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Author Topic:   March Madness 2005
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posted March 10, 2005 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
2005 NCAA Men's Tournament Automatic Berths

March 10, 2005

The following are the schools that have earned automatic
bids to the 2005 NCAA men's college basketball tournament:

---- ---------- ---- --------

Pennsylvania (20-8) * Ivy League 2/26 2003
Eastern Kentucky (22-8) Ohio Valley 3/5 1979
UCF (24-8) Atlantic Sun 3/5 2004
Winthrop (27-5) Big South 3/5 2002
Chattanooga (20-10) Southern 3/5 1997
Niagara (20-9) Metro Atlantic 3/7 1970
Old Dominion (28-5) Colonial Athletic 3/7 1997
Creighton (23-10) Missouri Valley 3/7 2003
Gonzaga (25-4) West Coast 3/7 2004
Oakland (12-18) Mid-Continent 3/8 NONE
UL Lafayette (20-10) Sun Belt 3/8 2004
Wisc Milwaukee (24-5) Horizon 3/8 2003
Fairleigh Dickinson (20-12) Northeast 3/9 1998
Montana (18-12) Big Sky 3/9 2002

* - The Ivy League does not conduct a post-season tournament.
The regular-season champion receives the automatic bid.

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posted March 11, 2005 09:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
65 Things We Want to See During March Madness

From microsized guards who dunk to oversized Aussies with funk, SIOC shares its wish list for the NCAA tournaments

1) A 16 seed upset a 1. We can dream, can't we?

2) Rick Neuheisel's bracket -- for recreational purposes only.

3) In lieu of No. 2, Jessica Simpson's bracket. Who cares that she doesn't know buffalo don't have wings? She had Georgia Tech (No. 3 seed) and Xavier (No. 7 seed) going deep last year.

4) Antiperspirant for Maryland coach Gary Williams.

5) The baby-faced smile of Alabama forward Chuck Davis.

6) Two words: Juli Boeheim.

7) A walk-on, playing only because of foul trouble, hit the game-winning shot.

8) Washington's 5'9" guard Nate Robinson dunk over Kentucky's 7'3" Shagari Alleyne.

9) Congress designate the first two days of the tournament as national holidays. Seriously, does anyone actually get work done?

10) Ashley Judd forming the "Y" in KENTUCKY.

11) The end of the ACC lovefest. Are you listening, Duke Vitale?

12) Announcers attempting to pronounce the names of Pacific studs Jasko Korajkic, Christian Maraker, Marko Mihailovic and Guillaume Yango.

13) A cap on CBS promos for its prime-time shows.

14) A tournament without hearing a CBS broadcaster scream, "The slipper still fits!"

15) Ten thousand and one commercials for Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous and Beauty Shop. O.K., we're not really excited about that.

16) A commentator inform us that Duke's Mistie Williams is the daughter of Chubby Checker and thus has a "Checker'd past."

17) Dickie V. yawn. C'mon, it could happen.

18) No more corny end-of-the-game calls from Jim Nantz.

19) When ESPN goes to a remote on Selection Sunday of the Penn Quakers' "study lounge," there's a dozen players ... studying.

20) "I'm sorry, Mr. Raftery, do you have a media credential?"

21) Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny (the Jet) Smith do the studio show.

22) A graphic that shows each coach's blood pressure.

23) One Shining Moment.

24) UConn's Geno Auriemma and Tennessee's Pat Summitt kiss and make up at half-court.

25) UConn, we love you. Now clear out and let someone else play in the women's final.

26) You too, Tennessee.

27) School pep bands play the Killers' Mr. Brightside.

28) A halftime show featuring Ashlee Simpson. ... Gotcha!

29) SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Where's Waldo? collage cover of all 65 teams in the tournament. We're biased, of course.

30) The Louisiana Tech pep band, a.k.a. the Hoop Troop, the funniest band in the land.

31) Honorary degrees for Joe Lunardi and other hoops gurus who practice bracketology.

32) Bob Huggins's choice of attire and the waiting game that is "How long does it take him to become totally disheveled?"

33) A moratorium on the words Cinderella and Gonzaga in the same sentence.

34) An end to those signs heckling Oklahoma State guard JamesOn Curry (e.g. JAMESON PROBATION, JAMESON DRUGS).

