Wake to Beat Cincinnati in Finals; Duncan MVPBy Thomas Kettler
Sunday night the 64-team field was announced for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The biggest surprise was that the Big Ten had five selections, while the new Conference USA (CUSA) only got four.
The breakdown of number of selections by conferences with more than three teams are as follows: ACC (six), Big East (five), Big Ten (five), Atlantic 10 (four), Big 8 (four), CUSA (four), Pac 10 (four), SEC (four).
This year, no region can be readily considered easier than another. The NCAA has evened out the selections very well, although the Midwest appears to be the toughest.
Massachusetts received a number one seed here after finishing the season with only one loss. They get to face Central Florida, which should be a very easy first-round game. UMass should easily make the Sweet Sixteen. The other part of their bracket is intriguing. Penn State, a solid if surprising team, faces last year's finalist, Arkansas, a team which some would argue does not deserve to be in the tournament this year. Also, Marquette made the field as a fourth seed after finishing strong in the solid CUSA.
The lower half seems made for Georgetown as a second seed. Texas Tech is the third seed and should make the Sweet 16. However, Georgetown should beat them easily.
Sweet 16 Teams: Massachusetts, Penn State, Texas Tech and Georgetown.
Upset Specials: None.
Final Four Team: Massachusetts.
The Midwest features formerly top-ranked Kentucky as the number one seed. If the regionals of the Southeast were not played in Rupp Arena, Kentucky would have been the top seed there. In recompense for that fact, they get a fairly easy trip to the Sweet Sixteen, although Wisconsin Green-Bay will give the Wildcats fits. They may not make the Final Four, however, as the Midwest is the strongest region.
Utah should also make it to the Sweet Sixteen, although they'll be tested by Iowa State.
Villanova only got a third seed due to a slide at the end of the year while Kerry Kittles was suspended. However, that Wildcat team is dangerous. Likewise, Wake Forest, with center Tim Duncan, is a strong two seed.
Sweet 16 Teams: Kentucky, Utah, Villanova and Wake Forest.
Upset Specials: None.
Final Four Team: Wake Forest.
The Southeast features Connecticut as the top seed. The Huskies should not have any difficulty in reaching the Sweet Sixteen. UCLA, the number four seed, won't be as lucky against a Princeton team which has consistently given tournament teams trouble. UCLA's early exit will give Mississippi State, which beat Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Final, a position in the Sweet Sixteen.
Georgia Tech is in the Southeast as the number three seed. However, the Yellowjackets are notorious for playing poorly in the tournament. This year could be another early exit if they must play Indiana, a solid if unspectacular tournament team. Temple as a seventh seed will give Cincinnati, the two seed, a tough game, but the Bearcats should make the Sweet Sixteen.
Sweet 16 Teams: Connecticut, Mississippi State, Indiana and Cincinnati.
Upset Specials: Princeton over UCLA (13 over 4).
Final Four Team: Cincinnati.
The West features Purdue, an extremely surprising team, as the first seed. Most preseason predictions had Purdue lucky to make the NCAA tournament, with a top seed a practical impossibility. However, Gene Keady has worked wonders again, and deserves the number one seed. The Boilermakers should make it to the Sweet Sixteen as well. They will likely face Memphis, a solid team that's underrated as a fifth seed.
The lower half of the bracket features Kansas, the team many figured would get the top seed in the West. They will make the Sweet Sixteen. They will probably face Iowa since Arizona, the third seed, consistently finds a way to lose in the early rounds.
Sweet 16 Teams: Purdue, Memphis, Iowa and Kansas.
Upset Specials: None.
Final Four Team: Kansas.
This year, the East champ faces the Midwest champ in the semifinals while the Southeast champ faces the West champ. Massachusetts will face Wake Forest in the first game, with the Demon Deacons avenging an early season loss to the Minutemen. Cincinnati will then beat Kansas in a very close game, and Wake will in turn defeat the Bearcats, with Tim Duncan winning Tournament MVP.