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I'll take Kentucky

March 18, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

If you are sober enough after the St. Patrick's Day weekend and still have a food and beverage supply ready next to your favorite chair, let's get ready for the men's NCAA March Madness frenzy that begins tonight.

Despite the pool of fraud around academics and payments to athletes, it's time to get on with the games. While Georgia, Michigan, Fresno State and St. Bonaventure will be off in the wilderness playing in their own Academic Final Four, the two-week frenzy for those qualifiers is underway.

I doubt very much that any university pres is going to turn in their school for NCAA misgivings right now. It's money time. I'm guessing the missed time in class by these basketball student-athletes will be taken care of after April 9 (yeah, right).

Right now, the calendar says March Madness, so let's delve into the brackets.

Starting with Maryland, it should be noted the Terps were the only team ranked in the top 25 that did not win 20 games. I don't think they have enough to defend this season.

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They should beat UNC-Wilmington and Xavier should beat Troy State in the South Regionals. However, David West and the Musketeers could pose a serious threat to Maryland.

Next would be a possible regional semifinal in San Antonio against the likes of a Texas or UConn, but that's as far as they go. I think Texas will beat Florida in the South final to reach the Final Four.

In the East Regional, I'm going with the top two seeds - Oklahoma and Wake Forest - to reach the final in Albany, N.Y. and the Sooners get my nod to go to New Orleans.

In the Midwest Regional, no surprises there either. Kentucky and Pittsburgh got the top two seeds and Kentucky waltzes to the Final Four.

In the West Regional, which I think is the toughest section, things could get interesting. The top two seeds, Arizona and Kansas, are not guarantees. I think Duke will manage to wiggle to the final in Anaheim and they'll get a chance to knock off Arizona, who wins and goes to Bourbon Street. I think Illinois has a chance to be a sleeper in the region, which means they'll knock off Notre Dame in the second round.

If there's another team to watch, I would point you to Connecticut, which could get to the South semis against Texas and then pull off the upset.

Yep, I'm sticking with the four top seeds - Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona - and I'm going with Kentucky for the national championship trophy, but watch for Illinois and Connecticut.

And I might as well throw my two cents in on the Women's NCAA Tournament.

I'll take three of the top seeds - Connecticut, Duke, Tennessee - to make it to Atlanta.

Texas, a two-seed from the West, will emerge to the Final Four. On April 8, Duke will be crowned as the women's champion.

Despite the current threat of war which is so much more important, I still say: "let the hysteria begin!"




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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