35) Roy Williams tell a national audience he "doesn't give a s---." Again.

36) Stanford guard Chris Hernandez (a personal request from one smitten SIOC reporter).

37) Palming, traveling and offensive-charge rules enforced. Impossible, we know.

38) Retiring Purdue coach Gene Keady's phone number show up on Paris Hilton's Sidekick.

39) All players on one team walk onto the court rocking Reebok Pumps, circa 1991.

40) Wisconsin senior forward Mike Wilkinson's fiancée, Alexis Schrubbe, sing the national anthem before every one of the Badgers' games.

41) A return to dome-free Final Fours.

42) A timeout- and foul-free final minute in a close game.

43) A mandatory every-guy-must-play rule. Nobody, not even the scrubbiest scrub, deserves to get to the Big Dance and be a wallflower all game.

44) An at-large bid for Temple so that coach John Chaney can whisper "Mo Cuishle" to each player before sending him into the game.

45) The coach of a No. 16 seed, with his team down 30 at halftime, give a John Belushi-esque "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" speech.

46) In lieu of the possession arrow, possession of the ball determined by a dance-off in the center court circle, a la Dance 360.

47) Someone with a perfect, 63-for-63 bracket (odds: 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,744,000).

48) Oz Fest: 7'1" Australian center Luke Schenscher of Georgia Tech versus 7-foot Australian center Andrew Bogut of Utah.

49) Duke's J.J. Redick versus Arizona's Salim Stoudamire, to prove once and for all who's the better three-point bomber.

50) North Carolina versus Kansas, just to see the former coach face his former players.

51) Kansas versus Illinois. See No. 50.

52) Illinois versus Southern Illinois. See No. 50.

53) Final Four undercard: St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli versus CBS's Billy Packer. Let's get ready to rumble!

54) A John Wooden sighting.

55) Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson keep his jacket on for an entire game. Just one.

56) Students sit in the first 10 rows ...

57) ... behind the opposing team's bench.

58) No more titles for Boston teams. Share the love!

59) Kansas State's Kendra Wecker, who's in the top 25 in both scoring and rebounding.

60) Everyone exude as much joy on the court as LSU's Seimone Augustus.

61) A Brad and Jen reunion.

62) A Motley Crüe breakup.

63) A final featuring the two best teams: Illinois and North Carolina.

64) Did we mention Juli Boeheim?

65) No need to write No. 65. It's obvious: No play-in game!

Issue date: March 10, 2005

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posted March 13, 2005 06:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Illinois, UNC, Duke and UW earn No. 1 seeds

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Top-ranked Illinois heads into the NCAA tournament with one loss and the overall No. 1 seed, while Washington was this year's surprise at the top of the bracket.

Joining the Big Ten champion Illini as No. 1s on Sunday were North Carolina and Duke from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Huskies of the Pac-10.

Illinois (32-1) was assigned to the Chicago regional. North Carolina (27-4) will be at Syracuse, Duke (25-5) will be in Austin and Washington (27-5) in Albuquerque.

The Huskies, the surprise of the No. 1s considering they were ranked 14th in the latest Associated Press poll, took advantage of Kentucky's loss Sunday in the Southeastern Conference championship game to move onto the top line. Tournament officials said the Wildcats would've been a No. 1 seed had they won that game.

It's the sixth time in eight years two teams from the same conference were seeded No. 1. The last time was 2003, when Oklahoma and Texas of the Big 12 were No. 1 seeds.

The Illini won't get any frequent flyer miles in this tournament as they will play the first and second rounds in Indianapolis with the regional in Chicago and the Final Four is April 2 and 4 in St. Louis.

Illinois, which opens play Thursday against Northeast Conference champion Fairleigh Dickinson, was followed in the Chicago regional by second-seeded Oklahoma State, which won the Big 12 tournament; No. 3 Arizona, the regular season Pac-10 champion, and fourth-seeded Boston College, co-champions of the Big East.

Two teams went into last year's tournament with just one loss. Saint Joseph's lost in the regional finals to Oklahoma State, while Stanford lost to Alabama in the second round.

Washington opens play Thursday in Boise against Montana, the Big Sky champions.

The No. 2 seed in the Albuquerque regional was Wake Forest, which was considered a sure No. 1 seed candidate; but the Demon Deacons lost in the ACC tournament quarterfinals to North Carolina State. Gonzaga, the West Coast Conference regular season and tournament champion, was seeded third and Louisville, which swept the Conference USA titles, was No. 4.

