Picks and predictions, from Sweet to Elite

Phil Consuegra

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. You know the one I mean, with 64 teams, a nice juicy 5-12 upset (don’t say it Phil, please don’t say it), and men being separated from the boys. It’s time for the mania, the fiasco, the chaos and Madness to begin. Don’t think that Spring Break got this writer sleeping during conference tournaments. Don’t think for a minute that while I was lying on the beach in the Bahamas, I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. I was, and I have come to some conclusions about this field of 64. So let’s look at the one seeds and some teams that you may regret sleeping on come April 2nd.

First off, Illinois is the best basketball team in the country. That’s all that needs to be said. But, as always, on any given day, the best can falter. North Carolina is the second best, followed by Duke and – wait, Washington, you say? It seems as though the only reason the Huskies are a one seed is because the NCAA didn’t want to be cruel and put 3 ACC teams in the top spots. Either way, this could be the best thing to happen to Wake Forest since they signed Chris Paul.

We’ll start with the Chicago region. This is one bracket that is full of potential until the Elite Eight. Wisconsin-Milwaukee may be a good bet to be the 5-12 upset, as they face an Alabama team that has been shaky as of late. Either way, the winner of that game goes on to face the winner of the BC-Penn game, which will be BC by a hair. Expect the winner of UWM and Alabama to beat BC in the second round.

A team that I will certainly not sleep on is LSU, who has the talent to beat almost anyone but Illinois in that bracket. I pick the Tigers to upset Arizona in the second round, but go down to Oklahoma State in the Sweet Sixteen.

That gives us an Illinois-Oklahoma State Elite Eight game. If you really want to pick against the Illini, this may be your round. Oklahoma State is gritty and tough, and they’ve proven they can hang in the tournament. But even though I have a lot of respect for Eddie Sutton and his team, I pick Illinois to come out of the Chicago bracket with little or no trouble. Pick: Illinois

Let’s travel to Albuquerque, which could be the wildest bracket in the field. This bracket has five potential Final Four teams, with Washington, Wake, Gonzaga, Louisville and my favorite, Georgia Tech. The mid-major feel-good story of the year, Pacific, will take down an always overrated Pitt team in the first round, but lose to Washington in the second.

A game I’m really looking forward to is the match-up between Georgia Tech and Louisville in the second round. Why? Because the winner of that game will take down Washington in the Sweet Sixteen. Another upset brewing is the game between Gonzaga and Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech team. I pick T-Tech to upset the Zags, but go down hard to Wake Forrest in the next round.

I had a lot of trouble with this bracket, because I now have Wake and Georgia Tech battling it out for a Final Four berth. I said it at the beginning of the season, and I’ll say it now. Georgia Tech has the ability to make some major noise in March, and that’s exactly what they will do. G-Tech gives me vindication and makes it out of Albuquerque. Pick: Georgia Tech

We now take our voyage to Austin, where an ACC Championship, that should have resulted in a Georgia Tech win rather than a Duke steal thanks to the lousiest officiating call I have ever seen, has put the Blue Devils at the top of the bracket. Let’s be honest here, there are two teams in this bracket that have the ability to go on the Final Four. I’ll give you a hint, Kentucky’s not one of them. This, my friends, is where I pick my 5-12 upset coming in the form of Old Dominion over Michigan State. I don’t think the Spartans’ heads are in the game, especially after an early exit in an easy Big 10 Tournament where they should have gotten to the final.

Oklahoma is stronger than I thought, and I pick them to take down Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Let’s face it, Kentucky, again this year, is picked to go further than they really will. Kelvin Sampson’s Sooners will face off against the winner of the game of the tournament, Duke-Syracuse.

Even though the Orange won the Big East and had a strong season, they’re a four seed. Look for ‘Cuse to try to take out some anger on the Blue Devils. Their efforts will not pay off, thanks to Syracuse’s lack of free throw ability. Duke will then take down Oklahoma, and make it to St. Louis. Pick: Duke

Finally, let’s go up the road to Syracuse, where the Tar Heels of North Carolina will be lurking to meet our beloved Wildcats. The first round won’t bring us many surprises, but Florida will win a close call against Ohio.

The Gators’ run will end after meeting those Villanova Wildcats in the second round, with Villanova facing off against UNC for a berth into the Elites. I know it sounds crazy, but weirder things have happened than a team like Villanova beating a team like UNC. That’s why I’m sticking my neck out and getting behind the ‘Cats, who will have a nice reunion with Kansas, who wins a donnybrook against UConn to make it to the Elite Eight. Fortunately for the Wildcats, UConn will take plenty out of Kansas, and Villanova will be exactly what they can be: America’s most pleasant surprise. If you really think about what Villanova has done this season, it’s not that crazy. Pick: Villanova.

For the first time in a while, two five seeds will make the Final Four. Unfortunately, neither will go any further. Illinois and Duke will face off the Championship, with Illinois coming out on top. Tourney Pick: Illinois