Which team is your best early-round bracket buster?

March 17, 2011

Belmont has the horses

Chris Dufresne

Los Angeles Times

Let's start in the Southeast Region, with No. 13 Belmont over No. 4 Wisconsin? Belmont has sort of a Butler "look" this year. The Bruins are 30-4 and play an up-tempo style that utilizes waves of players. Wisconsin seems ripe for an upset after scoring 33 points in a Big Ten tournament loss to Penn State.

I also like, slightly less, in the same region, No.11 Gonzaga over No. 6 St. John's. The Zags are playing their best ball of the season while St. John's enters the tournament wounded without D.J. Kennedy.

I also like the first-round winner, USC or Virginia Commonwealth, over No. 6 Georgetown in the Southwest. The Hoyas are living off their Big East reputation but have lost four straight and are hoping guard Chris Wright can return from a wrist injury. If you really want to go bold, go No. 13 Princeton over No. 4 Kentucky. That was Princeton's seeding in 1996 when they shocked UCLA.


Beware of Spiders

Shannon Ryan

Tribune reporter

Richmond could stay around a little longer this season after a first-round exit to St. Mary's last year. The Spiders have won 11 of their last 12 games, including beating a tough Temple team en route to the Atlantic 10 tournament title. Under-the-radar point guard Kevin Anderson leads a group of four senior starters, averages 16.5 points and is shooting 42.7 percent on 3-pointers. Forward Justin Harper's 17.9 points and seven rebounds could offset Vanderbilt's impressive frontcourt.

And if the Spiders win their opener, their defensive scheme could go toe-to-toe with defensive-minded Louisville. Richmond has held each of its last six opponents below 60 points. Don't forget: The Spiders had the talent to beat Purdue in November. Not much has changed.


Spartans' time of year

Mike Anthony

Hartford Courant

The season began with such high hopes for Michigan State, which just about fell out of the national picture and managed to crawl into the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed in the Southeast Region. The Spartans open against No. 7 UCLA, and a victory hardly would be an upset.

But if the Spartans suddenly click and keep rolling, as so many expected them to do months ago, they could shake up the bracket. A potential second-round matchup against Jimmer Fredette and BYU, which lost Brandon Davies to suspension, is manageable. So, too, would be a Sweet 16 meeting with Florida.

Isn't Tom Izzo in the Final Four every year? And doesn't Pittsburgh fail to get there every year? Pitt's road to Houston is said to be easy, and a 10 seed is supposed to be an easy opponent. But is there anyone who wouldn't fear Michigan State just a little?


Look to Tulsa

Iliana Limón

Orlando Sentinel

Tulsa's BOK Center has the potential to host some entertaining upsets during opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.

No. 12 seed Memphis is a young, athletic team that has been clutch in close games all season. The Tigers should beat coach Josh Pastner's alma mater, No. 5 Arizona.

Memphis will advance to face the winner of No. 4 Texas and No. 13 Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies, led by center Keith Benson, match up well with the erratic Longhorns and can send Texas home early.

Two underrated teams likely will face off Sunday. Memphis plays stellar defense, while Oakland would have a major size advantage. The Tigers have faced tougher competition and are in prime position to reach the Sweet 16.


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