Bracket and FF Predictions

Throw away all of those other NCAA Tournament predictions. You want to win your office pool? Here's the ticket. Greg Hicks provides his annual bracket breakdown and, with complete objectivity, predicts the Final Four and which team will be crowned national champ in Atlanta...

Everything I'm about to tell you is 100% guaranteed.

SOUTH REGION

I see Ohio State winning their first game against the 16 seed. I won't bother looking up the name of the 16 seed and still feel fairly confident that Ohio State wins the game. I'll take BYU to beat Xavier in the 8/9 game. I haven't seen Xavier this season, but Lee Cummard plays for BYU and I'm stubborn about sticking with my guys. I recommend watching the Tennessee/Long Beach State game, as it should be very entertaining. The total on the game is currently 170 ½.. For those of you non-gamblers out there, that's a big number. The next biggest total in the opening games is Maryland/Davidson at 155 ½. So the Vols and 49ers should be shooting it quick and often. I'll roll the dice with the 49ers in an upset. Much as I'd like to go with Albany to upset Virginia (I don't think much of Virginia), I can't pick a team called the Great Danes. Virginia wins in a close one.

The Stanford/Louisville game starts at 9:40 a.m. Thursday, which means my friends and I have to get up even earlier than usual to drive out to Vegas. Usually, we have no problem rolling in around 10:30 and missing the first half of the opening games. But I'm rooting hard for Stanford to knock off Louisville and I want to see it if it happens. Unfortunately, I don't think it happens and the Cardinals knock of the Cardinal. In the last three games of the region, Texas A&M beats Penn handily, Nevada tops Creighton and Memphis stays awake long enough to dispose of North Texas.

In the second round, Ohio State barely gets by BYU. Sorry, have to take a moment here to mourn the departure of Lee Cummard from the tournament. Okay, that's enough. Long Beach State gives the 49er administration a real headache, as they knock off Virginia to advance to the Sweet 16. Why is this a bad thing for the 49er officials? Well, they kinda, sorta already decided they were firing head coach Larry Reynolds (a very nice guy, by the way). This would complicate things just a tad. In the other second rounders, Texas A&M manhandles Louisville and Nevada pulls off a shocker, upsetting Memphis.

Long Beach State officials come in off the ledge when Ohio State ends the 49ers run ("We can still fire him – UCLA fired Lavin with five Sweet 16s"). In the other Sweet 16, Texas A&M ends Nick Fazekas's magical, mystery something or other. And the South representative to the Final Four is…Texas A&M. Why? Because, um, well….the Buckeyes took Luke Babbitt. That's as good a reason as any.

EAST REGION

You know how when you've got a bunch of games to watch on Tivo and you fast forward through some of them? We'll fast forward through the East Region. UNC over Eastern Kentucky, Michigan State tops Marquette, USC takes out Arkansas, Texas blasts New Mexico State, George Washington upsets Vanderbilt, Washington State beats Oral Roberts, Boston College gets by Texas Tech and Georgetown stomps Belmont. Then Michigan State upsets North Carolina, USC surprises Texas, Washington State whips George Washington and Georgetown tops Boston College. Sweet 16 goes USC over Michigan State, Georgetown over Washington State. Elite Eight game ends USC's season and sends Georgetown to Atlanta.

MIDWEST REGION

In the Midwest, Florida starts five football players and still beats Jackson State. Arizona plays no defense against Purdue – hey, something new! – and the Boilermakers win. Arizona fans decide Bret Brielmaier is the cancer du jour. Butler becomes the first 5 seed in history to beat a 12 seed (ok, it just seems like the 12 always wins) when it knocks off Old Dominion. Notre Dame learns just before game time that Winthrop is, in fact, a basketball team and not the name of Phil Knight's butler. The Irish win, but West Coast freshman Joe Harden continues to get no run, thereby making the victory utterly meaningless.

Oregon coach Ernie Kent imports some of the ticket scalpers from the corner outside Staples in an attempt to convince Duck players that they're still in the Pac-10 tournament. After much debate, the Duck players conclude that, no, they're no longer in L.A. at the Pac-10 tournament. They then proceed to get down by double digits to Miami (Ohio), before Tajuan Porter hits three straight treys (the last one from the men's room) to eke out a Duck victory. After the game, Oregon players are seen asking the Miami players if South Beach is really all that.

UNLV beats Georgia Tech. Why? Because UNLV is a West Coast team and Georgia Tech is in the ACC. I defy you to come up with a better reason. Wisconsin spends the first half wondering where Acie Law is, then decides he must be sick or something, before knocking off Texas A&M CC.

Florida continues to rest its stars and mixes in three basketball players with two football players. It's still enough to get by Purdue. Maryland beats Butler because D.J. Strawberry is good. Oregon beats Notre Dame because Aaron Brooks is very good. In fact, he should be a first rounder, even though the folks at cluelessdraftdorks.com have yet to figure that one out. As much as it pains me to knock out a West Coast team, we say goodbye to UNLV when Wisconsin takes the Rebels out.

The Sweet 16 game between Florida and Maryland turns ugly when Joakim Noah gets in a fight with a Terp cheerleader. Much hair is pulled, Noah is ejected (nobody wanted to watch him celebrate one more victory) and D.J. Strawberry hits the winning shot for Maryland. In the other Sweet 16 game, Oregon makes 20 three-pointers, and no free throws, in a win over Wisconsin. The Ducks then whip Maryland to advance to the Final Four. After the game, the Oregon AD is seen asking his counterpart at Long Beach State for advice on how to fire a coach who just reached the Final Four.

WEST REGION

And then there's the West. Kansas makes history by being the first one seed to lose to a 16 seed. Yeah, right. No, the Jayhawks roll, as do the Bruins. Villanova wins a dogfight (actually, a catfight) with Kentucky and Virginia Tech rolls over Illinois. Southern Illinois advances past Holy Cross. VCU upsets Duke and they do it in the most gut-wrenching fashion. Duke misses multiple free throws, they turn it over constantly, there are some amazingly bad calls that actually go against the Blue Devils and, to top it off, VCU makes a three-pointer from midcourt at the buzzer to win by one. At least, that's the way I hope it happens. Pittsburgh beats Wright St. and Gonzaga defeats Indiana.

In the second round, Kansas edges Villanova and Southern Illinois beats Virginia Tech. Pittsburgh gets by VCU and UCLA defeats Gonzaga in an utterly boring game with zero theatrics. Southern Illinois upsets Kansas in the Sweet 16 and "Saluki" becomes the second-most searched item on Google after "Jessica Alba naked."

Ben Howland, already stressing over facing good friend Jamie Dixon in the Sweet 16, nearly goes off on a beat writer when said writer asks idiotic question number 874 of the season. Howland is saved when Tracy Pierson drops his camera and grabs Howland's cocked fist. Howland calms down, but the camera is busted, thereby destroying the only evidence of the event. UCLA refuses to reimburse Pierson for the camera. Inspired by their coach's outburst, the Bruin players roll past Pittsburgh and then Southern Illinois, as they reach their second consecutive Final Four.

In Atlanta, there's a bunch of parties, the strippers make a ton of money and they also play a couple games at the Georgia Dome. The Bruins spank Oregon in one semi (wait a second – I put Oregon in the Final Four?) and Georgetown grinds out a win over Texas A&M in the other semifinal. In the final, Alfred Aboya takes a huge charge, Lorenzo Mata makes two big free throws and Russell Westbrook makes a critical basket. Banner 12.


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