- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

THE FIELD

1. Kansas

Record: 31-3

Conf: Big 12

Previous NCAA appearances: 22

2. Georgetown

Record: 27-5

Conf: Big East

Previous NCAA appearances: 24

3. Wisconsin

Record: 29-4

Conf: Big Ten

Previous NCAA appearances: 11

4. Vanderbilt

Record: 26-7

Conf: SEC

Previous NCAA appearances: 9

5. Clemson

Record: 24-9

Conf: ACC

Previous NCAA appearances: 6

6. Southern Cal

Record: 21-11

Conf: Pac-10

Previous NCAA appearances: 13

7. Gonzaga

Record: 25-7

Conf: West Coast

Previous NCAA appearances: 10

8. UNLV

Record: 26-7

Conf: Mountain West

Previous NCAA appearances: 14

9. Kent State

Record: 28-6

Conf: MAC

Previous NCAA appearances: 4

10. Davidson

Record: 26-6

Conf: Southern

Previous NCAA appearances: 7

11. Kansas State

Record: 20-11

Conf: Big 12

Previous NCAA appearances: 22

12. Villanova

Record: 20-12

Conf: Big East

Previous NCAA appearances: 12

13. Siena

Record: 22-10

Conf: Metro Atlantic

Previous NCAA appearances: 3

14. Cal State Fullerton

Record: 24-8

Conf: Big West

Previous NCAA appearances: 1

15. Maryland-Baltimore County

Record: 24-8

Conf: America East

Previous NCAA appearances: 0

16. Portland State

Record: 23-9

Conf: Big Sky

Previous NCAA appearances: 0

BRACKET BULLIES

Kansas: In spite of some Self-examination, the Jayhawks must be anyone’s short list of teams capable of winning the tournament. There are no flaws in a starting lineup led by Darrell Arthur, and Sherron Collins and Sasha Kaun are two of the nation’s top reserve. The biggest asterisk might be Kansas’ early exits in 2005 and 2006 under Bill Self.

Wisconsin: The best of a questionable Big Ten crop, the Badgers aren’t going through a late-season swoon like a year ago. That should make them a more palatable option this month, though a Final Four run might be a bit too much to ask. Coach Bo Ryan’s swing offense is difficult to prepare for on short notice, which is always a plus in postseason play.

Gonzaga: No one is talking about the Bulldogs, who are such postseason regulars (10 straight NCAA berths and counting) it seems like they have a birthright to be in the field. Nevertheless, Gonzaga has all the ingredients needed for a decent run balance, talent, smarts and a great point guard in West Coast Conference player of the year Jeremy Pargo (11.9 ppg, 6.0 apg).

BRACKET BUSTS

Clemson: Memphis can get away with poor foul shooting to some extent because of a tricky offense and an abundance of talent. Clemson, while both improved and fairly well coached, will be done in by its late-game flubbings at the free throw line. This is the Tigers’ first NCAA trip since 1998, and they’re as good a choice as any to be at the wrong end of a surprise in the first two days.

Kansas State: For every Carmelo Anthony or Danny Manning who can will a team to a championship, there are scores of Kevin Durants and Adam Morrisons that fall short of such heroics. Michael Beasley is unquestionably a fantastic talent and will excite pro fans for years to come. But his stay in the NCAA tournament will be short because he only has so much help.

Vanderbilt: It is undeniable the Commodores are one of the nastiest home-court teams in the country. Unfortunately for them, they won’t play another game at Memorial Gym this season. Vanderbilt was 2-6 in SEC road games, and that glaring weakness often pops up in the postseason. Shan Foster will only be able to do so much, but a Sweet 16 trip might be a stretch.

Georgetown: Teams that are 6-0 in games decided by five points or less have probably received a disproportionate number of breaks. Someone who spouts cliches will declare the Hoyas “know how to win.” Someone rational will acknowledge they’re good but also a bit lucky (and not as good as last year). Be the rational person and let others put Georgetown in the Final Four.

DREAM DRAWS

Kansas: Neither the No. 4 seed (Vanderbilt) nor No. 5 (Clemson) are on the Jayhawks’ level. The Big 12 tournament title earned Kansas a sweet ride to the Elite Eight.

Wisconsin: All of the first weekend attention will be on freshmen Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo, but Brian Butch and the Badgers have the stifling defense to make a real run.

BRACKET BESTS

Best player Michael Beasley, Kansas State: Behold Beasley, in all his glory. So what if he’s a freshman, his supporting cast isn’t the greatest, that his coach is relatively untested and that the Wildcats have not won an NCAA tournament game since 1998. Beasley is the best player in the country this season, and it will be entertaining to see if he and K-State can do some damage.

Most dangerous low-major Davidson: How many teams boast a backcourt better than Stephen Curry (25.1 ppg) and Jason Richards (8.0 apg)? Not many. The Wildcats haven’t lost since before Christmas, went 23-0 against Southern Conference opponents and put a scare into Maryland in last year’s tournament. Davidson will win its first NCAA game and perhaps more since Lefty Driesell was stomping on its sideline.?

Patrick Stevens and Stephen Whyno

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