by Trevor Whenham - 03/13/2006
It might be tempting to pick four No. 1 seeds for your Final Four on your tournament bracket, but no more than three have ever made it in one year. It seems like most years, you have a team coming from the No. 4-8 seed that makes it through. Depending on your view, the best or worst year recently was 2000, when three teams seeded No. 5 or lower were among the Final Four. This year is particularly interesting because so many of the high seeds are flawed.
Duke and Connecticut, for example, come in playing less than their best. Villanova has a potentially debilitating injury to Allan Ray's eye to worry about. Tennessee is slumping badly. Texas played poorly in its last game. In short, there are plenty of spots that a lower seed could break through.
The problem is that it is often very difficult to predict which teams will bust the brackets and make it through well beyond expectations. Of the 20 teams this year ranked between Nos. 4 and 8 in their brackets, there are five that seem to me to have the best chance of going deep:
LSU - No. 4 in the Atlanta bracket - The SEC isn't the best conference in the country, but it is solid. All the Tigers did this year was go 14-2 in that conference. They beat West Virginia and were more than respectable in close road losses to Connecticut and Ohio State. Tyrus Thomas is a big, solid player, especially for a freshman. And then there is Glen Davis. The SEC Player of the Year averaged 18.5 points and almost 10 rebounds a game and he's only a sophomore. He is a physical giant who crashes his way around. Very few teams can match-up effectively against him. They will meet Duke in the third round (if they make it that far), which will clearly be a huge challenge. If the Tigers can find a way around the Blue Devils, there may not be anyone to stop them before Indianapolis.
Kansas - No. 4 in the Oakland bracket - If you had asked me at Christmas time, I would have said that the Jayhawks wouldn't be in the tournament. Now I think that their No. 4 seed is too low. The team won 15 of its last 16 games. The only loss was against Texas, and the Jayhawks came back and crushed the 'Horns in the Big 12 championship game. It wasn't just that they beat Texas, however, it's how they did it. LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas' giant, was completely ineffective. They shut him down, like they should be able to shut down Pitt big man Aaron Gray and anyone else in their way. It won't be an easy path with Pitt, Memphis and either UCLA or Gonzaga likely to be in the way, but Kansas has the tools, the experience and the coaching to potentially overcome it all.
Nevada - No. 5 in the Minneapolis bracket - I love Nevada. The team has been flying under the radar all year. It has won 14 straight and cruised to a conference championship without breaking a sweat. Nick Fazekas is a huge weapon. He gets some national attention, but he is even better than people think. He averages 22 and 10 and puts the team on his back and carries it when needed. He doesn't play alone, though. Marcellus Kemp can jack 3s with the best of them when he hits his groove. Ramon Sessions won't blow your mind, but he is a very solid point man. The Wolf Pack will be tested early, facing media darlings Boston College in the second round and Villanova after that. Nevada has surprised before and they may be poised to do it again.
Georgetown - No. 7 in the Minneapolis bracket - Any team with a winning record in the Big East is legitimate in my eyes. That conference has ridiculous depth and Georgetown made it through at 10-6. That's not what catches my eye for this team, however. It's the January win over Duke. The team plays a remarkably balanced Princeton offense - its three leading scorers all average between 11 and 12 points. The Big East knows what to expect from the odd offense, but teams that haven't seen it can be caught off guard, as Duke was. The Hoyas match up well against both Ohio State and Florida. It won't be easy, but if they get hot, they could find themselves in a Big East rematch with Villanova for a ticket to Indianapolis.
Wichita State - No. 7 in the Washington, D.C. bracket - The Missouri Valley Conference is the mid-major group we are hearing all about this year. In my mind, Wichita State is the class of the group. It has four scorers who averaged double digits. Center Paul Miller averaged 13 points, but showed he could match up with top-class opponents. The Shockers played Illinois and Michigan State and Miller averaged 19.5 points a game. I want to believe one team from the Missouri Valley will do something and the Shockers are my pick. Their biggest asset is their draw. Tennessee is incredibly overrated, so if Wichita State can get to the second round, they stand a good chance of getting past it.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.