The Washington Times - March 22, 2009, 09:16AM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Greetings from Kansas City International Airport, where this weekend’s wacky journey will come to a close with a flight back to Baltimore in another hour.

I went 6-2 yesterday, but in all seriousness, my best pick was this. The meat was excellent. The beans were simply sublime. And after spending much of the week eating shaky press room food, it was a well-deserved treat.

SEE RELATED:


Also an excellent part of the trip: The Sprint Center. It was my second trip to the 18-month-old facility, and it is perfectly suited for the NCAA tournament. It’s a slick, modern arena with huge locker rooms and plenty of well-thought details.

For now, it’s leverage for NBA and NHL teams to bilk better arena deals from their current cities. Eventually, it’s going to be a fantastic home for a pro basketball or pro hockey arena. Here’s hoping for this fine city the latter occurs soon.

Anyway, on to this afternoon’s picks, with games out of each of the four regionals. I’ll have an eye on the Midwest Region, since those are the teams I’ll be checking out next weekend in Indianapolis:

EAST

* Xavier over Wisconsin. Bo Ryan’s coaching acumen overcame Florida State. He and the Badgers will find the Musketeers a trickier puzzle to solve.

* Pittsburgh over Oklahoma State. Expect a Memphis-like performance from Pittsburgh, which should produce enough scoring to roll past the defense-deficient Pokes.

SOUTH

* Arizona State over Syracuse. On paper, the best game of the day. If James Harden can solve Syracuse’s zone, the Sun Devils should roll into the second weekend.

MIDWEST

* Louisville over Siena. No. 9 seeds are now 3-50 against No. 1s since 1985. The Saints, while talented, shouldn’t be too much of a hassle for Louisville.

* Michigan State over Southern Cal. A tricky little game. Taj Gibson is coming off one of those “He-isn’t-that-good-is-he?” type games against Boston College. He’ll encounter more problems trying to deal with the bigger Spartans.

* Kansas over Dayton. Sure, the Flyers could win this game. But these are two teams I thought would lose their openers, and it’s tough to get my mind around either being a serious Sweet 16 team. I’ll go with the defending champs, but there’s a certain ‘06 North Carolina-George Mason feel to this matchup. Getting a second double-digit seed in Indy would definitely make my week a lot more fun.

* Arizona over Cleveland State. But it sure would be more fun if the Vikings could move along to the second weekend.

WEST

* Missouri over Marquette. Still don’t trust the Golden Eagles. Not even if Dominic James returns. Not one bit.

Third-day record: 6-2
Overall record: 28-13

Patrick Stevens