and secure a 5 seed. They have to play in Denver against altitude-adjusted BYU, so things will not be easy. Hakim Warrick needs a strong performance to avoid the upset.

Prediction: The Orangemen upset in first round by the Cougars

12 – BYU. Remember the name Rafael Araujo because he will cause all sorts of problems for Syracuse. The outside shot will need to be effective against the vaunted 2-3 zone the ‘Cuse implement. With Araujo, the defense will collapse if he can get the ball and open up looks from deep.

Prediction: Syracuse goes down, but Maryland is too tough in round two

4 –Maryland. What a run in the ACC tourney for the Terps!?! They went from on the bubble to a four seed in a week. Will they be too exhausted to keep it up in the Dance? Only time will tell, but they are young enough that it should not be a problem.

Prediction: A solid Sweet 16 run ends against Stanford

13 – UTEP. The success story of the year. The Miners were last in the WAC last year and won the tourney this year. Billy Gillespie is a hot coaching commodity right now and might not be around next year to help UTEP get back to the tourney. Too bad their stay this year will only last one game.

Prediction: One and done for the alma mater of Tim Hardaway

6 – Vanderbilt. Matt Freije is one of the best scorers in the country and single-handedly took the Commodores from the bottom of the SEC last year to among the top teams. They have played very well at times, but also come up short against weaker competition enough to raise questions. This is an upset candidate.

Prediction: A great year ends on a bitter note with a loss to Western Michigan

11 – Western Michigan. They have a few wins over power conference teams and loaded with upper classmen, so they will not be afraid to battle Vandy. With a terrific frontcourt and capable backcourt, the Broncos have the firepower to take down the higher seeded Commodores.

Prediction: The possibility of a Sweet 16 is there, but NC State won't let that happen in round two

3 – North Carolina State. Extremely talented, but also extremely streaky are the Wolfpack. Julius Hodge can take over games and Marcus Melvin is excellent inside. They can be a difficult matchup for any team, but also might shoot themselves in the foot by depending on the deep ball too much.

Prediction: Wolfpack cruise to the Sweet 16 before UConn gets them

14 – UL-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns won the Sun Belt by firing up loads of three-pointers. They can be a dangerous team for anybody because of their ability to pour it in from deep. The big stage might make ULL too nervous to pose much of a threat to NC State

Prediction: Brick after brick make ULL a one and done team

7 – DePaul. The Blue Demons are playing very well right now. They tied for the conference title and then made a run to the C-USA tourney final before falling to Cincinnati. They should win their first game, but no more.

Prediction: Demons dispatch Dayton before loss to UConn

10 – Dayton. The Flyers won the Maui Invitational to start the year off right and stayed strong throughout. They are not strong enough though to take down DePaul. This is probably the most lopsided 7/10 game.

Prediction: DePaul runs over the Flyers in round one

2 – Connecticut. The preseason favorite is now finding themselves after a rough couple of months. Emeka Okafor's back is a huge question mark, but the Huskies proved they could beat solid competition in the Big East tournament without him. He will rest for most of the first two rounds most likely and be fresh for a title run.

Prediction: Ben Gordon stays hot and Okafor stays healthy as UConn wins it all!

15 – Vermont. Ben and Jerry's and Phish are no longer the only things to come out of Vermont. The Catamounts relied on their great center Taylor Coppenrath to win the America East tournament. They are not very talented or deep, but should be fun to watch anyway.

Prediction: One game and then back to the Green Mountain State and Howard Dean

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