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Bracket Banter From The Bend

Who wants a shot at red-hot Michigan? Oregon Ducks next. Heavyweights battle in West. Traditional powers fight for South. All-SEC regional final produces East winner.

RECALIBRATING THE SWEET 16

Afforded the opportunity that pre-tournament bracket-pickers do not have, we take the “real” Sweet 16 and give it another shot after correctly picking 10 of the 16 that advanced from last weekend. (See “Last week’s Sweet 16 predictions” below.)

MIDWEST REGION
• No. 7 Michigan -1½ over No. 3 Oregon: Will take the Wolverines until a) they lose or b) they play Kansas in the regional final.
• No. 1 Kansas -4½ over No. 4 Purdue: Can’t pick against the Jayhawks the way they’re playing now, but don’t count out the Caleb Swanigan-led Boilermakers.

WEST REGION
• No. 1 Gonzaga -3 over No. 4 West Virginia: Mountaineer pressure always a threat, but don’t think Bob Huggins’ squad overcomes the battle-tested Zags.
• No. 2 Arizona – 11½ over No. 11 Xavier: Tournament-tested Musketeers keep it to single-digits.

SOUTH REGION
• No. 1 North Carolina -7½ over No. 4 Butler: Shaky Tar Heels hold off the Bulldogs, who keep it close.
• No. 2 Kentucky NL over No. 3 UCLA: Not enough defense by the Bruins...if Wildcats maintain discipline.

EAST REGION
• No. 7 South Carolina NL over No. 3 Baylor: Bears were fortunate to survive the first weekend. Won’t get past tenacious Gamecocks.
• No. 4 Florida -1½ over Wisconsin: Pointspread indicates how precarious this pick is.
(Note: Any one of Florida, Baylor, Wisconsin and South Carolina can come out of here.)

ELITE EIGHT
• Midwest -- No. 1 Kansas over No. 7 Michigan: The Wolverines’ journey ends against Jayhawks’ overwhelming talent.
• West -- No. 2 Arizona over No. 1 Gonzaga: Classic battle of west heavyweights goes to the Pac 12.
• South – No. 2 Kentucky over No. 1 North Carolina: Calipari vs. Williams? I’ll take the guy who actually coaches all that talent.
• East -- No. 4 Florida over No. 7 South Carolina: Battle of the SECs goes to the Gators.

LAST WEEK’S RECAP

Notions from last week heading into the 32 games on Thursday-Friday and the 16 on Saturday-Sunday with the best and worst of the picks.

• No. 8 Virginia Tech over No. 9 Wisconsin: Not only missed the first-round game, but, obviously, Wisconsin’s win over Villanova. Grade: F

• Must See 7 vs. 10 -- Dayton vs. Wichita State: Michigan (92) vs. Oklahoma State (91) was a more enjoyable 7-10 watch, but knew the Flyers and Shockers would be a tussle. Took the six-point favored Shockers and it was a push (64-58). Grade: C

• No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast: Didn’t pick the upset – the Seminoles hung on for an 86-80 victory – but it was a fight, and Florida State would prove two days later that they were a) not worthy of a No. 10 overall seed and b) not worth of a No. 3 seed when Xavier punished them by 25 (although I still picked the Seminoles to advance.) Grade: D

• No. 7 St. Mary’s vs. No. 10 VCU: Called this the tortoise (St. Mary’s) vs. the hare (VCU) with the tortoise on top. The Gaels prevailed. Grade: A

• No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 14 Kent State: Predicted a high-scoring, entertaining game if the Golden Flash didn’t yield 100 points. The Bruins scored 97 and ultimately, it wasn’t close. UCLA by 17. Grade: B

• No. 4 Butler to the Sweet 16: A 12-point win over Winthrop and a nine-point win over Middle Tennessee (which “upset” Minnesota) was a relatively easy pick of the savvy Bulldogs. Grade: A

• No. 6 Cincinnati: Called the Bearcats a real dangerous team on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Picked them to get past UCLA for the Sweet 16. Said three-point shooting would be Cincinnati’s downfall if it lost. The Bearcats actually shot it pretty well (7-of-20) but still lost to the Bruins. Grade: D

• No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 9 Arkansas: Had the Pirates prevailing. They led by six with less than seven minutes remaining. The Hogs won by six. Grade: D

• No. 7 Michigan: Didn’t pick them for the Sweet 16 and actually thought previous week’s run to the Big Ten championship might allow No. 10 Oklahoma State to prevail. The Wolverines won by a point, and then knocked off No. 2 Louisville. Grade: F

• No. 2 Louisville: The warning was sounded that the Cardinals were not hitting on all cylinders. But picking against Rick Pitino early in the NCAA tournament usually is unsound logic. Michigan defied the logic and was the better team. Grade: F

• Strongest double-digit seed play: No. 11 Rhode Island over No. 6 Creighton. Wish they were all this easy. Rams won by 12, and then nearly knocked off Oregon. Grade: A

• Want-to-see game -- No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 Nevada: Although Nevada threatened in the second half, the Cyclones led by 13 at halftime and won by 11. Grade: D

• No. 8 Miami over No. 9 Michigan State: O’Malley and I drank from the same glass of ignorance. Spartans by 20. Grade: F-

LAST WEEK’S SWEET 16 PREDICTIONS

• East: No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 Florida (3 correct)
• Midwest: No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Iowa State (2 correct)
• South: No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 4 Butler, No. 6 Cincinnati (3 correct)
• West: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Arizona, No. 3 Florida State, No. 5 Notre Dame (2 correct)


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