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Sherron Collins should take his second title in 3 years.
Some people want to win the lottery. I'm thinking bigger.
I want that perfect bracket.
When that happens, everything else should be cake, including that Mega Millions jackpot. I mean, do you know what the odds are of picking the perfect bracket? Nine quintillion to 1. That's six commas and 19 digits.
On that note, let's get to my bracket (upsets are in bold).
First-round winners: Kentucky, Texas, Temple, Wisconsin, Washington, New Mexico, Clemson and West Virginia. Was tempted by Cornell, but the Big Red haven't played in a while and I wonder how well they'll shoot in an unfamiliar gym. Also, Temple's perimeter D is superb. Marquette and Missouri lost the coin flips in their toss-up games.
Sweet 16 teams: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Washington and West Virginia. Maybe the local radio guys have gotten to me, but I like the Huskies' chances. Heck, I would've taken Marquette to beat New Mexico as well.
Regional final: Kentucky and West Virginia will be an interesting clash of styles. The Wildcats can run or get it inside to DeMarcus Cousins, while the Mountaineers prefer to control the tempo and the glass. The thing is, how do they account for Cousins? If Kentucky's freshman center gets into foul trouble, it'll make it a close game and that just opens things up for John Wall. West Virginia doesn't have anyone who can check Wall.
First-round winners: Duke, Louisville, Utah State, Siena, Notre Dame, Baylor, Richmond, Villanova. Wanted to go Cal, but they'll miss having Omondi Amoke inside against the 'Ville. Meanwhile, the opening session in Spokane should be terrific. The Saints have enough offense to overcome Purdue's still potent defense, while I just have a gut feeling 5-seed Texas A&M won't hit enough shots to beat Utah State.
Sweet 16 teams: Duke, Utah State, Baylor and Richmond. The Aggies of Utah State wn the mid-major showdown against Siena, while Baylor and Duke manage tough second-round wins. And the Spiders? They get the weekend's most surprising win by beating 'Nova. That perimeter defense should offset the Wildcats' guards. Though if 'Nova just keeps Richmond off the free-throw line, it'll make me eat that pick.
Regional final: Can't wait to see Duke and Baylor square off. Two of the top offenses with a Final Four berth on the line? The Devils' frontcourt does everything it's supposed to – get the offensive boards – but Bears center Ekpe Udoh is unlike any player they've seen this year. He'll block shots, rebound and get around those forwards. Also, Jon Scheyer will have his hands full trying to guard Tweety Carter or LaceDarius Dunn.
First-round winners: Kansas, UNLV, Michigan State, Maryland, San Diego State, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Ohio State. I may regret picking the Aztecs given that Tennessee's beaten Kansas and Kentucky this season. But I like their balance, and hate the Vols' offense. Also wouldn't be shocked to see G.T. beat the Cowboys.
Sweet 16 teams: Kansas, Michigan State, Georgetown, Ohio State. Took forever to decide on the Michigan State-Maryland game. Then I read about how the Spartans play just as well on the road as they do at home, while the Terps are the opposite. Going with the Spartans. Also, UNLV will give Kansas a game. For a while.
Regional final: The nation's best team faces its best player. When Kansas matches up against Ohio State, it'll be interesting to see who Bill Self uses on Evan Turner (probably a mix of Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar), but it'll more interesting to see if anyone can check Cole Aldrich down low. The Buckeyes play five guys and don't have any decent size behind Dallas Lauderdale. A bigger concern for Kansas than Turner is ensuring Ohio State doesn't heat up from outside. That's been the Jayhawks' Achilles' Heel this season.
First-round winners: Syracuse, Florida State, UTEP, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Pitt, BYU and Kansas State. Love the Miners' defense vs. Butler, and I love Derrick Caracter inside even more. He'll get Butler's entire frontline in foul trouble. Thought about Murray State to beat Vandy (and still am), but couldn't do it. Siena's enough upset for me.
Sweet 16 teams: Syracuse, UTEP, Xavier, Kansas State. The Miners find a way against a consistent Commodores team, while Syracuse and K-State both escape upset bids. (Thought long and hard about BYU beating the Wildcats.) But I liked Xavier to beat Pitt most of all. The Musketeers' defense will make it mighty tough on the Panthers.
Regional final: The Orange should end UTEP's run and get a handful from K-State in the final. The Wildcats don't have many reliable scoring options beyond Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, which is a nightmare against that 2-3 Syracuse zone. Their defensive pressure on Scoop Jardine/Brandon Triche will keep it interesting, but it's hard to see K-State overmatching Syracuse's big men.
Final Four: A chalky final four turns Rock Chalky.
Sherron Collins will find his big men – Aldrich and the Morris twins – enough in that 2-3 zone to open things up for Xavier Henry and Morningstar outside. Kansas excels at crashing the offensive boards, which exacerbates Syracuse's zone even more. The question will be if the Jayhawks' defense comes to play. Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins will keep the KU defense honest, but unless they go crazy from beyond the arc, Kansas has enough to win.
Meanwhile, Kentucky's fab freshmen become the next Fab Five – but they'll have Patrick Patterson to thank. The junior forward can hit from inside or out and presents a matchup headache for Baylor. The Bears have plenty of offensive weapons to match the Wildcats, yet the crowd in Indy (assured to be filled with Big Blue Nation) could sway things.
Title game: Kansas vs. Kentucky
This has something for everyone: A matchup of NCAA blue bloods, the preseason favorite, the young squad that played up to its talent level and a re-match of sorts for Self and Kentucky coach John Calipari, who faced off when Calipari took Memphis to the 2008 championship game.
But here's the thing: As good as Kentucky is and can be, it's too hard to pick against Kansas. The Jayhawks are the overwhelming choice to cut down the nets because they don't have any holes except a shaky perimeter defense -- and the Wildcats struggle with their threes and limiting their turnovers.
That doesn't bode well for a freshman-laden team, no matter how talented it is. Ask the Fab Five.
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