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March 17, 2005

Look out for these bracket busters

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
1.) (10) N.C. State vs. (7) N.C.-Charlotte: Friday in Worcester, Mass.; Syracuse Region

This would be an upset in seed only. The general consensus in pools all over the nation is that the 7th seeded Charlotte 49ers, who lost their last three and backed in to the tournament, are ripe for the picking by the hot N.C. State Wolfpack. The in-state battle should be a long-range shooting battle, with both teams very capable of shooting the three. Charlotte's Brendan Plavich led the nation in three pointers with 109 made, while Curtis Withers shot 44% from three (21-50). State's Elian Evtimov made 60 threes this season, shooting over 37% from three. The Niners are cold entering the Dance, closing the year with double-digit losses to Memphis and South Florida. The Pack won two games in the ACC Tournament to come out of nowhere to earn a spot in the Big Dance. Charlotte was better this season, but N.C. State finished strong, and an upset here would not be that shocking to many.

2.) (11) UCLA vs. (6) Texas Tech: Thursday in Tucson; Albuquerque Region

Bob Knight does not have a stellar track record of late in the first round. Neither of these teams are particularly desirable, but UCLA's coach Ben Howland will have the Bruins ready. Although Tech is the school with momentum, and UCLA is the school that got bounced early in their conference tournament (to Oregon State), the Red Raiders do not have a good Tourney track record under Knight. They have failed to reach the Sweet 16 since Knight took the job in Lubbock. The Bruins are led by sophomore Dijon Thompson, who averages 18.3 points per game, while Texas Tech will be anchored by Ronald Ross, who chipped in 17 points nightly this season. UCLA won their last five games entering the Pac-10 Tournament, and a first round upset shouldn't be that huge of a surprised. They are a well-rounded, well-coached team compared to the erratic Tech team.

3.) (10) Saint Mary's vs. (7) Southern Illinois: Friday in Oklahoma City; Chicago Region

The Saint Mary's Gaels can beat any squad in the nation if they play defense well, and betting on that to happen Friday is not a reach. They came out ready to play on Opening Night in November, beating #2 North Carolina and winning the John Wooden Classic to start the year off. Southern Illinois is now on their third coach in three years, Chris Lowery, and his 10-man rotation will have to be on point to stop the press of the Gaels. Both teams are great defensive squads, with SIU holding teams to 60.7 points per game, 13th best in the whole nation. St. Mary's led the West Coast Conference with 230 made three-pointers this year, anchored by Paul Marigney and Daniel Klickert, who combine to average 33.7 points per game. If the Gaels keep the score low and shoot well from long-range, an upset and a second round date with Oklahoma State could be in their cards.

(12) Old Dominion vs. (5) Michigan State: Friday in Worcester, Mass.; Austin Region

ODU won the Colonial Athletic Association in both the tournament and regular season this year with a school record 28-5 record. Win 29 might be tougher to grab, but a 12 beats a 5 seed every year, and this one is just both plausible and unlikely enough at the same time that it might be the one. Old Dominion allows just 60.3 points per game, and in the NCAA Tournament games tend to be lower scoring, another plus for them. Their trouble could come on the glass, where Michigan State led the Big Ten in net rebounding for the eighth time in the last ten seasons. MSU, which won the whole thing in 2000, could fall if they struggle at the foul line or from shooting inside. The game matches up well for the ODU Knights, and with a little bit of that 12-5 luck, they could pull an upset on Friday night.

(10) Iowa vs. (7) Cincinnati: Thursday in Indianapolis; Austin Region

The 10-7 matchups are very intriguing this year. The Hawkeyes are hot, winning five in a row before their three point Big Ten tournament loss to Wisconsin, while the Bearcats carry around the baggage of a long period of strife in the NCAAs, having not made the Sweet 16 since 1999 despite being in the tourney every year. The Hawkeyes' Greg Brunner has led the team with 14 points and eight rebounds per game since the early February dismissal of leading scorer Pierre Pierce from the team. Iowa was seemingly falling apart after Pierce was booted by coach Steve Alford, but Brunner, Adam Haluska and Jeff Horner have formed a 43 point per game trio in his absence that kept Iowa out of the NIT. Cincinnati is third in the nation in blocked shots, led by Jason Maxiell who leads the team with nearly three blocks per game to go with his 15.3 points. The Bearcats lost in the Conference USA tournament to woeful South Florida, 80-68. Their ability to lay an egg in big games makes gives Iowa a legitimate upset chance,

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  • John Willmott (View Email) on March 18, 2005 at 12:52 AM
    Also, don't be shocked to see Ohio, the #13 seed in the Syracuse bracket, upset Florida tomorrow.
  • danno (View Email) on March 19, 2005 at 10:48 AM
    you got one out of the five suggested here... but what about Bucknell over Kansas, UW-Milwaukee over Bama, and Vermont over Syracuse... did anyone pick all three over those in a bracket?
  • lol on March 19, 2005 at 11:29 AM
    i love how like every single one of these was wrong, except State over Charlotte. Willmott, u were wrong too. ROTLF.
  • Anonymous on March 20, 2005 at 9:23 PM
    1/5 good job bushnell
  • John Willmott (View Email) on March 22, 2005 at 10:28 AM
    lol, I'm glad to give you a laugh. If you'd actually watched a second of basketball this past weekend, you'd know that Ohio came back from a 20 point deficit to almost beat Florida. Besides, nobody here ever guaranteed these picks.

    It's also really easy to criticize when you don't even decide to gamble and make a prediction yourself.
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