by Robert Ferringo - 03/14/2006
After beating four of the country's top 30 teams in four consecutive nights - including the undisputed No. 1 club in the land - ripping through this bracket should be a breeze for Syracuse. All the Big East champions have to deal with are the ACC, Big 12 and SEC regular season winners, the Big Ten tournament champs, and a No. 8 seed that's 26-2 and was ranked in the top ten in the country.
The Atlanta Region is by far the most stacked bracket in the tournament. Whoever emerges from the carnage and attrition should be considered a heavy favorite over whichever school they meet in the Final Four. They're slated to meet the survivor of the Oakland Region, which looks like Candy Land by comparison.
Here's one man's look at the Atlanta Region:
No. 1 Seed: Duke (30-3 overall, 13-17-1 against the spread)
If you have any question about what I think the Blue Devils' chances of winning this tournament are, go to this link: //www.docsports.com/duke-national-championship.html.
The Blue Devils are normally rewarded with a cakewalk through to the Elite Eight. Not this year. They have a potentially devastating match up with George Washington in the second round, and then a date with either scorching Syracuse or lurking LSU. I think that if Pops Mensah-Bonsu returns and is near full-strength (a Huge "if") then Duke is in trouble. However, playing in Greensboro and then Atlanta is a definite advantage.
No. 2 Seed: Texas (27-6 overall, 13-14-1 ATS)
The Longhorns could have trouble with NC State if the Wolfpack reach the second round. Other than that, they have a favorable path to the Elite Eight. There is a major concern that I have with the Longhorns - their lack of depth. They only go six deep, and if they lose anyone to injury or foul trouble then they're beat. Besides, what are the odds of UT winning the football and hoops championships in the same year? If it does happen, I'm drafting a bill in the Senate with calls for an independent counsel to investigate.
No. 3 Seed: Iowa (25-8 overall, 15-14 ATS)
I liked Iowa's chances a lot, but I'm actually less keen on them since they've won the Big Ten Tournament (tired legs). They have never been a great NCAA Tournament team, and I think that their match-up with West Virginia in the second round is a terrible one for them. However, this is a senior-laden team that is playing its best ball of the season. Adam Haluska is explosive, and Jeff Horner has tallied an average of 17 points since tossing away his bulky knee brace at the beginning of February.
No. 4 Seed: LSU (23-8 overall, 12-13-2 ATS)
Much like Louisville last season, I think that the Tigers got shafted with their seed. They won two more games in the SEC than Tennessee, beat the Vols by 14 in their only meeting, played a tougher nonconference schedule and lasted longer in the SEC Tourney. Yet Tennessee is a No. 2 and LSU is a No. 4? After losing to No. 11 UAB in Round 1 last year the Tigers should know better than to overlook an opponent. They meet Iona, and teams out of the MAAC have a long history of headaches in the first round.
No. 5 Seed: Syracuse (23-11 overall, 13-17-2 ATS)
Hard to believe that just a week ago, most "experts" had Syracuse in the NIT. Good call. The Orange's run in MSG was Legendary, but I think they have a poor draw. They should tool on Texas A&M (who didn't deserve a bid) but I don't see them beating LSU. If they were playing at noon on Thursday, they would've lost by 25. Fortunately they're the late game. Since the Orange are my favorite team, don't think I won't be begging for the Sweet 16 match up with Duke. Forget Redick vs. Morrison, how about Redick vs. G-Mac.
Best first-round match up: No. 8 George Washington vs. No. 9 UNC-Wilmington
The Colonials have to be furious about their seeding, and I'm sure that they're just itching to prove themselves in a second-round meeting with the Blue Devils. But they better not overlook a hot UNC-W club. The Seahawks have a background in first-round upsets, and enter the tournament winning eight straight (the last three by double-digits) in the uber-competitive CAA.
Best potential second-round match up: No. 4 LSU vs. No. 5 Syracuse
This bracket is loaded, so this was a tough call. Iowa/WVU, Texas/N.C. State or GW/Duke are all juicy. But Syracuse has been amazing for a week and LSU has Final Four talent. The winner of this game has a very good opportunity to beat Duke in the Sweet 16.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 13 Iona vs. No. 4 LSU
Over the past decade, the MAAC schools have been one of the toughest outs in the first round. Manhattan stung Florida in 2004, Iona lost by two to Mississippi St. in 2001, and Syracuse needed a last-second shot to top the Gaels in 1998. Also, LSU has failed to get out of the first round in each of its last two tourney appearances. Keep an eye on Iona guard Steve Burtt. He is sixth in the nation in scoring at 25.3 points per game.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 10 N.C. State vs. No. 2 Texas
The Wolfpack have been awful over the last month, dropping five of their last seven games to jayvee squads like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest (twice). And that's why you have to watch out for them. I know it makes no sense. But that's why it's Madness. It's a whole new season. Sure, they could get hammered by Cal in the first round, but if N.C. State does move on they have deadly shooters and the type of system (Princeton offense) that is very difficult to prepare for in one day.
Dark Horse team: No. 4 LSU
People already know about "Big Baby" Davis, but Tyrus Thomas and Tasmin Mitchell are both fantastic freshmen. Also, guard Darrel Mitchell is an outstanding player - one of the most underrated in the country - and I think some people are going to find out about it. It does worry me that the Tigers lack tournament pedigree, but the talent is unmistakable. Iona will be no gimme, and Syracuse is hit-or-miss, but if the Tigers make it out the first weekend I think they'll be playing in the last weekend.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 6 West Virginia
Their over-reliance on the 3-pointer makes them very susceptible to an early upset. Or they could go to the Final Four. Who knows? They've played an outstanding schedule - Texas, LSU, UCLA and the Big East slate - and have competed with the best teams in the land. However, they're only 6-7 since their perplexing loss to Marshall on Jan. 25. It's a Win Big, Lose Big proposition with the Mountaineers.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.