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The Ball Is Round: Your Beachwood Bracket Packet

I wonder if some people on the committee know whether the ball is round.
- Jay Bilas

I have to agree. This is by far one of the weirdest brackets I have ever seen.

* Colorado beat Kansas State three times, and beat Missouri and Texas; each is in the tournament. Colorado isn't. Yes they lost some bad ones, but they did muster a 21-13 record (8-8 in Big 12 play). Meanwhile, USC got in with a record of 19-14 (10-8), which has NIT written all over it.

* UAB (22-8, 12-4 in the mighty Conference USA) and VCU (23-11, 12-6 - good for fourth place in the Colonial Athletic Association) made it and Alabama (21-11, 12-4 in the SEC) didn't.

* Florida is a two seed (overrated). Texas is a four seed (underrated).

* The Big 12 only gets in five teams while the Big East brings 11 of its 16 teams.

* The East Regional is totally overloaded.

All of which makes me wonder what was going on behind the scenes with the selection committee, as none of the above makes any sense.

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When determining your bracket, conventional wisdom dictates that you should take a few factors into play:

* Location: This is often overlooked in bracket pools but in the first two rounds it really helps to play closer to home. A lot of the brackets available don't show the locations for the first two rounds; a PDF from ESPN that does is available here. Duke is a No. 1 seed and playing in Charlotte for their opening pod, and assuming they survive, they (along with all of their fans) will have to travel all the way to Anaheim. Like in any sport, the more fans you have making noise really can contribute as an extra player.

* 12/5: This used to be a fluke but it seems the selection committee took notice and really started setting up teams to fail in this regard. Every year there is at least one, if not two, No. 12s that will beat No. 5s. I remember looking at the 12/5 matchups for potential upsets as far back as 2002 and I will continue to do so until this stops trending.

* Recent performance: Teams peak at certain times, and the ones that are winning in February and early March must be taken into consideration. The best example of this is UConn. They lost nine games on the season but thanks mostly to Kemba Walker, they won five games in five days to win the Big East Conference Tournament. Momentum is a force to be reckoned with.

When in doubt, make a selection with your gut feeling and hope for the best; luck is a major factor in the more successful brackets. The odds of getting a perfect bracket are 1 in 35,360,000,000. But remember, selecting your school to go too far is the easiest way to lose your bracket.

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EAST

George Mason (8) could give Villanova (9) problems here. I don't see WVU (5) losing to the winner of the UAB/Clemson (12) play-in game. Kentucky (4) fans are upset and are looking at a very difficult four seed. I think everyone will be surprised if Ohio State (1) fails to reach the Final Four.

Marquette (11) could go deep. They've lost three games in March, and are playing Xavier (6) (located in Ohio) in Cleveland, which goes against two of the conventional wisdoms posted above, but they played in the toughest conference by far: the Big East. Marquette won at UConn. They swept WVU, and beat Notre Dame and Syracuse. Xavier plays in the Atlantic 10. Enough said.

The wildcard in this bracket is North Carolina (2). They had a slow start to the season until Roy Williams replaced junior point guard Larry Drew II with freshman Kendall Marshall (Drew later transferred out). They got back into the rankings and even beat arch-rival Duke at the end of the season. In the ACC tournament they needed a miracle comeback to beat Miami and another big comeback to beat Clemson, only to get beaten handily by Duke. Which UNC team decides to show up and play in the tournament is an unknown. They are playing in Charlotte the first two games, however.

Upset Alert: Marquette over Xavier. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Marquette defeating UNC in the Elite Eight. Not saying that will happen but would not be surprised at all.

WEST

Duke (1), as previously mentioned, is playing in Charlotte, and I don't see how they don't make it to at least the Sweet Sixteen. Look for a potential barn-burner against Texas (4) in the Sweet Sixteen; one of the better match-ups in that round if it does in fact happen.

Memphis (12) could beat Arizona (5) here. Arizona is good, but wait until next year, they will be much better.

UConn (3) has the best basketball player in the nation right now in Kemba Walker and although Bucknell (14) had it's greatest win of all time in 2005 over Kansas, I don't see them pulling off another miracle here. Enjoy the first 10 minutes of this game, Bucknell fans. UConn could go to the Final Four if they continue to ride the momentum.

If Missouri (11) advances I could see some revenge and a possible upset. Just two years ago UConn defeated MU in a close one to deny them their first ever Final Four appearance. This would be an interesting match-up provided MU makes it into the second round.

Missouri lost only once at home (to Kansas on the last game of the season) and in overtime on the road in nearby KC. They went 1-1 in KC in the Big 12 Tournament. They are a much different team when playing outside of Columbia, but are far better than an 11 seed.

