As Pete Guillen once said in his thick northeastern accent, “Duke is Duke. They’re on TV more than Leave it to Beaver reruns.” Well Pete, get ready to see more of Duke, as they are the top seed in this tough region. Kentucky, Boston College and UCLA round out the top four seeds respectively. Kentucky is capable of making a huge run in this tournament and Boston College has something to prove after feeling a little slighted by the Selection Committee with their number three seed.
Now on to the first round match-ups:
1 Duke v. 16 Monmouth
Duke wins in a wash. Monmouth will probably be cotton-mouthed after this one.
8 Georgia v. 9 Missouri Like any 8/9 game, this one should be good. Look for the Tigers’ Clarence Gilbert and Kareem Rush to have big games helping Missouri advance. This should set up a second round meeting between Missouri coach Quin Snyder and his mentor, Coach K.
5 Ohio State v. 12 Utah State 5/12 games are always prime upset picks. This one is no different. OSU’s Ken Johnson could cause some problems for Utah State in the paint but the Aggies are an experienced team that is balanced and shoots the ball extremely well. Look for the upset here.
4 UCLA v. 13 Hofstra
This is another tough pick for a lot of different reasons. Two of the biggest reasons are that Hofstra is really good and you never know which Bruin team will show up. We think that UCLA will send in the A-Team for this one and come away with a victory.
6 USC v. 11 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State was probably one of the last at-large teams to get in. They’ll try to avoid the last-in first-out theory. It will be tough against the Trojans frontline but look for the Cowboys and their backcourt to come out strong and steal a victory.
3 Boston College v. 14 Southern Utah
Southern Utah dethroned perennial Mid-Continent Conference champions, Valparaiso in the finals of the MCC tourney. Their reward? An angry BC squad feeling jilted by their three seed from the committee. BC moves on.
7 Iowa v. 10 Creighton
Iowa just won the tourney of one of the toughest conferences in the country. This puts them on a roll, right? Not so fast. After defeating hapless Northwestern, they then played every upset winner, avoiding all the heavyweights, on their way to the championship. Throw in four games in four days and Creighton’s press-you-everywhere defense and the Iowa Hawkeyes could find themselves without any legs at the end. The Blue Jays should win.
2 Kentucky v. 15 Holy Cross
Many people don’t realize that Holy Cross’ basketball program has a storied history. Bob Cousy calls Holy Cross his alma mater. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, Cousy won’t be suiting up this weekend. Kentucky rolls.
1 Duke v. 9 Missouri
A lot depends on how healthy Duke’s Jason Williams is. If he is able to go, the Blue Devils should have the advantage in a game that will feature more 3pt. shot attempts than any game in the tourney. Look for their perimeter defense to be a little better than the Tigers. Duke wins.
4 UCLA v. 12 Utah State
The Aggies will be coming off of a huge upset. It may be a little too much for them to bounce back from. Bruins should advance to the Sweet 16.
3 Boston College v. 11 Oklahoma State
Boston College will face the toughest defense they have seen all year long when they play the Cowboys. Lucky for them, they have plenty of weapons and play good “D” too. Boston College should advance.
2 Kentucky v. 10 Creighton
This game will feature two teams that like to play up-tempo. When both teams play that style, usually the team with the better athletes wins. You don’t have to check the roster to know that Kentucky has the thoroughbreds. Wildcats win.
1 Duke v. 4 UCLA
The athleticism on the floor during this game will be remarkable. The Bruins match-up well with Duke on the perimeter and have a little more size inside. A key to watch is the return of Duke’s Carlos Boozer and how having him back effects the team. We think it will be positive. Duke will advance.
2 Kentucky v. 3 Boston College
The best from the SEC versus the best from the Big East should be an exciting game. Kentucky’s Tayshaun Prince has finally learned when to shoot the three and when to take advantage of his height inside. The Wildcats will prove too much to handle for BC.
1 Duke v. 2 Kentucky
In the same city where their epic 1991 battle took place, Duke and Kentucky should meet again to see who goes to the Final Four. Christian Laettner won’t hit a last second shot to win this one but Shane Battier might. Jason Williams should prove too tough for Saul Smith to handle and Mike Dunleavy will be Tayshaun Prince’s equal in this one. This is the ninth time Duke has been in the East region during Coach K’s tenure. This will be the seventh time that his teams will advance to the Final Four from this region. Duke wins.