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A Prescription for the NCAA First Round Flu
By JUDE DUFFY, Mop Squad Staff Writer
Mar 15, 2005 - 6:11:00 PM

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So, I hear you have been having trouble with your brackets.  Not sure if JJ. Reddick can pull Duke through to the final four?  Will New Mexico live up to the hype we've been hearing?  Is Alabama ready to kick it up a notch?  Well, look no further, for Dr. Duffy is here to diagnose your brackets, and help you find a cure. 

Chicago Region

Sure-fire picks: 1. Illinois over 16. Fairleigh Dickinson,  2.  OK State over 15. SE Louisiana

It's pretty safe to say that the talent from Illinois and OK State will be too much for the Knights and the Lions to overcome. 

Safe picks: 4. BC over 13. Penn,  6. LSU over 11. UAB,  3. Arizona over 14.  Utah State

No love for Boston College from anybody across the nation, so the Golden Eagles once again have something to prove.  BC has a very solid inside game, and should easily out-rebound the Quakers.  Meanwhile, UAB should feel honored they even received a bid at all, and LSU has been hot as of lately.  Utah State has some ballers, including a freshman guard in Jaycee Carroll who can knock down the 3, but Salim Stoudamire will be hard to gaurd anywhere on the court.

No. 5 Deron Williams of Illinois knows his Illini have a very good chance of dancing the final dance in St. Louis on April 4th. (Getty Images)

Tossup: 5. Alabama over 12. Wisconsin-Milwaukee,  8. Texas over 9. Nevada

Alabama is 3-3 in its past 6 games, and has yet to prove they can play with the big boys on a consistant basis.  Meanwhile, the Panthers of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are 24-5, 9-1 in their last 10 games, and play some pretty fierce defense.  If Alabama manages to make its way past the Panthers, they should match up better with BC, but don't be surprised to see Wisconsin-Milwaukee walk away with one here.  As for Texas and Nevada, it's hard to gauge which team we will see.  Are we going to see the Longhorns team that lost to Colorado, or the one that defeated Oklahoma State twice?  And which Nevada team is for real, the one that beat Vermont 74-64  at the end of the season, or the one that fell to Boise State in the conference tournament?  If point guard Daniel Gibson gets on for Texas and sinks his shots, the Longhorns will control the Wolf Pack's strongest element: rebounds.  I'd go with Texas.

Upset city: 10. Saint Mary's over 7. Southern Illinois

If this weren't considered an upset, it would be a safe bet.  The Salukis' are extremely overrated and are facing a Saint Mary's team that can rebound and hit the outside shot.


Albuquerque Region

Sure-fire picks: 1. Washington over 16. Montana, 2. Wake Forest over 15. Chattanooga,  3. Gonzaga over 14. Winthrop

Winthrop comes into the tournament sporting an impressive 27-5 record, however on the road, the Eagles are only 9-4 and will be playing a much bigger and stronger Gonzaga team.

Safe picks: 4. Louisville over 13. Louisiana-Lafayette,  6. Texas Tech over 11. UCLA

It's hard to imagine a Bobby Knight coached team being outplayed (and as of late, UCLA have been outplaying their opponents (including a 78-65 victory over Stanford on February 20th), so if Texas Tech falls it should  be due to sheer talent.  The Bruins start three freshman, while Texas Tech relies on the play of senior gaurd Ronald Ross.  Plus, both teams shoot well and play uptempo style; Texas Tech averages a league best 78.7 points per game.

Tossup: 5. Georgia Tech over 12. George Washington,  7. West Virginia over 10. Creighton,  9. Pittsburgh over 8. Pacific

The Georgia Tech-George Washington game should be interesting.  Georgia Tech has struggled all season long with injuries, and as of only a few weeks ago, was almost written out of the tournament.  They fought back, and played will in the ACC tourney, and find themselves with a "gift" 5th seed.  They'll be facing a tough Colonial team, one that has beaten up on prestigious clubs such as Michigan State, Maryland, and Temple.  The Yellow Jackets should be able to press GW to a loss and keep momentum on their side, but an upset isn't out of the question.  The saddest part about this matchup is that it could be Georgia Tech's most potentially difficult one on the region.  Pittsburgh meanwhile is an angry team, upset by many "lesser" teams throughout the season, and probably feel embarassed by a 9 seed.  Pacific, although 26-3, is coming off a loss to Utah State (a 14 seed in Chicago Region).

