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The picks: Southeast regional

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Somebody has to win the Southeast regional. And if it’s not top-seeded Pittsburgh, well, it’s going to be a curious team.

Florida, perhaps a tad overseeded on the 2 line? Or Brigham Young minus its best interior player? Maybe up-and-down Kansas State? Perhaps Wisconsin, proud owners of 33 points in last game? Or St. John’s, down one of its best players?

Or maybe Michigan State finally gets its act together and goes to the Final Four, as is Tom Izzo’s wont.

Either way, this bracket could bring more chaos than any other.

PLAY-IN WINNER

(16) UNC Asheville

Yes, the Bulldogs have 13 losses, but only five by double digits – at North Carolina, Georgetown and Ohio State and at home against VMI and Coastal Carolina (when the Chanticleers had all their players). UNC Asheville played well even before the Big South tournament, and it should outlast Arkansas-Little Rock in Dayton.

ROUND OF 64 WINNERS

(1) Pittsburgh
(9) Old Dominion

(5) Kansas State
(13) Belmont

(3) Brigham Young
(11) Gonzaga

(7) UCLA
(2) Florida

Pittsburgh won’t have much trouble advancing. Old Dominion is underseeded and Butler was apparently given the benefit of the doubt as a No. 8. The Bulldogs’ defense also isn’t as stout as a year ago. The Monarchs should win, perhaps by double figures.

Yes, Kansas State is a bit of an enigma. And Utah State could nab the Wildcats. It’s just tough to tell how tested the Aggies really are. Wisconsin has lost to non-power conference teams in the last four NCAA tournaments and got a scare from Wofford in the first round last year. Belmont is a veteran group plenty capable of advancing.

Gave some thought to bouncing Brigham Young in the first round. Wofford is good, better than people think. But its not better than The Jimmer. It’s fun to poke at Steve Lavin, but the guy’s 10-1 in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in his career. The well-respected Mark Few is 12-7. Take Gonzaga, but more because it is playing well and St. John’s is down D.J. Kennedy than for coaching reasons.

UCLA’s lost 10 games, seven to NCAA teams. Michigan State had 14 losses, 13 to tournament teams. Honestly, this one’s anyone’s guess. Florida  should dispatch UC Santa Barbara.

ROUND OF 32 WINNERS

(1) Pittsburgh
(5) Kansas State

(11) Gonzaga
(2) Florida

Pittsburgh-Old Dominion might as well be called Pitt-Little Pitt. Those are two very similar teams – excellent at rebounding, and good at nearly everything. Regular Pitt’s depth should be the difference.

Against any of the other No. 5 seeds – Arizona, Vanderbilt, West Virginia – Belmont looks a little more appetizing. Kansas State just played too well late in the season against everyone except Colorado to ignore.

How awesome would it be if Gonzaga wins and angry shouts of “Jimmer’s gonna get you, Mark Few. Jimmer holds grudges” echoed throughout the Pepsi Center in Denver? In any case, the Zags have a chance to topple Brigham Young.

Florida better hope Michigan State falls in the first round. Tom Izzo is 16-3 in the second game of a weekend set in the NCAA tournament. Of course, Ben Howland isn’t shabby at 8-2 … with a loss to Florida in the 2006 title game.

ROUND OF 16 WINNERS

(1) Pittsburgh
(2) Florida

OK, so much for carnage in the long run. It was fun while it lasted, right? Pittsburgh can out-tough Kansas State to snag a spot in the regional final. Florida, with its 16-4 record against the top 100, will be an imposing out for any double-digit seed it comes across.

REGIONAL CHAMP

(2) Florida

The Gators are 13-3 against the NCAA field, 12-1 against the non-Kentucky division. The Wildcats are safely tucked away on the other half of the draw (along with Ohio State, the other tournament team to beat Florida). Pittsburgh has lost to a lower-seeded team in four of the last five years, but usually fell to a comparable team. Florida is only a line below the Panthers, making Chandler Parsons and friends a good choice to knock Pittsburgh out of the tournament.

Patrick Stevens

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