Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NCAA: D.C. Region

1. UConnUConnUConnUConnUNC
16. Albany
8. KentuckyUAB
9. UAB
5. WashingtonWashingtonWashington
12. Utah St.
4. IllinoisIllinois
13. Air Force
6. Michigan St.George MasonUNCUNC
11. George Mason
3. North CarolinaUNC
14. Murray St.
7. Wichita St.Seton HallTennessee
10. Seton Hall
2. TennesseeTennessee
15. Winthrop

Yeah, I know, I'm insane for picking UNC, especially considering their contingent of freshmen. While tournament experience is usually vital to how deep a team progresses, I think that UNC has the talent to win this region. They recently rattled off eight straight wins, sandwiched between losses to BC and Duke, which is forgivable. Oh, and they beat Duke -- in Cameron -- along the way. Murray St. should be a cakewalk, as should be their potential second round engagement against either Michigan St. or George Mason. I even think they're head and shoulders above Tennessee. After rattling off those wins, they'll surely be energized for a potential meeting with No. 1 UConn.

My only initial upset was Seton Hall over Wichita St. Hall knows they got lucky with their birth -- it could just as easily have gone to Cincinnati -- and now they'll have to bear down and prove their worth. Since I'm not overly impressed with Wichita, picking the Big East team here was kinda easy. But then I got to thinking...

Last year, I picked Michigan St. to be upset in the first round, and it completely busted my bracket. They surprised everyone, despite their less than impressive run leading up to the tournament. This year, they're in a similar situation, and I still don't have any confidence in them. Sure, they have Ager and Paul, two integral pieces to their tournament run last year. But they were 8-8 and horribly inconsistent in the Big 10 this year, a conference that was well tiered as far as conference records go. In fact, I was surprised that they even got a bid, and even more surprised that the conference sent six to the dance. George Mason is 10-2 in thier last 12, with the only losses coming at the hands of Hofstra, which leads me to believe that Hofstra just had GM figured out. I don't think Michigan St. will.

Look for Washington also, who are pretty hot entering the tournament and could take the momentum from first and second round victories and turn it into an epic battle with UConn.

Notably, I have zero confidence in Tennessee, and am only picking them because I have negative confidence in Seton Hall's ability to win two games in the tournament. However, if there was going to be a 15-2 upset this year, it's going to be Winthrop over Tennessee.