North Carolina, which lost to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament semifinals, has defending national champion Connecticut as its No. 2 seed with Kansas at No. 3. Florida, which beat Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference title game, is at No. 4.

The Tar Heels will face the winner of Tuesday's play-in game in Charlotte on Friday. Oakland (12-18), which won the Mid-Continent Conference tournament, will play Alabama A&M, the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion, on Tuesday night in Dayton. Oakland is the only team in the field with a losing record.

Duke, which won the ACC tournament Sunday for the sixth time in seven years, has Kentucky as its No. 2 seed with Oklahoma the third seed and Syracuse, the Big East tournament champions, the fourth seed. Duke will open Friday in Charlotte against Delaware State.

The Big East and Big 12 each has six teams in the field, one short of the record seven, while the Big Ten, the SEC and the ACC each has five. The other multiple bids leagues were Conference USA and the Pac-10 with four each, the Missouri Valley with three and the Big West, Mountain West, West Coast and Western Athletic Conference with two each.

The last of the at-large teams were all No. 11 seeds: Alabama-Birmingham (21-10), Northern Iowa (21-10) and UCLA (18-10).

Among the bubble teams that were not invited were: DePaul (19-10), Maryland (16-12), Saint Joseph's (19-11) and Notre Dame (17-11).

The pod system, which tried to keep schools as close to home as possible for the first and second rounds, will have North Carolina and Duke both in Charlotte, while Illinois and Kentucky both head to Indianapolis. Oklahoma State was sent to Oklahoma City, while Connecticut and Syracuse are in Worcester, Mass.

Arizona extended the longest consecutive NCAA streak with its 21st straight appearance while Kansas has the second-longest run at 16 straight years.

Niagara, the 14th seed in the Austin regional, had the longest run between appearances. The Purple Eagles were last in the tournament in 1970 when Calvin Murphy was their star.

Delaware State, Oakland, Southeastern Louisiana and Alabama A&M are all making their first NCAA tournament appearances.

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posted March 13, 2005 08:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
These 10 teams are top NCAA contenders

Illinois, Oklahoma State, Duke top list of teams that could win it all

By Ryan Wood contributor

Here we go. For the next few days, millions of experts will scribble their favorite teams closer and closer to the middle of their bracket, then wad it up and throw the stupid thing away after the first wild weekend.

You gotta love this American tradition.

So where do you start, other than by picking a pencil over a pen?

Here's an idea -- strongly consider any of these 10 teams to take control and cut down the nets on April 4 in St. Louis.

But, like I said, do it in pencil:

Why not? The only concern is a reliable big man to feed the rock to if the shots aren't falling, but with this squad, the shots always seem to be falling. Luther Head, Dee Brown and Deron Williams make up the best backcourt in the country, and James Augustine is adequate inside. As long as they do what they've been doing this season, there's no reason to think they won't make a serious run.

Oklahoma State
Not many players just appear overdue for the NBA anymore, but OSU's Joey Graham is just that guy. He's a freakishly athletic 6-foot-7 forward that can shoot the rock with the best of them. Opponents' blatant inability to guard him effectively will help the Cowboys as they strive to win six more this month. The main reason Oklahoma State is a legitimate championship contender is because its backcourt is just tremendous - Jameson Curry and John Lucas are poised, clutch performers, and going home early is something I just don't see them doing.

Duke is Duke, and as painful as it is for many college basketball fans to handle, Coach K just knows how to win on the game's biggest stage. Duke's bracket isn't full of world-beaters, so to see the Blue Devils in St. Louis wouldn't be too big of a stretch. From there, it depends on how good opponents can suffocate J.J. Redick, the best shooter in America. If he gets his looks, Duke will get its points.

No team knows how to get deep in the tournament quite like this Jayhawk squad, whose seniors are 12-3 in NCAA Tournament play in their career -- two Final Fours and an Elite Eight on their resume. Wayne Simien has played like a manchild in recent weeks and averages a consistent 20.2 points per game. If KU gets roughly some three-point shooters rolling (J.R. Giddens needs to be one), the Jayhawks will be tough to match up against on offense, which will take them back to where they're used to being -- among the four survivors with one weekend left. After that, who knows?

