by Robert Ferringo - 03/14/2006
Ripping a few bongs of opium-laced bud and then chasing it with shots of Jack Daniels is usually not the best thing to do before a blind date or a court appearance. It's generally a recipe for disaster. Of course, you're likely to get a couple of good stories out of it if you do.
Well, the selection committee packed a fatty and poured a stiff one when they set up the Minneapolis Region. They started with some schools with a spotty tourney track record (Florida, Arizona), mixed in some overrated teams from power conferences (Ohio State, Oklahoma) and then tossed in some of the top mid-majors (Montana, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Northern Iowa). I expect nothing less than the type of crazy, bizarre, Fargo-style, Love Boat-esque Viking fun that we've come to expect out of this part of the country.
This bracket is ripe for wackiness, and here's one man's view of how it's going to shake out:
No. 1 Seed: Villanova (25-4 overall, 13-12 against the spread)
Allen "Iverson" Ray is fine. The news that he was OK came out early on Saturday, but then the Villanova Sports Information Dept. harnessed its inner Belichick and said that they couldn't release any information on his condition. He's going to be fine, and so will the Wildcats. Villanova is trying to do what St. Joe's and Washington couldn't over the last few years - reach the Final Four with a four-guard lineup. Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi combine for 62 points per game, but if they're going to hit the Final Four they'll need to up the average of 16 rebounds.
No. 2 Seed: Ohio State (25-5 overall, 13-11-1 ATS)
The Buckeyes came out of nowhere to own the Big 10. They've played great over the last two months, and are deserving of the deuce. A huge concern for OSU has to be the shooting stroke of No. 2 scorer, Je'Kel Foster. Foster is 9-for-62 from 3-point land (13 percent) and 18-for-89 (22 percent) from the field since Valentine's Day. He was a miserable 4-for-30 from the floor in the conference tournament, including 2-for-24 from deep. If Ohio State is going to make a run, he had better get real hot real quick.
No. 3 Seed: Florida (27-6 overall, 15-11-1 ATS)
I said entering the conference tourney that Taurean Green would be the key for the Gators, and he answered the bell by averaging 16.0 ppg. Billy Donovan has tightened up his rotation, and I worry if will stunt their up-tempo style. Florida is just 4-5-1 ATS over their last 10, and they always makes it interesting in the first round. I won't be shocked if they have to squeak one out over lowly South Alabama.
No. 4 Seed: Boston College (26-7 overall, 16-12 ATS)
Despite their three-point loss to the Blue Devils in the ACC Tourney, the Eagles are playing outstanding ball and will be a tough out in this region. Over the last two months the Eagles are an outstanding 15-3, with two losses coming at the hands of Duke. B.C. has been rolling to a 7-3 ATS record over their last 10. Jared Dudley and Craig Smith are as talented of a tandem of forwards as you will find, but their guards don't thrill me. This fact makes them susceptible to The Upset.
No. 5 Seed: Nevada (27-5 overall, 14-14 ATS)
The goofiest, most confusing seeds in the tourney are Indiana as a No. 6, George Washington as a No. 8, Tennessee as a No. 2, and Nevada as No. 5. The Wolfpack have won a game in each of the last three tourneys. But there is no way in hell they're one of the top 25 teams in the country. They have won 14 in a row, and center Nick Fazekas (21.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is an NBA five-day contract waiting to happen. Still, The Rock is not impressed with Nevada.
Best first-round match up: No. 7 Georgetown vs. No. 10 Northern Iowa
As you know by now, NIU beat LSU and Iowa this season. That's even more important now because those teams have a similar modus operandi as G-Town: overpower with their frontcourt size, and disrupt with their athleticism and length. N. Iowa can obviously handle that. Also, none of those three teams were led by a top-flight point guard. The Hoyas may not have an outstanding floor general but they execute exceptionally well on the offensive end and defend the perimeter with impunity. Keep an eye on Ben Jacobson for the Panthers. He's a difference maker.
Best potential second-round match up: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 11 Wisconsin-Milwaukee
This one will likely be up in the 80s as both of these crews like to get up-and-down the floor. Joah Tucker (16.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Boo Davis (16.2, 4.9) are an experienced and skillful duo for UW-M, and they are aching to prove that they can roll with the Gators. When I look at the eight teams in the bottom of this bracket, there is some serious potential for some goofiness. I expect the Panthers to be in the thick of it.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 11 Wisconsin-Milwaukee vs. No. 6 Oklahoma
Six-seeds are 23-9 over the past seven years in the first round (72 percent). That means that one is going home after the opening game. Oklahoma hasn't impressed me at any point this season, and unless Taj Gray goes bonkers it's going to be OU. Of course, now that I said that it means UW-M is going to lose by 40. The Panthers brought back five of their top six players from last season's Sweet 16 squad. The key is that I think UW has twice the backcourt as Oklahoma, which is below-average at best.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 7 Georgetown vs. No. 2 Ohio State
If the Hoyas can beat Duke, they can beat Ohio State. Center Roy Hibbert and forward Brandon Bowman comprise a larger, more athletic frontcourt duo than anything Terrence Dials has seen in the Big 10. It's a Virtual Certainty that at least one (and probably two) of the No. 2 seeds aren't making it out of the first weekend, and I think the Buckeyes are very vulnerable.
Dark Horse team: No. 4 Boston College
Things almost look a little too perfect for B.C. They face a Pacific club that did beat a Big East power team (Pittsburgh) last season in the first round, but seven of the top 10 players from that roster are gone. If B.C. wins there, it's either Nevada or Montana. For a team that's been rolling through the ACC, these schools are hors d'oeuvres for the Eagles. A shot at ex-Big East rival Villanova is waiting in the Sweet 16.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 3 Florida
The Gators played exceptionally well in the SEC Tournament, which isn't a surprise when you consider the level of talent they have. I suspect them to be a sexy pick to come out of this region. However, Billy Donovan and his Gators are always shaky in the tournament. South Alabama is a chucker team that will be tossing threes from the rafters in the first round. In the second, UW-M has the horses to run with FU and Oklahoma has the interior presence to match up with the Gators strength. They very well could hit the Elite Eight, but I won't be surprised if they aren't around in the Sweet 16.
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The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.