Every year we sift through our thoughts before committing to anything when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. We'll do that again this year as we learn more about the teams we're not familiar with and get a better sense of who's hot, who's not and who could feel liberated in the field.
We alway factor in a few particular things: talent, experience, coaching, guard play and defense are our main concerns. You can also expect, after the early upsets, that most of the surviving teams will be from the stronger conferences.
So here's where we are now:
As of right now, the East looks like the toughest bracket: UNC, USC, Providence, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Xavier? That's loaded. People aren't thinking about USC yet, but Andy Enfield had an iconic run with Dunk City, aka Florida Gulf Coast. He's talented.
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UNC is obviously favored but we see about eight teams that could win that regional. It's pretty deep.
There's also a second-round potential matchup between IU and Kentucky which could be, uh, rather intense.
But not so fast: Chattanooga, Stephen F. Austin, Michigan and Pitt are capable of pulling upsets.
In the South, Kansas has to deal with Maryland, Cal, Arizona, Miami, Iowa and Villanova. We don't expect much from Austin Peay at #16 and whoever wins the Colorado-UConn game runs into KU and will probably get KO'd.
We need to brush up on South Dakota State and Hawaii but right now we'd expect Maryland and Cal to advance. However, Maryland has shown it can blow a game.
Wichita State runs on Gregg Marshall resentment and Vanderbilt is just the sort of school he probably can't stand. We could see an upset against Arizona but won't commit yet.
Iowa has - how can we say this? sucked in the late part of the season. Temple is always tough-minded. That'll be a good one.
If Asheville beats Villanova, the Wildcats will have allowed it.
In the Midwest, UVA is probably sick of seeing Michigan State - they're in the same bracket for the third straight year.
Purdue, Iowa State, Seton Hall and Utah are all dangerous, but Seton Hall is the team we're curious about.
But Texas Tech? Butler? Dayton? Iona?
Possibly the second toughest regional.
In the West, Oregon has really come on. The other teams likely to do well out there include Duke, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
But you have chippy underdogs like UNC-W, Northern Iowa and VCU. And when he brought Montana to Cameron, we could tell right away - Wayne Tinkle can coach.
We'll have to come back to St. Joe's vs. Cincinnati - can't make an informed comment right now.
Baylor is annually a disappointing team mostly, we think, because Scott Drew is just not a great coach. But if things break right, they could make a Sweet Sixteen run. Yale is manageable if dangerous, and Duke lacks frontcourt heft. But they'll have to earn it.