03/16/06 — OPINION - Bracket breakdown

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OPINION - Bracket breakdown

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on March 16, 2006 2:39 PM

Got those brackets filled out?

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that over the last few days, I might be able to jump into some NCAA pools with Rick Neuheisel.

Sorry, that joke (attempt) is probably a year or two out-dated.

Actually, as always, I filled one out right after the selections were announced ... let it sit for a day or two, then made my final choices.

I usually like my chances going into a tournament to at least get a few of my Final Four picks right and maybe get nine-or-10 Sweet 16s.

This year, not so much.

Maybe it's the lack of star power and truly dominant teams and conferences.

Maybe all the constant talk about those pesky mid-majors is so drilled into my head that it makes it easier to pick the "little guys" now.

Maybe I think too much.

In the end, filling out a bracket for me comes down to the ultimate question. Do I pick with my heart or with my head? I've never been able to truly go one way or the other with all my selections. It's a combination of both.

So, with fingers crossed that I can get at least get a national champion right for the first time since Connecticut in 2001, here's the highlights (hopefully not lowlights) of my sheet.

I've got No. 1 seed Duke advancing all the way to the Elite Eight, then bowing out to Texas in the Atlanta Regional. I would probably like the Blue Devils against any of the other No. 2 seeds, but the Longhorns strength inside -- and want for revenge from earlier this season -- will help them prevail.

Picking Duke to get out of the second round was easily the hardest pick for me to make this year. Not that I think the Devils will choke, but I've got them playing my alma-mater, UNC-Wilmington, in the second round in Greensboro.

My first bracket has "my" ninth-seed Seahwaks in the Elite Eight out of sheer excitement that they're seeded better than any of their previous four trips. If they were playing No. 1 seeds Memphis or Villanova, I probably would have left my bracket alone, but there is no way Duke loses that early. Right?

However, John Goldsberry, T.J. Carter and the Colonial Athletic Association champs will give Redick, Williams and Co. a good battle.

Being that N.C. State is in the same regional as Duke, obviously, I like Texas to take the Wolfpack out in the second round as well. I'm actually shaky about picking State to beat California in the first round, but I think the Pack's balance will get them to Sunday.

"How bout them Tar Heels?" an Advertising Director that will remained unnamed would say.

Good question.

Though Murray State may not be a pushover on Friday, young UNC's big test in the bottom half of the Washington D.C. Regional will be a second-rounder against Michigan State. The Heels have proven they are plenty talented enough to play with anybody. The opportunity and draw is there for this team to make the Elite Eight, then fall to the most talented team in the tournament, Connecticut.

Staying in the ACC, I've got league newcomer, Boston College, to win the Minneapolis Regional as the No. 4 seed. They came up just short of winning the ACC Tournament against Duke, and without a heroic effort from Redick, they would have. The Eagles are tough, experienced and well-coached -- usually a recipe for success in March.

I like the Oakland Regional to be full of upsets with as many as four lower seeds with solid potential to win in the first round. In the end out West, I think Gonzaga finally silences the nay-sayers and gets to the Final Four behind Adam Morrison AND his mustache.

So, my Final Four looks like this; Texas vs. Gonzaga; Connecticut vs. Boston College. Then, the Horns hook the Bulldogs, and the Huskies bounce the Eagles in a battle of former Big East foes.

Making this long story short, UConn over Texas in the title game, because I don't think Rick Barnes can get Vince Young basketball-ready in time for another National Championship.

Seriously, Jim Calhoun's team should win it all for obvious reasons -- size and depth. They've got five players scoring more than 10 per game and three that are pretty close to averaging double-doubles in PG Marcus Williams, F Rudy Gay and C Josh Boone.

Wait, that sounds way too logical for a tournament that oft-defies reason.

Maybe I'll get it right. Maybe I'll have my bracket ripped to shreds by Friday afternoon.

That's the beauty of The Dance.

You never know.