64 TO 16: MARCHING SOUTH

In one day, half of last year’s Final Four got knocked of this region. Florida and North Carolina were both viable options to dethrone defending champion, Michigan State. Both of them bit the dust on Sunday and turned the bracket of champions into the bracket of upstarts. Michigan State does return to the Sweet 16 and keeps their hopes of defending their title alive. Gonzaga makes its third straight appearance in the Sweet 16. It’s truly a pleasure to watch them play. Temple and Penn State bring a little flavor from the Keystone State to this regional. Temple has been on an outstanding postseason run, including a jaunt through the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Penn State pulled off the miracle win against The Program. North Carolina never knew what hit Œem. I’ll tell you what hit Œem ­ Titus Ivory and the Crispin brothers.
1 Michigan State v. 12 Gonzaga
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the definition of a true team. They play hard, they play smart, they play together and they love the game. If you don’t think these guys can play, then you haven’t been paying attention. Dan Dickau is a tremendous point guard. The Zags are now 21-2 in games that he has started. Casey Calvary is a talented post player and Blake Stepp adds a deadly touch from the outside. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, their next match-up is against a team that plays a similar style ­ only with better athletes. Charlie Bell can make things difficult for the Zags on the defensive end. Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph may be too tough to handle on the offensive end. This should be a good game. Don’t get me wrong, Gonzaga can win this game but chances are they won’t. The edge goes to the Spartans and so does the invite to the Elite 8.

7 Penn State v. 11 Temple
This game features two teams that weren’t supposed to get this far. Penn State has had a roller coaster season, one moment beating Kentucky and the next losing to Northwestern. They do have good guard play. An attribute that is essential in the tournament. They are also coming off of one of an emotional win against the Tar Heels. They should be flying high. Leave it to Temple to bring them down to earth. This team has been playing under pressure for the last 4 weeks. They knew they had to win the Atlantic 10 Tourney to get in and they did. They then beat a good Texas team and Billy Donovan’s Gators. They slowed the tempo against both teams. The match-up zone gave both teams fits. Any team that tries to win the battle of tempo against this team is just beating their head against a wall. Lynn Greer can’t be hurried and Chaney won’t let do anything out of control. If Penn State tries to make this an up-tempo game (and we think they will), they’ll be in deep trouble. Look for Chaney’s Owls to strike another upset and keep their dream alive of finally reaching a Final Four. Owls win this one.

1 Michigan State v. 11 Temple
Temple is taking a ride on a magic carpet. Michigan State is hoping to swipe it out form under their feet. The Owls have made it this far on the backs of Quincy Wadley, Lynn Greer and by controlling the tempo. It’s been a very successful formula. The difference in this game is that the Spartans can play at any tempo. They have the ability to play slow, fast and anywhere in between. It will probably be close but the Spartans have enough experience and playmakers to make big plays down the stretch. Look for Izzo to take this year’s team back to the Final Four in defense of their title.