Upset city: None.


Syracuse Region

Sure-fire picks: 1. North Carolina over 16. Oakland/Alabama A+M winner,  2. Connecticut over 15. Central Florida,  3. Kansas over 14. Bucknell,  4. Florida over 13. Ohio

Look, I'd like to see Bucknell pull off an upset over Kansas as much as the next guy, but how can you bet against Wayne Simien?  And how can you bet on an Ohio Bobcats team whos only win of significance was a 92-90 win over Buffalo. 

Safe picks: 6. Wisconsin over 11. Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa is a solid team led by Junior guard Ben Jacobson (17.8 ppg), but the Panthers have a hard time putting away the big boys.  They are 1-5 against the other 64 teams.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan always puts together a solid cohesive team.  It could be close, but Wisconsin should win.

Daniel Granger of New Mexico wants to prove that his Lobo's are capable of upsetting Villanova. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Tossup: 9. Iowa State over 8. Minnesota

Minnesota seemed to come out of nowhere this season, particularly behind the play of G/F Vincent Grier.  Iowa State has come from the opposite direction, fizzling and stumbling along the way to a 9th seed.  This Cyclones team is talented however, and should end up with the victory.

Upset city: 12. New Mexico over 5. Villanova,  10. NC State over 7. Charlotte

By now, I'm sure most are familiar with the Lobos of New Mexico.  By this weekend, the entire nation could be.  There is a very real chance that Villanova is over looking this matchup to next week's potential game against the Gators.  Regardless of the outcome, this should be a very intense and exciting game, and New Mexico will finally get the recognition it deserves.  As for North Carolina State, the Wolfpack have been woefully inconsistent, but play one of the most talented players in the nation in Julius Hodge.  Charlotte enters the tourney off a 3 game slide and is ripe for the upsetting.

Duke's JJ Reddick tries to block a pass from BJ Elder during the Blue Devil's 69-64 win. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Austin Region

Sure-fire picks: 1. Duke over 16. Delaware State,  2. Kentucky over 15. Eastern Kentucky

Duke has a great advantage in playing in the "weakest" regionals, in my opinion, which could serve well to a team that lacks depth and size.  Of course, it's never safe to bet against Coach K.

Safe picks: 6. Utah over 11. Texas-El Paso

The Utes have an extremely talented player in Andrew Bogut, and should have no problem in dismantling the Miners of Texas-El Paso.  UTEP is also losing at least 2 of its starting 5, including the top 2 scorers after this season, so the Miners could be looking at their last chance if Nevada, Rice, and Fresno State continue to play well in the WAC.

Tossup: 9. Mississippi State over 8. Stanford

Mississippi State has been terrible when it's counted (6-5 road record, 2-8 against the tournament field, 5-5 in it's last 10), but this is a talented Bulldogs team, not unlike the team they featured in last years tournament. 

Upset city: 14. Niagara over 3. Oklahoma,  13. Vermont over 4. Syracuse,  12. Old Dominion over 5. Michigan State,  10. Iowa over 7. Cincinnati

The Austin Regionals could be riddled with upsets by the time the first round is finished.  Niagara puts one of the most talented teams on the court in team history, behind Juan Mendez's 23.6 ppg.  The actual probability of Niagara pulling off an upset against Oklahoma is probably slim, but it's very hard to overlook such a prolific offense like Niagara's.  Speaking of prolific, Vermont is home to one of, if not the most prolific scorer in the nation.  Taylor Coppenrath averages 25.3 ppg and 8.9 rpg, and watching him play against Hakim Warrick could make for one of the most entertaining matchups of the tournament.  Old Dominion and Iowa have legitimate upset hopes against MSU and Cincinnati, respectively.  MSU is not nearly as talented as people make them out to be, and Old Dominion features a very complete player in center Alex Loughton and also owns an impressive 11-4 road record.  Cincinnati is known to choke in big games, especially in the tournament, and this one should be no exception.  Iowa should roll.

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