Monday, March 14, 2011

7 bracket-buster teams to watch

(Seeds in parentheses)

Washington (7)—Any team that has a player named Isaiah Thomas (16.7 ppg) has to be good, right? If you watched the Pac 10 final last weekend, you saw the mojo he brings to that Huskies team—a team that reached the Sweet 16 last season. Look for Washington to upset North Carolina and advance all the way to the Elite 8.

Kentucky (4)—A real head scratcher with the Wildcats slated as a 4 seed, while Florida (whom they destroyed on Sunday) is a 2 seed. KU has the talent—freshmen Brandon Knight (17 ppg) and Terrence Jones (17 ppg) are future NBA stars—and the athleticism to knock off Ohio State and make it all the way to the championship game.

Utah St. (12)—The pairing of Utah State and Kansas State may prove to be one of the most critical selections in your brackets. Kansas State has the potential to make a Final 4 run. Or, they could go down in the first round to a Utah State team that has won 30 games and has been to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row and start 4seniors. If Utah State wins, look for the Aggies to make a Sweet 16 run.

Belmont (13)—Staying in the Southeast region, the pairing of Belmont against Wisconsin is an intriguing one. Belmont is one of the highest scoring teams in the nation and plays ten players consistently. The Bruins lead the nation in scoring margin and rank #11 in points per game. Could it be a Utah State/Belmont match up to advance to the Sweet 16?

Oakland (13)—Similar to the Utah State/Kansas State pairing, this first round game could be a real bracket-buster. Texas has the talent to make a Final 4 run. Or they could lose (I’m predicting it) to Oakland in the first round. Oakland played a difficult schedule (at West Virginia, at Purdue, at Illinois, Michigan State, at Michigan, at Ohio State, and Tennessee) and isn’t going to be afraid of the Longhorns in the first round. They have good inside/outside balance with Keith Benson (18 ppg) and Reggie Hamilton (17.4 ppg). Look for Oakland to be a potential Cinderella team and advance to the Sweet 16.

Old Dominion (9)—The Monarchs are one of the best defensive teams in the nation and have a solid post player in Frank Hassell and advanced to the second round of last year’s tournament. Look for ODU to knock off Butler in the first round and give Pitt all they can handle in the second.

Richmond—(12)—Everyone who closely follows the NCAA Tournament knows that a 12 seed always beats a 5 seed. The Spiders are your absolute lock to do that this year, beating Vanderbilt. Mark it down. Richmond has wins over Purdue and Temple and is one of the best shooting teams in college basketball. Justin Harper, a 6-10 junior, averages 18 points and 7 rebounds, shoots 48 % from three-point distance and 80% from the free-throw line.

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