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Hoops scoops tourney breakdown

Now that the preliminary matches are out of the way, let's get down to the headline shows.

SOUTHWEST BREAKDOWN

Best team
Kansas: With twin forwards Marcus (17.3 ppg, 7.2 reb) and Markieff Morris (13.6, 8.2) roaming the paint, picking against the Jayhawks may not be the best thing. For all the talk about Duke and Ohio State, Kansas may have been the most consistent team in the country.

Upset special
No.11 VCU over No.6 G’Town: VCU forward Jamie Skeen (15.3 ppg, 7.5 reb) is one of the country’s best kept secrets. In addition to scoring in the paint, he can also shoot the three (37.9 percent). Junior swing man Bradford Burgess (14 ppg) is a 40-percent three-point shooter, while Joey Rodriguez was one of the best point guards in the CAA. There is also the return of senior guard Brandon Rozzell, who missed seven games with a wrist injury. He gives the Rams another long range shooter to deal with.

Most dangerous
Notre Dame: A team with as many seniors as the Irish can’t be overlooked. Notre Dame should have no problems with Akron or their next opponent (Texas A&M / Florida State). Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough has lived up to his rep, while other seniors Tyrone Nash, Scott Martin, Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott pick up any slack.

Easiest path to the Sweet 16 (On paper)
Louisville: Rick Pitino’s crew has flown deep under the radar. There will be no problems with Morehead State or whichever team (Vanderbilt, Richmond) the Cardinals face in the second round.

What will happen: Notre Dame will beat Kansas in a thrilling overtime game to get to the Final Four.

SOUTHEAST BREAKDOWN

Best team
Pittsburgh: Yes, we say this almost every year about Pitt. The Panthers have a monster regular season, get a high seed, but bomb in the tournament. Unfortunately for the Panthers, we think it will happen again, although they should have no issues getting to the Elite 8. Pitt has an excellent backcourt with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, but they aren’t as strong up front as some people think.

Upset special
No.14 Wofford over BYU: Jimmer Fredette is a special player, but he can’t do it by himself. Losing Brandon Davies was a huge blow on both sides of the ball. Wofford has experience playing against big teams, just check out its three-OT loss to Xavier or its eight-point loss to Clemson. Wofford’s perimeter trio of Noah Dahlman, Cameron Rundles and Jamar Diggs can put point sup against anyone.

Most dangerous
St. Johns: This may sound like a homer pick, but it isn’t. The loss of senior swingman D.J. Kennedy was big, but the Red Storm has enjoyed solid play from senior forwards Justin Burrell and Sean Evans. Evans has especially been solid the last few games. Evans and Burrell, both 6-8, gives the Red Storm length and toughness on the boards. If our upset special, Wofford vs. BYU, holds, the Red Storm could find themselves in the Sweet 16.

Easiest path to the Sweet 16 (On paper)
Pittsburgh: Although the Panthers have come up short when given a high seed, the Panthers really shouldn’t have an issue getting by UNC-Ashville and the winner of Butler vs. Old Dominion. Wanamaker and Gibbs have too much experience.

What will happen: Pittsburgh will get everyone’s hopes up and walk into the Elite 8 with no problems. But Florida and its hot-shooting trio of Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons will tear down the house with a barrage of three-pointers.

WEST BREAKDOWN

Best team
Duke: This is a no-brainer. Nolan Smith (21.3 ppg, 5.2 ast) is up for player of the year honors, while Kyle Singler (17.4 ppg) has been a rock-solid senior. Duke (30-4) managed to go 22-4 in Kyrie Irving’s absence. The freshman sensation practiced on Monday and may actually play in Duke’s first-round game. The Blue Devils have size with Mason, Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly and depth at guard with Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins.

Upset special
No.13 Oakland over No.4 Texas: Oakland’s Keith Benson (18 ppg, 10.1 reb, 3.6 blks) has put up big numbers all season. And he did it against top competition. The senior center had 22 points and 15 rebounds against West Virginia, 17 and 12 against Michigan State and 26 and 10 in a win over Tennessee. If Benson gets his way, say goodbye to Texas.

Most Dangerous
Connecticut: Kemba Walker. Do we even need to say more? Walker is a last-second game-winning shot waiting to happen. Another key to the Huskies’ season has been the play of freshman guard Jeremy Lamb and sophomore center Alex Oriakhi. Both players stepped their games up down the stretch. If they keep it going, UConn may find itself in the Elite 8.

Easiest path to the Sweet 16 (On paper)
Duke: We can’t see Duke having any problems with Hampton or the winner of Michigan-Tennessee, although freshman forward Tobias Harris and junior Scotty Hopson had formed quite the dynamic duo for Tennessee.

What will happen: Duke will get into the Elite 8 and topple Connecticut in what should be an exciting game.

EAST BREAKDOWN

Best team
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have everything. Jared Sullinger (17.2 ppg, 10.1 reb) is an absolute stud in the paint. William Buford and Jon Diebler are deadly-accurate shooters who feed off Sullinger. Swingman David Lighty is the slasher of the group. Can’t find any weaknesses here.

Upset special
No.11 Marquette over No.6 Xavier: Marquette has experienced every type of style playing in the Big East. The Golden Eagles can be physical and play up tempo if need be. They get scoring from several places –Jimmy Butler (16 ppg), Darius Johnson-Odom (15.9), Jae Crowder (11.7)– and from all over the court. Xavier, led by Hempstead’s Terrell Holloway (20.2, 5.1 reb, 5.5 ast) has been excellent. But the battle-tested Golden Eagles will prevail in a physical game.

Most dangerous
Syracuse: The Orange is one of those teams that don’t do much when they are expected to. Ohio State and North Carolina will overshadow the entire region, which should allow the Orange to go under the radar. This is an experienced squad with Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche on the perimtere. Rick Jackson (13 ppg, 10.6 reb) has had a big year in the paint. The question surrounding the Orange is depth. Forwards James Southerland, C.J. Fair and freshman guard Dion Waiters will need to produce off the bench.

Easiest path to the Sweet 16 (On paper)
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will dominate UTSA in its opening-round game. They could have a little bit of a run against the winner of Villanova-George Mason in the next round, but that would be the extent of their problems.

What will happen: Syracuse will top North Carolina in a spirited Sweet 16 matchup and then shock the college basketball world by upsetting the Buckeyes in the Elite 8.
 

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