San Diego State (2) plays in the Mountain West, not a tough conference. Their non-conference schedule did not impress me much either. They lost twice to BYU, then defeated them after Brandon Davies was suspended for honor code violations at the Mormon school. Sweet Sixteen easily, but I don't see how they could get to the Elite Eight without UConn getting upset.

You could easily have Duke, Texas, or UConn in the Final Four here and I don't see how anyone would be surprised.

Upset Alert: Missouri (11) over Cincinnati (6); Memphis (12) over Arizona (5). Either of these could happen.

SOUTHWEST

I'm not sure how Illinois (9) reached that high of a seed, or even got into the tournament. At some point you have to start wondering when Bruce Weber is on the hot seat. His best years at U of I were with Bill Self's players. Their signature win was against UNC when that team was having some problems at the start of the season. This is a team that put up only 49 points at Indiana, 55 points at Penn St., and 54 at Illinois-Chicago (all losses).

They did win on the road at Gonzaga but also went 9-10 overall against the Big Ten. Eight and nine seed match-ups can be tricky, but I'm going with UNLV (9) over Illinois in the first round, which won't matter much because either will lose to Kansas in the second round.

I like Vanderbilt (5) over Richmond (12). I have to question Louisville (4) being seeded that low, I would consider them a three seed. Coming out of the Big Ten, Purdue (3) should have been a four or five.

A very probable match-up I would like to see is Texas A&M (7) against Notre Dame (2). TAMU must first get past FSU in the first round, and if they do like I expect, I could see them getting to the Sweet Sixteen here. Notre Dame is playing in Chicago so they will have the crowd behind them.

I like Kansas in the Final Four here (Disclaimer: I lived in Lawrence for nearly 30 years before moving to Chicago). But don't take just my word for it; a lot of people are taking Kansas in the FF here. Kansas has the easiest bracket, so anything less would be a huge disappointment for KU.

Note: Yes . . . Bucknell, Bradley and Northern Iowa all did happen in previous years. They also won the entire tournament in 2008 and Bill Self is one of the better coaches fielding one of the better teams.

I would love to see Georgetown (6) vs. Purdue (3) in the second round. I could see Georgetown winning there. In the Elite Eight you could have Kansas playing against either Georgetown (Big East), Purdue (Big Ten), Texas A&M (Big 12), or Notre Dame (Big 12). I think the safe bet would be KU/Notre Dame, but I'm choosing KU vs Texas A&M in my bracket.

Upset Alert: Florida St (10) looks scary for Texas A&M (7) in the first round. As stated, A&M in the Elite Eight is very possible. But I wouldn't be surprised to see FSU win one here either.

SOUTHEAST

I don't see how Utah State (12) drew a twelve seed, considering their RPI is 15th in the nation. Kansas State got a really bad draw, though they should be happy they turned it around completely in February to even get here. Utah State is in the WAC, didn't beat anyone huge, but they won consistently and you never know with K-State.

BYU (3) has one of the better shooters in the nation. The kid can play. Problem is, you need four others around you and it doesn't help when one of those starters got suspended indefinitely for violating the school's honor code. That hurts; they lost the next game after the suspension. They also won others but this is in the Mountain West; in a BCS conference with their current eligible players they would have lost more than twice as many games. New Mexico swept them.

I don't see how Pitt doesn't make it to the Final Four outside of losing to St. John's. Wisconsin (4) makes it to the Sweet Sixteen if they can get past Belmont (then loses to Pitt). I see St. John's (6) in the Elite Eight losing to Pitt. St. John's started off shaky and they have 11 losses, but again, they are in a brutal conference. They defeated four teams that were ranked in the Top Ten in the polls. Some may even choose them in the Final Four and I wouldn't laugh at them. They beat Duke (a No.1 seed) 93-78 but later lost to Seton Hall. Their coach is Steve Lavin. This team could go deep.

Michigan State (10) and UCLA (7) will be a close one. Many are questioning MSU getting in with a 19-14 record but don't count out Tom Izzo - he knows how to coach in the tournament.

Florida (2) is overrated for their seeding. I could see UCLA or MSU beating them in the second round. I could also see Florida beating either one of them. Take note that these teams will be playing in Tampa. That is a long way from LA and Michigan for fans to travel.

Upset Alert: Utah State (12) over Kansas State (5). A lot of people are looking at Belmont (13) over Wisconsin (4) here but I don't see it. St. John's vs anyone.

FINAL FOUR

Ohio State (1) over UConn (3): Buckeyes too much for Huskies.

Kansas (1) over Pitt (1): If the Morris twins keep themselves in line on and off the court

CHAMPIONSHIP

Kansas over Ohio State: OSU is the overall No. 1 seed. Ohio State seems to be the most popular pick, but analysts are picking Kansas as well, and so am I.

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Comments welcome.

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