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Bracket 101: Deja vu for UVM?

03.16.10 at 10:09 am ET
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The Swedish Chef himself would be proud of the delectable smorgasbord the tournament committee has cooked up for this year’€™s main course of college hoops action. The committee did a great job of creating compelling matchups in the first round and beyond. For the most part, the critics were muted ‘€” outside of Dick Vitale’€™s annual rant about the selection committee’€™s choices on the last few at-large bids. This year it was the decision to include Wake Forest over fellow ACC member Virginia Tech. Whether you like it or not, the process is like an online dating service. The committee not only looks at a team’€™s profile to see how attractive it is, but it also look for matching partners who will put on a performance at the big dance. One of the best dates happens to feature the University of Vermont, the only New England team to make tournament this year.

The tournament committee loves storylines and montages. So what does it do? It mis-seeds Vermont as a No. 16 so that the Catamounts can be matched up once again with Syracuse, a team that they upset in 2005 behind the sharpshooting of T.J. Sorrentine for their one and only tournament win in school history. This year’€™s Syracuse team is better than the 2005 version and this year’€™s Vermont team doesn’€™t have the talents of a T.J. Sorrentine or Taylor Coppenrath. With that said, Vermont is better than its No. 16 seed. UVM is the best team in America East and has the conference Player of the Year Marqus Blakely. Blakely pumped in 24 points, snatched 18 rebounds and dished out five assists in the Cats’ 83-70 win over Boston University in the America East championship game. In addition to UVM’€™s previous history with Syracuse, the game includes another interesting storyline between the Joseph brothers. Senior Maurice Joseph is a starting guard for the Catamounts and his younger brother, Kris, was the Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East for the Orange. Finally, Vermont guard Evan Fjeld’s mother died of cancer just last week and Fjeld’s emotional embrace with his father after the win over Boston University was something to behold. How can you make a game with multiple storylines even more compelling? Two words: Gus Johnson. Yep. He will be there again when UVM takes on Syracuse on Friday at 9:30 p.m. In this year’€™s field, this is the best chance for a No. 16 to knock off a No. 1 for the first time in tournament history.

In addition to the Syracuse-UVM game, here are my next five favorite first-round games:

No. 5 Butler vs. No. 12 UTEP
No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 Cornell
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Siena
No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 11 Minnesota
No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 11 San Diego State

If the stars align, these would make for the most compelling second-round matchups:

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 Texas
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 9 Louisville
No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 2 Villanova
No. 3 Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Xavier
No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Michigan State

Most likely Cinderellas

Here are two teams for which the glass slipper may fit this year:

UTEP ‘€” Derrick Caracter and Randy Culpepper are a great inside-out tandem for the best team in Conference USA.

Richmond ‘€” The Spiders proved they can beat big conference schools with wins over Missouri, Mississippi State, Florida and Atlantic-10 champion Temple.

Biggest scrub

Not only did Wake Forest lose five out of six down the stretch, but the team it presumably beat out for the bid in its own conference, Virginia Tech, had a better ACC record and beat the Demon Deacons head to head. You also have to consider that the ACC had a down year and did not deserve six bids. Remember, there was a point in the season when the conference only had one ranked team.

Biggest snub (take your pick)

There was no one bubble team that stood out, and none of the teams that missed out on the tournament really have anything to complain about. It was a very uninspiring bubble, some say the softest in a decade. If I had to take one more team, I guess I would flip a coin between Mississippi and Mississippi State. It just seems like the SEC should have received five bids instead of just four. Mississippi had some nice nonconference wins over tournament teams Kansas State and UTEP but lost twice to Mississippi State in conference play. Meanwhile, Mississippi State was punished for a light nonconference schedule, just like Virginia Tech.

Heat check: Evan Turner

A lot of fans were introduced to Evan Turner, the Big Ten Player of the Year and favorite for national player of the year, when he literally broke his back on a dunk attempt. The injury sidelined Turner for a month. Well, if you didn’€™t know Turner then, you certainly know him now. With his team trailing by two to Michigan in the Big Ten conference tournament with 2.2 seconds left, Turner took an inbound pass, raced up court and sank a 37-footer to shock the Wolverines. His reaction was subdued, as though he expected to make it. The junior followed up that buzzer-beater by pouring in 31 points with 10 rebounds and six assists against Illinois in a double-overtime thriller. The writing was on the wall early in the season, but many didn’t choose to read it early on. Turner started the season by recording the first triple double by a Big Ten player since Jan. 13, 2001, and the second in school history during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic against Alcorn State. Turner dominated the Big Ten as he led the conference in scoring and rebounding in addition to finishing second in assists and steals. It is quite clear that the Buckeyes will go as far in the tournament as Evan Turner will take them.

The Dean’€™s 16

Based on the bracket seedings and matchups, these are the 16 teams that Bracket 101 projects to win two games in the NCAA tournament and advance at least to the Sweet 16 (teams listed in no particular order). To see my complete picks and to fill out your own bracket, compete in the WEEI Bracket Challenge for a chance to win a Celtics getaway!

Kansas
Kentucky
Duke
Syracuse
Ohio State
Kansas State
West Virginia
Georgetown
Baylor
New Mexico
Temple (new this week)
Texas A&M (new’€¨)
Villanova
UTEP (new)
Michigan State
Xavier (new)

Eagles watch

After Boston College beat North Carolina and Virginia Tech in consecutive games, it seemed that the Eagles had an excellent chance to finish the season over .500 and draw some positive experiences heading into next season. However, the Eagles dropped their first-round ACC game and season finale to Virginia, a team they had beaten by double digits the week prior. Virginia hadn’t won a tournament game since beating Virginia Tech in the first round of the 2006. The loss solidified a losing season for the Eagles ‘€“ their second in the last three seasons. As Ethan Landy pointed out, consistency seemed to be the missing link this season for the Eagles and something that never materialized. BC should return all of the key members of this year’€™s team. If the Eagles are to take a step forward next season, they will need to learn from this past year in terms of how to close out teams and how to be mentally tough for 40 minutes. In addition to learning from this past season, BC will need some help from its incoming recruits and look for current players to make the next step, especially Reggie Jackson.

Couch potato fixings

Bracket 101 would like to thank MidwestSportsFans.com for providing the TV schedule for this year’€™s tournament complete with the announcer lineups. Click here to check out the complete schedule to see where your favorite voices will be broadcasting the madness.

Back door cuts (recommended reading for hoopsters)

Mark Titus is a senior guard for Ohio State University and has become some what of a cult figure in Ohio and around the nation to a degree. A YouTube video that Titus posted back in January has receive almost a quarter of a million views. Titus has blogged about his basketball-related experiences since October 2008. During the 2008-09 season, the walk-on created his own blog, “Club Trillion,” to chronicle his basketball experiences. The blog name refers to his stats in many games: one minute of playing time and zeroes for everything else. Between Club Trillion, YouTube success and his antics as a player, Titus has garnered notoriety across the sports universe, including an appearance on ESPN.com’s BS Report with Bill Simmons last March 11. Club Trillion may be a good read over the next few weeks as Ohio State, behind Titus’ teammate Evan Turner, looks to make a run toward Indianapolis.

Did you know ‘€¦

Texas, which is seeded eighth, received the second-lowest seed for a team that had been ranked No. 1 at one point during the regular season. Alabama is the only former No. 1-ranked team to be seeded lower, at No. 10 in 2003.

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