North Carolina
No one runs-and-guns quite like the Tar Heels, a fun style of basketball tweaked and near-perfected by coach Roy Williams. The former Kansas leader is entering his 16th NCAA Tournament, and the previous 15 stopped short of a six-game winning streak. The guy is too good of a coach to be shut out forever, and this is the best team he's had since 2002 - a Final Four team at KU. Their first real test will come in the Elite Eight, but the Tar Heels should be fine.

Georgia Tech
Even before the Yellow Jackets' strong run in the ACC tournament, they were the most dangerous dark horse in the field. They've underachieved in a brutal ACC during the regular season, but don't get it twisted: This team is really, really good. Led by the gutsy point guard Jarrett Jack, and complemented nicely by B.J. Elder, Will Bynum and Luke Schenscher, the Yellow Jackets could very well be knocking off Louisville and Washington and moving on to St. Louis. Their victory Saturday over North Carolina wasn't all that big of an upset, and there's more coming.

Wake Forest
There's something about Chris Paul that you've got to like when the stakes are high. A 12-3 mark by Wake in the ACC is outstanding, and Paul's 14.9 points and 6.6 assists per game is proof that he can use his teammates and take matters into his own hands. The Demon Deacons will get both, and it will take them far in the Big Dance.

The Sooners had a seven-game winning streak before being derailed in the Big 12 tournament, including three victories over NCAA Tournament teams in Kansas, Texas and Texas Tech. No stars on this team, but that's not a problem. Taj Gray is the best player you've never heard of.

Because you can never count the defending national champions out. The Huskies lost their poster boy in Emeka Okafor, but a lot of talent stayed behind for another run. If the last stretch of the season is any indication, UConn is ready to roll. A 10-2 mark since the beginning of February means this team is peaking when it needs to be.

The Orangemen's toughest test in their first weekend is the very first game -- against a surprisingly solid Vermont squad. If they survive that, they should go on to face Duke in the Sweet 16. Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick know all about stepping up in the NCAA Tournament, so expect Syracuse's best the next few weeks.

Ryan Wood writes regularly for and covers the University of Kansas for the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World.

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posted March 16, 2005 09:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jpgordo   Click Here to Email jpgordo     Edit/Delete Message
On average, 1.3 5-seeds fall each year in round one

By Andy Katz

We know a 12-5 upset is out there, we just don't know which one.

Will it be Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Alabama in Cleveland? Could it be New Mexico over Villanova in Nashville? What about George Washington over Georgia Tech or Old Dominion over Michigan State?

It's bound to happen, right? It has to, because 26 of them have occurred since the field expanded in 1985 – the most prevalent of any bracket pairing outside of the 8-9 and 7-10 games.

"That stat [5 vs. 12] means absolutely nothing once the game starts, because the quality of the 12 is so good," said Providence coach Tim Welsh, an "upset" victim to No. 12 Pacific in 2004.

But what is it about the No. 5 seed that makes it so vulnerable and the No. 12 such a hot pick?

"The 12 is usually a mid-major team from a mid-major conference that's playing well at the time," Welsh said.

"The five could be a team from a high-major conference that has dipped that isn't playing as well," he added. "We dropped to a five. In the weeks leading up to that we were looking at a three or a four and then we got beat going into the tournament. Pacific had won 15 in a row and they were playing very, very well. We were a 12 once when I was at Iona coaching, and you know when you're the 12 everybody wants to pick you to pick that upset."

Florida coach Billy Donovan knows all too well about being the No. 5 upset victim. He nearly was in 2000, when Mike Miller's buzzer-beater took out No. 12 Butler. But then in 2002, Creighton took out Florida in a 12-5 game, and it happened again last season when Manhattan beat Florida.

"I was never thinking about it, because I knew those 12s were all good teams from good leagues," Donovan said. "The 12 is usually a team that is playing with so much confidence in a situation where everyone knows their role. If you're a four-seed and up you're going to have a hard first-round game. It doesn't matter if it's an 11, 12 or 13."

There have been 21 wins by a No. 11 over a No. 6. No. 13 has beaten No. 4 16 times, while No. 14 over No. 3 occurred 13 times since 1985. (A No. 2 seed has only lost to a No. 15 four times, and there has never been a No. 16 over a No. 1).

