Drama, debates, upsets not out of the question



Who's up?

Who's down?

Here are 10 pertinent questions about the NCAA basketball tournament.

1. Is Redick's tank empty?

Duke senior guard J.J. Redick stumbled in the Blue Devils' last four regular-season games, when he made 25 percent of his three-pointers. Redick delivered against Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference final, where he made seven of 11 three-pointers, but he has played 37.2 minutes a game and doesn't appear to have the explosive first step off the dribble he displayed in December.

2. Is Connecticut distracted?

The Huskies expect to play their next four on Big East Conference courts, headed to Philadelphia and presumably Washington. Coach Jim Calhoun would have had no problem being shipped out West, where they would be harder to locate by hangers-on and the nation's largest media horde. When the Huskies won in 1999, they went through Denver and Phoenix. In 2004, they were in Phoenix for the second weekend.

3. Best first-round site?

The pod system will bring star power to Philadelphia, but who wants to see Villanova and Connecticut blow out their 16th-seeded patsies on Friday? Salt Lake City hit the drama jackpot. On Thursday afternoon, it has a Minneapolis Regional pod, Boston College-Pacific and then Nevada-Montana. In the evening, it gets an Oakland pod, Indiana against San Diego State and then Gonzaga against Xavier. There isn't a sure thing in the bunch.

4. Who's seeded too high?

We're still scratching our head over Tennessee getting a No. 2 seed, California at No. 7, Alabama and Seton Hall getting placed 10th. What is the Crimson Tide doing in the field? It's one thing to play a tough nonconference schedule, but it would have been helpful if Alabama had beaten somebody. The Southeastern Conference received way too much respect.

5. Who's seeded too low?

Gonzaga deserved the No. 2 seed that went to Tennessee. Are there 12 teams better than Boston College, the fourth seed in Minneapolis? Al Skinner's teams haven't done much in March, but Craig Smith and company have won on the road in both the ACC and Big East. Smith doesn't resemble Cinderella, but the Eagles are a chic choice to get to Indianapolis.

Has there ever been a No. 8 like George Washington, the only two-loss team in the nation and a regular in the Top 10? The Colonials took a dip because of Pops Mensah-Bonsu's questionable knee. Coach Karl Hobbs was noncommittal yesterday about him for Thursday's first round against North Carolina-Wilmington.

6. Is P.J. Tucker rooting for N.C. State?

Tucker is a heady junior swingman for Texas, the No. 2 seed in the Atlanta Regional. Presuming they get past Pennsylvania, the Longhorns will face California or N.C. State in the next round. Tucker is from Raleigh, and the Wolfpack didn't recruit him. On a team that lacks an edge, he has one.

7. Which No. 12 will win?

In each of the past five years, a 12th seed has pulled off a first-round upset. This year, Texas A&M hopes that Syracuse and Gerry McNamara left their magic at Madison Square Garden. Kent State tackles Pittsburgh with a different cast than the one that got to the Elite Eight in 2002. Utah State has guys that can get after Washington, and Montana won't fear Nevada.

8. Will the MVC put up?

The Missouri Valley Conference has a proud history, but it hasn't sent a team to the Final Four since 1979, when Larry Bird carried Indiana State. None of its current members has been beyond the Sweet 16 since 1981. The commissioner threatened fines if teams didn't upgrade their nonconference schedules, but other than Northern Iowa beating Iowa in December, marquee wins are rare for the MVC's four NCAA teams.

9. Why watch Wisconsin?

The Badgers were a sixth seed last year, when they scared North Carolina in a regional final. Now they're a No. 9 and need a win over Arizona to get a shot at Villanova in Sunday's second round at the Wachovia Center. Alando Tucker against Big East Player of the Year Randy Foye would be a memorable matchup. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin's know-it-all coach, is from nearby Chester, Pa.

10. Will Big East reprise 1985?

Two teams from the same conference at the Final Four isn't an extraordinary occurrence. It happened last year, with the Big Ten's Illinois and Michigan State. Only once, however, has a conference had three-fourths of the affair, the Big East in 1985. Connecticut and Villanova are No. 1 seeds. Syracuse is on a roll. West Virginia's core reached the Elite Eight last year. Who wants to play Pittsburgh?


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