Let the Madness begin!

As a public service to those of you that will choose to go all Bill Bennett this week and plunk down $5 million on NCAA brackets (or whatever you can comfortably afford), here is one man's take on the tournament draw and who's going where.

First, a quick rant. It is unconscionable that Cincinnati is not in the field, when programs like Air Force and Utah State that have played absolutely no one get at-large bids. There are at least a half-dozen other examples of teams that don't belong over UC (or Missouri State for that matter), but those two are the most glaring. Ok, down from soapbox, let's go forward:

Atlanta bracket

Well they tried again to give Duke a cakewalk bracket, and to an extent they did a good job. They get Texas, who year in and out is the most overrated team in the tournament. Iowa and Syracuse have artificially high seedings because of good final weeks. The middle seeds are decent, but not capable of stringing together multiple wins. If someone's going to come out of this other than Duke, it could be LSU, as there are few teams that can match up with 310 pound Glenn 'Big Baby' Davis and athletic Tyrus Thomas (if he's healthy). West Virginia could make a run like they did last year, but given that their entire offense revolves around the perimeter game, it's going to be tough for them to make it all the way to the Final Four.

Potential upset: Northwestern State already has wins over LSU and Oklahoma State, and played Wichita State and Texas A&M tough on the road. They play an active game that could very easily trouble Iowa. Iona would also qualify as a sleeper, but against LSU they should be summarily throttled.

Steal a point or two: Take UNC-Wilmington over George Washington, and California over N.C. State. Neither of the losers are NCAA caliber teams, and should be easy pickings.

Sweet 16: Duke vs. LSU, West Virginia vs. Texas

Final 4 representative: LSU

Oakland bracket

Lots of intriguing squads in this bracket that could make for a wild two weeks. The clear favorites are Memphis and UCLA. Although neither has significant post-season experience, they both have stacked backcourts, and Memphis has an extremely athletic frontline. Gonzaga (everybody's little darling that's not a little darling anymore) has the top player in the country, but their lack of an inside presence is going to give them problems, perhaps as soon as the first weekend. Pittsburgh and Kansas also could make a strong case, Kansas especially because of the way they have finished.

Potential upset: Bucknell winning their first game over Arkansas wouldn't be an upset; beating Memphis in the second round would. They knocked off Kansas last year, so they've got the tourney chops. It's unlikely they'll knock off Memphis, but it's as close as this bracket is going to come to an upset.

Steal a point or two: Take the chalk in this bracket, 9-16 just aren't very strong.

Sweet 16: Memphis vs. Pittsburgh, Indiana vs. UCLA

Final 4 representative: Memphis

Washington D.C. bracket

Everyone is already saying it's a moot point that Connecticut is going to breeze through this bracket and make the Final Four. I wouldn't jump so quickly on that. Sure, Tennessee is terribly miscast as a 2 seed. But North Carolina has won 12 of their last 15, Illinois is a strong all-around team, and Washington and Michigan State can put together a top-notch game. UConn's 2nd round opponent (either UAB or Kentucky) could cause loads of headaches for the Huskies. And let's not forget that UConn hasn't exactly lit the world on fire over its last 7 games.

Potential upset: Utah State has a mild chance at upsetting Washington, but I'm not overly convinced that they can slow the game down enough. Winthrop, however, has an excellent chance of knocking off Tennessee. The Vols have lost 4 of their last 6, and look like they're finally showing their true talent level. Not only could I see Winthrop winning this game, but maybe a second game too.

Steal a point or two: I would lean towards Wichita State over Seton Hall, Kentucky over UAB, and maybe gamble with George Mason over Michigan State. You'll likely get 2 of the 3.

Sweet 16: Connecticut vs. Illinois, North Carolina vs. Winthrop

Final 4 representative: North Carolina

Minneapolis bracket

This is a bracket I'm not particularly enamored with. It might have been more wide open if Villanova guard Allen Ray wasn't going to be available, but since his eye injury isn't serious, this is theirs to lose. Ohio State has majorly overachieved this season, but they are very well coached. As well as Florida has played lately, they've had trouble getting out of the early rounds the past few years. Boston College and Nevada are interesting teams, but neither strikes you as a potential sleeper.

Potential upset: South Alabama head coach John Pelphrey used to work under Florida head coach Billy Donovan. I imagine he knows enough of the teacher's tricks to spring an upset. The more likely pick is UW-Milwaukee over Oklahoma. The Sooners haven't really had any distinguishable wins outside of Texas, and look ripe for the pickings.

Steal a point or two: Take Wisconsin over Arizona, the Wildcats are a mess. I'd also take Northern Iowa over Georgetown. You might want to take a shot with either Montana over Nevada, or Pacific over Boston College, but they're much riskier picks, especially if Villanova falls early.

Sweet 16: Villanova vs. Nevada, Florida vs. Ohio State

Final 4 representative: Villanova

Final Four

Memphis beats LSU, Villanova beats North Carolina

Villanova beats Memphis for the title

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