Second chance at awful predictions


March 21, 2002

Officially, my 2002 NCAA Tournament bracket half-floated and half-thudded into the bottom of my trash can a little past 10 p.m. last Friday - or shortly after Texas Tech lost to Southern Illinois.

This is what happens when you pick Bobby Knight to take his team to the Elite Eight.

Fortunately, all four of my initial Final Four selections (Duke, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma) remain alive. I say fortunately, because Kansas and Duke have both had scares.

As for the rest of my bracket, I'm using the Sweet 16 as one big mulligan. I reserve the right to take my other mulligan for the Final Four.

I can't be wrong three times, can I?

(Yep. I can be wrong a whole lot more than that!)

- East Regional

at Syracuse, N.Y.

No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 4 Kentucky: Everyone is focusing on the Juan Dixon/Tayshaun Prince matchup, for legitimate reasons, but the Terps hold a major advantage inside. Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox are physically stronger than any of the Wildcats' frontcourt players.


If Wilcox plays within himself like he did against Wisconsin - and doesn't try to make his own Sportscenter showcase highlight - it would take a huge shooting day from Prince and Keith Bogans for Kentucky to offset Maryland's inside strength.

It says here that won't happen. Maryland, 86-73.

No. 2 UConn vs. No. 11 Southern Illinois: Caron Butler was unstoppable in the Huskies' win over N.C. State in the second round, making 3-pointers and dominating inside in scoring 34 points.

Not often can one player carry a team, but Butler does it for Connecticut. The Salukis have had a great run thus far, but neither Jermaine Dearman nor Rolan Roberts can match up with Butler. UConn, 74-68.

Maryland vs. UConn: Wilcox isn't as consistent as Butler - especially offensively - but his athleticism and size should make Butler work for anything and everything he gets.

Connecticut has the opposite problem Kentucky had matching up with Maryland. The Huskies can hang with the Terps inside, with several frontcourt players able to contribute, but who's going to counter Dixon, Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas?

Am I going to pick against Maryland? Is my last name Spears? Terps, 88-78.

Quick hitters on the rest of the regionals ...

- Midwest Regional

at Madison, Wis.

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Illinois: Whatever Kirk Hinrich took to heal his sprained ankle well enough to ambush Stanford, I want some of it. Jayhawks have too many weapons, though this will be close. Kansas, 83-80.

No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 6 Texas: Longhorns' freshman point guard T.J. Ford is a stud, but Luke Jackson, Luke Ridnour and Freddie Jones give Ducks too many options for Texas to cover. Oregon, 94-89.

Kansas vs. Oregon: Going against my original bracket on a hunch - Ducks are peaking at the right time, and CBS is just waiting for that Roy Williams crying shot. Oregon, 91-88.

South Regional

Lexington, Ky.

No. 1 Duke vs, No. 5 Indiana: Blue Devils had their scare in the second round. They don't allow more than one scare per regional. Duke, 96-75.

No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 10 Kent State: These two teams are mirror images - they keep coming and coming and coming. Golden Flashes are capable of beating anybody in this tournament. Kent State, 72-67.

Duke vs. Kent State: As much as my heart would love to pick Cinderella ... Duke, 86-79.

West Regional

San Jose, Calif.

No. 8 UCLA vs. No. 12 Missouri: What matchup will we get? Jeckyl vs. Jeckyl? Jeckyl vs. Hyde? Hyde vs. Jeckyl? Hyde vs. Hyde? Coin flip says ... Missouri, 82-81.

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Arizona: Will Wildcats' outside shooting be hot or cold? Coin flip says ... shoot ... error on the sportswriter as my quarter bounces down the hallway ... it says no. Oklahoma, 68-64.

Oklahoma vs. Missouri: Sooners beat Tigers by 13 in Big 12 conference play ... but like Oregon, Tigers are peaking at the right time. This regional wasn't just tough, it was brutal. Again, going against my original bracket ... Missouri, 76-75.

Final Four

Atlanta, Ga.

Maryland vs. Oregon: Ducks will give Terps everything they can handle, but Dixon puts them on his back one more time. Maryland, 91-87.

Duke vs. Missouri: Can't wait for the Coach K/Quinn Snyder teacher/student lovefest from CBS. Ugh. Isn't once enough? Boozer makes the difference inside. Duke, 85-81.

Maryland vs. Duke: Homer pick! Homer pick! Maryland, 94-92 ... and a long-time Terps fan goes nuts.

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