The NCAA Tournament Bracket Busters?

Who will be this year’s parenthesis-buster Cinderella story? After surveying the 2006 NCAA Tournament field, I’ve found my most likely candidates. It’s usually a safe bet that a 12th seed will beat a 5th, but in this year’s tournament field the most likely surprise pick seems to be a 13th over a 4th. The only 12 who has a chance of knocking out a 5 is Texas. A&M because of Syracuse’s lack of depth and reliance on Gerry McNamara to do everything. If they have a game out of play, Orange could go down, but I think they’ll get their Big East Conference Tournament out of the first round.

Remaining in the Atlantic, 13th seed Iona is a likely candidate to knock LSU out of the tournament. Iona is comfortable on the road, largely because they are an experienced team returning with 4 starters, and their 15-3 record away from home this season shows it. A victory for Iona would demonstrate on the big stage that smaller conference schools are catching up with the Majors, which seems to be more and more evident each season. It would also show that the SEC was the weakest major conference in the country this season. If Iona gets past LSU, they’ll have a great chance to make the Sweet 16 with a win over Syracuse.

Another 13th seed that has enjoyed some tournament success in the past two years is Universidad del PacĂ­fico. Coach Bob Thomason’s team will face one of the best teams in the country at Boston College, but I don’t expect them to go away easily. This could be the biggest upset of the first round, as Pacific have been doing very well away from Stockton, posting a 12-4 record, and they are entering their first round as winners of 12 of their last 13 matchups. This may not be the highest percentage of plays. as Boston College is a Final Four-caliber team. But the Pacific bigs have the ability to get away from the basket and will pose matchup problems for the Eagles. The Tigers could be a great support buster in 2006, as some have the Eagles coming out of the Minneapolis region.

Last year’s story was that the seventh-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers made it to the Elite 8 before falling to Louisville, and it may very well happen again this season. Although they are not the Cinderella team they were last year, they slipped to a 6th seed due to some late conference losses after starting the Big East game red-hot. Pittsnoggle’s ability to play both outside and inside with his 6’11” frame is one of the toughest matchups for any team in the tournament. Gansey can do it all and showed that he is up to the task in the big games of last year’s tournament. Iowa is a solid team that West Virginia will have to deal with in the second round, but Iowa’s 7-foot Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year Erik Hansen won’t be able to defend Pittsnoggle 20 feet from the basket. The Hawkeyes may need to guard him with Greg Brunner, who will give up 4 inches. Due to matchup issues, the Hawkeyes may be forced to play in the zone, which could take a deluge of 3-pointers from the Mountaineers, which is what they do best. Texas will be West Virginia’s likely third-round opponent if it gets past Iowa. They’re big, talented and athletic, but touchy.

They were eliminated by Oklahoma State, lost to Texas A&M, seeded 12, and Kansas beat them by double figures in the Big 12 Conference Tournament Championship game. Duke is likely to be West Virginia’s Elite 8 matchup if the Mountaineers can return there this season. As the season progressed, these two teams looked more and more human. It could be costly for the Blue Devils to have to play 2 rookies for a lot of minutes. Point guard Greg Paulus will have the world waiting on his shoulders as he tries to manage the Blue Devils like a freshman. I like West Virginia’s chances against these two teams because of their experience in the NCAA tournament last season and their preparation to play in the nation’s Elite basketball conference this year.

Be sure to keep these things in mind when filling out your 2006 Tournament chart.

Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *