As promised, our “experts” will be revealing the highlights of their bracket selections to preview the NCAA Tournament. Check back over the next few days if you need some help in bracket selection. Remember, join our Chronicle Sports bracket challenge to compete for the chance to write your very own victory blog post.
Thursday’s Must-Watch Game: No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
A great opportunity for the proverbial 12-over-5 upset. The Spiders have an experienced squad that shoots well from the outside, while the Commodores field a younger team that is overcoming injury troubles.
Honorable Mention: No. 7 UCLA vs. No. 10 Michigan St., No. 8 Butler vs. No. 9 Old Dominion, No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 14 Bucknell, No. 6 St. John’s vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
Friday’s Must-Watch Game: No. 7 Texas A&M v. No. 10 Florida State
If Chris Singleton comes back in time for this game, he’ll be faced with a tough defensive assignment in the Aggies’ Khris Middleton. Both teams have been inconsistent late in the year, and this game could go either way.
Honorable Mention: No. 8 Michigan v. No. 9 Tennessee
To determine Duke’s next opponent we have the alma mater of the Fab Five (one particularly Rose-y member of which may or may not have made some recent controversial comments about the Blue Devils) squaring off with Bruce Pearl’s Last Stand. Let the games begin!
Least Interesting First Round Game: No. 8 UNLV v. No. 9 Illinois
Winner of this matchup of underachievers gets a double dose of Morris in the next round.
Can a 4-seed be considered a sleeper? Written off because of a looming Sweet 16 match-up with Ohio State, John Calipari’s squad could make some noise outside of the spotlight. They shoot well from outside and have a Zoubek-esque center in senior Josh Harrelson (who even wears No. 55!). Sure, if they played 10 times the Buckeyes might win eight, but Kentucky just won the SEC tournament and if this young squad can keep it together the Wildcats just might have what it takes to take down the No. 1 overall seed.
No. 1, 2 or 3 most likely to lose in Wk 1: BYU
The Jimmer Show will run into some serious defense in the third round. You can bet the winner of the Steve Lavin-Mark Few second round match-up will have a plan to shut down Fredette and send the Cougars back to Provo.
Players to Watch:
Isaiah Thomas, Washington: After Kemba Walker and Fredette, Thomas is probably the most relied-on player in the country. Thomas demonstrated his ability to stay cool under pressure in the Pac-10 tournament, draining a long buzzer-beating jumper in overtime to beat Arizona. So goes Thomas, so go the Huskies.
Keith Benson, Oakland: NBA-caliber talent has the potential to will the Golden Grizzlies to a major first round upset of a young Texas squad. He’ll face off against Tristan Thompson in the paint, and the winner of that individual matchup could decide a game where an upset would drastically alter the forecast in the West region.
Final Four: Washington, Duke, Kansas, Pittsburgh
Most Outstanding Player: Markieff Morris, KU
Even with Kyrie Irving back at full speed, this season comes down to a battle of brothers where the Morris twins out-muscle Duke’s Plumlees for the title.