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You Heard It Here First- Navy to Win March Madness

Column by Bo Light
Staff Reporter

Well folks, it's that time again. It's springtime, when birds sing, flowers bloom, snow melts, and half of America misses it because they're watching basketball games on television. That's right, it's time for March Madness! (fanfare and wild applause) The seedings are set, the pools are out, Dan Shaughnessy and Bob Ryan are telling us not to underestimate UMass or BC or the College of Charleston, and colleges you never even knew existed are being given the right to get blown out by North Carolina this Thursday. Two weeks from now, the 1994 NCAA basketball champion will be crowned, and everyone can get back to their job or their studies or reforming the health care system or whatever.

The regular season could best be described as unpredictable, as six different teams held the number one ranking at some point in the season. Of these six, three (North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA) failed even to win the regular-season title in their conferences, and only current number one North Carolina managed to win its conference tournament. Matters were further complicated this weekend as seven of the top 11 teams in the nation lost, mostly to teams that probably should not have beaten them (see Michigan Northwestern). The moral of the story: there are far too many good teams out there this year, and we should all be thankful we weren't on the Tournament Selection Committee this year.

Most years one of the major pre-tournament topics is Why Didn't So-and-so U. Get Into the Tournament, but this year it is very hard, for the most part, to argue with the selections. I'm sure there will be arguments all week about why Evansville or Xavier should have gotten in, but in fact the only selection I can argue with is Seton Hall, the number 10 seed in the Southeast. The Pirates finished seventh in the Big Least, and while they did beat Syracuse in the conference tournament (in overtime), a 1612 record in a mediocre conference should not translate into a tournament bid.

Who, you ask, should have received Seton Hall's invitation to the dance? Georgia Tech. The Yellowjackets were also 1612, but in the much tougher ACC, and they beat Duke once and North Carolina twice (both times while the Tar Heels were number one). In short, Bobby Cremins & Co. were robbed. Other than this gaffe, however, the selections and the seedings are excellent.

Now, on to the picks. No, Navy won't really win, but I got your attention, didn't I?

East Regional

Also Known As: To Dean Smith, With Love, the Tournament Selection Committee. Don't get me wrong, this regional is anything but a cakewalk, but North Carolina shouldn't have a problem advancing to the Final Four, barring a major collapse. If anyone other than the Tar Heels were to advance to Charlotte, it would be Donyell "Fire" Marshall and number two seed Connecticut.

Big Upsets: Look for Mid-American champ Ohio and superstar Gary Trent to stun Indiana in the first round (also look for Bob Knight to drop-kick a basketball in a blatant attempt to promote "Blue Chips"); and Ivy League representative Penn will send Nebraska packing early.

Teams to watch: "Fightin'" John Chaney and his Temple Owls could catch Carolina by surprise, if they can get to the Sweet Sixteen.

Southeast Regional

As usual, this is the toughest regional to play in, as well as the toughest to pick. The lower seeds in this bracket (College of Charleston, Tennessee-Chattanooga) definitely have the power to pull off the big upset. Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson and Purdue will power their way to the regional final, but look for Kentucky to upset second-seeded Duke and the Boilermakers to give Rick Pitino his second straight Final Four appearance.

Big Upset: Kentucky over Purdue on a buzzer-beater by Travis "Free Throw" Ford.

Teams to Watch: Michigan State, Kansas, and Marquette all have legitimate shots at winning this regional, and will definitely make things hairy for the top three seeds.

Midwest Regional

North Carolina A&T looks like a heavy favorite in this region, but maybe Southwest Texas State could pull it off just kidding. Arkansas looks to have an easy run to the regional final; UCLA might have been able to upset them if they didn't have to play Tulsa and then Oklahoma State - in Oklahoma City.

On the other side of the bracket, number two Massachusetts should be able to get by St. Louis to reach the Sweet Sixteen, but then Your State University runs into My State University - Michigan. Yes, Michigan. The Wolverines are a great passing team, and match up well with anyone in the country. Steve Fisher (173 lifetime postseason record) is extremely tough to beat in the Big Dance. And Michigan has been well-motivated by losses to Purdue and (get ready to laugh) Northwestern in their last three regular-season games. Michigan is headed for yet another Final Four berth.

Big Upset: not in this region, pal. Western Kentucky will beat sixth-seed Texas in the first round, which is hardly an upset.

Teams to Watch: The Hilltoppers face Michigan in the second-round and are noted giant-killers (just ask Memphis State and Seton Hall). If UCLA and the O'Bannon brothers make it out of Oklahoma, things could get interesting.

West Regional

There are never any good teams in the West, so the Selection Committee just sends all the teams they couldn't fit anywhere else out there. That's not quite the case this year, but West is still the weakest region. In this tournament, however, weak translates into fun, as upsets abound. Missouri just avoids being the first number one seed to exit in the first round, as Navy misses the game-winner at the buzzer, but the Tigers will get creamed by Cincinnati in the second round. It's also anyone's guess as to how long perennial loser Arizona will last. Look for Jason the Kidd and California to edge out Minnesota in the final of this slugfest.

Big Upsets: Cincy over Mizzou in the second round, and whoever beats the 'Zona Mildcats.

Teams to Watch: Everybody. Even Hawaii might win this one, and if any sixteen seed is going to win this year, it will be the Midshipmen.

Final Four

After all the regional action is said and done, the four teams left will be North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, and California. Didn't we see three of these teams last year? Fortunately, we won't be seeing a repeat of last year's final. In one side of the draw, Kentucky will prove to the world that they don't miss Jamal Mashburn all that much, as they knock off Eric "Shawn Bradley Jr." Montross & Co. to get to the finals. In the other game, Kidd wins the battle of the guards with Jalen "Rose is" Rose, and Cal spares Michigan the Buffalo Bills-like humiliation of losing in the finals three straight years.

The Championship game will be a fast-paced, high scoring affair, with Kentucky firing threes on one end, and Kidd throwing incredible no-look how'd-he-do-it passes to Lamond Murray on the other. Kentucky will prevail, however, when Kidd loses his head and calls a timeout the Golden Bears don't have with 10 seconds left on the clock. Final score: Kentucky 91, Cal 87, and Rick Pitino completes his resurrection of the Wildcat basketball program with the National Championship.

Well, those are my picks. You can agree with them or not; in two weeks I'll probably be sheepishly trying to explain to people how I could possibly have picked Cal in the finals. This looks to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable tournaments in years. Enjoy the next two weeks of basketball; I sure will.