"I'm not sure why it has been so common, other than the teams are very good," Donovan said. "Sometimes the style of play is hard to go against. ... Butler was a slow team while Creighton was very patient and Manhattan pressed us. I'm not making excuses, but the games are tough."

But does the NCAA Tournament selection committee look at picking potential upsets? Former committee members like Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood say no.

"It's not a punishment to put those high-major teams as a five but some of them aren't playing well," said New Mexico athletic director Rudy Davalos, a former member of the committee. "We'd always scuffle about the first, second, third and fourth seeds, and by the time we got to the fives, there were a lot of teams you could put there."

Davalos said a lot of the No. 12s used to be teams that wouldn't be so today, like Gonzaga was in 2001 when it beat Virginia.

Prior to the brackets being announced Sunday night, Davalos said of his Lobos: "If they stick us at 12, then we would do misery to a five. That would be one of those cases [of a team not getting enough respect]."

There were two No. 12 winners in 2004. Which one are you going with this year?

Andy Katz is a senior writer at

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posted March 16, 2005 01:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Ten best ways to fill out those brackets
Ignore all other advice — here's how you'll win office pool

By Michael Ventre contributor

Some say filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket is like riding a bike. But for some, riding a bike means crashing into a tree, or being dragged for two miles by an oblivious truck driver. True, you never forget how to do it, but it can still be painful.

With brackets, there is a good reason for this: a lack of strategy. They have entire courses that teach students how to take the SATs, and they involve the use of strategy more than memorization of information, although writing answers on your palms remains a popular option.

Take the same approach when you fill out your bracket — employ technique — and soon you’ll be standing proudly atop your desk, your fists stuffed with greenbacks, waving to all the pathetic losers in the other cubicles who bragged about their basketball knowledge but instead found themselves listed under “Assclowns” in the final standings.

Even if you know little about hoops and think a double dribble can be corrected with a bib, feel that dunking is easier if you break the donut in half, and believe that Michael Jordan is the king of Jordan, here are 10 easy tips for filling out your March Madness manifest.

And remember, I accept gratuities:

Balk at the chalk
In gambling parlance, the “chalk” refers to the favorite in any competition. There will be four No. 1 seeds, one from each region. But there is only one top-ranked team in the land. Right now it’s Illinois. Yet only three teams in the past 22 years have finished the regular season ranked No. 1 and went on to win the championship. So, if you’re the type who likes to play it safe — you always drive in the slow lane, put your money in a savings account earning 1 percent interest, etc. — then choose the other three No. 1 seeds to gain your Final Four and pick the Illini to bow out in the second round. Initially, you will endure verbal abuse and ridicule. However, that unpleasantness will quickly be replaced by the pure joy of frolicking naked through piles of money taken from clueless suckers. Usually.

Star power
Nobody likes to look at a bunch of nondescript ninnies. For that reason, select a team that has at least one star, preferably more. But, you may ask, isn’t basketball a team game that requires the subjugation of the individual for the good of the whole? Answer: Where have you been for the past 25 years or so? Since 1979, every NCAA champion but one (Maryland in 2002) has had at least one McDonald’s All-American. Among the top teams this year that don’t: Boston College, Washington and Oklahoma. By contrast, North Carolina has three in Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May. So think McDonald’s. That will help supersize your bracket.

Twelve is a “10”
That’s a “10” as in the very pinnacle of beauty and seduction. You might think that being seeded No. 12 in a 16-team region is a slap in the face. Actually, it’s a sloppy kiss on the lips. Since 1989, a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 in the opening round in every year but one. Since 1999, four of them have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The trick, of course, is deciding which No. 12 of the four to pick. For that, flip the equation: Look at the four No. 5s and determine which one is most likely to choke. Usually it will be a team from the Big East or ACC that did the most whining about not being seeded higher.

Getting sentimental
Ordinarily, when there’s big money on the line, sentiment has no place in your predictions. But there are exceptions, and the NCAA Tournament is one. For instance, coach Roy Williams has never won a national championship, and he is regarded as a class act everywhere outside the state of Kansas. The rallying cry of “Win one for coach” can sometimes provide a team with an extra burst of momentum. Another case is Bruce Weber, coach at Illinois, who was not a popular choice to succeed Bill Self but who has propelled himself among the elite this year and is mourning the loss of his mother during the Big Ten tournament. But be careful to whom you assign sentiment points. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Texas Tech’s Bob Knight are two examples of coaches who have long ago exhausted their allotment.

