A poor man’s prognostication: Horns top Arizona State, Florida walks away with title

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As the Longhorns sit back and watch the day’s early action unfold while they prep for their late-night tip against Arizona State, hopefully they won’t spend too much time checking on their brackets.

Many of us will be spending the day glued to televisions, watching the games and cursing their picks. Like me. Here’s how I see the tournament playing out, starting with the Midwest version.

Round of 64

Wichita State cruises past Cal Poly.

Kentucky holds off Kansas State. Kansas State is an imposing physical team – when playing at home in Manhattan. While St. Louis isn’t too far, it won’t matter. Kentucky has too many athletes on the wings and the size to battle Thomas Gipson inside. Plus, the Big Blue baby brigade developed some confidence after an enigmatic regular season, taking top seeded Florida to the wire in the SEC championship game.

NC State beats St. Louis. The Wolfpack were panned for getting an at-large bid and then validated that bid with a first-round win over Xavier. State features high-scoring TJ Warren and had the luxury of getting any tournament jitters out of its system. St. Louis, on the other hand, enters the tournament on a major slide. It continues. Plus, this is a 12-5 game and every year at least one 12 seed pulls an early upset.

Louisville beats Manhattan. Rick Pitino may be complaining about the draw, but the Cardinals are the defending champs and have their sights set on a Sweet 16 date with Wichita.

Tennessee beats UMass. The Volunteers also benefit from playing in the first round and grinding out an overtime win over Iowa. The SEC team proves too physical for the Atlantic 10 Minutemen.

Duke beats Mercer. Every few years Duke stumbles early. This won’t be one of those years. With Jabari Parker taking charge, the Blue Devils have the pieces to make an extended run.
Michigan beats Wofford. Wolverines are way too talented.

Texas beats Arizona State. The Longhorns have been saying the right things and appear to have put the implosion against Baylor behind them. They’ll prove it against an Arizona State team that struggled worse than Texas did down the stretch. The Longhorns play defense and that will carry the day against a team that struggles to shoot the ball away from home.

Round of 32

Wichita State beats Kentucky. The Shockers have heard all year they haven’t played anyone. Gregg Marshall’s unbeaten group wants – needs – to make a statement against big-name Kentucky, who struggles against teams willing to take the fight to them. Wichita’s heady guards are too much for Kentucky’s Harrison twins and Joseph Young.
Louisville beats NC State. Louisville enjoys playing defense and has the athletes to contain Warren. NC State doesn’t have much beyond their top scorer.
Duke beats Tennessee. Tennessee’s run comes to an end in what amounts to a home game for Duke in Raleigh.
Michigan beats Texas. John Beilien was coaching at West Virginia at the time, but expect the Wolverines to “Remember the Rose Bowl.” The Longhorn hoopsters don’t have the equivalent of Vince Young to carry the day, and the on-again, off-again outside shooting won’t create room for Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes.

Sweet 16

Wichita State beats Louisville. This could be one of the most competitive games of the tournament. Shockers continue to play the lack of respect card and play with controlled anger against Louisville’s pressure.
Duke beats Michigan. Another terrific matchup in the Region of Doom. This time it’s Duke with the fab freshman, and once again the Devils beat Michigan in the big dance.

Regional Final

Duke over Wichita State. I’m not crazy about picking Duke, but Wichita finally succumbs from the cumulative effects of top-level competition. The Shockers are a terrific team, but even the best teams struggle when battling top teams in back-to-back-to-back games.

West Region

Round of 64

Arizona over Weber State

Oklahoma State over Gonzaga. Resurgent Cowboys may be the most dangerous No. 9 seed in tournament history.

North Dakota State over Oklahoma. Sooners don’t play enough defense to survive both a high-scoring team and the 12-vs-5 curse.

San Diego State over New Mexico State
Baylor over Nebraska
Creighton over La-Lafayette
BYU over Oregon
Wisconsin over American

Round of 32

Oklahoma State over Arizona. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are too much for an Arizona team that tends to bog down offensively.
San Diego State over North Dakota State
Creighton over Baylor. Doug McDermott runs circles around whichever Bear – Austin or Jefferson – tasked with chasing him around the Alamodome.
Wisconsin over BYU

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Sweet 16

Oklahoma State over San Diego State.
Wisconsin over Creighton. Few teams are as versatile and as fundamentally sound as the Badgers, who pay attention to the details and clip the Blue Jays.

Regional Final
Wisconsin over Oklahoma State. The devil is in the details, and Wisconsin’s execution at both ends of the floor will be too much for Travis Ford and the Cowboys.

South

Round of 64

Florida over Albany
Pitt over Colorado
VCU over Stephen F Austin. The Lumberjacks are the trendy pick but Shaka Smart’s Rams might be the second-angriest team in the tournament, after Wichita State. The Rams are athletic and are more than their now-famous Havoc pressure.
UCLA over Tulsa. Pac 12 champs putting things together under Steve Alford. Game might be more interesting if the coaches played. Alford was Final Four MVP for champ Indiana in 1987, Manning for 1988 champ Kansas.
Ohio State over Dayton
Syracuse over Western Michigan
New Mexico over Stanford
Kansas over Eastern Kentucky

Round of 32

Florida over Pitt. Gators are the prohibitive favorite to win it all, enjoy getting a test against the Panthers.
VCU over UCLA
Ohio State over Syracuse. Orangemen struggle way too much to score points. Buckeyes have enough pieces to find success against the vaunted 2-3 zone.
New Mexico over Kansas. The Lobos are on a roll. Kansas won a meeting earlier this season but had Joel Embiid, who’s out for this one.

Sweet 16

Florida over VCU. Billy Donovan’s guards savvy enough to navigate the pressure, and Gators continue crawling toward Arlington.
Ohio State over New Mexico

Regional Final

Florida over Ohio State. Florida has way too many weapons for Ohio State.

East
Round of 64

Virginia over Coastal Carolina
Memphis over George Washington
Harvard over Cincinnati. Another 12-5 upset. Crimson have done it before, notably last year over New Mexico. Brains will beat braun again.
Michigan State over Delaware
North Carolina over Providence
Iowa State over North Carolina Central
Connecticut over St. Joe’s
Villanova over Milwaukee

Round of 32

Virginia over Memphis. Rest of the country gets introduced to the Cavaliers, who play suffocating defense and frustrate the Tigers. They are a top seed for a region.
Michigan State over Harvard
Iowa State over North Carolina. Cyclones are rolling, having won Big 12 tourney. They have an athletic team that can give Tar Heels fits.
Villanova over Connecticut

Sweet 16

Michigan State over Virginia. As a 4-seed, Spartans are finally healthy and rolling. Michigan State’s experience and toughness pay off in a game featuring two tough defenses.
Iowa State over Villanova.

Regional Final

Michigan State over Iowa State. Iowa State enjoyed a nice run, but Tom Izzo enjoys coaching this late in the tournament. His experience guides the Spartans into the Final Four.

Final Four

Wisconsin over Duke. Duke has the history, but sketchy point guard play will cause problems. Seen too many 0 point, 4 foul efforts from Tyler Thornton. Badgers have too many options and will overcome Duke’s Parker.

Florida over Michigan State. Probably should be the championship game. Teams met in the 2000 title game and Spartans won. Gators get their revenge.

Championship game
Florida over Wisconsin. Gators are last team to repeat, winning in 2006 and 2007. Too much offense for Wisconsin to overcome, plus tough enough interior defense and discipline.

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