Hot stuff
It is tempting to predict a team to win it all based on the fact that it won its conference tournament. Stick with a hot team, right? Well, not exactly. Connecticut won the whole enchilada last year after winning the Big East tournament. But five of the other six top conference tournament winners were out before the Sweet Sixteen. Of the last 10 NCAA champions that played in conference tournaments, only five won theirs. Usually, the teams that win conference tournaments are the ones motivated to do so, the ones that absolutely have to win to ensure NCAA berths or improve their seeds. The ones who don’t really need to win don’t try as hard in conference tourneys, therefore they lose, knowing they’re going to the Big Dance anyway. So the lesson here is, when filling out your brackets and considering teams that participated in conference tournaments, put your faith in lazy, unmotivated slugs.

Red states/blue states
I know. You miss the nasty, vitriolic, mean-spirited contentiousness of the presidential election. Well, who says you have to go without? College basketball teams can be just as ruthless. If you’re picking between two blue state teams — say Illinois against UCLA — go with the candidate that hasn’t flip-flopped all year. If the choice is between two red state teams — Cincinnati versus Duke, for example — go with the candidate with the snootier lineage. But if there’s a duel between a red state team and a blue state team — let’s say North Carolina versus Pittsburgh — I’m afraid you’re on your own. Whichever team you go with, be warned that the game would probably be decided on a disputed call.

Delete the geeks
About this time of year, you will start to see “experts” that you’ve never heard of before popping up on television. They will speak eloquently and will dress nattily, creating the impression that they are professionals and know what they’re talking about when they make their tournament predictions.

You will be tempted to follow their advice. But don’t. Ignore these people at all costs. They don’t know any more than the guy who works the Slurpee machine at your neighborhood 7-Eleven. They still live in their parents’ house, and the NCAA tournament is their Dungeons & Dragons. So to paraphrase George Costanza: If everything they say is wrong, the opposite must be right. Go with the exact opposite of everything they suggest and you will at least finish in the top three in your pool.

Upset specials
The NCAA Tournament is notoriously unpredictable, yet most people fill out their brackets as if they’re buying insurance, careful about every little detail. That may not fit your personality. You may be the adventurous type who likes hang-gliding, blind dates and eating sushi from a can. In that case, take some chances. Keep in mind that no No. 16 seed has ever toppled a No. 1, but there’s always a first time. Players from teams like Winthrop and Delaware State put their shorts on one leg at a time, just like Kentucky and Wake Forest, although it’s the part that comes after the putting on of the shorts that has been problematic. If you pick a string of upsets and a few of them pan out, you’ll be a genius. If they don’t, you’ll be a moron. And at this time of year, there are plenty of morons, so you’ll have lots of company.

It’s not automatic
When you hear that a team has received an “automatic” bid to the NCAA Tournament, it sounds like you should be impressed. Don’t be. Listen to some of the schools that received automatic bids this year: Eastern Kentucky, Fairleigh Dickinson, Oakland (Mich.), Louisiana-Lafayette. They are to the NCAA Tournament what Internet universities are to academia. These schools have as much chance of advancing past the first round as Gene Keady has of being named Vidal Sassoon’s man of the year.

Use aliases
Just to be on the safe side, enter five or six different brackets in your pool, using phony names like “Al from Accounting” or “Heather from Human Resources.” You’ll increase your chances, and for a relatively small amount of money. In fact, you can take it a step further and draw paychecks from your company based on these fictitious employees. With the added income, you can buy tickets to next year’s Final Four, assuming you’re not in prison by then.

Michael Ventre writes regularly for and is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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posted March 21, 2005 08:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Top seeds will help end upset trend
Tourney looks like 1999, when threeNo. 1 seeds, No. 4 reached Final Four

By Mike Miller
College basketball editor
Updated: 10:34 a.m. ET March 21, 2005

Admit it, this weekend was brutal on your bracket.

No top seed bit the dust, but there were enough upsets to take out eight of the top 16 seeded teams, the most during the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend since 2000. Nine of the top 16 lost during the first four days that year, resulting in one of the “weakest” Final Fours in history. No. 1 Michigan State won the title that year, outlasting 5 seed Florida and 8 seeds North Carolina and Wisconsin.

But I don’t think we’re headed for that kind of Final Four — even if my pre-tournament predictions indicate I’m probably out of the running in most tournament pools — mostly because all those No. 1 seeds are still out there in Illinois, North Carolina, Duke and Washington.

This year reminds me of 1999 when three No. 1 seeds made the Final Four and the final featured the two best teams in the country when UConn beat Duke. This year, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to have Illinois playing UNC for the title. (For those wondering, Michigan State and fourth-seeded Ohio State were the other two that year; not sure if that makes Duke and Louisville the other Final Four teams, though.)

Still, no past tournament can predict what happens this year, as cool of a coincidence that would be. Where does that leave us?

Taking a long hard look at those No. 1 seeds, is what.

Maybe it’s because the perennial powerhouses like Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma and Syracuse and the trendy picks like Wake Forest, Gonzaga and Boston College are gone. There’s some familiar March teams, though, like Michigan State, Wisconsin, Arizona and Oklahoma State that could pose challenges to those top seeds.

But there’s a lot of unknowns right now.

There’s a load of longtime Sweet 16 absentees (Villanova and N.C. State haven’t been there since the ’80s; Texas Tech, West Virginia, Utah and Louisville haven’t been since at least ’98) and then there's Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a team that has never been there. If experience counts in March, then these teams could be in trouble.

That could go for every remaining team in the Albuquerque Regional, though. Washington hasn’t been in a regional semifinal since ’98, which means they’re not any more experienced than Louisville, Texas Tech or West Virginia. That’s the longest such drought for a region of teams since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

So write down Albuquerque, the region with the fewest upsets in the tournament, as the biggest tossup. Without Wake in the picture, the Final Four team out of the region is probably the winner of the Washington-Louisville game. That means writing off Bobby Knight and Texas Tech and that pesky West Virginia team — who knew a team on the bubble before the Big Dance could cause so much bracket havoc?

I’m tempted to pencil in Louisville for the Final Four. Rick Pitino’s team got jobbed with a four seed by the tournament committee despite playing better than just about any team in the country since Christmas. But can you really write off Washington that easily? More and more, the Huskies are reminding me of the ’97 Minnesota squad that won the Big Ten title, featured NBA star Bobby Jackson, and made a Final Four run. That team was the same way in that it won a lot of games, but you never knew just how good it was.

Then again, Washington could be like another Pac-10 softy of recent years such as Stanford. I’m going with Louisville.

After that, Chicago has to be considered the toughest region, with the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the Sweet 16. The Oklahoma State-Arizona game should be a classic, while the Illini figure to end UW-Milwaukee’s run. The Wildcats or the Cowboys could beat the Illini, but, despite thinking Oklahoma State would come out of this region before the tournament began, I’ll stick with the Illini.

By now, I’m convinced. Plus, the United Center will be loaded with Orange Krush fans.

Syracuse seems to be a lock for UNC, provided Villanova doesn’t shoot lights out on Friday. N.C. State will out-slow Wisconsin, giving the ACC a lock for at least one team in the Final Four. Stick with the Heels.

Austin, meanwhile, is the other trouble spot for the top seed.

The Blue Devils have looked vulnerable in both of their tournament games. J.J. Redick hasn’t been his usual hot-shooting self and they don’t have their usual swagger this time of the year.

Still, if there’s one coach that can out-do Tom Izzo — who has the best tournament win percentage of any active coach — it’s Mike Krzyzewski, who just passed Dean Smith for the tournament wins record. Plus, Duke already beat Michigan State once this year.

That sets up the Devils against the Kentucky-Utah winner. And the Utes, despite Andrew Bogut’s presence, never beat the Wildcats in March.

A Duke-Kentucky showdown for a Final Four berth, which has happened twice in the last 13 years, both of which produced classic games, makes me smile. Kentucky won the last one in ’98, which makes me think this year is Duke’s turn. Plus, doesn’t it seem like the Devils have had just about everything go their way this year?

There you go: Three No. 1 seeds in the Final Four, along with a No. 4, just like ’99. And, just like ’99, we’ll get the nation’s two best teams going for the title. Yeah, it’s a coincidence I want to happen, but so what?

It’ll be every bit as entertaining as the first two rounds and be a lot easier on your bracket. It’s a win-win.

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